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THE SITUATION ROOM
Congressman Faces House Rebuke; Biden Pulls Off War Zone Surprise
Aired September 15, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening right now, he accused the president of lying, now Democrats want Joe Wilson to pay. They want to smack him with a penalty, but Republicans say it all smacks of political payback.
Chief assertions -- the commander-in-chief says the economy is improving because of his policies. And the Fed chief says the recession is now likely over.
Does that ring true for you?
And disturbing the dead -- a cemetery is accused of dumping remains to resell grave sites. And a former worker shockingly tells CNN what he did.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, news just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
What he did was never quite done before and now Democrats want to punish him in a unique way, Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. His recent scream may incite a profile smackdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SEPTEMBER 9, 2009)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms...
OBAMA: ...the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie.
OBAMA: That's not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Although Wilson apologized to the president for shouting out "You lie," although the president accepted the apology, top Democrats in the House want him punished. According to the House's own historian, what they're pushing for right now well, it would mark the first time a member of Congress is rebuked for speaking out during a presidential address to a joint session of Congress.
Let's go straight to our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.
She now has the details of this resolution that's being introduced.
I wonder if you want to read it to us -- Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.
Here is what part of this resolution says. It's very brief. It says: "Whereas the conduct of the representative from South Carolina was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House, now, therefore, be it resolved that the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on September 9th, 2009."
That was, of course, last Wednesday.
This coming just now into THE SITUATION ROOM.
And, Wolf, the House is in recess briefly for a moment, as we wait for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, to come to the floor and read this statement -- this resolution in its entirety.
But as we wait for that, I have to tell you, the bipartisan showdown over this has already begun -- really the fever pitch -- with Congressman Hank Johnson, a Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus saying, just a short time ago, that if President Obama were white, this never would have happened.
He also said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HENRY "HANK" JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: It instigated more racist sentiment, feeling that it's OK. You don't have to -- you don't have to bury it now. You can bring it out and talk about it fully. And so I guess we'll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, this is certainly the most extreme view that we have heard from a House Democrat. We have not heard this from other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. While certainly some very -- some serious language there and a serious charge. In fact, many Democratic members, as well as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, won't even go out on a limb, Wolf, to say that racism is in play here, although some have said they do feel that way. And I actually have a response from a House Republican leadership aide. He said: "We are trying to discuss the important issues facing this country today, issues like health care and jobs. The debate has nothing to do with race or racism and this sort of demagoguery is simply not helpful." So we're expecting, again, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to come to the floor here in a matter of minutes, Wolf, to introduce this resolution of disapproval.
BLITZER: And then the vote happens right after that, is that right -- Brianna?
KEILAR: There's going to be some debate. We're expecting about an hour of debate. You're going to be hearing from Republicans and Democrats and then you will have the vote.
BLITZER: All right. Well, we'll watch it together with you and get the results within the hour or so here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Brianna Keilar on the Hill.
And we're also going to be speaking with a top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner. He has some strong words on a lot of this. So stay tuned, because today could be a day full of a lot of political surprises.
The vice president, Joe Biden, pulls off one. He's made a secret trip to Iraq. He visited Baghdad to meet with U.S. troops and Iraqi leaders. But the headline of the surprise visit marred by violence -- at least right now.
We have an exclusive report from our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.
He's in Baghdad -- Chris, talk a little bit about this surprise.
You're the only television correspondent traveling with the vice president right now.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. You know, when we got on the plane and left out of Andrews Air Force Base, we didn't even know where exactly we were going or when we would get there. This is one of those secret trips -- not like going to London or Paris or visiting allies like that. So it was all kept very hush-hush.
Once we got in the air, we found out, yes, we are going to Iraq. Vice President Biden did talk about a little bit about some of the purpose for this trip. He said already twice he's been asked to intercede and be sort of a mediator between some of the political factions that have a lot of tension right now here in Iraq, especially the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government up north.
The vice president's mission on this trip is -- is to try to bridge some of those differences and move that political process along.
It's been just a whirlwind day -- off and on one plane, onto a helicopter -- a very, very busy day here in Iraq -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He has got especially good relations with the Kurds up north, the vice president, having been to Kurdistan many times. I remember before the war, he went there with Chuck Hagel, his former Senate colleague.
But while he was in the Green Zone today, the most secure part of the Iraqi capital in Baghdad, what happened?
LAWRENCE: Yes, Wolf, several people heard a loud boom. And we were actually in a room with General Ray Odierno and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill. We were just starting a briefing, about five minutes in. And you hear this siren -- this alarm start to wail.
You can listen to it a little bit and see their reaction is very key here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) the ambassador.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Odierno, the...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I said, it's getting stable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Duck and cover. Get away from the window. Stay covered and await further instruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: Again now, the Green Zone -- the Green Zone under attack. But, again, we're told this was indirect fire and did not land directly on the embassy grounds. And we took our cue from those two men. They did not seem to panic, so nobody else around us did either -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll stay in close touch with you. And I know later this week, you're going to be sitting down for an interview with the vice president. We'll have that here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as well.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File. That can be pretty scary. You're in Baghdad, you're having a briefing with the top U.S. military commander, General Odierno; the U.S. ambassador, Chris Hill; and all of a sudden you hear that siren going off.
CAFFERTY: Yes. What struck me is that nobody did anything. The guy comes on the loudspeaker and says, "duck and cover," and -- and they all just sit there.
CAFFERTY: I mean...
BLITZER: That would...
CAFFERTY: I would be getting under -- I'd be getting under the carpet or something.
BLITZER: Hey, I'm with you.
CAFFERTY: I'd be...
BLITZER: I'm with you.
CAFFERTY: Yes. I'd be -- I'd be following those instructions to a T.
BLITZER: Let me just...
CAFFERTY: All right...
BLITZER: Let me just interrupt for another moment, Jack.
Exciting news -- I'm now on Twitter.
CAFFERTY: You knew this was going to happen.
CAFFERTY: Yes, yes, yes.
What does that mean?
BLITZER: All right. Let me just tell viewers, if they're interested in reading my Tweets, go to Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn -- wolfblitzercnn all one word -- Twitter.com...
CAFFERTY: Isn't there a better...
CAFFERTY: Isn't there a better word than Tweets?
BLITZER: I know. You know...
CAFFERTY: I mean e-mail is OK. You know, message is OK. BLITZER: Yes.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm Tweeting right now.
CAFFERTY: That's a creepy word, Tweets.
CAFFERTY: But I'm going to go read your stuff as soon as I do this.
BLITZER: Yes. OK.
CAFFERTY: You knew this was coming. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that it's probably going to take more U.S. troops to win the war in Afghanistan.
Can you spell surge?
Admiral Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee today he doesn't know how many more troops are needed, but, "It's very clear to me that we will need more resources," to carry out President Obama's plan to fight the Taliban.
Top Democrats have already said they're opposed to sending any more troops. Committee Chairman, senator Carl Levin, says the U.S. should first be sure that Afghan security forces are trained and deployed.
Have we heard anything like this before?
But Republicans say the U.S. could repeat the mistakes made in Iraq by not committing enough troops. Senator John McCain said: "I've seen that movie before."
The Obama administration has been vague about what's going to happen next. They say something along the lines that no decision on troops is expected for weeks and weeks.
In the meantime, the troops that are there are being killed at a greater rate than ever before and could no doubt use some help. Fifty-one U.S. soldiers died there last month. That's more than in any month since the war began. And here at home, public support for this war, which will be entering its ninth year soon, is fading -- fast. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows only 39 percent of Americans are now in favor of the war in Afghanistan. That's the lowest percentage ever. The number is down from 53 percent as recently as April.
So here's the question then -- should the United States send more troops to Afghanistan?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
If I was one of those troops over there, I wouldn't want to hear the administration saying well, it will be weeks and weeks and then we'll take a look and try and decide what to do. I mean, either get them some help or get them the hell out of there.
BLITZER: That's a good point. And a lot of people agree with you, Jack. There's no doubt about that.
CAFFERTY: I'm going to go read your Tweets now.
BLITZER: You know, each Tweet can only be 140 characters, so it's really tight and short -- pithy.
CAFFERTY: It's pithy?
CAFFERTY: Well, I'll be the judge if it's pithy or not.
BLITZER: Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn. Wolfblitzercnn all one word.
CAFFERTY: OK. Fine.
BLITZER: You got that.
BLITZER: I wanted to make sure you didn't forget, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Yes. And I got it.
BLITZER: All right.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: Is the debate over health care veering out of control?
After one U.S. congressman screamed "You lie," another now talking about, "racist sentiment" and possibly -- and once again, I'm quoting -- "folks putting on white hoods." I'll ask the top Republican in the House about that and more.
And a twist to a disturbing crime case that involves the man accused of kidnapping and keeping a girl for 18 years -- is he connected to the kidnapping of two other girls?
You'll see what the police did today.
And a famous American capita capitalist on slams that President Obama is a socialist.
What does Warren Buffett think of that ?
He speaks to CNN this hour.
BLITZER: Democrats say -- say Republican Congressman Joe Wilson must pay.
Let's get some more on our lead story right now. Top Democrats in the House are pushing for a House resolution this moment to formally admonish the congressman for his "You lie" outburst aimed at the president. Now, another Congressman says this whole episode is shrouded in racial overtones.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio.
Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Wolf, it's good to be with you.
BLITZER: If a Democratic congressman had shouted out -- screamed out, "You lie" to President Bush during a joint session of Congress, would you have wanted some sort of disciplinary action to go forward in the House of Representatives?
BOEHNER: Well, I think if such an -- an occasion occurred and that particular member called the White House and apologized and the president accepted his apology, that would be the end of it. And I think that's the appropriate process to occur here.
BLITZER: As you know, a lot of Democrats are still very upset, including Congressman Henry Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, who said this earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HENRY JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: It instigated more racist sentiment, feeling that it's OK, you don't have to -- you don't have to bury it now, you can bring it out and talk about it fully. And so I guess we'll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside intimidating people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow! That's a pretty strong statement from a Democratic congressman.
BOEHNER: Yes, it sure is. Listen, Joe Wilson is a good man. He said that his comment was inappropriate. That's why he called the White House, why he apologized. And I'm thankful that the president accepted his apology.
But this -- this tactic on the floor today is nothing more than a perversion so that they don't have to talk about their government run health care plan.
I just think we ought to be talking about what the American people sent us here to do, and that's to solve the issues they're concerned about -- things like the economy, things like jobs and -- and fixes to our health care system that don't replace our current system with this big government-run plan.
BLITZER: Let's talk about health care. It seems like in the Senate, they're accepting some of your Republican demands. For example they've -- they're going to go ahead and have verification to make sure that illegal immigrants do not qualify for benefits under a new program.
They're also eliminating the -- the public option, as it's called.
Are you ready now to -- to find a compromise in the House of Representatives and work with these Democrats?
BOEHNER: We've been willing to work with our Democratic colleagues all year, except that there's never been an invitation. There's never been a conversation. And I'm -- I'm ready and willing to sit down and begin to -- to solve the issues that the American people are concerned about with regard to health care.
BLITZER: Because the president, in his speech last week, he said he formally invited you to come over to the White House and said, if you have a better idea, come on over, my door is open.
Have you called the president?
Have you called the White House and said I'd like to come over with some other Republicans and share our ideas?
BOEHNER: Wolf, I sent the president a letter back in mid-May making it clear to the president that we have ideas on health care, about how we could reform the current system and we look forward to -- to sitting down and having a conversation.
And we got a nice letter -- a polite letter back that basically said hey, we'll see you at the end of the process.
And so our door has always been open. It's going to remain open, because, at the end of the day, the American people want this to be done in a bipartisanship way that -- that addresses the current problems as they see them.
BLITZER: So let me get -- be precise. If they're watching at the White House right now and they're -- and they say you know what, maybe that's a good idea, we'll invite Congressman Boehner and his Republican leadership over to the White House, you're ready to go over there and talk to the president and start negotiating?
BLITZER: All right, well, that's fair enough.
Let's talk a little bit about Afghanistan. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says she doesn't think there's much support for sending additional troops to Afghanistan. The president may be inclined to do so based on the recommendations of his military commanders.
Who's right right now, the -- the military commanders, who want more troops to go out there, or Nancy Pelosi?
BOEHNER: Listen, I've said from the beginning that the president and the Congress ought to listen to the commanders on the ground and our diplomats and -- and listen to their recommendations. They're the people who are there.
I just believe that walking away from Afghanistan would be a giant mistake for our country. And therefore I'm willing to listen to what General McChrystal has to offer our diplomats there. And I hope the president does this well. I've supported the president's initiatives both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And I'm hopeful that the president will continue to listen to these people on the ground as he comes to a decision.
BLITZER: How worried are you that public opinion seems to be turning against the war in Afghanistan?
In our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 39 percent favor the U.S. war in Afghanistan, 58 percent oppose.
BOEHNER: No, and I understand that most -- most Americans have real concerns. I've got real concerns. Although I can tell you this, if we walk away from Afghanistan, we're going to cede that country to the Taliban and their colleagues in al Qaeda, where they'll have safe haven. They'll have an opportunity to train, to organize more attacks against Americans here and abroad. We cannot afford to let that happen.
BLITZER: As you remember, back in 1994, the first mid-term elections, when Bill Clinton was president, the Republicans took the majority in the House and the Senate in -- in those mid-term elections.
What are the chances, after next year's mid-term elections, John Boehner will be speaker of the House?
BOEHNER: Well, Wolf, we're just going to take this one day at a time. As long as we continue to stand up for those principles that we believe in, fight those issues that -- that we don't believe in and continue to offer the American people what we think are better solutions, I think we'll do just fine in the next election.
BLITZER: Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.
BOEHNER: Thank you.
BLITZER: A would-be burglar is killed when he allegedly breaks into a Maryland home. He surely never counted on an occupant armed with a samurai sword and a lethal aim. Also, the public and unpleasant outbursts of Kanye West and Serena Williams. They are followed by equal public and heartfelt apologies. They join a catalog of mea culpas from the rich and famous -- the art of the apology, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's going on?
NGUYEN: Hey there, Wolf.
Police are investigating two child kidnappings in the 1980s and they're searching the home of California man, Phillip Garrido. He was charged with kidnapping Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years. Now, police are seeking evidence in the disappearances of two girls, including clothes either girl was wearing at the time. Police say they're also looking for any disturbed soil that could indicate a gravesite.
And it might not be the most common defense weapon, but a Johns Hopkins student used a samurai sword to fend off an alleged burglar this morning in Baltimore. That's one way to do it. Police say the student actually killed the man after discovering him in his garage. Police did not release the name of the suspect who, indeed, had a long criminal history or the name of the student.
And listen to this story, Wolf. Nine American Airlines employees are among those arrested today on suspicion of aiding a smuggling ring that shipped cocaine from Puerto Rico's main airport to the U.S. mainland. The DEA says 22 people have been arrested. American Airlines says it is working closely with law enforcement authorities to aid in this investigation.
Boy, that's an eye-opener -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
All right. We'll stay on top of that story.
Thanks very much, Betty.
President Obama presses hard for his economic package and the Fed chief now says the recession is likely over. We'll ask one of the world's richest men, Warren Buffett, what it will take to seal the recovery. Warren Buffett here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And it's all in the follow-through -- Serena Williams isn't the first celebrity to lose her cool for the whole world to see -- or to apologize for it. CNN's Christine Romans talked to the topped ranked tennis star about her meltdown right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Congressman Joe Wilson speaking out on the House floor right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: It will not help more Americans secure jobs, promote better education, ensure retirement or reform health insurance. It is the Democrat leadership in their rush to pass a very bad government health care plan that is bad medicine for America. It has muzzled the voices we represent and provoked partisanship.
When we are done here today, we will not have taken any steps closer to helping more American families afford health insurance or helping small businesses create new jobs. The challenges our nation faces are far bigger than any one member of this House. It is time that we move forward and get to work for the American people.
I yield the balance of my time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman yields back the balance of his time, the gentleman from South Carolina.
REP. JOHN CLYBURN (D-SC), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, this resolution addresses an issue of great importance to current and future members of this august body -- the proper conduct of its members. Despite -- despite the statements made by various leaders of the other party, this is not about partisan politics or inappropriate comments. To the contrary, this is about the rules of this House and reprehensible conduct.
I stand here as a former schoolteacher and the proud father of a current public schoolteacher who teaches in the Congressional district represented by Congressman Wilson. My grandchildren attend schools in that district.
But Mr. Speaker, this hall is the most prominent classroom in this great country and all of us are teachers. We are bound by duty and the offices we hold to conduct ourselves as such. Classroom teachers and schoolchildren across the country and around the world looking in on our proceedings should see proper decorum and hear civil discourse.
Our teachers are expected to teach our children to learn proper behavior. All of us are expected to give appropriate support and deference to the institutions that help us develop and maintain a civil and orderly society.
Our three separate branches of government have defined roles to play in this process. And those of us who hold positions within these branches are expected and are duty bound to treat each other with proper dignity and respect. Whether we like it or not, teachers and students see us as role models. But none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. And sometimes fall short of expectations. But when we do, proper contrition is expected.
When one of us, while seated in a formal session, severely violates the rules of this body by shamelessly hurling accusations of mendacity toward the president of these United States, our commander- in-chief, and refuses to formally express remorse, we, at a minimum, are duty bound to express our disapproval.
Our teachers, our students and constituents deserve no less.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman reserves the balance of his time.
The gentleman from Ohio.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Speaker, I will recognize myself for as much time as I may consume.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Ohio is recognized.
BOEHNER: I think this is a sad day for the House of Representatives.
I think that this is nothing more than a partisan stunt aimed at trying to divert people's attention from the real issue that the American people want to talk, and that's talk about health care.
The gentleman from South Carolina made it clear the other night when he told the president's chief of staff that his behavior was inappropriate, and that's why he was calling to apologize to the president.
The president graciously accepted his apology. And, last Friday, none other than the speaker of the House herself said it is time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson.
Now, the speaker and I don't see eye to eye on every issue, but, on this issue, I think that I'm in full agreement with her.
Joe Wilson is a decent human being. He did the right thing. He called the president and apologized. And the president was gracious enough to accept it. And I just believe that a man who spent 25 years of his life in public service in a state senate and here in Congress, who has four sons, all of whom are in the military, three of whom served in Iraq -- we ail know Joe Wilson.
He is a decent man. And to put him through this on the floor of the House, I think, is unacceptable, and it is a partisan stunt. There's been behavior that's gone on around here far more serious than this that didn't -- didn't bring a resolution to the floor to condemn someone's behavior. Yes, people have made mistakes. Some have come down to the floor and apologized. Others have not. But none of it, none of it, required a resolution.
And to think that the precedent that is being set here today, the precedent -- think about it -- never has this happened before -- that we're going to bring a resolution of -- of disapproving of his behavior.
My goodness, we could be doing this every day of the week. The American people sent us here to work together to solve the problems of our country. I didn't come here to talk about our behavior. They didn't send us here to do that. What they want us to do is to deal with the issue of health care.
The president said we ought to work in a bipartisan fashion to get health care reform accomplished. I agree with the president. I'm here. I'm willing. I'm able. Set the time and the place, and we will be there with our solutions to the health care problems in the country.
But to divert the nation's attention from the issues they care about, health care, trying to make sure that -- that we get jobs back into our economy, trying to do something about record deficits and record debt, no, no, no, we're not doing any of that. We're here on some witch-hunt, some partisan stunt that the American people are not going to respect.
And, with that, I reserve the balance my time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... reserves the balance of his time.
The gentleman from South Carolina.
The gentleman will suspend for a second.
The chair will remind all persons in the gallery that they are here as guests of the House, and that any manifestation of approval or disapproval of the proceedings or other audible conversation is in violation of the rules of the House.
With that, the gentleman from South Carolina is recognized.
CLYBURN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I want to, first of all, say to...
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to watch what's happening on the House floor.
This is the first time there's been a resolution of disapproval rebuking a member of the House of Representatives for an outburst while a president of the United States was speaking before a joint session of Congress on the floor of the House of Representatives.
They are getting ready for an up-or-down vote on this resolution of disapproval against Congressman Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina.
You heard the -- the Republican leader, the minority leader, John Boehner, defend the -- the congressman. And you heard the majority whip, James Clyburn, the number-three Democrat in the House of Representatives, say, this resolution, a resolution of disapproval, is appropriate.
Let's talk a little bit about what's going on, because we're going to watch the up-and-down roll call vote. Gloria Borger is here. Paul Begala s here, our Democratic strategist, both members of the best political team on television.
What do you make of this scene that's on the House of Representatives floor right now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you talk to some Republicans and most all Democrats, they will tell you that it's a scene that could have been avoided if the congressman had gone to the floor of the House and apologized to his colleagues in a very simple way.
This is not like a censure. This is not like a reprimand. There are four levels of punishment in the House. This is...
BLITZER: Hold -- hold on. We're going to fix your audio, because we just lost your audio for a moment. But we're going to talk to Paul.
Pick up -- pick up your thought, Paul...
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Gloria is making more sense than I could.
BEGALA: I will try to pick up there.
It -- this was wholly in the power of Congressman Wilson. You heard Congressman Boehner, the Republican leader, saying, Speaker Pelosi said she didn't want to do this. I'm quite sure that's true.
The Democrats actually want to talk about health care. I suppose they -- I take Mr. Boehner's word that the Republicans do. But, you know, it's not the worst thing I have ever seen. It's not Preston Brooks of South Carolina, who beat Senator Charles Sumner almost to death. He wound up dying from the attack in 1858, a South Carolinian. That was kind of a serious outburst.
This was just a guy momentarily out of control. And I don't want to stand in great moral judgment of him, but he -- he owed the president an apology. He kind of wimped out on that, instead, apologized to a staff member in the White House. And he owes his colleagues an apology. He put them in a bad light, in a bad spot.
BLITZER: But, within add within a very short, short...
BEGALA: And he should apologize.
BLITZER: I think that your microphone is now working, Gloria.
BORGER: It should be.
BLITZER: Within a very short period of time after he screamed out, "You lie," he did call the White House.
BORGER: He did.
BLITZER: He spoke with Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. He apologized. And then the White House quickly said, we accept. The president personally accepts your apology. The vice president accepted the apology.
Why isn't that enough?
BORGER: Well, I -- I think there are lots of members of the House who believe that he needed to go to the well of the chamber and apologize to them specifically.
And when I say lots of members of the House, I particularly point to the -- the Black Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, who took it personally, some of whom believe that -- that he would not have done that if President Obama were not an African-American president.
They took some real personal offense at this. But, largely, I think you see lots of Democrats saying, look, all he had to do was go to the well of the chamber and say to us, I'm sorry for painting this picture of the House of Representatives.
BEGALA: In fact, his -- Mr. Wilson's colleague South Carolina Republican Congressman Bob Inglis today, through the miracle of Twitter, told the world that he told the Republican conference in private today, but he Twittered it, or tweeted it, whatever the hell they do, so I'm comfortable sharing it with you, he said that he told them that Congressman Wilson should apologize.
So, it's not a -- it's going to be mostly a party-line vote. Don't get me wrong.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think...
BLITZER: Is it -- will all the Democrats vote against Joe Wilson and all the Republicans defend?
BLITZER: Is it going to be if it's strictly -- because if it's a strictly party-line vote, he loses.
BORGER: Well, I -- I think all the Democrats are clearly going to vote against Joe Wilson.
What all the Republicans are going to do is really -- is really unclear. I think there could be some Republicans who vote to disapprove, but, you know, that remains to be seen. I hate to call votes right before they happen.
BLITZER: I want -- I want to bring in two members our team. Terry Jeffrey is here. He's a good conservative analyst. Donna Brazile, our Democratic strategist, is here.
Terry, what's happening on the House of Representatives floor right now? What would have been the big deal if Congressman Joe Wilson would have just gone to the floor yesterday or whenever and done what he -- what he immediately did after his outburst and said, you know what, I made a mistake; I'm sorry?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, Wolf, I think the Democrats have seriously overplayed their hand here, and I think they have given Joe Wilson an opportunity to keep driving this.
If I were him, what I would do tomorrow is send a letter to every Democrat in the House of Representatives and the president and say, Mr. President, I'm sincerely sorry I broke the House rules. I shouldn't have said that about you on the House floor. However, I do believe you are lying about your health care plan. Let me spell out the ways.
Boom, release that to the press and get in a national debate with these guys over whether President Obama was telling the truth or was stating falsehoods in his speech last Wednesday night.
BLITZER: Because he's already made one point, and he was on television over the weekend, Donna. He said, you know what? After his outburst, which he says was inappropriate, the -- the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee accepted what he wanted and a lot of Republicans want, a verification of legal U.S. residency before individuals can in fact get benefits from the proposed health insurance reform plan.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I understand why Terry would make this so partisan as to give Joe Wilson another opportunity to go out and, you know, have another outburst.
It's inexcusable, what he did on the House floor. I'm -- I worked in the House of Representatives. And I can tell you, based on the rules of that place and the decorum, what he did was offensive to the institution itself. And he defamed the institution, and all the members of Congress. And before this became a partisan, both members of Congress -- both sides said he should go to the well of the House and apologize. And that's all he had to do.
BLITZER: All right, I'm going to bring Gloria back in, in a moment.
But -- but, very quickly, if a Democrat had screamed out "You lie" to a Republican president, like President Bush, should that -- and before a joint session of Congress, should that Democrat have been rebuked?
JEFFREY: He should apologize. I -- if I understand the reporting you have been doing today, Wolf, this has never happened before.
BLITZER: Well, there's never been an outburst like that before a joint session of Congress.
JEFFREY: What Joe Wilson did was wrong.
But I do believe it invites a debate on whether what the president said was correct. I think there are things that the president said about his health care plan, including in that speech on Wednesday night, that are blatantly false.
For example, right after Joe Wilson had his outburst, he said this plan doesn't cover abortion. In fact, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, who chairs the U.S. Catholic Bishop Conference in pro-life activities has written a letter to every single member of the House of Representatives saying it in fact does cover abortion.
BLITZER: All right, well, hold up. But that's opening up that's another -- another issue.
JEFFREY: That's a falsehood the president said, a falsehood the president himself said.
BRAZILE: That's all about wedge issues...
JEFFREY: No, it's a falsehood.
BRAZILE: ... because the Republican would like to drive every conversation to those wedge issues.
JEFFREY: No. BLITZER: All right. Hold on, guys, because, Gloria, this is not the first time that there has been...
BLITZER: ... a mistake and then an apology.
BORGER: Well, apologies or non-apologies, we have been talking about at the office all day today, what's an apology, what's a non- apology? From both politicians and celebrities, we have heard them all.
And some of our producers, Wolf, put together a -- kind of a reel of contrition greatest hits sort of thing. Let's take a look.
JIM MCGREEVEY (D), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable. And, for this, I ask the forgiveness and the grace of my wife.
ELIOT SPITZER, FORMER NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to apologize to my staff, and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: People have given me tons of ideas on this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I am not gay. I never have been gay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
GRANT: I keep reading new, you know, psychological theories and stuff like that. But...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANFORD: I wanted generally to apologize to every one of you all for letting you down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
GRANT: You know, I was under pressure. I was overtired or I was lonely.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: ... 2006 two years ago, I made a very serious mistake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
GRANT: I fell down the stairs when I was a child or whatever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE HOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR: I'm really busted up over this, and I'm very, very sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
GRANT: I think you know in life pretty much what's a good thing to do and what's a bad thing. And I did a bad thing. And there you have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, so much depends on the apology, in terms of getting over it and moving on.
And -- and now these are kind of -- people have become professional apologizers, I think.
BORGER: And it's all -- it's all out of a playbook at point. You get your media adviser. You do your apology. Some people would say Joe Wilson has gotten some bad advice. He was certainly taken to the woodshed by the Republican leaders.
But now we live in such a news cycle that you have really got to sort of get it over. And -- and we heard Governor Sanford do it about, what, 25 times in two days? BLITZER: Paul Begala, there's no doubt that both sides are getting some political mileage out of this...
BLITZER: ... the Republicans and Democrats. But who is going to get more?
BEGALA: Well, first off, you know, Terry clearly wants to move this to a debate about -- about health care or about issues, as Donna calls them, wedge issues.
They can't get to that. There's an opportunity cost for the Republicans. The good of it for them is they can raise money. And Mr. Wilson has raised, by some accounts, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
BLITZER: More than a million.
BEGALA: And his opponent apparently raised more.
The problem is, they can't have the debate they say they want because Mr. Wilson for six days now has refused to take personal responsibility for it.
BLITZER: But he did apologize to the White House, to the president.
BEGALA: He did -- no. He apologized to a staff guy. That's different. I was a staff guy. There's only one president. That's who was wronged.
But, you know, OK, fine. He also, I think, should apologize to his colleagues.
BORGER: The White House can't have the debate it wants either...
BEGALA: Well, that's right.
BORGER: ... because they are talking about Joe Wilson.
BEGALA: But -- but what's it's doing is, in the country...
BLITZER: All right.
BEGALA: I -- wait. There's new polling data out from -- from Gallup. By 68 to 21, the American people disapprove of Mr. Wilson's outburst.
BEGALA: Fifty-two percent of Republicans oppose that outburst.
But here's their problem. Nine percent, just 9 percent of Republicans describe themselves as excited. That's Gallup's word.
BLITZER: Because -- because, as you know...
BEGALA: ... 9 percent that runs the party, that's the...
BLITZER: ... the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives urged Congressman Wilson right away to call the White House and to apologize.
That wasn't his idea. That was the leadership's idea.
JEFFREY: And he did.
But, quite frankly, Wolf, the Republican leadership in Congress is not being aggressive enough on this issue. "The Washington Post" poll on Monday said 48 percent of the people in this country oppose Obama's health care plan, that poll said, in the three days after he had given his speech.
There's a massive grassroots movement in this country. We saw it in the town hall meetings. You saw it in the tens of thousands in front of the Capitol on Saturday who are speaking out, who say they do not want this plan. Many of them believe, as I do, that, on some of these issues, President Obama...
BLITZER: All right, Donna, quickly...
JEFFREY: There's no leadership on this.
BLITZER: Quickly, Donna.
JEFFREY: They have the opportunity to...
BLITZER: After this vote -- we assume -- the Democrats have the majority -- they will get it passed -- what's next?
BRAZILE: Wolf, I would hope that the Democrats immediately go back to the agenda, because, as Paul said, there's so much that the Democrats must accomplish this week in moving this health care debate forward.
This is a very important conversation, because most Americans are sick and tired of the growing bills that they can no longer afford. And that includes their health care bills.
BLITZER: And we're getting ready for the roll call on the House of Representatives. And they will vote. They have automatic vote in the House of Representatives. We will watch it and update our viewers.
Guys, thanks very much.
A former Bush administration insider writes a tell-all book about President Bush. He writes that, during the campaign, President Bush slammed then Senator Barack Obama, and wasn't impressed with then Governor Sarah Palin either.
And a cemetery is accused of dumping remains to resell grave sites. A former worker tells CNN shocking stories about what he says he was told do do. We have new information coming in.
BLITZER: One of the richest men in the world says he's still buying stock while the economy at large sorts itself out.
Poppy Harlow of CNNMoney.com sat down with the Berkshire Hathaway CEO, Warren Buffett, today.
A lot of interesting stuff you had in that interview, Poppy, but give us some of the highlights.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, one of the highlights was, I asked him, as Fed Chief Ben Bernanke said this morning, it looked very likely that we're coming out of this recession.
Warren Buffett was more skeptical. He said, across his businesses with Berkshire Hathaway, he's not seeing that many green shoots, but, again, he is not seeing much deterioration.
But, really, the highlight of this interview was his take on the ballooning national debt in this country right now, Wolf. And he says, although it might not be a near-term risk, it's certainly a huge long-term risk.
And I asked him about health care and the possible trillion- dollar price tag coming along with it. Does he still support Obama and his push for health care?
Take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: You supported President Obama publicly.
WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: A hundred percent, yes.
HARLOW: A hundred percent, you say.
Do you support him right now in his health care push?
BUFFETT: Well, we still haven't seen the final plan. I think that, unfortunately, not because of President Obama, but just because of the way the debate has taken place, it's become much more of a question of health insurance reform than it has been health care reform.
In terms of how health care, the incentives in the system, the delivery system, all of that, doesn't look to me, at this moment, may get changed very fundamentally. We may broaden the coverage, which I'm 100 percent for.
But, if you talk to the medical experts, a lot of them say that the real problem is the incentives in the present system, and that you need to change the delivery of health care, much more than you need to change the insurance.
HARLOW: When we look at the critics of Obama, this has become an incredibly heated debate, and there are those that will go as far to call his policies socialist.
How do you respond to that?
BUFFETT: Well, I -- he's not a socialist, but -- and neither is the American U.S. Congress.
I mean, it -- government has a big part in our lives. I mean, 20 percent, on average, of the last -- well, since World War II, almost, 20 percent on average of GDP is run through government now. So, you have got a very big government, but you are not -- you are not -- you do not have government running businesses or -- or directing the output.
But government is a big factor. It's always going to be a big factor in our lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right, Wolf, very interesting take on the health care debate and what it could cost this country.
Another thing I should note is that I asked Warren Buffett, a year exactly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, are we still facing the problem of banking institutions in this country that are too big to fail? And, Wolf, he said, we are, it's still a huge problem, and it's likely here to stay, that.
Full interview is on CNNMoney.com -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And people should read it, because, when the oracle of Omaha speaks, people should listen, no doubt -- no doubt about that.
BLITZER: Poppy, good work. Thanks very much.
It's all in the follow-through. Serena Williams isn't the first celebrity to lose her cool for the whole world to see, or to apologize for it. CNN's Christine Romans talks to the top-ranked tennis star about her meltdown and more.
Serena Williams -- coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": To many of you, it's just the name of a football team. To some others, though, it's still very highly offensive, the name the Washington Redskins.
A group of Native Americans hopes the Supreme Court will weigh in. They have asked the justices to review a lower court decision that allowed the team to keep the name because of a legal technicality. We will update you on that.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.
Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Did you watch the Buffalo Bills last night?
BLITZER: I did. You're making me sick again. What a -- what a heartbreaking loss for my hometown team.
CAFFERTY: Horrible, just horrible.
BLITZER: I know. They were up by 11 with five minutes to go. You know what? We should have won.
CAFFERTY: Yes, you should have won. And the New England Patriots have now beat them like 11 or 12 games in a row.
Where does that name Bills come from, by the way?
BLITZER: The Buffalo Bill. Well, there was a character, you know, Buffalo Bill, remember?
CAFFERTY: Oh, OK.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: Wild -- you know, the Wild West?
CAFFERTY: Yes, I do, actually. That was the "Howdy Doody" group, right?
CAFFERTY: All right.
The question this hour: Should the U.S. send more troops to Afghanistan?
George writes: "Yes, they should, if only to protect the women and children there from the monsters who use religious extremism to victimize the ones who can't protect or defend themselves."
Larry in California: "We need an exit from Afghanistan at our earliest opportunity. If a short-term troop increase hastens that day, then I support it. Right now, I'm seeing too many parallels to Vietnam. I think a Taliban-al Qaeda partnership in Afghanistan is a bigger problem for Russia and China than it is for the U.S."
Ingrid in New York: "The U.S. should only send troops if there is an absolute clarity that it will help accomplish the original mission of going in there, getting Osama bin Laden and his cronies. We did not go in there to get rid of the Taliban -- as wonderful as it would be to be rid of them -- did not go in to stop drug trafficking -- as wonderful as it would be to stop the poppy cultivation -- we did not go in there to democratize them -- as righteous as that goal may be considered -- and we certainly did not go in there to support the current president -- if he is actually the president."
I. in Rocky Mount, North Carolina: "If the commanders on the ground say more troops are needed, then more troops are needed. The war in Afghanistan can not be waged from the Senate and House floors of Congress or e-mails on the Internet. We abandoned Afghanistan after their war with Russia, and we got 9/11. It is time to win this war and settle this problem once and for all."
And Tom writes from Ohio: "Only if there is a well-defined exit strategy made public by our leaders. What conditions must be met before our involvement in Afghanistan comes to an end? I haven't really heard any. Have you?"
No, I haven't.
If you didn't see your e-mail here, check my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, and look for yours there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will, Jack. Thank you.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: an unprecedented debate in the House of Representatives ongoing right now -- lawmakers weighing what would be the first-ever resolution rebuking one of their own for yelling at a president during a speech -- fresh fallout from the outburst heard across the country.
George W. Bush at the time he was president allegedly dismissing and insulting Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and more. A new book claims to reveal some Oval Office trash talk.
And a tennis superstar like we have never seen her before -- Serena Williams talks to us about her profane tirade against a line judge over at the U.S. Open. What is she saying now about the out-of- character outburst that shocked the tennis world?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin this hour with some high political drama involving U.S. senators. It's looming on the horizon, a major move on health care reform that could gravely, gravely hurt chances at bipartisanship.
Let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is watching these developments on Capitol Hill.
And they are coming in pretty quickly, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
CNN has learned that, barring some unforeseen change, the Senate Finance chairman, Max Baucus, will go forward with a health proposal tomorrow without support from the three Republicans he's been negotiating with so far.