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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; President Obama Demands Action From Iran

Aired October 1, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And our congratulations to Efren Penaflorida as well.

Anderson Cooper will be along later to reveal more CNN heroes who are changing our world.

Happening now: President Obama's policy of engagement with Iran may -- repeat -- may be paying off -- this hour, what the U.S. got out of historic nuclear talks in Geneva.

And I will press Arnold Schwarzenegger on some issues he would just as soon stay away from. The powerful governor speaks out about the Roman Polanski case, government-run health care, and much more.

And he offered no apologies here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Republicans wanting sick people to die quickly? What's going on?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The word breakthrough never crossed President Obama's lips, but he did sound encouraged today about those historic talks with Iran. Tehran's nuclear negotiators met with six world powers in Geneva, Switzerland, and agreed to follow-up talks. Senior U.S. officials also held some rare direct bilateral talks with Iranian delegates.

Iran pressed to let U.N. inspectors into those uranium enrichment plants it had recently been hiding. And this could potentially be significant. The Islamic regime agreed in principle that it would transport low-enriched uranium produced in Iran to other countries to turn it into nuclear fuel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I have said before, we support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power. Taking the step of transferring its low-enriched uranium to a third country would be a step towards building confidence that Iran's program is in fact peaceful.

Going forward, we expect to see swift action. We're committed to serious and meaningful engagement, but we're not interested in talking for the sake of talking. If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely, and we are prepared to move towards increased pressure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, we heard the president talk about swift action. Here's the question. How swift?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're not kidding. When the president talks about swift action, we're talking about within two weeks. This is what the president and the international community wants from Iran, to open up a uranium enrichment site that was once super-secret. It was recently discovered.

And we know that the director of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says that those inspectors are already making plans to travel to Iran to check out that site.

Wolf, this is very significant, because, essentially, if this happens in the next two weeks, it's going to lay the groundwork for additional talks and negotiations between these world bodies and Iran on October 18 in Vienna. That was a significant goal to try to get Iran to agree to negotiate once again in short order, a very short timetable to make sure that they're not stalling, but to make sure that they are making progress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, explain, Suzanne, this notion that these Iranians now are going to send some of their uranium to other countries to produce energy or whatever. Explain why this is potentially significant.

MALVEAUX: Well, this was all about making it more transparent and open, Iran's intentions. There is a lot of suspicion around Iran's intentions. There's a lot of secrecy over what do they want to do with their nuclear energy. Do they want to -- nuclear ambitions, make it for energy in their country or weapons?

This essentially allows the international community to take an open look to see what Iran is doing when it further enriches the uranium, how does it use it, for what purpose? At the same time, Wolf, it does allow Iran to save face here to prove that they have the right, as they have said before, to produce nuclear energy, like any other country in the world.

But they will have to do it at a third party, a different country, so the rest of the world can essentially see what they're up to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thank you.

Let's bring in our panel. Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger is here, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, our CNN contributor Roland Martin, our CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and CNN contributor former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett. He's a national radio talk show host as well.

What do you think, Bill, about these developments in Geneva, Switzerland?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think it was much. I know a lot's being made out of it. But what the Iranians got out of it of course is another two weeks without sanctions.

Joe Lieberman I think put his finger on it today very well, Wolf. He said they have lied and cheated for years and gotten away with it. Why shouldn't they again? Let me just make one other comment. This week, I have been following this very closely on the radio show. I have had a lot of Iran experts.

The regime is not cracking down on the demonstrators like they used to. They have really kind of run out of steam on this. This regime is ready to go. If we could just get behind the people of Iran, if we could just meddle a little bit for the cause of freedom, we might be able to push this thing over.

But nothing will come of this, because nothing ever does. It happened that way under Bush, happened that way under Clinton, happened that way under Reagan, happened they way under Carter. It's going to happen that way under Obama.

BLITZER: Well, we will see what happens.

But, Donna, what I hear Bill Bennett saying is a little regime change with U.S. assistance would be useful right now, given the opposition to Ahmadinejad.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the last thing we want to do is to unify the Iranian people behind their president at a time when it appears that there was some constructive conversation that occurred today.

Look, when you're able to have Russia and China and so many of our allies at the table demonstrating that our approach is the right approach, to get them to allow the IAEA to have unfettered access to those facilities, and to make them understand that we're serious about imposing crippling sanctions, I think this is the right approach, and we will see what happens. The president said he's not talking for the sake of talk. He's talking so that the Iranians understand that we're serious, and clearly there's a two-track method going on. The president understands that we have to bring the international community with us in order to have these sanctions imposed, if that's what we decide to do. And it would be the fourth round of sanctions.

But, on the other hand, I think the president is trying to make sure that can get the Iranians to open up these facilities.

BLITZER: All right. Candy, you had a chance to sit down with the former President Jimmy Carter. It was under his watch, back in 1979, that American diplomats were taken hostage for 444 days. He weighed in and offered this advice on what to do about Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the worst thing we can do is to continue to threaten Iran, because if Iran is on the borderline between going nuclear or not on a weapons system, the constant threats that we or the Israelis are going to attack Iran is the best thing to force them, let's defend ourselves.

So, I don't think that Iran has yet made up their mind about what to do. And I think the best way we can do is engage them and stop making these idle threats that force them to take the most militaristic action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some people will say, Jimmy Carter is on sort of thin ice in giving advice about Iran.

(LAUGHTER)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: About Iran, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I was looking for Bill to sort of levitate out of his seat here on that one, listening to the former president.

But there is -- listen, this is Obama world here. This is how he always said he was going to conduct foreign policy. I don't think we can make a judgment as to whether this is progress or not, for the very reasons that both Donna and Bill just talked about.

What -- whether it's a success, we will know in the next month or so. But I can -- call me Sally skeptic, and that's part of being a journalist, but I think we have played this before. This has gone on before in another country called Iraq.

What we do know is that people are able to hide things, or in Iraq's case not hide things and we don't know what is going on. So, it's pretty difficult to judge whether this is progress. BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, Roland, the Obama administration wants to use both the carrot and the stick.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, they can hide stuff. We have been down the road before. OK, then what?

What are you left with? You attack. Do we really want to go down that path? And so you have to go through these steps. It's a dance. It's a diplomatic dance all the time, and so therefore you make the effort, you build a case, and you also are helping the American people understand what is going on there as well, because the last thing you want to is ratchet it up.

And they're sitting there saying, wait a minute, we already don't like what is happening in Afghanistan. We don't like what is happening in Iraq. The last thing we want to hear is you trying to talk about let's attack Iran. You've got to build up public support.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm going to be Sally skeptic, along with Candy.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Count me as Sally, too.

With apologies to Ronald Reagan, don't trust and verify. But I also think the administration is clearly aware of this. They're being cautious. They need the proof. They need the access. And, also, you know, as folks have pointed out here, we have a government there we're dealing with that is very weak and on the brink.

And for the life of me at this point, I'm sort of surprised about this. I want to know, why are they doing this now? Because this certainly -- dealing with the United States and our allies doesn't get them any credibility back home, so I want to know exactly what's behind this.

BLITZER: Bill, go ahead.

BENNETT: Yes, they are on the brink. That is exactly right. And we can push them.

This stuff, excuse me, about, oh, Russia and China are on board and we will give them two weeks here or three weeks to find out, they have been lying about this for 35 years and getting away with it. Einstein says it's not a definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over again, but to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that is insanity.

But this is the amazing new fact. This government, this regime is on the brink. And let me just push a little bit from the left on the side of democracy, on the side of the people. Push a little bit. Support these people who are the demonstrators and who want to change the regime, and you might be surprised at the quick result you might get. They are not putting them in jail anymore. They're not killing them anymore. They are weak. We should not be supporting these guys.

BLITZER: All right. Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf -- I mean, Bill, I agree that we should help democracy flourish, but if we interfere in the internal politics right now, we will rally the Iranian people to the supreme leader and others.

BENNETT: No, we won't. They hate him. They hate him.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: I think it would be a huge mistake for the United States of America to interfere with their domestic policies. There are other ways we can support those who are pushing democracy, but this is not the way to go.

I think the Iranian people understand what's at stake. They understand that they have been isolated from the world. They understand exactly what they have to do. That's why they have taken to the streets. We don't have to organize them. They're ready to lead their own movement.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: They're pushing their own government to the brink. You let them keep doing what they have been doing. They have done a great job without us.

BENNETT: They could use some help. They could use some help.

MARTIN: What kind of help, Bill? What help?

BENNETT: Oh, all sorts of help, money, radios, all sorts of communications equipment, propaganda, most of all, the president of the United States standing up and being as tough on Iran as he is on Israel and saying, stop doing this to your people. You're an outlaw regime. You're repressive. You're a bunch of lunatics.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: Step aside.

MARTIN: And, Bill, you also like history. And the one thing we also know we did that before and look what happened. The Iranian people have not forgotten what we did to that country in the '50s. We did the exact same thing.

BENNETT: Yes, they have.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: But the people there are driving this regime crazy. Let them keep doing what they're doing. We don't have to intervene. Sometimes, when somebody is drowning, you don't throw them a life raft. The people should drive this, the people on the ground, not us.

BORGER: I think -- I get...

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: Yes. Well, I will tell you, we should be on the side of freedom and liberty is what we should be...

BRAZILE: We are.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Democracy is bottom up, not top down.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: All the time and everywhere.

BORGER: But my question to Bill is, how do you know we're not aiding those people covertly? If the American president comes out, he becomes the enemy, and the focus is off Ahmadinejad. So, how do you know we are not doing that in a covert way?

BENNETT: Well, I -- you know, I have talked to as many Iranian experts as I can. Nobody thinks we are doing this in any kind of serious way.

I don't know. Maybe somebody at the CIA is doing this in an unauthorized way. I kind of doubt it. But the presence of the president, the way he has been able to fancy that he can speak up and speak for the rest of the world, speak in the cause of liberty, here's the best opportunity in the world right now. The regime is teetering. Push it over. Always be to the cause for freedom. Always be the voice for freedom.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me just move on quickly.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold on, Donna. I want to move on quickly, get your thoughts. This hour, the president is taking off from Andrews Air Force Base heading over to Copenhagen to try seal the deal for Chicago, your town, Roland. What do you think?

MARTIN: Well, first and foremost, it is not a Chicago Olympics. It's a United States Olympic bid. So, it's being whittled down.

Look, you're going to have people who say he shouldn't go. If we lose the Games, they will say, if he would have gone, we would have won the Games. By him going, if we get the Games, hey, he put it over the top.

Critics will complain left and right. If we sit here and watch a president go throw a baseball out at a baseball game, what the heck. Go secure the Olympic Games. It's not going to hurt.

BLITZER: Anything wrong with that, Bill?

BENNETT: Well, I'm actually for Rio. Somebody made the argument this afternoon -- I guess it was Jack Cafferty -- who said -- and I don't always agree with Jack, you may know, but he said, Rio, it's beautiful women at the beach. In Chicago, it's fat people eating. So, which would you rather see on TV?

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Have you seen Rio's crime rate?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: But let me say, one good thing -- one good thing about Barack Obama going to Copenhagen and arguing for the United States and Chicago is, he is going to have to say some really very positive things about the United States while abroad, which is not something he has been doing.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, guys, on that note...

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: It will be a good thing. I would love to hear that.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Bill, that's the first time you didn't say buy American. I'm can't believe you're not supporting America.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let the record show there are many, many beautiful women in Chicago as well.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: And they're going to kick your butt when you cross the Windy City, too.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Guys, we have got to leave it there. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty is joining us right now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Wolf.

This is just wrong. The White House says it's going to take President Obama several weeks to decide on a future course of action in Afghanistan. But U.S. troops on the ground need help there now. Consider this -- 43 troops have died in Afghanistan in the month since General Stanley McChrystal asked for more troops, saying that without them the operation there will fail.

In fact, September was the deadliest month for American troops since the war began eight years ago. That's eight years ago, in case you have lost track. And compared to two years ago, the number of U.S. troops killed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan is up 400 percent.

President Obama's decision is being complicated by the fact that his own people can't agree on what to do next. Top military commanders back the call for more troops. McChrystal is believed to want to add up to 40,000 additional troops to the current U.S. force of 68,000.

But other key officials, like the national security adviser and the vice president, appear to be less supportive. Of course, they're not fighting the war. The generals are. There's an old expression about either doing something or getting off the pot that applies here.

Either get our troops the reinforcements the commanders say they need to win this thing or get them the hell out of there. Maybe President Obama should have stayed home, focused on the war in Afghanistan, instead of trekking off to Europe on a taxpayer-funded mini-holiday to lobby for Chicago to get the Olympic Games. Just a thought.

Here's the question. Is it fair to the troops on the ground in Afghanistan for President Obama to delay his decision for weeks? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and shoot your stick.

BLITZER: And people will, Jack. Get ready for a lot of reaction.

In the Roman Polanski controversy, some movie stars feel one way, prominent officials another. But what does the movie star turned governor think? Arnold Schwarzenegger, he tells me what he thinks in an exclusive interview on the Polanski case and a lot more and even if he would consider pardoning Polanski if -- if the director needed one.

And Governor Schwarzenegger explains why he joined the front lines against global warming with some environmental warriors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I am part of this whole movement, if it is Al Gore, if it is Clinton, or anyone else that is out there fighting this war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The governor of California is a Republican who widely supports some positions embraced by Democrats, at least when it comes to global warming. So, that puts him in a bit of on odd position, aligning ideas with some on the left while taking heat from some of his own party. He spoke with me in an exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's over at the Port of Long Beach on an important day.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Absolutely. It's my pleasure.

BLITZER: You're doing everything you can to deal with climate change, although Meg Whitman, who wants your job she's a Republican, running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. She says this about your plan. She says, quote, "As governor, I will work hard to protect our environment, but we cannot afford to hastily implement job-killing policies when 2.2 million Californians can't find work."

You want to react to her?

SCHWARZENEGGER: There was an assumption when I came into office that you can only protect the environment or the economy. You have to choose between one and the other.

I think that we have proven very well within in the last five and a half years that you can do both. And we have been very aggressive with that, creating jobs and protecting the environment.

BLITZER: I will take that as a you believe Meg Whitman is wrong in her criticism of your policies, but let's move on.

Are you satisfied or frustrated with what's been going on in Washington since President Obama took office as far as global warming and climate change are concerned?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I'm very encouraged about what's going on.

I'm very encouraged about his executive order of trying to clean up the environment and reducing greenhouse gases by telling industries to reduce the output of CO2 and to go and really start regulating those industries.

And I'm very happy that we are also making the same kind of changes in transportation, because transportation, basically transporting people or goods, is 30 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions. And then the rest of it, what he's talking about, reducing greenhouse gases with industries, that's 70 percent of the greenhouse gases that have been put out.

So, I think this is a really courageous thing. BLITZER: All right. I hear that what -- you're saying, Governor. It sounds to me like you're really in with Al Gore. You believe in what he's doing. You associate yourself with his policies on the environment.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I'm not associating myself with anything other than with anyone in the world that is talking about, you know, reducing greenhouse gases and doing everything we can in order to fight global warming.

I mean, so, I am part of this whole movement, if it is Al Gore, if it is Clinton, or anyone else that is out there that is fighting this war.

BLITZER: Is it true, Governor, that you are regulating the amount of time your kids can be in the shower to help save water?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, to be honest with you, I think that if you don't start with the children, with our next generation, you don't have much. And I think that the kids should see that we are putting solar panels up in our hill in order to, you know, create through the heating of the pool and the Jacuzzi, that we shouldn't go and take that from the grid.

They should see that we are going to cut down on the amount of showers they take, because 20 percent of the energy's being used delivering water. So, if you cut down our water usage by 20 percent, which is the goal that we are setting in California, reduction of 20 percent usage of water, I think that all of this helps in order to cut down on the emission on CO2.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Roman Polanski child sex scandal, what does the former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger think about Hollywood's reaction to it? Much more of my exclusive interview with the California governor, that is coming up.

Plus, he's called them knuckle-dragging Neanderthals and said they want the sick to die quickly. So, why aren't Republicans offering a resolution condemning Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson?

And a quake kills more than 1,100 people in Indonesia, while a killer wave leaves death and destruction behind in American Samoa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In the Roman Polanski, some liberal movie stars feel one way, prominent officials another. But what does a movie star who became a governor think?

In part two of my exclusive interview with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he weighs in even, even answering a provocative hypothetical.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: I've got a series of some quick questions, hopefully some quick answers on various aspects of news of the day, Governor.

SCHWARZENEGGER: That's impossible.

BLITZER: Let's go through them.

SCHWARZENEGGER: You know I can never give you quick answers.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You can do this. I know you can.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Where do you stand on the Roman Polanski uproar?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I think that it doesn't matter if it's Roman Polanski or anyone else. I think that those things should be treated like everyone else. It doesn't matter if you are a big-time movie actor and -- or a big-time movie director or producer.

I think that he is a very respected person, and I am a big admirer of his work. But, nevertheless, I think he should be treated like everyone else. And one should look into all of the allegations, not only his allegations, but allegations about his case.

Was there something done wrong? You know, was an injustice done in the case and all this? I want you to look into all this, and I think that it should be treated like everyone else's case.

BLITZER: Is Hollywood out of touch with mainstream America when it comes to a case like Roman Polanski's?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't think it's as much out of touch. I think Hollywood has always been very liberal.

I think that, you know, 40 years ago, when I came to this country, they were very liberal. And they're still very liberal now. And, you know, you may call it out of touch, but, you know, that's just the way they think. They just think differently about all of this.

BLITZER: If he comes back to California and goes through the legal process, would a pardon by the governor of California -- you, for example -- is that something you might consider?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, again, there is -- I get all the time requests for pardons. So, for, you know, all of this, I will not treat his situation any differently than anyone's else's.

I think that we're looking at everything, at every request and in an independent way, but it shouldn't be treated differently.

BLITZER: On health care reform, you tried unsuccessfully to get universal health in California care back in 2007. Is President Obama going to fail or succeed in his effort?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, first of all, let me just say, it's always a matter of opinion of what is success and what is not.

I think we were not successful in getting it passed through the senate. We got it through the assembly. But we were successful in driving the agenda forward, that other states that are talking more about health care reform. I think the federal government started talking more about it.

And I think, you know, this is an issue that has been talked about for a hundred years. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt has talked about, you know, universal health care in 1912.

I think that, eventually, we're going to get it done. And it's not one of those things that you just come in, and, because you're a new president, that you just can get it done from one month to the next.

I think this is still a big climb uphill, and I think a lot of work still needs to be done. But I think that one ought to give the administration credit for trying very hard and moving forward with the whole thing. And it could easily be that they fail.

I hope that they're going to win and that we have a good health care reform package there, because it's going to benefit the states. It's going to benefit the children. It's going to benefit those that are, you know, uninsured right now. It's going to benefit those that are having a difficult time getting health care because of some previous illnesses or a medical history or because of age and all of those things.

BLITZER: All right...

SCHWARZENEGGER: So I think there's a lot of things that we can do to -- to really create the reforms.

BLITZER: And do you support the public option -- a government- run health insurance company to compete with the private insurance companies?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I would stay away from that as far as I can, because government cannot run anything. And we have seen it here in California, that government is running the health insurance and the health care of our prisoners. And a federal judge had to step in and take over the health care of our prisons in California because it was disastrous.

So if they cannot even run 170,000 inmates that are locked up and can't go nowhere else, if they can't even run that, how can they ever going to run a health care or an insurance program of any sort for millions and millions of people in the United States?

I would just stay as far away as I can from that. Government is not successful in anything that they do. So therefore, don't do it.

BLITZER: You did support the president's economic stimulus package, about $800 billion.

Has it succeeded in creating jobs in California so far?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I know there's always been criticism about this economic stimulus package, which I understand, because everyone is concerned about spending and all those things. But the fact of the matter is, in California, it has had a great impact. We have gotten billions of dollars for education. We've gotten billions of dollars for infrastructure. And we're building our roads and bridges and everything. And we are on the verge of getting billions of dollars for our high-speed rail. And there's all kinds of money there and high technology for battery development and all those things.

So, I mean, I would say that it has been a huge success for California and, it, in fact, has created jobs.

Has it created as many jobs as they have dissipated already?

You know -- you know, numbers are always being made up about this. But I can tell you, it was very helpful. And remember, every single job that you create is one less person that is out of work and that is going home and saying, look, I cannot provide for the family, I don't have money and feel unproductive.

So, I mean, I think this has really been a -- a terrific success. And I hope they're going to continue this. And I want to thank the Obama administration for this great effort.

BLITZER: Is it time, Governor, to legalize marijuana?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't know. I -- I tell you, that I don't know as much about it as, you know, maybe I should. But, you know, my idea was that we should have an open discussion about it to have a debate about, you know, the pros and cons and let's hear it all. I've heard both sides already. But, you know, this -- one has to look into it and just see were there any states or any countries anywhere in the world that have done that and that have been successful. And if, yes, let's analyze that and let's study that. That's the bottom line.

And so I hope that we will have those discussions in the near future so we can really resolve that one way or the other. In the meantime, we have medical marijuana that is -- is legal here in California and I think that's all going well.

BLITZER: Now, you have a little bit more than a year to go as governor of California. You can't seek another term because of term limits. If, after you leave the governor's mansion, the president of the United States -- a man you once described as having skinny legs and scrawny arms. If he were to call you and say, Governor, I need you, I want you to help me on a specific project or a new job, would you be open to joining his administration?

SCHWARZENEGGER: First of all, let me just say that I made it very clear that anything that the administration needs from me, I always will be happy to help. And I don't need a position, I don't need a title, I don't need anything. You know, I have made plenty of money in my life. I have plenty of money. I have satisfied my egos many times over with titles and with awards and medals and trophies and all of those kinds of things. You know, I've been very successful in a bodybuilding career, very successful in business, very successful in the movie business itself and now in politics.

So, I don't need titles. But I'm more than happy to help if it is environmental issues or in trade or in any other kind of -- or immigration issues, whatever it may be, I'm happy to help the administration, because if this administration is successful, then we -- Americans are all going to be successful and the world is going to be successful.

BLITZER: Good point, Governor.

Appreciate your time.

Thanks very much and good luck to you and everyone in California out there.

SCHWARZENEGGER: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: we're watching that story very closely.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you very much and thank you for the interview.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is standing by. He's going to be joining us live very soon to reveal another of CNN's heroes honorees. Stand by for that.

Also, he accused Republicans of wanting sick people to die quickly, now Congressman Alan Grayson still is sticking to his guns.

What are fellow Democrats saying after he offered no apologies, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM?

And an openly gay member of the Obama administration is now under fire from the right.

Could he be the latest official forced out by controversy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I suppose you could call it the "die quickly" controversy, it's still alive and well on Capitol Hill right now. You may have seen Congressman Alan Grayson here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday. If not, listen to the bombshell remark that brought him here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Die quickly. That's right, the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

She's joining us now.

Any change in the Congressman's tone, shall we say, today -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, he's unapologetic, of course, Wolf. He followed that up initial remark with an unapologetic floor speech. And then there was that unapologetic appearance yesterday in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRAYSON: These are -- are foot dragging, knuckle dragging Neanderthals who think they can dictate policy to America by being stubborn.

KEILAR: (voice-over): Despite Alan Grayson's defiance, Republicans dropped plans to condemn his remarks with a resolution like the ones Democrats used to chastise Republican Congressman Joe Wilson for yelling at the president.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!

KEILAR: Republicans think if Democrats are given the chance to swiftly vote down the resolution, the controversy goes away, a Republican leadership aid tells CNN. Instead, they want to draw it out, shifting criticism to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- hoping it will sour more Americans on the Democrats' plan to overhaul health care.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think it's time for the Democrat leaders and the speaker of the House herself to rein in some of the rhetoric that she decried just several weeks ago.

KEILAR: But Speaker Pelosi says there's no reason for Grayson to apologize, saying his rhetoric is no different from Republican attacks on Democrats. And she backed up Grayson's charge that Republicans have no health care proposal of their own.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If anybody's going to apologize, everybody should apologize. But, you know -- but let's just, you know -- the point has been made, it's time for us to talk about health care. Typically, the Republicans would like to use this as a distraction from the fact that they have no plan.

KEILAR: Not true, say Republicans like Tom Price, who points out Republicans have proposed 37 pieces of legislation related to health care, including a bill he sponsored.

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: It's a bill that solves the challenges that we face, keeps what's good in our current system, fixes what's wrong, recognizes that the status quo is unacceptable, but doesn't have the government taking over health care for all Americans.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: The vast majority of those Republican plans are not comprehensive. One, for instance, deals only with how home oxygen suppliers are paid. But there are two comprehensive plans that also tackle the issue of how to pay for overhauling health care.

But that said, Wolf, Democrats are sticking by their line that Republicans don't have a plan because Republican leaders have not gotten behind one plan and said it's their alternative.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill.

Thank you.

Another little known member of the Obama administration is now under fire from conservatives. And like others before him, his job, potentially, could be in jeopardy.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is following the story for us -- Jessica, explain what's going on.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, a few of the Obama administration's critics have gotten some scouts already. The next person in their sights -- Kevin Jennings. He's an expert on anti-bullying policy and his critics are making hay over counseling advice that he gave a gay student more than two decades ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Some Obama administration critics say this man, Kevin Jennings, is a danger -- ironic given his career. He works to end bullying and keep classrooms safe for kids.

KEVIN JENNINGS: Nowhere in America is bullying and harassment something we're going to accept in our schools anymore.

YELLIN: Jennings is gay. For years, he headed a group that helped gay kids facing discrimination and violence. Now, he runs the president's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the Department of Education and he's under attack.

Fox News reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO, COURTESY FOX NEWS/YOUTUBE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A former schoolteacher who has promoted homosexuality in schools. Also, he has -- he details a report on how he did not report an incident with an underage student who had sex with an older man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the story as he's recaptured the story, saying, "You know, I hope you knew to use a condom."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: I want him fired. I think he's inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now the Family Research Council is calling on Jennings to resign. This controversy isn't new. Jennings wrote about the incident in a book published years ago. And he declined CNN's request for an interview, but in a statement released by the Department of Education, he explained: "In 1988, when a gay student told him he had had sex with an older man, he didn't report it because 'teachers back then had little training and guidance about this kind of thing.'" He says, "Twenty-one years later, I can see how I should have handled the situation differently."

In truth, Jennings has been in critics' crosshairs from the day he got his job. Back in June, the Family Research Council launched this Stop Jennings campaign, accusing him of promoting homosexuality in schools.

But Jennings has fierce supporters, too. He was appointed to an earlier position by a Republican, Massachusetts governor, William Weld. He's been widely honored by a variety of education organizations, among them, Gerald Tirozzi's group.

GERALD TIROZZI, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPALS: This is not about sexual orientation. I want to make that clear. He -- he's really in the business of looking at hatred and bullying for all kids. And I think he's a powerful voice to continue to help us not to back away from doing the right things for kids in our schools.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is standing behind Jennings. And based on my own reporting, there is no sign the White House would be backing down from supporting him, either.

Also, it's worth noting that critics have alleged the student Jennings counseled was the victim of child molestation or statutory rape. Well, in fact, a letter from his organization's lawyer and several accounts from Jennings' own book suggest the student was 16 years old when this incident occurred. If true, that student would have been of legal age in Massachusetts and not the victim of a crime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

And we should also point out, the Family Research Council is a conservative group out there, as well.

YELLIN: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Good -- good reporting from Jessica.

Thank you.

The death toll soars in the wake of a massive earthquake -- new developments in the disaster zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.

Well thousands are believed to be trapped under fallen buildings after an earthquake struck Indonesia's Sumatra Island. The U.N. says at least 1,100 people are dead after yesterday's quake. More than 500 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Another quake caused even more damage to the region today.

In Samoa, the number of dead from Tuesday's earthquake and tsunami has now reached 150. Waves up to 20 feet high wiped out entire villages and tourist resorts. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii says it did issue an alert, but the waves came so quickly, people had only 10 minutes to respond.

And President Barack Obama is sending his attorney general and Education secretary to Chicago to look into the beating death of a high school honor student. The White House says Eric Holder and Arne Duncan will meet next week with local officials and with students. The safety of the city is an issue as the president lobbies for Chicago to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a sad story over there with that killing of that honor student.

WHITFIELD: It is.

BLITZER: All right, Fred, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Tonight, Team Obama working hard to help Chicago win the Olympic Games.

And is it good for Chicago?

Can Chicago afford it?

Is it worth the political risk for the president and are his priorities in order? Also tonight, Congress once again defying reason, approving big, new spending increases for itself as Americans suffer from the recession.

Prosecuting Polanski -- fewer voices making excuses for the director's rape now of a 13-year-old girl 30 years ago. New details about the case continue to emerge and to shock.

We'll have all of that, all the day's news and much more.

Also, we'll be joined by Harry Carson, Hall of Fame linebacker, to talk about the impact of concussions on young football players all across the nation. Don't miss it.

We'll be right back at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

We'll see you then.

Our question to you this hour -- is it fair to the troops on the ground in Afghanistan for President Obama to delay his decision for weeks?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, is it fair to the troops on the ground in Afghanistan for President Obama to delay a decision on sending additional troops for weeks?

G. writes: "When will the politicians ever learn? When a commander-in-chief comments American troops to armed conflict, he has an absolute obligation to support those troops with everything necessary to win the conflict as quickly as possible and with a minimum loss of life. Dawdling for weeks discussing a new strategy while American troops are dying is obscene."

Jules in New York says: "We rushed into Vietnam and Iraq based on the advice of generals. President Obama needs to take as much time as he needs before deciding to risk more lives and tax dollars. Bush responded quickly, but not thoughtfully, and look at the results in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Alex, who's a major in the U.S. Army, writes this: "The record casualties are due to us taking the fight to the Taliban before winter. So fairness is really not the issue. We can reduce the tempo of our operations until additional troops arrive and they won't arrive tomorrow, even with an instant decision. I prefer a president who deliberates over a decision instead of going with his gut. Ultimately, I hope he listens to the generals and the additional troops are there by spring to take the fight to the enemy, since it will be months before they actually arrive." Sandra, who's the mother of a Marine who will deploy to Afghanistan next year, writes: "Jack, it's not only unfair, it's wrong."

Hal says: "Jack, you ought to know that Obama is delaying this decision because he doesn't want it to blow up the health care reform debate on Capitol Hill. The GOP can't wait to change the message from health care, since they have nothing to offer other than more of the same."

Babs in Pennsylvania: "Our president has a history of voting present in situations where he didn't want to take a stand. As commander-in-chief, present is no longer an option period. Core principles and a steady moral compass are needed to be a leader. Soaring rhetoric and governing by polls are just not cutting it."

And Scott in Maryland writes: "Delay, yes, but maybe not for weeks. The troops are the ones getting killed. It's time to do your homework and make up your mind."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, check the blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

See you back here tomorrow.

Keeping the kids off streets with music -- Anderson Cooper is standing by live to introduce us to the next of CNN's top heroes -- top 10 heroes of 2009.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All day today here on CNN, we're revealing our top 10 CNN Heroes of 2009. Since January 1, we've received more than 9,000 nominations from 100 countries. All of the nominees are everyday people who are changing the world.

Anderson Cooper is joining us right now with more -- Anderson, this is a very exciting project we have.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is. It's a great project, Wolf.

And this hour, we want to announce another hero. His name is Derrick Tabb. He's from New Orleans. He's a professional drummer who credits his high school band teacher with putting him on the right track years ago. And today, he's paying it forward. His after school program, The Roots of Music, keeps kids off New Orleans' streets, providing them with free tutoring, instruments and music education.

BLITZER: Anderson, what happens to our CNN Heroes -- it's some pretty interesting stuff.

COOPER: Yes, I mean it's really life-changing, not only for them, but also for the people that they're helping. All our heroes basically saw a need -- they saw a problem in their own community and rather than waiting for someone else to try to step in and solve it, they actually took charge. Every one of our top 10 heroes gets $25,000. And they get a chance to be the CNN Hero of the Year and get an additional $100,000 in recognition of their work.

And to pick the hero of the year, we need viewers' help. And that's what we're asking for right now, because now it's all up to our viewers.

BLITZER: Well, how do the viewers get involved?

How do they help us select out of these 10 heroes the hero of the year?

COOPER: Yes, voting to -- for the hero of the year, it begins tonight at 11:00 Eastern time. Now, we're running a "360" special to introduce you to all 10 heroes and to our blue ribbon judges and to show you how winning this basically changes lives. Also at 11:00, go to CNN.com/heroes and vote for your favorite. That's when the voting begins at 11:00 tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper.

Thanks very much.

The Hero of the Year will be announced Thanksgiving night.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.

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