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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview With South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint; Interview With Former U.S. Congressman Pat Toomey

Aired April 28, 2009 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Well, unbelievable story that we're following for you right now, Kyra.

We're going to start with breaking news and the scene that I'm about to show you, well, kind of make you drop your jaw somewhat. This is a chase, a car chase that's going on right now south of Atlanta on I-75. There you see the troopers behind the car.

OK. You've seen chases before. What makes this one very different that this is actually begun as - you've hear of carjackings? - this is a truckjacking.

Now, you can't see it right now, but you're going be able to see this in just a moment.

All right. You see behind the cab, there's a man there and he's hanging on for dear life. Apparently, at least according to the information that we have, that is the trucker. And his vehicle was taken. He's still on board and he's hanging on right now.

You can see it -- to try and make you understand where he is, because I know some of you may have a tough time -- you kind of have to go over to your TV right now, look at it. And you will see he's wearing a white T-shirt and shorts. He's wearing white sneakers. You see some movement there now.

His back is up against the back part of the cabin, in other words, all that red metal that you see right there. His legs seem to be squished up against the back part of what would be the 18-wheeler or the part of the truck that carries the trailer itself.

And he seems to have put his shirt over his head for reasons unknown at this point. You can only imagine the fear that he's feeling at this point. Again, for those of you familiar, if you have ever been south of Atlanta, you know where I-75 and I-85 kind of turn into a V? One goes in one direction. The other one goes -- I-85 goes towards Alabama or southwest. I-75 tends to be more going down east of the state, all the way down through Valdosta and eventually through Florida all the way to parts of Tampa and Miami.

OK. This is that road, I-75. OK, there you see him now. We're going on -- tighten up so you can actually see him. You can't see his head. He's just trying to hold on there, hoping this thing will be resolved quickly here.

Now, there's something else I want you to pay attention to. Look at the left tire of the truck. You notice it's just a rim. It's just a rim. The reason it's just a rim is, just a little while ago, just a while ago FHP -- oh, and there goes another tire. Look at the one on the back.

Now, the reason this is happening is, FHP threw a stop strip in front of him just a little while ago to try and create this, so his tires would essentially stop working. We seem to have lost that signal right there.

Anyway, they put that stop strip in front of his vehicle, which resulted in him losing his front tire. And then event -- and it now looks like he is going to lose his back tire as well. Normally with situations like this, we monitor them for you, but given the fact that we're actually looking at a situation now where there is someone's life is in danger as this one is -- there is more of the tire flying off, by the way -- now you see that back left tire is starting to go as well.

It gets to a point where -- and I think some of you have seen these before -- it gets to a point where the rims will become so heated that they will actually -- they will actually -- you will actually see some of the flares coming from where the metal rubs the tarmac or the road there, creating what can become, obviously, a problem, obviously.

As we continue to watch this, it's going to be even more difficult for the person who is driving this truck -- by the way, we know very little about him. There goes another tire. There goes another tire. It is going to be very difficult obviously enough for the person who is driving this vehicle to be able to control it if there's absolutely no rubber left that's hitting the road. It's just metal on concrete, essentially, or asphalt, I should say.

And that sometimes is what causes the problem. But the real key to this story here is that driver of the truck, who literally is stuck behind his own truck, seeming to be hanging on. Normally, police here would use a pit stop maneuver or a pit maneuver is I believe what it is called going back to the stories I have done as a correspondent on this.

And what a pit maneuver is, the police vehicle will come up to the back of the vehicle and literally give it a nudge or a push, hoping the vehicle will be slightly out of control enough that they could come up on the vehicle and stop the fellow, this suspect, from getting away.

Well, you can't do that in this case. Why? Because you have the truck driver hanging on back there. So, one would imagine at this point the only thing they can possibly do is use the stop strips, as we saw just a little while ago, and we might be able to show you some video of that, or -- or just wait and be as patient as they possibly can and hope that in the process no one gets hurt, which seems to be what we're doing right now.

Well, here's what we're going to do with this story. Obviously, we don't know. It could go on for quite some time. We are going to be monitoring it as best we can. And, obviously, as soon as something happens here ,we will turn it around and bring you what we hope will certainly be a safe resolution in this case.

Again, we will continue to monitor that situation.

Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. There's so much news to bring you on this day. The swine flu story continues to be something many Americans are talking about.

And we want you to stand by, because there's a live briefing coming from Janet Napolitano in just a moment talking about swine flu, the president's homeland security secretary.

And then there's breaking news, President Obama now a hairsbreadth away from having a blank check, free rein, essentially, to enact legislation without really having to listen to the opposition, in this case, the Republicans.

Now, we showed this to you just a little -- little while ago. This is Senate veteran Arlen Specter. He has essentially abandoned the Republican Party. And, as they are saying in Washington today, this is huge.

Specter is up for reelection and without switching parties it was looking as though he would go down in defeat in a primary. Keep that in mind. It's important. Now, here's what it means to the president, who talked to Specter this morning by phone.

With a new party member on board, President Obama now owns 59 votes in the Senate. Do the math with me, 59 votes. That means one more vote, just one more vote, he can now essentially shut down the Republicans' final means for blocking the president's legislation.

It's almost -- well, some would argue Reaganesque. They use it all the time, by the way, this measure, this strategy to stop the president's legislation. It's called a filibuster. You have heard of it before. Here's where the vote will come from, most likely, by the way.

It's already there, really, Minnesota's Al Franken, whose razor's-edge defeat of Republican Norm Coleman is being held up right now in court. But this could happen any moment now. All right.

All right. What do we want to do? I'm hearing all kinds of stuff going on in the NEWSROOM.

Let's bring in Representative (sic) DeMint. He's joining us now from Washington or South Carolina, sir?

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm in Washington.

SANCHEZ: You're in Washington still.

DEMINT: A lot of news.

SANCHEZ: What -- what -- yes, boy, I will tell you. What do you make of this decision? I mean, here's what's interesting about what he said, Arlen Specter, I think, four times, as I was watching him and taking notes. He said, the Republican Party has moved too far to the right. It's a party of extremes. The extremes in the party are taking over, not enough people, regular people, to participate in the real GOP electorate.

This was his message, sir. What do you -- as an ardent Republican who is standing by your party, what do you say to that?

DEMINT: I don't think many Americans are going to agree that the Republican Party has become too conservative.

If you look at our record of -- of spending, our record on every issue, the problem, I think, we have is, Americans no longer believe that we believe what we say we do. And so we have lost that trust.

But what we see happening across the country is, more and more Americans are becoming alarmed at the reckless spending and debt that's piling up, and they are looking for people who will stand up against that, whether they are Republican or Democrat. So...

SANCHEZ: But what he seems to be saying, though, is that you're eating your own, that -- as a matter of fact, I'm not going to say it. I'm going to let him say it. Listen to this statement. It came at the very end of his news conference.

But this seemed to be his key message. He relished when he was asked this question, because he finally seemed to be able to get this out. And listen to what he's saying about your Grand Old Party. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Republicans didn't rally to Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland. He was beaten by the Club For Growth on the far right. They lost the general election.

Republicans didn't rally to the banner of Joe Schwartz in Michigan and he was beaten by a conservative in the Club For Growth. They lost the general election.

Republicans didn't rally to Heather Wilson in New Mexico last year and she was beaten in a primary and lost in the general election.

The Club For Growth challenged Linc Chafee. Remember Linc Chafee? They made him spend all his money in the primary and he lost the general. And had Linc Chafee been elected in 2006, the Republicans would have controlled the Senate in 2007 and '08.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: You know, he seems to be saying that Republicans are making it very difficult for other Republicans to win, because -- and he said this on -- several times -- you tell me what you think of it -- you're shrinking the electorate to an extreme, to a point where a regular Republican can't win.

What do you make of that argument?

DEMINT: Oh, that's quite the opposite.

We're seeing across the country right now that the biggest tent of all is the tent of freedom. And what we need to do as Republicans is convince Americans that freedom can work in all areas of their life, for every American, whether it's education, or health care, or creating jobs.

SANCHEZ: What -- what -- what the hell does that mean?

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: I mean, the biggest tent is freedom? Freedom? You have got to give -- you have got to do better than that.

(CROSSTALK)

DEMINT: No, what it means is, what has worked in America are free people, free markets for years.

And what we see now is a government expanding into all areas of our economy, increasing spending and debt at levels we have never talked about. Americans who are normally not even political are coming out to tea parties and protesting. These aren't Republicans or Democrats. These are just concerned Americans.

I think what we have seen is, both parties have pushed the envelope too far. And now America is pushing back. I think you will see this next election to be totally different. Pat Toomey, who is running in Pennsylvania, is one of the most mainstream Americans I know.

He's for the concepts of limited government and more personal freedom, free markets . That's what works in our country today. And that's what we need to stand up for as Republicans and I think as all Americans.

SANCHEZ: You know, what the question to follow that up then is -- and I think you make some really solid points with your statement right now about many Americans really kind of wanting to go back toward the middle.

And many Americans -- whether they are Democrats, lefties, righties, everybody wants to kind of get control of this thing once again. But why does it seem like the Republican Party is only going to the South, the Southern states, and the Democratic Party is starting to stay in the Northeast and then maybe branching out into some of the other areas, like Pennsylvania, where Arlen Specter is leaving?

I mean, does that worry?

DEMINT: Well, it's not just politically. People are moving from the northeast and from the northern part of the country to the south for a lot of reasons. And I think you see heavy unionization and forced unionization in Pennsylvania and Michigan, these other states. And obviously they're very much for the Democrat big-government approach. But we see that falling apart with American auto companies. We see it falling apart all across the country.

So I think the country is coming back to this idea that they intuitively believe in is that we're better off with smaller government and a freer and more prosperous people. And so I think that's what's sorting out right now. And it's not a southern phenomenon. Right now, it's a national phenomenon and I think you're going to see Pennsylvania return to liberty bell status very soon.

SANCHEZ: Hey, what do you do -- final question. I don't want to keep you because you're probably going to be talking to all kinds of people today. What do you do if the president reaches this 60-seat point? Is there -- what would your strategy be to try and defeat any kind of legislation that he proposes then?

DEMINT: Well, that may be the best thing that could happen to the Republican Party right now because people know those checks and balances are very important, and they have seen the Democrat Party overreach already. And if they begin to expand spending and government programs because they have a couple more votes, I think there's going to be a lot of backlash from the American people.

So what we need right now is Republicans to stand up for what they say they do, and that's limited government and more freedom.

SANCHEZ: Representative -- boy, I did it again, didn't I -- Senator Jim DeMint.

DEMINT: I'm happy to be a Representative.

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: It's been a pleasure talking to you. I appreciate it. We'll talk again, sir.

DEMINT: Thank you. All right.

SANCHEZ: All right.

We told you a little while ago about this crazy scene taking place on I-75 going just south of Alabama -- of Atlanta. You have to see how this thing finishes. It's pretty remarkable how it ends. It just ended two seconds ago. We're re-racking the tape. We will have it for you. Stay right where you are. In two minutes, you will see the thing finish up.

And we will be right back. What a day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: What a scene just south of Atlanta. All right, here's how this thing ends. Finally, the truck is still going. You can see the driver jumps off. He's obviously OK, but shaken.

No, Michael, that was the original driver of the car, as was explained to me earlier. Now, here we go. The guy who has taken the truck, who is driving it presently is still in there. Finally, police move in, and they are about to extract him from said truck and we're going to watch.

And there you go, motive still unknown, obviously, a perilous scene there for that one original driver who was in the back of the vehicle. But he was able to jump out. We don't know what his condition is. He looked to be pretty good. And it looks like police have a handle on this situation as well. So, there you have it, news as it happens, and we will continue to follow that for you.

President Obama is going to be speaking any moment now. We expect he is going to make some comments about the situation with Arlen Specter. We also expect to be hearing from Homeland Security about swine flu. We have got several guests lined up as well that we're going to be taking you to regarding the Arlen Specter situation. And we will have all of this for you over the course of the next 40 minutes or so.

Stay with us. We're going to get a quick break in. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right. Welcome back.

Boy, we have got so much going on. Let me get you to two things that we're following for you. First of all, the president is going to be speaking any moment. There, you see the live event for him. It's just there on the right, the White House. Now you look at that other image that we have for your, as we split the screen on the left. That is going to be Janet Napolitano. She is going to be talking about swine flu. We expect the president may make some comments about Arlen Specter.

We're also going to have the Murphster, Patricia Murphy, standing by. She's going to be talking to us about the news and what she has been able to dig on up Arlen Specter. And Mark Preston, "Preston on Politics," is going to be joining us as well. He's got some stuff that he wants to share with us.

But, guys, hold on for a moment. Maybe you can help me with this. I understand we have got Pat Toomey, Representative Pat Toomey standing by. Here's why Pat Toomey is important. Pat Toomey, for those of you who may not know, is the guy who probably would have beaten Arlen Specter in the Republican primary, the guy who probably would have beaten Arlen Specter.

He's good enough to join us now.

Mr. Toomey, you there, sir?

PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here. Good afternoon.

SANCHEZ: Likewise. Good to see you.

I went through your Web site recently. And I'm reading some of the information that had been quoted to you. You said this about -- and you're an activist with the group Club For Growth. You said, "I think a Republican senator from Pennsylvania ought to govern based on the conservative ideals at the heart of the Republican Party. And that's why -- Arlen, are you listening? -- it is very likely that I will become candidates for the United States Senate.

Boy, things have changed now. What do you say?

TOOMEY: Well, things have changed. It's a big switch, but it's not really a substantive switch. Arlen Specter has been voting with the Democrats for many years.

But, today, this is really quite an act of betrayal to Republicans who have been supporting him. I think it's pretty obvious that the only principles that Arlen Specter cares about are his own reelection. That's why he made the switch. He acknowledged on TV today that he got a poll on Friday, and that's what convinced him to get out of this Republican primary, which he surely would have lost.

But I'm not sure the Democrats are going to accept him with open arms.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know what is interesting? He talked a little while ago. And I have got to throw this by you to see what you think. He seemed to suggest that the people who are going to be voting for you and supporting you are from the far right, that they are almost -- in fact, he used the word extreme.

TOOMEY: Yes.

Well, he has to try to vilify me any way that he can, because he can't defend his own record. But the fact is, I was elected to Congress three times from a district that leans Democrat, a district where the Democrats outnumber the Republicans. And I never lost that district.

So, it's pretty obvious that my support is very mainstream support. It's -- I'm one of the guys who believes we shouldn't be bailing out every failing company, we shouldn't be spending staggering amounts of money that we can't afford, we shouldn't be running up a mountain of debt.

So, Senator Specter and I disagree with that, but, frankly, I think most Pennsylvanians agree with me.

SANCHEZ: Let's put that shot up of the president, if we can. I think we're about to see -- speaking of Arlen Specter, just spoke to the president, and the president is coming up right now. The president is going to be making some comments here. He's going to be talking to the teacher of the year, but, perhaps most importantly, we expect he's going to make a couple comments both on swine flu and on the Arlen Specter situation.

Let's listen in.

Mr. Toomey, Representative Toomey, you hang on, Patricia, you, too, Preston. We will be back with all of you. Everybody, hold tight for just a moment here.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this beautiful day, welcome.

This is our first official Rose Garden ceremony, a place where so many -- yes, that's worth applause. Sure. Why not?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: This is a place where so many presidents have honored so many citizens who have made extraordinary contributions to the life of our nation.

I want to make sure we acknowledge, first of all, somebody who I think will end up being written up as one of the greatest secretaries of education we ever had. Please give a round of applause to Arne Duncan...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... an outstanding educator in her own right, Dr. Jill Biden.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And I want to give credit to Representative Jim Himes, who is here. And he represents the 4th District of Connecticut, which includes Mr. Mullen's school district.

So, Jim.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You know, we have got a lot of teachers here today.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: And I'm a big fan of teachers, because, every single day in classrooms all across America, you are making a difference.

You don't always get the recognition that you deserve. We don't always value the teaching profession like we should. But, every once in a while, I think people start to understand, not just in their own lives, but in the lives of the nation, how important the teaching profession is and how we have got to do a better job of lifting it up.

In a global economy, where the greatest job qualification isn't what you can do, but what you know, our teachers are the key to our nation's success, to whether America will lead the world in the discoveries and the innovations and economic prosperity of this new century.

And that's why, as president, I'm committed to doing everything I can to support the work of teachers. That's why we're working to create better standards and assessments that teachers can use in their classroom. It's why we're promoting innovation in teaching and learning, making critical investments in early childhood education, and helping more Americans walk through the door of higher education.

And that's why we're taking groundbreaking steps to recruit, prepare, support, and reward outstanding teachers, to encourage our best and brightest young people to follow in the footsteps of folks just like you.

This is especially critical right now, as so many teachers from the baby boom generation are preparing to retire, although they all look pretty young back here.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: They're not worried about that.

And recent evaluations of student performance show that, while we're making progress, we still have a long way to go.

I know, Personally, Michelle knows, that what teachers do is not easy.

My sister, Maya, is a teacher, Jill Biden a teacher.

SANCHEZ: OK, while the president stays on the topic of the teacher of the year, we're just going to jump momentarily, dip out of one and into the other.

This is Janet Napolitano. And she's talking about swine flu and the developments in this country, as well as in Mexico.

Let's go to it, Dan.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Travelers preventing -- or presenting symptoms, if and when encountered, will be isolated and evaluated by a public health official. Customs and Border Protection is also handing out the CDC traveler's health alert notices, in both English and Spanish, to all travelers from Mexico.

The Transportation Security Administration, TSA, has instituted similar protocols at our airports, watching for individuals exhibiting flu-like symptoms and taking appropriate measures.

We continue to conduct daily conference calls with homeland security advisers, state and local elected officials, fusion centers, our private-sector partners, and congressional representatives, as well as coordinating our efforts with our international partners.

We are working in lockstep to respond to this outbreak.

Other departments across the federal government also are taking action. You'll hear, in a moment, from Secretary Vilsack, that the Department of Agriculture continues to work with state animal health officials to affirm that they have no cases of this virus in their states. To date, no cases have been reported.

The USDA and the United States trade representative also are reminding our trading partners that United States pork and pork products are safe and there is no basis for restricting imports.

You should also know that you cannot get H1N1 from eating pork.

Pork products are perfectly safe.

Beyond these efforts, it's important to recognize that everyone across the United States has a role to play in addressing this outbreak. If you are feeling sick and show signs of the flu, stay home. If your children aren't feeling well, they should stay home from school. You should wash your hands often and cover your mouth when you cough.

We are working round the clock to monitor the situation. We will keep the public informed as the picture develops. We anticipate holding these briefings on a regular basis to make sure that accurate information is provided to the public.

With that, I would like to introduce Tom Vilsack, Department of Agriculture.

TOM VILSACK, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Thank you very much.

And, first of all, let me say from a USDA perspective that obviously our hearts go out to all those families who have been affected by the H1N1 virus, those who have lost loved ones and those who are currently dealing with those who are sick.

Obviously, at USDA we're also concerned about a lot of hardworking farm families around the United States who are interested in making sure that they can continue to raise pork and also be able to sell it here in America and around the world. So, we are aggressively working with our state AG departments and state veterinarians to make sure that we can constantly be aware of any changes in the current status, as of today as Secretary Napolitano indicated we have no indication that any swine from the United States has been infected.

We are constantly getting updates. If that were to change we would obviously notify folks immediately. We've also taken the step of working through our foreign agricultural service as well as with Ambassador Kirk and the trade representative's office to send the message to all of our trading partners that we're open for business. We believe that there is no reason to stop or ban pork or pork products from the United States. As the secretary indicated, it is perfectly safe to consume pork, pork products from America. We're going to continue to trade. We're going to continue to work with our trading partners to make sure that we answer any questions that they might have to make sure that the borders are open and trading lanes continue to be open.

I want to take this opportunity to particularly note the efforts of the Japanese government who have sent a very clear message to our trading partners that this is not a food borne illness, that you cannot contract it from consuming pork and that the importation of American pork and pork products is safe. We'll continue to work to answer questions from countries that have taken other actions. We're trying to underscore the fact that actions taken to ban or prevent the importation of pork or beef or any other products from the United States is not scientifically based, and could result in some serious trade disruptions but I'll let the trade representative speak more fully about that.

RON KIRK, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary and Madam Secretary, thank you for convening this. I'll try not to repeat those points made by Secretary Napolitano or our agriculture secretary. One we want to, first of all, extend our sympathies and concerns to those families that have been affected. This is first and foremost a health crisis, one that has not risen to the level of alarm as the president said but secondly we want to make sure that a handful of our trading partners don't take advantage of this legitimate concern over public health and engaging behavior that could also damage the world's economy.

We are suffering through the strongest recession that we've seen in quite some time and any actions, activity engaged by any of our trading partners not based on sound science and not based on our rules based systems of governing could do extraordinary damage not just to our economy but to those of other countries as well and in that regard we're particularly especially grateful to Japan for the strong statement that they have made with regards to pork products from the United States, which are safe. And so we want to say to consumers here and abroad that there's no risk to you, there's no scientific evidence whatsoever, that there is any link between consuming pork, prepared pork products and the H1N1 virus.

So for members of the press, Secretary Vilsack and I issued a press statement earlier. I think we have copies of that available for you as well. In the interest of time I won't go over that but I'm prepared to answer any of your questions you may have that can't be answered by the secretary of homeland security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Napolitano, could I ask you to give us some kind of an update on what the finding is on the border is? Are a lot of people who appear to have symptoms are set aside for secondary screening? JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: To date, no. There's been very little of that. Again, this is a changing situation. Tomorrow may be a different report but to date, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Vilsack, what is the point of monitoring the swine population? If you can't get this flu from swine, why check swine at all?

VILSACK: Because it could impact and affect the industry itself. This is more about the economics of it rather than the human side and human illness side of it.

[INAUDIBLE]

VILSACK: Which is precisely the reason why we have asked and there has been a response to change the name of this. This really isn't swine flu it's H1N1 virus. It is very important and it is significant because there are a lot of hard-working families whose livelihood depends on us conveying this message of safety. It's not just simply pork production it's also grain farmers. Because markets are very sensitive, they react to positive news, they also react to negative news. And the livelihoods of a lot of people are at stake here and we want to reinforce the fact that we're doing everything we possibly can to make sure that our hog industry is sound and safe and to make sure that consumers in this country and around the world know that American products are safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam secretary, there's a report out of California that authorities there are investigating possible death from swine flu and also separately a report out of New York that hundreds of school kids may be sick with suspected swine flu. What are you hearing from those two states or other states?

NAPOLITANO: We have a number of states that are reporting illness and as you note, there is several cases, I think two in California. But they have not been confirmed that those are actually a product of H1N1. Those diagnoses are going on. But let me lay some ground work here for you. It is very likely that we will see more serious presentations of illness and some deaths as we go through this flu cycle. In a normal seasonal influenza cycle we would anticipate across United States 35,000 deaths. Of course this is not a seasonal flu, but I think it would not be unexpected that there will be some more severe illness and some deaths as we proceed forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Vilsack do you have any anecdotal stories or evidence of farmers being impacted?

VILSACK: The last two days the pork prices have been down. The last two days soybean prices have been down. Yesterday corn prices went down. So, virtually anybody who is in the pork business, in the corn business or the soybean business has potentially had an impact or effect and if this continues, obviously, you have significant potential, which is why it's important to get this right. This is not a food borne illness, virus. It is not correct to refer to it as swine flu because there's really, that's not what this is about. It is about a human-to-human transmission which is why the Department of Homeland Security is taking litigation steps to minimize those contacts.

And it is important to convey the message that consuming pork or pork products will not cause and cannot cause the illnesses that we're dealing with. So it's a very important message to send in terms of the economics of this and I think Ambassador Kirk is absolutely right about this. Obviously we're concerned about people's safety but we're also concerned about the impact on the economy of these farm families.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

NAPOLITANO: They have not -- you talk about the 19 quarantine stations in the airports. To my knowledge they have not yet been used, but we have sent guidance and protocols out to our TSA workers and also customs and border protection workers who are at our airports who have international entrants of what to look for and what to screen for. So they are prepared to use them.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

NAPOLITANO: We are collecting data but, again, I think our best estimate right now is that we are at the beginning of what could be a long flu cycle and we may see a period of interruption, that is to say that because we're at the beginning of the summer, this particular outbreak may die off naturally and we may see a resurgence again in the fall. So we're in this for the long haul. That's why we've now set up on a semi permanent basis as we go through this H1N1 outbreak an interagency structure to move us forward. That's why we've got state and local public health and also other authorities working now with us on a daily basis, because this is going to be a marathon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Distribution of the anti-viral drugs, are you providing guidelines to the states about who should get it, health care workers, besides those affected and also are you seeing any signs that the general public are trying to get a hold of Tamiflu or other anti-viral drugs, sort of (INAUDIBLE) and how might that affect supplies?

NAPOLITANO: Yes. Some of that may be better addressed to the CDC in terms of the Tamiflu and the Relenza. But after the Department of Health and Human Services issued the public health declaration on Sunday that allowed for the issuance of a subsequent emergency authorization and what that means is that's an FDA related declaration so that Tamiflu, for example, could be prescribed to a child who is younger than 1-year-old, which normally would not be the case. So, that's all in place right now. Who actually is getting Tamiflu and how it's getting out, I don't have the answer right now but I can tell you as a former governor that at the state and local level most states have a pandemic flu plan and part of that plan, of course, is how medicine and other things are distributed.

(INAUDIBLE)

NAPOLITANO: The answer is no to the first question. On the second question, we had some suspected cases with regard to a group of detainees, but it turns out their illness was not H1N1. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the U.S. considering requiring additional diagnostic testing of travelers before they enter the United States and (INAUDIBLE) Tamiflu and other medicines (INAUDIBLE). -- to determine when an individual can get medicine, supply be made available proactively and who decides how much they get?

NAPOLITANO: Last question first. Primarily, the state allocation is based on population, but, again, we are distributing first to states that have had confirmed instances. With regard to the second question, we have no requests from other countries for Tamiflu right now. The World Health Organization has its own stockpile of anti-virals. I think they have something like 150 million courses there. And so I don't know whether they've received any requests to date. Give me your first question again. I was going backwards.

(INAUDIBLE)

NAPOLITANO: The answer is not today. But, again, we will proceed on a day-to-day basis and if that changes we'll, of course, immediately let the public know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who makes the decision who gets the medicine?

NAPOLITANO: There are, as I said in response to an earlier question, states by and large have pandemic plans and public health authorities have plans for medicine distribution but right now, given the size of the stockpile we have the 50 million courses in the national stockpile. The states themselves have something like another 23 million courses, not doses, courses. And I believe that the Department of Defense has another 7 million courses. So right now we have the supply to meet the demand and I believe, and you can address this to the CDC, but I believe they are in discussion with the manufacturer to ramp up more production of the anti-virals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you're doing enough to protect the airports right now with the airport screenings? The World Health Organization's flu expert said this morning that he felt those screenings were just for show and not really effective.

NAPOLITANO: I think he was responding to the issue about closing the borders and what he was saying in the context was that that's, that is not going to mitigate or contain this virus. But our recommendations and the things we're doing on screening match, what the W.H.O. and other groups have recommended, we're following the advice of the public health specialists. We're listening to the scientists, the epidemiologists, primarily at CDC. We're matching their advice and then our job across many departments is to implement that across agriculture, trade and across, of course, homeland security.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: There you have it. Boy, the news has been moving fast. As you can see that's Janet Napolitano. She's leaving -- several issues really still not really well described. She was asked a couple of things and I thought were extremely interesting. One of them was about deaths in California. She did not deny that there have been deaths and seemed to in fact intimate that there would be deaths as a result of this but then added that oftentimes with flus you get high numbers of deaths. She didn't seem to be saying that this was particularly more alarming than situations in the past.

Also here's a big one. Here's the big one. A hundred people in New York, according to officials there, may have contracted the disease, 100 people. Trying to get that nailed down for you. And this story, we've talked to two republicans for a while about their reaction to the situation with the defection in Pennsylvania of Arlen Specter. Listen to what Lindsay Gramm just put out. Quote, "I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican Party that can attract people from all corners of the country and we can govern the country from the center right perspective. As republicans we got a problem." We'll be right back.

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SANCHEZ: We welcome you back I'm Rick Sanchez. Arlen Specter no doubt is one of the most well known names in the Republican Party. Certainly one of the most well known senators. He has announced just about two hours ago that he has defected from the Republican Party. Quite a scenario. Certainly the buzz in Washington. We've got a lot of people to talk to about this. We have Mark Preston standing by and we have Lisa Desjarndins, she has been all over this story. As a matter of fact, we have some video earlier today of you walking with Arlen Specter as he was making this decision. What don't we know about how this thing went down? What do we still need to know about how this thing shook out?

LISA DESJARNDINS, CNN RADIO: As our colleagues have been reporting Rick, this was a long process. This was not you plant a tree and it grows overnight. This is something democrats have been working for, for a long time. Arlen Specter himself said Vice President Biden reached out to him recently and said we need you in the party. Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania, we need you in the party. And the other thing that I think is important and the other folks will probably talk to this is, yeah, technically, they may get 60 votes, the democrats, once Minnesota comes through as they expect it to be democratic. But the truth is Specter isn't going to change how he votes. Saying that democrats always get 60 votes is like saying that a college football team is always going to stay healthy. It's just not going to happen.

SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting about this, Patricia Murphy, I want to bring you into this conversation. I found it fascinating when he started going off on the idea that the Republican Party and here's the word he used -- let me check myself. He said purifying the party, purifying the party. It's apparently so purified he couldn't stay in it and win, it seems to be what he's saying.

PATRICIA MURPHY, COLUMNIST, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Well you look at what's happened to the fate of moderate republicans, particularly moderate republicans in the northeast. He named somebody like Senator Lincoln Chafee lost last year that is not a fate that anybody wants to suffer. It is almost impossible these days for moderate republicans to both get through a primary and then win in their own states. He talked a little bit about some polling. There was a poll last week in Pennsylvania that showed Pat Tumi beating him in that primary by 21 points. If he wanted to be a senator in 2011 he probably wasn't going to do it as a republican.

SANCHEZ: So it kind of fits the parent of they're eating their own, at least that's the way he seemed to be explaining it?

MURPHY: Yeah, well Pat Tumi was one of the people who ran against him actually in 2004, nearly beat him by two percent. And the republicans since then have shrunk the party if you will. The democrats made a huge play in 2008 to get moderate republicans to switch parties to become registered democrats. That matters because the primary in Pennsylvania is closed only registered republicans can vote. Independents can't vote. Moderate democrats can't vote.

SANCHEZ: We've got somebody from the White House standing by. Jared Bernstein is good enough to join us, thanks for hanging in there, Mr. Bernstein, sir. Mr. White House adviser, are you there?

JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Yes, right here.

SANCHEZ: All right, just wanted to make sure I could hear your voice. You're going to kind of look like the cat who ate the canary here, I mean here you have all these economic packages that you want to pass and now you might have a 60th member of the senate who could all but guarantee that it happens. How pleased are you?

BERNSTEIN: Robert Gibbs said earlier the president is absolutely thrilled about welcoming Senator Specter into the Democratic Party. And I think the senator's insight, as he put it out in his own statement, he believes that's the best way he can serve the people of his state. I certainly support his thinking.

SANCHEZ: Jared, you are the guy pushing the economic plan. I mean -- you've got to be looking at this and saying, here's a guy who voted for stimulus. Here's a guy that's going to help us put this over the top, right?

BERNSTEIN: I was going to say, remember he was the decisive vote on the stimulus package and he's obviously, voted his mind and his conscience in lots of cases. This was not a guy who marched in step with his party on his former party on every vote. But I don't think you can necessarily figure out exactly where Senator Specter is going to be moving forward. And I think we'll just have to wait and see where that goes. But I think the important point, as Robert Gibbs said today, is that this is something that the president absolutely welcomes.

SANCHEZ: I can't have you on. It would behoove me not to ask you. I know you've been putting these whole economic plans together. A lot of Americans don't like it, a lot of Americans do. What are you seeing so far, if you had to grade yourself on how we're coming out of this miserable situation? How are we doing, sir?

BERNSTEIN: I think we're doing well. I think that if you look at the full scope of the plans, the way the president laid it out last week in a speech here, you understand, I think, the nature of the -- the really quite careful and I think clear eye diagnosis of the problems that met us when we got here and the set of solutions designed to address them. From the recovery package to deal with the contraction in jobs, to the financial stability or housing plans, all in the context of a budget that cuts the deficit in half over our first term. I think that's an impressive accomplishment over the first 100 days.

SANCHEZ: Not there yet, but possibly heading toward there. We'll -- we thank you, sir. Jared Bernstein, for taking time to talk to us as usual.

All right, here's what we're going to do. Candy Crowley standing by. Mark Preston standing by. Both of them sharing their insight and new knowledge. Both of them have been working the phones to find out what the reaction is going to be about the Arlen Specter deal. We'll have that for you, stay with us, be right back.

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SANCHEZ: A lot of reaction coming in from dems and from republicans alike. You've heard what Lindsay Gramm said a moment ago. Lindsay Gramm said, "As republicans, we got a problem." Rush Limbaugh said moments ago on his radio show regarding Arlen Specter. "Arlen Specter should take John and Meghan McCain with him." Wolf Blitzer joining us now to talk about the developments in this story. What do you make of this, Wolf? I imagine there's going to be so much buzz about this in Washington today.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The ramifications potentially significant, as you've been reporting. If the democrats do get 60, and Arlen Specter decides to stay with the democrats for those votes, they beat the republicans in the senate on the filibuster, which is the major vehicle that the republicans would have to thwart health care reform, major energy reform, education reform, all the so-called priority issues that President Obama wants in these second 100 days to go forward. So this is potentially, as you know, a really significant development that we'll be watching really closely.

SANCHEZ: You and I are old enough to remember the realignment era under Reagan for example. I mean are we starting to see for the Dems what once happened for the republicans? Where things start tilting one way politically?

BLITZER: It could be. President Obama is still only 100 days, could be a transformative political figure like Ronald Reagan was in the early 1980s or FDR was in the 30s. He's got a really ambitious agenda, as you know. If he's got 60 democrats in the senate, he's got a lopsided majority in the house, he might just be able to get his way.

SANCHEZ: Wolf Blitzer, looking forward to your show coming up in about a minute and a half.

Mark Preston standing by. So is Candy Crowley. Mark, your take on this whole business of what is going on with the Republican Party and leave a little bit of room for Candy if you would. MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Sure, just very quickly Rick. If you talk to moderates today, they are frustrated, they are angry. Even one said to me today Rick, that Arlen Specter did not jump. He was pushed. Now for the real conservatives in the party, they are happy about this. They see this as a purging of liberal republicans.

SANCHEZ: When they say, Candy Crowley, that the party is being he said, the party is being squeezed and purified, what is he really saying there? What's going on that Americans may need to know about?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he's saying what we're seeing in the polls that more and more people are walking away from the Republican Party. In fact, now identifying themselves as independent. Now the subtext is that certainly that is true in Pennsylvania. And we are told that, in fact, Senator Specter was told by his pollster that he couldn't win as a republican in Pennsylvania. The "d" after the name certainly right now is a huge help when you are on the ballot.

SANCHEZ: He talked about that. Talked about the electorate. My thanks to you, Candy Crowley. My thanks to you as well, Mark Preston. Wolf Blitzer, Patricia Murphy and all our guests. What an hour we've had. Here now, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer.