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Supreme Court's Health Care Decision Nears; Contempt Vote Looming; Romney Slamming Mandate He Inspired; What Happens If; Colorado Fire Displaces 32,000 People; FDA Approves New Weight Loss Drug; Queen Shakes Hand With Ex-IRA Leader; President Carter Slamming President Obama?; The Supreme Court: Four Years Down The Road; Crumbling Roads And Bridges Everywhere.

Aired June 27, 2012 - 16:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the countdown to a Supreme Court decision likely to ripple into every home in America. We're looking at the real-world impact of tomorrow's ruling on health care reform.

Also, a historic vote looming in the House. Will Eric Holder become the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress?

And the Colorado wildfire explodes overnight, doubling in size and sending 32,000 people fleeing. One chief calls it a firestorm of epic proportions.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All eyes on the Supreme Court and Congress with a potentially historic day on tap tomorrow, one that could be especially bad for President Obama. We're expecting the justices' long-awaited ruling on health care reform, the president's flagship issue and one that impacts virtually every American.

At the same time, Eric Holder could become the first sitting U.S. attorney general ever held in contempt of Congress. The planned House votes stems from accusations the Justice Department is withholding documents on a failed operation that put guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

President Obama and his staff are bracing for all the possibilities.

CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian has details.

Dan, what are you picking up there as they do sort of brace for two really important decisions tomorrow?


And on health care, they do still believe and are confident that the health care law is constitutional. They have been focused on implementing that law. But, as you know, there were some tough questions from the justices during oral arguments.

And so this administration is prepared for victory, defeat or something between.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Since the U.S. Supreme Court is leak- proof, how the justices will rule on health care is mostly a guessing game; on the line, the president's signature legislative accomplishment, which he continues to tout as the right thing to do.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it was right to make sure that over three million young people can stay on their parents' health insurance plan. I believe it was right to provide more discounts for seniors on their prescription drugs.

LOTHIAN: If the high court doesn't agree completely, what next? Top White House aides refuse to speculate. But at a recent women's health town hall at the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius painted a dark picture if the court strikes the law entirely.


LOTHIAN: Sebelius said the administration was prepared for contingencies for whatever the court ruled. But when pressed on whether they were gaming out different scenarios, White House spokesman Jay Carney seemed to downplay it.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are so many permutations, I'm not sure how useful it is to spend at least our time doing that.

LOTHIAN: President Obama will learn of the ruling about the same time the public does. Carney says there is no war room set up in anticipation of the court's decision.

But on Capitol Hill, key Democrats and Republicans are gearing up to respond with pre-written messages to three different scenarios. Senator John Kerry has already announced a news conference. House Speaker John Boehner has set up a rapid response team that will flood TV, radio and social media. And he's laying the groundwork for a battle in Congress.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what's left of it.


LOTHIAN: But the Obama administration still believes that the health care law is the most effective and efficient way to ensure Americans -- so as the clock counts down, there is some tension here.

But, Candy, I don't know if you were watching the briefing earlier today, a moment of levity when White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked where the president would be when the announcement was made. He said in the war room. He had earlier said in jest that that war room was his own office, the White House spokesman's office.

So we don't know exactly where the president will be. And it's unclear whether or not he will step before the cameras to make some sort of reaction comment to the ruling. But this is no joking matter. This is a big deal for the president. He put it all on the line on health care reform. And now they have to wait to see what the Supreme Court will decide.

CROWLEY: Dan Lothian, Get some sleep tonight. It's going to be a busy day over there.

LOTHIAN: It certainly will.

CROWLEY: Appreciate it.

It could be a double whammy for the White House tomorrow if the House votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. He's accused of withholding documents about the controversial gunrunning program called Fast and Furious in which federal agents let weapons fall in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is on Capitol Hill for us.

Joe, is this a forgone conclusion considering that the House is dominated by Republicans?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, to some degree, Candy. First, I got to say I just ran back here to the bureau which isn't far from the Capitol.


JOHNS: There you go.

But the last-minute maneuvering on this contempt citation really is not over yet. Just a little over an hour ago, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, called on the speaker to end this and he released this letter that just broadsides the Republican effort as riddled with 100 errors, omissions, mischaracterizations.

It's likely parts of this letter is going to serve as the basis for the pleadings once all of this gets into the courts. But as it stands now, the House is still set to vote on contempt tomorrow.


JOHNS (voice-over): Who would have thought for the first time a sitting U.S. attorney general, the country's top law enforcement officer, could be held in contempt of Congress? But that's where things stand. BOEHNER: We're going to proceed. We have given him ample opportunity to comply, even as late as yesterday. The White House sat down with some of our staff to outline what they'd be willing to do. Unfortunately, they're not willing to show the American people the truth about what happened.

JOHNS: Republicans say Attorney General Eric Holder is withholding information about the infamous debacle known as Operation Fast and Furious. The White House claims executive privilege and blames politics. Last-minute negotiations with the administration have failed.

CARNEY: House Republicans have made the strategic choice to try to score political points by focusing their time and attention on a law enforcement operation from 2009 that was botched and that everyone agrees was botched.

JOHNS: There's no dispute Operation Fast and Furious will go down as a bad idea, allowing hundreds or even thousands of guns to go walking South of the border, in hope that they might lead to bad guys in cartels.

But now a very important interest group is ratcheting up the political pressure. The National Rifle Association wants members of Congress to vote for contempt, which could even influence Democrats to vote against Holder, which raises this question.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: What the heck is the NRA doing getting involved in scoring votes on an issue of a contempt citation?

JOHNS: The NRA says the Obama administration was hoping Operation Fast and Furious would lead to new gun control measures.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: It sure looks to me like they facilitated a criminal enterprise to further their political agenda of more gun control laws in the United States.

JOHNS: It's an opinion shared by Congressman Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, who said this over the weekend.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: We have e-mails from people involved in this that are talking about using what they're finding here to support a basically assault weapons ban or greater reporting.

JOHNS: But that, he means greater reporting requirements on people with certain firearms. We have asked for the e-mails, but haven't gotten them yet. We also asked Speaker Boehner for the evidence, too, but he wasn't going there.

BOEHNER: I have never indicated that that was the case. I don't know whether that is the case because we don't have the documents.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: Now, the NRA, Congressman Issa, others may have their suspicions, but they admit no evidence has been made public asserting that the attorney general or any of his higher-ups at the White House had any actual knowledge of the controversial tactics used in the operation.

That's why these people say they want all the information out in the open -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Joe Johns in our Washington bureau, thank you, Joe.

We want to get more on all of this with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

The health care decision, the contempt decision, this is also a big political day for the president.


Look, Fast and Furious, no matter which side of this argument you're on, is a partisan sideshow when you compare to the impact that the health care decision is going to have on the American public. And for an administration that made health care reform the centerpiece of its domestic agenda, no matter how you spin it, Candy, and believe me, there are people spinning away right now, planning how to spin, no matter how you spin it, you would have to say that if part or all of the health care reform bill were to be overturned, that it would be a big disappointment for this White House, considering how much time, energy, effort they put into this.


CROWLEY: But is it necessarily then a plus for Mitt Romney?


CROWLEY: Let's say that...


BORGER: It really isn't necessarily a plus for Mitt Romney. I mean, as I say, you can argue either side of it.

But think about Republicans. What's been the rallying cry of the Republican Party that we have seen throughout the primaries and in this campaign? It's anti-health care reform. OK, so if that is taken off the table, then maybe you lose some of the enthusiasm among your base, who says, you know what? OK, we don't love Mitt Romney that much, but this issue's taken care of, so maybe we won't turn out to vote for him.

Look, there are all different ways to spin this. You will hear Mitt Romney spinning it himself. And there are all kinds of questions that will remain depending upon whether the court does.


CROWLEY: And what are those? It does open up -- let's say the mandate is thrown out. That seems to be the most likely thing. The rest of it stays. There's still now a whole new set of political questions.

BORGER: Right. Sure.

It's one of those, be careful what you wish for situations, because you might get it. So, say the Republicans are thrilled that the health care mandate is thrown out. The Democrats will turn right around and say to the Republicans, OK, folks, health care mandate thrown out. What are you going to do to keep all those goodies that people really like, like a question of preexisting conditions, keeping your children on your health care, et cetera, et cetera, for a longer period of time?

And Republicans will turn around and they're going to say to the Democrats, you know what, that's your problem. That's not our problem. We're not going to come up with a 6,000-page bill overnight. You're going to have to figure out how to fix this and what to do.

And, by the way, Candy, nothing will get done until after the election. So, what you're going to have is a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of uncertainty and Republicans and Democrats each asking each other the question of, what's going to happen next?


CROWLEY: What's your plan B? Right.

BORGER: What's your plan B?


And you ask a Democrat and they say, well, the plan in the Supreme Court, that was our plan A and B. But...

BORGER: Right. And there will be finger-pointing within the Democratic Party also about, why didn't you guys ever really take the notion that this might be unconstitutional seriously?

I mean, whenever we used to ask questions about it, everybody would say, of course it's constitutional. Just read the commerce clause, right? Well, maybe not.

CROWLEY: Right. Yes. Yes. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, thank you very much. See you tomorrow.

BORGER: Yes, all day.

CROWLEY: Much more on tomorrow's expected health care reform ruling. We will look at how it impacts all of us with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Also, new polls give President Obama an edge over Mitt Romney in three critical states. Jack Cafferty is standing by.

Plus, former President Jimmy Carter is slamming the Obama administration. We will talk about his scathing op-ed with Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin in the "Strategy Session."


CROWLEY: Look who I found. Jack Cafferty's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Candy, always good to see you. Thanks.

Fresh new polls out today in the battleground states, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Three states that went for President Obama in 2008 but are expected to be toss-ups in November.

The Quinnipiac poll shows Mr. Obama leading Romney by four points, 45 to 41 in Florida. That's within the poll sampling error. The president was helped out with strong support from Florida's Latinos.

In Pennsylvania, the president leads Romney by six points, 45- 39. His lead bolstered by a strong gender gap. Mr. Obama leads Romney by 12 points among women in Pennsylvania.

And in Ohio, the president's up nine, 47 percent to 38 percent -- once again, a big gender gap.

History suggests President Obama will almost certainly win a second term if he can keep these leads in these three key swing states through Election Day. In every single presidential election since 1960, the winning candidate for the White House has carried at least two of these three states. They have a combined total of 67 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.

But the word battleground has a special meaning in some cases. Remember the hanging chads in 2000? The Supreme Court wound up deciding the election in George Bush's favor because Florida was mired in an antiquated system that kept the vote count there in question for weeks.

And then there's Ohio. Remember the voting machine fiasco in 2004? You could make the argument that until they learn how to do it, Florida and Ohio should not be allowed to vote in anymore presidential elections.

But the fact is Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania hold the keys to the White House. And that's a fact, Jack. Right now, things look pretty good for President Obama in those three states.

Here's the question, should the same three states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, be able to determine the outcome of virtually every presidential election?

Go to, post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Jack. We will see you with the answer shortly.

Whichever way tomorrow's expected Supreme Court ruling on health care reform goes, it will put Mitt Romney in an awkward position. Not only is the presumptive Republican nominee sharply critical of the Affordable Care Act, he also helped inspire it.

CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta has more. Jim, Romney -- this much is clear, we know how he wants the court to rule.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy. Mitt Romney has said he thinks the president's health care law is unconstitutional. He hopes the Supreme Court strikes it down.

And at the heart of conservative objections to the president's health care law is its individual mandate. But, Candy, that individual mandate is something Mitt Romney held up as a potential national model in an interview with CNN three years ago.


ACOSTA (voice-over): If the Supreme Court does not bring down the president's health care law, Mitt Romney vows he will.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If it is deemed to stand, then I'll tell you one thing, we're going to have to have a president -- and I'm that one, that's going to get rid of Obamacare.

ACOSTA: And President Obama is warning voters to take Romney at his word.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Romney wants to roll back the reforms that put in place that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people who are sick. I believe it's the right thing to do.

ACOSTA: As most voters now know, the president borrowed heavily from the plan Romney signed into law six years ago when he was governor of Massachusetts, including a mandate on people in his state to buy health insurance -- the same kind of mandate conservatives say is unconstitutional.

But in an interview with CNN three years ago, Romney touted the mandate as a free market alternative to the president's original proposal to give Americans the choice to buy into a government insurance program, a so-called public option that was later scrapped.

(on camera): And do you think this plan, the Massachusetts plan, could be a model for the country?

ROMNEY: I think there are a number of features in the Massachusetts plan that could inform Washington on ways to improve health care for all Americans. The fact that we have portable insurance and that we were able to get people insured without a government option is a model I think they can learn from.

ACOSTA: But there is an individual mandate and that is something a lot of Americans aren't accustom to.

ROMNEY: There are a number of ways to encourage people to get insurance. What we did is said you're going to lose a tax exemption if you don't have insurance. I don't think mandate is necessarily the word people want to think about, but incentives to get insured is a good way to help get everybody in the pool that brings down the costs and at the same time make sure that people don't have to worry about losing their coverage.

ACOSTA: But it is a mandate?

ROMNEY: It's a kind of mandate --

ACOSTA: It's a requirement.

ROMNEY: It's a requirement we said in order to get your tax exemption you would normally get, you've got to have health insurance because we want everybody in the system. No more free riders.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Romney has since said on repeated occasions his plan was only meant for Massachusetts.

ROMNEY: Our plan was a state solution to a state problem. And his is a power grabby the federal government to put in place a one- size fits all plan across the nation.

ACOSTA: In this web video, Democrats noted that's not what Romney said the last time he ran in 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You back away from mandates on a national basis --

ROMNEY: Oh, no, I like mandates.

ACOSTA: This time around he spent much of the primaries fighting off attacks from rivals like Rick Santorum who stood on the steps of the Supreme Court to blast Romney as the worst candidate to take on the president on health care.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one candidate who is uniquely disqualified to make the case. It's the reason I'm here and he's not.

ACOSTA: If the president's law is struck down, Romney has vowed to bring back some of its protections. His campaign released a statement saying, "Romney supports reforms to protect those with pre- existing conditions from being denied access to a health plan."


ACOSTA: But the insurance companies say they are worried if the health care law is upheld, but that individual mandate is killed. They say their industry could be in trouble because those consumer protections, they argue without the mandate, are simply not affordable for their insurance industry to cover. And that, Candy, people could be dropped from their insurance policies as a result of that. It could be damaging, they say, to the entire industry and consumers as well -- Candy.

CROWLEY: And you have to assume either they get dropped or the price for that insurance goes unaffordable in some way.

ACOSTA: That's right. Now, the insurance industry will say, some of these companies out there are saying they are going to continue some of these protections that are in the president's plan if it all goes down tomorrow. But obviously there's no guarantee that they will do that. They had those opportunities to have those kinds of protections before the law was implemented. And they chose not to do so. A lot of critics of that industry say they can just go back to that square one if all of this is thrown out.

And, Candy, I will tell you, we do expect some kind of word from Mitt Romney tomorrow after the health care law is either upheld or struck down or something in the middle -- we just don't know what kind of comment he's going to give us. It could be like what we saw the other day after the Arizona immigration law was decided on at the Supreme Court. It could come in the form of a statement and not much else later on in the day. We'll have to wait and see what happens, Candy.

CROWLEY: OK. Jim Acosta in Sterling, Virginia. Thank you.

We are gearing up for one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions in decades. We don't know how the justices will rule on the president's health care law. But we have a pretty good idea what it will mean for you regardless of that decision.


CROWLEY: By this time tomorrow, the dust should be swirling in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on health care reform. But we can already get an idea of what that impact will be regardless of how the justices rule. We want to talk about it with CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And here with me, a rare treat, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, after the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration law, we saw the White House praise the court.


CROWLEY: Are they now in somewhat of a box if the Supreme Court comes out and undoes part of Obamacare? Because can they then come back and say this court is right-leaning, it's political. Haven't they put themselves in a political box?

TOOBIN: Not necessarily. I don't think so, because when you combine the two biggest decisions of the Roberts court, Citizens United and health care, if they lose health care, that is a pretty clear Democratic -- capital D -- indictment of the Supreme Court.

Now, this is a challenge for the White House how they handle this because President Obama has not really attacked the Supreme Court very much. That hasn't been something he's done. He made a somewhat critical comment after the oral argument, but then they backed away from it a little bit. So, it's unclear to me how much they want to take on the Supreme Court.

CROWLEY: Well, he took him on in the State of the Union pretty good.

TOOBIN: That was Citizens United, but that's --

CROWLEY: Right. So he's not shy about doing it if he wants to.

TOOBIN: He's not shy, but whether he wants to make it a big campaign issue or not, it doesn't seem that way, at least not at this stage. But obviously we have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.


Sanjay, I want to let -- throw out some scenarios for you. And tell me what would happen in this case should the entire law be struck down, which I think is probably the unlikeliest of the scenarios. But what if I've reached my lifetime cap with benefits? What happens to me next week when I show up at the doctor's office?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, keep in mind before I answer that, some of these provisions people are talking about have not gone into effect yet.

So, that one for adults, for example, supposed to go into effect in 2014. For a child, it's already gone into effect. So, it would be the same tomorrow as it has been for the last several years. You could try and negotiate with your insurance company.

But the fact of the matter is if you reach your lifetime cap, you may be starting to get stuck with some pretty big bills. Remember, the provisions of this particular plan were both for lifetime caps and annual caps, doing away with those things, you wouldn't have that protection anymore.

CROWLEY: And I suppose the same holds true for pre-existing conditions which is applied generally just to children at this point.

GUPTA: That's right. With children and then again with adults it was suppose today go into effect in 2014.

So the insurance companies would no longer under law have to charge you -- they could charge you higher prices based on a pre- existing condition. Under the law, they would have to charge you the same price as someone your age living in your community.

So, now, we have talked to some of the insurance companies, some of the big providers, Candy, I'll just throw in as a side. And some of them say they will continue to, you know, not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions for children. So, it's not going to be bound under law. But at least that's what some of the bigger providers have told us.

TOOBIN: Can I ask you, Sanjay, a question? Can I just be clear on this, Sanjay? So, if they only throw out the mandate, those lifetime caps remain intact, the age 26, kids on their parents insurance remain intact, kids preexisting condition, all that remains intact, if they just throw out the individual mandate?

GUPTA: That's what they would essentially be doing. Now, obviously there's potential problems with that in terms of how it will actually get implemented --

TOOBIN: Right.

GUPTA: -- for reasons that you well know. I mean, the mandate was supposed to be, if you will, the financial arm of this whole thing. And the idea that you could do a lack of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions about a mandate.

That's been tried at the state level in for example, Kentucky, and what they found was as you might suspect everybody's premiums went up. People who were perfectly happy with their insurance didn't even hardly pay attention to that law. All of a sudden they saw premiums go up 40 percent. So everyone ended up paying for that.

CROWLEY: Jeffrey, let me ask you, we've heard so much talk after the arguments that, boy, the government lawyer didn't seem to do very well. The justices were extremely seemed critical in their questioning.

TOOBIN: Some of that talk came right from me.

CROWLEY: Exactly, which is why I'm asking you. How many times -- I think everyone came away or has the impression now that the most likely scenario is mandate goes, everything else stays. How many times has the Supreme Court really just dropped a bomb of a decision?

TOOBIN: Sometimes, but not often. Ever since William Rhenquist, when he was chief justice, set up an informal rule among the justices that good fences make good neighbors, that didn't interact very much. So oral argument became the time they used to communicate with one another, to lobby one another.

CROWLEY: so while they were questioning the lawyers.

TOOBIN: Exactly. They used their questions as arguments. So you don't see a lot of playing of devil's advocate in the Supreme Court. That's why I thought the questioning, the hostile questioning of the solicitor general was so significant is that 100 percent of the time, absolutely not.

I think the oral argument in the immigration case showed a more hostile court to the government than the decision turned out to be. I think the government did somewhat better than you might have expected based on the argument in the immigration case. However, the justices, the conservatives, were much more hostile, I thought, in the health care case than the immigration case.

So it would be a bigger surprise if the justices turned around and affirmed the law in its entirety. But that's certainly a possibility.

CROWLEY: As they say, we'll find out tomorrow, won't we?

TOOBIN: At 10:00.

CROWLEY: That's right. Jeffrey Toobin, Sanjay Gupta, thank you both. Talk to you both tomorrow.

Be sure and stay with CNN for the Supreme Court ruling on health care reform. Special coverage starts tomorrow morning at 9:00. And of course, we'll have all the latest reaction and developments right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Colorado fire doubled in size overnight. We are expecting worse news, strong winds that could send it spiralling even more out of control.

Plus, Jimmy Carter's scathing rebuke of President Obama's national security policy. We'll talk about that and more with Donna Brazile and Mary Madeleine in the "Strategy Session."


CROWLEY: That fire in Colorado doubled in size overnight. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what have you got?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Candy. Well, over 15,000 acres are burning and a fire official says only 5 percent is contained. Thunderstorms are expected, which sounds like a good thing.

But the strong winds will likely push the fire in multiple directions making it even harder to put out. It's also closing in on the Air Force Academy where over 2,000 residents are evacuating.

At least 32,000 people have left their homes behind because of the fire. President Obama will head to Colorado on Friday to view the damage and thank the responders battling the fire. We will have a special report coming up at the top of the hour.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new weight loss drug. Belvik is designed to help a person eat less and feel full from smaller amounts of food. But it's only meant to be taken with a reduced calorie diet and exercise.

It's been approved for adults who are clinically obese or overweight and who have high blood pressure, Type II diabetes or high cholesterol.

And it's being called a significant milestone on the road to reconciliation, Queen Elizabeth shaking hands with a former Irish Republican Army commander today. It comes 14 years after a conflict that claimed 3,500 lives.

Northern Ireland remains under British rule, but many including the man shaking the queen's hand want the province to join the Republic of Ireland. That meeting would have been unthinkable just a decade ago -- Candy.

CROWLEY: I do think that's amazing. You know, a lot of times in the news you're covering things you know that you're kind of covering a fibrillation rather than a heartbeat, that handshake really does go down in history.

SYLVESTER: Yes. I mean, it's just a moment in time. As I said, it's something that would have been unthinkable in years past. But it's nice to see that progress has been made, that these two sides have been able to come together. So it really is a moment in history -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It is. And for all our talk about war, there's some peace. Thanks so much, Lisa Sylvester. Appreciate it.

Joe Biden says women's rights are in trouble. The vice president takes a new line of attack painting a dire picture of the Supreme Court under President Romney.

And President Carter is not happy with U.S. tactics to fight terror. Romney doesn't mention him by name. The former president seems to be taking a direct hit at a member of his own party, President Obama.


CROWLEY: Joining me for today's "Strategy Session" our CNN contributor and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin who is also a CNN contributor. Together again, ladies. It's good to see you.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's been a while, Candy.

CROWLEY: It has indeed. Let me read you a part of an opinion piece. This is from former President Jimmy Carter. It caught my eye. He is talking about drone attacks here.

"At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the universal declaration of human rights.

But instead of making the world safer, America's violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friend."

So again, Mary, he's talking about these drone attacks that go into Pakistan aimed at al Qaeda. They go into Yemen aimed at al Qaeda. So doesn't he have a point here?

MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: One, he's a meddler, but he's an equal opportunity meddler. He's meddled in every president's -- all presidents of both parties since his own failed presidency.

Two, he is wrong. You give up those rights afforded to combatants. And if you're hiding terrorists then your complacent. So my issue and issue rather assassination by drone is available of intelligence.

He's coming at it from the wrong perspective, which says a lot about his presidency, not his commentary.

CROWLEY: Donna, I'm not sure, but I think that Mary is defending what President Obama is doing. I will tell you that the Bush administration as you know received a lot of criticism from the left about his war on terror and many aspects of it.

But with respect to the president's counterterrorism drones, there hasn't been much. Do you think this is worth at least a conversation?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. Look, let me just say, first of all, I think Jimmy Carter was an exceptional president. That was my first presidential campaign. So I thank President Carter each and every day for giving me my steppingstones into national politics.

But, look, I think it needs to be reviewed for two simple reasons. We're using some secret legal criteria to target people, in some cases American citizens and I think we need to know what the criteria is.

And secondly, most importantly, maybe we're setting a dangerous precedent that other countries that may not have a, quote/unquote, "legal" basis for killing citizens abroad may use in the future.

So I think from a human rights point of view, President Carter has made a very clear legal argument that we need to have more transparency and more accountability in our so-called drone attacks when we go after not just the bad people, the terrorists and others, but in many cases -- in some cases I should say, in some cases we have killed innocent people.

That is the concern that he's raising. And by the way, Candy, the ACLU and others, Center for Constitutional Rights and others on the left have criticized the Obama administration as well as the Bush administration for having this targeted secret program.

CROWLEY: But Mary, do you think former President Carter is out of line for this criticism?

MATALIN: There's -- there is a way to do this and there is a small number of commanders in chiefs -- and the way they do it, and they do all communicate, is one he's never chosen.

He did one good thing if he hired Donna, but he has never brought his concerns -- I shouldn't say he never has, but he likes to get in these forms. And he likes to pop off and it's very unhelpful to any president of either party.

And in this case, this is difficult. This drone policy is difficult. Instead of offering suggestions privately or saying how can we help mitigate some of the issues that Donna raised with the left, he just goes and -- it's like a show-off thing.

He's been doing it for 30 years. And, yes, I do think it's out of line. The way in which he expresses himself in that small club that largely respects each other and hasn't -- no one else has behaved like this.

BRAZILE: I don't believe you should take the first amendment from former presidents. So if they want to talk about what others are doing including current presidents, I don't think there's an issue.

Look, we hear from former presidents all the time. Again, what President Carter I think is saying in this article is that we should have transparency, accountability.

And we're setting a dangerous precedent that other countries who may not follow international law may use to target and strike at its citizens and abroad in other countries. That's what he's saying.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you both to another subject. That's the Supreme Court. It's been in the news lately if you've noticed. First on the Arizona immigration law, now we're waiting for this health care reform decision.

I want you to just listen for a second. This is Vice President Joe Biden out on the campaign trail in Dubuque.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Close your eyes and picture what the Supreme Court would look like four years after Romney? No, no, for real. After Romney, the president for four years, tell me what you think are going to happen to Women's rights in this country? Civil rights, right.


CROWLEY: So the suggestion here is that if Romney gets into office, he is going to select right-leaning justices. And they will take away Women's rights, civil rights. Mary, first to you.

MATALIN: Yes, because everybody knows Republicans and conservatives don't like women and they don't like minorities. That's part of the Obama strategy. It is absurd.

This is more division. It is more derision. It's embarrassing for someone who's been a senator and esteemed one and a vice president to make such a ridiculous argument.

Is the Supreme Court nomination to that going to be as it always is a big issue? Yes. Not on those issues. It's a big issue because we are going through a transformative age.

And so much of these transformative issues are being pumped over or punted over to the court. So it should be a big issue. And the topics are not going to be the ones that Biden, like his boss, is using to divide Americans.

CROWLEY: Donna, you get the last word.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think the division is apparent. When you see 5-4 decisions from Bush v Gore to Citizen United --

MATALIN: Wait a second. Didn't you like the Arizona law? They sided with Obama.

BRAZILE: The decisions were upheld and I think that's important. I do believe that the Supreme Court should follow legal precedent. What's happening in modern times is that this court and some of its rulings have no basis in legal reality.

So I look forward to seeing what happens tomorrow. I won't be surprised if they uphold the so-called individual mandate. But I think to Mary's point and she's absolutely right.

We are going to constantly talk about the next commander in chief who possibly appoints maybe one or two justices. We say that every four years. Maybe it's true.

Let's hope that President Obama will get two more good justices like Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and I'll be happy with that, Mary.

MATALIN: I bet you would, but it isn't going to happen, girl.

BRAZILE: We'll see on November 7th after the election on the 6th.

CROWLEY: Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin, it's great to see both of you. Thank you.

MATALIN: You too, Candy.

CROWLEY: At the top of the hour, we told you about that raging Colorado wildfire. Now we're talking to the front lines with one of the families forced to leave everything behind.

Plus, if you ever thought about having two cups of coffee every day and thought it was bad for you, think again. It may be the exact opposite.

And a baseball player makes an incredible catch -- or at least pretends he did. The great acting job put on by one New York Yankee.


CROWLEY: Jack joins us again with the "Cafferty File." This time with the answers -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Candy. The question is, should the same three states, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, be able to determine the outcome of every presidential election? And they do, every one since 1960.

Andy writes, "Having been born and raised in Ohio, I'll say yes and no. On the one hand, the Electoral College is outdated and getting rid of it would avoid this whole issue. That said, it does feel nice to know that your vote seems to count a little more when you vote in a swing state although you have to suffer through far more political ads than the rest of the country."

Tyler in Pennsylvania says, "As a proud Pennsylvanian and a Democrat, I enjoy it. Makes up for being irrelevant most years in the primaries."

Ed in Texas says, "I'm OK with Ohio and Pennsylvania, but ever since the election in 2000, Florida should be on some sort of probation."

Bob in Iowa writes, "Jack, you forgot about Iowa. They tell us that we're first in the nation here. Well, sir, no sweet corn for you, and it's early this year."

Bob in Ohio writes, better yet, we could find out, which key areas in these three states determine the electoral vote outcome in that state and then only have them vote for president. Just think of all the aggravation that would save the rest of the country."

James writes, "Jack, it's the system we have. It's like being married. Not what you dreamed about, but what else can you do?" And Tom in Atlanta writes, "let's just be thankful it's not California."

If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It's official, Jack, I like you and your viewers. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

CROWLEY: It was once the envy of the world and now America's infrastructure is crumbling.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking at patches on the concrete deck, these areas where the concrete has deteriorated over time. You can see there are existing patches and there are areas that are marked where new patches have to be installed.


CROWLEY: CNN Lizzie O'Leary looks at the growing crisis and how little is being done about it.

And coming up at the top of the hour, the unfolding wildfire disaster in Colorado, 32,000 people now evacuated and some of them share their stories with us.


CROWLEY: We've just gotten word that after a thousand days, Congress has finally reached a tentative deal on a bill to upgrade our crumbling bridges and highways.

Joining me now is CNN aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzie O'Leary. It's a huge problem, assuming all goes well and they vote this bill and send it to the president and he signs it, is it enough?

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, this is a handshake deal. They've gone a thousand days without having a big fix here.

And this is hardly the five-year overhaul that was John Boehner's number one priority going into this congressional session. It's a two-year deal. It's not likely to make a huge dent in the problems in roads and bridges that everybody drives on. And we took a little trip around town to show you.


O'LEARY: We're starting here at the capitol where Congress couldn't pass a long-term transportation plan. And you don't have to go far to see the roads that Americans drive on aren't in great shape.

(voice-over): Just 9 miles away, this bridge is missing big chunks of concrete. It's 45 years old. The average age of most bridges in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the staining of the piers. You can see where some of the concrete has popped away.

O'LEARY (on camera): I see rebar under there, yes.

(voice-over): Nick Roper is in charge of maintaining bridges in Virginia. This bridge one like one in eight across the country is structurally deficient. That means it can still safely carry passengers, but needs a major overall.

NICK ROPER, VIRGINIA STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: The longer you wait, the more costly it becomes, the more expensive the repairs become. Hopefully we won't be waiting 25 years for this particular bridge.

O'LEARY (on camera): Waiting is probably the one thing every commuter is familiar with. Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic. This wait that we're doing right now, this costs each commuter $750 a year?

ROPER: Yes, $2 billion -- 2 billion gallons of wasted gasoline per year.

O'LEARY: Put a grade on this bill for me? ROPER: I think it gets a passing grade, in this Congress, which has not quite passed much.

O'LEARY: And then there's transit, like buses and this subway. Civil engineers rated U.S. transit systems a "D." They said it would take $260 billion and five years just to bring them up to speed.

The money to pay for all this traditionally came from a gas tax. But nobody wanted to raise it, especially in an election year. And that brings us back here where a long-term plan to fix all that crumbling infrastructure got stuck in legislative traffic.


O'LEARY: Now, this is still a tentative deal. We don't have a final dollar figure yet, but it does peal in comparison to the price tags civil engineers put on U.S. transportation needs for a real fix.

But without getting money from raising that gas tax, and Congress didn't want to do that, they just don't have that much room to maneuver and that much to spend -- Candy.

CROWLEY: But it's progress, right?

O'LEARY: It's progress.

CROWLEY: Lizzie O'Leary, thank you very much.