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THE SITUATION ROOM

Jackson's Doctor's Clinic Raided; Anger Sparked by Gates' Arrest; Republicans Break Ranks; Going All Out on Health Care

Aired July 22, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


BLITZER: A tense Senate showdown over an amendment that would let people carry concealed guns across state lines -- we're on the front lines of the battle.

And a CNN exclusive -- we're with U.S. Marines battling the Taliban and 130 degree heat in Afghanistan's brutal desert. You'll see just what they're up against.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A stunning new twist in the Michael Jackson case today. Investigators made a surprise raid on an office belonging to the doctor who was with the pop star when he died. And that doctor's attorney offers an equally stunning explanation for the search.

Let's go straight to CNN's Ted Rowlands.

He's watching this story -- Ted, what are we learning?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning a lot more about this investigation, and, specifically, the investigation into Dr. Conrad Murray. Clearly, manslaughter is on the table.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: (voice-over): Los Angeles police and agents from the DEA executed a search warrant at Dr. Conrad Murray's Houston clinic Tuesday morning. Then, Murray's lawyers released a bombshell -- a statement confirming that a potential case of manslaughter is being built against the doctor who was with Michael Jackson when he died.

The statement reads, in part: "The search warrant authorized law enforcement to search for and seize items, including documents they believed constituted evidence of the offense of manslaughter."

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is the first confirmation we've had -- and it's from the doctor's own attorney -- that there's a manslaughter investigation. We're not just talking about prescription medication and some negligence there, an actual homicide investigation. That's a big development.

ROWLANDS: According to Murray's lawyer, agents took a forensic image of a business computer, hard drive and 21 documents during the search. Murray, who was being paid $150,000 a month to care for Jackson, has been at the center of what until now has been simply characterized as a death investigation.

Murray's lawyers say they were surprised by the search. But they say they've provided everything detectives have asked for.

An LAPD spokesman would only say that the search was conducted as part of the ongoing investigation into Jackson's death.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ROWLANDS: And the other part of the equation of the ongoing investigation into Jackson's death, of course, Wolf, is that coroner's report. And we are expecting that at some point next week to find out exactly what was in Michael Jackson's body when he died -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ted Rowlands, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now from someone who's been reporting on the story from the very start.

Jim Moret is the chief correspondent for "INSIDE EDITION."

What do you make of this development -- this supposed manslaughter development?

JIM MORET, "INSIDE EDITION" CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's significant, Wolf, just as Lisa Bloom said in that report. This is the first confirmation that we've had -- there have been many people suspecting this was a manslaughter investigation. This lawyer for Dr. Murray confirmed that's what they're looking at.

And this is significant because you have to assume that they're basing their search on the preliminary results from that autopsy report, even though we're not privy to those early results. They're looking for something. They're looking for documentation. They're looking for the hard drive, trying to tie specific drugs to Michael Jackson and Dr. Murray. And that's a big deal.

You know, the allegations were significant before, but this ratchets it up quite a bit.

BLITZER: When do we get that -- expect to get that autopsy report?

MORET: Well, Wolf, it was supposed to be released Friday and then early this week. And then we were told last Friday it would be another couple of weeks. There's clearly something the DEA, LAPD and coroner -- someone is looking for additional information. They don't want to release this information piecemeal. They want the full report all at once.

So we are told -- the latest we've been told, within a couple of weeks.

BLITZER: Michael Jackson has not yet been buried, is that right? MORET: That's correct. And I talked to one family friend. And the reason is very simple. The brain tissue that's been examined by the coroner has not been returned to the family and they want -- they want Michael Jackson whole before they bury him.

BLITZER: Let me read to you a couple of quotes from a new article in "Rolling Stone" magazine that has just come out, including this: "According to one source, Jackson also had a rampant eBay addiction, staying up late at night to make purchases on one of the numerous accounts he maintained."

I assume you've read this article.

What do you make of this?

MORET: Well, the -- it's just one in a series of bizarre behaviors he exhibited in the last days of his life. He was also obsessed with the pop star Prince, we're told in that article. And that he, according to his friend, Dick Gregory, he was remarkably thin. And he said I'm not eating because they're trying to poison me.

It sounds like he was -- he was clearly troubled, disturbed, looking for something -- some respite, some rest that he wasn't finding. And -- and that's consistent with what people are saying, that he turned to prescription drugs as a means of escaping -- as a means of resting because he couldn't even sleep.

BLITZER: Jim Moret, thanks as usual.

MORET: You're welcome.

BLITZER: The Harvard University scholar, Henry Louis Gates, says he may turn his recent arrest into a documentary on racial profiling. Gates will give his first television interview later tonight right here on CNN, right before our debut of "Black In America 2".

CNN's Soledad O'Brien is joining us now.

You had a chance to speak with him last night -- Soledad, what did he tell you?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely. You know, he's going to talk to us on TV for the first time since the arrest. And subsequently the charges have been dropped. We'll be talking to him at 7:00 p.m., when we host "Moment of Truth" as part of the countdown to our documentary, "Black In America 2".

I'm right in the middle of Times Square. And we're holding a watch party right here, which is so odd, because there are thousands of people walking by.

It's been interesting to hear what he has talked about as far as the humiliation -- the pain that the arrest called him and also what he plans to do moving forward.

Will he sue the City of Cambridge? It's possible.

What's he going to do in the future?

Will he create a documentary?

I mean, this is a guy who's looked at the experiences of African- Americans as his job.

What will he turn this experience into?

We're going to talk to Henry Louis Gates at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.

We're also going to be talking to Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey. Bev Smith is our guest, as well; D.L. Hughley. We've asked them to come in and talk about their moment of truth -- who is the person who inspired them. That's at 7:00 p.m. and all of it a run-up to the documentary, which begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I can't wait. It sounds great.

Let me ask you this question about the incident in Cambridge with this distinguished professor.

How does that fit into the larger message, if you will, that you've come up with in "Black In America 2," because racial profiling -- that's still a very serious problem out there?

O'BRIEN: You know, what's been interesting to me is that I think a lot of people responded to this story about Professor Gates, who I cannot stress enough what a respected and renowned professor -- black intellectual he is.

Here's a guy who is a McArthur Genius Award Winner, but also, you know, has the local -- the burger restaurant has a burger named after him. So he is a -- a star in the many stars at the Harvard campus.

So it's been a big shock. A number of the black students have had some issues on campus where they've been I.D.ed. I mean, there's a sense of do -- do you belong. It's definitely something that percolates on the campus.

And I think for many people who've heard his story, they've said to me, you know, it's -- maybe it wasn't in my house, but I had a similar experience in my car. Maybe it wasn't in my car, but I had a similar experience in a neighborhood where I don't live, but I was visiting a friend.

And so it's become kind of a -- a touchstone, I think, for people to talk about.

We'll ask him about that again tonight, as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Soledad at Times Square with a great group of guests previewing "Black In America 2." 8:00 p.m. Eastern, the president's news conference, followed at 9:00 p.m. Eastern by "Black In America 2," from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern. That is going to be important television for all of us later tonight.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Sandwiched in the middle of all that tonight, President Obama will be addressing the nation about health care reform. And as he does so, he perhaps should keep in mind it's not just the Republicans who need selling on this thing.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer now says if there's no consensus, the House could leave for a month long August break without voting on health care -- something which Mr. Obama wanted both houses to do before the Congressional recess. Hoyer says he doesn't think it's necessary for the chamber to stay in session into August to keep working on this legislation.

God forbid anything that interferes with their vacation time down there.

Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel, a top committee chairman, was overheard saying: "Nobody wants to tell the speaker that she's moving too fast on health care reform. And they damn sure don't want to tell the president."

This all sounds a lot different from last week, when Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman said: "We, quite frankly, can't go home for a recess unless both houses pass health care bills."

But the Democrats are not all on the same page.

Nothing new there.

Conservative Democrats are worried about the costs of the plan, which the Congressional Budget Office says would add $239 billion to the deficit over 10 years.

First term lawmakers are worried about tax increases and longtime Democrats are against the government selling insurance in competition with private companies.

So here's the question -- what will delaying the vote on health care reform until after the Congressional recess do to its chances of passage?

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

It's like a ball of yarn -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a huge -- a huge one, indeed.

All right, Jack.

Thank you.

A leading Republican overcomes his doubts about Judge Sonia Sotomayor after criticizing her in the past.

Why is Senator Lindsey Graham now ready to put her on the United States Supreme Court?

I'll ask him. Senator Graham is standing by live.

And a controversial amendment to decide whether you should be allowed to carry concealed guns from state to state. Find out who won the Senate showdown.

Plus, when it's 130 degrees out there, how do you keep your drinking water from -- your drinking water bottle from burning your mouth?

In a CNN exclusive, our Ivan Watson shows what U.S. Marines are up against in the Afghan desert right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee has put aside any doubts he may have had about Sonia Sotomayor and now supports her nomination to the United States Supreme Court. That would be Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

He's joining us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember covering all of your questioning. I think it's fair to say, among the most riveting of all of the senators -- your questioning of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

At one point, you said some of her statements, "bugged the hell out of me."

GRAHAM: That's right.

BLITZER: Yet today you're saying you're going to vote yes to confirm her.

What happened?

GRAHAM: Well, the speeches she gave, I think, bugged a lot of people, not just me. The idea that "a wise Latina woman" more often than not, because of her experience and background, would reach a better conclusion than a white male is not something I think most Americans want to embrace.

I think Americans embrace the idea that diversity is good for the court.

But I looked at her record and I put the speech in perspective. She's lived an incredible life. She's been a judge for 17 years. There's no indication that her speech drove way she judged. And I based my decision on her qualifications and what a lot of nice people had to say about her. And, quite frankly, she's come a long way in life and worked very hard. And I think her time as a judge has been well within the mainstream. So I supported her.

BLITZER: And her judicial philosophy -- the empathy issue that some of the other Republican critics have raised -- that doesn't bother you?

GRAHAM: Well, Senator Obama said he could not vote for Judge Alito or Roberts because they didn't have enough empathy and, at the last analysis, you've got to look at a judge's heart. I don't believe that's the appropriate standard. I can't understand what's in your heart any more than you can understand what's in mine. And when you start looking at these subjective factors, it makes me fearful that judge -- people will not want to become judges.

So Scalia and Ginsburg -- one conservative, one liberal -- got over 90 votes. It used to, the Senate based their decision on qualifications, good conduct and experience. That's where I'd like to get the Senate back to and get away from this politicizing the judiciary and try and figure out people's hearts. That's not good for the judiciary.

BLITZER: No one worked harder for John McCain than you did. As soon as I heard word earlier today that you were going to vote in favor of her confirmation, I -- I said to myself, I wonder what John McCain is going to do.

Do you know?

GRAHAM: I don't know. But he voted against her to begin with, when she went on the 2nd Circuit. And there's reasons to be concerned and troubled about her record. And I can understand someone feeling that they can't vote for her.

But here's what I tried to do. Elections matter to me. President Obama won.

When he was Senator Obama, he did not do a very good job of trying to be fair to President Bush.

I want to end this Mideast politics, when it comes to judges. Her record, to me, was one of extremely well qualified. She got the highest rating from the Bar Association. She's been a judge for 17 years. And I think she'll be a very valuable member of the court.

From a conservative's point of view, I don't think she's going to be any worse than Judge Souter. So I felt like I wanted to take the Senate back to a new place.

BLITZER: I'm sure she's going to be grateful to you for that vote, Senator. Let me make a quick turn to health care.

GRAHAM: OK.

BLITZER: One of your colleagues, Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, he said today he was dropping out of these negotiations trying to come up with a bipartisan solution. He said: "I decided to withdraw because I'm having difficulty with the high costs of a number of the situations that I think they're ultimately going to come up with."

Is there any hope at all that health care reform cannot only get Democrats on board, but Republicans alongside?

GRAHAM: I don't think there's much hope for a public option. They have 60 Democratic senators and a 40 Democrat seat majority in the House and they can't put a bill together that has the public options, which I think will destroy private sector competition. And it explodes in costs.

So they're losing Democrats as well as Republicans.

But there is a bill. Ron Wyden and Bob Bennett from Utah, one Republican from Oregon -- a Democrat from Oregon, a Republican from Utah -- there are six Republicans and six Democrats on that bill -- I'm one of them -- that mandates coverage for every American, but allows the private sector to provide it. I would urge the president to look at that model. I think it's a way to break this impasse. And it's revenue neutral.

BLITZER: I asked David Axelrod, his senior adviser, earlier, if the -- if the president is ready to abandon that public option -- a government-sponsored health insurance plan that would compete with the private sector. And he indicated strongly the answer is no. The president believes in that as a way to try to reduce costs, to be more competitive, to let some of those -- those private insurers, like Blue Cross and Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare have greater competition to bring down the price.

So what's wrong with that argument?

GRAHAM: Nobody in this country can compete with the government. This idea that the government has to be involved in the private sector to make the private sector honest really is troubling, because that's not the way America works.

If you have a government-run program, it will be able to provide benefits the private sector can't afford. You will eventually crowd out the private sector.

I don't think it's a good idea to own General Motors. The government now owns most of General Motors and the reason we own it is to discipline the other car companies. I think it's a model that won't work. And it's not just what I think. A lot of push back from Democrats.

There is another way of doing this. I respect the president. He's right to try to lower health care inflation, to reform the system. But the approach he's taking is not selling. There is a better way and I hope he will at least be open-minded to a different approach, because if he's not, we're going to stay stuck.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Gun rights advocates push for a new law to allow concealed weapons. The Senate has its say on the controversial proposal and what it means for you.

And it's not your typical road kill -- now a shark ended its strange journey through Miami.

Stick around.

See what happened, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's the latest?

WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.

Hello, everyone.

The mental health records for the Virginia Tech gunman have been found. Seung-Hui Cho's records were discovered in the home of the university clinic's former director. Cho killed 32 people and himself two years ago. The treatment of his mental health is a major part of the investigation. Two victims' families are suing the former director and the university for gross negligence in failing to prevent the shootings.

Federal health officials say electronic cigarettes contain cancer-causing chemicals despite the manufacturer's claims that they are safer than tobacco cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes produce a nicotine mist that is absorbed directly into the lungs. Public health advocates complain that they are being marketed to young people and serve as a gateway to tobacco. Regulators have halted 50 shipments at the border. Manufacturers are challenging them in federal court.

And changing the batteries on the International Space Station is no small job. Two astronauts took a spacewalk today to replace the 370 pound batteries that store power from the station's solar panels. Two more batteries will be changed in a spacewalk on Friday. Each battery costs $3.6 million.

And an unsettling sight on a Miami street. Yes, that's exactly what you're seeing -- a shark. Two men actually left a dead shark in the middle of the road after they couldn't sell it at any fish markets. Apparently, they carried the six foot long fish around on Miami's downtown train before finally giving up. The men could face misdemeanor charges for improper killing and disposal of an animal.

Almost anything goes, Wolf, sometimes in Miami.

BLITZER: A strange story, indeed.

WHITFIELD: Very strange.

BLITZER: I have never seen that one and I've been around for a while.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I'd say that's a first for me, too.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a first.

Thanks, Fred.

The big push for an ambitious goal -- tonight, President Obama will try to convince the American people that he's on track with health care reform.

But are Americans ready to back him without hearing any more specifics?

We'll talk about that with our political contributors, Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin.

And 130 degree heat, water too hot to drink -- a gritty look at what it's like to be a United States Marines in Afghanistan.

And shrouded in darkness -- how millions across Asia reacted to this century's longest solar eclipse.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, recruiting for civil war in Somalia in immigrant communities here in the United States -- we have a special SITUATION ROOM investigation on the FBI's biggest anti-terrorism investigation since 9/11.

And he was mayor when Al Qaeda attacked New York City -- what Rudy Giuliani says has to happen now to prevent future attacks.

And facing one of the country's most challenging issues -- we're counting down to our special "Black In America 2".

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just three hours or so from now, President Obama will go before the cameras to make his case for health care reform. He's been pushing hard to make good on a campaign promise. But the president is facing growing doubts in Congress and from the public. Let's turn to our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy, what are the political implications for the president if his plan fails?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if failing is described as not getting any sort of health care reform between now and the end of his four year term, I think there's huge implications, because health care and energy policy were the two things he said he wanted to tackle the most. He campaigned on them very hard.

However, if the president, at the end of this year, has a bill in front of him that says health care reform on the top and he signs it, then that is a victory that the White House is going to take. And at this point, the conditions look pretty ripe for him to do that.

It will not be everything he wants and it probably won't come when he wants. But if he can do that, then he has followed through, by and large, with a campaign promise.

BLITZER: If he can't, if he fails on this, I assume he'll lose support -- confidence on -- on other issues, as well.

CROWLEY: Sure, because once a -- once a president is weakened on one thing, he is weakened on everything else. And particularly, of course, you know, that it's an off year -- or a midterm elections -- when they come up, you will see that Democrats of all types will -- will look at what the president is doing and will agree or disagree, depending on where they're going in their district.

So, sure. I mean there's a possibility it will come back to haunt the president in terms of the numbers of Democrats he has in the House or the Senate.

But in general in midterm elections, the party that's in power loses seats. So I don't know that we could directly tie it to President Obama and his failures or his successes.

But certainly a huge, massive failure on getting health care reform would affect just about everything else, because people are emboldened then to question what has been a very popular president.

BLITZER: Exactly 2 1/2 hours from now the news conference over at the White House begins.

Candy, thanks very much.

Let's bring in your political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.

Mary, let me start with you. For the president, tonight is very, very important but it's by no means the ball game.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. That's right. All this breathlessness -- Candy was enjoying it -- but it's over, you know. It wasn't over, didn't hurt either of the Clintons. Hillary should have been the nominee. She's robbed. You done have to go there, but President Clinton to this day enjoys high ratings.

So the big-government Democrats have been trying for 60 years to have big government health care and their repeated failure hasn't killed one of them. And I could make a contrarian argument that to lose today would be augur well for tomorrow.

If he wins these roles of government, these fights, he cannot get re-elected in 2012. That's just the reality. So if he's taking a long view, he should not be so breathless about getting done what he...

BLITZER: That is a provocative statement that he would be better off politically by losing this battle over health care because you said if he gets his way he's going to lose in 2012.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, we look at it in terms of President Obama losing a fight with Congress or maybe Democrats, Republicans, losing their re-election next year. We really lose sight of the real issue. And that is millions of our fellow citizens are losing their health insurance -- 46 million people.

I went home a couple days ago, Wolf, and I saw an ambulance and there was a homeless guy who called 911 because he had a sinus headache and he was about to go to hospital. Now, my premiums are being raised because I'm paying for that. So, it's important that we fix this.

Sixteen years ago, 61 percent of small businesses provided health insurance to employees. Today it's 38 percent. So we need to fix this. This is not about Obama. It's not about Congress. It's about those people who are hurting out there.

BLITZER: And all the Republicans, Mitch McConnell, he made the point that all the Republicans think it needs fixing as well, they just disagree with the way the Democrats and the president want to fix it.

MATALIN: That's absolutely right. And Obama uses a strong-man argument that if you're against his kind of reform, you're against reform. That means all the reform he voted against means he's a status quo person, like he's accusing these guys.

But Donna brings up an excellent point. 47 million uninsured Americans represent 50 percent of the population. 80 percent of that, 15 percent could get -- they could afford it or they choose not to get it, they're young people or they're eligible for Medicaid and they haven't signed up.

Let's have a targeted program that doesn't cost $1 trillion right out of the box, which is a conservative estimate, and get these people signed up who are eligible and people -- and give people the freedom. If you don't want to buy health insurance, or if you want to buy the kind of insurance that just covers liability, your insurance premiums are not going up because this homeless guy with a sinus infection.

They're going up because these states dump all these excessive mandates on insurance companies so you have to pay more for your insurance. If we had health care insurance like we have car insurance, everybody's insurance would be cheaper and it could be done in the private sector.

BRAZILE: I think this will mandate to have car insurance, not an individual mandate to have health insurance. And many today we're spending $2.5 trillion on health care and in a couple of years we'll be up to $7 trillion. So doing nothing should not be an option.

Look, Wolf, Republicans have agreed with the Democrats on many of these overarching goals. I heard even Mr. McConnell say that. They agree that we should reduce costs, that we should provide more coverage.

The big issue right now that I think everybody is grappling with is how do we pay for it. I think we're two-thirds of the way figuring that out. Congress has about 10 or 15 days. If they can't figure out how we pay for the rest of the third, they all should lose their jobs.

MATALIN: Let's take the big picture. This is why this thing is stalled. And I'm not -- politics is a reflection of real people out there pressuring their members, in this case largely centrist Democrats. They understand the steps that these are not -- we always get into this, Donna -- these are not my numbers, they're CBO numbers.

This one-year deficit for this president is 12 percent of GDP, the highest on record postwar deficit...

BLITZER: In fairness, he did inherit a huge deficit...

MATALIN: He -- George Bush -- please. We should talk reality. The highest deficit that Bush ever had was 5 percent, not...

BLITZER: But he also inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression.

MATALIN: And he's making it worse by -- no one -- people out there get this. You know what the American response to this economic downturn is? To increase their savings rates. They do not want the additional savings that they've sacrificed to make to be gobbled up in the future in taxes.

BRAZILE: Michael Bloomberg has said the stimulus money not arrived in New York, 14,000 school teachers would have been laid off. That's 14,000 classrooms that would be empty next month. The option the president had on the table was to do something.

BLITZER: All right. I just want to move on, Donna, because I want to pick your brain on this extraordinary Harvard University professor who was arrested, Henry Louis Gates Jr. He's one of the preeminent scholars in the United States. Charges have been dropped.

But I want you to weigh in. I don't know if you know him personally. You probably do. But give us your thoughts when you heard about this and what it says about the country right now. BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I was shocked because I think Professor Gates is recognizable. Everybody knows him, and I'm sure people up in Cambridge know him and perhaps when one of his neighbors saw two men at the door they assumed the worst.

It's unfortunate, Wolf, and many of our public service officers, our police officers, are doing a great job out there. But we also have a problem with racial profiling. I've been profiled. I've been pulled over by the cops...

BLITZER: For doing what?

BRAZILE: For doing absolutely nothing.

MATALIN: For black (INAUDIBLE) driving.

BRAZILE: For driving the car with a black man and they were looking for a black man and a black woman because some black couple had just robbed a bank. And I'm -- we didn't rob the bank. I have a funnier story. One of my best friends is Eleanor Holmes Norton. And...

BLITZER: The D.C. delegate.

BRAZILE: D.C. delegate. And she left the key at the office. She went back to get it, meanwhile, somebody was trying to open her door, the alarm went off, she called me, I went around to her house and I was almost arrested.

BLITZER: Really?

BRAZILE: Yes. So...

BLITZER: So you can relate to Henry Louis Gates. All right.

BRAZILE: And God bless him. He's a good man.

BLITZER: All right. Soledad is going to be speaking with him at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, preview -- you know leading up to the premiere tonight of "BLACK IN AMERICA 2."

Guys, thanks very much.

An American teenager disappears and winds up dead on the streets of a foreign country after joining a terrorist organization. Our Brian Todd has a special report into the FBI's biggest terror investigation since 9/11.

And a tense Senate showdown over an amendment that would let people carry concealed guns across state lines. We're on the front lines of this battle.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: There was a tense showdown in the United States Senate today over a controversial measure that would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons from state to state regardless of each state's own laws.

The amendment attached to a defense spending bill needed 60 votes to get passed. It got 58 with 39 senators opposed.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's watching the impact of this battle. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some of the strongest criticism to that amendment you just mentioned came from gun control advocates here in New York City. We met up with one community leader who says he faces a battle every day to cut down on gun violence even with strict laws.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): The Reverend Vernon Williams of Harlem says he was frightened Congress was even considering allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines, complaining there are already too many guns on these streets.

REV. VERNON WILLIAMS NEW YORKER'S AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: I have a "Rest in Peace" with over 60 names of young people here in the Harlem community over the last four years that have lost their lives to illegal gunfire.

SNOW: Williams is on a mission to crack down on gun violence and worries about these kinds of laws eroding his efforts. He is among the New York opponents of this latest amendment along with Democratic senator Charles Schumer.

They argue that gun owners in states with looser permit restrictions would have been allowed to carry weapons into states with stricter ones like New York.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Our team won one for once. That is those of us who believe in rational laws about guns.

SNOW: But South Dakota Republican senator, John Thune, who pushed the measure, says, "Overheated rhetoric and fear-mongering overcame common sense." And the National Rifle Association says it's not conceding defeat, pointing out it was only two votes shy of passing.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATL. RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I considered this 58-vote majority in the Senate a positive step and we'll be back to take it to 60. I promise you that.

SNOW: That vow comes on the heels of a win by the NRA just two months ago after Congress passed a measure to allow licensed gun owners with proper permits to carry concealed weapons in national parks. And in a sign of concern about the NRA's power, mayors from major cities led by New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, turned out to strongly oppose this latest NRA-backed amendment. But the NRA says it has the momentum of the American people on its side.

LAPIERRE: They want the freedom to protect themselves. They want the right to keep and bear arms and they don't want New York City style gun laws imposed on them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And on the flipside of that, New York City's mayor says he doesn't want other state's laws imposed on his city. As for the future of this amendment, Senator Thune says he does hope the Senate will reconsider the issue down the road. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary, thank you. CNN exclusive. We're with United States Marines battling the Taliban and 130-degree heat. We'll show you what it's really like for the Marines to be in Afghanistan's brutal desert right now. You'll see just what they're up against.

And a son disappears. Then his parents find out he may be fighting for terrorists on the other side of the world. We'll bring you a special "Situation Room Investigation" into the most significant anti-terrorism probe since 9/11.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: While American troops in Iraq are increasingly yielding control to Iraqi forces, President Obama today made it clear there will be tough days ahead. He met with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over at the White House.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

How did it go, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president made that exact point in the Rose Garden, that there will be tough days ahead, that there's still going to be violence on the ground in Iraq.

But what was most important is that he said for the first time that the initial reports he's getting from U.S. military commanders is that the security situation is stabilizing since the June 30th handover from U.S. forces to the Iraqi forces in Iraqi cities and towns, and he also said the U.S. is still on the regular timetable to get all U.S. troops out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll move forward with our strategy to responsibly remove all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next August, and to fulfill our commitment to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now the other important point today is this is the first time that Prime Minister Maliki was at the White House since President Obama took office. They had been together in Iraq in April when President Obama visited Baghdad, but it's very important for them to try to develop some chemistry in the days ahead because there were some strained relations in the Bush years.

Very important, obviously, for these two leaders to work together as the U.S. winds down its presence in Iraq, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch Iraq with you, Ed. Thank you.

The U.S. military says a bomb blast has killed two American troops in southern Afghanistan. That brings July's U.S. death toll to 34. That's the bloodiest month of the war for American forces.

Four thousand Marines are battling Taliban insurgents in Helmand Province under extraordinarily harsh conditions.

CNN's Ivan Watson is with them, and in this exclusive report he shows us what it's really like.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Take a look here. We're spread out in this desert here in southern Afghanistan, and I've got some great news. We've gotten through the hardest part of the day when the heat goes up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

I don't even know what that is in Celsius, but it's really, really brutal, because we don't really have a break from the sun. As you can see, we're out in the sand here. Take a look at our office. This is cameraman Joe Duran. This is his studio and his desk that he works at. I'm sure it's really good for his back.

Come over to here and take a look at where I'm going to sleep tonight. In this little bug net right here in the dirt between the two armored vehicles.

Now dinner, of course, is important. And here we've got Lance Corporal Kyle Chapel about to tuck in the food here. That is food in a bag.

What are you having tonight?

LANCE CPL. KYLE CHAPEL, U.S. ARMY: Beef stew.

WATSON: Beef stew. Hmm.

CHAPEL: Oh yes.

WATSON: Delicious. Are you psyched?

CHAPEL: Oh, it's the fifth time I've had hit the week so of course.

WATSON: All right. You're putting any seasonings in there?

CHAPEL: None yet. Mom hasn't sent any.

WATSON: No seasonings. Mom, please send Lance Corporal Chapel some seasonings.

Now a trick for surviving out here is something that we call, the Marines call sock water. This is a sock. And inside this wet sock is a bottle of water. It may sound gross. Believe it or not, if you put a sock in here and you run water down it and then the wind blows over it, it cools the water.

It is natural refrigeration. And it makes water bearable and not -- actually hot to the touch when you're out in these 130-degree temperatures.

Oh, take a look at this. The Marines brought in a piece of shrapnel from an air strike earlier today. 1,000-pound bombs that landed on the ground.

Our electricity does not come from a wall socket. It comes from this armored vehicle right here. They are kindly sharing their electricity and running the engines so that we don't run the battery down.

Here is another look at how these guys who are really our hosts out here just keeping us alive with food and water, everything is brought in by helicopter and relaxing in the shade here.

You see another example of the sock water. See, everybody is doing it. And this is what you do to get rid of garbage when you're camping out here like this. We're not in a five-star hotel. You end up burning your garbage.

And as for other amenities, bathrooms, showers, well, I haven't washed this shirt in a couple of days and this -- the bathroom is the great outdoors here.

Anyway, that's just a little taste of what it's like operating with the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion here in southern Afghanistan.

Ivan Watson, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Missing person cases that evolved into something much bigger. A teenager vanishes from a Midwestern city vanishes only to appear fighting alongside jihadists on the streets of Somalia.

Who's convinced him to do this? We're going to bring you our special "Situation Room Investigation."

And looking to the skies. The view millions of people got across Asia as the sun disappeared.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, what will delaying the vote on health care reform until after the congressional recess do to its chances of passage?

Jeff in Connecticut writes, "In the fall Congress will consider the next election at their top priority, laws and insanity will be the last things on their minds as they fill their pockets with campaign cash and bow down to the lobbyists. This health care reform is dead on arrival."

Keith in Oregon writes, "I don't know what effect the delay will have on the chances it will pass but I bet it will increase the chances that members of Congress could read it before they vote on it. What a concept that would be."

Jenny writes in North Carolina, "I think it will help it past. Most Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, know that there must be some type of health care reform. What we'd like to see is reform that's thoughtfully considered and intelligently debited and most of all, it must be effective and paid for. These 'the sky is falling' deadlines have to stop. Passing health care reform that doesn't work just to help the president score political points is not serving the people that elected these officials."

Mary writes, "The August break will break the health care reform bill. If there is to be one, we need our representatives to act like they really care about the people of this country instead of their own interests. No one is getting a vacation this year, why should they? Corporate interests rule in this land and have for over 30 years. These folks are bought and paid for."

Eugene writes, "Jack, delaying and extending the discussion on health care reform is a good thing. No question, the health care needs reform. But the issue is immense. It's ridiculous for President Obama and the Congress to rush.

And Stephanie in Virginia says, "If those mealy-mouth, chicken- hearted, pig-swelling congressmen don't have the guts to move forward on this, the chances of ever getting a bill decrease dramatically. What poor excuses for representatives of us to common people they are. I am truly disgusted."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Check it out. You might find yours there. Wolf?

BLITZER: You think these congressmen deserve a four-week August recess? CAFFERTY: No, I don't. And particularly in light of the president's sense of urgency on getting this bill passed. The way I understand it, he wants a bill out of the House, a bit out of the Senate, then we can put it in the conference committee and work out the wrinkles.

I don't know if that's a good idea or not. But if they're going to walk away for four weeks with the president who got a bit of a mandate from the electorate saying, look, you've got to do this for me, I don't know what that says.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Well, I do but.

BLITZER: Stand by, Jack. We've got more to discuss.

For millions, it was cause for outdoors celebration but others stayed inside because of superstition. The longest total solar eclipse of this century sent much of Asia into darkness just after dawn. Here is how it looks from India to the islands of the Pacific.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's on your screens at the moments. The eclipse over Delhi, Kurukshetra and Allahabad. Just one of these few regions across the country that actually witnessed this total solar eclipse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see almost only the half of the sun. Beautiful, beautiful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what you are seeing on your screens now are images that we are getting in from China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, I think it's like really special and it's going to happen only once in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are seeing a sliver of the longest total eclipse of the 21st century.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Complete darkness. You can hear the crowd go ballistic, because it's complete darkness. It's a total solar eclipse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it was as dark as night. You could see the stars in the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through translator): It's quite exciting. I've never seen an eclipse before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you can see is a dimming sun barely visible now. The moon inching closer and blocking the view almost completely. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm at the Great Wall of China and, wow, this is a solar eclipse. It was really, really cool to see this eclipse. This was a great memory for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Happening now, a "Situation Room Investigation." One of the FBI's most important terror probes since 9/11. Terrorists allegedly are recruiting in America's heartland. CNN's Brian Todd in a community where young people are vanishing and then dying a world away.

Also, this hour, only on CNN, what it's like to be black in America right now. New evidence that racial profiling still exists, even for the most prominent African Americans. We are counting down to CNN's groundbreaking special report.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

At the White House right now, President Obama is two hours away from his prime time news conference. And we want to bring you the big picture of a driving issue tonight, health care.

This number is worth repeating over and over again. About 46 million Americans or more don't have medical insurance and even some who do have insurance are going broke when they gets it.

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