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Deadliest Month For U.S. Troops in Afghanistan; Americans Scared of Swine Flu Vaccine?

Aired October 27, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: more American blood spilled in Afghanistan. It's the deadliest month in -- deadliest month in eight years of fighting. This hour, we will hear from a former Marine who is quitting his State Department job in protest of the war.

Are you being scared away from the swine flu vaccine? Stand by for a reality check on some dire warnings coming in from the right -- what you need to know to protect yourself and your family.

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.

Fifty-eight Americans with hopes and dreams and families were killed in Afghanistan this month. October isn't even over yet, but it's already the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the war began in Afghanistan almost exactly eight years ago. Today alone, eight soldiers were killed in two roadside bomb attacks.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is in Kabul, the Afghan capital, with more -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, defense officials are telling us that these were two coordinated complex attacks. That means the insurgents set one or more roadside bombs and also attacked with small-arms fire, which suggests a possible ambush. Seven American soldiers were killed in one attack, one in the other.

But this threat has been rising for some time now. Just last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates authorized up to 3,000 more troops to come here to Afghanistan because he felt there were not enough here to protect troops from these IED attacks. Also last month, troops down in Kandahar discovered five tons of ammonium nitrate.

That is twice the amount that was used in the Oklahoma City bombing. It shows what defense officials have been telling us, is that insurgents and the Taliban have been improving their capability of making bombs, training attackers, and targeting American troops -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, you're speaking to Afghans there in the capital of Kabul. What are they saying about this imminent decision we're awaiting from the president on whether to dispatch thousands of additional U.S. troops? LAWRENCE: It depends who you talk to, Wolf.

You know, we -- we -- we have talked to people who barely even have an idea that this decision is out there, others who are -- who are watching every day, waiting to see what the president does. A lot of political leaders that we have spoken to here in Kabul say they think that the extra troops can make a big difference, can help establish security here.

And, then, there are others who say they want to see a lighter hand by the United States and its allies, that they feel the United States has put too much pressure on the political process here, and it needs to be opened up more for the Afghans to make their own mistakes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence on the scene for us.

Coming up, we're going to be speaking with a U.S. diplomat who has just quit, who is just resigning in protest of what's going on in Afghanistan, the war right now. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, deadly attacks also on the rise in Iraq. This just- released security camera video captures one of two weekend bombings in Baghdad. You will see the explosion at a traffic circle and the charred aftermath. At least 155 people were killed in the two weekend attacks. More than 500 people were wounded.

We will have a full report coming in from Baghdad in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM. We will go there live.

In this country right now, President Obama is leading a new political push for cleaner energy and a cleaner environment. In Florida today, he announced $3.4 billion in government support for modernizing the nation's power grid. The vice president, Joe Biden, is applauding a new plan to produce plug-in hybrid electric cars in his home state of Delaware.

And a key Senate committee began hearings today on a bill aimed at easing global warming, its goal, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over the next four decades.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is traveling with the president down in Florida. He's joining us now with more.

Dan, tell us what's going on.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Wolf, this administration is dealing with a lot of major issues, including what to do in Afghanistan.

But they also believe that clean energy is a major important issue. And, so, that's why you saw the president here today, and the White House making three points, first of all, energy conservation. They believe that, if the U.S. can find more efficient ways to produce energy, then consumers will benefit; they will see their overall energy bills drop. But, ultimately, Wolf, this is about job creation, the White House believing that jobs will be created when people are making these panels, these solar panels, when they are making these energy- efficient cars. And they pointed to today here at this event, where these solar panels were put in place, more than 90,000 solar panels expected to provide electricity to this town, some 3,000 people.

And they said about 400 people were put to work because of those solar panels. So, they say this is a key component of helping to turn the economy around.

Even as they are saying that, though, Mr. Obama admitted today that some hurdles remain.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The closer we get to this new energy future, the harder the opposition is going to fight, the more we're going to hear from special interests and lobbyists in Washington, whose interests are contrary to the interests of the American people.

We know that we have always been a people who were unafraid to reach for that more promising future.


LOTHIAN: Now, in this move to clean energy, President Obama urging Congress to move quickly, but also carefully, in order to not delay economic growth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president and his aides keep saying that this new green policy will create tens of thousands of new jobs. Do they have any hard evidence backing that up?

LOTHIAN: Well, that's a very good question.

In fact, that's what they said here today, based on this investment, these grants, $3.4 billion, that it will create, over the long term, tens of thousands of jobs. And I talked to an administration official about that today, and -- and, basically, how they are backing that up is, they say the people who are getting that grant money, they are the ones who will be putting people to work. They are the ones who are saying that these tens of thousands of jobs will be created, and they are pretty comfortable with those numbers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, thanks very much. Dan Lothian is with the president in Florida.

Just ahead, I will speak with the energy secretary, Steven Chu, and ask him whether the U.S. can afford an expensive move right now to fight global warming during these rough economic times. Also, I will ask him about these suggestions out in California -- that's his home state -- that the government should start regulating the sale of these big-screen high-definition plasma TVs, because they use a lot of energy. You might be surprised by his answer. That's coming up.

Jack Cafferty is coming up right now with "The Cafferty File."

Jack, we missed you. Good to have you back.


Would it be good or bad for us if they regulated the sale of those big high-definition TVs?


CAFFERTY: It might be good for me, because it...

BLITZER: Do you have one of those big 50-inch screens?

CAFFERTY: Oh, no, no, no, not at my house. But I'm just thinking, they don't show off the flaws as well, the old standard types, right?



CAFFERTY: So, that would look in my favor.


BLITZER: You look very handsome today, Jack.


CAFFERTY: Well, and you're an attractive man yourself, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be blowing up in President Obama's face at precisely the same time. This month has become the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001, the invasion.

Two insurgent attacks have killed eight more U.S. troops there. The October death toll now stands at 58. This follows two helicopter crashes yesterday that killed 14 Americans. President Obama trying to decide now whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan -- he's going to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday.

Here's something else for the president to consider. A Foreign Service officer and former Marine Corps captain who fought in Iraq is now the first U.S. official to resign in protest over the war in Afghanistan. Matthew Hoh says he no longer knows why we're fighting there, and he thinks the U.S. is asking its troops to die for what is a far-off civil war.

As for Iraq, those two weekend bombings in Baghdad killed 155 people, 20 kids, wounded more than 500 others -- al Qaeda in Iraq claiming responsibility for those attacks, the deadliest in Iraq in more than two years.

The bombing of government buildings in Iraq raises serious questions about Iraq's security and the national elections in that country planned for January. Earlier this week, President Obama repeated America's commitment to withdraw our troops from Iraq.

So, here's the question. And it's something nice and easy to start off the day. When it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, what's the right strategy?

Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Eight years, this war in Afghanistan has been going on. Hard to believe, Jack.

CAFFERTY: It is hard to believe, and -- and we are -- bogged down is probably not too strong a -- a phrase to use for -- for what's going on over there now.

I mean, I was reading a couple of things this morning. Some of the morale among the Marines at some of these outposts is being tested because the locals are beginning to resent our presence there. Other combat troops want reinforcements. They are getting picked off right and left. And the -- and the -- the meetings go on in Washington, D.C., without decisions being made.

Tough stuff. We have got to -- we have got to do something soon or get off the proverbial pot, I think.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a tough, tough decision for the commander in chief, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

And, as Jack just noted, a former Marine who served with the State Department in Afghanistan is now quitting his job in protest of the war. Just ahead, he explains to our Brian Todd what brought him to this point. This is a SITUATION ROOM interview you are going to want to see.

And we find out whether the Obamas are ignoring the controversy in getting their swine flu shots. Stand by for that.

The president in Virginia, by the way, this hour -- he's campaigning for a Democrat who was publicly slammed by some sources in the White House. Can he turn things around for the Democratic candidate, or has the damage been done?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... shaped a better kind of politics right here in Virginia. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One man with influence is raising his voice and quitting his job in protest of the war in Afghanistan. His name is Matthew Hoh. He's a former Marine who has been working for the State Department as a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan. He's going public now with his resignation and his deep concerns about the war.

Let's bring in Brian Todd. He had a chance to speak with Mr. Hoh earlier today.

It's causing quite some consternation out there, what Mr. Hoh is suggesting.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it is, Wolf. Now, if Matthew Hoh were some kind of malcontent or incompetent, this would not be the news story that it is. But Hoh is a decorated Marine veteran. He fought in Iraq and was a widely respected civilian political officer for the State Department in Afghanistan.

His resignation, after about five months of service there, has surprised and dismayed many in the Obama administration at top levels. He's believed to be the first U.S. official to resign in protest over the Afghan war. We spent a good part of the day trying to track down Matthew Hoh.

A short time ago, I and another reporter got a chance to speak to him.


TODD: The fundamental reason for your resignation, you seem to have just kind of grown disenchanted -- disenchanted with the mission?

MATTHEW HOH, QUIT DIPLOMATIC JOB IN AFGHANISTAN: The fundamental reason is that, basically, I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursuing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we're doing there.

TODD: But what's the fundamental reason why you feel that way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the camera, please.

HOH: Oh, sure.

Basically -- basically, it's -- it's just because I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we're occupying them, not for any ideological reasons, and not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any type of fundamental hatred towards the West. The only reason they are fighting us is because we're occupying them.

TODD: Was there any particular incident or episode that led you to believe this, or was this just kind of a gradual thing?

HOH: It was a gradual thing, a culmination of my time in the east and also down south, as well as just history I have read and just listening to as many people as possible, particularly on the Afghan side.

QUESTION: This has become very public what. What are you hoping to accomplish by -- by being so public about this resignation?

HOH: What I would like to accomplish is for just people to understand that, when the newspapers or television reference, you know, somebody's son or somebody's husband being killed by the Taliban, it's not the same guys that attacked us on 9/11, and that the people we're fighting are fighting us only because we're occupying them.

I would also like them to realize that we may be able to stabilize the Afghan government in five or 10 years, but stabilizing the Afghan government does nothing to defeat al Qaeda. And if that's our goal, to defeat al Qaeda, we need to change our strategy, because, you know, it's the proverbial swatting the fly with the sledgehammer.

All you do is basically exhaust yourself and you put holes in your walls and floors, and you don't do anything to the fly.

TODD: You were offered a position even after you resigned. Why not try to take that position and change things from the inside, rather than take this step?

HOH: If -- if I agreed with our mission there, if I believed in what we were doing, and I believed it was worth our sacrifice, then I would have stayed working in Afghanistan in Zabul Province.


TODD: That last question and answer was a reference that an offer that Hoh got after he submitted his resignation from the U.S. special envoy to South Asia, Richard Holbrooke, an offer to stay on in some capacity. They did not want to let him go.

Today, a State Department spokesman said they take Hoh's view very seriously, but they believe they are on track to meeting the goals of security and govern -- governance -- excuse me -- that the president has set in Afghanistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: His resignation, Matthew Hoh, what has that resignation done to the ranks of other civilian officers serving the U.S. in Afghanistan?

TODD: The deputy secretary of state for management and resources, a gentleman named Jack Lew, has said that it has not done much in that regard. He says they still have more volunteers than they need for civilian positions, that there's no softening of interest.

So, the State Department says, you know, as far as their ranks, this doesn't hurt them at all. But can you tell it kind of stings in some of the top echelons. BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure it does. And I know we are going to have much more coming up in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, a significant story.

Brian, thanks very much for that.

Want to switch gears briefly right now. The president of the United States is in Virginia. He's campaigning for the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds.

Let's listen in briefly as the president makes some comments.


OBAMA: ... but doing the work on behalf of hardworking men and women, on behalf of middle-class families, on behalf of the people of Virginia.


OBAMA: That's the kind of person Creigh Deeds is.


OBAMA: Creigh understands Virginia faces tough challenges, and solving them will require more than just lip service and political ads. It will require a realistic vision.

When you're governing, as Tim will tell you, nothing comes free. Government comes -- means you have got to prioritize. You have got to make tough choices. You can't be everything to everybody. You have got to recognize that change doesn't happen overnight.


OBAMA: But, if we make the right decisions now, then 10, 15 years down the road, we will look back and we will realize we're in a much better place than we otherwise would have been.

That's what happened because of the good decisions of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Virginia is in a better place.


OBAMA: That's what you can expect with Creigh Deeds.


OBAMA: As a consequence of his choices, choices that improve transportation, that give every child a chance in life, that continue the thoughtful pro-business policies in the Warner/Kaine tradition, Virginia will keep moving down the right path. It will keep making sure that every child in this commonwealth has access to a world-class education that they need to compete for jobs throughout the country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Virginia will keep moving towards a secure energy future that frees ourselves from the grip of foreign oil and creates millions of new jobs that pay well right here in America.


OBAMA: Virginia...

BLITZER: The president of the United States, he's in Norfolk, Virginia. He's campaigning for Creigh Deeds. He's the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Jessica Yellin is on the scene for us.

Jessica, it was only a few days ago that there was this big front-page story in "The Washington Post" quoting sources at White House saying that Creigh Deeds, if he loses, he has himself to blame for not using the president more. That caused quite a bombshell.


And despite the recent sniping from the White House accusing Creigh Deeds' struggling campaign of making serious missteps, the president is here now, before an enthusiastic crowd, trying to avoid an embarrassing loss in his own backyard, trying to help Creigh Deeds get elected governor next week.


YELLIN (voice-over): In the rain in Southern Virginia, they lined up, but the enthusiasm here seems to be for President Obama, not so much for this man, Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Even many of Deeds' supporters say his campaign has fallen short.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that he had the momentum that Barack had.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of my friends, pretty much, they don't really know about the election. They just do the big elections, and not really the local ones.

YELLIN: Some local leaders argue, Deeds waited too long to reach out to young and African-American voters, who carried the president to victory here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has had very little presence in this area, in my judgment.

YELLIN (on camera): So, it's a little too little, too late?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he -- it's a situation where he may be a day late and a dollar short, to be honest with you.

YELLIN (voice-over): Then there's grumbling he didn't use the president more.

(on camera): When you talk to folks about him, what's their impression, non-political folks, like on campus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the issue. I mean, folk don't really know. He's not -- he's not made a clear case for who he is and -- and what he wants to do.

YELLIN (voice-over): A new "Washington Post" poll shows Deeds losing ground to Republican Bob McDonnell, trailing by 11 points. That's a sea change from the days when President Obama became the first Democrat to win here in decades.

OBAMA: I promise you, we will win Virginia.

YELLIN: The national party has tried to pump up this campaign, fund-raising, sending in Bill Clinton, and the president now twice. Leading Republicans suggest a loss here would be an indication key areas of the president's support are weakening.

Perhaps reacting to recent poll numbers, White House officials have grumbled that Deeds' campaign ignored their advice. The candidate says it's all much ado about nothing.

CREIGH DEEDS (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: My political relationship with the White House is -- is fine. We talk with the White House nearly every day, you know, and -- and we have got a good relationship. We're moving Virginia forward.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, President Obama, if Creigh Deeds should lose in this state, the president and his allies can take solace in one fact. That "Washington Post" poll shows Mr. Obama's approval rating remains high in this state, at 57 percent. And you can hear it in this crowd of enthusiastic supporters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see a week from today if he can do some magic for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

Jessica, thanks very much.

They are the president and first lady, but they are also concerned parents, just like many of you. You're going to find out what the president and Mrs. Obama have done to prevent their daughters from getting swine flu.

And they are the Americans being held in Iran. They were detained while on vacation after straying into Iran from Iraq. Now there's new video that aims to show what they were really up to.

Stick around. You will see it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Betty, what's going on?


Well, according to the White House, both Sasha and Malia Obama have been vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus. The president and Mrs. Obama say they are waiting until sufficient supplies of the swine flu vaccine become available. Now, all the family have also received the usual seasonal flu shots.

The Obama administration is also indicating that it will revise a Bush era rule that allows long-haul truckers to drive 11 hours straight. Now, that rule raised the allowable driving time from 10 hours, a time limit that had stood for 60 years. Safety advocates oppose the rule, which was overturned twice in court, because they say driver fatigue could affect highway safety.

And the massive Ares IX is stuck on the launchpad in Florida. The first flight test of this new rocket, currently the largest in the world -- check it out -- was scrubbed after technical glitches and weather delays. The Ares is part of the Constellation Program, which is aimed at developing vehicles to replace the aging space shuttle fleet. NASA intends to try again tomorrow morning. So, we will be watching -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will be watching with you, Betty. Thanks very much.

Coming up: Joe Lieberman, he could be the difference between 59 and 60. It's a huge difference when it comes to health care reform. We will tell you what he's saying when we come back.


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

Happening now: a massive explosion in the center of Baghdad, the deadliest bomb attack in years. What was it like to be inside the blast? We're going to tell you. We're going there.

Plus, in New York, Republicans are now battling Republicans. Is this infighting a sign of a party rebirth, or is it a purge in the GOP? Candy Crowley standing by, she will lay out what's really going on.

And we will also be speaking live with Maria Shriver about how she's helping women change the world and if she's changed her own driving habits after some embarrassment involving her husband, a cell phone, and more.

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

Senators argued today over the cost of climate legislation. Even the leading author of the bill, Democrat John Kerry, acknowledged that the measure will increase energy prices. But Kerry and other advocates say inaction on global warming will cause even worse economic problems for the United States.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, the energy secretary, Steven Chu, himself a Nobel Prize winner.

Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.

STEVEN CHU, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: OK. Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: At a time of economic recession, millions of jobs lost, a lot of Republicans are suggesting the country simply can't afford this new energy cap-and-trade legislation, as it's called, right now, because, in effect, that becomes a huge tax on the American people.

What's your immediate response?

CHU: Well, I think we can't afford not to enact this -- this legislation. First of all, both Waxman and Markey and what the Senate is going to be considering is a bill that will only start to apply after, for example, 2011, 2012. And so, once we expect to be out of the recession, employment will have recovered by 2012.

BLITZER: And what if it doesn't?

CHU: Well, I think we can always revisit, but the signs are -- you know, sadly, unemployment is a lagging indicator. There are other leading indicators that say the economy is improving, and we're going to go into positive GDP growth. So we expect the unemployment to actually improve in, let's say, the first quarter, second quarter of next year.

BLITZER: Because even some Democrats are nervous about this legislation.

Listen to Senator Max Baucus. He's a Democrat from Montana. Listen to what he said.


SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: Montana, with our resource-based agriculture and tourism economies, cannot afford the unmitigated impacts of climate change. But we also cannot afford the unmitigated effects of climate change legislation.


BLITZER: He understands the need, but he says the cost is going to be really high.

CHU: Well, I think what you have to do is put this in context. Exactly what are the costs going to be?

So, there have been numerous estimates of the costs. I think the most reliable ones are, for example, the ones coming out of the EIA and the Department of Energy, the Congressional Budget Office, both of those nonpartisan organizations that are just trying to get at the facts and the truth -- and also the EPA.

So, the highest estimate of the cost for an average family of four, that it might cost 48 cents per day in order to enact Waxman- Markey up to 2020. So, this is a cost that you have to weigh against -- so this is less than $200.00 a year.

That cost has to be weighed against the cost of, what if we don't do something? And the cost if we don't do something is that the world is going towards a carbon-constrained environment. Many, many countries are beginning to recognize that they have to reduce their carbon intensity.

BLITZER: Well, what about China and India? Do you have a commitment from those two countries?

CHU: China is actually investing incredibly heavily in cleaning up their energy sector. I talked with Premier Wen Jiabao about two months ago, and he said if we continue with business as usual, the effect of climate change on China and the world would be devastating.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the price of a gallon of gas. It's gone up 18 cents in the last two weeks alone. There's fear it's going to continue to go up.

Since taking office, the Obama administration, I've looked at the numbers. The U.S. remains about as dependent on imported foreign oil today as it was when you took office back on January 20th.

Am I right on that? Have you reduced America's dependence at all on imported Saudi or other foreign oil?

CHU: I think -- I have recently looked at the numbers also. My recollection is it has gone down a little, but it's only begun to go down. Because what we need to do, the things that will really impact our importing of foreign oil, are two things.

We have to start to decrease our use of oil, especially in personal vehicle transportation, by going to a more fuel efficient fleet. We are working hard to electrify our personal vehicle fleet. We're just beginning to do this, but we need better batteries.

In the next few years, plug-in hybrids will start to hit the market. There are a few special retrofits. But I would expect and hope that in five years, you can begin to see significant penetration of plug-in hybrid vehicles where you can drive the first 40, 50 miles without using your gasoline.

BLITZER: All right.

CHU: And so, that's another thing.

And finally, we're doing a lot of research and development on trying to turn cellulosic forms of lumber, grasses, things of that nature, agricultural waste like wheat straw, rice straw -- we're trying to turn those forms of biomaterials into fuel. Not just ethanol, but something beyond ethanol, to gasoline-like, diesel-like, jet plane-like fuel.

BLITZER: Let me make the turn finally, because we're almost out of time, to what's going on in California, your home state, right now. Some California utilities and environmental groups are urging state energy regulators to ban some of the newest, most power-hungry flat screen TVs out there. A lot of people are watching you right now on those new big flat screen TVs.

Is this something you support, passing regulations on the use of these new flat screen TVs?

CHU: Well, I'm going to -- I'm going to dodge that a little bit, because I haven't really looked at the details of what they're proposing. But it is certainly true that as you go to bigger and bigger flat screen TVs, they can consume a lot of energy.

And so what the Department of Energy is encouraging is to develop this technology in a way. If you do want your 50-or-55-inch TV, that there are new technologies that actually decrease the energy consumption of those TVs by more than a factor of two. And so there's an opportunity to save a lot of energy on those TVs.

BLITZER: Would you support a tax on some of these purchases of these TVs?

CHU: Well, again, I'd have to look at the details of this. Certainly, there's been a big push now by the TV manufacturers to make these flat-panel displays a lot less energy-intensive. The newest ones, the LED illuminated televisions, the ones that have these special reflectors so that they're capturing all the light in the back, those things are much more energy-efficient than the older plasma TVs, for example.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck.

CHU: Thank you.


BLITZER: Imagine walking around on vacation, you take a few steps, and you're arrested. That happened to some Americans who strayed into Iran from Iraq. New video aims to show what they were up to.

Stand by.

And one state has more people with health insurance than any other. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to the politician -- you know him well -- who helped make that happen.

And California's first lady advocating for women everywhere. Maria Shriver, she's standing by to join us live. We'll speak about her participation in a women's conference. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The FAA has now taken some action against those two pilots from Northwest, that flight that overshot Minneapolis-St. Paul by 150 miles.

Let's go to Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent

Jeanne, what are they doing?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they just put out a statement saying they have revoked the licenses of the two Northwest pilots. In this release, they say the emergency revocations cite violations of a number of federal aviation regulations. Those include failing to comply with air traffic control instructions and clearances, and operating carelessly and recklessly. It says that the revocations are effective immediately, but the pilots do have 10 days to appeal this.

This, while the NTSB investigation into exactly what happened goes on. However, they did release an update yesterday saying that the pilots admitted that they had been looking at their personal laptops during the flight in violation of company policy.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's interesting. In the press release that the FAA put out -- and I know you have a copy of it -- they don't talk about the laptop. They just say the pilots were out of contact with air traffic controllers for an extended period of time and told federal investigators they were distracted by a conversation.

Should we read anything into the fact they didn't mention the laptop in this release, Jeanne?

MESERVE: Well, I'm not sure, but in the NTSB update yesterday that mentioned the laptops, it did say that the pilots told the NTSB that while they were in this discussion with the laptops about scheduling matters, that they were aware that there was a conversation taking place on the radio, but they weren't paying any attention to air traffic control as it tried to reach them.

It said they were unaware of texts being sent by their company as they tried to raise them, and they only really became aware of their situation when a flight attendant knocked and said, hey, when are we going to land? Only then did they look down and realize they had overflown their destination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Situational control of what's going on in the cockpit, that's critical.

All right, Jeanne. Thanks very much for that update.

Jeanne Meserve reporting.

Today families of three Americans detained in Iran are releasing video of their children just days before they were arrested for straying into Iran. They hope it will show Iranian authorities what their kids were really up to. That would be simple vacationing.

Our Internet correspondent Abbi Tatton has been following this story for us.

All right. We know we have the video now. Show it to our viewers, Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it looks here like just to be three friends goofing around on vacation. Let me play it for you.

This is Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd. This is them dancing in a building in Iraqi Kurdistan July 29th, two days before they were arrested as they strayed across the border into Iran.

Now, if this looks like harmless and slightly embarrassing vacation video, that's exactly the point that the families are trying to make. They are trying to say, make their case that the notion that these three were somehow a threat to Iran was just simply ridiculous.

There's a second video also shot by their friend, Sean McFessal (ph). This one features just Josh Fattal. Take a listen.


JOSH FATTAL, HELD CAPTIVE IN IRAN: Yo, it's hot. You, it's hot. It's because I'm in Iraq. Yo, it's hot. Yo, it's hot. It's because I'm in Iraq.


TATTON: Hot Iraq, which I'm guessing that Josh never anticipated would be disseminated widely, but now his family and the families of the other two are hoping that this gets seen by authorities in Tehran as they continue to push their case for the release of their children -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the latest from those authorities in Iran, Abbi?

TATTON: Well, The Associated Press, earlier this month, quoted the Iranian foreign minister as saying that those three are still being questioned, that this is in the hands of the judiciary. We're now at 88 days, Wolf, that they have been detained.

BLITZER: Let's hope they are out soon. Thanks very much for that.

Right now, Democrat-turned-Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is creating a brand new major headache for his former party. At stake, the Senate majority leader's new plan to include a government-run option in health care reform legislation.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

It goes to the point that the difference between 59 and 60 is all the difference in the world, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is so well put, Wolf. That is exactly right.

Every single one of the 60 senators who consider themselves Democrats by way of caucus, every one of those votes matter, and that includes now Independent Joe Lieberman. So, anybody who thought that the Senate majority leader, when he sent some new life into the idea of a public option yesterday, everyone thought that was actually a sure thing, that this idea would survive. Certainly, they were not right and they weren't listening to Joe Lieberman, because what he is saying today is a couple of things.

He says, yes, he will be his former party on the idea of having a vote to start Senate debate, but if this bill has a public option through the end of the debate, he will actually try to block the bill and won't let it become law. Listen to what he said.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I want to be as explicit as I can be right here at the outset. I'll vote to bring up the bill to stop a filibuster, but I won't vote to allow final passage of the bill if it, in my opinion, compromises the recovery from the recession or adds to the national debt.

BASH: And from your perspective, that means if it has a public option in it, even if it has the option for the states to come out of it?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, because I think it's still a government-run health insurance plan that puts the federal taxpayer on the line, and I don't want to do that at this point in our nation's history.


BASH: And when I talked to Senator Lieberman just a short while ago in his office, he was very explicit, Wolf, in saying that he opposes any kind of public option. He said that if, in fact, that is in the Senate bill, that at the end of the day, I'll join a filibuster and I'll try to stop the bill from passing.

So, that's just one example of the fact that this is a very rocky road for the Senate and for the president, because it's his top priority as we move forward.

BLITZER: A potentially huge migraine for Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats.

BASH: And he's got several others.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure he does.

All right. Thanks very much for that.

Sarah Palin is making a mint by going rogue. We now know how much she received as an initial advance for her upcoming book that's coming out in a couple of weeks.

Sarah Palin is just one big-named politician getting involved in an election in New York one week from today. There's also a lot more at stake for both parties than just the seat in the United States House of Representatives.

And Maria Shriver says she wants to help women change the world. We're standing by to speak live with the California first lady about her latest cause and how she's carrying on the Kennedy legacy.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: When it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, what is the right strategy?

Jerry writes, "The right strategy is following the money. Raising poppies in Afghanistan has skyrocketed since 2001, and the proceeds fuel the insurgency. We ought to ignore the plight of the poor Afghan farmers and bomb the hell out of those poppy fields. When the money dries up, maybe the insurgency will, too."

Anonymous, who is serving in Iraq, writes this: " Impatience is the greatest enemy at this point and only serves the strategy of the insurgents. They hit, hide and wait, and then hit again when all is clear, with no expectation they will accomplish their objectives in a hurry. Our short-term mentality only assures that their opportunity to strike will come again. And soon."

George in Taos, New Mexico, "I remember LBJ's indecision resulting in the majority of the 58,000 American deaths in Vietnam. How many U.S. forces and innocent civilians have already been killed in these two latest debacles? How many will it take?"

Lou in North Carolina, "Bring 95 percent of our military people home. Bring 100 percent of the contractors home. Leave five percent of the best and the brightest, our special forces, to do the job. They speak the language."

"I know them. They are tops. They can do the job without a lot of yelling and coverage. Just leave them alone and they will make things right without a lot of fluff."

And Gary in Woodhaven, Michigan, writes this: "When I came home from Vietnam, the airplane touched down at the Miramar Naval Air Station in California. We boarded a bus for the ride to San Diego Marine Base, and as we exited Miramar, there was a large crowd of people who began to throw eggs and tomatoes at the bus. I was sullen and hurt that our sacrifices were met with contempt. Today, as I witness Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm able to understand that courage and valor without a virtuous purpose means nothing."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, check my blog at -- Wolf. BLITZER: Pretty powerful e-mail you got from that guy. Very powerful.

CAFFERTY: Yes. It really was.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Many people who don't have health insurance might wish they lived in this U.S. state. It's where nearly everyone has health coverage.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there and he spoke to the well-known politician who helped make that half.

Stand by.

And one group of Scientologists found guilty of organized crime. You're going to find out where that happened. The judge says she hopes it will warn people about joining the Church of Scientology.

Stand by.


BLITZER: Today's "Strategy Session," as many people push for universal health care, they may want to take some cues from the state with the highest percentage of people who do have health insurance. That would be Massachusetts.

The former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was key to making that happen. Now he's taking about lessons learned. He's specifically talking with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were unable to deal with and didn't have any pretense that we would somehow be able to change health care costs in Massachusetts. We still have a fee- for-service reimbursement system here like every other state in America.

That's the way Medicaid and Medicare are structured. That's the way the insurance industry is structured. That's a whole different topic, which is how do we get the cost of health care down in America?

And as you know, we're way above the cost of health care of any other country in the world as a percentage of our total economic vitality, so that -- that's a different topic. We didn't deal with that here in Massachusetts and, frankly, we dealt with a much more narrow issue -- getting people insured that weren't insured.

And -- and this is just as important, perhaps even more important -- for those who are insured, making them understand that they will never lose their coverage. If you're in Massachusetts and you've got coverage, and you lose your job, you're always going to be covered. You don't lose your insurance. That was critical. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should be the president be look at Massachusetts as a model of lowering health care costs?

ROMNEY: No. Massachusetts is not the model with regards to the second problem.

Massachusetts is a model for getting everybody insured in a way that doesn't break the bank and that doesn't put the government into the driver's seat, ,and allows people to own their own insurance policies and not to have to worry about losing coverage. That's what Massachusetts did.

What we did not do was say, how can we change the reimbursement system, align incentives in health care with doctors, with hospitals and with patients? That's what needs to be done if you're finally going to rein in health care costs in this country.

GUPTA: President Obama does talk about health care costs. He talks about this idea of bending the cost curve down over the next 10 years. He does talk about creating a system that, as you say, pays for itself. That is what you hear when he has talked about health care reform in broader brush strokes.

Do you not believe him, or do you think that the details aren't there?

ROMNEY: Well, I haven't heard any measure being proposed by the president or by the members of Congress that suggest a change in the way incentives are going to be structured or any other measure that will lower health care costs in America with one exception, and that is they are saying they're going to cut $500 billion out of Medicare. Now, that's not bringing down health care costs, that's jamming a burden on America's senior citizens, saying we're going to take -- we're going to take costs out of your system.

Either it's going to be on their backs or on the backs of the hospitals and the doctors. But it's not saying, how can we make health care more efficient, more effective, providing care in a more advanced, technologically efficient way? And that's not something I've heard anything come out of Washington, ,discussing and putting in this piece of legislation.


BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He just had this interview with Mitt Romney.

I know you also got a little into politics, the impact of Massachusetts' health care maybe on 2012. We know he ran in 2008. What did he say to you today, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, he's certainly not ruling it out by any means, Wolf. I asked him specifically a few different ways during -- over an hour-long interview. He said he's trying to get through 2010. He had just returned from South Carolina this morning working for some Republican candidates down there, so he's certainly not ruling it out.

He also has this book coming out, Wolf, as you know, in March of next year. He said it's done being written, and I asked him, is this a template for his presidency, and, again, he sort of chuckled, but I think the answer is pretty clear. It very much is, and I think we're going to see much more of him over the next couple of years.

BLITZER: I know you're going to be joining us again in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Sanjay, but lessons learned from Massachusetts. There are important lessons that the rest of the country can learn.

GUPTA: You know what was so interesting to me, Wolf? Is that this is as candid as I've heard him speak specifically about the cost issue.

Wolf, you and I have talked about this idea when talking about health care reform, distilling it down, it's about increasing access and decreasing costs. I asked him very specifically about the cost side of it. Everyone knows, I think, that Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of insured now, about 97, 98 percent.