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Toyota Issues Massive Recall; President Obama Set to Announce Decision on Afghanistan

Aired November 25, 2009 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the best political team on television on these stories.

Countdown to D-Day. Within days President Obama is going to announce how many more troops will go to Afghanistan. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is here.

Attention, Toyota owners: Could your car be dangerous? Toyota will replace gas pedals on millions of cars, and now thousands of Tundra trucks are also being recalled.

And Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and other NBA players may cry foul. Basketball uniforms they wear could cost American jobs. NBA jerseys could soon be made outside the U.S. for the first time ever.

Welcome to our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Well, we know exactly when President Obama's going to announce his strategy decision for Afghanistan. There's really only one remaining question. How many more U.S. troops will go to war? Well, that guessing game is under way, but we do know some things. There are 68,000 troops in Afghanistan right now. And according to a defense official who's in the know, says the Pentagon expects orders to send another 34,000 troops, which means more than 102,000 American troops could be fighting the war.

Well, President Obama is going to reveal the real equation in the days ahead, but tonight his press secretary is talking to CNN.

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

Dan, you caught up with Robert Gibbs.

How hard is this president selling the American people on the Afghan strategy?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to be pushing very hard, not only to the American people, but to the key allies, when the president does make that announcement on the strategy in Afghanistan next Tuesday at West Point Military Academy in New York.

As you mentioned, I caught up with Robert Gibbs a short time ago and talked about what is at stake as the president delivers his message.


LOTHIAN: What will the president be telling the American people on Tuesday?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, look, I think the president, Dan, understands that he's got to let the American people know why we're in Afghanistan, what's in our national interests to be there, how important the decision is that he's making, and the process that he's gone through to make that decision.

He will outline that decision, talk about the onus and responsibility being on the Afghans, what we're going to have to do to train Afghan national security forces and their police, and the steps that the Afghan government is going to have to take to address their corruption and governance issues, so that when we get an Afghan national security force trained, we can hand more security areas off to the Afghans and American forces can go home.

LOTHIAN: What about the cost issue? We have heard the numbers out there that if you're talking about any significant increase, it's going to be billions of dollars. And already you're hearing key Democrats talking about a war tax. Will the president address about how he plans to pay for this strategy?

GIBBS: Well, I think the president is going to walk through what this is going to cost and -- let's be honest, Dan -- what it already has cost, not just our treasury, but in the sacrificed lives of brave men and women that protect our freedom every day.

I think he will talk about the costs in this speech. I don't think we're going to get too deep into funding mechanisms. And I have been in no meetings where there's been a war tax discussed.

LOTHIAN: What about reaching out to allies? It will be important for him to make sure that the global community is on board to help out in this effort.

GIBBS: Right.

LOTHIAN: And what will the administration be doing?

GIBBS: Well, understand, Dan, this is an international force right now, led obviously by a significant contribution of right now 68,000 Americans, 40,000 international troops.

The president will throughout the weekend be communicating his decision to our allies in NATO in phone calls and in visits over the next few days. And in the coming days, NATO will also have a force generation conference. And this is not America's problem alone. This is not one region's problem. This is an international problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And it's only going to be dealt with through international help.

LOTHIAN: OK. Happy Thanksgiving. GIBBS: Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.


LOTHIAN: Now, Gibbs also pointed out that the president will address the commitment and how long the commitment will be in Afghanistan, saying that this will not be an open-ended engagement, that it will be limited. He says that the U.S. will not be in Afghanistan for another eight to nine years -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Dan, I thought it was telling. You and I both know, if Robert Gibbs making himself available there, just how intense this White House must be on getting its message out there, rolling this out and selling to it the American people. They don't always do that.

LOTHIAN: That's correct.

This morning, Robert Gibbs did have a gaggle. That's a chance for reporters to go into his office and talk about some of the details of the speech, what the president plans to address. But he did not hold the daily briefing, because the president did make some public remarks today when he was pardoning that turkey.

So, he was pretty much behind the scenes today. So, yes, when Robert Gibbs will make himself available to talk about this, it really does show how important this is for this administration, not only selling the American people, who at this point are very divided about what they think about the strategy and the war in Afghanistan, but also getting key allies on board, because they really will need allies to help out as they beef up the military forces there in Afghanistan.

MALVEAUX: And, Dan, I also understand there are several dozen members of Congress who are going to be coming to the White House on Tuesday. Can you give us a little bit with more about what that meeting is going to be about with the president?

LOTHIAN: That's right. We're told about 21 or so bipartisan group of lawmakers who by the way had been to the White House in the past when the president was talking about a new strategy in Afghanistan, he had invited many of them here to the White House to talk about it, they will be coming in the afternoon prior to the president's prime-time speech, again for the president to sort of drive home his case, lay out his strategy, and to really get support behind him.

As I pointed out, you know, this is something where key Democrats have been saying, we have to figure out how we're going to pay for this. It's going to be billions of dollars. How we will pay for it? Will there be a tax? The president has to make a case where this money will come from and lay out his strategy, hopefully getting all of their support.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dan, thank you so much, excellent reporting. Thanks, Dan. Almost a year ago, West Point cadets heard from President Obama's predecessor about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Towards the end of his second term, then President George W. Bush spoke at the military academy -- I remember covering that -- I was there -- as part of a series of speeches highlighting his administration's actions, as well as decisions. Here's how he put it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We liberated more than 25 million Afghans.

Now America and our 25 NATO allies and 17 partner nations are standing with the Afghan people as they defend their free society. The enemy is determined, the terrain is harsh, and the battle is difficult, but our coalition will stay in this fight. We will not let the Taliban or al Qaeda return to power. And Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terrorists.



MALVEAUX: President Bush acknowledged then that the incoming administration faced volatile situations in several hot spots, especially along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

Well, eight days after President Obama's war announcement at West Point, he's going to be talking about climate change in Denmark. The White House is confirming that he's going to go to a major climate change summit in Copenhagen on December 9. Now, that is one day before he travels to Norway to accept his Nobel Peace Prize.

Greenpeace says that it would rather see the president at the end of that climate conference on December 18, when the other world leaders are going to be there, rather than at the beginning.

Before Thanksgiving, economic numbers many Americans, they are going to be thankful for, and, surprisingly, new claims for unemployment dropped last week, falling to 466,000, over the lowest in a year. As for Americans getting unemployment benefits a week or longer, that also fell to just over 5.4 million.

The government also says consumer spending was up almost 1 percent, the best showing since August. While spending was up, so was money in people's paychecks. Personal income rose slightly in October for the second straight month. Meanwhile, orders for cars, appliances, other durable goods dropped almost 1 percent last month, but consumer spending on those goods rose just more than 2 percent.

End of life counseling, it was a bipartisan idea until Sarah Palin got involved. I will talk with a congressman who apparently got Palinized over death penalties.

And uniforms from the National Basketball Association known all over the world now will be made in other parts of the world. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: End of life counseling had bipartisan support until Sarah Palin started talking about evil death panels. But it seems as if Palin herself once viewed that idea favorably.

Our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, she has been looking into this, and she joins me now, and along with the man whose idea was apparently Palinized, Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

Thank you so much for joining, Congressman.

I would like to start off by asking you this must be like an out- of-body political experience for you. You started off introducing bipartisan legislation how to help people approach the end of life, and it became Palinized -- what people are saying, Palinized -- into these death panels. Who do you blame?

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON: Well, it's complex.

In part, there are people who were so eager to demonize health care reform that they would seize on anything. And there were a few commentators that just perverted it, even though it was bipartisan, strongly supported, and virtually anybody who has looked at this understands that it's important to help people with information and make sure their wishes are observed, whether they may be.

Part of it, candidly, was the media itself that focused on some of the more bizarre things this summer, the tea parties, the shouting and the outrageous claims. I truly was just mystified to see how it morphed into something that was simply unrecognizable, based on what we did in committee the months before.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Congressman, what you did is propose legislation to help people prepare for the end of life. And you wrote about this in "The New York Times."

You pointed out that Sarah Palin herself in April 2008 issued a proclamation while she was governor -- let me quote from it -- that was designed to -- "quote -- raise public awareness about the need to plan for health care decisions related to the end of life."


BORGER: Isn't that exactly what you proposed? So, what do you have to say to Sarah Palin here? If you could talk to her directly, what would you say to her?


BLUMENAUER: Well, I'm embarrassed for her. To take something that she at one point in her life understood was important and turn it into a political weapon, I think frankly is shameful.

But it wasn't just Sarah Palin. Over 200 Republican senators and congresspeople voted for something that was almost identical in our Medicare prescription drug legislation a couple of years before that for terminally ill people. This is an example of what happens when people just go over the edge, when they throw truth out the window, and they're looking for any blunt instrument that they can use for tactical political advantage.

MALVEAUX: So, what happens if this doesn't really go through the Senate? Are you going to fight for this? Is this something that you're willing to take to the mat?

BLUMENAUER: Oh, absolutely. This is very important. We need to make sure that people know what they're getting into in these difficult situations for individuals and their families. It's also important to make sure that their wishes are respected.

We were able, even after all the outrageous claims, to be able to keep it in the House bill. And Senator Rockefeller, I think, is going to fight to put it in the Senate. I think we have got a good chance of getting it.

BORGER: Well, even if Senator Rockefeller proposes it, Congressman, why would any politician want to touch this again, given how divisive it was in the House?

BLUMENAUER: Well, what happened, though, is when you got past these outrageous claims, people started understanding that it simply was not true.

And we had over 300 experts, we had the American Association of Retired People, we had medical professionals step up and help us push back. And I personally believe that it is so compelling, that all independent experts agree that it's important. And we're hearing from ministers, from doctors. I think we have got a good chance of in this case the truth winning out and we provide an important benefit for our senior citizens and their families.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, you had told Gloria once that you found this all kind of hopelessly depressing, that this became so politicized. Have you changed your perspective here, now that we're moving just a little bit forward on health care?

BLUMENAUER: Well, it was depressing in terms of watching how this catches fire and goes viral through the Internet and frankly where there were lots of people that I expected better from.

But the fact is, we were able to keep it in the House bill. The fact is that people around the country are paying attention to it. I think, if we stick with it, we can win. But it was a sorry chapter in how politics is played these days on the national arena. And it doesn't really bode well for the future if we're going to see more of this and these tactics win.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, we see a bicycle on your lapel. Can you explain to us what that's about?

(LAUGHTER) BLUMENAUER: This is the official membership pin of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus. I represent Portland, Oregon, which is the unofficial bike capital of the United States.

And when we talk about health care, we think it's a good idea for people to burn calories, instead of fossil fuel. And this is just a little symbol in that direction.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, thank you so much. I didn't know. I learned something new here.

Happy Thanksgiving, Congressman. Appreciate it.

BLUMENAUER: And to you. Thank you very much.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you.

Well, do you remember the TV line, it's a man, it's a plane? Well, this time, it's actually both. A daredevil straps a wing and four homemade rockets to his back and tries to break a record. We will tell you if it worked out at all up next in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MALVEAUX: Made in America? Well, maybe not anymore. For the first time ever, NBA uniforms may be made outside of the United States. And that could cost Americans their jobs. Wait until you hear one senator. He calls this an insult to American workers and sports fans.


MALVEAUX: Some new poll numbers on Afghanistan that the White House may find troubling.

I want to bring in the best political team on television, our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, and our two insiders, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile. She's also a vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party. And our other insider, Republican consumer and CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos. He is also an unpaid adviser for the Republican National Committee.

I feel like this is like a Thanksgiving dinner, like we got family and many different people here.


MALVEAUX: So, we can argue. We can do whatever we like here.

Obviously, the president's going to be rolling out his Afghanistan strategy on Tuesday. I want you to take a look at this poll here, breakdown between men and women. Sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, men 58 percent favor, 58 percent oppose. Women, 42 percent favor, 57 percent oppose.

What does this say, this gender breakdown? Anybody, jump in.

BORGER: It's that there is a huge gender gap here when it comes to sending sons and daughters to war. 'Twas ever thus and continues to be, and that men and women in this particular poll are mirror images of each other.

And I think what the president has to do in order to get these women on board is not only to be clear about what he wants to do, but be clear about an exit strategy. I think that's going to be very, very important for him.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree with Gloria that the president must define the mission. What is the mission? Why are these troops are going, why are these additional troops are going, eight years after this war started? What plans will the president now give these troops to finish the job?

I think this is a very important speech for the president, because what you have seen is a war-weary public. They're worried about whether or not we're going to be successful. I think we will be successful, but in order to be successful, we need a good, strong partner in the Afghan government. And that might require more than just bringing in new troops.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Even in the Bush administration, for a long time now, we have had a country, a military that's been at war, but a country that's not.

We have become disconnected from I think what our troops are doing and its relevance to us. And I think the big job President Obama has to do is say this is why this is important to our country. We don't want al Qaeda to have a home base, like they used to have, to come back and get us. But more than that we want stability in that region because that's going to set a great example for us.

So, he's got to bring this back home to us and say this matters to you.


He's going to have to say why U.S. security is at stake. Remember security moms? They were on board with what was going on in the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq simply because it was quite apparent that the home front was under attack with 9/11.

That -- you know, time has erased that straight line. So, he needs to do that. It's not going to bring everybody back and certainly one speech is not going to do it. This is going to be an over-the-month kind of thing that he is going to have to do.

MALVEAUX: And President Bush really emphasized that. He took advantage of the fact that there were so many worried mothers and that there were people who their sons were going off the war. He emphasized that quite a bit. I want to bring up another split here that we're seeing here. Democrats, it's not surprising here, 37 -- only 37 percent favor sending these troops, as opposed to 62 percent who oppose. Republicans, it's really the flip side here -- 70 percent approve, but 30 percent oppose.

The big number, the important number here is the independents, who are split almost down the line almost 50/50 here. This is a group of people during the campaign, certainly, that President -- that the candidate Obama managed to win over, and he's now losing as the president. What does he need to do?

BORGER: Well, they're growing increasingly skeptical of Barack Obama. People generally like him more than they like his policies, independents more so. They're more skeptical of his policies.

And I think the war in Afghanistan is another example of that. Again, as everybody's been saying around this table, in order to win over those independent voters, he has to give a clear strategy and he also has to show a commitment to it. He has to show that he's going to persevere, because that's what I think people don't sort of get yet about Barack Obama. They like him, but they're not sure they know that much about him. And...

CASTELLANOS: When you go into a war looking for an exit strategy, those presidents are not successful. The presidents that are successful are -- that go into wars making the other guy look for an exit strategy, when you go in with complete commitment.


CASTELLANOS: And this president has waited several months, delayed, wondering what to do. If we waited two months, why can't we wait a year? Why can't we wait two years? I think there's a question. He's going to do this, but he's not happy about doing it. It's not -- is he confident?

He's going to have to, I think, as Gloria said, assert this.


BRAZILE: I don't want to politicize this war. I think the Republicans have done a disservice to this entire operation by trying to make this some kind of political football, when President Bush took three-plus months and the 2006 midterm election before he came up with his strategy on the surge. But that's history.


CASTELLANOS: We're not making...


BRAZILE: This is the important -- the important thing is that we get it right. Al Qaeda is now in Pakistan. The president's going to have to explain, if al Qaeda is in Pakistan, why are we still in Afghanistan? If it's going to be a failed state, and we're worried about al Qaeda going back, well, what about Yemen, Somalia, and some of the other failed states or failing states? So, this is a big issue for the president.


MALVEAUX: We're going to come back after a commercial, real quick.

If you drive a Toyota, another story here, and you know someone who does, there's important information. The carmaker is expanding a massive recall of millions of trucks and cars -- what that is all about, what you need to do to make the safety fix, that up next.


MALVEAUX: We've got our best political team standing by.

But first, I want to go to another story -- a massive recall by Toyota that just got even bigger. And the company is now recalling 110,000 of its Tundra trucks because of excess corrosion.

Now, that is on top of almost four million other Toyota vehicles being recalled because the gas pedal can get stuck in the floor mat, causing sudden acceleration.

Well, today the company announced it will shorten the pedal length. The recall covers eight Toyota and Lexus models.

CNN's Brian Todd took one for a test drive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): A Lexus ES 350 sedan out of control on a highway near San Diego at over 100 miles an hour. Moments before impact, a desperate call to 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Pray. Pray.

TODD: The crash in August killed four members of one family. Preliminary reports from investigators say a floor mat -- the wrong kind, improperly installed -- could have pushed over the gas pedal and pinned it down.

Toyota has told drivers of several Toyota and Lexus models to remove their floor mats until further notice.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, also lists other factors in that crash, one of them on the accelerator pedal. Beyond the main pivot, the lever is not hinged and has no means for relieving forces caused by interferences.

NHTSA officials make clear they're not saying this feature caused that crash, but they've documented more than 100 incidents where accelerator pedals on Lexus and Toyota vehicles got stuck.

Experts we spoke to, including Omar Panjshiri, a certified Lexus technician at the Chantilly Repair Center in Northern Virginia, say the lack of a hinge in the middle of a pedal is not a design flaw, that it's a common feature in most new vehicles and that the pedals are safe.

But Panjshiri says tweaks could be made.

OMAR PANJSHIRI, CERTIFIED LEXUS TECHNICIAN: They can certainly drop the floor pan a few inches on a different design, you know, raise this up a little so you have a lot more clearance be -- between the floor and the accelerator pedal.


TODD: Another item in this NHTSA report has to do with the push button ignition on the ES 50. It's got a feature a lot of drivers may not know about. We've got to go on the road to show you how that works.

(voice-over): Panjshiri and I head out on a highway.

(on camera): I'm going about 60 miles an hour and if I need to kill the engine, what do I have to do?

PANJSHIRI: You just push the -- push and hold the start button for more than three seconds and that will disable the engine.

TODD: OK. You see the lights are dead, the engine is killed. I'm pulling over here to the right, slowing down.

Do most drivers know that feature?

PANJSHIRI: No, most people don't. They would literally have to study the whole manual in order for them to know this feature.

TODD: The NHTSA report simply calls attention to that lack of labeling. Panjshiri says Toyota Lexus may want to put stickers on dashboards telling drivers how to cut power. It's not clear if the driver in the August crash tried to do that.

Overall, Panjshiri says, this is a very safe vehicle.

But is the manufacturer going to redesign that gas pedal or push button ignition switch?

Toyota and Lexus officials tell us they're working on what they call a vehicle-based remedy to make sure this problem never happens again. They're not being specific on what that remedy is or is going to be. But they say once they have it, they'll send notices out to roughly four million Toyota and Lexus drivers for the largest recall they've ever launched in North America.

Brian Todd, CNN, Chantilly, Virginia.


MALVEAUX: The National Basketball Association is an American institution. But it looks like "Made in America" won't be sewn into its uniforms much longer.

Our CNN's Mary Snow, she's joining us now -- and, Mary, tell us what this controversy is about.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, an American supplier of NBA team jerseys says it's being edged out because Adidas is canceling its contract and shipping the work overseas. And now, a U.S. senator is calling a foul and is stepping in to try and reverse the move.


SNOW: (voice-over): They've outfitted Michael Jordan and the Olympic Dream Team. Half the teams on the NBA wear their jerseys. But the roughly 100 workers who make those uniforms outside Buffalo, New York may soon be out of work.

Their company, American Classic Outfitters, said that it was told by Adidas that production was being moved to Asia and it's enlisted New York Senator Charles Schumer to try to stop it.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Now basketball is an American sport. It was invented here in America. It is centered here in America. And the jerseys ought to be made here in America -- no ands, ifs or buts.


SNOW: But those who follow the business of sports don't see a lot of outrage building.

JON WERTHEIM, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" SENIOR WRITER: This is a league that's been trying to expand internationally and made no secret of that. For years and years, they're looking to put teams in Europe. More players than ever are coming from overseas. I think of all leagues, the NBA is least likely to be sympathetic of this.

SNOW: We reached out to the NBA, but it declined comment. While the NBA is stressing globalization, its jerseys have been made in the US. And it's not alone. The supplier for major league baseball uniforms says it has a long-term commitment to making the MLB uniforms in the U.S. uniforms for the National Hockey League and the National Football League are also made in North America.

And Schumer is betting that anger toward Adidas, which is headquartered in Germany, will make a difference. (on camera): What are you doing, at this point?

Have you contacted David Stern, the NBA commissioner?

SCHUMER: We have contacted Adidas. We're hoping they'll do this on their own. But if they don't, we will certainly contact the NBA and ask them to go to work on this.


SNOW: And as for Adidas, we reached out to company for comment, but so far, we haven't gotten a response. Now, the supplier, American Classic Outfitters, says it was two years into a six year contract with Adidas -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, thank you, Mary.

Well, "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd -- she takes a hard shot at what she sees as President Obama's lack of personal loyalty.

Does she have a point?

I'll put it to the best political team on television.


MALVEAUX: We're back with the best political team on television. You guys have been talking all through the break, so let's just get going. Let's get started here.

The former White House counsel, Greg Craig, pushing for closing Guantanamo Bay Prison, as well as transparency pushed out. Some senior advisers say -- I spoke with out of the White House recently -- there's a bigger issue here at large that Maureen Dowd tackles in the "New York Times," her op-ed, saying: "I often wondered if Craig and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and an other former Clinton official who helped undermine Hillary's foreign policy record would have done so if they had known that after turning on Hillary, they would once more end up working beside her, if they had known that Obama can often be more interested in wooing opponents than tending to those who put themselves on the line for him."

Does she have a point?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think she has a point. And -- and it's that -- you know, if the Clinton administration felt your pain, the Obama administration thinks about your pain. The president is intelligent, cerebral. And sometimes that can be very cold and distant.

So, yes, he's not -- being warm is not his strength. But, also, sometimes the most ruthless people in politics are the ones with the noblest causes. When you have a large purpose, sometimes you want to crush people that get in the way or don't perform. And that can be on either side, by the way. And I think this is one of those cases where they're looking at the big picture -- we have so much to do. And sometimes the little guys get run over.


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I can't speak for all of the people inside the White House, but I can say...


BRAZILE: No, no. I'm an outsider that likes to look inside.

But I...


BRAZILE: But I can say this. The president is someone who I believe is compassionate yet tough when it comes to, you know, being disciplined and wanting the very best from his advisers. He's not a ruthless, cold, calculating type of Richard Nixon type of president. But, rather, he is -- he is thoughtful, but he's thoughtful because he want -- he wants to get it right.

BORGER: But, you know, there's always a bus and somebody's going to get thrown under that bus.


BORGER: In every administration, the bus comes by and somebody's under it.


BORGER: He's just the first I might -- I might add. And it is because, ironically, he was trying to do what the president campaigned on. And I think it may not have been the president who threw him under the bus, but it was other people in the administration who felt like he wasn't giving the president the options he needed...

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Somebody always takes the fall when stuff like this happens.


CROWLEY: That's clearly not going to be the president. So, you know, it's somebody else.

We should say, first of all, that Craig Greg -- Greg Craig says that it wasn't about this. OK, let's just at least put that on the record. He said that's not why he is out of that job.

But second of all, it's not a complaint that is peculiar just to this particular case, because you do hear Democrats on Capitol Hill -- and some of them said it vocally and some of them say it privately -- that he is much more -- he, meaning the president -- is much more attentive to Republicans or to people who disagree with him than the people who put him in office. Now, the -- we're not talking about close friends... (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: But you hear that a lot.


BRAZILE: We're looking for full disclosure. Alex has been over to the White House and had lunch. I haven't.

BORGER: OK. So -- so...


CASTELLANOS: Why can't we all get along?

BRAZILE: Thank you very much.

MALVEAUX: Is there anything wrong with wooing your opponents?

I mean that sounds like smart politics.

CASTELLANOS: It's always good politics to listen to folks. We have to -- it's a purple nation. But the...


CASTELLANOS: -- you know, the -- the bus Gloria's talking about that somebody gets thrown under, in this case, this administration, it's a Chicago bus. There is a division in the White House. There are folks who are from Chicago, who've been around the president a long time and a lot of confidence. And then there are new people. Usually, some of the new folks are the first to go in administrations like this.

BORGER: Well, and you're going to be hearing a lot more about the bus from Congress, because there's a bus up there, too. And there are a lot of folks who believe this president right now has got to negotiate with Republicans on his health care plan -- moderate Republicans. And there are Democrats saying, why are Republicans writing our health care bill, which, essentially, they could end up doing if he needs their votes to get it through the Congress?

BRAZILE: And on Afghanistan. That's another issue where many liberal Democrats will probably feel thrown under the bus when it comes to the president's strategy.

MALVEAUX: I've got to leave it there.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.


MALVEAUX: What are you cooking, real quick?

Anybody got a recipe?




CASTELLANOS: I'm going to fry a turkey. Wish me luck.


BORGER: Fry a turkey?


CROWLEY: Turkey. I won't eat it, I'm a vegetarian. But everybody else eats meat, so.


BORGER: I'm an old-fashioned turkey.

MALVEAUX: I don't cook at all. I'm going to buy something.

All right, thank you so much for joining us.

Happy Holidays, guys.

Well, it's the game that brought Iraqis together even under Saddam Hussein's regime. Now, Iraq's soccer teams are benched outside the country's borders. We'll tell you what got them banned from international play.


MALVEAUX: Iraq will not be able to play international soccer in the foreseeable future. It was suspended from competition today.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom has the story from Baghdad.


MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, in a major blow to the morale of soccer fans here, Iraq's Football Association has been suspended by FIFA, soccer's world governing body. That means Iraqi soccer teams and clubs cannot play in international matches.

The suspension was caused by the decision by Iraq's Olympic Committee to disband Iraq's Football Association due to governmental interference.

(voice-over): Officials tell CNN they're working on resolving the situation. This is the second time FIFA has suspended Iraqi football. The first time was in May of last year, but that ban was eventually lifted.

Soccer is, by far, the most popular sport in Iraq, and it has come a long way since the days of Saddam Hussein. At that time, Hussein's son Uday was president of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and he would regularly threaten players with physical violence and torture if they played poorly.

But the national soccer team continued playing. In recent years, they've become something of a force that has united Iraqis across sectarian lines.

Fans across the country were ecstatic when the team won the Asia championship in 2007. In July, Iraq played its first home game since 2002, beating its Palestinian opponents 4-0. Tens of thousands of fans came to Baghdad from all across the country to attend that match.

(on camera): While Iraq's national team has no matches scheduled for the next six months, fans here can only hope the situation is resolved as quickly as possible -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Thank you.

The president makes the annual ritual of a Thanksgiving pardon a family affair. Just take a look for yourself.


OBAMA: All right.

WOMAN: He's like a large chicken.

OBAMA: He is like a large chicken. A brilliant observation.


MALVEAUX: And a lot of people in Jersey think that everyone at MTV is a turkey.

Well, why?

Jeanne Moos finds the answer Moost Unusual.


MALVEAUX: On our Political Ticker, President Obama makes a major proclamation -- warning to the turkeys out there who may be watching, they may want to turn away.


OBAMA: On behalf of Sasha and Malia and myself, we're thrilled to see you. I want to thank Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation and Joel Brandenberger, its president, for donating this year's turkey.

His name is Courage. He traveled here from Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he was raised under Walter's own precious care. (TURKEY GOBBLING)

OBAMA: There you go.


OBAMA: Walter. Now, the National Turkey Federation has been bringing its finest turkeys to the White House for more than 50 years. I'm told President Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys. You can't fault them for that. That's a good looking bird. President Kennedy was even given a turkey with a sign around its neck that said, "Good eating, Mr. President." But he showed mercy and he said let's keep him going.

And 20 years ago this Thanksgiving, the first President Bush issued the first official presidential pardon for a turkey.

And today I'm pleased to announce that thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha -- because I was planning to eat this sucker...


OBAMA: ...Courage will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate. Later today, he'll head to Disneyland, where he'll be grand marshal of tomorrow's parade. And just in case Courage can't fulfill his responsibilities, Walter brought along another turkey, Carolina, as an alternate -- the stand-in.

Now, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will take two of their less fortunate brethren to Martha's Table, an organization who does extraordinary work to help folks here in D.C. who need it the most.

And I want to thank Jaindl's Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania for donated those dress birds for dinner.

So today, all told, I believe it's fair to say that we have saved or created four turkeys.


OBAMA: You know, there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this, where I...


OBAMA: ...pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland. But every single day, I am thankful for the extraordinary responsibility that the American people have placed in me.

I am humbled by the privilege that it is to serve them and the tremendous honor it is to serve as commander-in-chief of the finest military in the world.

And I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to every service member, at home or in harm's way. And we're proud of you. And we are thinking of you and we're praying for you.

When my family and I sit around the table tomorrow, just like millions of other families across America, we'll take time to give our thanks for many blessings.


MALVEAUX: Nice touch.

Well, why is New Jersey so mad at MTV?

Jeanne Moos finds the answer Moost Unusual.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at today's Hot Shots.

In Paraguay, farmers shout slogans against their congress for reducing investments in social programs.

In Saudi Arabia, pilgrims at the Hajj try to brave the elements.

In Germany, a merry-go-round is seen at a just opened Christmas market.

And in Washington, this young lady sets up a DVD player for her train ride to New York City.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Well, an Italian American organization is seeing red over a Moost Unusual reality series.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just what New Jersey needs -- another slap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MTV's new series, "Jersey Shore."

MOOS: But what's creating waves is the way Italians come across in this reality series.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are the hottest, tannest, craziest guidos? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tannest, hottest, craziest guidos.



MOOS: The G word really grates on Andre Domino's nerves. He is president of UNICO, and Italian-American organization that would love "Jersey Shore" to be canceled...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love big Italian boys and mussels (ph).


MOOS: ...even though it hasn't yet aired.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They keep their hair high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes me about 25 minutes to do my hair.


ANDREW DIMINO, UNICO PRESIDENT: They're going to the lowest common denominator. It's just a bunch of pumped up young bimbos and buffoons acting on the beach with their spiked up hair.

MOOS (on camera): You have nice hair.

DIMINO: Thank you. Thank you.

MOOS: But it's not spiked up.

DIMINO: No, it's not.

MOOS: But it's up, though.

DIMINO: That's right.

MOOS (voice-over): The reality show gets hairy. It's about a group of twentysomethings who share a summer rental in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm a good looking, well-groomed Italian who's very, very good with the ladies.


DIMINO: They saw them being arrested, fighting, you know, hitting a girl, a girl kissing a girl. It's just trash. It's just trash. MOOS (on camera): But isn't this normal reality show fare?

DIMINO: What's the insult on injury here is that they connected it so closely to being Italian-American.

MOOS (voice-over): The last show that UNICO protested was "The Sopranos."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's right about it. HMO.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're covered.


MOOS: The cast of "Jersey Shore" makes Tony Soprano seem modest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hit on me all you want to, but what can you possibly say to somebody that looks like Rambo, pretty much, with his shirt off?


MOOS: MTV released a statement saying: "The show continues MTV's history of documenting various subcultures and the ways they self-identify."

But Dimino is not buying the anthropological explanation. Of MTV, he says...

DIMINO: The M-T stands for empty. It's really an empty network.

MOOS: His wife Jennie agrees.

JENNIE DIMINO: It's like "Girls Gone Wild." It reminds me of that show, "Girls Gone Wild."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready for a whole new crazy.


DIMINO: They call the girls the guidettes.

J. DIMINO: I don't think I'm a guidette.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "JERSEY SHORE," COURTESY MTV) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never know, at the Jersey Shore, what's going to go down.

MOOS: It's not their hair.

Jeanne Moos...

(on camera): Has he ever had gel in his hair?

MOOS (voice-over): Never.

J. DIMINO: Never. Never.

MOOS (voice-over): CNN, New York.



Up next, "CNN TONIGHT".