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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Fuel Standards; California's Economic Doomsday?

Aired May 19, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president outlined the new fuel and emission standards today, effectively ending a feud between carmakers and state officials.

Let's go straight to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He watched all of it unfold at the White House today -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

You will remember, in the campaign, the president talked a lot about change. He's had mixed results so far in trying to change Washington. This was one example where he was able to bring together some parties that had been warring for a long time and took some dramatic action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): The president brought together congressional leaders, governors and automakers on a deal that marks the government's most ambitious step to cut greenhouse gas emissions ever.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No longer will we accept the notion that our politics are too small, our nation too divided, our people too weary of broken promises and lost opportunities to take up a historic calling.

HENRY: A trick new national fuel-efficiency standard, demanding that, by 2016, automakers are building vehicles that average 35.5 miles per gallon, saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

OBAMA: That's more oil than we imported last your from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria combined.

HENRY: White House officials say you will pay about $1,300 more per car, but the president of Toyota notes that's likely to be offset by fuel savings.

JIM LENTZ, PRESIDENT, TOYOTA USA: If you look at it in the long run, if the consumer is getting 30 percent better fuel economy, in the long run of owning that vehicle in the ownership cycle, they will probably be better off.

HENRY: One unanswered question is whether troubled automakers like General Motors and Chrysler can adjust as well as competitors.

ALAN MULALLY, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: It's a real opportunity to do what we have been doing at Ford, and that is absolutely make sure that we're sized for this lower demand, also to accelerate the development of the new vehicles that people really do want and value.

HENRY: It doesn't hurt to get a plug from the driver in chief.

OBAMA: I still have my Ford parked in Chicago.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: It's a Ford hybrid. It runs great. You guys should take a look.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, the president does drive a Ford Escape Hybrid, as does his press secretary Robert Gibbs, but obviously the president is not really doing any driving anymore these days. The Secret Service handles that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he's being driven, as he should be.

All right, thanks very much for that, Ed.

For more perspective on what you could save down the road under these new fuel-efficiency standards. Let's say you're driving from here in Washington, D.C., to Chicago today. At current gas prices, and under the current fuel-efficiency standard, you would use about 28 gallons of gas and pay about $64.

In 2016, let's say gas prices are the same, but you're getting 35 miles to the gallon under the new fuel regulations. It would take about 20 gallons of gas to get you from D.C. to Chicago at a cost of about $46.

A powerful blow today to President Obama's plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for terror suspects. It comes from Senate Democrats who have decided not to give the president the money he wants to follow through on his pledge.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching this story unfold.

What happened on the Hill today, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, that shutting down Guantanamo Bay is such a high priority for President Obama. He announced on his second full day in office that he wants to close it this January.

The problem is, he doesn't have a plan to do that, or at least what to do with terror suspects. And he did ask Congress for millions of dollars. And, you know, Democrats are grumbling big-time here, because they say the White House didn't think that through and now they're paying the political price.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH (voice-over): It's an about-face for Senate Democrats and a rare slap at President Obama. Congress will reject his request for $80 million to close Guantanamo Bay, until he comes up with a plan for the 240 detainees there.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Guantanamo makes us less safe. However, this is neither the time nor the deal -- the bill -- I'm sorry -- to deal with this.

BASH: Why? Democratic leadership sources admit, Republicans have been successful in their relentless campaign accusing Democrats of jeopardizing Americans' safety, playing up fears that terror suspects could be imprisoned or tried in your backyard -- daily attacks on the Senate floor.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Shutting this facility now could only serve one end. That's to make Americans less safe than Guantanamo has.

BASH: A Web video with foreboding music featuring the smoldering Pentagon on 9/11, and also a question. What are Democrats doing to make you safe?

Even a press release entitled, "Meet Your New Neighbor, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed." Talk to Democrats in the hallway, and they're frustrated by the GOP tactics.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This shibboleth of, oh, the Democrats want to put terrorists in your neighborhoods is just a lot of bull.

BASH: But many Democrats are also aggravated at the president for putting them in a political bind, announcing Guantanamo would close, asking for money, without a plan for the terror suspects, even the Senate's number-two Democrat and close Obama ally, Dick Durbin. Here's what he told CNN.

QUESTION: Did the White House put you all a bit of an awkward position by putting -- by asking for this money ahead of a plan?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Yes. Most of the members would have said, why would we want to cast an unpopular vote for a theory, as opposed to a plan?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Democrats insist that the plan to close Guantanamo Bay or at least the idea of it is not dead, but they do want the plan from the administration, from the president on exactly what will happen to these terror suspects before they pass any money in order to make that happen.

And, as you can imagine, Wolf, Republicans are reveling in a rare victory here. They're not letting go. They're offering a measure on the Senate floor that will prohibit any detainee currently at Guantanamo Bay from coming to U.S. soil and being detained on U.S. soil.

BLITZER: Is that likely to pass or fail?

BASH: It actually surprises me. I just asked the number-two Democrat, Dick Durbin, who is standing not far from me right now, whether or not he thought it would pass, and he said, yes, he thought that actually could pass, that they would get enough Democratic support for it to pass.

That just shows you how politically dicey this issue is, the fact that people are so concerned and are apparently maybe hearing from their constituents back home the not-in-my backyard argument that Republicans have been successful in making, that that could pass, the prohibition.

BLITZER: Even though there are, Dana, these supermax facilities, these maximum-security prisons, where -- where these inmates, some mass murderers, if you will, they spend 23 hours a day in a tiny cell...

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... that they would really be concerned about some suspected terrorist getting out of the one of these supermax facilities?

BASH: Some say that they -- that they are concerned about it, but what you just said, that is an argument that I heard from more than one Democrat here today, saying, wait a minute.

For example, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, she told me, we have some pretty tough criminals in our state that we keep locked up, and the people in our state are just fine with it. She is somebody who says she doesn't understand the whole -- the whole debate over this.

But other Democrats, again, they're hearing about it loud and clear back home. And they feel that, at least politically, whether or not it's true in practical terms or not, politically, the idea of having a terror suspect is different from somebody who is another kind of criminal.

BLITZER: All right.

BASH: Whether that's true or not, that's what -- that's what at least what is resonating out there.

BLITZER: Well, it certainly is true the debate will intensify in the weeks and months to come.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thanks.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, privacy groups want the government to get rid of those whole-body imaging machines at airports, because, they say, the security technology performs a virtual strip search and produces naked pictures of passengers.

These sci-fi-looking scanners first at a Phoenix airport in 2007, there are 40 of them now being tested and used in 19 airports around the country. Some airports use them as a primary security check option, instead of the metal detectors. Others use it as a secondary option, instead of a pat-down.

The Transportation Security Administration says these machines detect metallic and non-metallic threat items to keep people safe and that the technology is proven and they're highly confident in its detection capability. They also say it's faster.

TSA officials say they're committed to respecting passenger privacy. The system uses a pair of security officers. One works the machine, never sees the image. That's viewed behind closed doors by a second officer, who never sees the passenger.

And the passenger's face is blurred. Officers cannot bring cameras or recording devices into the room. And the machines automatically delete the images.

But critics are calling for more oversight, full disclosure for air travelers on what is going on here, and legal language that would protect passengers and keep the TSA from changing its policy later on. The ACLU says we should not pretend being groped and being stripped are our only options. A bill in fact was introduced in the House last month to ban these virtual strip search machines.

Here's the question. Should airports do away with whole-body scans because they show everything?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog.

Would you have a problem going through one of these, Wolf?

BLITZER: I went through one. And you know what I was concerned about, Jack?

CAFFERTY: Did you hear laughter?

BLITZER: No, no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I was concerned about the radiation. I heard the word scan. And I'm saying to myself, maybe this could call some sort of X- ray-like damage, if you will.

CAFFERTY: And that was the only concern that crossed your mind?

BLITZER: That was my deepest concern. (LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, did you ever go through one of those things?

CAFFERTY: No, sir.

BLITZER: Good. All right. You will. Don't worry.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Many of you can't live without it. We're talking about GPS. It's used for driving directions, even to save lives in emergencies. But a startling government report says the GPS system right now could fail, and could fail very soon.

Also, we have learned of secret U.S. military assistance for Pakistan, and there are questions over whether or not the U.S. will become even more deeply involved in Pakistan's problems.

And could these bones be connected to every human being on Earth? A $47 million fossil -- excuse me -- a 47-million-year-old fossil could help scientists discover everything about human evolution.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: What happens in just a few hours in California could launch the state on the road to economic recovery, or it could spark economic disaster.

Right now, voting is under way on a host of measures over California's budget crisis. The governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, warns, if they fail, it will bring economic doomsday. But might the failure of these measures really mean Schwarzenegger's failure at governor?

Let's go to Los Angeles. CNN's Ted Rowlands is watching this story for us.

And for folks out there in California, Ted, where you are, the stakes right now enormous.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.

And Governor Schwarzenegger has been out there front and center trying to convince Californians to approve these budgets which are on the ballot today, but polls show that, at the end of the day today, most likely, the governor is going to lose out, and the people of California are going to hand him another potentially embarrassing political defeat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We are mad as well, and we are not going to take it anymore.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): When he decided to run for governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed that with him in charge, things were going to change.

SCHWARZENEGGER: We are here, ladies and gentlemen, to clean house. We are here to clean house.

ROWLANDS: In a state plagued by years of legislative gridlock and partisan bickering, Schwarzenegger believed he could do what no other recent governor could.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Every governor proposes moving boxes around to reorganize president. I don't want to move boxes around. I want to blow them up.

BASH: But, over the past six years, Schwarzenegger has failed to blow up much of anything. In 2005, his budget initiatives that he took directly to the voters without political wide political support went down in flames. And, today, low numbers of Californians trickling to the polls are expected to once again vote down the governor's latest attempt at budget reform.

DAN SCHNUR, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: You can't blow out boxes, and you can't sweep out buildings by yourself. It has to be done with support and with coordination with the legislature.

ROWLANDS: Schwarzenegger's effort to bridge the gap between the parties has often cost him support in his own party.

RON NEHRING, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: When you are moving forward with ideas from the Democrat side, well, you know, don't expect a lot of Republicans to be, you know, particularly enthusiastic about that.

ROWLANDS: Despite the failures, including the one expected today, Governor Schwarzenegger seems upbeat that he can still somehow change the state that many believe is simply ungovernable.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I never give up. When you believe in something, then you never give up, because I don't just put the -- you know, you go and see the way the wind blows. I don't do that. I'm very passionate about this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: And, Wolf, the bottom line, no matter what happens today with this vote, Governor Schwarzenegger will still have an opportunity and an obligation to try to come up with solutions here. He's got a long way to go yet in his term, another year-and-a-half. And there's a massive problem, as you know, here in California, the budget problem now a staggering $21 billion.

That's the latest estimate. So, assuming this doesn't go through, the problems are only going to get worse starting tomorrow. Schwarzenegger in Washington today, but he will be back here in California trying to come up with some solutions starting tomorrow.

BLITZER: He will his hands are full, no doubt about that. Ted, thanks very much.

Shocking new stories exposed today about special-needs children who allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of their teachers.

Abbie Boudreau of CNN's Investigative Unit is joining us right now with more on what is going on.

There was testimony today before Congress, Abbie, as you know, and it was pretty shocking.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Yes, it absolutely was.

Wolf, what we're hearing today from Capitol Hill is consistent with many of the stories we have heard from parents throughout the country, countless incidents of humiliation, isolation, restraint used as punishment, and even death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOUDREAU (voice-over): At a packed hearing on Capitol Hill, horror stories from parents of children with special needs.

ANN GAYDOS, MOTHER: My name is Ann Gaydos. And this is my daughter Paige.

BOUDREAU: A California mother recounting what happened to her then 7-year-old daughter at a California public school.

GAYDOS: Paige was then very small, barely 40 pounds. Within a week, she came home bruised and she told me, "Mommy, my teacher hurt me, and I couldn't breathe."

BOUDREAU: A foster mother from Texas, her son Cedric was 14.

TONI PRICE, MOTHER: So the teacher put him face down and sat on him. He struggled and said repeatedly, "I can't breathe."

"If you can talk, if you can speak, you can breathe," she snapped at him.

Shortly after that, he stopped speaking and he stopped struggling and he stopped moving. When I got to the school, my son was laying on the floor with a paramedic beside him.

I knelt down and said: "Cedric, get up. You're not going to be in trouble."

But Cedric didn't move. Instead, the paramedic stood me up. My son was dead.

BOUDREAU: The death was ruled a homicide. But, according to the Government Accountability Office, the teacher was never prosecuted, and is teaching today in Virginia.

That case was one of 10 studied by GAO, a small sample of the hundreds of reports collected by advocacy groups around the country. Education Committee Chairman George Miller said teachers need better training, but they also need more oversight.

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: No, this is -- you know, this -- this is just unacceptable, it's just unacceptable that this would be a policy within a public institution with respect to the care of these children.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOUDREAU: One of the problems facing special education is a lack of clear national standards governing what teachers can and cannot do to children under their care. Now, that may be about to change, Wolf, today's testimony giving a new energy to a push for national laws to protect America's most vulnerable students -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope it works.

Thanks very much, Abbie, for that report.

The secret is now out, but Pakistan still is trying to keep the military help it's getting from the United States under wraps. There's new information about unmanned flights to spy on the Taliban.

Also ahead, how the riskiest space repair mission ever turned out.

And guns and credit cards, you might think one has nothing to do with another, until you read the fine print of a bill that is supposed to protect consumers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill making it harder for credit card companies to raise interest rates and fees. The House is expected to pass it before Memorial Day, but there's more in this bill than just credit card rules.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's looking at what else this bill contains.

Brianna, what's the answer?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's also a provision that would overturn a gun ban in national parks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): What do guns, credit cards, and national parks have in common? Congress has made a connection. With some legislative maneuvering, it stands poised to allow concealed loaded guns into national parks in an amendment attached to the credit card holders bill of rights. Republican Senator Tom Coburn is pushing the provision.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: We are going to allow the states the rights to determine under their gun laws who can have a gun and where, as long as it meets -- passes the muster of the U.S. Constitution.

KEILAR: If a person holds a state permit to carry a concealed weapon, that permit would apply in parks located in that state. In the Senate, 27 Democrats, including Leader Harry Reid, signed onto the change. But Democrats for gun control, like New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was shot and killed by a man on a commuter train, are incensed.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: The NRA is basically taking over the House and the Senate. And if the NRA wins on each and every bill, the American people are the ones who are going to suffer the most.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Democrats like McCarthy find themselves in the minority on gun issues, because, even though the 2008 election brought an influx of Democrats, Wolf, they were, of course, conservative Democrats. And that means Republicans are finding a whole lot of support across the aisle on this.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar up on the Hill -- thank you, Brianna.

Many Americans may soon be lost without the GPS device they use to get around -- a new warning that the system could fail relatively soon.

Also, is it the so-called missing link in the evolution chain? A new scientific discovery that could relate to all of us.

And, in Britain, members of parliament set a shocking new standard for padding their expenses. Wait until you see what they bought and why some may get -- get away with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Obama says his economic policies would increase government backing of small-business loans. Mr. Obama said so during a ceremony over at the White House honoring winners of an award from the Small Business Administration.

The Minnesota mother of a 13-year-old cancer patient has vanished with her son. Colleen Hauser has been resisting chemotherapy for her son, Daniel, and was supposed to appear in court. A judge issued a warrant for her arrest.

The space shuttle Atlantis has shoved off from the Hubble space telescope and dropped to a lower orbit. Atlantis' repair mission marks the last service call to Hubble. Officials say it could be good for another 10 years -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Many of you use it certainly every single day in your cars, on your phones. It's even been used to save lives. But what if the system many Americans seemingly can't live without crashed?

CNN's Elaine Quijano is looking at the GPS system for us. And it's not necessarily all that pretty a picture, Elaine, is it?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It isn't, Wolf.

Countless Americans depend on GPS, but a government report says the system could begin to fail within a year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COMPUTER VOICE: Turn left.

QUIJANO (voice-over): From cars...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) May I help you?

QUIJANO: ... to emergency call centers, the global positioning system has transformed the way Americans live and work.

But a report by the Government Accountability Office says some military and civilian users of GPS could be adversely affected, unless the Air Force, which maintains the system, gets new replacement satellites soon.

ALAN CAMERON, GPS WORLD: Some of the satellites on orbit have been up there since 1992. They have lived well beyond their design life. It's anybody's guess as to when some of them might fail.

QUIJANO: Experts say, for most people, a failure would have no discernible impact on, say, getting directions to the local coffee shop.

But military operations need accuracy down to centimeters. Congressman John Tierney, who sits on the House Oversight Committee, says that could affect national security.

REP. JOHN TIERNEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We don't want to take the risk of having the wrong blind spot at the wrong time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: And Congressman Tierney says that's why he recently held a hearing on the matter, to keep government officials on schedule and on budget for maintaining the GPS satellites.

Now, in a statement, Air Force officials said they're committed to maintaining at least their current level of service, while striving to improve service and capability through ongoing modernization efforts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good luck to all of them.

Thank you, Elaine.

The global positioning system, by the way, has a storied history. It began as a U.S. military project. But in 1983, when a civilian Korean airliner was shot down after drifting over then Soviet territory, President Reagan declassified GPS to make it available for public use.

That program was set back by the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. Challenger was supposed to launch GPS satellites into orbit.

GPS proved its usefulness during the first Persian Gulf War, back in 1991, allowing the military to obtain accurate coordinates in the desert.

And in 1993, the U.S. offered to make the system available worldwide.

A little history of the GPS for you.

More U.S. financial aid is on the way to Pakistan right now to help people escaping the battle against the Taliban extremists. A very public announcement today by the Obama administration, even as Pakistan tries to keep some military help from the United States secret.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been digging on this story.

What are you finding -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, it took Pakistan days to ask for even a small amount of U.S. military aid for the crisis. It all underscores the very sensitive and delicate situation between both countries.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Pakistanis desperately trying to reach the safety of camps -- driven from their homes by weeks of fighting between the military and Taliban in Northwest Pakistan. The Obama administration is sending tents, packaged meals and other supplies.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The people of the United States are responding to a request for assistance from the government of Pakistan with more than $100 million in humanitarian support.

STARR: But with more than one million people now displaced, the U.S. aid -- some to be flown in by military C17 aircraft, may not go far. Pakistan is reluctant to ask for large amounts of aid, for fear of public backlash about any U.S. military presence. But Pakistan has accepted secret help from the Pentagon. CNN has confirmed that in March and April, the U.S. military flew unmanned spy planes over the border region, gathering classified imagery of targets on the ground and gave the intelligence to Islamabad. The Pakistanis stopped asking for flyovers last month, but did not say why.

Whether Pakistan can continue to deny the growing U.S. involvement remains doubtful. Even the head of the CIA is making a rare admission about its missile attacks in Pakistan, which it says have targeted top militants, but many Pakistanis say have killed hundreds of civilians.

LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: Obviously, because these are covert and secret operations, I can't go into particulars. I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: So the CIA director also says, Wolf, that these classified operations are the only game in town to target and kill top Al Qaeda leaders. Pakistan is willing to accept the heat on that, but very sensitive about all of it, especially humanitarian aid during this time of crisis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Barbara, thank you.

Barbara's at the Pentagon.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is encouraging individual Americans to help refugees from Pakistan's Swat Valley by taking out their cell phone. A system has been set up for people to text the word Swat -- W-S-A-T -- on your personal cell phone to the number 20222. That's supposed to automatically make a $5 donation to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

President Obama reversing course on releasing new prisoner abuse photos. Now, the public is weighing in and there are some very strong feelings out there.

But do you -- but do they agree with the president?

Plus, the politics of fuel-efficiency -- are the hands of automakers tied by that bailout money?

The best political team on television is standing by to weigh in on all of that and more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Let's get right to our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent, John King, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION;" and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin -- Gloria, we saw something, I think pretty unusual -- it doesn't happen every day. Today, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Capitol Hill at a photo-op with both the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the Republican leader, the minority leader, John Boehner. Pelosi and Boehner getting together not necessarily all that often.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, not -- not these days, particularly after the controversy that Nancy Pelosi has had about what she was and wasn't told about those CIA memos.

But it's clear that Netanyahu is making the rounds on Capitol Hill because he wants to convince members of Congress that he's right on the key question, which is that Iran may be closer to having nuclear capability than the administration thinks.

BLITZER: This is a huge issue for Netanyahu -- Iran -- indeed, for all of Israel, John. And he seems to have a lot of support on Capitol Hill.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was very interesting, Wolf. I spoke to some people who were involved in the meetings and they had it was quite fascinating. As you know, he has been the prime minister before, so the U.S. Congress is no stranger to Benjamin Netanyahu.

I'm told in the meeting he said that he knew he had no choice but to give the president time for this dialogue with Iran. The prime minister made clear he was very skeptical that the Iranians would give ground and give up their nuclear program.

And, Wolf, he also told Congressional leaders in these meetings that the president had given him a date certain. Remember, yesterday, the president said roughly by the end of the year, he would know whether the dialogue was going to produce the necessary results. The prime minister said he had a date certain -- more specific than roughly the end of the year. But he did not share it, I'm told, with the Congressional leaders.

BLITZER: What do you make of this, Roland?

Because usually in the past, when -- when an Israeli government has had trouble with the White House, they usually go to Capitol Hill and get Democrats and Republicans to help them in trying to deal with that kind of pressure.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, frankly, it's called smart politics, I mean, because he recognizes that any kind of action taken by the U.S. would have to involve Congress. So he wants to make sure that he, frankly, has all of his bases covered.

And so if they're not as comfortable with President Barack Obama as they were with President George W. Bush, you go to Congressional leaders. I mean look at thank you actions today by Senate Democrats. I mean they're showing some level of independence when it comes to bucking the president.

And so, look, he's probably saying I need to play all of the cards that I have at hand, because I don't think know how this thing will end up.

BORGER: But, you know, Netanyahu is not the new quantity here. The new quantity in all of this is Barack Obama. And. So I think members of Congress are probably trying to figure out just what Barack Obama is saying more than Bibi Netanyahu, because they've heard him before.

BLITZER: You know, John, let's get to the issue of the president's decision a few days ago to reverse himself and say you know what, we're not going to release those pictures of alleged prisoner abuse by the U.S. military.

Our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that most agree with the president.

Should the government release photos of U.S. personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners?

Only 26 percent say yes; 73 percent say no. And when you break it down among Democrats, Independents and Republicans, overwhelmingly, even among Democrats, certainly among Independents and Republicans -- overwhelmingly, they agree with the president.

So he's got some solid support out there.

KING: He has very solid support among the American people, Wolf. And a senior administration official says the president actually made this decision tentatively way back when he released the CIA memos. He decided at that point, release the CIA memos, but then they would not release these photographs.

He's on solid footing with the American public. He's on solid footing with Republicans in Congress. The heat he is taking is from the ACLU and some on the left who believe these photos should be made public. Some want them made public, their argument is transparency. Others want them made public politically. They think they can inflict more legacy damage on the Bush administration.

But the president is in solid footing here and it actually helps him politically when the criticism is coming from the left and the praise from the right.

BLITZER: Yes, how much -- how strong is this criticism, Roland, coming from the left?

MARTIN: Well, you have critical voices who are making a lot of noise. Obviously, if they're able to build momentum, then all of a sudden it becomes larger. And, sure, the president is benefiting by having folks on the left criticize him.

But at the end of the day, also, you have this issue. And that is, the president is going to need those very same folks when he has a tough issue at hand -- when, frankly, when he does not have 70 and 75 percent.

And so the question is are they going to be able to say hey, remember when?

Let's see if you are actually going to get our support on this one on this time.

And, so, look, it makes smart for him -- it's smart to do what he is doing, but he is still going to need hard core folks on the left when he really is in a tough jam dealing with Congress and the Republicans.

BORGER: You know, he's -- the left is learning that they're not going to have President Barack Obama all the time. He did what they wanted him to do on the torture memos. And if you polled the American public, the American public might have been again that, also.

But he didn't do what they wanted on the photographs. And he's not doing what they want on the military tribunals, for example.

So it seems to me that they're learning that he's not as predictable as they thought he might be.

BLITZER: Yes. But this notion, John, as you point out, it sort of helps him, positioning himself as a centrist, as a moderate. It's good to get a little heat from the left in his own party from now -- every now and then.

KING: That helps him politically with the country. And, Wolf, he heard very strong arguments from his Defense secretary, from the CIA director, from others, that this would inflame anti-American sentiment around the world, that he did not want to be responsible for that.

There is a chance -- this case is still in the courts. There is a chance a judge could order these photos released. At that point, you will have President Obama arguing for secrecy -- arguing for executive privilege, making the same arguments in court that the Bush administration made that so many Democrats -- including then Senator Obama -- were critical of. That's where this one could be heading.

BLITZER: Roland, listen to the president today on his agreement that he worked out with a whole group of folks on these fuel efficiency standards for U.S. cars.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the groups here have been embroiled in lawsuits against one another. So that gives you a sense of how impressive and significant it is that these leaders from across the country are willing to set aside the past for the sake of the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, a lot of people are pointing out, though, Roland, that if the U.S. taxpayers weren't bailing out General Motors and Chrysler, for example -- and poised to do with Ford, if necessary -- there's no way these big automakers and the politicians who support them, especially from Michigan, would have gone along with this deal. MARTIN: Hey, it's called leverage. I mean you use what you've got. But, also, I think one of the things that have to also examine is what are going to be the loopholes in this?

Because this coverage, in terms of the fleet of vehicles -- I think a lot of folks have been getting the impression that, oh, all the vehicles are going to have a 35-mile -- a 35 gallon sort of, you know, condition there. But it's not necessarily the case.

And so, you know, we're breaking that thing down later at 8:00. And that's going to be a critical issue because, again, there are still loopholes here, as opposed to thinking all the cars will have this particular standard.

BLITZER: Roland is going to have a lot more on this coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, "NO BIAS, NO BULL."

Guys, we've got to leave it right there.

Thank you.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, tonight, we're reporting on the rising uncertainty about the extent and the severity of what is obviously a worsening swine flu outbreak in this country. We'll have a special report tonight. And we'll be joined by one of the country's leading authorities on infectious diseases.

Also tonight, President Obama facing a revolt within his own party over his plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorists. We'll have that report.

And Governor Schwarzenegger warning now of financial Armageddon if California voters fail to support his plan to tackle California's budget deficit. We'll have a special report on whether the governor's warning is justified and, if so, why, isn't he in California?

And the Senate angers the banking industry by passing sweeping legislation trying to limit -- if not stop -- credit card abuse. We'll be discussing that in our face-off debate tonight.

Join us for all of that and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou.

Thank you.

It's something that hasn't happened in more than 300 years -- the speaker of Britain's House of Commons forced to resign in the face of a growing scandal over lawmakers' expenses. We're taking a closer look at some of the most outrageous claims.

And is this evolution's missing link?

Details of the controversy surrounding this 47 million-year-old fossil.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: T.J. Holmes is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- T.J. what's going on?

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) we were just telling folks about a birthday party over in France. The Eiffel Tower turns 120 years old. And to celebrate the Iron Lady, more than 1,000 balloons were released into Paris. And one little note here.

Did you know every seven years this thing has to be splattered with about 50 tons of paint to keep it updated?

Also, a name you might remember making some news again. He gave money to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And he was already found guilty for mail and wire fraud. Well, today, Norman Hsu was convicted of violating campaign finance laws. He was accused of getting donations from people, including from celebrities, who funneled money that exceeded campaign finance rules to Democratic campaigns. His sentencing is scheduled for August.

Finally here, no wardrobe malfeasance. The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a formal complaint about those extensive designer clothes Sarah Palin wore while running for vice president. The government watchdog group files the complaint, arguing that candidates are not supposed to use donor money for personal expenses like clothes. SEC ruled that the ban does not apply to party money. You may remember, Palin's $150,000 wardrobe was bought by the Republican National Committee -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

We remember that.

Thanks, T.J.

Britain's parliament right now embroiled in scandal after British taxpayers discovered they were paying for politicians' tennis courts, massage tables, even dog food. Now, the speaker of Britain's House of Commons is resigning amid public outrage over the expense claimed by members of parliament.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MARTIN, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMON SENSE SPEAKER: In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish the office of speaker on Sunday, the 21st of June.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have to undertake more fundamental reform of the way parliament is administered. And I believe that the keystone of any reform must be to switch from self- regulation to independent external regulation. Westminster cannot operate like some gentleman's club where the members make up the rules and operate them among themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Abbi Tatton is taking a closer look at some of the more outrageous expenses that members of parliament claimed.

And they were pretty outrageous.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: They really were. They were claiming for anything and everything, it seems.

The British newspaper, "The Daily Telegraph," got a hold of the expenses -- the official expenses for each and every member of parliament.

And this is why the British public is outraged. There was the cabinet secretary who included on her official expenses $15 for two pornographic movies. Her husband later apologized.

Then there was a member of parliament whose gardener charged the houses of parliament and, therefore, the British taxpayer, for an estimated 500 bags of horse manure, at roughly $1 a bag.

Then there were all the trivial items, as well -- things so trivial that they were absurd that someone was even claiming for them -- chocolate covered hobnobs. That's a popular cookie in the U.K. There were diapers, Christmas decorations, dog food, even.

And then the case that seems to symbolize this whole expenses scandal -- that was the $3,000 that M.P. Douglas Hogg charged for having somebody clean the moat of his country house, would you believe?

BLITZER: Abbi, pretty -- pretty scandalous stuff in Britain for the House of Commons.

Thanks very much.

Love those McViddy's (ph) chocolate cookies.

TATTON: They're very good.

BLITZER: Beautiful. Delicious -- all right, Jack, let's go to you for The Cafferty file -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: All righty.

The question this hour -- should airports do away with whole body scans because they show everything? Mira in Hawaii writes: "Absolutely not. See what? An outline of the human body. Even fully clothed, I think we all know and can imagine what is beneath. But what we don't know is what might be concealed. I say if you have nothing to hide other than what we already know you have, then why not show it?"

Mikea in Charlotte, North Carolina: "Yes. Scans like these ought to be eliminated. People who want to fly should not be subjected for a peep show for airport security perverts. By the way, records and images are not always erased or expunged and rules are not always followed. And that's how people find themselves on the Internet. And even Miss California knows that."

Diane in Pennsylvania writes: "If it keep us safe, why not? It's not like the images are being shown on a JumboTron in the largest concourse in the airport. I can't -- personally, I'd like at least a whistle. I can't imagine standing there and not laughing, imagining the guy's face in the other room looking at me. But as long as there's no whooping and catcalls coming out of that room, what the heck? Loosen up, America. Strike a pose."

K.D. writes: "It's ironic how after 9/11 people kicked and screamed they wanted more security in our country, especially airports. Now, we install these whole body scanner machines, everybody's worried about privacy issues? People want to have their cake and eat it, too."

Ian in Austin, Texas, writes: "They should have never been introduced in the first place. They're just bringing us a step closer to the seemingly inevitable police state. I'm not willing to sacrifice my privacy for my liberty."

My favorite is this one. Kate writes: "I'm a frequent business traveler. I'm also a 67-year-old grandmother. Any TSA agent who can deal with that reality at 6:30 a.m. is welcome to it."

And Dan in Ohio writes: "It would be quicker if we all just went through the gates nude."

If you didn't see your e-mail...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: That would be awful.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to -- there are some funny ones -- go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and check them out. You'll get a little giggle before you go to bed tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. It could happen one of these days. You never know.

All right, Jack. See you tomorrow.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: I'm taking the train if it does.

BLITZER: Bye.

CAFFERTY: Good-bye.

BLITZER: It's no ordinary fossil, but is it the missing link from Darwin's theory of evolution?

We're there for the unveiling and the controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A 47 million-year-old fossil -- is it a distant relative to all of us?

CNN's Richard Roth looks at the controversy over what some are calling the missing link -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, anthropologists have long believed that people like you and me have evolved from human-like apes and monkeys.

At New York's Museum of Natural History today, was it history or hype?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one.

ROTH (voice-over): Could the so-called missing link be behind the curtain?

Behold a 47 million-year-old primate fossil.

JORN HORUM, UNIVERSITY OF OHIO: This is the most complete primate fossil before human burials.

ROTH: These paleontologists believe the primate is a gateway to discovering everything about human evolution. They found human-like nails, not claws; plus, toes and teeth.

INGA BOSTAD, UNIVERSITY OF OSLO: I remember from my school day the discussion about the search for a missing link.

ROTH: The female primate is believed to have drowned in a crater lake and was discovered in a shale mine outside of Frankfurt, Germany, in 1983.

It all makes for a very good TV show, doesn't it? ANTHONY GEFFEN, ATLANTIC PRODUCTIONS: The story of a little girl who connects possibly to every person on this planet.

ROTH: Unknown to the primate named Ida, numerous TV and book deals were signed. The History Channel special is called "The Link."

But is it really the missing link of evolution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really, really hard to pinpoint exactly what gave rise to the humans at that point. But this is as good as it gets, really.

ROTH: The scientists call the primate one of the ancestors of all of us.

JENS FRAZEN, SENCKENBERG INSTITUTE: We are not dealing with our grand, grand, grand grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand, grand aunt.

ROTH: Ida the primate will be on display at the Museum of Natural History. Mayor Michael Bloomberg got the first look.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: This is what Darwin was looking for. And it just reconfirms the basic concept of Darwin.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ROTH: They may not have the missing link, but investigators hope the hoopla over the primate in a mine will lead to a gold mine of interest in science -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard Roth, thank you.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The swine flu outbreak is worsening. The number of deaths is rising. But public health officials still uncertain about the extent and the severity of this outbreak. We'll be joined by one of the country's leading authorities on infectious diseases.

Also, President Obama facing a revolt within his own party over his plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorists. Many Democrats are furious that President Obama apparently has no idea what to do with detainees.

And Governor Schwarzenegger of California -- his plan to tackle the state's massive budget deficit facing almost certain defeat at the polls. Schwarzenegger says defeat will lead to what he calls "financial Armageddon."

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