Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Cleaning Up America's Red Ink; G.E. Target of Press Release Hoax; Bryant Fined For Anti-Gay Slur

Aired April 13, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, with America up to its neck in red ink, President Obama reveals a vision for slashing trillions from the deficit, but he slams a GOP plan as being a betrayal of American ideals. Republicans, wasting no time responding. They are angry.

The Pentagon drops a bombshell with word that U.S. jets have indeed carried out air strikes over Libya, even after NATO took over responsibility for that role.

And another air traffic controller, apparently, asleep in the tower, this time, forcing a medical flight to land without help. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

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

On the defensive by a Republican plan to tackle America's massive deficit through massive spending cuts, President Obama came out with his own blueprint today, a mix of cuts, taxes, even spending, and he came out swinging against the Republican plan which he said paints a deeply pessimistic, his words, vision of America's future. Let's go straight to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He watched it all unfold. Ed, this was an important day for the president.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. When you get inside the huddle here, the basic point and approach from the president was to try and offer some sort of alternative choice to the GOP plan from Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill, and they feel very confident here that this is a much more balanced approach than the GOP plan, but it's hard to know for sure when the president left out so much detail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.

HENRY (voice-over): It was a call to action from a president who truth be told has largely been on the sidelines when it came to cutting the deficit the last two years.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress is failed to act, then my plan will require us to come together and make- up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now instead of kicking our problems further down the road.

HENRY: Except those problems could be kicked further down the road since this was a call to action without any actual action. Few specific details among the president's four pillars. First, the president vowed he would have the political courage to cut some programs unnamed near and dear to the hearts of Democrats. Then, in the next breath, he promised to spend new money on all kinds of others.

OBAMA: We will invest in medical research. We will invest in clean energy technology. We will invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education. We will invest in job training.

HENRY: As for the second pillar, defense cuts, it sounded like to quote the president himself "kicking the can."

OBAMA: We're going to have to conduct a fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities, and our role in the changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the joint chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it's complete.

HENRY: The sharpest contrast between the approaches of Republican Paul Ryan and the president came on the third pillar, cuts to health care spending like Medicare. The president went out of his way to cast himself as the protector of senior citizens. Raising questions about whether he will step up with substantial cuts and be able to work out a deal with Ryan since they're now both dug in.

OBAMA: It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy the insurance that's available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck. You're on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) BUDGET CHAIRMAN: I thought the president's invitation to Mr. Camp, Mr. Hensarling, and myself was an olive branch. Instead, what we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to addressing our country's pressing fiscal challenges. What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander in chief.

HENRY: The divide is just a sharp on taxes where the president vowed to raise taxes on the rich even though he avoided that chance back in December when he extended the Bush tax rates.

OBAMA: They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That's not right. That's not going to happen as long as I'm president.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (on-camera): Now, they feel here inside the White House they couldn't give too much detail because then both sides would dig in even further, and it would be that much harder to get a deal. Instead, the president's approach now in the new information today is he's going to have Vice President Biden head up to the Hill starting in early May, chairs and bipartisan meetings to try to get a serious plan put together. The president putting a deadline of the end of June on that. Seems very ambitious at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very ambitious, indeed. All right. Ed, thanks very much. While the president says he's prepared to slash spending, he says his proposals are nothing like the Republican plan which he's basically characterizing as heartless. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known, but simply, it ends Medicare as we know it. We do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I'm president, we won't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President says if both sides work together, they can't solve this problem. So, let's hear from both sides right now. Joining us, Republican congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Congressman Hensarling, you're among the leadership there. These are strong words. The president says you want to end Medicare as we know it. It's a powerful accusation.

REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TEXAS: Well, what the president has proposed is to allow Medicare to go bankrupt. That's what the trustees to Medicare say. We know that Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, I mean, programs that, frankly, have been of great benefit to our parents and grandparents are morphing into cool (ph) Ponzi schemes for our children and on grandchildren.

And what is the president proposed, well, I'm going to set up some artificial numbers, and then, I'm going to have rationing on steroids and price control on steroids, and somehow, that's going to solve the problem. When it comes to Medicaid, there really isn't a proposal. And for Social Security, he doesn't even acknowledge the problem. And under current law, our children are going to get a 22 percent benefit cut.

And so, if the president has no plan, and let there be no doubt, Wolf, this was not a plan for America to win the future. This was a speech for the president to try to win re-election.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring Anthony Weiner into this conversation. I want you to respond to that but also explain your tweet on Twitter earlier in the day. I read it. "Why I'm not president," you wrote. "My version, the GOP plan is a disaster, and I'll chew my arm off before I sign it." All right. Congressman, talk about that. REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK: Well, that's a little blunt way of putting what I think the president summarized frankly in a very kind of gentle way. Now, Jeb didn't answer your question about Medicare, so I will. Yes, the Republicans are proposing to end Medicare as with the -- as we know it. They're proposing to say to seniors in the future that in order for to you get health care, we're going to give you a coupon and you go out and do your best to shop for health care.

I can tell when you people like my father retire just south of 65, he couldn't even get health insurance let alone health insurance that was paid for by a voucher. Look, the president gave an adult speech today about what our problem is but also lay down the line and says, we are not prepared as a country to give up on Medicare. We're not prepared to buy into the mythology that Jeb just perpetuated.

Social Security add zero dollars to the deficit, that's a fact. In fact, far from borrowing money from China, we borrow most of the money to support other things in the government from the Social Security trust fund, and we're going to fight to protect those things.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Congressman Hensarling, in response.

HENSARLING: Well, one, it's interesting the only people who have actually raided Medicare are the democrats. Anthony voted for Obamacare. They took a half of trillion dollars out of Medicare to try to go and fund Obamacare, number one. Social Security, we've already heard from the trustees, cash flowing, negative now. And so, what we have are Democrats who are trying to perpetuate this myth, not give the facts to the American people, that programs are going broke.

The Republican plan is simple. We are going to make sure that seniors and those who are near seniors stay on the current plan, but we're going to save and secure these programs by future generations, and we believe that, ultimately, market competition as opposed to price controls and rationing is what's going to help our seniors.

BLITZER: Let me just be precise, Congressman Weiner because the president, at the end of the speech, he was also addressing the liberals, the progressives of his own Democratic Party and saying, you know what, you guys -- and I think he was talking directly to you and some of your colleagues, Congressman Weiner. You guys have to grow up as well and you have to deal with Medicare, Medicaid and these entitlements, otherwise, the country is going to go broke.

WEINER: 100 percent correct. You know, it's interesting watching the schizophrenia of the Republican Party. They criticized Democrats for trying to get efficiencies in Medicare and adding ten years to its life expectancy. So, how do they respond? By slashing hundreds of billions of dollars from it and ending it as we know it. Looks, Democrats of the party trying to protect Medicare, but I agree with what the president says. We all have to have things on the table.

That's why when we look at the $1.65 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy that Bush gave -- that Bush handed out and created this deficit today, we have to say, you know what, maybe millionaires and billionaires have to wait at the end of the line before the next tranche of tax cuts.

BLITZER: Are you ready to deal with taxes, put that on the table as part of an effort to end this debt crisis right now, Congressman Hensarling?

HENSARLING: Well, listen, the taxes that the president is proposing is going to do nothing but crush jobs. Second of all, he has absolutely no mechanism to ensure that these taxes don't fuel anything but even more government spending. He fundamentally doesn't deal with the problem. We're on the verge of being the first generation in America's history leave the next generation with a lower standard of --

BLITZER: President says he won't sign into law an extension of the Bush tax cuts for those families earning more than $250,000 a year --

HENSARLING: Principally, a lot of small business people which is the job engine in America --

BLITZER: If he lives up to that commitment, congressman, what are you going to do about it?

HENSARLING: Well, there will be an intervening election soon and the American people will have their say. Again, the president didn't present a plan today. He presented an election speech which is why on Sunday this wasn't unveiled by his OMB director, by his Secretary of Treasury, it was unveiled by his campaign manager. This is taking class warfare to an all-new high.

We will not have jobs in America as long as we have this debt hanging overhead. There's not going to be healthy job creation. And the president punts again and says here's the answer. I ignored my first fiscal responsibility commission. So, now, I'm going to create a second one. Maybe, I'll listen to them.

BLITZER: I'm going to bring Congressman Weiner in a second, but very quickly, because I asked Gene Sperling, the president's economic adviser in the last hour, under his plan, the president' plan, would General Electric which made $14 billion in profit last year worldwide, $5 billion here in the United States, they paid no taxes to the federal government. Under the Republicans' plan, Congressman Hensarling, would G.E. pay any tax?

HENSARLING: Oh, absolutely. We get rid of all of the loopholes. And what we do is we bring rates down so that they can be competitive with our European competitors.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Some of the purists say that's a tax increase then if you do that, if you get rid of those loopholes.

HENSARLING: No. We say we use that in order to bring rates down. We flatten. We make the tax code flatter, fairer, simpler, more competitive so that we can create jobs. What the president does is simply raise the effective tax rates, and I don't know anybody in America who thinks that if you increase taxes on their employer, that they're going to be able to hire your out-of-work neighbor much less give you a raise.

BLITZER: Let's go ahead and respond to that, Congress Weiner.

WEINER: Well, let me just say, we actually have a laboratory for this. In the Bush years, we had -- gave about $1.67 trillion of tax cuts mostly to very wealthy people. It was the first eight-year period in American history we create it no net jobs. And they left us with nearly a trillion dollars in deficit. We tried that model. It hasn't worked out fairly well. I think all of us want to pay no taxes, but it's simply a question of fairness.

Under the president's plan, the middle class and those struggling to make it won't see a tax increase. Under the Republican Plan, not only will there be a giant tax increase for millionaires and billionaires, how are they going to pay for it? Eliminating Medicare. Those are the simple facts of the proposal.

HENSARLING: What the facts are, you are proposing the highest tax increase in America's history on job creators and expecting for there to be more jobs. In the Republican plan, all we do is prevent your tax increase including the tax increase that is in Obamacare.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: Jeb, I voted for the stimulus which had the biggest tax cut for the middle class. You voted no on it. I'm the tax cutter in this conversation.

HENSARLING: Convince the American people of that, Anthony. Good luck.

WEINER: That's what I'm doing.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, thanks very much. Today, an opening salvo from both sides. This is going to be increasingly, increasingly important, though, in the coming weeks. Appreciate it very much, congressmen.

The president spoke for 44 minutes. He might excuse some people for nodding off, but the vice president of the United States, was he one of them?

Also, word of the new U.S. air strike in Libya. Is NATO supposed to be doing that now?

Plus, General Electric is the victim of an elaborate hoax that fooled even some major news organizations. Fortunately, not us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack, he's got the "Cafferty File." Speaking about some political divide in this country, how bad is it, Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we just had a couple of guys on that were pretty good example of how bad it's getting. Yesterday marked 150 years since the start of the U.S. civil war, the bloodiest war in our history. It divided our country physically, ideologically, and before it was over, 600,000 people were dead. To mark the occasion, President Obama said, quote, "We remember the great cost of the unity and liberty we now enjoy, causes for which so many laid down their lives," unquote.

Liberty, yes. Unity, not so much. He's got a front row seat, the president does to the circus of a Congress that took six months to come up with a 2011 budget, and they still can't agree on any meaningful cuts going forward. We're a long, long way from unity. In an interview in Los Angeles this week, the California governor, Jerry Brown, said this country is more divided now than it's been at any time since the civil war.

Brown is facing a fierce budget battle with California Republican lawmakers. He said the difficulty he's having working with Republicans in California on the state level mirrors what's going on in Washington. Probably does. And you can look at Wisconsin and you can look at Ohio where they're having these union battles and other places where fundamental divisions are boiling over like we haven't seen maybe since Vietnam.

By the way, Brown has a deficit that he has to address that was as high as $26.6 billion in the state level. With the budget hole like that, good luck on the unity thing.

Here's the question. California governor Jerry Brown says the country is the most divided has been since the civil war. Is he right? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, don't leave. I want to you watch this next story that Lisa Sylvester had. It's going to fascinate you and our viewers. It had all the makings of a major news story. Get this. A major American corporation out of the goodness of its own heart donating billions and billions of dollars of its own money for billions of tax fund, refund, it says that it wanted to give to the U.S. treasury. Here's the fully problem. The entire story turned out to be a hoax. CNN's Lisa Sylvester is here. She's got more. Some major news organizations accepted the hoax, if you will.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not CNN, but it was activist associated with the group Yes Men were behind this, and they put out a very, very realistic looking press release targeting the company GE. It's not the first time that we have seen something like this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): It has the look of an official corporate release. The logo at the top, the almost perfect-looking website URL, and a top heading, "GE promising to donate a $3.2 billion tax refund to help offset cuts and save American jobs." Only thing, it's completely phony. G.E. did not receive a tax refund from the IRS and didn't donate billions back to the government. The Associated Press wrote an article based on the phony release that was picked up by several websites before was retracted.

The AP admits it did not follow its own standards. The guys behind the prank, they call themselves, U.S. uncut. Activists, Andrew Boyd and Justin Wedes (ph) who work with grassroots group, The Yes Men, in this case, to shine a spotlight on G.E. for not paying any U.S. taxes for 2010 despite making $14 billion, $5 billion of that in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pay my taxes. Why doesn't G.E.? That's where the impulse came to do this prank. It doesn't just come from us. You know, very man in the street feels this sort of in their gut that there's something very wrong here.

SYLVESTER: In a statement, G.E. did not respond specifically to the hoax but said, quote, "The main reason why our tax rate was so low in 2010 was that we lost billions of dollars in G.E. capital, out financial arm, as a result of the global financial crisis." This isn't the first time, though, that the Yes Men have targeted corporate America. In 2009, they spoofed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce holding a phony news conference at the National Press Club on climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy is a fraud. He's lying.

SYLVESTER: They also targeted Chevron altering the company's "We agree" ad campaign. To read oil companies should clean up their messes. We agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call this creative activism. We call this giving a voice to what should be the corporate mantra which should be the corporate voice.

SYLVESTER: G.E. quickly corrected the record, but once a hoax is out there on the internet, it can be hard to rein in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aim of this type of, you know, hoax, press release, or any other tactic like that is to get it to spread like wildfire and very quickly because you really only have a short window of time and opportunity to get your message out if your intent is to rattle your target, so to speak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on-camera): Now, this trend of activists embarrassing public figures and companies is only growing. And in the case of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the chamber fired back filing a lawsuit against the Yes Men for copyright and trademark infringement, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there any legal issues that they may face for doing this? Is there an investigation going on?

SYLVESTER: Well, there is. There is a lawsuit that the Chamber of Commerce has filed, because in the case, what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they actually used a specific logo. They held a news conference that had the logo. So, there is ongoing litigation.

BLITZER: G.E. logo there, too.

SYLVESTER: Yes, exactly. So, that's a possibility, too. We're going to have to see.

BLITZER: We'll how see G.E. if they want to file a lawsuit. We'll see if they do. thanks very much.

Controversial video of a six-year-old getting an airport security pat-down. One congressman says he's disgusted by it.

Plus, new reports of deaths as thousands taking the streets demanding change.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kobe Bryant fined. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. What's going on?

SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, this is just in. CNN has just learned that basketball star, Kobe Bryant, is being fined $100,000 by the NBA for an offensive remark. He used an anti-gay slur against a referee during last night's Lakers/Spurs game. In a statement, Bryant says the slur doesn't reflect his feelings toward gays and weren't meant to offend anyone. The NBA Commissioner calls Bryant's use of the slur inexcusable.

And there has a fresh outrage over this video showing a six-year- old girl getting a security pat-down by a TSA agent at New Orleans Main Airport. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz wrote a scathing letter to the head of TSA expressing disgust at what he calls mistreatment of the girl. The TSA says the agent followed proper procedures after an issue arose with the girl's body scan.

And the fresh wave of anti-government protests across Yemen turned deadly today with at least five people reported killed. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets in major cities including the capital Sanaa where government forces sent in armored vehicles as reinforcements. The protests are calling for an end to more than three decades of rule by President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

Letting others take the lead. When it came to world crises, America used to take heat for going alone. Does President Obama now have different way of doing things?

Also, a suspected U.S. drone strike kills a number of militants in Pakistan, but it couldn't have come at a worse time.

And Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak, and two of his sons have now been detained. We're going live to Cairo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Major development in the Libyan war. Libya accusing Qatar of providing rebels of the eastern part of the country with French made anti-attack missiles. That accusation by the Libyan deputy foreign minister. We're digging for reaction from Qatar. Standby for that.

Meantime, with President Obama criticized for letting other nations take the lead. The Pentagon dropped a bombshell today with word that U.S. aircraft have, in fact, been carrying out air strikes even after NATO's takeover of the mission. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is looking into that. How it plays into the president's vision of a national security policy -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. You know, President Obama shifted leadership for the Libyan mission to NATO late last month. But that's looking a lot easier said than done. And that is raising questions as to whether the soul superpower can take a back seat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Stung by British and French griping that they are the ones bearing the brunt of the fighting in Libya, the Pentagon reveals for the first time U.S. fighter jets still are flying bombing missions but insists it's just part of a support mission.

The squabbling among allies is a shocker. Not so long ago in Iraq, the U.S. caught flack for being too aggressive, going it alone. Then along came Barack Obama.

OBAMA: We are ready to lead once more.

DOUGHERTY: But leading for this president means not doing it all yourself.

OBAMA: American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up, as well.

DOUGHERTY: For Libya that's meant pushing for a U.N. resolution; building a coalition including a few Arab countries. But unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, it means quickly handing over the military lead to NATO.

The president's aides refuse to call it the Obama Doctrine. There's not a plug-and-play approach, one senior administration official tells CNN. But Libya is turning out to be a case study in the world, according to Obama.

It's all part of what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year dubbed shared responsibility.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: American leadership does not mean we do everything ourselves. We contribute our share, often the largest share, but we also have high expectations of the governments and peoples we work with.

DOUGHERTY: And that, the administration argues, can save American lives and money. But critics charge it leaves a leadership vacuum that other countries are only too eager to fill.

DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Really, can't the Chinese manage Asia? Can't the Russians manage Eastern Europe? Can't the Turks manage the old Ottoman Empire? Can't the Iranians manage the old Persian Empire? That's a great, really convenient way to play the game of Risk, but it's not really a great way to manage the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: And there's another potential downside. And that is if the allies that the U.S. is relying on are not capable by themselves of carrying out the mission. And, in fact, some are suggesting that is what's happening in Libya. So that drives home the point that American military might still -- is indispensable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty at the State Department for us.

We're just getting in a sharply-worded statement from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. The statement says, and I'm quoting now, "The United States condemns the Gadhafi regime's continued brutal takes on the Libyan people in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for a stop to all attacks on civilians." The statement adds that the U.S. "has received disturbing reports of renewed atrocities." That's a direct quote. "Regime forces are said to be indiscriminately firing mortar and artillery rounds into residential areas of Misrata."

Strong statement condemning the Gadhafi regime by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

A suspected U.S. drone strike today killed six suspected militants in Pakistan's tribal region. It's the first strike in almost a month, and it comes as anger over such attacks led Pakistan to cut back on intelligence cooperation with the United States.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is joining us live from Islamabad with more.

How's this latest strike going down in Pakistan?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, very badly, frankly. Yesterday you had Pakistani officials demanding America curtail its drone strikes. One official accusing them of being, quote, "trigger happy." And also demanding that America identify what Pakistan says are 40 covert CIA operatives working in this country.

And then the response seemingly, a U.S. drone strike, the first in quite a long time. So you can forgive, perhaps, some Pakistani officials waking up today and seeing this drone strike as America's response. One official saying to me, "Look, if this really is your way of responding to us, saying you're about to carry on with business as usual, irrespective of other minds, our demands, then that's really a pretty crude message" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So where does this leave this key relationship, the United States/Pakistani relationship right now? Because so much is at stake for both countries.

WALSH: Well, it really is deeply frayed. I mean, let's put aside the whole debate on America circle about how genuine an ally, in hunting down militants, Pakistan is to America. There's a much more pressing issue in the months ahead, and that's the war in Afghanistan.

Now, there's a growing consensus that the only way to -- to get a settlement with the insurgency is through some kind of political agreement. And frankly, that's not even going to begin unless Pakistan is somehow involved, many analysts believe. And it's not going to stick unless Pakistan is happy with it.

So really American needs Pakistan now more than ever. And these two supposed allies where corporations should be at full throttle seem to be busy proving to each other which one has the upper hand, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh in Islamabad for us. A sensitive story, indeed. Thank you, Nick.

His health is failing. He's facing possible corruption charges. So where is the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak?

Plus, an air traffic controller apparently asleep on duty, and it's happened again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Egypt's ailing ex-president, Hosni Mubarak, is now detained along with two of his sons as prosecutors look into the killings of protesters during the country's dramatic uprising earlier this year. The former leader's health and his exact whereabouts are also the subject of much speculation.

Let's go to Cairo right now. CNN's Ivan Watson is standing by live. What do we know about President Mubarak's status, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have been a lot of contradictory reports, even coming from within different branches of the Egyptian government, Wolf, with one interior ministry spokesman telling us that Hosni Mubarak had been flown to a hospital here in Cairo. And then we've been calling the hospital he was initially questioned at in the ritzy resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Hospital switchboard operators telling us he was still there.

And recently we heard from the head doctor of a Ministry of Justice medical team that was standing by while he was being questioned by prosecutors at the hospital. They said Dr. Ahmed al- Abai (ph), speaking on Egyptian television, saying that he was there, that Mubarak is still in Sharm El Sheikh, that he did not suffer a heart attack at some media reports have said. He had heart palpitations, and his condition is currently stable. He can even walk with some assistance. He also went on to say something we've never heard before, that Mubarak did have an operation for colon prostate cancer last year when it was widely distributed by the government he had actually had his gallbladder removed. We're learning a lot about Hosni Mubarak.

Meanwhile here in Cairo, the reactions, Wolf, to the knowledge that Hosni Mubarak and his sons have been questioned and detained. People were calling this a victory for the common man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON (voice-over): Traffic jams clogged the streets of Cairo. But this morning Mohammad Qafar (ph) is smiling.

"Since I'm a cab driver I'm always in the street, and I can see that everybody is happy beyond imagination," he says. "The man that used to put people in prison is now behind bars."

News of the interrogation and 15-day detention of Hosni Mubarak and his sons spread like wildfire through a city still decorated with the slogans of the revolution that forced his overthrow.

Patrons at a venerable Cairo coffee shop quietly savoring their former ruler's fall from grace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Thank God, I'm very happy. The country has taken a big step forward. During the previous regime corruption gave way to more corruption. It was survival of the fittest. What we're seeing today is much better than what we had before.

WATSON: The huge challenges plaguing this country are still far from solved. Widespread poverty, unemployment, and a military government accused of torturing prisoners during the two months since it assumed power.

Just a few day ago tens of thousands in Tahrir Square were accusing the military of protecting Mubarak. Now their demands have been met. The former president and his family have gone from being untouchables to being ridiculed and called liars on the front pages of daily newspapers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Mafia. Mafia. This is mafia.

WATSON (on camera): You think -- you think Mubarak is a criminal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mubarak is very, very bad man.

WATSON (voice-over): Mubarak's downfall viewed as victory for the common man, even for those who earn a living and sweating over a hot grill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy.

WATSON (on camera): You're smiling. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm very happy. Of course.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATSON: And Wolf, as far as we know, this is the first time a former Arab head of state has been questioned and detained in connection with a criminal investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing, amazing situation if you think about it over the past few months. Ivan, thank you.

A sick patient on a medical flight and no response from the control tower. Another air traffic controller -- get this -- apparently asleep on the job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's happened again, an air traffic controller apparently falling asleep on duty, this time leaving a medical flight with a sick patient onboard to land on its own. CNN's Jeanne Meserve, she's working the story for us.

What else do we know about this incident?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it happened this morning. The flight was coming into Reno from Mammoth Lakes, California, with a critically ill passenger. The pilot tried to reach the tower seven times, but the controller slept through it all.

Here's part of the pilot's conversation with a regional control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were unable to get through to the tower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. OK, we're going to call them up on the phone line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. We'll circle some more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a pretty sick patient and we may just have to land whether we have clearance or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: And they did. And officials says the delay did not hurt the patient, but the secretary of transportation calls the episode inexcusable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY LAHOOD, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: This is ridiculous. It is outrageous. It's the kind of behavior that we will not stand for at the Department of Transportation. The controller has been suspended. We're conducting an investigation.

And I have said that immediately there will be two controllers in 27 control towers around the country that control planes between 12 midnight and the early morning hours. That -- that kind of directive has been given out today and will take place immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: But Republican Congressman John Michael was harshly critical, saying only in the federal government will you double up on workers averaging $161,000 per year in salary and benefits that are not doing their job.

BLITZER: So just to recap. We know of this incident in Reno. We know of one of one in Knoxville. One here in Washington's Reagan National Airport. Others?

MESERVE: Yes. We were surprised to learn today the FAA disclosed that there were two additional controller screw-ups in recent weeks. A controller in Seattle fell asleep during his morning shift on April 11. He is currently suspended. And two controllers in Lubbock, Texas, are on suspension for failing to hand off control of a departing aircraft, that on March 29. So the incidents keep piling up.

BLITZER: I know Ray Lahood. He's a former congressman from Illinois. He's angry, and he should be. I don't blame him. Thanks very much.

Was Joe Biden sleeping during the president's speech today? You can judge for yourself.

And an interview with a man who couldn't put Libya's Moammar Gadhafi in prison. That's coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at this, 20 winks during a 44-minute speech. Do you think anybody would notice? If you're the vice president of the United States, the answer is certainly yes.

Joe Biden appeared to nod off briefly during President Obama's deficit reduction speech today. It happened as the president accuse the Republicans of trying to end Medicare as we know it and not keeping a promise to seniors.

We can't be sure he was sleeping. There's been no response from the vice president's office yet. Take a look, though. Biden's eyes opened up as the president was saying, "Tough luck, you're on your own."

So Jack Cafferty is here. He is either sleeping, Jack, or he's concentrating really hard on what the president is saying. Or he's praying, for that matter. You know, could be you close your eyes during the speech, stuff happens, right? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: He might have been thinking about what he's going to do if he's not asked to be on the ticket again next year. That's -- that is priceless. Look at that. I love it.

And Tim Geithner sitting next to him, he looked like he was trying to keep his eyes open, too. It was pretty boring, actually.

The question this hour: "California Governor Jerry Brown says the country is -- that's -- the country is the most divided since the Civil War. Is he right?"

Dave in Arizona: "Yes, our leaders do nothing but spread hate and vitriol at every turn, each trying to blame another segment of the population for the country's problems. The nation has garnered a sports team mentality. We're a group of different pockets of beliefs, and each hates the other's thinking."

Carol in Massachusetts: "Jerry may not have been -- may have been around then, but I don't think so. The independent middle does keep the radicals on the right and left in balance. I'm feeling more optimist with Trump in the mix. He'll prove that loony won't play in Peoria. He's proved a place in New York."

Larry, "During the Civil War, it was North versus South. In 2011, and we are divided not only north and south, rich and poor, red and blue, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, employed, unemployed, union, nonunion. How much more divided could we be?"

Caroline writes, "Jerry Brown has a point. However, the problem is broader than the Congress and their infantile behavior creating a divided country. We elected them, at least those of us who bothered to vote. I wonder what would have happened if the nonvoters had voted?"

John in Pennsylvania writes, "Most folks I talk to are unhappy with Washington as a whole but too frustrated to dig deep enough to get at the true facts. As a result, those with extreme views are stealing the limelight. We need a leader for the middle 60 percent plus of us who just want to bring back the standards of the '50s through the '80s, when taxes and compensation levels were fairer. We did have some Republican administrations in that period who served more than just the greedy."

And Joanne in Wisconsin writes this: "Well, that could be. We have a president who engages in class warfare. His so-called budget deficit speech today was nothing but a kickoff to his 2012 campaign. Full of generalities and trying to draw in and get back the seniors. What he doesn't know is we want him gone. Seventy-five percent of my neighborhood's Democrat, and 70 percent of those say they won't vote for him again, no matter what."

If you want to read more on how divided we are, you can go to my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

How could -- you've got to love Biden. How can you not love that guy? BLITZER: So here -- here's the question for you, Jack. Was he, A, sleeping; B, concentrating really hard on what the president was saying; or C, was he praying that the budget deficit would be reduced somehow? A, B or C?

CAFFERTY: He may have been in some sort of a coma. I don't know. Look, there's the head. He's nodding. He's got to be sleeping.

BLITZER: It's a hard job being vice president of the United States.

CAFFERTY: Not the way he does it it's not.

BLITZER: You know, it's -- it's impressive that the cameras caught him.

CAFFERTY: It's terrific. Bless his heart. Yes, and you know what? Like I say, you've got to love the guy. He says -- he's who he is. Take him or leave him, like him or not. He's not going to change. And that's -- and that's fine.

BLITZER: Look, I know the vice president. He's a very, very intelligent, smart guy, and he's a good public servant. There's no doubt about that. He works really hard. Deserves a 20-second nap from time to time.

CAFFERTY: You think he'll be on the ticket next year?

BLITZER: Yes, I do. I think the president likes him a lot. I think he's very popular in the administration. I think he -- you know, he does a good job.

CAFFERTY: Well, and he gets enough rest to where he should be alert.

BLITZER: Needs a little sleep, a little cat nap. Happened to me, too, or you, too, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely, but I'm not the vice president.

BLITZER: No, you're just Jack. All right. Thank you.

Outrageous at times, controversial at others. Jeanne Moos has Donald Trump's greatest hits. You're going to want to see this. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: When Donald Trump speaks, Jeanne Moos listens.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For we, the media, Donald Trump is...

THE OJAYS (singing): Money, money, money, money.

MOOS: ... in the bank. He's been going through the motions of running for president for only a few weeks, and already our cup runneth over with Trumpisms.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: Part of the beauty of me is that I'm very rich.

MOOS: It seems like almost every day...

TRUMP: Our weak president that kisses everybody's ass.

MOOS: ... he's got something to say we can't resist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you vote for one of them?

TRUMP: Oh, don't ask a stupid question like that. That's ridiculous. Go ahead.

MOOS: So we'll go ahead with our top Trump moments, starting at the intersection of politics and obstetrics.

TRUMP: I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?

TRUMP: There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Oh, my God, that is just...

MOOS: A White House adviser's response?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's kind of sideshow behavior. I think it's a sideshow.

MOOS (on camera): The "New York Daily News" reported that with this, the famous clown cover, calling Trump "Sideshow Don."

(voice-over) He even bragged about charging Moammar Gadhafi an arm and a leg for land on which to pitch his tent.

TRUMP: I don't want to use the word screw, but I screwed him.

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: A president who's not afraid to tell the truth about being a lying (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Trump 2012!

MOOS: But Trump's also got a sense of humor.

TRUMP: You know, you're really beautiful.

MOOS: Unafraid to nuzzle Rudy Giuliani in drag for laughs at a dinner roast 11 years ago.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: You dirty boy. Oh, oh!

MOOS (on camera): Just as entertaining as what Trump's been saying is what he's been scribbling.

(voice-over) When he had issues with the "Vanity Fair" blog post about him, he sent it to the editor, plastered with handwritten comments like, "bad writer," "bad picture," "no surprise."

When the article called him tiresome, he wrote, "Tell that to the crowd. See ratings and polls."

(on camera) And it isn't just what Trump says. Some of our favorite moments are people responding to the Donald.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": That's the biggest pile of dog mess I've heard in ages.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": His mother was American, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: The only thing he's running is his mouth.

MOOS: What America's cartoonists can't resist running is their fingers through Trump's hair. What could be more of a rush? In a Mike Luckovich cartoon, "97 percent questioned whether your hair was born in this country."

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're hired!

TRUMP: You're hired.

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That does it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.