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'People's Uprising' in Pittsburgh; Protesters vs. Economic Powers; African Hero or Violent Dictator?

Aired September 24, 2009 - 15:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, another international rabble-rouser takes the stage at the U.N. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, is he echoing the anger of the Iranian and the Libyan leaders?

This hour, the man who once called George W. Bush the devil, Hugo Chavez, gets a new chance to rant. We'll show you what he's saying.

Plus, a security nightmare in Pittsburgh. Protesters descending on the city as President Obama and other world leaders are arriving. Just moments ago, our own Brian Todd covering these protesters, he was tear-gassed.

We'll show you the videotape.

And a sex tape creates an international incident. A U.S. diplomatic worker is targeted on a Russian Web site. The State Department is calling it, and I'm quoting now, "a smear campaign."

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


All right. Brian Todd, our correspondent on the scene in Pittsburgh right now for the G-20 Summit, he's been covering the protesters. Some of them anarchists. There are tons of police, security authorities on the scene right now.

This is what happened just moments ago to Brian as he was covering these demonstrations, these protests. We want to inform you that this videotape is unedited. It's raw. Watch this.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this protest has shifted over several streets in Pittsburgh. The protesters going way off their plans because of confrontations like this.

The police have thrown some kind of tear gas or some kind of smoke bomb over there. They've set up a barricade over here.

This is what's been happening today on the streets. The protesters have shifted -- we don't know exactly where they're going to be going from here. They were confronted where they started. I was trying to get near the convention center. Not clear at all right now whether (INAUDIBLE). Did you get all of it? OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what your purpose is, you must leave. If you do not disperse, you may be arrested and/or subject to other police action. Other police action may include actual physical removal, the use of riot control agents, and/or less lethal munitions which could cause risk of injury to those who remain.

TODD: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Get that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By order of the city of Pittsburgh police, I hereby declare this to be an unlawful assembly. I order all those assembled to immediately disperse. You must leave the immediate vicinity. If you remain in this immediate vicinity, you will be...

TODD: Stewart (ph), come on!


BLITZER: All right. These are live pictures now. That was videotape of Brian Todd, our correspondent in Pittsburgh covering the G-20 summit. He and others were tear-gassed.

Brian is joining us on the phone right now.

Brian, what are we seeing right now in these live pictures?

TODD: Well, Wolf, we're seeing a gathering of -- it looks like at least 100 riot police. They are basically cordoning off the corner of 32nd Street and Penn (ph) Avenue, which was originally going to be part of the main drag of this march today. But the protesters shifted several streets over in different directions.

Every time they confronted the police, they shifted over. And the police, as you saw, started to tear-gas them.

There were confrontations. There was at least one arrest that we saw. And it looks like the riot police, you see in my mobile phone here, they are moving in kind easterly direction of Penn (ph) Avenue.

It looks, Wolf, like the protesters have dispersed for now. There's a small group of them. I don't know whether you can see all the way up the street on this transmission or not. There seems to be a small group of them way up that street.

You may not be able to see it. The picture may be to small up here. But the riot police are now kind of walking in procession east on Penn (ph) Avenue.

As you can see in the previous video, it got pretty dicey earlier. It seems to be dying down in this section just because of the really heavy presence of riot police. You can see they've basically made a foursquare here in this intersection.

BLITZER: Brian, we saw the tear gas. You were covering that demonstration. Some of those protesters, anarchists, clearly, disobeying police rules, police orders on the scene.

We have some other videotape of what happened afterwards. You were among those who were tear-gassed in the process. And then you were assisted. Someone through some water on you. I'm going to show that videotape to our viewers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lean your head down like that, sideways.


BLITZER: All right, Brian. Tell us what it was like, that tear gas.

TODD: Well, you know, at first, Wolf, it didn't seem like much. I mean, you saw the smoke and it kind of crept toward you very slowly.

Then they kind of unloaded a few more tear gas canisters and it just came up on us. It just kind of enveloped all three of us. My photojournalist, Stewart Clark (ph), our technician, Mark Alawani (ph), just kind of got enveloped in it.

Then as the protesters faded back, we faded back with them. And it was just -- it got very hard to breathe, and it just kind of crept into your lungs and got also into your throat. It was just hard to breathe and hard to see at that point.

And my technician, Mark, was kind enough to pour some water over my face. And it was a great relief. And luckily, he and Stewart (ph) got some, too.

BLITZER: How are you doing right now, Brian?

TODD: I'm doing fine. It's completely out of our system. We're still working this and looking forward to meeting up with the protesters a few blocks away if they're still around.

BLITZER: And I just want to make it clear. You are a credentialed representative of the news media, and you have authority and you have permission to be where you are.

TODD: Well, it is an open street in Pittsburgh. And the police are kind of turning us away from them whenever they feel like we're getting a little too close.

We are credentialed to at least be on the streets here. But it's a very fluid situation. And the cops aren't really paying a whole lot of attention to who's media and who isn't.

BLITZER: So, are those warnings that we heard on the bullhorn still coming in from the police?

TODD: We have not heard those in a few minutes, Wolf. They are very, very loud. As you can probably see on that videotape, it's almost impossible to talk over them. We have not heard those in the last few minutes. But as you can see here on this transmission, this live transmission, the police are kind of filing in formation and marching off again east on Penn (ph) Avenue.

We're going to kind of follow them. I'm going to jump down off this wall and just follow them up the street here.

It looks like some of the protesters may be up the street. But again, very small groups.

They may have dispersed at this point. We have not heard those loud speakers in the last few minutes, Wolf. The police have just done a lot of moving around, formations and then reformations on different blocks. And they seem to be doing that right now.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. We're going to stay in touch with you. I know you're covering these protests, and they're intense as these leaders gather in Pittsburgh at the G-20 summit, the president of the United States and other leaders. We'll get back to you shortly. Stand by. Be careful over there.

I want to alert our viewers this is just the beginning of a series of protests that are being mapped out online.

Let's bring in our Internet correspondent, Abbi Tatton. She's got some details.

What are they saying online, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, as we were getting that report in from Brian Todd, who is there, we were seeing streaming video coming in online from inside those protests. This, just the first, just the kickoff of a series of protests that are going to be going on in the next 24 to 48 hours. And from what we know from the online planning, the next plan is to fan out.

Take a look at this map which has been posted online by the Web site the Pittsburgh Resistance Project, which is kind of the umbrella group for all these protesters.

More than 80 businesses and organizations mapped out as potential targets for protests in the next 24 hours, specifically in the period from 5:30 to 11:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. These locations are diverse, from a McDonald's to a Gap store, a check-cashing place. There are banks, there are military recruiting centers, even a couple strip clubs on there as well.

All potential torargets for these protesters. And they're saying that these are all places where oppression and injustice exist on a daily basis.

These businesses that have been targeted, they are not taking any chances. This from one of our iReporters in Pittsburgh, Lisa Miller, who has been sending us photos of all the preparations that have been going on in some of these businesses. They are not risking anything tomorrow morning and in the next 24 hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They've got to be really careful over there. Thanks, Abbi. Stay on top of this. We want more information.

The G-20 Summit, as it's called, tends to be a magnant for demonstrators wherever those G-8 or G-20 summits have taken place, and they certainly have a lot to complain about after so many months of global recession.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's in Pittsburgh for us.

Ed, you're there. It's calm, quiet over at the convention center, where these leaders are getting ready to gather. But the anarchists, the protesters, they want their voice heard as well.


Well, Brian obviously doing brave work battling that tear gas, out there with those protesters. As you mentioned, here at the convention center, very quiet, because that's just in one pocket of the city where Brian Todd is.

Most of the city, I can tell you, is really like a ghost town because it's been shout down. Businesses don't want to have their windows smashed. Security is everywhere.

The president has just arrived at his hotel in the area before he comes to the convention center. And so he is very safe, secure. Lots of security, as you know, around him, obviously, with the Secret Service.

But these protesters have various interests. Some of them want climate change to be more on the agenda here. But most of them are really talking about the financial crisis. And they feel that there's been too many bailouts of Wall Street and not enough help to the middle class in America.


HENRY (voice-over): When these 20 leaders last met it was spring in London and the global recession was still catching fire. But as President Obama wrapped up his first big moment on the international stage, he declared they were putting out the flames.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We finished a very productive summit. There will be, I believe, a turning point in our pursuit of global economic recovery.

HENRY: Five months later, there are signs the recession is coming to a close. But unemployment is still sky high. Helping to fuel protesters already waiting for the leaders in Pittsburgh.

The president acknowledged to CNN's John King that unemployment may get worse in the next few months, which is why he will be pushing his counterparts to sign on to a specific pledge to make the global economy more balanced.

OBAMA: We can't go back to the era where the Chinese or the Germans or other countries just are selling everything to us and we're taking a bunch of credit card debt or home equity loans but we're not selling anything to them.

HENRY: But getting the Chinese to sign on will be difficult especially after Mr. Obama slapped a tariff on Chinese tires, which raised questions about whether leaders are reneging on free trade promises they made in London.

STEVEN SCHRAGE, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: So is the United States going to be standing up and stopping the slippage or is it going to be further pushing the world downward towards trade conflicts and possibly a downward spiral of new types of protectionism.

HENRY: Another potential dispute, European leaders continue to push hard for a crackdown on bonuses paid to bankers.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: We have to reach something on areas of compensation.

HENRY: And while Mr. Obama last week reiterated his call for broader reform of Wall Street, his hand has been weakened by inaction in Washington.

SCHRAGE: The U.S. is really handicapped by the fact that its own reforms haven't gotten out of Congress. So while, you know, they can talk about these broad reforms, until the United States has really acted, it's hard for them to really set the course.


HENRY: So that is the big question hanging over the summit as it starts with a dinner this evening, which is basically, will these leaders have the political will to stand up...

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we just lost our satellite feed with Ed Henry. We'll connect with him, but clearly the substance of the president of the United States and the other world leaders is clear, the substance being the economic situation.

We'll get back to Ed Henry shortly. Lots going on in Pittsburgh right now. We'll get back to Brian Todd as well.

Hugo Chavez, meanwhile, he's taking the stage over at the United Nations. Remember his famous "smells like sulfur" comment, suggesting that former President Bush was the devil? You're going to find out what he said for an encore this afternoon.

And some call him an African hero, others a violent dictator. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, he sits down with our Christiane Amanpour for his first interview with a western TV reporter in years.

And shadows of the Cold War. The State Department is now calling an alleged sex tape involving an American Embassy diplomat a smear campaign.

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


BLITZER: At the United Nations right now, one of the world's loose cannons. That would be the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. He's never been all that shy about speaking his mind or blasting the United States in the process.

You'll remember it wasn't long ago he suggested that then-President George W. Bush left a stink at the United Nations' podium, referred to him as "the devil." But listen to what Hugo Chavez had to say about President Obama just moments ago.


HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Just as I think President Obama is an intelligent man, and I hope God will protect Obama from the bullets that killed Kennedy, I hope Obama will be able to look and see, genuinely see, what has to be seen and bring about a change.

It doesn't smell of sulfur here anymore. It doesn't smell of sulfur. It's gone.

No, it smells of something else. It smells of hope.


BLITZER: Hugo Chavez. We're going to have a lot more on Chavez's remarks. That's coming up.

Also this note to our viewers -- Hugo Chavez will be a guest tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," right here on CNN. That airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Stand by for that.

In his first interview with a major western television network in years, many years, the president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe sat down with our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, today. Mr. Mugabe is seen as an African hero by many of his supporters and as a violent dictator and killer by his critics.

He helped lead the fight against colonial rule and spent a decade as a political prisoner back in the '60s and '70s. He then became Zimbabwe's first black leader when the country gained independence back in 1980.

Initially, he was praised for reconciliation policies and his investments in education and health care. But in the 1990s, Mr. Mugabe fell out of favor in the West as he became known for very violent intolerance of opposition and seizures of white-owned land. Over the past decade, is so-called land reform programs have been blamed for chronic food shortages, starvation and death. After a disputed election last year, Mr. Mugabe was pressured into a power- sharing agreement with the opposition leader. And that is where it stands right now.

Our Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour is joining us now to talk about this.

Extremely rare, this interview with Mugabe, Christiane. How did it go?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was quite testy, a little bit tense. Obviously, had to put tough questions to him, including the idea of power-sharing, and was it real power sharing or was it just in name only?

He's come here. He's going to make a speech at the U.N. tomorrow. And obviously he's going to ask for the sanctions to be lifted.

He was conciliatory towards President Obama, saying that Obama had inherited this idea of sanctions and he didn't expect him to lift them immediately. But he was not at all conciliatory about his own future.

When we asked whether he was going to ever step down, he said, "Not going to answer that. I haven't made my decision."

And particularly on this issue of white farmers, as you just mentioned, you know, all the statistics in Zimbabwe have plummeted because of this land reform over the last 10 years. And I asked him, as white farmers are still being harassed, some are killed, a lot of them have moved off their farms, what he thought about the whites who remain in Zimbabwe.


AMANPOUR: Do you consider white Zimbabweans to be Zimbabweans?

ROBERT MUGABE, ZIMBABWE PRESIDENT: Those who are naturalized and have citizenship, yes.

AMANPOUR: Those who have been living there for years and years and years?

MUGABE: Historically...

AMANPOUR: Right, the people who...

MUGABE: ... they have a debt.

AMANPOUR: Contributing to farming -- historically they have a debt to pay?

MUGABE: Yes. The land -- they occupy the land illegally. They seized the land from our people.


AMANPOUR: So, this narrative is one that he sticks with even though about 80 percent of those farms were bought after he assumed power back after 1980, and were bought with the approval, with special certificates that led to approval by the government there. So, it's a really contentious issue.

Also, the notion that the power sharing is not really happening, it's only really a name. But the truth of the matter is that since the power sharing, there are small indicators which show that the economy is struggling to revive. Food prices are coming down somewhat. But still, the U.N. calls Zimbabwe akin to a war zone. Some one in every 40 people are malnourished. So, there's still a huge amount of work to be done there.

But it was quite testy on quite a lot of issue, including, he said, the British are still after regime change to get him out of the presidency in Zimbabwe.

BLITZER: Yes, not only the British. A lot of others would like to get him out of the presidency in Zimbabwe as well, Christiane.

Good work. Thanks very much for that.

And I want to remind our viewers, Christiane's new show, "AMANPOUR," the global interview program, it debuts here on CNN at 2:00 p.m. Eastern this Sunday, and then every Sunday, 2:00 p.m. Eastern, "AMANPOUR."

Family secrets of Fidel Castro. The sister of the long-time Cuban leader is about to spill more beans in a brand-new book.

And a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says President Obama's stance toward the organization is too soft and too dangerous. I'll speak with the current U.S. ambassador, Susan Rice. An exclusive interview with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, that's coming up.



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

Happening now, it's something many researchers thought was impossible. But now, for the first time, a vaccine that may -- repeat, may -- reduce the risk of HIV infection. We're going to be speaking with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

A Russian billionaire takes a majority stake in one NBA team -- how he might help save basketball in Brooklyn.

And lots of people do it, but should texting while driving be simply banned across the entire United States? I will speak with the chairman of the NTSB about that and more. And what do the D.C. Metro crash casualties tell us about the safety of public transit all around the country?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. The State Department here in Washington now says a videotape allegedly showing an employee at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow having sex with a prostitute is a -- quote -- "smear campaign."

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is following this story for us.

Jill, tell us what the State Department says is behind this alleged videotape.


U.S. officials say they know where this video was shot, somewhere in Siberia last year. The diplomat who's in it, they say, even knows which hotel. But who shot it, who put it on the Internet, and why still isn't clear.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, all smiles as U.S.-Russia relations warm up. But on a tabloid Russian Internet Web site,, shadows of the bad old days, when Cold War era diplomats from both sides were lured into sexually compromising positions -- a videotape allegedly showing an American diplomat having sex with a prostitute in a hotel room.

IAN KELLY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: This kind of campaign is disgusting and -- and deplorable.

DOUGHERTY: The State Department calls it a smear campaign designed to discredit 34-year-old Brendan Kyle Hatcher. He was working as a foreign service officer, reporting on the politically sensitive subject of religious freedom in Russia.

The tape, U.S. officials claim, is doctored, a montage of different clips, some of them, it says, clearly fabricated, like this lights-out scene in the hotel room. The State Department says Hatcher denies it ever happened. Officials say Hatcher was approached by Russians who tried to blackmail him. He reported it to the embassy.

The tape then appeared on a Web site which diplomatic sources, who declined to be named, claim has a history of ties to Russia's security services. The Russian government isn't commenting.

So, are the bad old days back?

KELLY: There clearly are still people who have this Cold War mentality and don't want our relationship to improve. But I think that these kind of people are in a very, very distinct and very small minority.


DOUGHERTY: Now, during the Cold War, even if they were innocent, a diplomat in this predicament usually would be on the first flight out of the country. But the American ambassador, John Beyrle, is hanging tough. He's keeping this diplomat on the job in Moscow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jill Dougherty, thanks very much.

Jill knows a lot about this subject, having -- having been our bureau chief in Moscow for many years.

Joining us now to talk about this and more is the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

This is an exclusive interview here on CNN.

Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: We can talk about U.S.-Russian -- or U.S.-Russians relations later.

But I want to get your immediate reaction to what we heard from Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, at the United Nations just a little while ago, addressing the General Assembly.

He made these comments about President Obama.


HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Just as I think President Obama is an intelligent man. And I hope God will protect Obama from the bullets that killed Kennedy.

I hope Obama will be able to look and see, genuinely see, what has to be seen and bring about a change. It doesn't smell of sulfur here anymore. It doesn't smell of sulfur. It's gone. No, it smells of something else. It smells of hope.


BLITZER: All right. That's Hugo Chavez.

The reference to sulfur, for those of our viewers who don't know, was when he, back in 2006, addressed the General Assembly. He called then President Bush the devil, and he said it smells of sulfur, because President Bush spoke there the day before.

Give us your reaction to Hugo Chavez's comments today.

RICE: Wolf, there are 192 members of the United Nations. They all converge on New York this time of year.

Every year, three or four leaders provide barroom entertainment. But, for the most part, this has been a very serious session. The president of the United States delivered a very important address to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, in which he detailed the various important ways in which U.S. policy has changed and why we see the United Nations as an important instrument to advance our interests and keep us safer.

But he called on the leaders of all the world, and indeed all countries of the world, to step up and take their responsibility, so that, together, we have a good chance of meeting pressing global challenges.


RICE: So, that's the really interesting thing...


RICE: ... that has happened this week. And, then, today, in the Security Council, all 15 members of the Security Council...

BLITZER: Hold on just -- hold on one second, Ambassador. I want to get to that.

But I want to play for you, because not everyone was all that impressed by what the president had to say at the United Nations, including one of your predecessors, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.

The RNC, the Republican National Committee, put out an audio of his reaction. And I will play a little bit of it for you.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: And it really signals weakness to America's friends and allies around the world. The idea that the ineffective United Nations can be a centerpiece for American foreign policy, I think, we find dangerous and -- and really very highly risky.


BLITZER: I think it's fair to say he hated the president's speech.

RICE: Well, you know, this is John Bolton, who wanted to take 10 stories off the U.N. building, who had utter disdain for international cooperation.

He was part of a set of policies that alienated the United States from the rest of the world and left our standing in the world at an all- time low. So, it doesn't surprise me that he wouldn't like a speech in which the United States acknowledged that, in the 21st century, when the nature of the challenges that threaten our security are inherently transnational, things like terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemic disease and climate change, these are things that no one nation, including one as powerful as our own, can tackle in isolation.

So, we need cooperation from other states and other peoples. And that's why the United Nations is an important instrument in our foreign policy. BLITZER: Ambassador -- Ambassador, the -- the criticism, though, is: The president is well-liked. He's respected around the world. Attitudes towards the United States certainly have improved. But where is the beef, if you will, in terms of getting that kind of international support, support for the policies that the United States is advancing?

Have you seen any tangible results yet on some of the tough issues, like Iran, or North Korea, or -- or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

RICE: Yes, indeed, Wolf. We're seeing tangible benefits.

I was proud to be part of an effort in June to pass the toughest sanctions regime in the world today against North Korea, with the cooperation of Russia and China, two countries that have not traditionally turned to sanctions, but, in this instance, did so, and did so because we were able to work constructively together.

Today, in the Security Council, Wolf, 15 countries unanimously embraced a Security Council resolution which I think will be a landmark resolution, that committed us to continue to work towards a world without nuclear weapons, that had very concrete provisions to reinforce the nonproliferation regime, to make progress towards disarmament, to recognize the role of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and, very importantly, to embrace President Obama's goal of -- of securing loose nuclear materials around the world within four years.

These are critical steps, Wolf, that will make Americans safer. And, today, in the Security Council, heads of state from all of the nuclear powers and 10 non-nuclear powers agreed to this approach.

BLITZER: But North Korea's still going forward, despite the tougher sanctions.

And Iran, is there any -- any indication you're getting whatsoever from the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, or his aides that they're about to cooperate with the U.S., the International Atomic Energy Agency, and -- and come clean on their nuclear program?

RICE: Well, let me just go back to North Korea for a second. Then I will answer your question on Iran.

They are still going forward. They're facing a very tough sanctions regime, which is biting. It's being well-enforced by countries around the world. And we have subsequently seen some indications from North Korea that they may be prepared to return to the negotiating table.

With respect to Iran, the P5 Plus One -- that's the five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France, plus Germany -- will sit down on October 1 with a representative, a senior representative, from Iran.

And Iran, at that point, will face a very stark choice, to negotiate seriously about its nuclear weapons program, and to come clean and meet its international obligations, and start a very serious process... BLITZER: Well...


RICE: ... that will have to proceed quickly, or they're going to face more pressure from the international community.

BLITZER: Ahmadinejad...

RICE: And that's what we heard, Wolf, yesterday in our bilateral discussions with Russia...

BLITZER: In an interview...


RICE: ... an understanding that -- that we may need to act in that fashion.

BLITZER: In an interview with "The Washington Post," he makes an officer to the United States, Ahmadinejad. You probably read it today. He says this.

"We hope that Mr. Obama is seeking real change. We are willing to help bring about those changes. In the meeting in Geneva, we are ready to discuss some issues, including our willingness to purchase enriched uranium from the United States, to the grade of 20 percent of our domestic needs. Iran, in return, will offer solutions to the changes that are required."

Will the U.S. sell enriched uranium, supposedly for medical purposes, to Iran?

RICE: Wolf, we're going to see what the Iranians come to the table with. I'm not going to speculate on the basis of press accounts.

There's a very near-term opportunity for Iran to indicate...

BLITZER: But this is an interview that he gave "The Washington Post."

RICE: I'm -- I'm -- I'm well aware of that. But we haven't seen what their proposal is. We haven't seen what exactly, if anything, they will bring to the table.

So, we can have this conversation next week. In the meantime, Iran faces a very clear choice. Let's hope that it comes to the table with some very concrete and serious steps that will demonstrate its determination to prove that it is not and will not pursue a nuclear weapons program.

BLITZER: I know you go to the Situation Room over at the West Wing at the White House often. I hope you come back to our SITUATION ROOM from time to time as well, Ambassador. Thanks very much.

RICE: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: And good luck.

RICE: Thank you.

BLITZER: More fireworks over at the United Nations -- the Israeli prime minister unloads on the Iranian president, saying he has no decency.

And, later, researchers are excited about new tests on the new HIV vaccine. We will take a hard look at the science and whether there's really some new hope.


BLITZER: Let's get to some politics here at home right now.

We're hearing from the newly named replacement for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Former Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk officially was tapped to fill Kennedy's seat until a special election in Massachusetts can take place in January.

Kirk praised state officials for passing legislation to make his old friend's dying wish come true.


PAUL KIRK (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR-DESIGNATE: This appointment is a profound honor. And I accept it with sincere humility.

I want to express my thanks as well to the leadership and members of the Great and General Court who enabled Senator Kennedy's last public wish to become a reality.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Let's talk a little bit about Paul Kirk's connection, first of all, to Kennedy.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's about as close as you can get to this family without actually being a member of the family.

He worked for Ted Kennedy a long time ago and is now so close to this family that he's actually the executor of Ted Kennedy's estate. He's a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He's the chairman of the Kennedy Library Foundation. He was, as we all saw, kind of the master of ceremonies at Kennedy's memorial service.

BLITZER: And he has no long-term political ambitions?

BORGER: Absolutely...

BLITZER: So, he's not going to run in the special election in January? BORGER: Absolutely not a threat to anyone. And, certainly, because he's so close to the Kennedys, when the governor is thinking about, gee, who should I appoint, it doesn't hurt that the Kennedys really wanted him.

BLITZER: It is -- it is significant that there is a senator, now a junior senator, from Massachusetts between now and January, so that that 60 votes could potentially be achieved if they have to break a Republican filibuster on health care reform.

BORGER: Oh, absolutely, very important.

You know, there are some folks who raised the point that he was registered as a lobbyist for the pharmaceuticals some years back. But I think you can -- if anything is clear in politics, is that Paul Kirk is going to be a vote for health care reform in the United States Senate.

BLITZER: There is no doubt about that.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, thanks very much.

The filmmaker Michael Moore's latest beef is with American capitalism. He's -- his concerns, that's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And, later, by the way, in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we will talk to Michael Moore about his latest big screen expose and more.

And, speaking of beef, Michelle Obama is immortalized as a burger. What's in a chef's creation called the Michelle Melt?


BLITZER: Let's bring in our CNN contributor Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist John Feehery.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

I had a long and -- and detailed interview with the filmmaker Michael Moore that we're going to air in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. He doesn't shy away from tough stuff. He's a great admirer of President Obama.

But he has this to say about Obama and health care. Listen.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Any time you don't fight for the thing you want, any time that you start off compromising, you're never going to get what you want. He started off with a compromised position. Let the private insurance companies still sit at the table. Have a public option.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: He wants a single-payer option. He says it's good enough for Canada, for England, France, other Western industrialized democracies; why can't it happen here? He hates the fact that the president is compromising and giving up what he himself, the president, said he would like to do back in 2003.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There are a lot of things that we all would like to do, Wolf, but getting it through the legislative process is not as easy as -- as we would like to have it.

I think the president...

BLITZER: He says the president's not showing enough leadership, if you will. If he were -- he's got a big majority in the House, a big majority in the Senate. If he had come out of the box and really fought for what he wanted, a single-payer system, things might have been different.

BRAZILE: If -- if Mr. Moore can rally the seven distinct caucuses within the House of -- House of Representatives, be my guest. I'm sure the president would love to, you know, have a cocktail with him.

The truth is, is that the president's going to get a strong bill. The Democrats understand that the president wants something at lower cost and provide affordability to the American people. I hope they can make some -- some progress on the public option. But we're working toward having a strong bill in the Congress.

BLITZER: Basically, he suggests the president made a mistake at the beginning by letting Congress come up with some -- some legislation, as opposed to the president submitting the legislation.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he's right that the president made some mistakes. There's no doubt about that.

But I do think that, if the president's going to take advice from Michael Moore on legislative strategy, he's already in for some trouble. The fact of the matter is, Michael Moore doesn't really believe in capitalism. I'm not sure if he really believes in the democratic process.

The heart of the democratic process is compromise. And, for the president, his compromising is not with the Republicans, per se. As Donna says, it's with Democrats, who are not sure that the public option, let alone a single-payer plan, is the right way to go, because this -- so many -- what we have seen in polls, so many people are actually happy with their health care and are afraid that this plan will make their health care worse.

And that is why the Democrats having such a hard time getting their plan through.

BLITZER: Well, he obviously disagrees with you -- not a great surprise.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: He also would like the president to take bold leadership right now and simply get out of Afghanistan, and do it as quickly as possible. Listen to this.


MOORE: He's got to stop sending troops there, and he's got to bring the troops there home. Otherwise, we will stop thinking of this war as Bush's war, and it will become Obama's war. This is a losing proposition. He must know this. History has proven nobody can win there.


BLITZER: And, remember, this comes from Michael Moore, who greatly, greatly admires President Obama and just wants him to pull out of Afghanistan.

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, this is a very volatile situation. And I think the president has already made a commitment by sending troops early this year to finish the job there.

And -- and the troops have an important mission. And that is to destabilize and destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban. I think the time for us to pull out is clearly when we have made significant progress in stabilizing that government.

BLITZER: But you know he -- his views, Michael Moore's views, reflect a lot of Democrats on the left. They would like President Obama to pull out as quickly as possible as well.

BRAZILE: I -- I think the most important thing that the country can do right now is to finish the job and bring our troops home when we have been successful in making sure that the people who attacked us on September 11 will not rearm themselves and attack us again.

BLITZER: It's not...

BRAZILE: That's important.

BLITZER: It's not just people on the left. George Will, the conservative columnist, he recently wrote, you know what, time to get out of there as well.

FEEHERY: And a lot of libertarians feel the same way.

The fact of the matter is, the president campaigned that Afghanistan was the good war. It was the war we had to win. We had to shift our responsibilities from Iraq to Afghanistan.

If he now says, we need to pull out immediately, it puts a lie to everything he campaigned on. The fact of the matter is, Donna is absolutely right. We cannot leave without leaving in a way that can fix the problem, that takes out al Qaeda, and that makes us a more secure country.

I think, if we pull out too quickly, we're in big trouble.

BLITZER: We used to hear that argument about Vietnam all the time. And you know what? The U.S. pulled out, and now there's a -- full diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam.


FEEHERY: I don't -- I don't think that Afghanistan and Vietnam are the same thing. I think Afghanistan is really a small Islamic fascism that is so much different than the -- kind of the nationalized war that was being fought in Vietnam.

BLITZER: Michael Moore's point -- and you will see the full interview in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Donna -- Michael Moore's point is, you know what, any foreign occupying force that's gone into Afghanistan over the centuries, whether the British or the Soviets, they get -- they get kicked out eventually, and the U.S. should learn from that history.

BRAZILE: President Obama clearly knows the history. But so does General McChrystal, who said this is about the Afghan people. If we leave those people, the civilians there now, to the Taliban and the al Qaeda, then we would have left the situation worse off.

And to the Afghan women who proudly went to cast their ballots, we should not leave them alone as well.

BLITZER: All right, we will leave it on that note.

Guys, thanks very much, Donna and John.

A new honor for Michelle Obama, and it may take -- it may make her mouth water. We will tell you what's going on.

And we're also following those protests under way in Pittsburgh, after our own Brian Todd, who's covering the protests, was tear-gassed. President Obama now is in place for the summit of these economic powers.

And hope for -- or hype? We look beyond the fanfare over tests on a new HIV vaccine.


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Political Ticker."

Michelle Obama is America's first lady. And, pretty soon, she may also be crowned a burger queen. Washington, D.C.'s Good Stuff Eatery has created a turkey burger with her name on it. So, what's in the turkey burger? Free-range turkey, caramelized onion, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomatoes on a wheat bun, the finishing touch, mayo made with the same type of herbs Mrs. Obama planted in her White House garden.

It sounds delicious. New Yorkers want President Obama to get off their embattled governor's back. A new Marist College poll shows 62 percent of New York State voters say the president should not interfere in David Paterson's political plans.

The president reportedly has urged Paterson not to run to keep his job. The White House has refused to confirm or deny that. Even a majority of New York Democrats say the president should simply stay out of state politics.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out You can also read me now. I'm on Twitter. Go to -- WolfBlitzerCNN all one word.