Return to Transcripts main page


Senate Stimulus Vote Nears; Congress vs. SEC

Aired February 5, 2009 - 15:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: As we begin this newscast, I need to let you know that we're going to be dipping in live from time to time to the confirmation hearing for Leon Panetta. There's that router we're going to be checking on. You might see him talking about his nomination. He is President Obama's nominee to run the CIA.

I'm Rick Sanchez. Let's do this. Let's cut to the chase.

It is now down to the wire, and the fight is on. President Obama needs just a few -- a few Republicans to back him tonight on his stimulus plan. Will they?

And this. Big news as we cut to the chase, too. A Supreme Court justice undergoes treatment for one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Will Democrats get to choose a replacement if one is need? We are all over that.


SANCHEZ: Cutting to the change.

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK: What the heck went on?

SANCHEZ: We told you here first yesterday on this show about this man, this whistle-blower, who warned your government, the SEC, about Wall Street's mess.

HARRY MARKOPOLOS, INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL FRAUD INVESTIGATOR: I gift-wrapped and delivered the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

SANCHEZ: Them being the SEC, who did nothing. Here's what one congressman now says about the SEC.

ACKERMAN: You couldn't find your backside with two hands if the lights were on.

SANCHEZ: You will hear it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, I'm not even fighting you.

SANCHEZ: Protesting police while he's being arrested and videotaped -- an amazing scene.

Car bomb mystery. Why was this doctor's car targeted?

The Palin protest goes virtual when Hollywood superstar Ashley Judd takes her on. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which engines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lost thrust in both engines, he said.


SANCHEZ: And, finally, the cockpit crew's actual words being spoken as the engines cut out and the U.S. Airways flight starts going down. You will hear the incredible moment as it happens.

Your reaction, participatory journalism, your newscast, our national conversation begins right now.


SANCHEZ: All right. Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Tonight could be the night the Senate could end up ending on this -- voting on this stimulus bill. And the president needs a few Republicans to be able to somehow battle a filibuster in this case.

We're joined now by Patricia Murphy with

Let's start with this, if we can, Murph. This is Republicans, by the way, who throughout the day have been using words like slush fund. One of them said incestuous when referring to Barack Obama's stimulus plan.

But then there's Ben Nelson, a Republican (sic), no doubt, but from Nebraska, who may be leaning toward going with the president. Let's listen to what he had to say.


SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: We're really trying to work together to get this done. America's future is way too important to let partisan differences separate us. And that's why we felt that a bipartisan approach, which the American people are looking for, is far better.


SANCHEZ: All right, there's one. He's going to need probably a few more than just one. Can he get enough GOP support for this thing?


And a quick clarification. Ben Nelson is a very conservative Democrat. He's easy to confuse with a Republican, because he is so conservative. And that is actually one dynamic that Obama has been working with. There are quite a number of moderate Democrats, as well as Republicans, who have gone to him and said, this package needs to be smaller. There's a lot of fat in here. This needs to be cut down in order to win our support. So, there are two dynamics happening right now with Obama and the Republicans and the Democrats. There's a moderate group of Democrats and Republicans meeting right now to try and figure out maybe a third way to bring this forward, to have a more moderate compromise package voted in the Senate.

Also, you hear Obama and Harry Reid turning up the rhetoric, trying to really turn the screws on those Republicans to bring them on board. Harry Reid actually said you cannot hold the president of the United States hostage. So, that's the message going on here.

SANCHEZ: Well, thanks for picking me up on that, by the way.

Lindsey Graham, Republican, South Carolina, who certainly doesn't sound like he's leaning toward voting for this thing, let's take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We're not working together. We're about to spend $800 or $900 billion and nobody's got a clue where we're going to land, and we have got to do it by tonight.

So, I am telling you right now that if this is a solution to George Bush's problems, the country's going to get worse. If this is the new way of doing business, if this is the change we all can believe in, America's best days are behind her.


SANCHEZ: Let's go from that sound to another one. This one is live now.

Leon Panetta is about to be speaking here, Murph. We are going to dip into that. Obviously, there are questions about whether he has the background or the preparation to be the next CIA director.


LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: At the same time, there have been mistakes. But my goal is to build on the tradition much success of excellence and integrity. Together, I think we can turn the page to a new chapter in the agency's history.

I have been asked to do this job because we need a strong CIA that keeps us safe and upholds our values. And I pledge I will do everything in my power to make that goal a reality.

Thank you. And I will be happy to answer your questions.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Mr. Panetta. Appreciate it.

Just, again, this is the order directly following my questions and those of the vice chairman, Senators Levin, Wyden, Burr, Chambliss, Feingold, Rockefeller, Coburn, Whitehouse, Nelson, Mikulski, Snowe, Bayh, Risch, and Hatch.

I just have some questions that are traditional, Mr. Panetta, quickly. And a yes-or-no answer will suffice.

FEINSTEIN: Do you agree to appear before the committee here or in other venues if invited?


FEINSTEIN: Do you agree to send officials from the CIA to appear before the committee and designated staff when invited?


FEINSTEIN: Do you agree to provide documents or any other material requested by the committee in order for it to carry out its oversight and legislative responsibility?


FEINSTEIN: Will you ensure that the CIA provide such material to the committee when requested?


FEINSTEIN: And a new question that I hope will become part of the tradition, and you have alluded to it. Do you agree to inform and fully brief to the fullest extent possible all members of the committee of intelligence activities and covert actions, rather than only the chairman and vice chairman?


FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: That's interesting to listen to that.

You know, Patricia Murphy, there seems to be in those questions a differentiator being set between the past administration and the information they gave to the House and Senate, and the way they expect things to be done in the future, is there not?

MURPHY: That is exactly right.

And Leon Panetta, if you hear from the critics of Leon Panetta, they say that he has never had anything to do with the CIA; why would you put him in charge of it? His proponents actually say that's exactly why you would put him in charge of it.

The CIA was right at the middle of so many of President Bush's controversies, the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq. Also, with the interrogation techniques and detention, a lot of controversy around the detention of people caught on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, they're saying that, if you actually have somebody like Leon Panetta, you can start with a clean slate. So, that's going to be the dynamic going on in that hearing.

SANCHEZ: There's one other huge story that we're going to be following now, this information that apparently Ruth Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg, is going to be treated for pancreatic cancer.

Now, any of us who know anything about pancreatic cancer know that it's probably one of the most deadly forms of cancer. What does this mean? And what are people going to be talking about in this case?

MURPHY: Well, I think in this case certainly people wait to see if there's any sort of medical diagnosis, any indication of how soon this was caught. With Supreme Court justices, there really is never any movement toward a replacement until things are much, much more clear than they are with Justice Ginsburg.

But she is the only woman on the Supreme Court. And that certainly will have people looking forward to, if there were ever a time now or many years from now, if there were replacement for her, or any number of these justices -- many of them are quite old. There will be retirement or illnesses that will change the nature of that court over the next several years.

And I can tell you that women's groups will be looking for at least one more woman, if not two or three, to replace the justices as they're cycling out of there.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Yes. I get the feeling there's going to be a lot of talk about this, if not a lot of action at the same time.

Patricia Murphy, my thanks to you.

MURPHY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Obviously, a lot of things going on. We're going to watch all of them for you. If there are any developments or movements on these stories, we will take you to them right away.

Thanks again, Patricia.

MURPHY: Thank you.


ACKERMAN: We thought the enemy was Mr. Madoff. I think it's you. You were the shield. You were the protector.


SANCHEZ: If you watch nothing else today during this newscast, watch Congressman Ackerman's rant. It is next.

Also, I want you to look at something else. This is a trooper using a pit maneuver on a man with three kids in the back seat of his car, all because of an improper lane change. Can she, should she, that trooper, keep her job after this?

That's ahead.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

These are the words that are being used by Mr. -- Congressman Ackerman. "An unbelievable story of government ineptitude or worse" is how in part he's describing what he has been seeing from the SEC. Keep in mind, these are the people who are supposed to check the people on Wall Street. Did they drop the ball, and, if so, just how badly? Take a listen.


MARKOPOLOS: The key tipoff -- and it took me about five minutes to figure out that he was a fraud. So, it took extensive time and research.


MARKOPOLOS: I basically read his strategy description, and I knew that wasn't the source of his returns, because then I looked at his -- I knew right away by looking at his performance chart.

And I wish I had a white board and easel here, but I don't, so I'm going to give you a hand signal. And I'm going to show you what his performance return looked like. It was a 45 degree angle, without any variation. It went in only one direction -- up.


SANCHEZ: All right, that's Harry Markopolos.

He's a whistle-blower who is sitting there telling this hearing yesterday that what Bernie Madoff had done was without question a Ponzi scheme and that, eight years ago, it took him five minutes to figure it out, and that he went to the SEC, and he told them about this. And nobody listened.

So, today, Congressman Ackerman responded with the SEC right in front of him as such.


ACKERMAN: What the heck went on?

Your mission, you said, was to protect investors, and detect fraud quickly. How did that work out? What went wrong? It seems to me a private -- with all of your investigators and all of your agency and everything that all described, one guy with a few friends and helpers discovered this thing nearly a decade ago, led you to this pile of dung that is Bernie Madoff, and stuck your nose in it, and you couldn't figure it out.

You couldn't find your backside with two hands if the lights were on. Could you explain yourselves?

You have single-handedly diffused the American public of any kind of confidence in our financial markets, if you are the watchdog. You have totally and thoroughly failed in your mission.

Don't you get it? And now other people are investigating what you should have found out. And you're hiding behind, well, maybe we can't talk because someone else is looking at it.

Well, you forfeited your right to investigate by not doing it, certainly not doing it properly or adequately. And now you're trying to tell us that, because other people are looking at it, you're not going to tell us what's going on?

Like hell you won't. What happened here? That's the question. Do we start with hear no evil, see no evil, or do no evil? Take your pick.

LINDA CHATMAN THOMSEN, ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION: We have a pending action pending in the Southern District of New York.

ACKERMAN: You took action after the guy confessed. He turned himself in. Don't give yourself any pat on the back for that.

THOMSEN: And, Congressman, every time...


ACKERMAN: Why didn't you find him is the question?

THOMSEN: I understand your question. And we cannot answer as the specifics. I can talk generally...

ACKERMAN: You know, if anybody made the case better than Mr. Markopolos -- and I didn't think anybody could -- about you people being completely inept, you have made the case better than him.

THOMSEN: Well, sir, I am sorry you feel that way, profoundly.


SANCHEZ: It's absolutely amazing to watch. Have you ever seen anything quite like that?

And they are sitting there like scared children being scolded by their teacher. But, finally, one of them, the attorney for the SEC, attempts, using legalese, to address the questions that were raised by the congressman. Watch this.


ACKERMAN: The commission has voted the position that you will cite executive privilege in not testifying before this committee and answering its questions.


ANDREW VOLLMER, SEC ACTING GENERAL COUNSEL: I couldn't say that to you honestly, because the specific reasons...

ACKERMAN: Obviously.

VOLLMER: ... weren't discussed and given by the commission. But the basis is that we were...


ACKERMAN: Your value to us is useless.

VOLLMER: ... accommodation.


ACKERMAN: Your value to the American people is worthless. Your contribution to this proceeding is zero.


VOLLMER: We ask that you take into account the concerns that have been well settled over many years. And we would ask you to take those into account.

ACKERMAN: Our economy is in crisis, Mr. Vollmer. We thought the enemy was Mr. Madoff. I think it's you.


SANCHEZ: That's a congressman like perhaps no congressman we have seen in a long time, calling it, as some would say, like it is.

In fact, let's go to our Twitter board, if we possibly can. We have been getting a lot of reaction. Just in the small time that we have been showing you this report, people have been writing to us from all over the country saying things like this.

"Time for an overhaul of that entire organization," talking about the SEC. They say, "They should all be fired."

Joining us now is Bob Lenzner. He's national editor with "Forbes" magazine.


ROBERT LENZNER, NATIONAL EDITOR, "FORBES": I agree with all those people.

SANCHEZ: Do you really?

LENZNER: That is -- absolutely. I mean, absolutely.

I know a lot about the formation of the SEC and the people that ran it. There was a -- a man who ran the enforcement division in the 1970s called Stanley Sporkin. He had everybody on Wall Street completely scared of him.


SANCHEZ: Well, see, that's the -- but hold -- I'm going to stop you right there.

LENZNER: Yes. Yes.

SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting? Markopolos said just the opposite of what you just said. Here's what Markopolos said yesterday. He said -- he testified that the SEC was afraid of Bernie Madoff, scare to go -- scared...


SANCHEZ: So, instead of him being scared of them, they were scared of him.

LENZNER: You know what? I didn't see that he said that.

What I saw that he said was the SEC's investigational ineptitude and financial illiteracy colluded with Madoff. Now, the use of his word colluded was not correct, because colluded means to have a secret plan to commit fraud.

SANCHEZ: So, what is it? What would you call it then?


SANCHEZ: Why didn't they bust him?

LENZNER: I would call it investigational -- total investigational ineptitude and total financial illiteracy.

Let's just add up what we know. I know that the woman he sent the November '05 memo to, OK, was a part-time worker at the SEC who had no quantitative knowledge, didn't know what to do with it.

But what has never been mentioned is that, in that memo, he says there were four senior people on Wall Street, four senior people, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan. Call these people. Here are the phone numbers. They will tell you that Madoff is a fraud and will back me up.

Nobody ever did that. That -- I mean, that is the kind of total ineptitude I don't believe...


SANCHEZ: Look, is it just ineptitude or is there something else going on here?

LENZNER: Well, we will find out. Do you really think...

(CROSSTALK) SANCHEZ: Well, no, I'm not saying they're in on it. I'm not trying to say that the folks at the SEC are in on what Bernie Madoff did.

What I'm saying is that, somehow, we created a system where the people who are supposed to watch the people on Wall Street are almost in awe of them, so are therefore not really having any power over them.


LENZNER: That's part of the culture of what's happened the last 20 years. But it's also that orders were given to the Cox SEC to not do very much.

If you remember that when Arthur Levitt was the chairman of the SEC, he voted not to regulate derivatives. I want to repeat that, not to regulate derivatives. A lot of things have been done to take the power away from the SEC to do their job, which is supposed to be to protect individual investors, and, by the way, also to keep an eye on the sharpies at the big securities firms.

And Mr. Cox was nowhere to be found when Bear Stearns went out, nowhere to be found on Merrill Lynch. He didn't play a major role in this. It was all done by the Treasury and the Fed. So...

SANCHEZ: And you say under the -- and we're almost out of time here, but you would say...


SANCHEZ: to fix this, what?

LENZNER: They need a hearing to review who's responsible for this. The SEC has to be turned upside down. We probably need a new Securities Act. We haven't had one since 1940. They're working on acts from 1933, '34.

And we need people to be put in charge here who aren't going to be answerable to some political ideology, but are going to do the job they were assigned to do. That's not what's happened.


SANCHEZ: Bob Lenzner, let's talk again. This is an interesting conversation and one that obviously has really hit a nerve with a lot of our viewers who are watching this and responding to us on MySpace and Facebook and Twitter as well.

Bob, thanks so much for being with us.

LENZNER: Not at all.

SANCHEZ: Singer Ashley Judd attacks Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. And this one seems, unlike the other ones in this area, to stick.

Also, Hollywood and the Great White North, they're colliding, this time on the World Wide Web. Judd vs. Palin, round one?


SANCHEZ: A couple of comments coming in to us. Welcome back.

Let's go first to Twitter, if we can there, Robert.

This is Galaxy5007: "Wow, that SEC beat-down was awesome. Nobody can seem to answer."

It did seem that way, didn't it?

Now let's go over to MySpace: "You know, really funny how all of these Republicans are worried about and asking questions about anything. Not even three months ago, no Republican was asking any questions about anything."

Interesting observations. We thank you for those.

Quote: "Beating up Bernie Madoff," in fact, "kicking his" -- stop. Who on "The View" said that? Who do you think on "The View" would say something like that, and actually use the word, by the way? Why, it's Whoopi Goldberg, who has called me on the air before and may yet do it again. Who knows.


SANCHEZ: These comments are just pouring in on this conversation you heard the congressman, Ackerman, have just moments ago with some from the SEC.

Listen to this, maybe not such a bad idea, huh? Let's go to Twitter, this just coming in.

Readthis says: "SEC thieves. Markopolos" -- that's the whistle- blower" -- should be put in charge. He is the change the SEC needs."

Interesting. Here's some other takes. Here's tonight's "Fix."



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apparently, a guy got caught with two pigeons stuffed in his pants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After he got off a flight from Dubai to Australia, the customs officials say the live birds were wrapped in padded envelopes and head to the man's legs by a pair of tights under his pants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have so much of a problem with these pigeons as I do with those tights.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What -- and those legs, look at those gross, gross Abu Dhabi legs.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They land. Security pulls his pants down, and are like, is that an omelet in your pants or are you just glad to see me?



CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST: ... whoopass on the Wall Street fat cats. Did you see this?


FERGUSON: Look at the headline. "President Obama Puts Salary Caps on Wall Street." President Obama is going to put a salary cap on execs working for companies that take the government bailout money.

And these CEOs are furious, because now the limits of what they can make in a year is $500,000. Cry me a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) river.



WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I think we should have Bernie Madoff -- you know, he's over there in his very nice, very nice apartment, fabulous apartment.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST: Beautiful apartment.

GOLDBERG: I think he should be taken over to, you know, one of the parks, Tompkins Square Park. A fence should be put around, and then two security people with a list, you know, of all the names of the people who got screwed over by him, they should be let in two at a time.


GOLDBERG: And all they can bring in with them are their hands, OK?


Because I think, if I were this furious, if this man had lost everything that my family -- that my whole life, because this guy B.S.ed me, I would want to hit him. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

GOLDBERG: I'm sorry. I know it's horrible. But I don't care that he's going to jail. I just want to punch him and say, damn it, pow.



JON STEWART, HOST: Change hard to come by, but hope still Alive. where does Obama now sit on our completely unrealistic expectation- ometer?

Well, it looks he's...


STEWART: ... somewhere between Gandalf and Wizard FDR. All right.


STEWART: Still very disappointing.



SANCHEZ: And, by the way, the comments are still pouring in over our conversation.

This is from Facebook, Richard: "Wow. Nothing like seeing the super rich, super powerful people called on the carpet. The untouchables just got touched."

And Nii Ayiete says to us -- she's watching -- "Wow, that SEC board looked like they were in after-school detention at the principal's office."

Now this:


ETTA JAMES, SINGER: But I tell you, that woman he had singing for him, singing my song, she's going to get her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) whipped.



SANCHEZ: Oh, wait until you hear the rest of this. This is a famous entertainer. She's dissing Beyonce. I mean dissing Beyonce.

And then she goes on to dis President Obama, I mean, in a bad way as well. You have got to hear this one for yourselves. It is going to kind of make you wince when you hear it. You know what I mean?


SANCHEZ: Amazing what we're about to show you, what you're about to listen to. For the very first time, the cockpit recordings and the tower conversations have been released of the flight that ended up landing -- or crash landing in the Hudson.

What was it like for this pilot and for this crew when they suddenly realized they had no engines and they were going to have to take the plane down?

Here it is.


CAPTAIN CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER: Cactus, 1539. Hit birds. We have lost thrust in both engines. We're returning back toward LaGuardia.


You need to return to LaGuardia?

Turn left heading about 220.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tower, stop your departures. We've got an emergency returning.

It's 1529. He -- a bird strike. He lost all engines. He lost the thrust in the engines. He's returning immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1529, which engines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lost thrust in both engines, he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1529, we couldn't get it to you.

Do you want to try to land on Runway 1-3?

SULLENBERGER: We're not able. We may end up in the Hudson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Cactus 1549, there's going to be less traffic to Runway 3-1.



What do you need to land?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1529, Runway 4 is available if you want to make left traffic at Row 9-4.


SULLENBERGER: I'm not sure we can make any runway.

What's over to our right?

Anything in New Jersey, maybe Teterboro?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Yes. Off to your right side is Teterboro Airport.

Do you want to try to go to Teterboro?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hand powered. Actually, LaGuardia departure has got an emergency inbound.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1529 over the George Washington Bridge wants to go to your airport right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants to go to our airport. Check.

Does he need assistance?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He -- it was a bird strike.

Can I get him in for Runway 1?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runway 1. That's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1529, turn right 2-8-0. You can land on Runway 1 at Teterboro.

SULLENBERGER: We can't do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, which runway would you like at Teterboro?

SULLENBERGER: We're going to be in the Hudson.


Say again, Cactus?

Cactus 1529 radar contact is lost. You've also got Newark Airport off you at two o'clock in about seven miles.

Eagle 547-18, turn left, hang 2-1-0.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2-1-0, 47-18. I think he said he was going in the Hudson. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And he was going in the Hudson.

It's a videotape that speaks for itself, isn't it?

There's something else I want you to see now. This is Ashley Judd going after Sarah Palin about attacking from the air -- or hunting from the air -- wolves in Alaska. It's a charge that's been leveled before, but it's never really got any ammunition because the media generally ignored it.

However, on the Internet, it's gotten virtual attention -- lots of it.

Here it is.

This is the ad as put together by Defenders of Wildlife.


ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: Hi. This is Ashley Judd for Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

When Sarah Palin came on the national scene last summer, few knew that she promotes the brutal aerial killing of wolves. Now back in Alaska, Palin is again casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife.

Using the low-flying planes, they kill in winter -- when there is no chance for the wolves to escape. Riddled with gunshots, biting at their backs in agony, they die a brutal death. Palin even proposed a $150 bounty for the severed foreleg of each killed wolf. And now she is encouraging even more aerial killing.

It is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery. Please join with me by going to and take action now.

Thank you.


SANCHEZ: And, again, just to be clear, she's criticizing her as a governor of a state for a policy. She goes on to make some other statements.

Joining us now is, from HLN, the host of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," A.J. Hammer. -- A.J., good to see you.

AJ HAMMER, HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Nice to see you,, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Let me read to you, A.J. what the Palin campaign shot back with -- or what the governor's office shot back with. Here it is. I think we've got a graphic where we can it put it up: "The ad campaign by this extreme fringe group, as Alaskans have witnessed over the last several years, distorts the facts about Alaska's wildlife management programs."

I mean these two are really kind of going back and forth at each other. And it's interesting, because, you know, this is a story that has been out there...


SANCHEZ: ...but it's been generally ignored. And now by Ashley Judd, as a very popular actress, putting her name on this, it's just caught fire on the Internet.

What gives?

HAMMER: Yes, well, I think it's actually something more than that, Rick, because -- something we debate on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" all the time -- how much impact does a celebrity attaching their name to an agenda or to a cause actually have?

In this case, obviously it's had an impact because hey, here we are talking about it. You just played the ad.

But I think it's bigger than that, because what Ashley Judd did, in what I think was a very strategic move by Defenders of Wildlife, is she invokes the name Sarah Palin, who, of course, is a lightning rod for controversy.

Suddenly where perhaps the door had never been opened to expose this practice of thinning of the herd -- which, by the way, is not just exclusive to Alaska...


HAMMER: ...suddenly we're talking about it and people are aware of it. So I think it was sort of a combination -- almost the perfect storm, if you will -- Ashley Judd's celebrity, mention Sarah Palin and bring her into this.

SANCHEZ: And it's not your job or my job to figure out how these things turn out and whether it's going to hurt her or not. We'll just have to keep an eye on it and report on it.

Something else, another celebrity makes an interesting statement. I want you to listen to this one. This is Etta James. She's caught on tape after a performance. And she's railing about Beyonce, something about stealing material or something.

But then she goes after the president of the United States in a way that maybe we haven't heard before from someone like this.

Let's listen.


ETTA JAMES, SINGER: You guys know your president, right?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yes. JAMES: You know the one with the big ears?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yes, we know him.

JAMES: Yes, wait a minute. He ain't my president. He might be yours. But he ain't my president. But I'll tell you, that woman he had singing for him singing my song, she's going to get her (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) whipped.


JAMES: The great Beyonce.


SANCHEZ: This is amazing. It's like you're hearing a cheer, but she didn't get the -- do you guys know the president, right?

And they go: "Yes!" "Well, he ain't my president."

It's almost like she turned them.

What is going on here?

HAMMER: Yes, this is all very strange. And, honestly, Rick, until Etta James sits down and goes on the record about what she said, we're not really going to be able to know what's going on in her mind or what was going on in her mind before she sang her song "At Last".

But basically, as you know, Beyonce sang "At Last" -- you're seeing it right now. This was at the inauguration, the inaugural -- ball the first dance of the first lady and our new president. And this is a song that Beyonce is now associated with because she, of course, played Etta James in the movie "Cadillac Records," which came out last year.

And at that time, Etta James was a huge Beyonce supporter. But apparently -- and I can only guess here -- Etta James felt slighted by the fact that...

SANCHEZ: She wasn't picked.

HAMMER: was Beyonce and not Etta who sang it, because even though -- look, Etta didn't write the song. She wasn't the first one to perform it. But it's Etta James' song. Nobody will argue with that.

SANCHEZ: That's amazing.

Even at those levels, huh?

By the way, I've got a 7-year-old and 9-year-old who argue about these things all the time.

HAMMER: They do?

SANCHEZ: And they're a little younger than these two, by the way.


SANCHEZ: Hey, A.J. Hammer, good stuff.

Thanks so much for setting us straight on this.

HAMMER: You got it, Rick.

We'll be talking about this stuff tonight.

SANCHEZ: And we'll see you then.

A tribute to somebody who represented the opposite of exactly who we're talking about on Wall Street. And I'm going to be proud to tell you about this man.

And did you hear what Dick Cheney said about Barack Obama?

I mean he's hitting him. He's hitting him hard.

But why?

The man who wrote "Bush's Brain" joins us for this conversation.

Stay with us.

This gets good.


SANCHEZ: A couple of comments on the stories that we just shared with you just moments ago. Let's see what Twitter, if we can, fellows. Here we go. Delano says: "In a country where presidential elections last two years, Judd has kept Palin in the public eye, keeping her viable for 2012."

There's another one right below that that differs: "I am going to buy as many Ashley Judd DVDs as I can. Rick, where can I contribute money to Ashley's song?"

Two opinions. Here's another one, this one on Etta. And this is on MySpace. Switch the camera around. And there we go: "Etta seems jealous to me. But altogether, she still serves her own opinion of the president."

Yes, she does.

Something else to take note of now, if we can -- something I didn't have a chance to tell you yesterday because of the White House briefing. We've just spent an entire week talking about the type of people who've ruined our economy -- people who put profit above, well, just about everything.

But I want to talk to you now about somebody who didn't. His name is Millard Fuller. He's a good old boy from Alabama who I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago when I was a spokesman for Habitat for Humanity in South Florida.

Millard Fuller founded Habitat. He recruited a peanut at the time from Georgia named Jimmy Carter, who I also got to know well during those days in Miami. And since then, Habitat has become one of the most respected, one of the most worthwhile charities in the world -- thanks to Millard.

I mean this guy could have spent his millions on himself, but he chose to spend it on other people.

I recently flew with Millard on a trip out West. He talked about one thing during the whole flight and one thing only -- helping people, finding ways to get money to improve poor people's lives. I mean, altruism was this guy's passion.

Millard Fuller was laid to rest yesterday. He leaves a legacy of hope. And then our hope that the president that President Obama chooses to get us out of this economic mess will be a lot like Millard Fuller.

You can find many of our news items and comments on


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do everything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.


SANCHEZ: A former vice president checking the facts.

Is what he's saying true, that terrorists are now trying to attack the United States again, in large measure because of Barack Obama?

That story is ahead.

Also, what was this guy thinking?

A Florida man scuffles with police over a traffic dispute and tries to call 911 while he's being arrested. We'll tell you about this bizarre event and a couple more on our radar.

We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm being dragged out of my car. This is ridiculous. I'm being assaulted. He's yelling at me and grabbing me and he has maced me once, OK. This is not cool. I'm not even fighting you. I'm not even fighting you.


SANCHEZ: Ashleigh Banfield joins us now to examine a couple pieces of videotape we thought you should see.

Ashley, thanks so much for being with us.

First this one. This guy starts calling police while he's -- or calling 911 while he's dealing with police.

Boy, that's a way to make them mad, right?


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": Yes. And, also, he has absolutely no leg to stand on, Rick. I think you know, as well as I do, that driving is a privilege. It is not a right. If you're pulled over, it is the law -- you must surrender your driver's license if asked. You don't have the right to say no.

SANCHEZ: Ashleigh Banfield is host of "In Session" on the Legal Network. You see these kind of cases all the time. And sometimes the perpetrator, for lack of a better term, is right. And sometimes it's the cop who's right. And it's different in many occasions.

I want to show you one now that actually shows what I'm talking about. This is interesting -- newly released videotape. This is in St. Paul, Minnesota. A police officer tries to pull over a guy with his kids in the back seat and she uses a pit maneuver, which is as dangerous as anything you can do, especially in icy conditions.

Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With music blaring in her squad car, Sergeant Rindal sees this minivan make what she determined was an illegal lane change.

Was Salter really fleeing police or trying to safely pull over?

He said he decided to exit and then pull over. He slows, he says, to about five miles per hour and then pulls to the right shoulder.

And then...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sergeant Rindal thought Salter was fleeing, so she did what is called a pit maneuver -- crashing into him to make him stop. Salter immediately jumped out of his van after being hit.

SAM SALTER: What are you doing?

SGT. CARRIE RINDAL: Get your hands up now!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With his hands behind his head, Sergeant Rindal aimed at Salter with her firearm. Salter said his kids saw the whole thing.


SANCHEZ: I mean, this time it looks like the guy's right.

He gets out of the car and says: "What are you doing?"

For an illegal lane change?

You know, I've been a cop reporter for much of my life. And I'll tell you, that pit maneuver is something you use at the very end of maybe a chase where a guy's got a gun to somebody's head.

Not this, right?

BANFIELD: Yes, you're right. And, in fact, I know that there will be a lot of police chiefs out there who will disagree with me here. But the law is the law. And you do have the right to pull over in a safe location. This is not the domain of the officer to choose what location that you're going to be pulled over.

A perfect example, Rick. I have been advised by police officers that if I feel somebody behind me with flashing lights isn't who I think they are and it's a dark lonely strip and I'm by myself, I am not to pull over until I can find a safe location that's well lighted with people. And, by the way, the only way that you have to do this is to indicate that you are going to comply by keeping your speed down and using your indicators.

Those are the things this father of three young children in the back did.

SANCHEZ: Yes. That's just it. I mean, beyond all the explanations that you and I can come up with after we call our sources, there were three kids in the back seat. It was an illegal lane change that he was being pulled over for and there was snow on the ground. If you put those three together, it didn't sound like a good measure. And I think that maybe she should either be reprimanded or perhaps even asked to leave the department.

BANFIELD: Well, can I go on further?

Believe it or not, Rick, I've talked to some legal sources who say that this man could actually sue for a civil rights violation.


BANFIELD: I know. It sounds bizarre. But when you pull a gun on a man with three children who has done nothing other than the illegal lane change to elicit that kind of response, his civil rights were actually infringed upon. The idea being here, Rick, that he had the right to find a safe spot. SANCHEZ: Yes.

BANFIELD: You know on my TV network, we show this stuff all the time -- dash came crashes.

SANCHEZ: They should get the (INAUDIBLE) find out.

Ashleigh Banfield, the host of "In Session".

Thanks so much for being with us.

Appreciate it.

BANFIELD: Good to see you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To ensure the health and well-being of our nation...


SANCHEZ: Just 17 days out of office -- 17 days -- and former Vice President Dick Cheney cannot hold his tongue when it comes to going after the Obama administration.

Why is he doing this?

Is the timing right?

Is what he says right?

We talk to the man who wrote "Bush's Brain" next.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in the bare- knuckled world of Washington, this was a remarkably sharp attack by the former vice president -- the plan to close the prison camp at Guantanamo amid complaints about human rights a clear sore point in his interview with

CHENEY: When we get people who are more concerned about the -- let me think carefully how I describe this. But more concerned with reading their rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States people who are absolutely committed to do everything they can to kill Americans, then I worry. Whether or not they pull it off depends, in part, upon us and what kind of policies we put in place and whether or not we're prepared to do what we need to do.

OBAMA: On this day... FOREMAN: Even before President Obama took office, Cheney defended the treatment of terror suspects under President Bush. And now, with Obama condemning torture and reversing many Bush policies, Cheney is insisting.

CHENEY: If it hadn't been for what we did with respect to the terror surveillance program or enhanced interrogation techniques for high value detainees and The Patriot Act and so forth, then we would have been attacked again.

FOREMAN: Not only that, he says time will prove it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says that once the files are open, people will be able to see that Bush administration policies -- policies that he's closely linked with -- that those policies averted attacks.

FOREMAN (on camera): Still, the attack Washington is buzzing about right now is this one. Top former officials rarely have such harsh words for a new president -- and almost never so soon.

(voice-over): But Dick Cheney made it clear long ago the opinions of others don't bother him much. And the Obama administration has not responded.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: Wow! Let's get into this.

Wayne Slater is with the "Dallas Morning News".

One of the things that Mr. Cheney says is he believes -- or he implies that Obama believes that if we just talk nice to these folks quote "everything's going to be OK."

Is that fair?

Well, you know, to hell with fair.

Is it accurate, given that Barack Obama authorizing strikes into Pakistan and sending more troops into Afghanistan?

WAYNE SLATER, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": No, it's not fair. No, it's not accurate. It's a straw argument that you raise in order to knock down.

What Obama is saying and has said to the campaign is that we'll negotiate with other countries. We want to invoke diplomacy with even those nations we don't agree with.

He's never saying we talk nice to the terrorists and they'll be nice to us. No one is saying this.

SANCHEZ: His certitude throughout all of this...


SANCHEZ: I mean, can you imagine George Bush hearing Dick Cheney and then trying make a decision that countered him.

Could he ever have?

Did he ever?

SLATER: Well, you know, on certain things he certainly didn't do what the vice president wanted. But the vice president had enormous influence around George Bush. I remember when George Bush was governor in 2000, being at the ranch and hearing Bush tell me how he really liked Cheney.

And part of it was this sense of avuncular certitude that Cheney had been around the block, knew what he was talking about and Bush was really a sucker for that. Cheney had the ability to says things that we now know are absolutely wrong, but he says it sort of like that Monty Python skit where we know the parrot's dead, but you say it with such certitude that maybe he's just sleeping.

SANCHEZ: It's amazing.

Wayne Slater, I wish we had more time for you.

SLATER: All right.

SANCHEZ: We'll get you back.

Will do.

We've got to go to Wolf Blitzer.

You know Wolf.

SLATER: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: He's standing by now to bring us up to date on what's coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf, over to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thanks very much.

Straight ahead, he's only 26 years old. President Obama just gave him a very big job. Joshua DuBois is responsible for redoing what President Bush did with the White House space agency. We'll have more on what's going on. That's coming up.

Also, you might compare it to a reality show where voters call in yes and no votes -- except the phones ringing in this drama are up on Capitol Hill. They're angry messages that many of you are leaving senators debating the economic stimulus plan.

And more on the breaking news right now -- the hospitalization of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

How is she doing after treatment for pancreatic cancer? And might this affect the Supreme Court?

All that, Rick, and a lot more, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff, as usual.

Thanks so much, Wolf.

We appreciate it.

By the way, your comments on Dick Cheney already -- we just finished the segment. They're coming in fast and furious here on the Twitter board. When we come back, we'll tell you what you're saying about the former V.P.


SANCHEZ: A lot of comments coming in. I wish we could read more of them to you. But here's one of them: "Dick Cheney needs to go home take a nap. He's done now. Be quiet and pray that he doesn't get prosecuted for his crimes."

That's pretty much the assessment of many of the people who just wrote to us moments ago.

Wolf Blitzer is standing by now.

He brings you every day "THE SITUATION ROOM".

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, faith in the White House -- this hour, President Obama's personal account of his religious transformation and how he's transforming President Bush's faith-based initiative.

Plus, the breaking news on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's cancer surgery. It's raising new questions about the future makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court under President Obama.

And senators are paring down the economic recovery package in an urgent search for a compromise.

So what's going to stay, what's going to go?

The White House budget director, Peter Orszag -- he's standing by live to join us this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.