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President Obama Hosts Indian Prime Minister; Afghanistan Decision Time Nears

Aired November 24, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, dinner at diplomacy will be served. The president tends to America's relationship with India and hosts its prime minister to a state dinner. Big-name guests arrive at this very hour.

And a boy survives 11 days riding alone on the New York City subways. What happened to him? He suffers form a form of autism.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Virtually the entire nation and the world is waiting to hear on how many more American troops President Obama might send to Afghanistan. Well, today, the president himself, he fueled that fire. He's giving a sense of when he will announce his decision. And though his plans are shrouded in secrecy, CNN is getting new information on just how many troops the Pentagon is planning for.

I want to go straight to our CNN White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

Dan, you and I have been covering this for months, obviously a lot of internal debate. I understand that the president clearly has all the information he needs now to make that decision.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He does have all that information, and the president saying that he will make that announcement shortly, then added after Thanksgiving. This comes after months of high-level meetings with his military leaders and his Cabinet leaders, a long process that the president says has not only been comprehensive, but extremely helpful.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): President Obama has publicly condemned leaks from his closed-door Afghanistan deliberations. So, at a brief press event, that was used to try to pry the president's decision loose.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I suspect you don't want my colleagues and I to rely on leaks until next week, so I -- I would like to ask you about...



LOTHIAN: Mr. Obama didn't give an inch, providing no details on his new strategy. And even though most Americans are uneasy with the war in Afghanistan, the president didn't appear concerned.

OBAMA: I feel very confident that, when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.

LOTHIAN: After his ninth and most likely final war council meeting before making an announcement, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, the president has the information he wants and needs to make his decision.

That possible decision, according to a defense official with direct knowledge of Pentagon operations, expected orders to send 34,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, and that includes plans to deploy three U.S. Army brigades of some 15,000 troops, and a Marine brigade about 8,000 strong.

With India's prime minister at his side, and almost a year after the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai, President Obama said the threat of al Qaeda and other extremists is a global problem, something the two leaders agree on.

MANMOHAN SINGH, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: The forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world, and have to be defeated.


LOTHIAN: Now, again, the president today in his remarks also took a swipe at the Bush administration's policy in Afghanistan, saying that, over the past eight years, there were times when they didn't have the right resources or the right strategy to get the job done, and the president's saying that it is his intention to -- quote -- "finish the job" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Dan.

There are currently 68,000 troops serving in and around Afghanistan, but more than 40 countries are sharing the burden, participating in the NATO-run American-led international Security Assistance Force. The most recent figures show that Britain contributes about 9,000 troops, Germany more than 4,000, France more than 3,000, and Italy, Canada and the Netherlands more than 2,000 each.

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, there are several countries that contribute fewer than a dozen personnel each.

Well, Israel's growing influence on the international stage perhaps is the key reason its prime minister is going to be the guest of honor at President Obama's first state dinner tonight. Today, the prime minister and President Obama held talks at the White House and they discussed several pressing issues, including nuclear deals, climate change, as well as the economy.

Now, following the talks, Mr. Obama did acknowledge India's critical role in maintaining security throughout Asia.


OBAMA: India today is a rising and responsible global power. In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region. And the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia.


MALVEAUX: Now, the president says that the United States and India are close allies, but he vowed to make the ties between the two countries even stronger.


OBAMA: I believe that the relationship between the United States and India will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. And this visit underscores the strengthening of that partnership which I hope will continue throughout my presidency. That's why I have made it a priority to broaden the cooperation between our nations.


MALVEAUX: Prime Minister Singh addressed the future of Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism in the region.


SINGH: It is important for the international community to sustain its engagement in Afghanistan to help its emergence as a modern state. The focus -- the forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world and have to be defeated.


MALVEAUX: I want to take a closer look at the relationship with India.

I want to turn to our CNN's Sara Sidner. She is in Mumbai.

And, Sara, thank you for joining us. Obviously, we have a lot of key issues that makes important -- India a very important ally to the United States. I covered President Bush, his relationship with India. Clearly there was a coming together, if you will, of the United States and India during his time in office.

This is a new time for the Obama administration. What is the most important issue, do you think, that India has on the table for this relationship now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, simply put, India represents a major strategic ally for the United States -- and you heard it there -- when it comes to security in the region.

India and the United States both have very similar goals in trying to deal with terrorism, trying to stamp out terrorism, and both heavily affected by terrorist attacks.

India obviously, in this region, when you have Pakistan, who is constantly having issues with security there, the insurgency, the Taliban, as well as Afghanistan, the same issues, the Taliban coming in, and problems with the insurgency and a war going on there, and then you have the island nation of Sri Lanka, which has just now coming out of a 25-year civil war, India is one of the most stable county tries in the region.

And the United States can absolutely afford to not include it in, for example, its AfPak strategy, India a very stable nation. Also, they share quite a big tie when it comes to democracy here. Democracy -- India is the largest democracy in the world. All of its leaders are elected.

So, there is a natural tie between the two, but, certainly, it is all about security when it comes to those strong and close ties -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Sara, you did an extraordinary covering the bombings, those terrorist attacks that occurred in Mumbai. We saw that extensive coverage that you did.

Moving forward from then, give us a sense of the tone. What are people feeling a year after those attacks now where you are?

SIDNER: Yes, we're in the week of the anniversary in the next two days of -- you will start seeing the memorials appear.

The city is back and buzzing as it always has. Mumbai has been hit by terrorist attacks before, but this one particularly terrifying, particularly difficult for the city. I can tell you that right now we're just looking over my shoulder, and the building behind me was attacked, the Oberoi Hotel, one of the five-star hotels that was attacked by several Pakistani gunmen who came into the country last year and wreaked havoc here.

And, right now, they're actually having some security forces practicing and doing drills. We're noticing men sort of going up and down the building on ropes.

So, obviously, the city wants to be prepared, but a very difficult thing when you have tens of millions of people who come in and out of the city and relies on this city for India as a financial hub as well, which many believe is why it was attacked. It is certainly a city that the world is familiar with, and they wanted the attention of the world. MALVEAUX: Sure.

SIDNER: And they certainly got it.

But, on this anniversary, there will be several solemn and sorrowful really remembrances because of all those who died -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Sara, last question here. Obviously we're looking at this lavish reception, this state dinner for the prime minister of India today.

We saw the president. He took his trip to Asia. He really stressed very important close ties to China. Do you think that this is a way to kind of give India equal standing, if you will, more clout in that relationship, that closeness with the United States?

SIDNER: Absolutely.

Obviously, the strain -- there is a little bit of strain between India and China right now. They have some border issues that keep coming up and flashing up. And, so, it absolutely was imperative that when the president came out with a joint statement in China and mentioned South Asia and mentioned having China help in the security issues, India reacted and bristled a little bit, saying that there was really no room for a third party in securing this area and securing South Asia.

So, certainly this is an olive branch, if you will, to show India that, yes, you are still an extremely important part of the United States' plan -- of the United States plan' to stamp out terrorism, but also business wise, India a major player.


SIDNER: Nine percent growth, it's expecting over the next couple of years. So, this is also a very important issue here -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, Sara Sidner in Mumbai, thank you so much.

I want to go straight to Jack with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's about time, South Carolina legislators finally debating whether to recommend impeachment of Governor Mark Sanford. A resolution says Sanford engaged in serious misconduct that amounts to a dereliction of his duties.

It argues his actions brought extreme dishonor and shame to the governor's office and caused South Carolina to suffer ridicule. So what's to debate? Throw him out. This all goes back to Sanford's disappearance this last summer to visit his mistress in Argentina.

Governor Sanford lied to his staff about his whereabouts, told them he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. It turned out it was nude hiker's day on the trail. This impeachment proceedings debate is only focused on the idea that Sanford was derelict in his duties as governor.

But it comes one day after the state ethics commission charged Sanford with 37 counts of violating ethics laws in South Carolina. Among other things, Sanford is accused of using taxpayer money for business or first-class airplane tickets, instead of flying coach, to travel around the world and to Argentina to visit his friend.

Think he's guilty? Well, while the investigation was going on, Sanford set about amending his ethics disclosure documents, so that they reflected the questionable air travel.

In addition to the 37 civil charges, South Carolina's attorney general is deciding if there should be criminal charges. What's to debate? Sanford's lawyers say the governor has not done anything that rises to the level of impeachment. Apparently, it's OK to lie about where you're going if you're the state's chief executive and then steal taxpayer money for personal travel.

Here's the question: Is there any reason not to impeach South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? Here's a hint: No. Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jack, tell us how you really feel.


CAFFERTY: I just did.

MALVEAUX: You just did. All right, thank you, Jack.

As the president gets ready to step up the war in Afghanistan, can America afford it? What some key Democrats are saying about the war's price tag and how you may end up paying for it.

Plus, a child disappears and then is found. It turns out he rode New York's subways for 11 days. His mother tells us what happened.


MALVEAUX: More now on our top story. The president will announce his plans for Afghanistan early next week. And a source with direct knowledge of Pentagon operations says that the Pentagon expects orders to send 34,000 additional troops. Now, how much might more troops in Afghanistan actually cost?

I want to turn to our CNN congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

You've been following this. There are a lot of different facts and figures about this. And clearly this is a political hot potato for the president.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And the figures vary, but in short it's going to cost a whole lot.

So, the question now is, does Congress just add the anticipated costs of ramping up the war in Afghanistan to the nation's debt, which is $12 trillion, over $12 trillion, the way it has paid for much of the wars and Iraq and Afghanistan so far? Or, as some Democrats have proposed, do American taxpayers pick up the tab?


KEILAR (voice-over): As President Obama gets ready to send more troops to Afghanistan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning, "There is serious unrest in our caucus about, can we afford this war?"

Prominent Democrats close to Pelosi, including House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, are proposing to pay for the war with an increase in income taxes for all Americans, except military families.

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI), HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We saw Harry Truman's Fair Deal wiped out by Korea. We saw Lyndon Johnson's Great Society wiped out by Vietnam. I don't want to see the restructuring and reforming of our own economy wiped out because we get stuck in a 10-year war, a war that isn't paid for.

KEILAR: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin is proposing a similar tax, but only for wealthy Americans.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I do think there ought to be some financial support now, instead of passing the total bill on to the next generation. And one way to do that would be to have a surtax or an upper bracket increase on their taxes perhaps over $250,000.

KEILAR: The cost of sending more troops is high, $20 billion per year, according to a senior Pentagon official, based on sending 40,000 more troops. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag puts the figure at $40 billion per year. And Chairman Obey cites costs of up to $1 trillion over 10 years.


KEILAR: Now, these proposals for a war tax could put the White House in a really tough spot politically of raising taxes during an economic hard time for a war that, Suzanne, as you know, the majority of Americans are opposed to.

MALVEAUX: And, Brianna, I thought it was interesting that we saw the head of the OMB actually in those war council. You mentioned Peter Orszag's role. Clearly, it seems as if the administration is taking costs of the war into account when it comes to decision-making.

KEILAR: Yes, that was certainly symbolic. They're aware that this is going to be a factor. And it's already a factor obviously within the president's own party.

KEILAR: OK. Thanks, Brianna. Appreciate it.

Well, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy is speaking out publicly for the first time since her husband's death in August. Vicki Kennedy is talking about her marriage, the Kennedy family, and Senator Kennedy's determination to attend President Obama's inauguration.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": When he said at the Democratic Convention he would be there in January, and then Barack Obama was elected, what was he saying to you privately?

VICKI KENNEDY, WIDOW OF TED KENNEDY: Oh, there just wasn't a question about it. He was in training to be there in January.


WINFREY: Was he?

KENNEDY: Oh, no, serious training. He was exercising every single day to be strong enough to be there.


MALVEAUX: Vicki Kennedy appears on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" tomorrow.

Well, what would Ronald Reagan think? There's a proposal to make Republican candidates pass a conservative purity test before they can get funding from their own party.

Plus, Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson will serenade the president and his dinner guests after she sings a little for us -- more ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MALVEAUX: A child with a form of autism goes missing and is found. And it's revealed that he rode the New York City subways for 11 days. Well, what happened? The boy and his mother talk to CNN.

And how do you feel about the potential for thousands of more U.S. troops going into Afghanistan? In a new poll, the response to sending lots more troops is very different from the idea of sending a few.


MALVEAUX: He is one of thousands of teens who run away from home every year, but his story has a happy, if mysterious ending.

Our CNN's Mary Snow, she is joining us live.

Mary, what do we know about this young man?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Francisco Hernandez appears to be in good shape. He's back at school. But there are still so many unknowns about what exactly happened. And some in this Brooklyn neighborhood where the boy lives are in disbelief that he was able to survive on the subway for 11 days.


SNOW (voice-over): Marisela Garcia rummages through her son's knapsack, showing us what 13-year-old Francisco lived on for 11 days riding New York City subways. Along with potato chip wrappers and a Coke can is the sweatshirt he wore, seen on his missing-persons posters.


SNOW: Francisco Hernandez Jr. offered few words. He has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Because of that, his mother says exactly what happened to him remains a mystery.

MARISELA GARCIA, MOTHER: All the times like this, he's never explained to me what happened in these days.

SNOW (on camera): He still hasn't been able to tell you what happened?

GARCIA: No, he don't explain to me. Look now. He don't -- don't express nothing.

SNOW (voice-over): Francisco says he did not ask for help or communicate with anyone, which experts say is not uncommon for people with Asperger's syndrome.

His mother says Francisco never came home from school October 15, fearing he would get in trouble for something that happened at school. While she and her husband searched frantically and made up posters, the teen disappeared among the millions of people who ride the subways every day.

(on camera): How did you live? What did you eat?

HERNANDEZ: A sandwich and mostly whatever I could buy.

SNOW (voice-over): He had $11 with him, slept on the trains, and used bathrooms in the stations.

(on camera): Here in Brooklyn's Coney Island, this is the last stop for several train lines. and 11 days after Francisco disappeared, a police officer found him on this platform. He says he recognized him after seeing a poster.

(voice-over): His mother said he looked skinny and was dirty. While she's relieved he is finally home, she expressed frustration with the police, saying they didn't do enough to help initially, so she turned to the Mexican consulate for help.

MARISELA GARCIA, SON LIVED ON SUBWAY FOR 11 DAYS: Because I'm Mexican so I try to get somebody else to help me, because the police don't do nothing. So I tried to find somebody else to help me and -- and the Mexican consul called to the police.

SNOW: The city's police commissioner was asked about the criticism and how the boy could have gone undetected for so long.

COMM. RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: Obviously, this search was not focused only on the subway system early on in the, you know, in 11 day period. So in my judgment, based on the information I have, I think we did everything that was appropriate.


SNOW: Now, Francisco's mother worries that her son may take off again. He did run away, she says, in January, but returned home after a few hours. And, at that point, he also escaped to the subway system. Why the subway?

She says, for some reason, he seems to feel safe there -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Mary, did anyone report seeing him during that time, while he was down there in the subway?

SNOW: Yes. You know the family says they received a phone call of someone seeing him at a train station, but it turned out not to be him. The police say they also had a lead, but it turned out that it wasn't him. And, also, the boy had a cell phone with him, but he said he took the battery out so that there was no way to reach him. It was really an incredible story.

MALVEAUX: All right. Mary, thank you so much.

We're so glad that he's safe.

Well, you might call it a Republican purity test -- it is a proposed list of ten commandments GOP candidates would have to adhere to in order to get funding from the party.

Our CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, she has all these details -- and, Jessica, give us a sense of what this is all about.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the question is, how do you build another Ronald Reagan?

Some conservative members of the National -- the Republican National Committee -- want to actually test candidates to see how much they model themselves after Reagan. And they proposed a list of principles Reagan supported. We call them commandments.

Now, the idea -- unless Republican candidates adhere to at least eight of these ten commandments or principles, well, then they won't get funded by the Republican Party. Among those principles outlined, it would like all candidates to oppose President Obama by standing up for lower deficits and taxes and opposing the stimulus; opposing the Obama-style government-run health care -- their words, not ours; oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants; go with the military's recommendations on troop surges; oppose gay marriage by supporting the Defense of Marriage Act.

And that's just a few.

Now, the chief sponsor of this proposal is an Indiana Republican named Jim Bopp. He believes all of this will help establish standards so the Republican Party, in his words, won't feel obligated to support every Republican and then not get criticized.

So the translation here -- moderates need not apply.

Now, the truth is, Suzanne, purity, as we know, isn't always effective. And if the goal is winning back Congress and the White House, it could actually be the opposite of effective.

See, after a cursory look, we found that more than a dozen Republicans who are currently in Congress might not meet the ten commandments' test for getting RNC support.

So does that mean 10 fewer Republicans in Congress?

Not to mention some of the likely 2012 presidential contenders -- would Rudy Giuliani pass on the social issues part of the test?

Or Mike Huckabee on immigration?

And here's an even bigger kicker. Even Ronald Reagan might not have met the test on immigration, gun control, smaller government, containing Iran. Reagan, arguably, broke with his principles at least one time or another.

So let's dial it out, look at the big picture, look at the nation overall.

Is a candidate who meets the conservative test really the most likely to win a majority of the nation?

According to the latest CNN polling, 26 percent of Americans identify as Republicans. So assume they'll go with a conservative Republican candidate. Thirty-four percent identify as moderate or conservative Independents. To break it down further, 20 percent of Americans identify as moderate Independents. That's one of five Americans. That's where elections are decided and the test, arguably, risks alienating these folks, who ultimately decide elections -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Jessica, what is next here?

Obviously, this is going to go before the Republicans. They're going to make a decision on who gets money, who doesn't.

What do they do?

YELLIN: Right. This commandments, principles idea, is just a proposal. The Republican National Committee has yet to vote on it. It could be decided at an RNC meeting, which happens in January in Hawaii. But folks insist it's a work in progress, it's not done yet. And they have to still make some further refinements.

We'll see what happens -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Jessica.

Well, it appears that another 34,000 U.S. troops will be headed for Afghanistan, even though recent polls show that most Americans don't support the war and even more think that it's going badly. Our political panel will be here to break it all down in just a moment.


MALVEAUX: President Obama now hinting at an announcement next week on his next move in Afghanistan. And Americans are speaking out about the war and a new poll. And we have some surprises there.

I want to bring back the best political team on television, CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN political contributor, Hilary Rosen; CNN's Joe Johns; and Republican strategist and CNN political contributor, Mary Matalin.

Let's start off first. If you look at this, obviously, the president has invited India's prime minister. He's been all over the place. He's been to Europe. He's been to the Middle East.

Is this good enough here?

He just came back from Asia.

Is it good enough that he's hosting him for a state dinner to prove that, OK, try -- India's got some clout to rival China and anybody else that they might deem perhaps a risk?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think Sarah Sidner had it just about right. It's about security, security, security. When you look at what's going on there in India and also remember the fact that this is the one year anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, that really shows the sort of connection between the United States and India on issues of security that become all the more important when you look at Afghanistan in the region, as well as Pakistan.


JOHNS: So it's all of those things.

BORGER: It's also on the eve, give or take a few days, of his decision on Afghanistan, in which the president, I would presume, is going to ask Pakistan to kind of step -- step up to the plate here and start dealing with the militants in their own country.

So I think, you know, this is kind of a perfect time to have this state dinner for India, because he's also just re -- the president has also just returned from China, don't forget. So I...

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: And these dinners tend to take on symbolism. So the world has paid attention to the fact that India is the first country that has received this kind of treatment. And that matters to the Indians and it matters to Pakistan. And it will matter going forward. They'll -- they'll pay attention.

MALVEAUX: Hilary, how -- how important are these state dinners?

You've been to several of them -- the symbolism of this.

Is it symbolism?

Is it substance?

What -- is it a little bit give and take?

ROSEN: Well, they tend to be very important for diplomatic purposes to the country -- the guest country. You know, it's an opportunity for the prime minister to show his own political clout at home with the people that he's brought over, with the people that the U.S. president invites to the dinner to honor him. So it's extremely important for that reason.

I think Americans like it because I think Americans are proud that we show off our country, that we have these traditions and that we welcome guests civilly and diplomatically.

MALVEAUX: I want to bring in Mary, because, Mary, I covered the Bush administration and the trip that he took when he was in India and Pakistan. And, obviously, President Bush established a very close relationship to India because of the nuclear energy deal.

Do you think that there -- there's a threat down here, that India just doesn't feel like they have a clear place when it comes to the hierarchy with this administration, the Obama administration?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there might have been some concern given the -- the greater attention to China in that Asian region. And as you know, because you were there, we had to establish -- and quite quickly -- a better relationship with Pakistan, which we hadn't previously had -- and with -- with India.

So, but Hilary is right. This is a very -- a very important diplomatic effort and that they're first means a lot. And it's -- it is a tried and true way to show the -- the depth and the bounty of -- of the relationship.

So I think it's a good thing. And it's -- it's a cool thing and it's a fun thing. And I agree with everything Hilary said about it. I wish I was there.

MALVEAUX: Did you...

BORGER: Us, too.

MALVEAUX: Did anybody get an invite tonight?

JOHNS: Yes, right.


MALVEAUX: All right. Nobody got an invite. OK.

BORGER: Good to be here.


MALVEAUX: Let's take a look at some polls here -- the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, the -- the approval about the war in Afghanistan. It's obviously -- it's getting worse here. Forty-five percent favor, 52 percent oppose, with 66 percent say that things are going badly.

How does the president come out ahead, on top here, and sell this to the American people?

ROSEN: I think there's only one way he does it, which is he -- as he talks about the need for increased resources, I think he will only be able to pull back the coalition that he pulled together during the campaign if he also talks about the exit strategy. And so -- and I think that's the key to getting Congressional support. And I think it's the key to getting the -- the support of the American people.

JOHNS: Yes. It's a weird balance he's got to walk, because if you hear what's come out of the administration, they've talked about, number one, showing some back ground -- some backbone, showing some resolve.

On the other hand, they're trying to make it clear. We're not going to be there forever. We're not planning on being there forever. This is not an open-ended commitment.

So it's a real line you've got to walk, sending both of those messages at the same time, because they're kind of contradictory.

BORGER: He's also got to make it clear that he outlines a policy that he is willing to sell to the American public and that he is willing to stick to. It's -- you know, the American public is split on this right now. They don't see a lot of success in Afghanistan. They understand we've got a huge deficit. This is going to cost $40 billion maybe.

And so he's got to go out there and sell it and stick with it. And he's going to have to take on some folks in his own party, which is (INAUDIBLE)...


MALVEAUX: Well, what I find interesting here is this other number. It seems as if people -- if he decides to get into this, they really want him to get into it, because, they say, if he decides on 30,000 or 40,000 troops, 50 percent say OK, yes, that's a good idea, 49 percent oppose.

But if it's less than that, then -- then they say no, we're -- you know, we're not for this.

So it seems as if the American people either want him to really go for this or pull back.

What do you think that means?

MATALIN: It means the American people, as is often the case, have great common sense. If we're going to get in, we should get in to win. The consequences of losing would be cost -- far more costly than what it would take to make some progress here. When the theater shifted from Iraq back to Waziristan, which is -- obviously involves Afghanistan, the president rightly said when he was running and when he was elected that this is a necessary war. And the consequence of not pushing back there would be a reconstituted Al Qaeda haven in Afghanistan. People understand the consequences of that -- again, far more costly than what it would take to send our troops in there.

But they're saying, if you're getting in, get in to win. And the president will have a lot of Republican support if he -- if he does that.

MALVEAUX: OK. We've got to -- got to leave it there. Mary, Joe, Hilary and Gloria, thank you for joining me.

The next state dinner, we'll all be attending.

BORGER: Right.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to be here.

MALVEAUX: Fair enough.

All right, I want to go to John Roberts with "CNN TONIGHT" -- hey, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Suzanne, thanks so much.

Coming your way at the top of the hour, tracking sex offenders -- police are struggling to stay one step ahead. There are too many sexual predators to deal with -- more than 700,000 nationwide. It's a massive increase in less than a decade. High profile cases show just how easily known sex offenders can commit other heinous acts. What's behind this dangerous trend?

What else can law enforcement do?

And how is the Internet making it easy for sex offenders to find prey?

Please join us for all that and more coming your way at the top of the hour -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, John. She's a headliner at tonight's White House state dinner, but before singing for the president, Jennifer Hudson sings in THE SITUATION ROOM.

JENNIFER HUDSON, ACTRESS/SINGER (singing): There's a place for us, somewhere a place for us.



MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is joining us again -- hey, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Suzanne, the question this hour -- is there any reason not to impeach South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford?

The State Ethics Committee found 37 ethics violations, among other things.

Laura writes -- I love this. Laura writes from San Angelo, Texas: "Not a single reason, Jack. While he went to Argentina with his other brain, he left the citizens of South Carolina without any leadership in the event of any tragedy that might have struck. I hope for his family's sake it will be short and quick, because it will be painful for all involved."

John in Texas: "Not one I can think of. The guy is an irresponsible thief. He's abused his position of public trust. Guilty. Next case."

Jeff in Ohio: "If they're going to impeach him, there are tons of other politicians who ought to be impeached too. Wasting taxpayer dollars is par for the course with these people. Where's the outrage that Harry Reid used taxpayer money to buy a vote for the health care bill or the outrage that Charlie Rangel is still serving?"

Sue writes from Goose Creek, South Carolina: "So we spend lots of taxpayer money to impeach him. And by the time it's finished, he would have been out of office anyway. Tell me this makes sense for a state with the finances we have. It's fine for those not footing the bill to talk, but let's hear from those who are going to pay for this."

Bonnie writes from New Jersey: "It ought to be mandatory to resign if you go out in public and act like a lovesick teenager, as he did. My sister lives in Charleston and said he was the first Republican she ever voted for. Until he embarrassed the entire state, she was quite happy with the fiscal job he was doing. He might have had a bright future."

And Ann writes from Hawaii: "Great Scott, is he still in office? What's the matter with those people? Do they have no pride in their state and what it stands for? The man is a philandering crook and they should have thrown him to the curb long ago."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at -- Suzanne, I'm going to take the next few days off.


CAFFERTY: I will wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and I'll see you down the road. I'll be back Monday.

MALVEAUX: OK. Great. Well, I -- I guess they'll be somebody else who will replace you tomorrow. But no one can replace Jack.

So have a -- have a good holiday.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Have a good Thanksgiving.

CAFFERTY: You, too.


I want to go to Jessica Yellin, who has the Political Ticker -- hey, Jessica.

YELLIN: No one can replace Jack, Suzanne.


YELLIN: OK. An early Thanksgiving, it was, at the vice president's residence. Joe Biden and his wife hosted a sit-down dinner for 29 people last night -- all military families, their relatives from Fisher House, which provides free or low cost lodging to those being treated at military medical centers.

Now, all branches of the military were represented, with the vice president telling his guests their presence was the greatest honor ever for his official residence.

Well, you think it's tough planning a dinner party at your house, how about holding a state dinner at the White House?

The Social Office has been in overdrive preparing for tonight's dinner. And one dilemma they faced is what to serve.

It looks like the White House decided to tip its hat to the tastes of India. Among the dishes they'll serve, there's a potato salad with eggplant, dumplings with chickpeas and okra, a green curry dish that includes a coconut basmati rice and lentil soup with cheese.

But they're going full-on traditional American for dessert -- pumpkin pie tart and pear tartan.

Are you getting hungry yet?

And tonight's state dinner -- oh, get this one -- it might not follow the rule, Suzanne. The official rule keepers at the State Department say the visit is not technically a state visit, because the prime minister isn't the head of a state. Therefore, it's actually an official visit. So it would follow that tonight's dinner isn't a state dinner.

Yet the White House has billed it as a state dinner. We've been reporting it as a state dinner. And today, the president only confused the issue when he welcomed the prime minister for the "first official state visit of my presidency."

Officials say visit.

So which is it?

And did the White House get this wrong billing it as the state dinner?

Here's the resolution. No. The State Department says it's the White House's prerogative to elevate it, to give it all the pomp and circumstance of a state visit if they so chose.

Aren't we glad to have that resolved -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: I'm so confused by that.


MALVEAUX: I'm so confused by that. But it's going to be lovely, anyway. And I think the...

YELLIN: It's protocol.

MALVEAUX: The thing that we're looking, for the spontaneous moments -- what's going to happen that we don't expect, because they plan these things down to the very second?

And you know, it's those state dinners where the unexpected happens that so many of us remember. And those are the ones that actually make history. We're -- we're just seeing some of these -- the VIPs that are actually gathering for the state dinner at the White House at this very moment.


MALVEAUX: Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson is going to sing for the president and his guests. I spoke with her earlier and she even sang a little bit for us.


HUDSON: I'm going to sing standards. This is my first time singing standards, so I'm going to sing "The Very Thought of You," "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "Somewhere."

MALVEAUX: Give me a few bars, for those of us who don't have tickets and can't go to the dinner. You have to sing.

HUDSON: Well, we have to call -- call the president and tell them to get them in there, because -- so you guys can come and here me sing. If you sing it with me, I'll sing it.

MALVEAUX: Go ahead.

You start.

HUDSON: Are you serious?

MALVEAUX: Oh, sure.

Go ahead.

HUDSON: Oh, lord.

(singing): There's a place for us, somewhere a place for us, peace and quiet and open air wait for us somewhere.

I think that's enough.

MALVEAUX: That's beautiful.

HUDSON: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: That's absolutely beautiful.


MALVEAUX: It's really all about the traditional things, like vodka marinated turkeys and banned anti-meat TV commercials?

Well, that's our Jeanne Moos, who takes a Moost Unusual look at Thanksgiving.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: ...for their whole life. Thank you for when they burn their...



MALVEAUX: Here's a look at Hot Shots.

In India, a boy glances up and watches others offer prayers.

In Russia, the president takes a tour of a state-owned airplane factory.

In Pakistan, camel sellers patiently wait for customers.

In Washington, students from an elementary school await the arrival of India's prime minister at the White House.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words. Well, a little girl with a beef about turkey treatment and a tipsy turkey with a taste for vodka -- two scenarios that led to some unusual Thanksgiving meals.

Our CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): What do you get when you shoot up a turkey with injections of vodka?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's what we call eating and drinking at the same time.

MOOS: But before we talk turkey laced with vodka, let's talk about the PETA add you will not see on NBC during the Thanksgiving Parade.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Dear God, thank you for the turkey we're about to eat and for the turkey farms, where they pack them into dark, tiny little sheds for their whole lives. Thank you for when they burn their feathers off while they're still alive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so anti-Thanksgiving, like, you know what I mean?


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: And for when the turkey gets killed when people think it's fun to stomp on their little turkey heads.


MOOS (on camera): Honestly, you thought that NBC might actually put this on in the middle of a Thanksgiving Parade?



UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: And special thanks for all the chemicals and dirt and poop that's in the turkey we're about to eat.


MOOS (voice-over): You calling us dirty?

NBC says it didn't reject the ad, that it would consider airing it in certain time periods, but evidently not Thanksgiving morning.

Other networks have refused it, though two local stations in Virginia and Arkansas are airing it. MCGRAW: And this ad was specifically designed with kids in mind, to give them a little bit of courage on Thanksgiving to say you know what, I'd rather not have the turkey.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Oh, and thank you for rainbows. Amen.


MOOS: We'll drink to that with turkeys injected with 100 proof vodka.

(on camera): I feel like I'm impregnating the turkey.

(voice-over): It's become a tradition at O'Casey's Irish Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. Marinate the turkey for three days in flavored vodkas, injecting vodka and herbs into the bird...

(on camera): Oh.


MOOS: Oh, whoa.

(voice-over): About three times a day.

(on camera): It's a geyser. It would be the equivalent of having how much -- like a couple of drinks, one drink?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it wouldn't, really, unless you were going to devour the whole turkey.

MOOS: Well, what's the point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it -- well, it -- it's just something different.

MOOS (voice-over): It's supposed to taste sweeter.

(on camera): It's moist just and good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very, very moist.

MOOS: But I mean I don't taste like alcohol. At least they had a good drink before they went.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. Yes, we send them off with a smile on their face.

MOOS: Where is their face, though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really (INAUDIBLE) the kitchen to get it back there.

MOOS (voice-over): No, not the kitchen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ooh, hey.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(on camera): (INAUDIBLE) the turkey.

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



Up next, "CNN TONIGHT".