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Interview With Senator Lindsey Graham; Budget Impasse; Real Story Behind 'Argo'; Michelle Obama Goes Hollywood; Dr. C. Everett Koop Dies at 96; How Budget Ax Will Hurt Pentagon

Aired February 25, 2013 - 17:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, your diet and your heart. A new study that could help save your life. Information you need to know.

NASCAR fans in danger. What's being done to protect people in the stands after a fiery crash.

DNA testing under review. The United States Supreme Court could decide if some cold case are ever solved.

A real life "Argo" star. The former Canadian ambassador talks about the way he was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film.

And what will Michelle Obama do for an encore after her Oscar surprise?

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

But up first this hour, the president and the Republicans taking another budget crisis down to the wire. After weeks of dire warnings about those forced spending cuts, they actually take effect only four days from now.

Both sides are talking today, but apparently not to each other.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is over at the White House.

Jim, any sign at all that someone is willing to blink, to negotiate to come up with a deal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf, if anything, both sides appear to be digging in. The White House is accusing Republicans of putting the national security interests of this country at stake, while the Republicans are accusing the White House of trying to scare people.



ACOSTA (voice-over): Speaking to a meeting of the nation's governors, President Obama said if Congress wants to stop those forced spending cuts that start going into effect at the end of the week, lawmakers better do something about it.

OBAMA: These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise.

ACOSTA: To get Congress in the spirit of compromise, the White House is warning what's about to be cut on a state by state level, 1,200 teacher and aide jobs at risk in California, 7,400 fewer children receiving vaccines in Florid, and 52,000 defense workers furloughed in Texas.

The president asked the press to leave a closed-door meeting with the governors, so he could have a frank question-and-answer session.

OBAMA: What I want to do is clear out the press so we can take some questions.

ACOSTA: And candid is what the president is getting from Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: I think that the president needs to stop trying to scare the American people, that absolutely you can cut less than 3 percent without all these awful consequences.

ACOSTA: Just as Jindal wrapped up his remarks, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano suggested to reporters that the cuts could make the nation's borders vulnerable to terrorists.

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't think we can make the same level of security at all places around the country with sequester.

ACOSTA (on camera): Can you just say right here for the record that you are not here just trying to scare people, that what you're saying has to happen is a necessity as a result of these cuts?

NAPOLITANO: Yes, I'm not here to scare people. I'm here to inform.

OBAMA: Line by line, page by page.

ACOSTA (voice-over): House Republicans released a Web video pointing out the president has repeatedly promised to comb through the federal budget to find smarter savings, while a pro-Obama super PAC pointed out in the its own video that Republicans signed off on the forced cuts.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We got that in law. We got that in law. We got that in law.

ACOSTA: Governor Jindal doesn't sound encouraged.

(on camera): A sense that these cuts are going to happen?

JINDAL: Well, look, as you heard many governors say, we still think there's time for this administration to come up with a sensible alternative. But for that to happen, for these cuts to be averted, the ball's in the president's court.


ACOSTA: A top Republican Senate aide tells CNN to expect two different bills this week, one from the Democrats and one from the Republican and that there will be no filibuster.

But the White House is insisting that any delay to these cuts include some new tax revenues and that is something Republicans will not go for. Any talk of a delay will get complicated because keep in mind at the end of next month, the government is scheduled to run out of money. Wolf, these cans that are being kicked down the road, they're starting to run into each other.

BLITZER: A lot of cans. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, over at the White House.

Later this hour, by the way, we will ask Senator Lindsey Graham about the standoff over those forced budget cuts and whether there's any hope for a deal. He will join us a little bit later this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Kate Bolduan is here. She's got word of a new and pretty important medical study.

When I read about it earlier today, I was pretty pleased because I like to live that diet myself.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You would like to live a long time.

BLITZER: I would like to live a long time.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. It's potentially some pretty big news.

Anyone who is concerned about heart attack or stroke should probably pay pretty close attention right now. And that's pretty much all of us.

We now have new evidence, we're learning of new evidence about a good way to eat to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is here with details.

Elizabeth, this got Wolf's attention and mine as well. Tell us about this study. What were people eating in the study?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: People were eating what is called the Mediterranean diet, and I will you, Kate and Wolf, this is a particularly large and well done study in "The New England Journal of Medicine."

Let's list the kinds of food that study subjects were told to eat a lot of, fruits three times a day, vegetables twice a day, fish, especially fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, three times a week, legumes like beans and lentils also three times a week. Some of the study subjects also had about a handful of nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts every day, and another section of these study subjects were told to take in four tablespoons per day of extra virgin olive oil and they were to avoid certain foods.

Certain foods, when you see them, you will see wow, Americans eat a lot of these. They were told to avoid soda, pastries, butter, margarine, and red meat. Those were on the no-no list. And what they found was that by eating that Mediterranean diet, it reduced by almost a third the number of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular disease.

That is a huge reduction. It was so big in fact that they actually decided to stop the study early so that researchers could get the word out about the success.

BOLDUAN: Clearly, the focus here is the risk of heart disease. But the good foods that you were listing out there, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, those foods do have a lot of fats in them. That didn't seem to be a problem.

COHEN: I know. Americans are always told to cut down on the fat. But this kind of fat it is monounsaturated fat, which is thought to be much better for you than other types of fat.

In fact, in this study, they told another group of people, hey, just cut down on all fats. Cut down on monounsaturated fat. Cut down on all fats. Those people did not nearly do as well as the folks who did the Mediterranean diet. Not all fats are created equal is the bottom line here.

BOLDUAN: That's a good piece of advice as well.

One additional thing. We often hear wine is good for your heart in moderation. So, how much wine was allowed in this study? How much win do they think is a good idea here?

COHEN: Right. Part of the Mediterranean diet is wine.

They told the study subjects if you already drink, have a glass of wine a day, one glass of wine a day. A lot of experts think that that's very -- really important part at lowering heart disease rates. Not more than a glass or two a day, but a glass or two a day does seem to have a good effect. But they also say, if you don't drink, don't start. We don't want to be creating alcoholics here, but if you already drink, go ahead and have that glass or two a day.

BOLDUAN: A little good news can go a long way. It seems like a diet that many people could stick to, rather than low fat all the time.

COHEN: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.


BLITZER: A quick question, Elizabeth, does it make any difference red or white wine?

COHEN: It doesn't.

There has been so much talk about that, but it seems that wine is wine is wine. In same way, any kind of alcohol will work. It seems to actually thins the blood and makes the platelets less sticky, so they don't clot and give you a heart attack.

BLITZER: Going to having salmon and pinot grigio.


BOLDUAN: You can have the pinot grigio.


COHEN: I would love to join you.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.


BLITZER: Live many, many years. Elizabeth, I love that story, love that story.

BOLDUAN: You love being told you can drink more wine, yes.


Right now, NASCAR officials are looking ahead to the next big race and concerns about the safety of people in the stands. The Daytona 500 ran as scheduled yesterday, but the day before more than two dozen fans were hurt in a fiery and dramatic crash on the same track.

CNN's John Zarrella is joining us from Daytona Beach right now with more.

They have to learn some lessons from this, don't they, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, there's no question about it, Wolf. And eventually they will. They are sure of that.

But seven people remain in the hospital here behind me following that crash on Saturday. Some of the drivers after the Daytona 500 yesterday actually came here to spend some time with these people that are still in the hospital. But that crash is raising renewed concerns about fan safety.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Simply put, terrifying, a car goes airborne, parts flying, the engine slamming into a retaining fence, a tire catapulted into the stands. A caller to 911 sounds desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a crash. These people -- it's serious. Sprint Tower, section zero, row 30.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need help, big time, quick.

ZARRELLA: More than two dozen people injured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got hit by an engine or a part of an engine and I got a broken leg.

ZARRELLA: That was on the last lap of Saturday's race at Daytona, but the crash did nothing to keep race fans away from Sunday's big event, the 500. Accidents, they say, go with the territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's just the risk. It could happen at a baseball game, you know, hit with a bat, ball, whatever.

ZARRELLA: But at nearly 200 miles per hour at times it's like high-speed bumper cars. Drivers assume the risk, but should the spectators?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to take this incident, try and find out everything we can, and use whatever information that comes from it to hopefully make ourselves better.

ZARRELLA: In the aftermath of the accident, there's a growing chorus within the sport, questioning that assumption. Ask the drivers --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't catch a break, but that just shows that we have to keep working on the sport and can't be satisfied.

ZARRELLA: The head of the Texas Motor Speedway --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drivers, you know, they bargain for some of the risks that they take. But the fans, that's something you just can't tolerate.

ZARRELLA: By the time the 500 got under way, you couldn't tell there had been a crash. The 22-foot high catch fence at the impact point had been replaced. By all accounts, if not for the fence, the accident might have been catastrophic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It kept the car on the racetrack. The parts and pieces fly into the stands, yes, they did. But the catch fence is to keep the majority of the car on the racetrack and out of the grandstands. So it did a fantastic job.

ZARRELLA: But still, there were injuries, some serious. Some victims still hospitalized. NASCAR will, experts say, go back and look at the crash second by second, piece by piece, a quick fix, perhaps raise the protective fence, move fans further away from the track.

But that would impact one of the attractions of auto racing, how close fans can get to the action. Sometimes, it's just too close.


ZARRELLA: Now, next week, there is a race in Arizona. And NASCAR officials say they have been in contact with the racing officials in Phoenix, Arizona. They are sharing what little information they have at this point about how the accident happened here on Saturday -- Wolf, Kate.

BLITZER: John Zarrella with the latest on that story, thanks very, very much.

If you are a fan of "CSI" or other crime shows, you know that DNA tests can certainly make or break a murder case. But now the United States Supreme Court might make it more difficult to take DNA samples and solve murder mysteries. That story, that is ahead.


BOLDUAN: The Supreme Court is getting ready to hear a case that could have a huge impact on whether cold cases across America are ever solved.

The big question, what kinds of limits should there be on police to collect an often crucial piece of evidence, DNA?

Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, has been here, and he's looking into the case.

This is a very big case coming before the court, big implications.


Almost everybody knows it. Generally, police need a search warrant or your consent to search your home, your car, even your office. But what if it's your body and what if they are looking for a swab of your DNA? This is about privacy and one of the most powerful crime solving tools ever.


JOHNS (voice-over): The case before the Supreme Court could go a long way toward determining when and how DNA evidence can be collected and used by police.

JAYANN SEPICH, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: It is solving cold cases and it is preventing time and in doing so save lives.

JOHNS: With the help of DNA, Jayann Sepich's daughter Katie solved her own murder from beyond the grave. Jayann is now a leading advocate for DNA evidence. SEPICH: The only evidence was the DNA.

JOHNS: A New Mexico college student, Katie Sepich was abducted, raped and choked to death, her body set on fire. But in her dying struggle with her attacker, she scraped his skin and blood with her fingernails. Years later, police used the DNA to identify Gabriel Avila as the killer.

SEPICH: I so strongly believe that my daughter gave up her most basic constitutional right, the right to live. And I think that in order to spare others from losing their lives because there are criminals who are literally hunting down and slaughtering our children.

JOHNS: More than half the states and the federal government collect DNA samples from criminal suspects, but courts disagree on whether it's constitutional to take a sample without a search warrant. Privacy advocates say a DNA swab is more invasive than a fingerprint, because police get a road map of a person's entire genetic make up.

ERIN MURPHY, FORENSIC EXPERT: We have always said they must have some level of suspicion.

JOHNS: The case the Supreme Court is hearing involves a defendant named Jay Alonzo King, who was arrested in 2009 and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.

(on camera): After locking King up, authorities took a DNA swab that linked him to a rape and robbery here in the state of Maryland in 2003. King went to prison for life. He appealed, saying he had a right to be free of searches without a warrant. The appeals court basically sided with King, saying his privacy had been violated.

JOHNS (voice-over): The policy question is whether this tool gives the government too much information.

MURPHY: We have never said that police, when they make an arrest, then have carte blanche authority to search a person, search their home, search their body for evidence of past or future crimes.

JOHNS: To Sepich, DNA testing just makes sense.

SEPICH: There are so many heinous criminals that are being arrested. They are not being identified as having committed these crimes. They're being released and they re-offend. And we see that happen again and again.


JOHNS: This all started with a law in the state of Maryland that permits DNA collection after a person is arrested.

The state says DNA collection is minimal intrusion and that just getting locked up is enough to justify the DNA search if the state wants to do it. BOLDUAN: Real quick, what will likely happen, do people conjecture, if it's deemed unconstitutional to collect this kind of information?

JOHNS: Well, it could be a problem. About a third of the states actually collect this type of information. It's called test on arrest.

A lot of them have this information in databanks. The question would be, what would you do with that information? There is also a question about the cases where people have been, right, arrested and then tested and then convicted on something else.


JOHNS: What happens to those cases too? There's a lot up in the air if the court were to rule this is unconstitutional.


BOLDUAN: We will see if the court threads the needle, as it often does. Thank you, Joe Johns.

BLITZER: We expect a decision by the end of June?

JOHNS: Yes, the end of June, thereabouts.

BLITZER: Arguments coming up, though.

JOHNS: Yes, you know what? .

BLITZER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Joe.

BLITZER: Ben Affleck may have avoided an international incident when he accepted the Academy Award for "Argo" last night.

Coming up, I'm going to get reaction from the real-life diplomat who was crucial to the story.

Also, the Cuban leader Raul Castro revealing that his days in power are numbered.



BLITZER: One of the real-life characters in the "Argo" film has some strong opinions about the movie that won an Oscar last night and whether Ben Affleck actually got it right. I will speak live with the real former Canadian ambassador to Iran. There he is, Ken Taylor. He is in New York and we have a lot to discuss when we come back.


BLITZER: Tens of millions of people around the world -- we both watched Ben Affleck accept an Academy Award last night for his film "Argo."

BOLDUAN: Very good film.

And we couldn't help but notice that the actor/director's thank you list included Canada.


BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: I want to thank Canada, I want to thank our friends in Iran living in terrible circumstances right now.

I want to thank my wife, who I don't normally associate with Iran.


BOLDUAN: If you haven't seen it, "Argo" tells the story of the real-life rescue of six Americans in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.

The movie gives most of the credit for the operation to the CIA, but in fact Canada took the lead. The Americans were hidden in the Canadian Embassy at great risk to the Ambassador Ken Taylor, who is played by actor Victor Garber.


VICTOR GARBER, ACTOR: We have got orders to close the embassy and go back. There's nowhere for them to stay.

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: We get caught, you and Matt go on trial for harboring the enemy. You know that.

GARBER: Pat and I have discussed it. It's the risk we took.


BLITZER: And joining us now is the real-life former Canadian ambassador to Iran, a real hero, Ken Taylor.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.

KEN TAYLOR, FORMER CANADIAN AMBASSADOR TO IRAN: Well, thanks for the invitation.

BLITZER: What's your reaction to "Argo" getting best picture?

TAYLOR: Well, I think it's a thrilling movie.

Even Pat, my wife, said to me the first time we saw it, did we get out OK? It's sort of like the Titanic. You know the conclusion, but it draws it open until the final moment.

The timing is pertinent well. It reminds people that even 32 years later, it's a dangerous neighborhood.

BLITZER: But the film really doesn't give you and you Canadian colleagues, Canada enough credit, does it? You were deeply disappointed.

TAYLOR: Well, we, of course, took the -- invited, in fact, the six diplomats to stay with us. They were there with us for three months.

We welcomed the chance to work with the CIA. But Tony Mendez was there for a day-and-a-half and worked closely with us. But, at the same time, it was essentially a Canadian operation.

BLITZER: Were you happy that he at least thanked you at the end of the credits, at the end of the movie, at the end of the acceptance speech?

TAYLOR: Yes, I think so. It's indicative of the way the two countries worked together. It was particularly productive in Ottawa and Washington.

I worked directly with Ottawa eventually through to Washington. The Canadians were committed to seeing the six through. And in no sense, and inconceivable the Canadians would have closed the embassy until the six diplomats were back home.

BOLDUAN: And Ambassador, recently, former president, Jimmy Carter, had been asked about the role of Canada and your -- the role that you played in this hostage crisis. I want to play a little bit of that sound. Listen to this.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only thing I would say is that 90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie's very good. But Ben Affleck's character in the film was only -- he was only in Tehran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who is a Canadian ambassador, who orchestrated the process.


BOLDUAN: I'm sure you appreciate the words of the former president, Carter. But I want to get to your sense then, if he was kind of laying out really what happened. What really did happen? Walk us through. What did the movie get right, and what did the movie get wrong?

TAYLOR: Well, I think -- I think the movie takes some poetic license, as I think Hollywood is prone to do.

The -- the essential escape was a cooperative effort, but however, we were -- we were on the ground for the -- for the three months. It was -- Tony Mendez came, was deeply involved, but it was really, essentially, a Canadian effort with the -- the CIA assisting us as of the last day and a half.

BLITZER: The story was...

TAYLOR: A -- yes.

BLITZER: I was going to say, the story was classified, Ambassador, for a long time now. We all know what happened. Here's the question: how has it changed if it has, your life and the life of the other diplomats who saved these Americans?

TAYLOR: Well, I think that the Canadian role was personified very well in the book, "Our Man in Tehran." That's the source material. But I hope that Americans and Canadians not only see the movie to capture the attention, the risk and what have you of Iran, but really capture the essence of this story by reading the book. Not quite as exciting as seeing the movie.

BOLDUAN: Real quickly, before we let you go, in the movie, Victor Garber portrayed you in the movie. Did he do a good job?

TAYLOR: I think he did it with -- with grace and professionalism. I just wish he would have had a larger script.

BOLDUAN: I think he agrees with you on that point.

BLITZER: Well, thanks. Let me thank you on behalf of all American -- all of America for the excellent work you and your colleagues did during those critically dangerous days. A lot of us remember those 444 days when Americans were held hostage in Iran. You saved six of them, and we're grateful to you and Canada for that. Thanks very much.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is standing by live. We're going to ask him about the 11th-hour chances of a deal to avoid forced budget cuts.

Also coming up, the reviews are in for the first lady of the United States. Michelle Obama's surprise appearance at the Oscars. Stand by.


BLITZER: It was one of the biggest White House secrets in a long time. And guess what? It wasn't leaked. I certainly was surprised to see Michelle Obama, the first lady, appear live from the White House during the Academy Awards show last night.

CNN's Tom Foreman taking a closer look at the first lady's star turn. It was impressive.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think in a year when you have this many political films out there, so many things talking about politics, I guess it made sense in that way. Although -- although she is getting somewhat mixed reviews.


FOREMAN (voice-over): At the Academy Awards, the camera whipped around to the winners, but back in the White House, it is clear who the real star is these days.

The first lady's approval rating in our CNN/ORC poll two months ago stood at 73 percent, more than 20 points higher than the president's. And a slew of high-profile appearances may be widening the gap.

The first lady is in the spotlight everywhere, dancing with Jimmy Fallon and bantering about her bangs with Rachel Ray.

OBAMA: This is my mid-life crisis.

FOREMAN: She has lit up Twitter with her tweet, and she even took a stroll to "Sesame Street."

OBAMA: There so many different activities you can do, indoors or outside.

FOREMAN: Talking about healthy eating and exercise with Big Bird.

OBAMA: Get moving. It's good for you.

FOREMAN: All of this is hardly new, except when serious policy matters are at stake, as when Hillary Clinton took on health care...

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Health-care reform must be achieved.

FOREMAN: ... first ladies are generally liked more than their husbands. Michelle Obama, for example, is about as popular as Laura Bush.

(on camera): Still, the headlines are swirling around Mrs. Obama, have ruffled some conservative critics who in the past have groused about her trips to Europe and her expensive clothing and who suggest even now she's trying to distract voters from her husband's political struggles.

(voice-over): Her award show appearance has only inflamed such talk. In the "Washington Post" blog, quote, "It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping. It was just downright weird."

OBAMA: I hope you all got some rest after his last night. We had a good time.

FOREMAN: And an awful lot of her fans are giving her Oscar debut two thumbs up.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: And even her critics, to be honest -- there are some who are coming out sort of venomously, but most aren't. And you heard some of your guests earlier today saying, "Look, it's the first lady. It's a ceremonial role. You get to go off and have fun now and then," sort of being a little bit cagey about it. But nonetheless, it didn't play well for the critics into this idea of the Obamas being too cozy with Hollywood, and she showed it there.

BLITZER: Some critics are not going to be happy about anything.

FOREMAN: They're not. They're critics. I've got critics. You've got critics. What are you going to do?

BLITZER: She looked great. She sounded great. She's enjoying, clearly, being the first lady of the United States.

FOREMAN: And you know, you never have another election in front of you. That's what you get to do, Democrat or Republican.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: A man who made it cool to be surgeon general, Dr. C. Everett Koop, he died today. He was 96 years old. And during the 1980s, Koop became a tireless crusader against smoking and one of the first voices of reason as the country confronted the AIDS epidemic.

Our doc -- our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on Dr. Koop's remarkable career.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His first love was children. Before he became surgeon general, C. Everett Koop was an internationally renowned pediatric surgeon who helped establish the first neonatal intensive care unit in the country, at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

JOHN SEFFRIN, CFO, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: The legacy of C. Everett Koop was how a wonderful, famous pediatric surgeon who'd already made a name for himself was willing, at a relatively advanced age, to do public service and show bold leadership that would have dramatic impact and change the world.

GUPTA: Close friends called him Chick, for Chicken Koop. It was a playful nickname for a man who became an outspoken advocate for many controversial health issues during the '80s and '90s.

He vigorously attacked smoking as the No. 1 public health problem and called for a smoke-free society by the year 2000. Taking on the powerful tobacco companies, his office wrote the first surgeon general's report on the dangers of secondhand smoke.

SEFFRIN: That was the shot heard around the world. It began to change public policy everywhere: getting rid of smoking on airplanes, getting rid of smoking in restaurants, getting rid of smoking in workplaces. GUPTA: But Koop had his share of critics. In its first term, the Reagan administration was faced with a new and deadly disease known as AIDS. At first, AIDS activists demanded attention from the government.

In the fall of 1986, Koop released the government's first report on AIDS, warning that even though gay men were most affected, everyone could be at risk, and sex education should start early.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Just by his bully-pulpit approach to two of the great killers in this world, tobacco and HIV, I believe he's responsible for saving many, many, many lives. Countless.

GUPTA: Because he took on tough issues and used the mass media to get his ideas across, Koop came a pop-culture icon. Rocker Frank Zappa mentioned him in his song "Promiscuous," and he even played himself in the movie "The Exorcist 3."

After leaving office, Koop started the C. Everett Koop Institute and appeared in television ads endorsing life alert bracelets for seniors.

But it was his flamboyant manner, his bow ties and his gentle demeanor on tough issues that will always be his hallmark.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


BOLDUAN: And as we said, Dr. Koop was 96 years old. He died peacefully in his home in Hanover, New Hampshire. His wife died back in 2007. Three of the couple's four children are still alive.

BLITZER: Very good man and our deepest condolences to the family.

We're hearing complaints the White House is, quote, "moving the goal posts," making it harder for lawmakers to avoid those forced spending cuts scheduled to hit on Friday. Erin Burnett's tackling that and a lot more at the top of the hour. Speaks with one of the president's top advisors.

Erin, what's going on and who are you interviewing?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Well, we're going to be talking to the top advisor, Jean Sperling. And we're going to put that question to you, Wolf. Nobody liked it when they shook hands 19 months ago, but shake hands they did, and when they shook hands, the deal was they were going to have spending cuts and the sequester.

So now they don't want spending cuts. They want to have some sort of split of revenue and spending cuts. The problem is when you shake hands, should a deal be a deal?

So we're going to talk about that with Jean Sperling.

We also have an exclusive look at the letters the American people have been sending to George Zimmerman. Some of them are supporting him, some of them condemning him, some of them -- these are pretty incredible, Wolf. We're going to have those at the top of the hour.

Plus, in tonight's essay, Marissa Mayer saying you can no longer work from home if you want to work at Yahoo! Obviously, this is something that affects a lot of women. And we have a pretty strong opinion on it.

Back to you.

BLITZER: WE look forward to it, Erin. Thanks very much.

So only four days until those forced budget cuts go into effect. Coming up, we're going to speak with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. We'll ask him if there's a way out and how the U.S. military will be hit if there isn't.


BLITZER: All right. So time is running out. Only four days left until those $85 billion in forced across-the-board budget cuts go into effect. Let's talk about the impact of chances of a compromise. We're joined by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

BOLDUAN: Hey, Senator.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Thanks very much.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. So the Defense Department, hundreds of thousands of people are going to be furloughed, meaning they'll work four-day workweeks to 15. They're not going to get paid. How do we get out of this mess?

GRAHAM: I think the only way out's a big deal. Republicans are not going to raise revenue to pay for sequestration. And I don't believe that we can do anything in the short-term.

BLITZER: Are you talking -- you say raise revenue, you know raise taxes...

GRAHAM: Yes. Eliminating deductions and loopholes, count me in for that, but put the money on the debt.

BLITZER: So you're saying there has to be a big deal, a grand bargain, entitlement reform and tax reform. But you can't do that in four days.

GRAHAM: So sequestration's going to happen. Hopefully, the pressure from sequestration will wake us up to the big deal. We don't need new taxes to run the government; we need new taxes to get out of debt.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask about the impact of sequestration or you these forced budget cuts, as we prefer to call them. Because the term means nothing to our viewers.

Listen to the fellow Republican, Tom Coburn. He was on FOX yesterday talking about how some Republicans think the impact of these budget cuts is exaggerated. Listen to this.


SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: What sequestration is, it's a terrible way to cut spending. I don't disagree with that, but to not cut 2 1/2 percent out of the total budget over a year when it's twice the size it was ten years ago? Give me a break.


BOLDUAN: What I heard from you in the past, you think that these cuts would be very damaging, especially to defense. Do you agree with Tom Coburn this is -- that the president's kind of blowing this out of proportion to sell how bad it would be?

GRAHAM: Taking four and a half million dollars out of the Defense Department, and if you don't, if you exempt personnel, it's got to come out of modernization and readiness. So that means you'd have to cancel contracts that would have the ripple effect. So a 10- year, $600 billion cut to Defense would be devastating.

If you start it, it's hard to start it. And once you start it, you have to start cancelling contracts and, as you say, laying people off, interrupting modernization programs.

If you're leaving the personnel cost, which is the largest, out of the mix, by presidential decree, the only thing left you have to cut is modernization and readiness.

So I like Tom Coburn, but from the defense perspective, we already cut 480...


BLITZER: Here's an idea. Here's an idea. Eighty-five billion dollars, you know how you save it very quickly with the Defense Department?

GRAHAM: How's that?

BLITZER: Get out of Afghanistan this year instead of next year.


BLITZER: We're spending 80 -- $88 billion this year to maintain, what, 60,000 trips. You pull them out at the end of this year, as opposed to the end of 2014. I don't know, in the long run, if it's going to make much of a difference in the big picture, but you'll save taxpayers $100 billion.

GRAHAM: Yes, and you'll start another war.

BLITZER: Why will you start another war?

GRAHAM: Afghanistan will fail, and Pakistan can't survive.

BLITZER: But what's the difference this year or next year? You keep a little presence like you're going to do after 2014. You do that next year instead of the year after.

GRAHAM: Our military commanders say that we can go down to 34,000 by the end of this year, and we'll have a residual force post- 2014 made up of NATO troops, U.S. troops, to make sure the place doesn't fall apart.

If you change the military commander's recommendation to save money, not only will you screw up Afghanistan. You're going to screw up Iran and Pakistan, because people are watching us. And if it looks like we can't defend America because we've got budget problems, our allies are going to be uncertain, and our friends -- our enemies are going to be on steroids. That's not the way to save money.

BLITZER: I'm just not sure that it's going to make much of a difference in the long run whether we get out in 2013 or 2014.

GRAHAM: I think it makes all the difference in the world as to whether or not we're successful or we lose.

BOLDUAN: What about in the media? What do you think of this idea that's being discussed, about passing kind of a bill to give the president more leeway to find the cuts needed but to not have them be the draconian across-the-board cuts. Give a little more flexibility to cut them with a scalpel.

GRAHAM: Here's what I don't understand. We're the party of fiscal conservatism. Have we put a plan together to cut $85 billion between March and October? No, the House passed a plan to substitute sequestration. The Senate Republicans have yet to offer a plan.

BOLDUAN: But the House would have to pass it again.

GRAHAM: Yes, but the House used savings outside of the 2013 window. If you think this is that easy, I challenge any member of Congress to come up with a proposal to cut $85 billion out of the federal budget between March 1 and October 1.

BLITZER: Why not just give the president the leeway, the flexibility? You know what? This is an awful way to cut $85 billion.


BLITZER: It's going to be painful. Come up with a way that is not going to deal with air-traffic controllers and...

BOLDUAN: You think it's a cop-out to do that? GRAHAM: We'll criticize everything he does. We'll say, "Mr. President, it is now up to you to find this $85 billion in savings," and we'll see it's to make it easier for you, but every decision he'll make, we'll criticize.

To me, this is a bipartisan problem. I voted against this deal, because it will destroy Defense. It's a lousy way to cut -- cut $1.2 trillion, which is imminently achievable.

This is the chance to do the big deal. I'm willing to raise revenue. I'm willing to raise $600 billion in new revenue if my Democratic friends would be willing to reform entitlement so we can fix sequestration together. Because if you don't think it's that bad, why don't you come up with your own plan?

BLITZER: The president invited you and John McCain to the White House tomorrow?


BLITZER: That doesn't happen -- that doesn't happen every day.

GRAHAM: It doesn't happen every day. Yes, we're going to talk about immigration. And I hope we'll talk about this. Now is the time to grow up. Both parties need to grow up. We need to find a chance to do the big deal. I'll challenge the president.

Mr. President, let's do things that will straighten out the long- term indebtedness of the country. Stop talking about between March and October. Talk about the next 30 years. I'll raise revenue. Will you reform entitlements? And both together, we'll set aside sequestration in a way that won't disrupt the economy and hurt the Defense Department.

BOLDUAN: Other big news happening on Capitol Hill this week is the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense. You've been very strongly, not against him, per se, but you want more information about him. Are you satisfied?

GRAHAM: I voted against him. I think he's an outlier when it comes to our policy regarding Iran and Israel. You'll have a hard time finding anybody more antagonistic to the state of Israel than Chuck Hagel, in terms of the way he votes, and more soft on Iran. But it's the president's choice.

BLITZER: Doesn't the president have a right to pick his defense secretary?

GRAHAM: Yes. Within certain limits.

BLITZER: He'll be confirmed. He's got the votes, right?

GRAHAM: The question is, will we vote for cloture? Will Lindsey Graham vote for cloture? I haven't found anything in the last 10 days that will make it an extraordinary circumstance for me to vote against cloture. BOLDUAN: So you're going to allow that final vote to go through. But you won't vote to support him?

GRAHAM: That's the way it looks as of right now, about whatever time it is, that I intend to vote for cloture, unless something changes, and vote against him, and he'll become the secretary of defense, and if I can help him, I will.

BLITZER: When you say you'll vote for cloture. Just to explain to our viewers, that means you will not allow a filibuster to go through. He will need 51 votes to be confirmed, as opposed to 60.

GRAHAM: That's exactly right.

BOLDUAN: Senator, great to see you. Thank you. A lot going on on Capitol Hill this week.

BLITZER: Always good to have you in our studio.

GRAHAM: First chance, by the way.

BOLDUAN: Any time. Any time.

Other news we've been following. That's for sure, the Academy Awards are only partly about the movies. In a minute, we're going to let Jeanne Moos have the last word on Oscar night fashions and flubs.


BLITZER: The awards were only part of last night's Oscars. CNN's Jeanne Moos checks out the rest.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is this any way to talk to a star while trying to get an Oscar fashion shot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Halle, show leg! Show leg!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Halle Berry, show leg!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nicole, for me!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nicole, look up, look up. Look up. Nicole, you're looking down. Nicole, over your shoulder. Over your shoulder, honey.

MOOS: And honey, over her shoulder she looked. But we were looking at every inch of them.

For instance, the darts in Anne Hathaway's Prada dress had viewers convinced they'd spotted certain spots of her anatomy. Though fashion pros say it was just the darts, that didn't stop "Les Miserables" from being rechristened #lesnippleables. And the anatomy in question began to tweet: "We'd just like to point out that we won Best Supporting Actress without any support." And talk about sacrificing for fashion. Kristen Stewart navigated the red carpet on crutches, hopping when it came time to pose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kristen, on your right side.

MOOS: It's possible a new jewelry trend has been launched. Two actresses wore their necklaces backwards, dangling down their backs.

Forget Anne Hathaway's front.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. I really love the back, too.

MOOS: She wore a half-million-dollar Tiffany necklace backwards.

The accessories sported by the 9-year-old star of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" were way cheaper.

QUVENZHANE WALLIS, NOMINATED FOR BEST ACTRESS: It's a puppy purse from Poochie and Co.

MOOS: Poochie and Company sells them for about 15 bucks. This particular breed of bag was a Yorkie.

(on camera): The shocking thing was no one asked who her purse was wearing.

(voice-over): A tutu made of silver netting.

(on camera): We've gone beyond coverage that's merely head to toe. Now we're talking fingers.

(voice-over): Instead of just waving a manicured hand, "E!" entertainment invited stars to display them on their new mani-cam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a manicure camera.

Jennifer Hudson let her fingers do the walking. So did George Clooney's date, Stacy Keibler.

STACY KEIBLER, ACTRESS: Can I walk like models do?

MOOS: Catherine Zeta-Jones seemed eager to do the mani-cam, but her nails got cut.

Who needs a mani-cam? Zooey Deschanel Instagrammed fans a photo of her TV set fingernails.

As for this guy's fingers...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need a two shot. We need a two shot.

MOOS: ... it helps if you don't call Hugh Jackman...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Jackson, sir. Together.

MOOS: It's Jackman, not Jackson.

Much safer to yell in French.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: They all looked great, didn't they?

BOLDUAN: I know. They look beautiful.