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Interview With Bill Maher; Iran Restricts Media Access

Aired June 16, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All of that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But we begin with breaking news. Some of what you are about to see, Iran does not want you to see at all. And we must warn you, some of these images are shocking and certainly not suitable for children.

Days of unrest are not letting up. Iran is now blocking foreign journalists from covering election demonstrations, and has blocked access to some Internet tools. So, video and information posted to social networking sites are becoming for many of us primary sources of information.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She is watching and listening.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this video we are about to show you is gruesome. It's unverified. But it is the kind of video of alleged violence that we are seeing uploaded to YouTube again and again.

In this video, we are seeing a man. He's bleeding profusely. Someone is coming to his attention. You see two or three other people, one of them with an injured hand.

You see two, three more young people it looks like with injuries to their bodies. You can see them lift their shirts up to show the camera how they have been injured. This, the location is given as Esfahan. This is 200 miles to the south of Tehran. The date is given as yesterday, uploaded to YouTube.

And consider what people are up against. There are blocks on certain Web sites, like YouTube, like Facebook, like Twitter. And, still, people are getting material out there. In fact, Wolf, today, YouTube has a post up telling people how to circumvent the censors, so material like this can still get up there.

BLITZER: And I know you are constantly going through this material coming out. And We are going to update our viewers on what we are seeing. As I said, it's not pretty at all.

Iran's supreme leader hopes this violence and protest will end. According to Iran's state television, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is calling for national unity. But angry protesters are apparently saying, what unity?

They took to the streets in protest again today. Meanwhile, Iranian security forces arrested three reformist politicians, including -- including a former Iranian vice president. They are accused of helping orchestrate this post-election violence, according to state-run television.

President Obama is reacting to all the violence.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. The president spoke at length today, Ed, on what's going on in Iraq.


But what the president is not saying is what's sparking some outrage from his formal rival, John McCain.


HENRY (voice-over): The president said he has deep concerns about the election results in Iran, but does not want to interfere.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.

What I will repeat and what I said yesterday is that when I see violence directed at peaceful protesters, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, wherever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it's of concern to the American people.

HENRY: For the second straight day, the president stopped short of saying the reelection of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is illegitimate, fueling Republican charges that Mr. Obama's response has been too muted.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president should speak out that this election is flawed, it is wrong, it's a deprivation of the Iranian people of their basic human right.

HENRY: But the president notes there were no international observers on the ground in Iran, so it's impossible to make a definitive judgment.

OBAMA: There are people who want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy. How that plays out over the next several days and several weeks is something ultimately for the Iranian people to decide, but I stand strongly with the universal principle that people's voices should be heard and not suppressed.


HENRY: Now, senior administration officials tell CNN that Dennis Ross, a State Department envoy, will be moving over here to the White House in a top staff position helping to craft Iran policy.

Interesting about that, it seems that the president is beefing up the staff here for some of the tough decisions ahead. But, also, he continues to centralize power here at the White House, instead of out in the Cabinet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He is going to need as much help as he can get.

HENRY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: This is a sensitive issue, indeed, huge ramifications.

Ed, thanks very much.

Let's take a look at the timeline of how this went from an election, pitched election, to a point of major international controversy. Last Friday, at 8:00 a.m., Iran time, 45,000 polling stations opened. About 13 hours later, all the polling stations closed.

We started getting claims of victory about two hours after the polls closed. Mir Hossein Mousavi's campaign said he won. Iran's state-run news agency, controlled by Ahmadinejad, said President Ahmadinejad was the winner. Shortly after that, with 19 percent of the votes counted -- at least that's what they said -- Ahmadinejad was said to be ahead, 2-1.

Fast-forward to the next morning, Saturday. Iran's interior ministry said it had counted 91 percent of the votes. That means it had counted almost 36 million hand ballots in less than 24 hours.

Letting North Korea develop nuclear weapons would destabilize Asia and threaten the world -- that's what President Obama said today after a meeting with South Korea's president.


OBAMA: There's been a pattern in the past where North Korea behaves in a belligerent fashion and, if it waits long enough, is then rewarded with foodstuffs and fuel and concessionary loans and a whole range of benefits. And I think that's the pattern that they have come to expect.

The message we're sending -- and when I say "we," not simply the United States and the Republic of Korea, but I think the international community is -- we are going to break that pattern.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, North Korean ships are suspected of carrying weapons or nuclear technology, the United States could launch a highly confrontational act. Some might even consider it an act of war.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's taking a closer look. Chris, what are you finding out?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, armed U.S. Navy ships could be confronting North Korean ships on the high seas. But some say, even that doesn't go far enough.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): The U.S. suspects North Korea is shipping arms and nuclear technology over the high seas and will enforce a U.N. resolution to confront their ships.

OBAMA: This is part of what the Security Council resolution calls for, is the interdiction of arms shipments.

LAWRENCE: So if the Navy spots a ship suspected of carrying arms, it will use radio-to-radio contact to hail the North Koreans. The Navy will ask to come aboard and check for weapons. North Koreans will almost surely say no, and that's it, except at some point the North Koreans will need to re-supply.

Wherever they dock, the U.S., China and other countries will pressure that country to refuse to refuel the ship until it's been inspected.

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: You don't want to telegraph that. You want the ship to show up at port and then surprise it and jump on it.

LAWRENCE: James Carafano was a former Army officer who sees several problems with the policy. He says the North Korean will figure out ways to transfer materials at sea, and if it's small nuclear components, put them in the small boats that are difficult to track. And he says the lack of forced inspections make America look weak.

CARAFANO: As soon as the North Korean say no and sail out of there, even if the ship gets inspected later on, this is a great propaganda victory for the North Koreans, because they'll just say, oh we snubbed our nose at Americans and we sailed on.


LAWRENCE: That's one point, but forcibly boarding their ships could be considered an act of war. And this resolution already allows armed U.S. Navy ships to confront and then track North Korean ships at sea. Some say it is the most aggressive approach toward North Korea in years. It raises some serious concerns about possible escalation at sea -- Wolf.

MATTHEWS: Chris Lawrence with a sensitive story at the Pentagon, thank you.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. There is a fundamental gender gap when it comes to American politics. A new Gallup poll of 150,000 people shows women are significantly more likely than men to identify themselves as Democrats. Consider this -- 41 percent of women say they are Democrats. That's nine points higher than the 32 percent of men who say that. Twenty-six percent of women say they are independents, compared to 34 percent of men.

And as for those who identify themselves as Republicans, not too much of a difference, 25 percent women, 28 percent of men. What is especially interesting, though, here is that the gender gap is evident across all age groups, from 18 to 85.

It also shows up within all major racial, ethnic and marital status groups. For example, African-Americans and Asians are more Democratic than whites, but, within each of those groups, women are more Democratic than men. The poll also shows Democrats have their greatest advantage among baby boomers and the very young.

And, relatively speaking, they are their weakest among people in their late 30s and those in their mid-to-late 60s. Gallup says, these findings suggest that, by the time young men and women are 18 years old, the different cultural and social factors that determine party affiliation are already well-established.

So, here is the question. Why are women more likely to be Democrats? Go to You can post a comment on my blog.

We have already gotten some humorous responses to this question.

BLITZER: I'm sure. Intriguing question, though. And I don't know the answer to that, but I am interested to hear what our viewers think, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, you will have to stay tuned.

BLITZER: I will.


BLITZER: Thank you.

He says President Obama should be more like George W. Bush. What does he mean, the comedian, Bill Maher? He's still a huge fan of the president of the United States, but he is letting loose with some scathing criticism of the president. Bill Maher is standing by live. He is about to join us.

And General Motors finds a way to drum up some badly-needed cash by finding a buyer for its Saab unit.

And Americans sent more than a trillion text messages last year, and many are paying a lot more for doing so. Why are some rates really jumping right now?


BLITZER: All right, here's a question: Is President Obama on TV too much? One TV star thinks so. That would be the comedian Bill Maher. He's the host of "Real Time on HBO." That's out sister network.

He has been a big fan of the president, but, in recent days, he's become a little bit critical.

Let's go to Bill Maher right now.

Bill, thanks for joining us.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Hey, good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You wrote a provocative piece, in which you actually said that you would hope in some respects this President Obama to be more like George W. Bush.

I want you to explain what you have in mind.



Well, I'm just talking personality-wise, the way George Bush was able to push through things that people weren't even asking for, like attacking Iraq. You know, George Bush didn't care whether it was something that was approved by the Congress, by the Constitution, by the Magna Carta.

He just did what he wanted to do. And I would like to see a little bit of that in Barack Obama, not care so much if he is popular, not care so much if he is stepping on toes, not care so much if he is expending too much political capital.

I would like to see him lay it on the line and stand up against the energy companies, the banking industry, the health care industry, all the corporations who really need to be stood up to.

BLITZER: So, where are you most disappointed? Because I know a lot of people on the left, a lot of liberals are disappointed he hasn't done much to advance gay rights, for example. But where -- where are you most disappointed in this president?

MAHER: Why do you bring that up with me, Wolf? What have you heard?

BLITZER: Nothing.

MAHER: No, I'm...


MAHER: No, I mean, that's certainly something that I know that gay people are upset about. It doesn't affect my life personally, because I have never understood marriage and I have never understood being gay. So, I don't really have a dog in that fight.

And I understand why an issue like that can be placed on the back burner, except America has changed. I don't know if this administration really has caught up to the idea that Americans are a lot more liberal, perhaps, than we think they are or they think they are.

They have changed on that issue. They have changed on a lot of issues. And I think part of the problem is that we don't really have a progressive party in this country. We have the Democrats, who are what the Republicans used to be when I was a kid. They are a pro- business party, a corporate friendly pro-business party. And then we have the Republicans, which are just a club for angry white people and Jesus freaks. I don't know what they are.


BLITZER: But, if you listen to a lot of Republicans, they think that this president is moving the country towards socialism.

MAHER: Yes, which is so ridiculous, because Barack Obama is not a socialist. He is not even a liberal.

That's the point I am trying to make, is that this country needs a left wing. It doesn't have it. And part of the reason is the media. Part of the reason is because Newt Gingrich, I have to look at his fat face on television every day. He represents, I don't know what, that far right of kooky town.

And, yes, where is the left wing? You know, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, these are left-wing people, although their ideas aren't really that radical. But they are presented as radical in the media. They're seen as buffoons.

So, really, what we have is a debate between the center-right, the Democratic Party, and the far, far, far right, the Republican Party. There really isn't a balance in this country. And it really doesn't represent the people.

BLITZER: So, but I -- but bottom line is, you think this president is more interested in trying to stay popular or in getting the people's work done?

MAHER: Well, look, first of all, he is doing a really hard job. And I am really glad he is president. Let's not lose perspective.

But, yes, I mean, when you read the paper every day, you are a little disheartened that they can't push through some -- some very progressive legislation pretty much in full measure. It seems like very little nibbling, environmental issues. You know, a 4 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020? Why don't we just have a bill that says, screw it, we're toast; just enjoy everything you do, and don't even try.


BLITZER: How do you like the way he is handling national security, specifically, for example, what's happening in Iran right now?

MAHER: Oh, I think he is terrific on -- on foreign affairs. But that's the easy part, because you don't need to negotiate with insurance companies and credit card companies and the people who are lobbying, the people who make campaign contributions and the corporations who have such a stranglehold on our government, making -- you know, we know he is a fantastic speechmaker.

He is Jimi Hendrix, and that teleprompter is his guitar. So, when he goes and makes that speech in Cairo, you saw, there are people in the street in Tehran who are saying, "Oh, I hope Obama is backing us."

Well, that's a big difference, to go from an American president who not only is getting Muslim people to like him, but saying that they want him to support them? So, yes, I think he is doing a terrific job in that area. And, you know, what can -- what can he really do to affect what is going on in Iran right now, except use that kind of bully pulpit?

I just wish he would bring that sort of influence to -- to some of the issues we have here at home.

BLITZER: Some of these domestic issues.

We're almost out of time, but a quick question on David Letterman's apology to Sarah Palin and her daughters. What do you think?

MAHER: I think it's a real shame. David Letterman should not have had to apologize.

You know, I have known David Letterman a long time. We have all watched him a very long time. He is a fundamentally decent Midwesterner. It is just not in his DNA to have said something that they are accusing him of saying.

And it just bothers me the way some lie gets into the media, and then it becomes the truth. Somehow, it became conventional wisdom now that David Letterman made a rape joke about a 14-year-old.

I promise you, the 14-year-old was not in their minds. They made a joke about Alex Rodriguez, because he has a certain reputation as a player. Sarah Palin was at Yankee Stadium, where Alex Rodriguez plays. Her family is very fertile. Her daughter did get impregnated before she was married.

It was an easy and obvious joke to make. It was funny. It was not offensive in any way. And they made it sound like he said something completely different. So, he is apologizing for something he never meant, never thought, and never said.

I have been through this, Wolf. It stinks.

BLITZER: I know you have been through it.

And we're going to continue to watch your show every week on our sister network HBO. "Real Time With Bill Maher," it airs Friday nights, as I recall. Is that right, Bill?

MAHER: Yes, it is.

Don't let Sarah Palin shoot you from a helicopter, Wolf.


BLITZER: I will try.


BLITZER: Bill Maher, thanks very much.


BLITZER: It's something Iranian authorities don't want you to see, shocking images of political unrest and a violent crackdown right in the heart of the capital. Plus, why a judge is raising the bail to $20 million for the alleged killer of an abortion doctor.

And Former Reagan Press Secretary James Brady,. gunned down along with the president, he is revisiting the White House press room on this day.


BLITZER: All right, now just in, Alina Cho is monitoring a developing story that is just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

What is going on, Alina?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. We have this just in to CNN.

We have just found out that, in the next couple of minutes, Nevada Republican Senator and rising star in the GOP John Ensign will hold a news conference to admit that he had a consensual extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was also married. The senator released a statement to CNN, saying, "I take full responsibility for my actions. Ensign was said to be considering a run for president in 2012."


BLITZER: Shocking images, really shocking images, of political upheaval that Iran, the Iranian regime, doesn't want you to see. CNN's Reza Sayah is in Tehran for us right now with details of government efforts to close the curtain on the bloody protests there. We will tell you what is going on. Also, President Obama warns of a grave threat from North Korea and vows to take a hard line. Is that the right approach? I will ask the best political team on television.

Plus, get this, a cheeseburger in a can. CNN's Jeanne Moos is getting ready to take a "Moost Unusual" look and puts it to a taste test.



Happening now: The worst political unrest Iran has seen since the revolution 30 years ago, it has political rivals on a collision course right now, and government officials are trying to keep the outside world from witnessing the bloody street battles.

What's behind the soaring cost of text-messaging? It is making for some unwelcome surprises in the monthly statements of millions of Americans. And now lawmakers are demanding answers.

Plus, President Obama draws a line in the sand with North Korea. Is it the right approach?

All of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

Dramatic story unfolding in Iran right now. The country is erupting with anger and death. The presidential election is being disputed. And there's blood and protesters in the streets.

Let's get the very latest from CNN's Reza Sayah. He's in Tehran -- Reza.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, another day of fast-moving events in Tehran. Once again, mass rallies escalated tensions. But in a major development, CNN cameras were banned from taking pictures of the events.


SAYAH (voice-over): Dueling mass rallies on a potential collision course in Tehran. In the heart of the capital, tens of thousands gathered in support of President Ahmadinejad in a state- organized rally. "Death To America!," they chanted, "Death to the Enemies of Iran!."

Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Iran's former parliament speaker and staunch supporter of President Ahmadinejad, had advice for disgruntled candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

GHOLAM-ALI HADDAD-ADEL (through translator): It is your duty bound to respect the vote of the people, I tell my dear and respected voter, Mr. Mousavi.

SAYAH: For the fourth day in a row, Mousavi supporters made it clear, this is one vote they do not accept.

Just a few kilometers away from the Ahmadinejad rally, throngs of protestors backing the former prime minister march uptown.

Despite fears of a violent clash between rival rallies, there were no reports of widespread violence. Several developments indicate Iran's ruling clerics are trying to ease the worst public unrest Iran has seen since the 1979 revolution. On Tuesday, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, met with representatives of all four candidates and the Guardian Council, Iran's highest legislative body, ordered a partial recount of the vote.

(on camera): But a recount is not enough, says the Mousavi camp. In a telephone interview, a clearly energized adviser to Mr. Mousavi told CNN Mousavi wants a new vote.

(voice-over): But the government appears just as determined not to give in, escalating its crackdown on dissent on several fronts. On Tuesday, there were reports that three leading reformists were arrested. Among them, cleric Mohammad Ali Abtahi, senior adviser to reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi.

The government also banned international media, including CNN, from covering or broadcasting images of rallies of demonstrations -- an apparent effort to stop the world from seeing pictures like these.

In Iran, a gripping political drama has turned violent and deadly and neither side appears willing to back down.


SAYAH: Despite the Mousavi camp's rejection of the partial recount, the Guardian Council says results of the recount will be available in seven to 10 days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Reza Sayah is in Tehran for us.

Iran's interior ministry says about two thirds of Iran's 66.5 million people were eligible to vote in Friday's presidential election. The median age -- get this -- of the Iranian population right now, only 27 years old. That compares to 37 here in the United States. According to a 2007 census, 25 percent of Iranians live in the capital city of Tehran and its metropolitan area. Another third live in other towns and urban areas around the country. Thirty-eight percent of Iranians live in rural areas or villages with no more than 500 people.

Let's go to Abbi Tatton.

She's been monitoring the social networking sites that have become so important in getting information out of Iran, especially now that the government has cracked down on the foreign media. ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Right. Despite all the blocks on the Internet that are being reported in Iran, the videos I'm going to show you here -- they're on YouTube. They're unverified, but these represent two types of material that we keep seeing coming in.

On the left, the alleged violence. This is from Esfahan. This is in the south of the country. People bleeding, others helping them -- helping patch them up. Three or four people injured.

On the other side -- that video is from yesterday. This is one that we're seeing from today, from Tehran. People walking peacefully, arms outstretched, wearing the campaign green of the Mousavi campaign.

And this is all coming despite the blocks on YouTube, on Twitter. We've got an iReporter who managed to get his story to us.

Take a listen to what he says things are like on the ground right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could see hundreds of people gathering in Halaf Square (ph). At 4:00, the demonstrators were shouting the words "Down with The Dictators!" so loud that the building we were in was trembling. I have never seen any gathering like what we saw yesterday.

What you hear about filtering, scattered cell phones, short messages, they're all true. We are not able to send messages since the president...

TATTON: That iReporter didn't want his name used. As you can imagine, Wolf, there's a lot of people worried about this information they're putting out there, but they really want it out there.

BLITZER: And we hope it keeps coming out. They don't have the ability, the regime, to crack down on all the social networking sites.

Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

As tensions rise in Tehran, how should the United States government respond?

What should the president of the United States do?

We're taking a closer look at President Obama's options. The best political team on television is standing by.


BLITZER: All right. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. The House of Representatives has narrowly approved legislation funding $106 billion to ensure the financing of the war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the coming months.

Republicans opposed the legislation, not because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because of money included in the bill that would have gone to the International Monetary Fund, a program that a lot of Republicans oppose.

The final vote, 226-202. The Senate expected to take up the funding legislation later this week.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry; and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Lots to talk about, guys -- and, Candy, let me start with you, on what's happening in Iran right now. Clearly, pressure is mounting on President Obama to become more condemnatory, shall we say, of what's happening on the streets in Tehran.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. But he's also getting pressure to do exactly what he is doing. There are people that say, listen, step back. A lot of the experts that I talked to this morning on the phone said, listen, he needs to back away from this and watch it play out. So he's kind of being buffeted about by both sides.

Obviously, Republicans in particular -- Senator McCain saying you've got to step out and speak up for democracy and for the people who are on the streets.

BLITZER: Yes. The Republicans seem to be sort of divided. Senator McCain was very forceful.

But listen to him and Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, another Republican.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: He should speak out that this is a corrupt, flawed sham of an election. The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights. We support them in their struggle against a repressive, oppressive regime.



SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: No, I think, for the moment, our position is to allow the Iranians to work out their situation. For us to become heavily involved in the election at this point is to give the clergy an opportunity to have an enemy and to use us, really, to retain their power.


BLITZER: Ed, there's sort of conflicting advice there from the Republican side.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you won't be surprised that top White House aides say the president is going to take the advice of Richard Lugar, not of John McCain; not just because they're former rivals. But the fact of the matter is Lugar is a very well-respected across the aisle, among Democrats as well as Republicans. And that give political cover to this president.

Because, as Candy was pointing out, if this president starts getting too involved in what's happening in the streets of Iran, that could really hand Ahmadinejad a real weapon to say, look, the U.S. is meddling here, this is all driven by the West.

That's probably the last thing the U.S. wants to do right now.

BLITZER: I think you're right -- but, David, how is he handling the situation, the president, right now?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think he has to do a lot more, Wolf. Listen, we cannot allow these students to go on and have another Tiananmen Square without speaking up.

We cannot allow what we saw in the '50s in Hungary, where students were led to believe we would actually go in. And, of course, then the Russians -- the Russians came in and just crushed them and it was terrible.

No, I think he has to find a way to give voice to this. But it's not by doing it as the U.S. president alone. Rather, I think the answer to this dilemma -- and I think Candy has pointed it out -- is for him to be working the phones very actively with other leaders of major industrialized countries, especially in Europe, to see if he can't get a concert of voices who will stand strongly on the side of democracy and also of access to the press.

The fact that the press is being shut out has put a new dimension to this now, because it means we're not going -- the world is not going to be able to see the kind of repression and head crunching it looks like that may be going on there.

BLITZER: And even with this crisis in Iran, Candy, he's got another crisis with North Korea right now and the possibility of U.S. ships inter -- stopping North Korean ships potentially carrying whether military equipment or nuclear technology. And some say the North Koreans could regard that as an act of war.

CROWLEY: Well, certainly, the North Koreans have made it quite clear that anyone getting on a ship or boarding one of their ships, they do believe that's an act of war. The president has stopped short of that, saying that they will halt these ships and say they want permission to come on board. Obviously, the North Koreans are going to say no. So you do wonder where you're going to get.

But here, the president does have what David's talking about. He does have the national security -- the U.N. Security Council, sorry -- up there.

I mean when was the last time the U.N. Security Council, those five nations, get together on anything? And they got together on North Korea because there is a definite commonality of feeling that North Korea is being increasingly belligerent and the fear that it is serious and will, in fact, get closer to developing nuclear weapons.

So he does have the support of other countries here, which puts him on safer territory. And, as you know, Wolf, the Obama administration looks back at the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, saying, wait a minute, all of this talking and all of these carrots didn't do a bit of good...


CROWLEY: ...and they want to get tougher.

BLITZER: But, Ed -- and very quickly -- there's no doubt the president saying today we're not going to give the North Koreans anything right now, because we've played that game with them for 20 years -- we give them something, they say something, then they immediately back away from their commitments.

HENRY: That's right. And the president called it a cycle. He vowed today he is going to break that cycle. But, obviously, it states the obvious -- easier said than done. As Candy is pointing out, there's a lot of pieces to this. And when you talk to foreign policy analysts very close to this White House that have been advising them, they will tell you that it's a real conundrum for this White House as to what's the next step.

BLITZER: And, David, it's amazing how many national security and domestic issues -- but just national security issues -- he's juggling right now.

GERGEN: It is unbelievable, Wolf. And it, for the first time, it begins to raise questions about whether he can -- he can pay enough attention to his domestic issues. Because, as you know from covering the White House, when you've got the North Korean issue, that's a -- that's almost a full-time job to get that right. It's a full-time job to get the Iranian question right.

I just don't see how he can go out and give many more speeches about health care until he gets a little further down the road and gets both of these issues, Iran and North Korea, under better control.

BLITZER: We'll leave it there.

Guys, thanks very much.

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


Powerful Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada has just admitted to having an extramarital affair. We'll have full details on this breaking story from Washington. Also ahead tonight, President Obama's sharpest criticism yet of North Korea. The president said a nuclear-armed North Korea is a grave threat, as he put it. And President Obama promises to break the cycle of crisis and reward for the communist nation.

A much different approach for the president on another country with nuclear ambitions -- Iran. President Obama today refused to say the re-election of President Ahmadinejad appeared rigged, even as the political turmoil in Iran and the death toll rises. The president said he didn't want to be seen as meddling in Iran's affairs.

And one of the top priorities of this White House and Congress -- health care reform. No one, at this point, knows what it will cost, but one thing seems certain -- taxpayers will be paying for it.

In our face-off tonight, accusations that liberals are hijacking the conservative rhetoric of faith, God and politics to push their health care agenda. We'll have both sides of that debate.

Join us for all of that, all of the day's breaking news and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you then, Lou.

Thank you.

A new surcharge on text messages -- it's catching a lot of consumers by surprise. Their monthly bills are suddenly jumping up by double digits.

So what's going on?

And a cheeseburger like you've never had one before -- this one comes in a can. Yes, a can. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.


BLITZER: If you text -- and a lot of people certainly do -- you may have seen a big spike in your cell phone bill lately. Now, consumer advocates and many members of Congress are trying to get to the bottom of what's going on.

We asked CNN's Elaine Quijano to check out the story for us -- Elaine, what's going on?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, texting really has become a way of life for some people.

But now some are asking, are customers getting the best possible deal?


QUIJANO (voice-over): Americans sent a mind-boggling trillion plus text messages last year alone, according to one lawmaker. Kristina Edmundson was one of them.

KRISTINA EDMUNDSON, TEXT MESSAGE USER: It's a simple, "I'll be there in five minutes," "I'm running 10 minutes late," "I'll see you in two hours." Those can really ding you after a while.

QUIJANO: Edmundson, who, ironically, works for the advocacy group, Consumers Union, got dinged a couple of months ago. Her bill jumped by almost $60 for so-called pay per use text messages not covered under her monthly plan.

EDMUNDSON: I thought this is outrageous. Sixty dollars is a lot of extra money for one month of mistakes.

QUIJANO: She tried shopping around, but didn't need or want a $20 unlimited texting plan.

EDMUNDSON: There's really no other option for me as a consumer and that's frustrating.

QUIJANO: Consumer choice is what Democratic Senator Herb Kohl wants. He says all four of the nation's major wireless carriers -- Spring, T. Mobile, Verizon and AT&T -- each raised their pay per use text messaging rates by the same amount -- from 10 cents per text message in 2006 to 20 cents per message by 2008.

SEN. HERB KOHL (D), WISCONSIN: Why did you each go up by the same amount?

Why didn't you go up less than your competitor?

QUIJANO: At a hearing of the senator's Anti-Trust Subcommittee, top lawyers for Verizon and AT&T emphatically denied price fixing on text messages. But they did acknowledge the higher pay per use charges are designed to funnel customers into bundled deals.

WAYNE WATTS, AT&T MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC.: I believe our customers have voted with their pocketbooks and said that's where they get their most value.


QUIJANO: Now, the lawyers also insisted there is vigorous competition in the wireless industry and said focusing on pay per use text messaging is too narrow a view. They argue only a small percentage of text messages fall under the pay per use category.

Senator Kohl says he'll be keeping an eye on the issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And knowing Senator Kohl, I'm sure he will.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: You know, if you don't have a cell phone, that story is irrelevant.

BLITZER: I know you don't have a cell phone, right?

CAFFERTY: That's correct.


CAFFERTY: The question this hour is why are women more likely to be Democrats?

Gallup did a poll and that's what they came up with -- women are more likely to be Democrats.

Phil in Washington says: "Women are smart -- smarter than men. They realize that those who represent the Republican Party haven't a clue how to get the country back on the right track and that the key to success is not a show of force. I expect that long before the turn of the century, we will see a female commander-in-chief."

I'm not sure that addressed the question, but it's a good e-mail.

Ray in Nashville says: "Let's see, Jack, Republicans are against abortion, women's rights, civil rights and voting rights. Republicans are pro-business and fought The Ledbetter Act to enforce equal pay for women. The Republican Party is the party of radical Evangelical religion, which places women in an inferior position in life, because that's what's in the bible. The Republican Party is more apt to get us into some kind of war, which more women traditionally abhor. You know, Jack, this is really a stupid question."

Patricia in New York: "Women are saner than most men. Honestly. During the Great Depression, it was the men who threw themselves off the building to their demise, not the women. And yet women hold more of the wealth. We outlive you and inherit. Women are patient and know things will turn around. Men are not that patient -- all traits of Democrats."

Stephanie says: "Greetings from Japan, Jack. Women are nurturers. The Democratic Party is all about caring for people."

Kristian writes: "Because women tend to be smarter and see the bigger picture. And I say this is a male member of the society."

Martin writes from Washington: "Because Democrats like to spend other people's money and so do women. Democrats want to save every living thing that doesn't make them stand on a chair and scream. So do women. Democrats like to stick their nose in the lives of their neighbors. So do women. Women would have invented the helmet before the wheel. So would Democrats."

And Mark writes: "Is this a blonde joke?" If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

I'm going to go home and not text message anybody.

BLITZER: Don't text message me tonight, please, Jack.


BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: It won't happen.

BLITZER: All right. See you tomorrow.

In the season of burgers sizzling out there on the backyard grill, something new and Moost Unusual is happening and CNN's Jeanne Moos has the story.


BLITZER: How about burgers boiling in a can?

CNN's Jeanne Moos tests out this Moost Unusual culinary experience.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a cheeseburger that doesn't come medium. It doesn't come rare. It comes in a can.


MOOS: Oh, yes, an entire cheeseburger -- bun, onions, tomato pulp, and, yes, even some real beef. We fell for the cheeseburger in a can mystique weeks ago, when there was buzz about it on the Internet. Though it surfaced on Web sites like Dig Your Own Grave months ago, it got no respect.


MOOS: Jay Leno even joked about it.


JAY LENO, HOST: They say the cheeseburger can last for a year in a can and up to two years in your colon.


MOOS: Go ahead and laugh, but what other cheeseburger has its own Facebook page?

So we ordered several from the Swiss company that sells them via the Internet, mostly to campers.

(on camera): You know, we were supposed to have more than one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You couldn't afford it, (INAUDIBLE)?

MOOS: Well, it got stuck in customs.

(voice-over): No wonder, pretty frightening.

We took our only can to the Parker Meridian Hotel's burger joint, where the burgers are rated among the best in New York by Zagat.

(on camera): Boil it for 10 minutes.


MOOS (voice-over): And by it, we mean the whole can.

(on camera): Oh my god, it's gross.

(voice-over): Sometimes it rattles. Web taste testers resorted to scissors -- to a flipper to fish it out.

(on camera): Do you think I should flip it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it can overcook?

MOOS (voice-over): Do you think it's overpriced?

Each burger is about $6.50. It's the shipping that really adds up.

(on camera): It sort of looks like Spam, you know?

(voice-over): The Parker Meridien's chef, the hotel's managing director and a guest served as guinea pigs, as we exchanged meaningful glances.

(on camera): It's gross.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like bad salami.

MOOS: You seem sort of speechless.


MOOS (voice-over): But the guest wasn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It's really good. Yes. It's a little chewy, but good.



MOOS: OK. So maybe it doesn't look quite as tasty as advertised. And certainly it doesn't live up to Jimmy Buffett's famous song.


MOOS: So what if it looks like leftover cat food?

Just wash it down with another product from the same company -- powdered red wine.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(on camera): Why bother to boil it?

(voice-over): New York.



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