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Republican Congressman Under Fire; More U.S. Troops Headed to Afghanistan?

Aired September 10, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Republican Congressman Joe Wilson now says he's sorry for heckling the president during his speech to Congress last night, but the dust hasn't settled yet.

Let's begin our coverage with our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, the president says he wants to move on.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're absolutely right. He does want to move on.

And what happened this morning, he was meeting with his Cabinet and reporters were being ushered out of the room when our own Elaine Quijano stayed put and asked the question whether or not he accepted the apology of Congressman Wilson. It was very clear, Wolf, that the president did want to address to issue or at the very least to put it behind him and deal with health care reform.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Obama accepted Congressman Joe Wilson's apology.

OBAMA: I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation. And I'm appreciative of that.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Obama never directly talked to Wilson, but rather received the apology through his chief of staff. The fallout from the tense moment gave the president the opportunity to present himself as above the fray.

OBAMA: We have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives. We are all Americans. We all want to do best for our country.



MALVEAUX: The congressman's outburst came after a month of emotional town hall meetings surrounding health care reform. OBAMA: The time for bickering is over. MALVEAUX: The president's speech was supposed to lower the temperature, but some Republicans said it only stoked their anger.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I have never heard a more partisan speech by a president in that House chamber. The terminology he used like "partisan spectacle," "unyielding ideological, bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost"...

MALVEAUX: Mr. Obama also said the media just can't resist controversy.

OBAMA: The media can always be helpful by not giving all the attention to the loudest or shrillest voices and try to stay a little more focused on the issues at hand.

MALVEAUX: The issue at hand, health care reform.

OBAMA: But we have talked this issue to death year after year, decade after decade. And the time for talk is winding down.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, the talk continues here at the White House. There are about 17 moderate Democrats who met with the president for about an hour in the Cabinet room. That meeting disbanded. They're now back on the Hill. But among some of the things they talked about was how do they move forward in agreement and legislation? There were no major breakthroughs but they did talk about trying to lower the cost of health care insurance specifically for families as well as small businesses -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you.

Today, Congressman Joe Wilson, by the way, he's trying to explain why he let loose and insulted the president of the United States to his face. Wilson says his outburst was not planned.


WILSON: It was spontaneous. It was when he stated, as he did, about not covering illegal aliens, when I knew we had had those two amendments. And I say that respectfully, and we need to discuss the issues. And I'm happy to do that. And I'm going to run and go vote.


BLITZER: Wilson's words are turning out to be profitable for his Democratic challenger. The Democratic National Campaign Committee says Rob Miller has raised more than $500,000 in campaign cash overnight. No word on whether Wilson's fund-raising has gone up or down.

Conservatives in South Carolina are giving away T-shirts that declare -- and I'm quoting now -- "I'm with Joe Wilson."

Our Brianna Keilar by the way is standing by with a full report on Wilson and the fallout. That's coming up shortly.

There's still plenty of heat on health care reform right now, but the president also seems to be making some progress. Some fellow Democrats say they walked away from his speech last night feeling reassured.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's got more on this part of the story.

Dana, what's the latest there on this, the day after?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest, Wolf, is really some new signals that we're seeing and hearing from Democrats whose differences have slowed the president's health care plan. Well, now we're starting to see some of them come out of their trenches.


BASH (voice-over): If the president's speech was meant to bridge the health care divide in his own party, listen in. It may have had an effect.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: All the stars are aligned. I mean, if we can't do this now, then when the hell are we going to be able to do it? I want to help this president make history.

BASH: Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern describes himself this way:

MCGOVERN: I'm a proud liberal Democrat.

BASH: He strongly supports a government-run health care option, but says the president's address helped convince him to be willing to compromise.

MCGOVERN: We need meaningful health care reform. And it may not be everything I want. I mean, I'm a single payer person. But at the end of the day, if it moves the ball forward, then I think it's going to be worth supporting.

BASH: To be sure, some liberal Democrats are still firmly entrenched.

REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D), CALIFORNIA: We don't have health care reform unless we have a public option.

BASH: But the House Speaker even softened her stance. This often repeated line in the sand...

PELOSI: There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option.

BASH: ... now noticeably absent.

PELOSI: This is about a goal. It's not about provisions. As long as our goal of affordability and accessibility and quality, then we'll go forward with that bill.

BASH: That's a telltale sign that liberal Democrats are now more accepting of this reality -- any health care bill must be conservative enough to pass the much more moderate Senate. In fact, Pelosi even signaled the House now will not act until it's clear what the Senate Finance Committee will produce.

Their proposal now has no public option. And on other issues, the Democratic chairman boasted the president's new plan tracks with theirs.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Very close to being in sync here, and that's confidence-building.


BASH: Now talk to just about any Democratic leadership source in the House or the Senate and they will tell you that the president's plan really depends on what a very important group of moderate Senate Democrats can accept.

And, Wolf, Suzanne mentioned the fact that that group of Senate Democrats were at the White House. You see that bus there in the shot. I actually just talked to them as they came off the bus coming back from the White House.

Three of the senators, those moderate Democratic senators, told me that the president, just like he was last night, but maybe even more so, made very clear he is open to the ideas that they have, including going forward with a health care plan without a public option.

One Democrat in particular, Tom Carper, who you see there, he told me that he pressed the president on an idea of a so-called trigger or only having a public option if reforms of the health care market, insurance market don't work. Again, the president made pretty clear he was open to it, according to Senator Carper -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love seeing those senators taking a bus up to the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue. Thanks very much for that, Dana.

This is the most up-to-date number yet on the number of people in the United States who are uninsured. Just released figures from the Census Department show 46.3 million people did not have health insurance at all last year. That's an increase of 600,000 from the previous year.

But it doesn't include people who had insurance for just part of the year -- 7.3 million children weren't covered by medical insurance last year. That's actually down by eight 800,000 from the year before. And look at this. Less than 12 percent of people are uninsured in the Northeast and Midwest. That's lower than in the West, with over 17 percent. The South has the highest rate of uninsured people, more than 18 percent, a lot of people without insurance. Let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The other great fear is of course people who have insurance through the place where they work, if they lose their job, then they have to go out and buy it on the private marketplace and it's cost-prohibitive. So, they live in constant fear of being uninsured.

The United States may be headed for Third World status, according to a new study by two renowned economists, a study that has been endorsed by a Nobel laureate. It suggests President Obama could be repeating mistakes that were made during the Great Depression, which caused the worst economic collapse ever.

The authors of the report say the administration's plan to put hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy will undermine it in the long run, will hurt long-term growth and possibly delay recovery for years. They say the United States could fall from First to Third World status, very much like Argentina did. We might already be on our way.

Consider some of the following. A report by the World Economic Forum out yesterday shows that Switzerland has now topple the United States as the world's most competitive economy, pointing to the collapse of our banking system as a key reason.

China, which holds tons of our debt, is worried about the U.S. Federal Reserve policy of simply printing more and more money. One top Chinese official says if the United States keeps it up, it will lead to inflation and -- quote -- "After a year or two, the dollar will fall hard" -- unquote. That would be on top of steep declines in the value of the dollar already recorded in the last three years. The Chinese official suggests that it might mean the Chinese will have to look elsewhere to invest and that would be calamitous for this country.

A United Nations panel out proposing that a new global currency replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency, The signs are beginning to mount now that the mightiest economic engine the world has ever known is beginning to falter.

Here's the question. Is the United States headed for Third World status? Go to, and post a comment on my blog.

One other component of all this, the disappearing middle class, which is something you don't find in Third World countries. You find the rich and the poor, nothing in the middle.

BLITZER: The gap is...

CAFFERTY: It's widening here.

BLITZER: Yes, widening here.


BLITZER: OK, Jack, thank you.


BLITZER: "First of all, this conversation never took place." That's an exact quotation from Bernard Madoff, unflattering new tapes revealing the extent to which Madoff went to keep his scams secret. And wait until you hear the rest of what he said. We have the tapes.

Will more U.S. troops go to war in Afghanistan? The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, throws cold water on that idea.

And he's the man who threw shoes at President Bush. After nine months in prison, you may never guess what he will apparently be doing next.


BLITZER: Anticipation is now building for a new military report on the situation in Afghanistan. And the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says there's little support in the country or the Congress for sending more U.S. troops there. Pelosi says she's eager to see General Stanley McChrystal's classified report this month.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: September 24 is fraught with meaning for us. This is the date, according to the supplemental, that the metrics as to what's going on in Afghanistan are to be reported to Congress.

I'm more interested in that report. I hope that we will be briefed on the McChrystal -- when the president receives it, and that perhaps next week we will see that. I don't think there's a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan.


BLITZER: There's been lots of speculation that McChrystal is making the case for sending more troops without asking for specific numbers. That would be on top of the 21,000 additional U.S. troops the president ordered to Afghanistan this year, bringing the total number of U.S. troops so far to 68,000.

Happening now around the world, in Iraq, five separate bomb attacks today. At least 26 people are dead, and 80 wounded. Most were killed in a truck bombing south of Mosul that flattened homes while people slept.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq says American troops appear to be on track to withdraw by the end of the year. Ambassador Christopher Hill says Iraq is making good progress taking over its own security and he says the timeline for a U.S. withdrawal negotiated by the Bush administration in his words is absolutely achievable.

The family of the Iraqi television reporter who threw his shoes at President Bush says he may use his fame to promote humanitarian causes. Muntazer al-Zaidi is set to be released Monday after nine months in prison. The television station says he works for, what he says, a welcome return to Iraqi society.

And he's also reportedly had offers to go into politics, but his brother says he's interested in working to promote the rights of women and orphans.

New pictures today of the ailing bomber of Pan Am Flight 103 since he was released from a Scottish prison and returned to Libya. We learned today that prosecute told British Prime Minister Gordon Brown he's disappointed that the Lockerbie bomber was freed last month. As you may remember, he is suffering from prostate cancer.

Caught on tape, Bernard Madoff, one of the biggest swindlers of all time advising colleagues how to fool government watchdogs.

Let's walk over to our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff.

He's caught on tape and he says a lot.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: And really what he wanted here was to make sure that the SEC would never learn of his scam, Bernard Madoff on audiotape advising executives of an investment firm that sent money his way how to deal with regulators.



BERNARD MADOFF, CONVICTED FELON: First of all, this conversation never took place.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): That's how Bernard Madoff begins his phone call with two executives of Fairfield Greenwich, an investment firm that raised hundreds of millions of dollars and sent it to Madoff to invest.

On tape, Madoff is advising two executives of the firm how to deal with attorneys from the Securities and Exchange Commission.


MADOFF: You don't want them to think you're concerned about anything. With them, you should be -- you're best off you just be casual.


CHERNOFF: Madoff tells the feeder fund executives to steer SEC attorneys away from any indication that Madoff was connected to their firm.


MADOFF: You know, you don't have to be too brilliant with these guys.

The best thing to do is to not get involved with, as you said, written instructions, if possible, because any time you say you have something in writing, they ask for it.


CHERNOFF: The SEC was fooled time and again. It looked at Madoff's books five times and failed to discover that he really wasn't investing his clients' money, just running a giant Ponzi scheme,shuffling clients' money and taking plenty for himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The SEC never conducted a competent and thorough examination or investigation of Madoff for operating a Ponzi scheme.

CHERNOFF: Former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt tells CNN the commission's enforcement ability has been damaged in recent years by careless leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly the people doing the inspections were inadequate, were underfunded.

CHERNOFF: Madoff is now serving a 150-year prison sentence. He swindled thousands of investors out of billions of dollars. He fooled regulators, and even as he was telling Fairfield Greenwich executives how to deceive the SEC, he was trying to deceive them as well.

During much of phone conversation, Madoff brags about his supposed investment strategy.


MADOFF: The skill of Madoff is knowing when to get into the market and get out of the market. That's the role we play. I mean, that's the why -- why -- reason you choose us.



CHERNOFF: Of course, that was all a lie. Madoff actually wasn't putting money into the market for his clients.

Fairfield Greenwich this week agreed to pay $8 million to settle civil fraud charges with the Massachusetts secretary of state, whose office supplied that Madoff tape. The SEC meanwhile is shaking up its enforcement division, upgrading its computer systems. They all have access to the same information, and the SEC is also revamping the way it handles complaints and tips -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They got to do something after that.

CHERNOFF: And hopefully this is going to help a lot.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Allan Chernoff, reporting. It's hot, it's dirty, and it's extremely dangerous. We're on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, where U.S. Marines face conditions that are hard to imagine.

Also, Hillary Clinton for governor? James Carville and Terry Holt weigh in on a report, one report, that the secretary of state may be eying a new job. Is there any truth to this at all?

And look who does have a new job. We're talking about Ellen DeGeneres -- details of her new gig and who she is replacing.



BLITZER: The congressman who heckled President Obama admits he was pressured to apologize. Stand by to hear more from Joe Wilson about why he accused the president of lying. His Republicans, they're weighing in as well.

It's dangerous, dirty, and sometimes dull, life in the war zone. Our own Anderson Cooper, he's on patrol with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

And Vice President Biden says pass the turkey, along with health care reform. Just ahead, his prediction, and the best political team on television.


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

Happening now: He was a little-known lawmaker who stole the spotlight from the president last night by calling him a liar. Now everyone knows who Congressman Joe Wilson is. He's facing the fallout.

Vice President Biden predicts Congress will act on health care reform by Thanksgiving. Can he deliver?

Plus, the heat can reach 120 degrees and everything is covered in dust. It's a remote outpost of U.S. Marines guarding against insurgents. CNN's Anderson Cooper is getting ready to take us in the war zone -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

We have seen President Obama get heckled before, but not by a member of the United States Congress in the House chamber during a speech televised live across the United States and around the world. It happened in a flash. And heads turned. Watch it once again and listen carefully.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.



OBAMA: It's not true.


BLITZER: Let's slow it down for another closer look.

You can't see Congressman Joe Wilson shouting "You lie" from the angle, but you can see the stern reactions, particularly from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

Our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is covering the backlash against Congressman Wilson -- Brianna.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of the talk here on Capitol Hill is about whether President Obama was able to achieve what he wanted, to push Democrats to move forward on a health care overhaul. But that outburst was the watercooler moment that made a little-known Republican infamous.

(voice-over): Amid a scrum of cameras and reporters, South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson tried to explain himself today.

WILSON: It was spontaneous. It was when he stated, as he did, about not covering illegal aliens.

KEILAR: When President Obama told Congress Wednesday night that a Democratic health care overhaul will not cover illegal immigrants, Wilson shouted from his seat, accusing the president of lying.

OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

WILSON: You lie!


OBAMA: That's not true.

KEILAR: The unusual outburst drew boos from Democrats and the glare to end all glares from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It was stunning to hear such a statement made on the floor of the House when the president of the United States is speaking.

KEILAR: Wilson quickly apologized and Republicans refused to defend him. But many, including California's Dan Lundgren, say they understand why he's upset.

REP. DAN LUNGREN (R), CALIFORNIA: I would expect more civility on the floor. But I understood his frustration. Republicans offered an amendment specifically to disallow illegal aliens from benefiting from any public plan or federal subsidization of health care. That was defeated on a party line vote.

KEILAR: Minority Leader John Boehner also pointed to a study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: The facts are CRS says there's -- there's nothing in this bill that will prevent these people from getting this type of insurance.


KEILAR: That was a study of the House Democrats' plan for overhauling health care. And it found that illegal immigrants might be able to purchase private insurance or a new government run- insurance plan, if there is one. But it also found, unlike American citizens or legal U.S. residents, illegal immigrants would not be eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for those plans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill.

Thank you.

And a lot of people are really angry about Congressman Wilson's comments.

But what about other Americans?

Our Ali Velshi has been traveling through Pennsylvania aboard the CNN Express -- Ali, you caught up with health care reform opponents on what's called the Tea Party Express.

Get -- let's get a little taste of some of the protests that you've been hearing from.

Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're really happy to be making our way to Washington to support you all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm tired of Obama forming his own secret government. And he's surrounding himself with people of his own kind -- the communists, the Marxists, the self-proclaimed. They're taking over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I decided the silent majority needs to speak out. We're not quiet anymore and we're not going to be quiet anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Ali, are those Tea Party protesters talking about the same thing, basically, that Congressman Wilson was talking about?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. But what Wilson was doing was child's play compared to what we were hearing today. I mean you heard those comments calling it a communist government, talking about Obama filling the crony -- the White House with his own kind. There was a sign there that said "Impeach the Muslim Marxist."

This was a very aggressive rally. You saw at the end of that shoving match, there had been a number of health care reform supporters that had come out.

According to my colleague, Jim Spellman, who's been embedded with the Tea Party Express, it's the biggest number of -- of supporters of health care that he's seen at one of these rallies. And as you saw, a shoving match ensued. It was quickly broken up.

But very, very aggressive. They're on their way to Washington. They say that they have roused the silent majority of people who are opposed to government intervention. They want government out of their lives. It was well beyond health care. It was generally opposed to more taxation, bailouts, a big ring of -- of talk about freedom. They had anthems, Wolf, that they had composed -- anti-Obama anthems. A very, very aggressive meeting in opposition to -- to the president's health care reforms and other steps that this government has taken that this group sees as intrusive into the lives of Americans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Ali is going to continue his coverage on the road for us.

Thank you, Ali Velshi.

Let's talk a little bit more about what's going on in our Strategy Session.

Joining us now, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, James Carville, and Republican strategist, Terry Holt. He's a consultant and strategist, by the way. Among his clients are some insurance companies.

But let -- let me get your reaction, James, to what Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Tweeted earlier today. He said, referring to the president's speech: "This was a tough partisan speech. All pretense of bipartisanship is gone on both sides."

Is Sabato, right?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, all pretense of bipartisanship is gone. The Republicans -- the Democrats took 180 Republican amendments. And I don't agree with that interpretation of it. I mean Larry, has his interpretation. Other people have their interpretation.

But the truth of the fact is, is that they're not going to get any Republican votes. And the truth of the matter is, is Joe Wilson is pretty much in the mainstream of the modern Republican Party. It's a party that's dominated by people like Joe Wilson and talk radio and the people you see at these tea bag things.

So I -- I'm not shocked by -- by any of this. And this is reality in Washington and the president's going to have to deal with that reality.

BLITZER: So I guess, Terry, you're not part of that mainstream of the Republican Party anymore, is that right?

TERRY HOLT, FORMER ADVISER, RNC: Well, I'm not sure how to answer that. I've always looked forward to a bipartisan conversation about health care.

But the simple fact is that often, only Barack Obama has had bipartisan rhetoric. The process here -- an honest observation of this process -- has been that in the House, there was absolutely no input by the Republicans. There wasn't allowed to be any input by the Republicans. This is written by the Democratic leadership and Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi's bill is what -- is what they're considering.

In the Senate, it's only been one or two Republicans that have been invited to a few meetings.

So I think at the -- at the end of this process, we're going to see a Democratic product, not a bipartisan product. And -- and that's just the way this was always going to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: James, listen to what Joe Biden...


BLITZER: Hold on a second, James.

Listen to what the vice president, Joe Biden, said earlier today on "The Today Show."


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we will have a bill. I've been in Congress a long, long time. I've been there for eight presidents. I think we'll have a bill before Thanksgiving.


BLITZER: All right. Is he right, James?

And will it be strictly a Democratic bill without virtually any Republican support?

CARVILLE: Well, I never labored under any illusion that there would be any Republicans for this. And again, that's the nature of it. The Democrats took I don't know how many amendments in the House committee -- Republican amendments. But it didn't matter. They all voted against the passage of the legislation anyway, with the amendments.

But -- but that's the reality. And like I say, I'm not surprised at Representative Joe Wilson. He fits right into the mainstream of the modern Republican Party. And no one should be shocked about this.

BLITZER: What do you think?

Is there going to be a legislation -- a bill that the president can sign by Thanksgiving, Terry?

CARVILLE: Yes. Yes. I think so.

HOLT: Yes, I think that it's likely because they -- they've got the votes. Let's face it, they've got more than 250 votes...

BLITZER: They don't necessarily have 60 votes in the Senate if -- if there's going to be a filibuster.

HOLT: Well, but -- but they're close and -- and they only need to pick off one or two Republicans in the Senate to make it fait accompli. This administration has had a rhetorical approach to bipartisanship. But when it comes to process and when it comes to offering policies that can achieve a broad consensus across both party lines, it's been a -- it's been a facade. It hasn't been how they've operated. Rahm Emanuel is going to force a bill through this Congress by whatever means necessary, take advantage of the crisis, as he's called it. And -- and we're going to see a Democratic bill, but it's not going to be very popular with the American people.

BLITZER: Well, the American people will have a chance to respond in the midterm elections next year. And no doubt they will.

Let me switch gears, James, and talk about Hilary Clinton for a minute, the secretary of State.

CARVILLE: All right.

BLITZER: There was an item on "The Weekly Standard" by Michael Goldfarb saying this: "The boss hears from two sources that Hillary Clinton is considering stepping down as secretary of State this fall in order to run for governor of New York. An aide to Secretary Clinton tells us she loves being secretary of State and isn't running for anything period.

Does that "Weekly Standard" report make any sense to you, that she would give up being the secretary of State in order to try to become the governor of New York?

CARVILLE: Well, I know that today I talked to any number of my friends. They were going to Capricia Marsha's (INAUDIBLE), I think, is the chief of protocol. So if the secretary of State is leaving, she's going to -- this fall, she's going to have a rather short tenure there.

And, look, I -- "The Weekly Standard" is a -- is a fine publication. I don't know if their Democratic sources are all that pristine.

But hey, look, if she does, then this guy will be heralded as somebody who had a big scoop. But it doesn't -- it doesn't seem to -- if she is, I have no idea. I bet he knows more about it than I would.

BLITZER: Do you think there's any truth to this, based on just common sense, Terry?

HOLT: Man, she'd be tough to beat, wouldn't she?

But, you know, Wolf, part of the reason why I can sleep at night is because Hilary Clinton is case the 300 a.m. call comes. She's one of the last hawks standing. And I would miss her, for one, if -- if she were to leave this government. I think that it's probably an outlier in terms of a rumor. But she'd be impossible to beat in New York, I think.

BLITZER: Well, she's very popular in New York. She's popular a lot of other places, as well.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

HOLT: Thank you.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Impossible conditions -- a remote patrol base in the Afghan desert where U.S. Marines have the mission of keeping the Taliban out.

Our own Anderson Cooper joins them in the war zone.


BLITZER: A small outpost with the big job -- keeping the Taliban out. And life at the patrol base that's called Jaker is anything but easy for the Marines assigned there.

CNN's Anderson Cooper spent several days living side by side with them.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Patrol base Jaker may not be much to look at, but for the Marines of the 1st Battalion 5th Regiment, it's become a home.

(on camera): You may have heard stories of U.S. forces living overseas on huge bases that have all the comforts of home -- movie theaters, convenience stores, flash flood restaurants.

Patrol Base Jaker is nothing like that. There about 50 Marines here at any given time and the conditions they face are extremely difficult. (voice-over): Temperatures here can reach 120 degrees. But there's no air conditioning in tents, no respite from the heat and dust. (on camera): The first thing you notice when you get into Camp Jaker is this dust. The Marines call it moon dust. It's a fine powder that coats everything and gets everywhere -- into weapons and clothing, even food. There's nothing you can do about it.

How do you deal with the dust?

SGT. REILLY STYBORSKI, U.S. MARINE CORPS: It is what it is, I think. Really, you can't -- you can't beat it, so you just go with it.

COOPER: (on camera): You just give into it?

STYBORSKI: Yes. You surrender.

COOPER: (voice-over): Nothing seems to bother Sergeant Reilly Styborski. He's had to deal with a lot more than just dust.

(on camera): You've been hit by two IEDs?

STYBORSKI: Two IEDs, yes. Does -- does that make you very lucky or very unlucky?

STYBORSKI: I go with lucky.

COOPER: (voice-over): Lance Corporal James Stevens wasn't feeling quite so lucky. When we met him, he was burning excrement -- a dreaded assignment, especially in this heat.

(on camera): Of all the jobs, this -- this is probably the worst one here.

LANCE CPL. JAMES STEVENS, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Yes. I mean it's the smelliest one, so.

COOPER: The smelliest one?

STEVENS: Yes, it stinks.

COOPER: Do you...


COOPER: Do you anger somebody and they assign you this or?

STEVENS: No, I was just coming over...

COOPER: You were in the wrong place at the wrong time?

STEVENS: Yes, the wrong place at the wrong time.

COOPER: (voice-over): Around the clock, patrols come in and out, Marines move supplies. There's constant movement at Jaker.

STYBORSKI: You just do your work and that's it. You do your job and that's it. You go to bed, wake up, do your job. COOPER: (on camera): That's what it's like 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

STYBORSKI: Yes. No Burger King. No coffee beans.



COOPER: (voice-over): There is food, of course, but it's all prepackaged -- meals ready to eat. As for leisure activities, a few old weights and a sledgehammer is the gym. For golfers, the whole place is a sand trap.


COOPER: There is no privacy here -- no place to simply take a break.

(on camera): The bathroom facilities here are primitive, to say the least. There are pipes in the ground -- well, it's obvious what the pipes are for. And then the toilets -- and there's four of them -- they're communal.

(voice-over): Up in the guard tower, Tim Myers (ph) admits he often gets frustrated. But being here, being a Marine is a dream come true.

TIM MYERS: I just wanted to do it since I was a little kid.

COOPER: Do you feel like you're doing something good here?


COOPER: (voice-over): Despite all the hardships of life on a small combat outpost, there is a feeling of accomplishment and the bonds of brotherhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) this place is actually a nice home.

COOPER: Anderson Cooper, CNN, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.


BLITZER: And you can see a lot more of Anderson Cooper's excellent reporting on CNN later tonight, an "A.C. 360" special report, "Inside Afghanistan: Live from The Battle Zone," all this week, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

I think you'll want to see it.

He just delivered a major speech, now President Obama has just announced another one in a matter of days. Stand by. We'll tell you what's going on. And one network skipped the president's speech last night and aired one of the first lady's favorite shows instead. You're going to hear what the president had to say about that.


BLITZER: The White House has just announced that President Obama will go to Wall Street on Monday to deliver what the White House is calling a major speech on the financial crisis. He'll discuss, according to the White House, the aggressive steps the administration has taken to bring the economy back from the brink, a commitment to winding down the government's role in the financial sector and the actions the United States and the global community must take to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again. It's the first year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. That's why he's coming to New York on Monday.

Let's go to Jack.

He's got "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: You know, it really screws up traffic when he comes here.

BLITZER: He'll be on Wall Street. That's way down...

CAFFERTY: It's right downtown.

BLITZER: You're not going to be there.

CAFFERTY: No, no, no. They don't let me go on Wall Street.


CAFFERTY: I'm not qualified.

The question this hour -- is the U.S. headed for Third World status?

Felix writes: "I believe if we keep sending middle class jobs overseas, the middle class will collapse. The country will be like most Third World countries, where you have 5 percent of the population and 95 percent poor. It's time for America to start protecting itself."

"Dave writes: "No. However, stimulus packages that increase the national debt are not helping. The government is responding to a credit crunch by extending the country's credit line. How will this work?"

Adam writes: "You're kidding, right. Go to the inner cities. Spend some time in Appalachia. Tens of millions of Americans are already living in the Third World. But don't you worry none about those Trumps or Hiltons or Fords. They'll all do just fine."

Jeff in Hawaii writes: "I've seen quite a bit of the world. Third World country -- no. But if the good old U.S. of A. doesn't get off its butt and start manufacturing goods instead of ideas and worthless paper exchanges, Second World rating can't be too far off."

Joy writes: "I'm afraid we're heading for Third World status with so many people jobless, our borders open to any gang member, drug dealer, person with infectious disease or even a terrorist. How can things go any way but downhill?"

And Diana says: "One would have to be delusional not to see what's coming our way. We're no longer a solid manufacturing nation. We print money with wild abandon. We keep raising the debt ceiling and we're losing our middle class. There's been talk for quite some time to change from the dollar to a more stable reserve currency. What country in their right mind is going to continue to invest in what we have to offer?"

And on that happy note, if you didn't see your e-mail here, you can read more of this stuff at, which is my blog.

BLITZER: And a lot of people go there.

CAFFERTY: And I'm going to go home now...

BLITZER: Go home.

CAFFERTY: ...and I'll see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: Get a good dinner.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thank you.


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, a new Senate tribute to Ted Kennedy. Members spent several hours today sharing fond memories and political war stories. Many spoke about the late senator's dedication to health care reform. At one point, fellow Massachusetts Democrat, John Kerry, got emotional.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. President, to look at his desk now cloaked in the velvet and the roses, a desk from which he championed so many important causes, a desk from which he educated us and befriended us for so many years, and even more difficult for us to think of this chamber, our nation's Capitol or our country without him.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, President Obama gave a backhanded compliment today to a TV network that didn't carry his health care speech to Congress last night. He says the Fox Entertainment Network show that aired while he was talking about last night is a hit with a certain member of the first family.


OBAMA: So just in case folks weren't tuned in last night, if they -- if they were watching, "So You Think You Can Dance" -- a show Michelle likes, by the way.


BLITZER: And remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out

A Republican lawmaker shows that it only takes two words uttered at a most unusual moment to become an instant celebrity. Jeanne Moos straight ahead.


BLITZER: CNN's Jeanne Moos has a most unusual take on Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst during the president's speech last night.



We cannot tell a lie. But we sure can talk about one.










MOOS: It's the "Urban Dictionary's" word of the day.

(on camera): Did you see the part where the guy said "You lie".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And I was like, what?

MOOS (voice-over): A mere two words were all it took to get a reaction -- "You lie".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I thought that was dreadful. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.



MOOS: It had Speaker Nancy Pelosi's head spinning.


MOOS: Within hours, you could order a "You lie" tie or a "You lie" cap. It turned the South Carolina Republican congressman who yelled it into a hero to some -- "Joe Wilson for president."

But among those we talked to...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I think it's disgusting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really is totally disgraceful. I just came out of the gym. We were all talking about it in the locker room.

MOOS: But "you lie" is a love tap in countries where politicians play hard ball.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The answer is yes.


MOOS: The opposition laughs out loud at the British prime minister.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we not only save the world -- save the banks and save...




MOOS: Critics of Joe Wilson are laughing. They set up a Web site called Joe Wilson Is Your Pre-Existing, aimed solely at hurling imaginary insults at the congressman.

We did find one Obama supporter who came to Wilson's defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about freedom of speech. I think that it's -- you know, we live in a country where you can say what you want to say and...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's freedom of speech. Yes, let's stop you from talking.

MOOS: They even argued over Wilson's apology.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think I should apologize to you for interrupting you?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's rude.

MOOS: You lie strikes us as kids' stuff, as in "The Bridge to Terabithia."




MOOS (on camera): Do you think it's OK that they said that to the president?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: You should expect them.

MOOS (voice-over): We expect he meant respect.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It's not very pretty anymore.

MOOS: There's been so much criticism that Joe Wilson's Web site has crashed. His phone is constantly busy. And we've got a ring tone that's right up his alley.


Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(on camera): You lie...


MOOS (voice-over): ...New York.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.


Kitty Pilgrim is sitting in -- Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thanks, Wolf. Tonight, after President Obama's address to Congress, top Democrats signal their willingness to drop a government run health care insurance option.

Also, Congressman Joe Wilson apologizes for calling the president a liar and says the president's claim about illegal immigrants and the health care plan may not be accurate. We'll examine the issue.

And a lawmaker resigns after he's caught on tape bragging in graphic detail about having sex with two women.

Good evening, everybody.

New signs tonight that the Democratic divide over health care may be narrowing. Now, the president's speech last night may have brought Democrats closer together on the president's plan. The sticking point is the public option and many sensed wiggle room from the president and other senior Democrats on the issue. The Republicans tonight, however, remain -- remain unmoved.

Our coverage begins tonight with Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.