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Obama Sends Tough Message to Congress; Mother of Octuplets Speaks Out

Aired February 6, 2009 - 15:00   ET



RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Cutting to the change.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a stimulus bill; this is a spending bill.

What do you think a stimulus is?


OBAMA: That's the whole point.


SANCHEZ: The president's had enough. No more Mr. Nice Guy?

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: We need to put gas in the tank and not sugar.

SANCHEZ: Do or die for the stimulus plan in the Senate.

There is anger in this exchange.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Did you have another more pertinent question?

QUESTION: I think that's pretty -- I think it's fairly pertinent, your cabinet nominees and whether or not they pay their taxes and whether or not they have speaking fees with all sorts of industries they're suppose to regulate. I think that's fairly pertinent. You don't?

SANCHEZ: Is the media finally done sitting on its hands?

This Republican congressman says the GOP needs to be like the Taliban, fight like insurgents. What if a Democrat had said that during the Bush years?

Single mom uses sperm donors to have six kids, now eight more -- that's 14 in total -- lives with her parents and collects disability. What else do you want to know? Oh, she's talking today, for the first time. And you will hear it.

The stories you're talking about on Twitter and Facebook, participatory journalism. Our national conversation begins right now.


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

Here's what we need to know as we begin this newscast. Not since 1974, not since Gerald Ford have we had a monthly unemployment report that looks as dismal as the one that was given to Barack Obama just today. That is why he is starting to sound like he wants something done about it, and he wants it done now, as in the form of cooperation.

Listen to this.


OBAMA: These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work. Now is the time for Congress to act.


SANCHEZ: All right, so obviously, he's trying to send a message there to Congress.

Did they get that message?

Patricia Murphy's joining us now. She's been following the story throughout the course of the day.

Well, did they get it?


They're on their way, it looks like, to possibly having something to vote on. There are two things going on right now. In front of the TV cameras that we keep seeing, there's the regular debate going on, on this stimulus package, back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.

Behind the scenes, there has been a group of about 20 moderate Democrats and Republicans working to cut the fat out of this bill.

What's going on, on the Senate floor is actually adding to this bill. It's actually up to $940 billion. Behind the scenes, they're trying to bring that down by at least $100 billion and to make that spending temporary.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know -- you know what's interesting is, the sense of immediacy, urgency that the president is suddenly showing. I think the best way to capture that is to show what happened last night. He was supposed to have a closed-door meeting. I want you folks at home to key in on those words, a closed-door meeting with Democrats which had been scheduled a long time ago. All of a sudden in the middle of that meeting, he breaks out and he says, you know what? Forget about this. Bring the cameras in. By golly, I got something to say.

And that's when he made this comment.


OBAMA: I don't think any of us here have cornered the market on wisdom or that -- do I believe that good ideas are the province of any party.

The American people know that our challenges are great. They're not expecting Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They want American solutions.

I have said that same thing to the public, and I have said that in a gesture of friendship and goodwill to those who have disagreed with me on aspects of this plan. But what I have also said is don't come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped to create this crisis.



SANCHEZ: Same tired arguments.

You know, even folks at home are starting to catch some of this language.

Let's go to the Twitter board, if we possibly can, Murph. I want to share something with you. This is coming into us from Bailey. She's watching. She says: "Somebody needs to light a fire under Congress before we all drown. If it takes Obama taking the gloves off, then let him do it. Tired of the delay."

I guess here's the question to you. Are you seeing any sense that these harsher tones that we have seen from Barack Obama in the last three days are actually working?

MURPHY: You know, it's doing two things.

Among conservative Republicans, it's actually forcing them to dig in their heels. They felt like he had been genuinely bipartisan at the beginning of this process. But, as he has hardened up his rhetoric, Republicans have also hardened up their rhetoric.

Probably more important than anything Obama said today or yesterday are those jobs numbers. It's the reality of the situation that I think is going to start to bring the Republicans toward moving this bill forward. SANCHEZ: That is always what does it with economies like -- let's bring Ali Velshi into this mix. He might know a thing or two about the economy.

Ali, thanks so much for being with us.

OK, here's the classic argument, right?


SANCHEZ: It's tax cuts vs. targeted spending. It's Republicans vs. Democrats. Who's right?

VELSHI: Right.

I don't know. Would you side with the Greeks or the Trojans?


VELSHI: This has been going on forever.

Here's the issue. They both have their merits. Both of these arguments have their merits. The problem is with tax cuts. And I'm not taking a position here, Rick. I'm saying, with tax cuts, the idea is that businesses save money on the taxes that they pay, and they use that money in a way that creates more jobs.

Maybe they build a factory or plant or they hire people. Those people then are making money. They pay taxes. And they are consumers. Or you give tax cuts to people, and they spend it in a way that creates demand.

The issue right now is that there is such great uncertainty in terms of people possibly losing their jobs and businesses wondering how much worse this will get that they don't necessarily spend that money. They hoard that money.

Now, on the other side, targeted spending sometimes is wasteful, and sometimes doesn't get right to the source. But right now what the administration is saying is that there are what they call shovel-ready projects, projects that can be under way within a month. They're all approved. They just need the money.

I think the reality lies somewhere in between. I think it always does with the economy, Rick. And what we need is a little less of all of this or the other.

SANCHEZ: Well, here's what the president is saying. The president is saying, what we don't need to do -- and, you know, you tell me if he's right after you listen to this.

Let's listen to this clip, Rog, where he says, what we don't need to do is go back. Let's take it.


OBAMA: I welcome this debate.

But, come on, we're not -- we are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that, for the last eight years, doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin.


OBAMA: We can't -- we can't embrace -- we can't embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face, that ignores critical challenges, like our addiction to foreign oil, or the soaring cost of health care, or falling schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees.

I don't care whether you're driving a hybrid or an SUV. If you're headed for a cliff, you have got to change direction.


OBAMA: That's what the American people called for in November, and that's what we intend to deliver.



SANCHEZ: You know, it's funny, but, as I hear him talk, I'm just thinking, tax cuts are spending, right? I mean, they really are, because you have got to get it from somewhere.

VELSHI: Right. If you think about it, is -- your own budget, right? If you have less money coming in, you have to have less money going out.

The issue is that -- the argument is that, tax cuts, while it brings less money into the government, which means it lowers the amount of money the government has, which makes it the equivalent of spending, it stimulates the economy, because it lets -- people will use that money in another way.

Businesses will use the money that they don't give to the government in a way that will create employment opportunities and put more people to work.

Look, again, it's -- the notion works. I think what the president was saying -- and I do agree with this part -- that anybody who says it's the only way to stimulate an economy may not be telling you the full story.

And you know I got into a little trouble for saying that about a particular radio commentator who has said that tax cuts are the only answer. Again, the experience with using tax cuts in a recession -- you go back to Ronald Reagan, taxes were 70 percent. He cut them to 29. That is stimulative.

SANCHEZ: But here's the problem. Stay with us. I want to bring you back on the other side. VELSHI: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Here's the problem. This is not just an economic problem. This is a political problem.

My thanks to both of you.

Rog, hit this lance (ph).

How hard is it for President Obama to get Republican support, all right? We're talking politics here now. Maybe we will keep some of you that were confused before.

Listen to this -- quote -- "These are insurgency. We understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban."

Those are the words of a Republican. Seemingly -- his name is Pete Sessions, by the way, from Texas -- he seemingly is comparing the actions of the Taliban and an insurgency with what Republicans need to do to Barack Obama, interesting language. We will decipher it for you.

Olympic superstar and bong-toker Michael Phelps is suspended and dumped, as well, by Kellogg. And he may still even be prosecuted, we now hear. The Twitter board is fired up about this one. Wait until you hear the story and then what folks here -- over here on the Twitter board have to say about it.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: We welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Talk about the politics of this story. It's undeniable and especially when you consider these words. What I'm going to read you right now are the words of a Texas Republican congressman. His name is Pete Sessions, by the way.

And he says, referring to what the Republicans need to do: "Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban. I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban, but we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands which we entered the game with."

You know, this is stunning to hear somebody comparing themselves or their party or their effort to the Taliban, the enemy of the United States, and the insurgency in this case.

Back to Ali Velshi and Patricia Murphy.

Ali, let me just begin with you. I know you're an economics guy. But it's got to make it real tough to figure out a real tough situation when you have got somebody saying something like that, doesn't it? VELSHI: Yes.

I think that's distracting, doesn't really make a lot of sense. At this point, I must say, Rick -- and you probably more than anybody on CNN knows this because of the involvement with your viewers through Twitter -- I think people are very frustrated by this nonsense.


VELSHI: I think people are watching and saying, could you please -- fight about whatever you have got to fight about it for as long as you have to fight about it. Fix the economy.


SANCHEZ: Ali, I'm going to let you go, because I'm told that you have got another hit and we're going to lose your thing. Come back obviously next Monday. Have a great weekend, my friend.

VELSHI: Sure. Absolutely. You, too.

Patricia Murphy, stay with us. I want you to listen to something now.

All right, you heard from Pete Sessions. Well, here's obviously a little more composed Republican reaction. This is from Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. Let's take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans are ready to support a stimulus bill. That really hasn't been in question.

But we will not support an aimless spending spree that masquerades as a stimulus. The economy is in terrible shape. Millions are out of work. This morning's unemployment numbers are further sign of the severity of the crisis.

But putting another $1 trillion on the nation's credit card isn't something we should do lightly. We need to get a stimulus, but, more importantly, we need to get it right.


SANCHEZ: You know, putting another $1 trillion on the nation's credit card, what he's talking about there is the debt.

Now, I have to ask this question, to be fair. Was Mitch McConnell asking those same questions over the last seven years, when the debt went as high as it's gone in decades?

MURPHY: He was not. And most Republicans were not.

And they really, with President Bush as their leader, were suffering really quite during the last few years from an identity crisis. They really are the party who see themselves as fiscal hawks, fiscal conservatives. And with George Bush spending so profligately, they didn't quite know who they were. They wanted to support their president and fight big spenders. He was a big spender. And McConnell was one of those people who didn't know quite what to do or how to handle himself.


SANCHEZ: So, let's call it what it is, hypocrisy or, if nothing else, co-opting somebody else's strategy.

And I know you don't want to get into this field, because I'm just saying what I'm reading from our Twitter board and from some of the people who are writing us that I was reading during the commercial. This is not, would you agree, what the American people want to hear from these guys?

It's like the same language the other party was using when the other guy was in office.

MURPHY: I think the American people want their jobs saved. They want to know that, if they put their money in a bank, it's safe there. They want to know that, if they send their kids to college, that their kids can finish college.

Those are the problems that the American -- almost every American is facing right now. There is really this economic crisis. And the Republicans are on dangerous territory here, and they know it. They know that they can push this to a point, but they can't get back into the government showdown situation, where they push it to a point and stop this bill in its tracks. They can't be seen as impending any action on the economy whatsoever.


MURPHY: So, they are treading lightly here.

SANCHEZ: And what's interesting, Obama, Barack Obama, President Obama last night, before I get more letters on this one -- it slips up from time to time -- said last night to the Republicans, hey, guys -- and, for the first time, he said this -- this is a problem I inherited and you created -- important words from a president at a time like this.

Patricia Murphy, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: She is the mother of 14, 14 children, heading back to this home to live with her parents. And she is not apologizing to anybody about it. She is single and in disability after having octuplets. You're going to hear from her for the very first time when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: You know, I was almost sheepish when I used the word hypocrisy a little while to describe the situation that is going on in Congress, but, obviously, we're getting a lot of reaction on it right away.

Here's some reaction coming in from on our Twitter board.

This is Sitara. She is watching. She says: "Rick, hypocrisy. By the way, finally somebody in the media who hits it right on the nose."

Well, we try to call it like we see them, right down the middle.

Something else to take note of now -- she now has 14 kids. She's back home -- 14 kids -- she's back home with her parents. I have four. And let me tell you -- no.

She's been on disability. She's single. And now she is talking. The 33-year-old mom who delivered octuplets two weeks ago tells "The Today Show" that having artificial insemination was not -- was not irresponsible.


ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You used the same fertility specialist for all of your pregnancies?


CURRY: So, your fertility specialist knew that you already had six children?


CURRY: How many embryos were you implanted with?

SULEMAN: The same as with the others, six.

CURRY: Did he explain to you the risks of a multiple birth?

SULEMAN: Oh, with all of them, absolutely, with all of them.

CURRY: You just didn't want just one or two embryos?

SULEMAN: Of course not. I wanted them all transferred. Those are my children. And that's what was available. And I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is.

And a lot of couples -- usually, it's couples -- do undergo this procedure, you know, and it's not as controversial, because they're couples. So, it's more acceptable to society.

For me, I feel as though I have been under the microscope because I have chosen this unconventional kind of life. I didn't intend on it being unconventional. I just -- it turned out to be. All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom. That's all I ever wanted in my life. I love my children.

CURRY: And you knew that you were not going to selectively reduce?

SULEMAN: Oh, no, no. Statement, we have that dream and that passion, and we take risks. And I did. And it turned out perfectly.


SANCHEZ: And there you go, immediate reaction to this story coming in on our Twitter board. Take a look at this.

Hawke says: "Look, why should a mother apologize for having as many children as she wants? It's no one else's business."

We thank Hawke for that comment.

All right, you're about to see a very strange exchange where a reporter actually presses -- wow -- White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. Isn't that what reporters are supposed to do? Oh, and it's caught on tape. You will see it, tongue in cheek.



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This isn't your mother's yoga. This is the new face of yoga, irreverent yoga.

KIMBERLY FOWLER, FOUNDER, YAS YOGA: My tag line, no chanting, no granola, no Sanskrit.

GUPTA: Kimberly Fowler, the founder of YAS Yoga in Venice, California, says the "ohm" is out, and new yoga for the type-A busy professional is in.

FOWLER: To the beginner, they walk into a class, and the teacher's teaching Sanskrit and wrapping themselves up in pretzels. And you just go, OK, not for me. You know, it's a shame to have that experience.

SANCHEZ: Combining traditional yoga poses with fast-paced modern music and stretches designed to help athletes develop better stamina, Fowler's style of yoga is developing quite a following.

LUIGI LOPRESTI, PRESIDENT, YAS YOGA: Yoga to a lot of people is kind of, I don't want to say weird, but intimidating. This place has always been super welcoming and it allows people to kind of come in here and do their own thing and work at their own pace.

STEPHANIE ARCULLI, YAS YOGA PARTICIPANT: It's open enough that I think everyone can take what they need out of it.

SANCHEZ: If this popular YouTube video isn't proof that the traditions of yoga are falling by the wayside, Fowler says her seven brand-new franchise locations might be.

FOWLER: When I first opened YAS, I got, like, hate e-mail. Now everybody's trying to do yoga for athletes.

SANCHEZ: For the type A in all of us.

FOWLER: Calms you down and gives you energy at the same time, which is a huge benefit.


SANCHEZ: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.



SANCHEZ: We welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

A reporter asks a very interesting question. After he asks that interesting question, he is expecting a very serious answer. But, instead, what happens is, the White House press specialist for the Barack Obama -- for Barack Obama then starts laughing.

Now, watch this exchange as it happens.


QUESTION: Disclosure forms that your nominees put out that go to the Office of Government Ethics, that somehow they're not able to e- mail or, you know, put on the Web, is there any way we can get copies of those?

GIBBS: Yes, I will check. I don't -- I don't know how those forms are distributed.

QUESTION: Just based on listening to the president's rhetoric, I'm sure it's something he'd want to do.

GIBBS: Well...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) question is...

GIBBS: Knowing of your crystal clarity on his opinion, I will certainly check.

QUESTION: He doesn't believe in transparency?

GIBBS: Did you have another more pertinent question?

QUESTION: I think that's pretty -- I think it's fairly pertinent.


SANCHEZ: Now, these guys aren't happy with each other right there. And it maybe makes a point about the fact that reporters aren't supposed to be there to be comedians or playing or straight men to politicians or politicians' officials.

Eric Boehlert is joining us now. He's written a book. It's called "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

Did you see that yesterday? because when I watched it, Eric, I was thinking to myself, hey, good for you, Jake. That's the way it's supposed to be done. Where have you guys been, right?

ERIC BOEHLERT, AUTHOR, "LAPDOGS: HOW THE PRESS ROLLED OVER FOR BUSH": Well, there's a certain amount of that. There's a certain amount of Rip Van Winkle. It's like the Bush years never happened.

But I would go further. I saw a certain contemptuousness there with the ABC reporter. And if you go back eight years...


SANCHEZ: what do you mean contemptuousness?

BOEHLERT: Well, it was a pretty mundane question. I thought it got a pretty mundane response. And then he started lecturing the White House spokesperson.

My point is, if you go back eight years to January, February 2001, there was nobody from ABC News sort of lecturing Ari Fleischer about how he should answer questions. There's a completely different standard that is being applied now to the early Bush years in the White House press briefing room.


SANCHEZ: Do you not think that, rather than it being so much about reporters being intimidated by George Bush or Dick Cheney, and not intimidated by these guys, because they have got a D in front of their name, that it just has to do with one of the problems that we have in this business, access? We want to be able to get that big interview with Barack Obama.

So, we're not going to be mean to Barack Obama's boy and we're not going to be mean to Barack Obama. I think , actually, you know, I don't care what Barack Obama thinks of me.


SANCHEZ: I don't care -- I didn't care what George Bush thought of me. It's my job to criticize them, right?

BOEHLERT: Right. Right.

And that should be the standard for -- that should have been the standard during the Clinton years. That should have been the standard during the Bush years. It should have been the standard now.

But, from my perspective, that we're seeing two different standards. There was sort of this hyperventilating, very aggressive standard during the Clinton years. That sort of went into hiding during the Bush years. And now almost an alarm clock went off in the first day of the Obama administration.

If you look at that first Robert Gibbs briefing, I mean, the conservative "Washington Times" reported about how he was hammered for an hour and reporters were yelling and shouting questions.

This was, what, on -- this was the first day of the administration. So, for a lot of folks, there's a sense of, where were these people for the last eight years?

SANCHEZ: I have got to tell you, I just don't get a lot out of these things when I have been watching them lately.


SANCHEZ: Here's "The Daily Show"'s -- here's "The Daily Show's take on this.



GIBBS: Senator Daschle decided to remove his name from consideration and remove his nomination. He did not want to be a distraction.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Commissioner Kerik is the one who made the decision to withdraw his name. And he indicated that he did not want to be a distraction.

GIBBS: I don't want to go into hypotheticals about what may or may not happen.

DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a hypothetical question that I wouldn't be able to answer here.

MCCLELLAN: We're not going to play into some hypothetical situation.

GIBBS: I am not going to spend a lot of time up here today looking through the rear-view mirror.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is looking forward, not backward.

GIBBS: Or playing Monday-morning quarterback on all this.

MCCLELLAN: I'm not going to try to play too much Monday-morning quarterbacking.

GIBBS: Can I address your first question because -- and I appreciate the question.

PERINO: I really do appreciate... MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question.

JON STEWART, HOST: Is there a handbook that...


STEWART: ... gets passed down from press secretary to press secretary?


SANCHEZ: My final question to you.

Is this too much of the same old same old?

Is somebody ever going to wake up and say look, we've got to change the rules a little bit if we're ever going to be able to talk to the American people straight?

BOEHLERT: Well, I mean I think the press briefings are what they are. And as Jon Stewart pointed out, there's a lot of the same rhetoric administration to administration.

But my point is why -- why does the press react differently. The press reacted very angrily the first couple of days, questioning access to the Obama administration, when the Bush administration sort of set new standards for denying access to the press.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but, you know, there's one thing you've got to take into account.


SANCHEZ: The administration is getting criticized now for an economic issue.


SANCHEZ: The Bush administration would have been criticized -- you're right, they hardly criticized them...


SANCHEZ: ...for what was a war issue. And when you go after a war criticism, you're more apt to be called unpatriotic. When you criticize something that has to do with economics, it probably would be less apt to be called that.

We're down to 10 seconds. You get the last word.

BOEHLERT: Well, I disagree. But even before -- if you go to Bush early 2001, February, March, April, May -- before the war -- there was a different double standard that the press was using. And they've adopted a new one now for Obama.

SANCHEZ: Eric Boehlert. We thank you, sir for taking the time to talk to us.


SANCHEZ: The bong hit seen round the world. And oh, my God, is this thing lighting up the Twitter board. Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps high and dry in the wake of this photo.

He is now suspended, did you hear?

He's dumped. And now there's even talk that he could be prosecuted for this, even though there was no police there when it happened -- if it happened.

Did it happen?

We'll be back.


SANCHEZ: All right. Now let's do the story that those of you on Facebook and MySpace and Twitter are real fired up about -- Michael Phelps.

Here's what's going on with Olympic superstar Michael Phelps. It turns out that he's been suspended for three months by Olympic officials and the swimming committee. And now he's also been dumped by Kellogg Corn Flakes. And there's a possibility he might even be still prosecuted by that little town in South Carolina where he was during the alleged deed or act.

He also caught up with a station. This is a station -- WBAL in Baltimore. And they asked him about this.

Here's what he had to say.

Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were you thinking?

MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Obviously, not much. And, you know, it's, I mean, like I said, a bad judgment. And, you know, I can learn from it. I've been able to talk to a lot of people and, you know, a lot of people that have been in my shoes in other sports. And I've been able to get their perspective. And just talk to them a little bit. And I think that's been helpful over the last few days. And I've clearly made some bad -- you know, bad judgments and mistakes in my life. And, you know, I can -- I think the best thing is -- is, you know, learn from your mistakes.


SANCHEZ: I've got to tell you, it goes on and on. I want to share with you some of the response that we're getting. On the Twitter -- the proverbial Twitter board -- this is prez, who watches us every day faithfully: "I work with a bunch of teens at my work. None of them care about Phelps smoking pot. The Kellogg dump is just PC politics."

Here's Bailey. He's on Facebook saying: "Barack Obama, Michael Phelps, Sarah Palin all pot smokers. When will our government get past this outdated stereotype? Marijuana is not harmless. But in a free society, people have the right to make the wrong choices."

I've got to tell you, Ashleigh Banfield is joining us now from "In Session" on the Legal Channel.

And this thing is incredible, how much -- how much fire it's gotten. It's interesting because these -- this really became a news story officially last night when Kellogg and the Olympic Committee did this, right?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": Yes. But I think that -- that news of the world -- it made some news around the world with printing that photograph. Because, listen, you and I both know, Rick, that when you win a bunch of Gold Medals, your value doesn't necessarily just come from those medals. It comes from your endorsements.

And what do endorsements have to do with?

Image and message.

SANCHEZ: But people are right when they say, look, this is -- they're right. The president of the United States, George Bush, has talked about his proclivities in this area. So has Barack Obama.

And this guy is going to be punished to this degree by something like this?

BANFIELD: Well, I...

SANCHEZ: But you say really it's all about impressions.

It's all about perspective, right?

BANFIELD: It is. And, you know, I was very interested to see what the U.S. Olympic Committee's response to this was. And they seem to be a whole lot more forgiving than USA Swimming or Kellogg's, saying that going forward, we're pretty sure this guy's going to continue giving us a good message.

And I like to think that we all make mistakes and we learn from them. And that's a great message.

SANCHEZ: But here. But -- OK, that's fine. And I think most people get that and probably it will blow over.

But we now understand that the police officials in South Carolina are considering using those pictures to maybe look into prosecuting him.

BANFIELD: Yes, good luck with that.


SANCHEZ: Really?

BANFIELD: Yes. Here's why I say that. Look, a picture tells a million things about something, but not everything about something. I think it's the sheriff of the county who's the only authority body that wants to look into this. The University police and the city police have no interest in going forward with the prosecution.


BANFIELD: And the sheriff may just be trying to make the headlines here.

But here's the deal. In a court of law, Rick, a photograph is nothing unless you have a witness to back it up and say what was in the bong.


BANFIELD: So while that may sound like intuitively crazy, the truth is, forget about it. You're not going to get a conviction out of this.

SANCHEZ: What was in the bong?


SANCHEZ: Spoken as only Ashleigh Banfield could on a Friday afternoon.

BANFIELD: Well, that's the way I hear it goes, you know?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Yes.

BANFIELD: You know, that's what they say.

SANCHEZ: Right. Right.


SANCHEZ: Thanks, Ashleigh.

We appreciate it.


SANCHEZ: We'll see you again.


SANCHEZ: Congressman John Lewis is an icon of the civil rights movement. His past has come back to greet him. This is an incredible lesson for today, though -- for his colleagues right now -- the guys who work with him every day.

Why it's never too late to apologize, when we come back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back.

I'm Rick Sanchez here in the World Headquarters of CNN in Atlanta.

Glad to see you.

There's something else I want to share with you. Up in Washington, the president's still breaching bipartisanship. But the Rs are fighting with the Ds and the Ds are fighting with the Rs -- just like always, right, which has been pretty much the theme of this newscast so far.

Why is it so hard to work together, if only for the good of the nation you wonder, right?

Are the scars of Watergate so long lasting, the wounds of the Clinton years so profound, the battles of the Bush years still so fresh?

Congress, here's a tip for you. Take a look at one of your own. Your own John Lewis, a Congressman from Georgia, who bears scars -- real scars that he's going to take to his grave. Yes, real scars on his body.

And we know where he got them. In the '60s, he was literally beaten and cut by mobs who didn't take kindly to the idea of civil rights, which he was proposing.

Now take a look at this picture right here. This is Congressman Lewis meeting this week with Elwin Wilson of Rock Hill, South Carolina. Wilson was part of the mob that left young Lewis battered and bleeding during the perilous Freedom Rides.

What did Lewis do?

He did what he's always done. He is forgiving the man in the name of healing. Lewis moved on again and again. He makes it look easy. Maybe getting along, maybe working toward some kind of common ground is really not so hard after all.

What do you think?

Join our conversation at


SANCHEZ: Comments on the story that we just told you about.

Let's go to the Twitter board. Boy, that is some picture. I'm referring to the picture we showed just moments ago of the apology. It makes a deep statement. Heck, we even got somebody to cry while we were telling that story.

Go down just a little bit. Well, done Robert. Sniffle. John Lewis, by the way.

All right. We want to bring in Ashleigh Banfield once again.

This time we're going to be talking about the story that is so perplexing. Talk about a mystery.

What in the world is going on here?

This is a police chief that you're about to hear in West Memphis, Arkansas trying to describe what's going on after a doctor has a car bomb placed on his car. And nobody seems to be able to figure out why.


CHIEF ROBERT PAUDERT, WEST MEMPHIS, ARKANSAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: This was a physician that was seriously injured. We're not sure if physicians have been targeted. We're not sure if this is a random act or a specific target.


SANCHEZ: You know, it's funny, when this story first broke, everybody was saying, well, it's probably no big deal. It was maybe just an accident or a problem with the car.

Now we understand, getting this news just from the last 24 hours, the guy's lost his left eye. He's got some severe burns that he's going to be in the hospital as a result of. This is serious injuries.

BANFIELD: Yes. And they've been working to save his right eye, as well. And at first, I think a lot of people thought maybe this was a -- a malfunctioning of the car. But, Rick, they found bomb components. They found a spare tire -- a mysterious spare tire that was left very close to the car.

And, apparently, the report is that he was trying to move that tire so that he could back his car out to go to work that morning. And that's when the bomb under the car went off.

SANCHEZ: Is there any news on the mystery?

I mean -- or is it still just that?

BANFIELD: It is still very mysterious. But at least we can tell you this. Officials from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency have been interviewing people with the medical board -- with the state medical board, of which he was chairman. They're looking for any kind of split decision that he may have actually weighed in on -- as the chairman, his vote would change a split decision -- on a disciplinary hearing. Because he could literally have the power to revoke someone's license in a disciplinary hearing. And there have been several of which he's taken part. So they're going to look into that. They're going to look into lawsuits that he may have been involved in. In fact, he was involved in one where, actually, he filed the motion to have a lawsuit dismissed. He was actually a defendant in the lawsuit. They'll look into that.

And then, I think, just my spidey senses tell me, Rick, that they'll look into the possibility of a mistaken identity.


BANFIELD: Maybe there was somebody in the proximity who was the target and he ended up being the target. But that's usually something -- you cast a really wide net. You don't want to miss anything. But chances are it was probably targeting him.

SANCHEZ: It sounds like a scene from "Scarface."



SANCHEZ: Yes. Or -- yes, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: Speaking of that, Rick...


BANFIELD: Speaking of "CSI," that is something I can -- you can bet your bottom dollar right now that authorities who are involved in the investigation are protecting every piece of evidence they collect.

SANCHEZ: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: The chain of custody will be questioned down the line if they end up in a court of law prosecuting somebody. They are crossing every T, dotting every I as they move along.

SANCHEZ: Well, I hope they didn't throw anything away when they first told the media that it was probably -- it wasn't going to be a big deal, it was probably just a malfunction with the car. Oops.

Ashleigh Banfield, great work, as usual.

BANFIELD: OK, Rick. SANCHEZ: See you later.

BANFIELD: All right.

SANCHEZ: There is news today in the story that pits the leader of Germany versus the leader of the Catholic Church. There's a decision today announced by the pope.

Did you hear?

None other than my longtime guest, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, is going to join us next. And he is fired up.

Well, have you ever seen Bill not fired up?

Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Green technology is now in tune with nature. One Nebraska-based company created a big hit with its line of wheat-based musical instruments. Musician Dan Shafer uses the biodegradable guitar pick made by the company Wheatware.

DAN SHAFER, MUSICIAN: The pick is your right hand. You know, it's very important. I like these picks. I mean outside of the fact that it's biodegradable and it's made from wheat, I mean love the attack of it. It almost had the same attack as a copper pick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The company has a whole line of other eco- friendly products, including golf tees, hangars, chopsticks, even an eco-yoyo. But how the wheat is actually transformed remains an industry mystery.

KATHERINE PATTON, PRESIDENT, WHEATWARE: Wheatware is a proprietary formula made from all parts of the wheat. We have a trade secret technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each year, there's a surplus of about 50 billion bushels of wheat, which Wheatware manufactures into sustainable products. The company says the products can withstand temperatures of up to 210 degrees and take less than 90 days to decompose.

PATTON: So Wheatware provides an answer to creating a green, sustainable future while saving millions of ancient forest trees and building green jobs in the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that could be something to sing about.



SANCHEZ: Well, today, the pope has decided to tell the British bishop to please retract the comments he had made about denying the Holocaust. That is the news coming into us as we are joined by bill Donovan of the Catholic League, who's been -- I've been reading what you've been writing about this story, as I often do.

He's been following the story as it's transcended -- really, the big part that happened earlier this week was that he -- the pope, the pontiff -- started getting heat from the German chancellor, Chancellor Merkel. Is he reacting to that, do you think?

BILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, I think he's getting heat from a lot of different quarters. And I can understand it up to a point, which is to say, I think a lot of people are going under the misimpression that somehow the pope has welcomed in this man and that he's in full communion with the Catholic Church and the pope agrees with him.

First of all, he's not been reinstated. He may never be reinstated. All he did was to lift the excommunication on him.

Now, if this guy is going to come back into the Catholic Church, he has to get rid of his loopy, and, indeed, obscene ideas regarding the Holocaust.

But, you know, for people in Germany -- I think they had something to do with the Holocaust the last time I checked. For them to be lecturing the pope, who has -- himself was victimized. He had to -- was joined -- he had to join the Nazi youth group forcibly. He ran away from them. He wouldn't even go to their meetings. He -- he had his family suffer. He was written voluminously in his books and his lectures...

SANCHEZ: Then why...

DONOHUE: ...about the Holocaust.

SANCHEZ: Then why is this -- why is he, the pope, and others -- still being criticized?

In fact, some people are saying that there's a part of the Catholic Church today -- your church and my church -- which is so far to the extreme that they actually would go to minimize something like the Holocaust or deny it altogether.

Is there a fringe out there?

DONOHUE: Look, there are fringes in every institution. We have 1.1 billion Catholics in the world. We have 3,500 bishops. If Obama is claiming that he didn't know about some of the thieves that he's been appointing recently, I think it's plausible to assume...


DONOHUE: ...that the pope may not know what's in the mind of everybody.

SANCHEZ: But this pope...

DONOHUE: However, I do blame the people vetting him.

SANCHEZ: But this...

DONOHUE: They didn't vet this guy.

SANCHEZ: But this pope is not -- does not believe that, do you believe?

DONOHUE: Of course not. No. See, this is what bothers me.

I mean, are the relationships so thin with the Jewish community that some Jewish leaders are now blasting the pope?

I mean, like as if there aren't some loopy Jews out there making some stupid comments.

Are you going to judge every Jewish organization by the fringe element?

Quite frankly, this pope has good -- has a good relationship with Jews. Everybody who's fair and honest knows about that.

This guy is loopy. He has crazy ideas. And I think he probably is anti-Semitic, in which case, he's not coming back, because if he comes back, he has to foreswear his allegiance to Vatican II and Vatican II understands good relationships with Jews.

SANCHEZ: But to be fair, the pope said today that he reinstated him without knowing what his position was on this.

Do you think that -- is that -- is that possible?

DONOHUE: Well, I mean...

SANCHEZ: Shouldn't the pope have known?

DONOHUE: Well, I mean, I think the people who vetted him should have told that to the pope. I mean, after all, this guy is running a church of a billion people...


DONOHUE: ...he's not going to know what's snide everybody's head.

But I'll tell you what, the ball is in this guy Williamson's court now. And not just him, by the way. That entire society which the pope -- you know, we're always getting blamed for we're too repressive. This guy is reaching out to those on the left and those on the right who have been somewhat on the margins and trying to say welcome back.

But they have to come back on our terms. Our terms means good relationships with Jews.

If this guy, Williamson, doesn't want to have a good relationship with Jews, let him sit on the sidelines.

SANCHEZ: Bill Donohue, who says it like it is. And that's why we like having him as a guest.

We'll see you again, Bill.

DONOHUE: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: God bless, bub.

Wolf Blitzer is standing by now.

He's joining us to let us know what's coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

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

Straight ahead, he helped President Obama win the White House.

Can he help him win passage of the plan to fix the economy?

I'll speak live with the White House senior adviser, David Axelrod. He's standing by.

Also, some victims and victims' relatives of 9/11 and the USS Cole bombing are not very happy with plans to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and plans for some of the detainees. You're going to find out why.

And from six figure paychecks to getting unemployment checks, you'll want to hear the startling riches to rags stories from some people who could be just like you.

All that and a lot more coming up at the top of the hour right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Wolf.

What happens to a New Yorker when you take him out of that setting and put him in more a country setting?

Like put him next to an animal. Michael Bloomberg gets bitten -- literally. And you'll see it when we come back.



SANCHEZ (voice-over): GITMO and Daschle -- and, man, do I ever love talking to her.

All this cutting to the change with Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. Oh, my. We tried, but we just couldn't cram in a bunch of news stories that you really care about.

Like this -- a major part of that famous Chicago skyline -- Holy Name Cathedral. It caught fire -- the attic, the roof. Lots of damage.

But guess what?

They held mass there yesterday.

Cold, cold, cold miserable weather in Cleveland, in Rhode Island, in Knoxville.

And what is this?


London, England -- the most snow in 20 years.

The economy -- things are tough here. Things are tough in China. We didn't show you the first job fair of the year in Beijing, where six million school graduates are looking for work.

Mayors in the news -- former and serving. Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, a free man again. He was released from jail yesterday. It was a plea bargain. He served 100 days for his part in a sex scandal.

And here's one of those TV moments. Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to play along with the Ground Hog Day festivities. Nobody told the animal it was all in fun. We never did find out if that big, angry hamster saw his shadow or not.


SANCHEZ: From the Twitter board, we learn as go that FTW means "for the win." It's not a typo and it doesn't mean by the way.

Now for the win, Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, President Obama blasts the delay of his economic recovery plan as, in his words, "inexcusable and irresponsible." His tough warning to Congress is getting more urgent, as the unemployment rate explodes.