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Coming to Terms With JFK Assassination; Air Force One's Historic Role; Kerry Rushes to Join Iran Nuclear Talks; Sticker Shock?; Cell Phones Mid-Flight?

Aired November 22, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: All right, Jake, thank you. Happening now, America's top diplomat now rushing off to Geneva at the last minute, does it mean a deal on Iran's nuclear program is imminent?

Also, the nation pauses to remember one of its darkest days. Exactly 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Plus, the controversy over using cell phones on airplanes. A proposed rule change sparking furious debate.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're following, potentially, a major, major development in talks aimed at preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon. A short time ago, the State Department announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel tonight to Geneva, Switzerland, a possible sign that an agreement may be near. We'll go to Geneva in a few moments.

This afternoon, Kerry also visited the grave of President John F. Kennedy, joining people across the nation in marking the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

The murder not only shook the country to its core, it also cast an enduring shadow over the city where it happened. But today, Dallas took a major step toward coming to terms with its grim history.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas for us.

He's joining us now -- Ed, how did the city mark this important day?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was fascinating. In the shadows of the School Book Depository, the sixth floor window above Elm Street, the final street where President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy were driving on their way to give a speech here in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963, this is where the president's life ended.

But may -- the City of Dallas came together today, this afternoon. And on the very moment that his life ended, they paid tribute to his life and legacy and what President Kennedy meant to this country. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


LAVANDERA (voice-over): It took 50 years, but at last, an official ceremony on the very spot where President Kennedy was assassinated. At the exact moment gunshots rang out across Dealey Plaza five decades ago...


LAVANDERA: -- today, bells tolled, as a crowd of 5,000 stood in somber reflection.

MAYOR MIKE RAWLINGS (D), DALLAS: We watched the nightmarish reality that in our front yard, our president had been taken from us, taken from his family, taken from the world.

LAVANDERA: Every year, millions of people visit the grassy knoll to witness the site of the gruesome murder. City leaders wanted this anniversary to focus on the president's legacy instead.

RAWLINGS: I hope that President Kennedy would be pleased with our humble efforts toward fulfilling our country's highest calling, that of providing the opportunity for all citizens to exercise those inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

LAVANDERA: No one from President Kennedy's family attended this ceremony, but organizers say they had the Kennedy family's blessing. Historian David McCullough paid tribute to President Kennedy's speeches, reading the words that inspired a generation.

DAVID MCCULLOUGH, HISTORIAN: We choose to go to the moon.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

LAVANDERA: A new monument was unveiled in Dealey Plaza. The last paragraph of the speech President John F. Kennedy was supposed to give that day in Dallas, November 22nd, 1963 -- words left unspoken, but chiseled in stone forever.


LAVANDERA: You know, Wolf, and it is amazing, a friend of mine who was -- I used to work with was at the -- at the Trademark waiting for President Kennedy to give that speech on that day. And I remember a story he told me, that it was eerie to watch, as they stood there and saw the motorcade race by on the interstate, going about 70, 80 miles per hour on its way to Parkland Hospital. Kennedy's life ending there in that limousine, as they raced to the hospital trying to save his life.

So many people here in this city of Dallas who will never forget that day. And one person who was not mentioned at all today was Officer J.D. Tippit. That was the Dallas police officer that was gunned down shortly after the assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. His family will have a candlelight vigil in his honor tonight in the South Oak -- in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, just south of downtown Dallas, where he was gunned down 50 years ago, as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more later here in THE SITUATION ROOM on this important day.

Ed, thanks very much.

Let's go to Geneva right now. Important talks involving Iran's nuclear program.

As we reported, the secretary of State, John Kerry, unexpectedly heading there tonight, the latest sign a deal with Tehran may be imminent.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is in Geneva.

He's been following talks for us.

So what is the latest -- Jim?

What are you hearing?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, new developments coming by the minute. A Western official telling me just a few moments ago that a deal with Iran -- a deal regarding its nuclear program -- could come as soon as tonight. They are negotiating here in Geneva through the night, into the early morning hours.

We know that Secretary Kerry is going to arrive tomorrow morning. We also just got confirmation now that the British foreign secretary, William Hague, as well as the French foreign minister, they're arriving, joining the Russian foreign minister, who arrived earlier today.

Now, just a few minutes ago, I spoke to the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, Marie Harf.

And I asked her, with Kerry coming, does that mean he believes he can close this deal?

Here's what she had to say.


SCIUTTO: Secretary Kerry is arriving tomorrow morning.

Is he coming because he believes he can close this deal?

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESWOMAN: Well, keep in mind that Washington is eight hours away. And the secretary had to make a decision. As I said, Lady Ashton, just right now, as we speak, is leading these negotiations. But the secretary is on his way here to be here with his ministerial colleagues, if we do get an agreement, in fact, done.

So he'll be landing tomorrow morning. And we'll see where we are at that point.


SCIUTTO: Well, this is the development we've been watching for, Wolf.

When do all those foreign ministers come in as a sign that they're close to signing this? And now we have that moment. They're all coming in and they're going to be here by tomorrow morning.

And a sense that even before they all arrive, possibly even before Secretary Kerry hits the ground here, they'll have that deal done.

BLITZER: So if there's a deal, Jim, the -- I guess the Iranians, they continue to enrich uranium for a while, during the six month interim agreement. They do allow greater transparency in terms of international inspection of their facilities. But the U.S. and the other international powers, they take some steps to ease those very painful sanctions on the Iranians right now.

That's the gist of this deal, right?

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And we're talking about single digit billions of dollars. That's the figure that U.S. officials have been telling us in terms of sanctions relief. But, in effect, it's actually not sanctions relief. What they're looking to do is free up some frozen Iranian assets overseas, allow Iran access to it.

And one of the key issues here has been how do they get around this right to enrich?

Because U.S. officials say they don't recognize any right to enrich. But the Iranians want the ability to enrich going forward. So the question has been, how do they square that circle?

How do they come to an agreement and a language that makes both sides happy?

I also asked Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, that question.

And here's what she had to say on that.


HARF: Without getting into the specifics of the negotiations, because, as you know, we don't do that, we've been very clear that no country has, quote, "the right to enrich."

The president has also made clear that we do believe the Iranian people should have access to a peaceful nuclear program. So right now, all of those issues are being discussed. What that might look like is part of the negotiations. But we have also been very clear that the goal of the first step agreement is to halt the progress of Iran's nuclear program, and, indeed, roll it back in some key areas.

That's what we're focused on now. The discussions are ongoing. And I'm sure they will go well into the evening here tonight, hopefully to continue making progress.


SCIUTTO: Well, Wolf, when you think about where we were just a couple of months ago, where no deal like this was even on the horizon, and now it looks like it might all come together tonight, and just two months after another deal on Syria's chemical weapons made here in these same negotiating halls in Geneva, pretty remarkable diplomatic developments in such a short period of time.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

We'll see what happens over the next few hours.

I know you'll be on the scene for us.

Jim Sciutto in Geneva, thank you.

Now to a CNN exclusive.

Did the Obama administration scrap a key part of ObamaCare out of fear it would expose some of the high prices of at least some health insurance plans and scare off potential customers?

Our senior White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has been digging into these -- this story for us.

It's pretty shocking, if you see what's going on.

But tell our viewers what you've learned.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is, Wolf, a feature that's called Anonymous Shopping. This is something that President Obama really sold to the American public, the idea that you could go online and comparison shop for a health plan, much the way you would for a plane ticket, anonymously, without entering any personal information.

But sources tell CNN exclusively that just days before the launch of the health care Web site, administration officials, including a deputy director of communications inside HHS, apparently decided to scrap it, even though it would have been ready to go on launch day.


KEILAR (voice-over): This is what the designers of the ObamaCare Web site envisioned -- a shopping destination that would function like some of the top e-commerce sites online.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can compare insurance plans side by side, the same way you'd shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or TV on Amazon.

KEILAR: A hallmark of those sites, the ability to window shop before you register for an account or provide detailed personal information.

CNN has learned one of the best online design firms in the world, with a team that included one of the lead designers of online shoe store, spent hours developing a window shopping tool for the health care Web site.

Federal health care officials endorsed the $3 million model, but it never made it on their site.


HENRY CHAO, DEPUTY CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, CMS: In this case, it failed so miserably, that we could not conscionably let people use it.



KEILAR: Henry Chao, a top government IT official, told Congress the reason the Anonymous Shopping feature was never added was that it was critically flawed.


CHAO: If we had allowed people to go through that, they would have gotten erroneous information and that would have been much worse than not having it at all.


KEILAR: But almost two weeks before launch day, a document obtained by CNN shows federal IT officials determined the window shopping tool tested successfully and that "any remaining defects will not degrade consumer experience."

A source close to the project tells CNN there were only minor problems with the shopping tool, all fixable by launch day. Yet one day after the successful test, Chao shelves Anonymous Shopper for what appears to be a different reason.

In this internal e-mail obtained exclusively by CNN, Chao wrote that Mary Wallace, who is the deputy director of communications for his agency, quote, "asked me -- and I said Anonymous Shopper really isn't needed and thus should be removed. And we agreed."

That move puzzles experts. LUKE CHUNG, PRESIDENT/FOUNDER, FMS: Absolutely. This is something people expect when they visit any Web site, to not disclose any personal information until they are at a point where they want to make a commitment to buy.

KEILAR: Republican critics are now accusing the administration of nixing the window shopping tool because it would have shown Americans the full, unsubsidized price of insurance plans, causing sticker shock and possibly deterring some from signing up.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Clearly, it was a political decision, to make people see what they were getting for free before they could see what it was going to cost.

KEILAR: Chao's agency says it believes the documentation of the successful test was a mistake.

And today, the White House is standing by Chao's testimony.


KEILAR: (INAUDIBLE) you believe that it failed miserably?

CARNEY: Again, it had multiple defects.


CARNEY: Brianna, we...

KEILAR: -- the Web site?

CARNEY: We stand by his testimony.


KEILAR: Now, after complaints that there wasn't a good way to shop before you sign up for an account, ObamaCare officials launched a much more basic version of a shopping function on October 10th. But it doesn't tell you a lot of important things, like Anonymous Shopper can, for instance, if a plan covers your prescription medications or if your doctor is in network.

And this right here, Wolf, is actually the design guide that was created for the federal government and also for states, something that, actually, a lot of states have already implemented at this point.

BLITZER: Yes. And I always wondered why they didn't have that Anonymous Shopper feature on the Web site, so that people could just go check without giving their Social Security number or their date of birth or other personal information, check out to see what, potentially, it might cost.

But you are seeing some differences in sign-ups in various states? KEILAR: Yes, that's right. For instance, California, which is using the Anonymous Shopper function, the very one from this guide right here, they're having a lot of luck with sign-ups. They've been seeing about 10,000 sign-ups per day. That's quite a lot.

You can't draw the connection here, necessarily, between a really good shopping function, like Anonymous Shopper and enrollment numbers. But what experts will tell you is that, one, the shopping experience is much better for someone going on the site. And, also, it would have alleviated some of that traffic jam...


KEILAR: -- that we saw with that caused so many problems, although they are doing a little better on that site now. But they don't have this full shopping experience.

BLITZER: I mean, all of us, we -- we go to these sites. We want to see what it's going to cost us before we give them our credit card number.


BLITZER: That only makes sense.

KEILAR: Would you shop for shoes if you had to put your credit card number in first?

BLITZER: No. But I don't shop for shoes online anyway.

But I do buy airline tickets online.


BLITZER: I wouldn't buy the ticket unless I knew what it cost up front.

KEILAR: That's right.

BLITZER: Then I would give them my credit card number.

KEILAR: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

KEILAR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good work.

Still ahead, Air Force One on the day of the Kennedy assassination -- we have details of the pivotal but little known role it played.

And President Obama speaking out about his security. We're going to take a closer look at how the killing in Dallas 50 years ago changed the way the president is protected. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fifty years after the Kennedy assassination, Dallas, Texas still trying to come to terms of the role it played in the murder of a president. Our chief national correspondent, John King, is in Dallas right now. John, you're there in Dealey Plaza. Today was really the most substantial, largest commemoration Dallas has ever done over these past 50 years since the president was killed.

I want you and our viewers to listen to the mayor of Dallas. He was very reflective about the city's role in history.


MAYOR MIKE RAWLINGS, DALLAS: Today, because of the hard work of many people, Dallas is a different city. I believe the new frontier did not end that day on our Texas frontier.


BLITZER: So John, how has this city evolved over these 50 years? What was the mayor referring to?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the city was called the city of hate in those days after the tragedy right here on Dealey Plaza and there was very little reference to the violence, the assassination, most of the speeches, most of the tributes instead to the legacy of President Kennedy. But President Kennedy had been warned beforehand when he was here in Texas for that political swing, Dallas would be the worst stop, Dallas would be the most hostile.

And this city labeled the city of hate has spent years wrestling with that reputation. There had never before been an official ceremony here on this site. Every year, the conspiracy theorists would come, tourists would come, but the city did decide on JFK 50, the 50th anniversary, to have that ceremony, and again, very little time spent on the tragic events here.

Lee Harvey Oswald never mentioned, for example. Instead, recitation of some of the president's most uplifting speeches and a chance for this city to pay tribute to the president and to pay tribute to the other changes here. Politically, economically, demographically, Dallas is a very different place, but this place, this place will forever be remembered in history as a monument to one of America's great tragedies.

BLITZER: The president, the current president, spoke about President Kennedy today in an interview he granted to ABC News saying he doesn't really worry about his own security in response to a question. He said this, he said, "We have a secret service that does an outstanding job every single day. Tragedy reshaped the secret service in many ways, but they do an outstanding job and it's thankfully not something I spend a lot of time worrying about."

You and I both have covered presidents over the years and there's no doubt the secret service changed dramatically how it protects the president after the assassination.

KING: Wolf, all Americans in seeing the pictures, retracing the Kennedy motorcade route in recent days, would see the convertible. The president in an open car, despite security risks, that doesn't happen anymore. You know that. I'm standing here. I can see the Texas school book depository right over there. Lee Harvey Oswald from a sixth floor window fired the shots that killed the president.

Today, when you travel with the resident, even in the closed motorcade, even with the bulletproof motorcade, the heavily reinforced limousines, you would have secret service and other police authorities on the rooftops around here. That was not in place that day. So substantial security changes made in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, and then additional changes made of course, Wolf, after 9/11, because of the other worries about dirty bombs and the like that.

So, it is constantly evolving but the biggest page changer in secret service operations, presidential security was certainly that tragic event here in Dallas 50 years ago.

BLITZER: It certainly was, and I want to show our viewers our new CNN poll, how the late President John F. Kennedy rates among modern presidents, at least. We asked for approval numbers. Ninety percent approve of the way John F. Kennedy operated as president, 78 percent for Reagan, 74 percent for Bill Clinton, 67 percent, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, 62 percent, Jimmy Carter 60 percent, LBJ 55, George W. Bush 42, Nixon, 31. Kennedy tops that list by far.

KING: tops that list by far, Wolf, even though if you go back to the days in October 1963, his poll numbers were beginning to decline some because he had asked the Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act, and that was very unpopular, especially in the south. But even then, he had a 57 percent job approval rating.

Now, that 90 percent number is stratospheric. Most smart political people would tell you why, number one, he was young, he was handsome, he was aspirational and inspirational and because his presidency was snuffed out at just the 1,000-day mark. So many people look back and ask what might have been. Yes, we went to the moon, yes, we had the Peace Corps, yes, you had this call to serve, but we don't know what would have happened with Vietnam.

We don't know what would have happened with the civil rights and other pieces of what became Lyndon Johnson's great society. Because of that, I think, you don't have as much of a legislative record, but you do have a chance to look at the person, the man, the mood of the moment, and people put such high hopes in him and that's why his numbers are so high 50 years later.

BLITZER: Yes. And yesterday, in our CNN poll, we reported President Obama's job approval number right now, President Obama at 41 percent. John King in Dealey Plaza in Dallas for us, thank you.

It's arguably the world's most important plane, Air Force One played a pivotal and historic role when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 50 years ago today. Here's CNN's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The peaceful transition of power for the mightiest nation on earth took place not in the White House or even in Washington, but on a plane. Window shades drawn for fear of snipers, the air conditioning off to save fuel. The scratchy audio captured on a dictation machine.







SAVIDGE: Built the year before, President Kennedy's air force one was the first presidential jet. Jackie Kennedy hired the designer who came up with its distinctive paint scheme, still used today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger command post. Air Force One has landed 1738 Zulu.

SAVIDGE: That day in Dallas, as the first couple set off into the adoring crowd, the crew monitored their progress on the plane's radios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. You are loud and clear. I will be monitoring this frequency.

SAVIDGE: It wasn't long before they knew something was terribly wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the situation room. I read you.

SAVIDGE: The president had been shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have report quoting Mr. Kilduf in Dallas that the president is dead.

SAVIDGE: In an instant, Air Force One transformed into a command center and as far as anyone knew was the only safe place for a possibly still targeted vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any passengers on board?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, 40 plus.

SAVIDGE: But to the frustration of many, Lyndon Johnson, code named Volunteer, refused to take off until he took the oath of office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are waiting for a judge to appear for swearing in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is for Volunteer, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We are having (inaudible) here before we take off Jerry.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, determined the president's body should not travel in the baggage compartment, the crew struggled to make space in the plane. Historian, Jeff Underwood, recalls what had to be done.

JEFF UNDERWOOD, HISTORIAN: So, they pulled these four seats out, then they took a saw and cut off the bulkhead right across here. The line is still there.

SAVIDGE: The president's casket was rushed up the plane's stairs while afford (ph), people pressed into the sweltering space to bear witness.

UNDERWOOD: And then photographers crammed up on the little couch that's right here in the corner and pushed themselves up into the corner.

SAVIDGE: Jackie Kennedy insisted on being present. The photographer careful to frame the shot so not to show the blood of her husband on her clothes. Finally, it was time to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me in regards to one and two, the to people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. The president is on board. The body is on board and Mrs. Kennedy is on board.

SAVIDGE: With that, Air Force One took off, signaling its departure in long-standing secret service code that on this terrible day seemed so fitting. Angel is airborne.

Martin Savidge, CNN.


BLITZER: These are live pictures coming in from Arlington National Cemetery, the eternal flame at President Kennedy's gravesite.

At the top of the hour, a SITUATION ROOM special report, JFK 50 years later. We go in depth. Tweet us your thoughts. Use the hash tag #sitroom.

We're also following breaking news, a nuclear agreement with Iran possibly, possibly as early as tonight. Our experts are standing by. We'll have the very latest.

Plus, a controversial proposal that could make this announcement a thing of the past.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cell phones if you have an on and off switch, turn it off now.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, word that a deal to contain Iran's nuclear program could, could be reached as soon as tonight. The Secretary of State John Kerry rushing from Washington to Geneva, Switzerland right now, along with counterparts from Europe, with an agreement apparently, apparently very, very close.

Let's talk about that and more. Joining us, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, our CNN political commentator and former Bush speech writer, David Frum, and our CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, the editorial director over at the "National Journal."

Ron, if Kerry does this.


BLITZER: Potentially it's a huge breakthrough. The questions that people are beginning to compare his tenure as secretary of state with Hillary Clinton's.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. And you know --

BLITZER: Tenure as secretary of state.

BROWNSTEIN: Timing -- you know, timing contributes to success. I mean, this is -- look, this is -- if in fact we do have an agreement, it is a reminder that not everything we do is counterproductive or ineffectual. This is a product of years of sanctions, of tightening pressure on Iran that produced political change and helped produce political change inside the country which is now producing dramatic change.

But John Kerry is in a very different position than Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is looking at possibly another presidential campaign, presumably this is the last big position of his public career and that gives him, I think, more freedom to take more risks.

BLITZER: He ran for president in 2004. It didn't work out for him. But he's very active out there as secretary of state.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, he is a secretary of state with huge ambition. As Ron points out, he's at the end of his career, not the beginning of his career, and he can have huge ambition because the geopolitical situation has changed in Iran dramatically. But his relationship with the president is what fascinates me because he played Mitt Romney when during the debates, you'll recall, he and the president are very different kinds of characters.

I would argue the president pulled the rug out from under him on Syria by changing his mind about what he was going to do. But I think they have grown to speak each other's language, understand each other, and that Kerry's ambitions are something now I think the president shares.

DAVID FRUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Caution, we don't know that there's a deal and we don't know there's a satisfactory deal.

BORGER: Right.

FRUM: But -- just one -- before handing out all the prizes, let's remember that the sanctions, the round of sanctions that produced this deal, if there is one and if it's good, were strenuously opposed by this administration. They are called the Kirk-Menendez sanctions after Mark Kirk, senator from Illinois, and Senator Menendez of New Jersey, and they cut off Iran from the international payment system. That administration resisted those sanctions through 2012 because they fear the effect on oil prices in 2012 --

BLITZER: The president didn't veto that legislation then.



FRUM: He didn't veto it because it was folded into the Defense Authorization bill. You would have had to shut down the entire armed forces of the United States. But he thought --


BLITZER: You don't think this is a good deal if in fact --

FRUM: I don't know what's in it. I don't know what's in it. I'm prepared to be pleased.

BROWNSTEIN: And it sounds like we're talking about the deal to have a deal. Right? We're talking about --

BORGER: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: Some kind of short-term, six-month freeze --

BLITZER: Interim deal.

BROWNSTEIN: Interim deal that would -- that would provide time to negotiate a final deal.


BORGER: And there will be -- there will be no doubt Republican opposition to this.


BORGER: Because, of course, how do you verify any deal, what do you do with sanctions? In the meantime, do you let up on the sanctions?

FRUM: Well, the administration has been relaxed, as Eli Lake reported in "The Daily Beast." The administration has been quietly relaxing on enforcing sanctions for some time to come in pursuit of the deal. The key thing that we are going to decide when we know this is a good -- on our side is if we are giving -- releasing certain amounts of cash to the Iranians, that's one thing.

They are very desperate for cash. They have maybe $20 billion of reserves left which is nothing for a country that size. This deal may put as much as $7 billion back into their hands. But the red line for the United States must be no release in the sanctions application unless there is a permanent end to that program.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on for a moment. We don't have a lot of time. Twenty-four hours after the nuclear -- a different nuclear option.


BLITZER: Here in Washington --


BLITZER: There are some Republicans out there who are saying you know what, the Democrats did this, they believe they have a good shot of having the majority in the Senate in -- after the elections in 2014, maybe they'll win the White House, and they will do payback to the Democrats on all sorts of issues with a 51 simple majority, whether on abortion rights, whether on gay marriage, whether on a whole host of issues, they think it will be payback when they become the majority.

BROWNSTEIN: Sure. You know what, in the long run, I think both parties are going to be happier that this was done than it was not done. The reality is, Wolf, we are in a quasi-parliamentary system with the highest levels of party line voting we have ever seen in Congress since the founding.

And in that world, the idea of requiring a super majority for the president to appoint his nominees just is anachronistic and I don't think Chris Christie wasn't happy with what happened yesterday. I don't think Marco Rubio was unhappy with what happened yesterday or anybody else who might run for president.

The level of filibuster had reached a kind of an unsustainable level, especially when you're filibustering not only the individuals but the concept of appointing anyone to the job. Something had to give.

BLITZER: All right --

BROWNSTEIN: If it wasn't yesterday it was going to happen someday.

BORGER: But the stakes now for control of the Senate, Wolf, are so high.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. BORGER: The intensity of that turnout is going to be so important because Republicans can say this was an abuse of power as long as you're going to have it, put us in power. We can use it.

BLITZER: Very quickly.

FRUM: This is not a win for Republicans versus Democrats. This is a win for presidents against Congress.



FRUM: And everyone wants to see a strong executive. And I certainly do, I would say. A president should be able to staff an administration with that president's people.

BROWNSTEIN: And that's a big shift. Democrats used to be the party of Congress.

BLITZER: All right.

BROWNSTEIN: Now they're becoming the party of the executive branch.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

When we come back, you may soon be allowed to use your cell phone midflight. Do you want to use it? You want to hear some guy talking while you're flying? We have details on the growing backlash against the new proposal, that's coming up.

And the District of Columbia, guess what, it is now the owner here in the nation's capital of a strip club. You're going to find out what's going on.


BLITZER: Growing backlash against the new proposal that would allow you to use your cell phone midflight.

Let's go to Reagan National Airport here in Washington. Brian Todd has the latest details.

There's a huge debate unfolding right now, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Now there is backlash from some passengers who say they need a break from these in- flight but others say they just can't do without the connectivity.


TODD (voice-over): We can already connect from almost everywhere, and cell phone calls from cruising altitude may be next. The Federal Communications Commission chairman says the ban on cell phone use on passenger flights is outdated and restrictive, and he's proposing allowing cell phone use above 10,000 feet.

The FCC says technology's advanced enough so that cell phone transmissions from the air would no longer interfere with cell towers on the ground, but it's the response from the flying public that's all the buzz.

SIDNEY RODRIGUEZ, PASSENGER: It would be a big disruption. People wouldn't respect the ones around them. And it could get pretty loud and out of control.

MICHLER BISHOP, PASSENGER: You might want to talk the entire flight in a loud voice about every single problem you have in your family, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? So I'm afraid it won't work.

TODD: That potential tension between passengers is also a safety hazard, according to the Flight Attendants Union which is against the idea. They say it's also a security risk.

VEDA SHOOK, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: We have concerns about the ability for those who might wish to do harm to be able to coordinate during a flight or amongst flights.

TODD: But some passengers say the ability to communicate trumps all.

AMY RATCLIFFE, PASSENGER: There is lots of work that I do that I need to be in touch with people, and the hour and a half that I spend flying between Atlanta and D.C., I lose that time.

TODD: But at a time when we all face more crowded flights, delays, added charges for bags and meals, be ready to pay more for calls from the air. A consumer advocate says airlines and wireless carriers will pass the costs of installing this capability to you.

CRAIG AARON, FREE PRESS/CONSUMER ADVOCATE: You're going to either have to sign up for extra service or you're going to have to pay serious roaming charges, you know, probably in excess of $2 per minute, for every phone call you make.

TODD (on camera): In the air.

AARON: In the air.


TODD: Or maybe more. One executive from a Middle Eastern airline told us he knew of one wireless company that charged $12 a minute for cell service, noting of course you can already use cell phones on airplanes in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

Now, as for the U.S., Wolf, if the FCC lifts this ban, it says it's going to be up to the individual airlines to decide whether they want to offer voice cell service to passengers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A debate will continue. Brian, thank you.

When we come back, the new message from the Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds just days after his stabbing and his son's death.

And ahead at the top of the hour, a SITUATION ROOM special report. JFK 50 years later. Tweet us your thoughts, use the hash tag "sitroom."


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the other top stories we're monitoring in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

The Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds has been released from the hospital three days now since being stabbed more than 10 times in the head and neck by his son, who later committed suicide. Deeds tweeted this just a short while ago. "I am alive, so must live. Some wounds won't heal. Your prayers and your friendship are important to me."

Stocks rose further into record territory Friday as expectations that the Federal Reserve would keep buying bonds for the foreseeable future, offset concerns the market is overheating.

The D.C. government is now the owner of a strip club. The District's Office of Tax and Revenue announced it seized the upscale Stadium Club here in Washington to satisfy more than $100,000 in debts owed by the club's owner. No word yet on what will happen to the strip club now.

The death toll from this month's monster typhoon has surged to more than 5200 people, a significant jump from recent counts, according to the Philippines news agency. More than 23,000 people are now on record as being injured with more than 1500 still missing.

The host of TV's "Survivor" says he's been moved by the disaster in the Philippines. That's in this "Impact Your World".


JEFF PROBST, HOST, "SURVIVOR": I've spent over the last two years, eight months in the Philippines. And while we didn't shoot in that exact area, there is such a sense of community in that country because it's an island -- it's an island community. They don't have much to begin with. It was not uncommon when we would go through the villages to see people in a tin shack, with wood on the side, and maybe a fire burning inside and a clothesline with a few shirts on it.

That was their daily life. And you wouldn't know anything was not OK because everybody have this joy in their hearts. But when you take that very little bit they have away, and you combine it with all of this disaster, now you have just a major catastrophe. And rebuilding that is going to be enormous.

"Survivor" has been always connected to the communities we go to. So we even have our own internal stuff that we're doing with the doctors we've worked with there, who are on -- you know, on the ground and we're helping support them. You can't help but feel simultaneously helpless, and on the other hand, grateful that you're safe because this could hit us. It could hit anybody.



BLITZER: There is no better symbol of this day in Dallas 50 years ago than the pink suit worn by the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the words of the President John F. Kennedy, she looked smashing in it, which maybe why the president asked Jackie Kennedy to wear her now famous watermelon pink suit to Dallas on November 22nd, 1963.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The usual welcoming committee presents Mrs. Kennedy with a bouquet of red roses.

KAYE: It looked like Coco Chanel, but her suit was actually a knockoff, made in America. The first lady had worn it at least six times before that fateful day. Here she is in 1962, awaiting the arrival of the prime minister of Algeria. That's John Jr. in her arms. In Dallas, on November 22nd at this Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast, the president even joked about his wife's fashion sense.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: Nobody wonders what Lyndon and I wear.


KAYE: Later that day, President Kennedy would be dead and the first lady's stunning pink suit, stained forever with her husband's blood, would begin a long and mysterious journey.

When aides suggested she change her clothes after the shooting, she refused. Philip Shenon wrote a book about the Kennedy assassination.

PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": Her remark, and I think she made it more than once is, no, I'm going to leave these clothes on. I want them to see what they have done.

KAYE: Hours later Mrs. Kennedy continued to wear the suit during the emergency swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson as president.

SHENON: That whole scene is obviously just surreal. She arrives in the cabin in Air Force One in these clothes covered with the president's blood and expected to stand there and witness the swearing-in of her husband's successor.

KAYE: Mrs. Kennedy was still in her suit when she arrived later that evening at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland where she received her husband's body. The president's brother at her side in the middle of the night. Once at the White House, her personal maid put the suit in a bag, so Mrs. Kennedy wouldn't have to look at it.

Then sometime in 1964, the blood-stained suit arrived here at the National Archives Building in the nation's capital. It came in a box along with a handwritten note from Jackie Kennedy's mother on her personal stationary. It read simply, "Jackie's suit and bag, worn November 22nd, 1964."

(On camera): All this time Mrs. Kennedy's pink suit has been forbidden from public view, and will likely stay that way for a very long time.

In 2003, after her mother's death, Caroline Kennedy gave the suit to the people of the United States, with the understanding that it wouldn't be put on public display for 100 years until 2103. And even then the Kennedy family must be consulted before any attempt is made to display the suit. All in an effort to avoid sensationalizing that horrible act.

(Voice-over): And it's believed only a handful of people, may be only as few as two, have seen the suit since. Along with the suit and also hidden from view in the new archives in Maryland, the plus blouse Mrs. Kennedy wore in Dallas, her stockings, blue shoes and blue purse. What they don't have is the first lady's pink pillbox hat.

SHENON: The hat is a mystery. The hat apparently goes to the Secret Service initially and the Secret Service turns it over to Mrs. Kennedy's private secretary, and then it disappears. It has not been seen since.

KAYE: The archive is making every effort to preserve the suit. It's stored in a windowless vault in an acid-free container where the air is changed every 20 minutes or so, to properly maintain the woolen cloth. It is kept at a temperature of 65 to 68 degrees, which is best for the fabric.

The suit's story, a perfect ending for a first lady who craved privacy after so much pain.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: Happening now, a SITUATION ROOM special report. "JFK 50 Years Later." Americans are remembering where they were and what we lost on this day a half a century ago. Stand by for new tributes to John F. Kennedy, and new insights into his life, his death and his presidency. We'll go live to Dallas for an unprecedented ceremony marking JFK's assassination. This as they now come into grips with its dark place in history.

And the magic and the myths of Camelot. We're going to discuss the criticism of JFK's presidency and the question, what if he'd lived?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.