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Pentagon: "Time is Not On Our Side"; Ted Kennedy Speaks; Georgia Pastor Killed in Drug Sting; Human Body Parts for Sale; Health Reform Rage

Aired September 3, 2009 - 17:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: "Ted Kennedy," the late senator's memoir, reveals new details of his family's tragedy and his own despair, drinking and drive to succeed.

And the rage over health care reform is getting uglier -- a protester's finger is bitten off during a fight with a counter demonstrator.

Will Medicare pick up the tab?

Wolf Blitzer is off.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Afghanistan war is at its bloodiest stage yet for American troops. Casualties are soaring and polls show that the public doubts are growing. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates says this is not the time to get out of Afghanistan. Indeed, more American troops may be going in.

Our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has the very latest -- Chris, what are you learning today?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne. Secretary Gates has now said that despite all that public pressure, he feels the U.S. cannot win in Afghanistan using only small operations and unmanned drones. And now we may be getting very close to some major decisions on how many troops they think they'll need to succeed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, come on, come on, come on!

LAWRENCE: (voice-over) The military leaders who once spoke out against adding American troops now seem willing to order more of them to Afghanistan.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm very open to -- to -- to the recommendations and certainly the perspective of General McChrystal.

LAWRENCE: The Defense secretary says the change of heart has nothing to do with any new strategy. He says there is no new strategy, but instead, the new commander's view that Afghans will accept more American troops, if they reduce civilian casualties and respect Afghan laws.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SEPTEMBER, 2008)

GATES: Then the risks that I have been concerned about, about the footprint becoming too big and the Afghans seeing us in some role other than partners, I think, is mitigated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: Contrast that with last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JULY 17, 2008)

GATES: I think we need to think long and hard about how big a footprint.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: Or even earlier this summer.

GATES: If the foreign military footprint gets too big.

LAWRENCE: One critic of the war policy says the Taliban is a guerrilla force indigenous to Afghanistan and can't be removed. She says Afghanistan's literacy rate is in the single digits and it's never had a strong central government, so the U.S. should narrow its mission to focus solely on Al Qaeda.

MALOU INNOCENT, CATO INSTITUTE: We have a little over 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops altogether. You don't need another 10,000 or another 5,000 to achieve those narrow aims.

LAWRENCE: New polls show a majority of Americans oppose sending more troops. Military leaders admit they must show progress, but firmly believe the effort can succeed.

GATES: I don't believe that the war is slipping through the administration's fingers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Secretary Gates says the U.S. cannot defeat Al Qaeda from a distance if Afghanistan as a nation is not strong enough to resist them. The secretary has now forwarded the new commander's assessment to President Obama. Now, he, General Petraeus, Chairman Mullen, they're all weighing in. And they will present their views to the president early next week -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK.

Thank you, Chris.

Well, just days after his funeral, the late senator's memoirs have leaked out ahead of publication. Our CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, she joins us.

And I know there's some interesting revelations that there was.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There really are. You know, it appears to be a book that leaves absolutely no subject uncovered.

As described by "The New York Times, even Ted Kennedy sees that his was a life not always well lived, but certainly always hard lived.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over) The Kennedy memoir, obtained by "The New York Times," promises to be not just the senator's story, but a family story. It is the tale of a sprawling family of nine siblings as told by the youngest and only one of four competitive brothers to survive beyond his 40s. He went on to become one of the most effective, hardest driving senators of the 20th century.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: "My entire life," Kennedy wrote of his brother's legacy, "has been a constant state of catching up."

According to the times the late senator's memoir includes his final months and his battle with terminal brain cancer. Excerpts published by the paper indicate a book rich with details of an exceptionally turbulent life, ignoring neither the highs nor the lows.

On the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, the late senator says he always accepted that only one gunman was involved. He also reveals that his other brother, Bobby Kennedy, was so despondent after JFK's death that the family worried about his emotional well-being. "It," Kennedy wrote, "veered close to being a tragedy within a tragedy."

Five years later, Bobby was assassinated and Ted, the only surviving brother, describes his own deep despair, his heavy drinking and pushing himself and his staff hard. "I tried," he said, "to stay ahead of the darkness.

Kennedy also covered Chappaquiddick, a car accident, which killed a young campaign aide. He was at the wheel and fled the scene, failing to contact police until the next day, when the body was found. Kennedy called his behavior "inexcusable," much as he has since the early days following the accident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The times reports (ph) that Kennedy believed the event of Chappaquiddick might have shortened the life of his father, who was already sick.

On politics, Kennedy found Ronald Reagan charming, but removed from the details of policy. "The Times" says he also wrote critically of Jimmy Carter, with whom Kennedy had a chilly relationship after a bitter primary fight. Kennedy accuses the former president of being too timid to address any substantive health care reform. "He did not really listen."

The 532 page memoir is scheduled for sale September 14th. Kennedy did not plan it this way, but they are his final words on Ted Kennedy -- the successes, the failures and everything else. "Our sins," he wrote, "don't define the whole picture of who we are."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Kennedy also wrote: "Men and women are far more complicated than that."

MALVEAUX: Very interesting.

I had a chance to speak with the attorney general of Massachusetts, Coakley, who says that she's going to be running for Kennedy's seat.

What are you hearing about the possible candidates?

CROWLEY: All eyes on Joseph Kennedy at this point -- former Congressman, son of Bobby, nephew to Ted Kennedy.

Is he going to run?

We're told that he is -- has called some people around the state, talking about issues. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's in, but that certainly he would at least partially clear the field. It doesn't sound to me, you know, as though Coakley would get out simply because Joseph Kennedy got in. But it might prevent others from getting in just because of the name.

MALVEAUX: Sure.

OK. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Well, Jack Cafferty is in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, almost nine in 10 Americans think the country is still in a recession more than 21 months after it began. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 87 percent of those surveyed say we're in a serious, moderate or mild recession; while 69 percent say things are going badly in this country. The good news is that number is down from 83 percent in November and 77 percent in April. It's moving in the right direction.

Also, fewer Americans now think we're in a serious recession than those who did last spring. And although the economy is still the top issue, according to most Americans, this poll suggests that it's beginning to decline in importance.

While the American people might not be convinced the end is in sight, a lot of economists say things are beginning to turn around now. The Federal Reserve says it's more confident the economy is stabilizing, though they're not sure what the recovery is going to look like.

Recent data has shown the economy expanding. But so far, it hasn't been enough to turn around the job market. We still have 9.4 percent unemployment. The number is expected to top 10 percent by the end of this year. It will likely tick up again tomorrow morning.

It's unlikely we'll see any more significant changes until consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of the economy, picks up again. And with an overwhelming majority of Americans saying we're in a recession, well, it doesn't seem like they'll be reaching for their wallets any time soon.

Anyway, here is the question: Do you believe the U.S. is still in a recession?

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

The -- the consumer spending numbers can't tick up, Suzanne, until the job market begins to improve, is my guess. And that hasn't happened yet.

MALVEAUX: That sounds like a reasonable assumption.

Thank you, Jack.

Well, facing a blaze that's carved a path of devastation -- firefighters unleash their ultimate weapon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were a passenger on a 747, this is where you'd be sitting. Instead, on this plane, they've got 10 tanks carrying 20,000 gallons of fire retardant and/or foam -- 90 tons of firefighting artillery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: We'll take you aboard a jumbo jet turned into a supertanker. It's like having a fire hydrant in the sky.

And a young pastor is shot and killed during a police drug sting. They say he wasn't the target.

So who was?

Plus, human organs for sale around the world -- we follow the trail from Israel to China, where an operation goes very wrong.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Was it a drug sting gone wrong?

There are a lot of questions in Georgia today after a young pastor was shot and killed in a police operation.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been looking into the story for us -- and, Deb, what do we know?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are trying to figure out why undercover officers opened fire on an unarmed man. The victim, 28- year-old Livonia pastor, Jonathan Ayers, is seen here entering a convenience store and taking cash from an ATM moments before the shooting.

Now, he gets into his car to leave and that's when a black SUV, seen in grainy video, pulls up to a gas pump near the pastor's car. According to a spokesman for GBI, undercover agents from the drug task force were targeting a woman Ayers had dropped off a short time earlier. Officers suspected her of selling drugs. The GBI says the agents approached the pastor and allegedly identified themselves as officers. It's at this point that the pastor tried pulling away, allegedly backing up and hitting an officer with his car.

When he tried driving forward, an undercover cop, allegedly feeling he was in danger, fired into the car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that anyone in that situation would run. I know I would. If someone pulled up to me with a gun, I would run. They deserve punishment. They -- they deserve to feel somewhat of the pain that we're feeling, because I can't get my brother back. He's gone forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We may not know the whole truth of the -- of the matter as to why he ran, but he did. The loss of life for any reason that happens anywhere, it is tragic. And we did not know Reverend Ayers before -- before this -- or the family. And our thoughts and our prayers are with -- with his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Now, the pastor did manage to drive away from the gas station.

When his car went off the road, he was taken to a hospital. He died following surgery.

The woman who had been with the pastor has been charged with cocaine possession. The two officers -- the one allegedly hit by Ayers as he backed up and the one who fired -- are both on administrative leave. No drugs were found in the pastor's car -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Deb.

Well, the buying and selling of human organs hit home for Americans when the FBI recently arrested a New York man for trying to broker a kidney. But a CNN investigation shows that the organ trade is big business around the world.

Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit is joining us -- and, Drew, it seems like Israel may be a point where all of this meets.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is a crossroads. But this is happening all across the world, Suzanne, where desperate patients seek body parts from desperate people who are willing to sell them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: (voice-over): In this Tel Aviv hospital room, you can see just how desperate some Israelis are for kidneys. Ricki Shai's mother is nearly unresponsive -- blind, her diabetes slowly killing her. She's been on a national kidney waiting list for years.

Sitting beside her, Shai's father, Yechesko (ph), also a diabetic who decided not to wait for a kidney of his own and took matters into his own hands.

RICKI SHAI, TRANSPLANT PATIENT'S DAUGHTER: And my father didn't want to be like my mother.

GRIFFIN: So in April, Yechesko cut a deal with a man who buys and sells kidneys -- a kidney broker, who, for $100,000 promised new life.

(on camera): A broker?

SHAI: Yes, a broker. He's not -- he is the killer (ph). He went to him and he suggested to him that two -- for two days, he become a new man. Come with me. Two days. Pay $100,000.

GRIFFIN: Come with me to China?

SHAI: Yes, to China.

GRIFFIN: (voice-over): Once in China, Shai says her father was taken to a rural hospital. A teenage girl was waiting there -- the broker paying $5,000 for the kidney that would go to Yechesko. The surgery went poorly. Shai captured these images on her phone of her father in what she described as a filthy hospital. The donor, Shai says, died shortly after surgery. No one knows why.

SHAI: She was 18 years. She was just a child. And I understood that she -- they give him $5,000 for her kidney. She -- she died.

GRIFFIN: The broker has yet to face any sanctions. Until just last year, the entire transaction was not only legal in Israel, but some state-sponsored health insurance actually paid. Nancy Scheper- Hughes studies the organ trade and says Israel has become a sort of ground zero for both legal and illegal transactions. Scheper-Hughes says that as medicine mastered the science of kidney transplants, the numbers of procedures grew. But in Israel, so, too, did the belief the best way to treat kidney disease was to find a new one.

NANCY SCHEPER-HUGHES, FOUNDER, ORGANS WATCH: There's a belief, of course, that not only is transplant better than dialysis, but that you want a living donor, because it's better than a kidney that was on ice or a kidney that was under a truck.

GRIFFIN: This Israeli kidney broker insists he operates legally because he no longer finds kidneys for clients, but lets clients find their own. But he still wants his face hidden. He says Israelis have a phrase that they don't like to, "weaken their own." So when his own mother needed a kidney, she would not even consider the one her son wanted to give her.

(on camera): Your mother, you said, she -- she wouldn't dare take a kidney from her son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GRIFFIN: But she would take a kidney from a person she will never know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GRIFFIN: -- in China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

What's so strange about that?

GRIFFIN: It says that the rich person has more of a right to their health and their life than the poor person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is reality. This is how it happens.

GRIFFIN: (voice-over): His experience, finding a kidney for his mom in China, was so easy, he went into the business himself -- making $5,000 a deal. He says he has arranged for nearly 220 transplants, profiting more than a million dollars. The new Israeli law banning brokering of kidneys has made it trickier, but he says if a patient arrives at his door with a donor claiming to be a relative, he can easily send them overseas, no questions asked. (on camera): Are they really relatives?

(voice-over): I don't -- I don't know. I don't -- I don't care. I don't really deal with that.

GRIFFIN: And in Israel, relatives are relatively easy to find, especially when you have poor emigres recently arrived, in quick need of cash and patients willing to pay. Brokers can have these newly acquainted family members on an operating table anywhere in the world within weeks.

(voice-over): Ricki Shai says in the search for a new kidney, her father lost $100,000 of borrowed money, his pride and, like his donor, is now losing his life. His new kidney is failing.

SHAI: My -- my family is breaking.

GRIFFIN: The family is breaking, but Shai says she has no doubt the organ broker is still in business.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Suzanne, the Israeli health ministry tells us police there have launched several investigations now into the illegal brokering in body parts, specifically, kidneys. But those who study this organ trading say the desperation that drives it on both sides makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stop.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Drew.

An unbelievable story.

Thank you.

Stabbed with tainted needles -- the bizarre attacks reignite ethnic unrest.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Deb, what are you working on?

FEYERICK: Well, Suzanne, the government says car dealers will be paid in full for the Cash for Clunkers program by the end of the month. Some $500 million in reimbursements have been approved. Auto dealers have complained the government has been too slow to reimburse them for the incentives of up to $4,500 per vehicle.

And there's new ethnic unrest in Western China. Thousands of Han Chinese came out to protest a bizarre series of attacks involving stabbings with allegedly tainted needles. The stabbings were reportedly carried out by Uyghurs, the Muslim minority in Western China. CNN was told the government sent text messages to citizens warning that the syringes contained an unknown disease.

And lucky to be alive -- a cruise ship passenger was rescued from the Atlantic this morning after treading water for more than an hour. The crew of another cruise ship saved him after spotting him off Port St. Lucie, Florida. Now, Carnival Cruise Lines says he was seen jumping from a balcony and other than being exhausted, he's in good condition. And we're told, Suzanne, that he actually asked to go back onto the ship. He didn't want to stay on the one that rescued him -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Oh, wow!

OK. Interesting story.

Thank you, Deb.

FEYERICK: Of course.

MALVEAUX: Well, ever since 9/11, bridges and tunnels have been seen as key targets.

But what happens if the guards fall asleep?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine if I was a terrorist. Imagine if I had a gun in my hand. I could have opened up this door and blew his head right off. That's how close I was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: We'll hear from the whistleblower who snapped pictures of napping security guards on the George Washington Bridge.

And health reform rage -- well, it is spiraling out of control -- a protester's finger bitten off during a fight with a counter demonstrator.

Plus, Supreme Court justices confess to feeling just a little bit stressed -- stressed out about the changes they face as they prepare to seat their newest colleague.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, after the huge public remembrances, Michael Jackson's family and closest friends are due to attend a private burial tonight for the star. We are live in Glendale, California for that.

Plus, a joyful, yet heart-wrenching reunion -- an aunt tells what it was like when Jaycee Dugard rejoined her family after 18 years of captivity. And members of Congress get an earful from voters on health care reform. We'll talk to a House Democrat who is still undecided and has some critical words for President Obama.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Health care reform rage -- anger over President Obama's planned health care overhaul reaches a new level in California, as a man's finger is bitten off.

Brian Todd joins us from Lake View Terrace, California with the details -- Brian, an unbelievable story here.

Just tell us what happened.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this occurred at about 7:30 local time, 10:30 Eastern time last night in Thousand Oaks, California, about 45 minutes northwest of Los Angeles.

This was a rally sponsored by the group MoveOn.org, in favor of health care reform. Several dozen -- up to 100 demonstrators -- protesters, excuse me -- ralliers had gathered there. There was a demonstration against them and pro -- against health care reform. It was forming across the street.

One man got into a conflict with another man. We're going to show you a still picture that we got from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department of this incident just before this happened.

Now, the cluster of men involved in this is on the right hand side of the screen that we're showing you. The suspect, who authorities are not going to name and who they are looking for, is the man in the black t-shirt and black shorts on the far right.

The victim is among the three gentlemen just to the left of that. He is the middle gentleman with the khaki shirt and the Army green shorts.

This is just before this incident. These two got into an argument. The victim got his left pinky tip bitten clear off. And a witness described essentially how this got started.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT BUSH, WITNESS TO FIGHT: William grabbed his hand and came back to the -- the kid on the -- on the sidewalk and said, "You bit my finger off." And -- and I saw -- I looked down and I could see that the stump of his finger -- I could see that it -- it had been bitten off. And he was bleeding. You can see blood, the trail goes up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Again, this victim went to a local hospital with his finger wrapped in ice. As for the suspect, we just got off the phone with the Ventura county sheriff's department. They say they are looking for this man. They are looking to speak to him. They are not looking to arrest him because they say they've gotten so many different versions of how this fight got started they just want to hear his side of it -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, what is the condition of the victim now?

TODD: Well, interestingly enough, we talked to a spokeswoman at the hospital near here. She said he did come in with his finger wrapped up. And the severed portion of it on ice. And they said he did not want to have it reattached. They explained to him that they could reattach it and what that involved. And he elected not to reattach it. Then he just left the hospital. He left the severed portion of the finger them. They disposed of it. We did contact moveon.org about this to ask if the suspect in question might have been with their group. They issued this statement. Quote, "While we don't know if either party involved was a MoveOn member, we regret any violence that may have occurred yesterday and we support the Ventura County sheriff's investigation into the situation. It is our firm hope that this event does not detract from the tens of thousands who were out peacefully making their voices heard for health care reform and a public option." So moveon.org not entirely sure also if the suspect was part of their group.

MALVEAUX: Okay. Brian, thank you very much.

So has the rage of health care reform gotten so bad that people are now physically attacking and dismembering each other? And can it get worse?

Joining me, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen and republican strategist Tony Blankley. He works for a public relations firm that has a health care client. I want to start off first, Jack Cafferty asked the question to people who are watching about lobbyists and their role in all of this. The fact that there's so many lobbyists involved in the health care reform debate. And one of our viewers got back to him. I want to see if we can put that up there on the screen. And I can just read it here. "With congress on the take, and I can only wonder why it requires six lobbyists to bribe each other, it's no wonder that congress isn't making any significant progress on health care reform." That from Dale from Colorado. Why so many lobbyists? And does he have a point here? That you've got people who are hijacking this debate? Tony?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, we have a lot of lobbyists because the government has a lot of activity that affects interests. So everybody lobbies. From the Sierra Club to NRA to every business and union interest. Interestingly, on this issue, you've got some of the biggest interests. Pharma, and the hospitals, who are supporting the president's plan. You've got lobbyists as you often do, powerful lobbyists on both sides because you have powerful interests affected by government policy.

MALVEAUX: Is there a point you've got so many people involved who are lobbyists that perhaps the true feelings of some folks, their voices are being drown out? HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: In defense of lobbyists, because I used to be one, there is some sense to the table lobbyists bring. So much of this debate is actually being generated not inside of Washington but outside of Washington by sort of the partisan interests on both sides. You know, lobbyists are passionate people. Whether they're with the AARP or whether they're with Moveon.org or whether they're with insurance companies. And so it's really the debate that matters. It's the substance that matters. It's not necessarily who's doing it.

So I just don't think that's the issue. I actually think the Republicans have decided that they're going to bring down the president by bringing down health care. And as much energy and as much support as they can get from industry and from, you know, right wing groups to do that, that's what's generating this. And I don't think this is about sort of an inside Washington game. I think this is about people trying to take it to the --

BLANKLEY: This isn't a partisan issue. You see independents shifting dramatically away from the Democratic proposal for health care and into opposition. They're not partisan Republicans. The fact is this is a huge issue affecting one sixth of the economy and the way we live and die through health care. And the nation is powerfully divided. We've seen that for a month with public out there. There's organized events. You can't organize this much passion.

MALVEAUX: What about the passion? What about the passion? We see the guy whose finger is bit off. What's happening on the streets and town halls that is eliciting so much passion from folks? Is this really about health care?

BLANKLEY: I don't know of any great issue the country's ever dealt with in which the public doesn't get involved, whether it's anti-war demonstrations of the '60s, civil rights, all sorts of issues, positive and negative, people get passionate about it. That's not the issue. The issue isn't whether people are passionate. They ought to be. It's the question of what are the congressmen and senators going to decide after they listen to the people in their own judgment. If they think this is an organized minority, they'll ignore it. I think most of them think that the public is divided on this issue.

ROSEN: 14,000 people are losing their health care every week. There is passion here. People cannot -- people get a new job, they can't take their old health care. People are getting thrown off the books. People are scared. And when they're scared, they want action. And they get excited. Having said that, the polls are overwhelmingly showing the opposite of what Tony just said. People still want action. What they're confused about is the public option and what that means or the finances behind supporting health care. But they know that the current system is not working for them.

BLANKLEY: There are a lot of polls out there, the polls also show the majority of Americans are more concerned about the deficit than they are about health care. MALVEAUX: I want to show you another poll here. Because we had Joe Biden on who was out today talking about good economic numbers. We know that housing and manufacturing is actually up. Those are good economic indicator. But our poll shows here when you take a look at the effect of Obama's policy on economic conditions, 39 percent say it's improved. 34 percent it's been made worse. And 27 percent say there's no impact. There's no effect. The Obama administration is not even getting the credit for what is taking place for, perhaps, turning the economy around. What do they have to do?

ROSEN: Well, I think right now the president isn't worrying about getting credit. He's worrying about turning the economy around. That's what Joe Biden said today, vice president Biden gave an incredible speech.

MALVEAUX: Certainly members of congress are going to be concerned about getting credit.

ROSEN: If you look at credible economists, Mark Zandy, who by the way used to be an adviser to John McCain, said that the president ought to get credit for this. The stimulus kicked in when it need to.

MALVEAUX: I've got to leave it. Got to leave it there. We're out of time. Thank you so much, Tony, Hilary.

Fire fighting jumbo jet. California firefighters bring a 747 to get a handle on California's massive wildfires after eight days of fighting the flames.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: After eight days of fighting the flames, southern California's massive wildfire is still burns. Officials say it's now close to 40 percent under control. As Rob Marciano tells us firefighters have a new weapon at their disposal.

Rob, tell us what's the latest?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the past few years, wildfires, well, they seem to be getting bigger. And common sense would tell you, if you've got a bigger battle to fight, well, you may need a bigger gun.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: Fighting the fire from the air, choppers, turbo props, even jets. But this is the big Kahuna.

CAPT. CLIFF HALE, EVERGREEN SUPERTANKER: We have more excess horsepower than any tanker out there.

MARCIANO: Captain Cliff Hale hit the California wildfires hard this week. Flying this modified 747 supertanker right into the fire zone.

HALE: He arms it. That gives me control up here. Or the other pilot as well. We got a drop button right here on the switch.

MARCIANO: Flying low at 300 feet, Captain Hale has to focus on his target. You've got to be a pilot and a bit of a marksman. How good of shot are you?

HALE: Pretty good at this point.

MARCIANO: A touch of pilot bravado. But at his core, he's a firefighter.

HALE: To me, it's, you know, all the pilots that are doing this are just like the regular firefighters. That you see anywhere. And it's just we do it in the air.

MARCIANO: But nothing compares to this jumbo jet. If you were a passenger on a 747, this is where you'd be sitting. Instead, on this plane, they've got ten tanks carrying 20,000 gallons of fire retardant and/or foam. 90 tons of fire fighting artillery. And these cannons also have control.

MIKE HARKNESS, EVERGREEN SUPERTANKER: They can meter up to any distance and any thickness that the firefighters on the ground want.

MARCIANO: Adjustable power and precision. Which reduces wasted ammunition. This stuff's not cheap?

HARKNESS: It's not. It'll run anywhere from $2 to 3 a gallon.

MARCIANO: All of this is unleashed in the back of the plane.

HARKNESS: These are the exhaust ports for the retardant. And the flight engineer is going to choose the proper air pressure and the number of exhaust ports to vary the concentration depending what the firefighters on the ground need.

MARCIANO: On the ground or in the air, it's one big team.

HALE: All the guys that do this, to me, I think are the best. And it's an honor to be part of that group.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: No doubt this massive supertanker is a welcome weapon in the war against wildfires. The back of the bus is where all the life saving action happens. Underneath the tail. Here it is. These four shoots are where the fire retardant or foam comes out. They can manipulate it by one, two, three or four. They use air pressure to manipulate the stream. Most tankers just use gravity and drop the fire retardant or water that way. Speaking of fire retardant, let's talk about the engine. Look at the size of this thing. Four of them cost about 25 grand in fuel just for one mission. You want to rent this sucker? 30 grand an hour. That doesn't include the fire retardant here, 20,000 gallons at about $2.50 a gallon. You do the math. Flying this thing is no small price tag. But they've had huge success in the inaugural mission here in the U.S. and they're all gassed up and ready to go. Just waiting for the sign from the commanders on the ground -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thanks.

One of America's most important bridges. Security guards sleeping on duty. What if he was a terrorist? We'll take a ride with the whistle blower.

And Michael Jackson will finally be laid to rest just hours from now. We've got the latest on what will be a very private ceremony. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Ever since the 9/11 attacks which took 8 years ago next week, bridges and tunnels have been seen as key targets for terrorists. So when one man caught security guards napping at one very strategic site, he took action. Let's bring in CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

Deb, you actually took a ride with one of the cyclists who got to snap some of those photos. Can you tell us about it?

FEYERICK: Absolutely Suzanne. In New York the slogan goes if you see something, say something. That's exactly what this man did on one of the city's busiest bridges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): Joey Lepore loves riding his bike from New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge into New York's Central Park.

JOEY LEPORE, OWNER, NEW YORK BICYCLE TOURS: You take this path every day?

Pretty much every day.

FEYERICK: It was on one of those rides across the bridge that he looked over at a security booth and saw something that alarmed him.

LEPORE: I saw a guy sleeping. And I thought this is crazy that the guy's sleeping on duty.

FEYERICK: And, he says, it happened not once, but three times.

LEPORE: I got totally outraged. I said, you know what? I'm taking a picture of this.

FEYERICK: Which he did. Walking straight up to the security booth.

LEPORE: Imagine if I was a terrorist. Imagine if I had a gun in my hand. I could have opened up this door and blew his head right off. That's how close I was.

FEYERICK: Months before going public, Lepore says he reached out to the security guard.

LEPORE: Said, you know, I don't want to be a jerk and report this. But you've got to promise me that you're not going to be sleeping while you're supposed to be guarding a bridge. And he said, no, no, no. Ever happen again. Don't worry."

FEYERICK: When it did with another guard he felt there was a bigger problem.

LEPORE: If this guy worked in a deli, sleeping behind a counter I wouldn't care but when you're protecting us and it's your job to have an eye out for anything that's potentially hazardous for us, our safety, then I take that seriously.

FEYERICK: The port authority which runs the bridges says both guards have been fired for sleeping on the job and a statement to CNN the agency says it welcomes public vigilance and that "The port authority takes the safety of its passengers and facilities very seriously, and has spent more than $4 billion on security since 9/11." Although he feels badly about the firings, Lepore feels he did the right thing especially because a cousin and friend died on 9/11.

LEPORE: If I can do one thing to help one person stay alive, then I'll be very, very fulfilled today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Neither the port authority nor the contractor who hired the security guards released the name of the two men in the photos. We were unable to reach them directly. The agency confirmed sleeping on the job was the reason for termination -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much, Deb.

Residents grapple with mandatory evacuation orders as the California wildfires are raging on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this stressful for you Justina?

JUSTINA: Quite, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How?

JUSTINA: Not having to leave, just not knowing when, when the time is to go.

MALVEAUX: What happens when families are told to pack up and leave their homes, fast.

And why Justice Sonia Sotomayor's colleagues are feeling a little stressed out? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Speculation is swirling around the Supreme Court, mid rumors that the oldest justice, 89-year-old John Paul Stevens has hired only one clerk for the upcoming term. That is seen as a signal that Stevens may soon retire. The newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, will be formally seated next week and this is a fascinating group of interviews, her colleagues actually confessed to feeling, well, a little suppressed out by the change in their ranks. They spoke with C-Span about the impact of a new member on the court and what it's like to be the junior justice. Listen first to Chief Justice John Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE: To some extent it's unsettling. You quickly get to view the court as the court as composed of these members and it becomes kind of hard to think of it as involving anyone else. I suspect it's the way people look at their families. This is the family. How could it be different, but you do get new arrivals in both of those situations. It's a tremendous sense of loss. Justice White always used to say when the court gets a new member it, changes everything. It changes everybody. Simple changes. We move the seats around in the courtroom. There are seats by order of seniority so there will be a shift there, so same in the conference room, but more fundamentally, I think it can cause you to take a fresh look at how things are decided, the new member is going to have a particular view about how issues should be addressed, that may be very different from what we've been following for some time, so it's an exciting part of life at the court.

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT: This would be a very different court, and it's stressful for us, because we so admire our colleagues, will it ever be the same but I have great admiration for the system. The system works, gives us the opportunity, again, to look at ourselves to make sure we're doing it the right way, so that the new justice will be able to take some instruction from our example, if we are doing it the right way, and I'm sure a new justice can always ask the question, well, what are you doing this for, and then we have to think about whether or not we should continue to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've heard often in our discussion with the justices that the junior justice has special privileges and responsibilities in the conference. Can you explain how that works?

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT: I don't think the junior justice has any special privileges but the junior justice has two duties. The first and the less onerous is to open the door in the conference. When we meet in the conference there are no staff members present, and occasionally someone will knock on the door. It's the job of the junior justice to get up and answer the door, and usually it's somebody's glasses or a memo or something like that, and the other duty is to keep the official vote of grants served or decision to hold a case. When we have a conference, we'll go through a long list of cases, and we'll vote on whether we're going to take the case or deny it or do something else, and it's the junior justice's responsibility again, since there are no staff present, to keep the official vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what about the way justices speak in conference? I understand it's seniority to the most junior, and is that an advantage or disadvantage?

ALITO: Well, I think it's a disadvantage to the junior justice, because by the time he or she speaks, everybody else has spoken, and voted, so when I was the junior, which has been up until now, by the time they got to me, I was either irrelevant or I was very important, depending on how the vote had come out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The interviews with C-Span were conducted this summer for a special to air when the court's term begins in October.

Time now to go back to Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File" - Hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Suzanne, the question this hour is: Do you believe the United States is still in a recession?

Nuwan in Houston, Texas writes: "The answer depends on whom you talk with. If you ask an unemployed American who is struggling every day to live, he/she may be feeling a serious recession. I never had a problem during this time except getting hit on my retirement savings. I consider myself lucky so far so if you ask me I think the recession is almost over."

Mike says: "Yes, I think we're certainly still in a recession. I work for the U.S. Postal Service and I can tell you firsthand because of the amount of unemployment checks still being sent out and the amount of income assistance many people along my route are still receiving. The way it looks where I live, we have a long way to go before this recession is over."

David writes from Tucson: "Technically, no. Fractional economic growth is occurring, more jobs are being created, not as many as are being lost but more than there were three months ago. Durable goods orders, manufacturing output both up. Other leading indicators are up. When all the statistics are in, we'll probably find out the bottom was in June. That doesn't mean a boom has started so we're not out of the woods economically yet. Good times are still another quarter or two ahead of us."

Ginger in Virginia says: "Are we out of the recession? I'm retired. My 401(k) has now recovered 36 percent of what was lost in 2008. My niece in Kentucky who was laid off and out of work for almost a year found a good paying job last week, and my nephew in Florida, who is in construction, and has only averaged two days of work a week for the last 15 months is now working four days a week. We're definitely coming out of the recession in my world."

S. in Michigan: "Yes, I believe the U.S. is still in recession. Is there anything else obvious you want to know?"

And Iris in Michigan: "Are we in a recession? Don't ask me. I have a job. Why don't you ask the 9.4 percent who are jobless and looking for work, which begs the question, Jack, when are you going to get a job?" If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others. A lot of sweet little love notes there for you to peruse.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yep.

MALVEAUX: Happening now, Michael Jackson's secret crypt. We are at the site of his burial, in just a few hours and we're learning more about the hush-hush ceremony.

Plus crosses to bear in the fight over health care reform, only on CNN, our Dana Bash talks to an undecided Democrat, who is sounding out constituents and wrestling with his conscience.

And the White House is forced back to the drawing board to tweak a presidential assignment for school kids. Some are asking did the administration play politics with education or get bullied by conservatives. Stand by for the best political team on television.

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