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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Anthony Weiner; NATO Extends Libya Mission

Aired June 1, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Should ball players earn more than doctors, CEOs more than U.S. presidents, hard-bitten CNN newsmen more than teachers? Sure. Why the heck not? The list of things that actually make sense in this world is far shorter than the list of things that don't -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a congressman confronts the scandal over a lewd Twitter picture. Did he send it to a female college student? I asked Anthony Weiner in a one-on-one interview. Standby.

Also, Sarah Palin's surprise pizza party with Donald Trump. She reveals details of their conversation including their 2012 GOP field in an exclusive CNN interview.

And dozens of House Republicans sit down with President Obama over at the White House to talk about raising the debt ceiling. We have details of the frank discussion and the sharp differences.

Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

It's the lewd Twitter picture that has everyone talking, including the congressman allegedly depicted in it. One day after lashing out at reporters for pressing him for answers, the New York Democrat Anthony Weiner sat down with me up on Capitol Hill in his office to confront the controversy.

He insists he did not send the close-up shot of a man in underwear to a young Seattle woman, and he says he's treating the whole thing like a prank, but he would not say for certain that the picture isn't of him, and he suggested the image may have been manipulated. We sat down in his office just a little while ago. Here's part two of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Did you send that picture to that college student in Washington State?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK: I did not. She says she never got it and doesn't know me. I certainly don't know her. This seems like it was a prank to make fun of my name. You know, when you're named Weiner, that happens a lot. Got 45,000 Twitter followers, hundreds of people that I follow. This seems like a prank that has gotten an enormous amount of attention.

BLITZER: Have you ever taken a picture like this of yourself?

WEINER: I can tell you this, that there are -- I have photographs. I don't know what photographs are out there in the world of me. I don't know what things have been manipulated and doctored. And we're going to try to find out what happened, but the most important reason I want to find out what happened is to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Obviously, someone got access to my account. That's bad.

They sent a picture that makes fun of the name Weiner. I get it. You know, touche. Dr. Moriarty, you got me. At the time it happened, I tweeted right away that I got the joke and I continued on with my life. And I think that, frankly, that's what I would encourage everyone to do. I don't believe that this is a big federal issue.

BLITZER: Are you protecting anyone?

WEINER: Yes.

BLITZER: Who?

WEINER: I'm protecting my wife who every day is waking up to these insane stories that are getting so far from reality. You know, we've been married less than a year. To watch her watch these stories, get crazier and crazier about what is essentially a prank, a hoax, you know, when we went to bed that night not batting an eye. This was a goofy thing that happened. She married a congressman. OK. She knows a little something about living a public life.

She knows what that goes a certain amount of, you know, aggravation. I don't think she imagined that it would be this, these bizarre stories about people who are connected to me by eight or nine rings of connection on social media. I'm protecting her the best I can. I can handle myself. These poor people who are getting dragged into this with these more and more bizarre conspiracy theories, I'm protecting people who are so offended when CNN puts this Breitbart guy on and says the most outlandish thing about innocent people, you know, I can take the flack.

But, at some point, when I say, you know what, I'm not going to do any more questions about that. It is to some degree to protect a certain amount of integrity to all of us that we are in this place that we're constantly having this conversation about something that was essentially a prank.

BLITZER: I know your wife whom -- she's a great lady. And you're a very lucky guy to be married to her.

WEINER: Sure am.

BLITZER: She works for the secretary of state and has for a long time. How is she handling all of this?

WEINER: Well, she's bemused. You know, she's got some experience, and she's not a public person, as you know. I mean, she went the entire campaign in 2008 with probably most Americans not knowing that she was the traveling chief of staff to Hillary Clinton. She's a remarkable, remarkable woman. As my friend, Heath Shuler, once said about her, you know, I've outkicked my coverage.

And you know, that's something like this would take on this -- that I would wake up this morning and see on a blog, you know, some of the attractive women that Anthony Weiner follows and one of them is my sister-in-law. I mean, it's gotten bizarre. And I know that you are doing your job. You know, I get that. You're trying to follow the story. Maybe it's because it's placed on Memorial Day weekend, there's a lot of pent-up demand or something like that.

But I just would hope you'd understand that, you know what, sometimes, things are what they appear. Sometimes, a prank is a prank. And that's why I'm trying to treat it that way. But, hopefully, my marriage survives my first anniversary.

BLITZER: I hope it does, too. I know you could have resolved this, that performance yesterday was terrible with our Dana Bash.

WEINER: I would agree with that. I mean, I thought --

BLITZER: I mean, calling Ted Barrett what you called him -- he's such a nice guy.

WEINER: He didn't act it the other way. You know, listen, you have certain -- I have certain right as a citizen, as a human being, to be treated with some level of respect. Someone yelling at me and someone hectoring me. I --

BLITZER: He's not yelling. He was just asking some questions.

WEINER: You know, he's hectoring. He was -- in the middle of Dana Bash's questions. But let me just stipulate to this rather than relitigating whether he is or he's not a jackass, I'll leave it to someone else. Let me just say this is that I did not do that well yesterday, but look it through my lens. Saturday this thing breaks in the middle of the night, in the wee small hours of Saturday. I tweet about it and I basically said I was hacked.

Saturday, we put out a statement resolving questions about it. It wasn't me. You know, I don't know this girl, et cetera. The next day, well, someone put out a statement about that. The following day, Monday, this is Memorial Day weekend, by the way, Wolf. Memorial Day weekend -- take a walk, you know, some cameras out there staking out my house. Talk to them. The crew, I think, from CNN. Talked to them.

So, when I got here Tuesday, this notion that -- I don't care what's going on the House floor. I don't care what issues the middle class are facing today. I don't care what kind of challenges there are. We're going to talk to you about this whether you like it or not. OK. I had made a decision. I'm drawing the line. I'm not going to talk about this anymore. Did I draw it in too stern a way? Was I -- was I too taciturn? That's why you and I are sitting here today, that I regret the way that I handled it yesterday, and I'm trying to deal with it better today.

BLITZER: Do you still want to be mayor of New York?

WEINER: Put it this way, it's the only better job than the one I have. Just imagine how many Weiner jokes will be in play, you know, when you become mayor, but you know, the thing I'm really focusing on now is this is a tough two years coming up, the presidential re- election. I've got to get re-elected. And we have this really seismic battle going on.

The likes of which I haven't seen in my 13 years in Congress, that, you know, the Republicans are really laying out a firm ideological stand. I'm not trying to fudge it too much. That is diametrically opposed to the things I believe in, on Social Security, on Medicare and the like, and it's that rare moment of American civic life where upsides aren't blurring. They're really going to their corners. There's a lot of work to do here because I know which corner I'm in.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it on that note. Just to recap, you didn't send that photo to that woman in Washington State.

WEINER: I did not send to it that woman in Washington State.

BLITZER: But you're not 100 percent sure whether the photo is actually you?

WEINER: What I am going to say is that we're doing everything we can to try to answer that question, but we're doing an investigation. I just want to caution you, you know, photographs can be doctored, photographs can be manipulated, can be taken from one place and put in another. And so, you know, that's -- and I want to make it clear, this is -- in my view, not a federal case. In my view, this is not an international conspiracy. This is a hoax, and I think that people should treat it that way.

BLITZER: And you're still leaving open the possibility of going to law enforcement?

WEINER: Look, as I've said a couple of times in this interview that I left this in the hands of people that know the stuff far better than I. I'm not treating it like a federal case. It doesn't look to me like one. It looks to me like what it is. When your name is Weiner, people do Weiner jokes about you on the internet all the time. Unfortunately, people get hacked and people -- you know, identities get blurred all the time. And so, I'm leaving it to investigation, but I'm certainly not treating it like a federal case.

BLITZER: Congressman, thank you very much.

WEINER: You bet, Wolf. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: You should have done this yesterday, by the way.

WEINER: Touche. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Let's dig deeper with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, he should have done it yesterday because he dug that hole much deeper yesterday in that confrontational exchange he had with Dana and Ted.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He lashed out at reporters yesterday. Today, you heard him explain sort of himself, and he seemed -- you know, you kind of understood it a little bit more, but here's a politician who tweets constantly. And I think when you look at this, it's kind of interesting, Wolf, because what happens to politicians when they do that is you establish in many ways, I believe, a false sense of intimacy with the people you are communicating with.

Politicians use Twitter to their benefit. On his Twitter account, for example, it says, you know, I'm going to appear on MSNBC tonight. Watch me. You know, whatever. And that's perfectly legitimate, but what's interesting about Congressman Weiner is that he actually carried on conversations with people, and you know, you have to be aware that that can have consequences. He was hacked. He has a large following.

And -- so you understand his consternation. You know, in the end, Wolf, he couldn't answer the question that you posed to him about whether in fact this was him in this picture. He said pictures can be manipulated, but it's the age in which we live. And he had clearly given up a lot of his privacy by dealing with people like that on his Twitter, and the result was that he got hacked.

BLITZER: I bet you a lot of other members of Congress right now are rethinking their whole attitude towards social media, Twitter, Facebook.

BORGER: Well, you know, social media is quite -- it's useful to everyone. It's quite useful to politicians. I mean, there are politicians who clearly hire people to tweet for them because they want to let their constituents know what they're up to every minute of the day. Look at Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin has used tweeting brilliantly because she gets to say what she wants to say, inject herself into the political conversation no matter where she is, and she doesn't have people like us asking her questions.

She can just say 140 characters exactly what it is she wants to say on any particular issue. Remember the health care debate. When she started talking about death panels. That became a huge issue in health care reform. So, politicians can use it to their advantage, but it also has the real downside, and, again, I think it establishes this sense of intimacy with sometimes can be good because the more your voters get to know you, the better off they are, but sometimes, it can be really bad.

BLITZER: Gloria, don't go too far away. We have some other subjects to discuss as well. Gloria Borger here in the Situation Room. White House field trip for dozens of House Republicans. Details at what described as a quote, "frank talk" with the president of the United States about the debt ceiling.

And NATO makes a move. It says sends a clear message to the regime of Moammar Gadhafi even as another key player defects.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is thinking about what happens when politicians get into trouble. He's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's what keeps us in business. Politicians never learn, it seems. They think if they deny something or change the subject when they're asked about it, that's the end of it. It will just somehow go away. Well, guess what. It doesn't. Never seems to. And watching them squirm around as the truth eventually comes to light, well, that's priceless. The latest example is new York Congressman Anthony Weiner whose Twitter account sent out a lewd picture of a man in his underwear.

The episode was quickly dubbed Weiner-gate. The Congressman Weiner is insisting that his Twitter account was hacked and someone else sent the photo. Well, that's the same excuse of former Congressman Christopher Lee, the Republican from New York, tried last February when he was caught sending a suggestive picture of himself to a woman that he was hoping to meet on craigslist. He later resigned.

Weiner gave (ph) it would have appeared in all likelihood if the congressman had answered the question, did you send the photograph or not. Instead, Weiner calls a CNN producer a jackass yesterday, you saw that if you were watching the show, and carries on like some spoiled nine-year-old. Note to the congressman. It wasn't a CNN producer who came across as the jackass. Dodging questions and denying allegations is nothing new.

President Bill Clinton said I did not have sexual relation was that woman. Wrong answer. President Richard Nixon said I am not a crook. Well, he was. And look the mess John Edwards is in, facing a long stretch in prison possibly over allegations that he stole campaign money and used it to support his mistress. The list of egotistical so-called public servants is much longer than I have time for here.

Here's the question. Why do politicians think denying an allegation or changing the subject means it is going to go away? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi is being hit from outside and from within as air strikes continue. Gadhafi had suffered another key defection. This time is the country's oil minister who says he left because of the suffering of Libya's people. Meantime, the NATO allies say they'll keep up the pressure on the regime. Brian Todd is here in the SITUATION ROOM working the story for us. Takes a new twist right now, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: NATO laying down a new marker, Wolf. A new commitment to extend this mission three more months if need be. NATO officials tell us this is standard procedure in an operation like this, but there are new questions tonight about how long this mission can remain effective even with some new setbacks from Moammar Gadhafi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He's rarely seen in public. He's just lost eight generals from his command and his oil minister. And now, the NATO alliance vows to keep up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi, announcing it will extend its mission in Libya for at least another 90 days.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: This decision sends a clear message to the Gadhafi regime. We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya.

TODD: That's the publicly stated goal, but on the ground, NATO has intensified its air campaign, hitting Gadhafi's command and control structures, bringing in French and British attack helicopters with more close strike capability. All while NATO officials say they're not specifically targeting Gadhafi.

Is that realistic to buy that line from them?

PROF. PAUL SULLIVAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Publicly, they can say certain things, but the inference is that there are other goals involved.

TODD: Analyst, Paul Sullivan, says the signals are obvious. European leaders and President Obama have decidedly shifted their tone on this mission.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Time is working against Gadhafi, and he must step down from power and leave Libya to the Libyan people.

TODD: And published reports cite NATO officials describing a new strategy of driving Gadhafi out, but the extension comes after some tough criticism of NATO's effectiveness over the past two months.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, (R) FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHAIRWOMAN: NATO- led air strikes in Libya have inflicted serious damage on Gadhafi's regime's war machine. Yet, loyalists troops continue to demonstrate cohesiveness and operational superiority over rebel forces.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, a NATO official countered saying that by hitting Gadhafi's command post, NATO forces have degraded his ability to attack rebel forces and civilians. Sullivan says NATO has effectively destroyed Gadhafi's anti-aircraft capability but --

What does he got, though, that could hit those helicopter gun ships? SULLIVAN: If they're low enough in RPG, it could cause enough damage. Think of Mogadishu.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (on-camera): That, of course, the infamous mission that brought down the U.S. Blackhawk helicopters in Somalia. Now, an incident like that could mean a swift end to NATO's mission, but even if that doesn't happen, Sullivan warns of other political problems for NATO. He says Gadhafi's got the ability to drag this whole thing out. And if he does, some NATO member nations may not have the patience to extend this mission much past September where it's going now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, what are some of the biggest military challenges NATO is facing right now?

TODD: Gadhafi and his troops right now are hunkered down more than they've ever been. It's getting harder for NATO forces to find targets in and around Tripoli. That's probably why they brought in those attack helicopters. And there are some signs that some NATO member countries are kind of getting weary of the pace here. There are indications that Norway may reduce its forces in the next couple of months or maybe even in the coming weeks.

NATO officials kind of downplay that saying they're holding it together right now. So, we'll see if the alliance can stay together through these next months.

BLITZER: U.S. taxpayers have already spent about a billion dollars for the U.S. part of this and presumably more on the way.

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

The White House polls had a chance to look each other in the eyes. House Republicans meet with the president.

And Sarah Palin takes time out from her mystery history tour to meet with Donald Trump. Stick around. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The day after the House voted overwhelmingly against the bill to raise the country's debt ceiling, Republicans were over at the White House for a meeting with the president, but there was no meeting of the minds. Let's go live to the White House. Our correspondent, Dan Lothian, is standing by. How did it go, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, they met with the president for an hour and 15 minutes to talk about the economy, talk about the debt ceiling and jobs. As he pointed out, there was no agreement here, but White House spokesman, Jay Carney, told me that it wasn't about that laying out spread sheets or going through details, but rather, both sides sitting down and having an honest discussion. But as the talks continue between all sides, there are serious concerns about what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): At MicroTech, a Northern Virginia company all the talk about raising the debt limit is not some obscure inside the beltway political find.

TONY JIMENEZ, CEO, MICROTECH: Well, it affects us because we have to build in contingencies. We have to worry about what happens if, and we have to plan for the health of our people. And it panics our people.

LOTHIAN: Why are they panicking here? This is a government technology contractor. It employs 700 people to help support the military and the host of federal agencies. CEO, Tony Jiminez, says they depend on the federal government's ability to borrow money in order to pay its bills.

JIMENEZ: It would devastate us. When you start having money issues, the first thing that starts happening is the federal government and the bill pairs take a good hard look at the contractors.

LOTHIAN: In other words, he fears he won't get paid. It's just one element of what the White House has painted as a potential catastrophe even though some in the GOP raise doubts about that claim. So, House Republicans jumped on big buses and took a field trip to the White House to talk face-to-face with the president.

The east room meeting was closed to the press, but California Republican Darrell Issa tweeted pictures of the event, a meeting everyone seems to think was productive, but sharp different remain on how to achieve debt relieve.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: We're going to raise the debt limit. The spending cuts should exceed the increase in the debt limit. Otherwise, it will serve to cost us jobs in our country.

LOTHIAN: Before the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner released a letter signed by 150 economists to bolster his argument. President Obama is pushing new investments in taxes on the wealthy, but he's expressed a willingness to compromise. Those inside the meeting describe sharp exchanges was said that tone was not confrontational.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that with both sides negotiating in good faith, that a compromise can be achieved and that's what the American people want.

LOTHIAN: That's what the people at MicroTech want, too.

JIMENEZ: We expect the federal government to consider us. And everything that they're doing when they're doing it because there are hundreds of thousands of people rely on the federal government that don't work for the federal government. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (on-camera): Now, Jimenez says that this experience is causing them to look at diversifying so they won't be as heavily dependent on federal government contracts. As for the debt ceiling deadline, that's approaching August 2nd, and the talks led by Vice President Biden continue. The next meeting set for next Thursday up on Capitol Hill -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian is at the White House.

Let's dig deeper right now. We'll bring back our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Politics wise, I guess, the Democrats don't want to touch Medicare. They sort of want to attack Republicans for trying to change the way Medicare operates.

BORGER: Right. And if you talk to Democrats, I spoke with the senior White House adviser today who said look, we've actually touched Medicare. Don't forget, Republicans attacked us for that in 2010. The president gave a speech at Georgetown in which he proposed $400 billion and cuts. Some of that was to Medicare providers, not to Medicare beneficiaries. But if you look at the polls, Wolf, and take a look at this, we have a new CNN poll out today.

And you look at how the public feels about the Republican plan to change Medicare, you see 35 percent favor it and 58 percent oppose it. Those are pretty strong numbers if you're a Democrat. You're looking at re-election in 2012. You're a president, you are looking at re- election. They say we want to take care of the debt but look at those Medicare numbers. They will never agree to do what Congressman Ryan is talking about.

BLITZER: Paul Ryan, the chairman of the budget committee. They've got a lot of explaining to do if they're going to turn those numbers around, obviously.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You know, the seniors in the midterm elections, the Democrats did poorly with seniors, did poorly with independents, but they now see an opening of going after those seniors and as you and I know and a lot of our viewers know, seniors vote, young people don't vote, in the percentages that seniors vote.

BORGER: Seniors were a very, very important constituency for the Democrats. And in the last election, they saw those senior voters going to Republicans. So, take a look at this. In our poll, we asked people 65 and older, the effect of the Republican Medicare plan on you. Only 13 percent said better off, 58 percent worse off, 24 percent no effect. Now, let me point out here very clearly --

BLITZER: That's the GOP plan you're talking about.

BORGER: Yes. That the Republican plan only affects people who are younger than 55. If you're currently 55 or older, no impact on you, but look at this poll. People believe that it's going to hurt them. And their children probably believe it's going to hurt their parents. So, that is a real problem if you're a Republican politician right now.

BLITZER: Democrats say we're not touching Medicare, forget about it. Republicans say you got to touch these entitlements. What happens?

BORGER: Well, I'm not really optimistic about any kind of a grand compromise. When you talk to Democrats, they say, OK, you want to put some form of Medicare changes on the table? You're going to have to put the tax issue on the table. You know what Democrats are talking about, Wolf. They're talking about repealing the tax cuts for the wealthy if there is going to be some kind of a grand plan.

I don't think we're going to get that as part of any scheme to raise the debt ceiling, but somebody I spoke to today said you know, there may be kind of some smaller compromises that we could reach on the tax front and on the Medicare front, but if I have to bet, no big huge changes on either before the election.

BLITZER: There could be some tax reform. Republicans are never going to go with tax increases.

BORGER: Much smaller scale.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that, Gloria.

A dispute over the cause of an E. coli outbreak that reportedly has killed 16 people and sickened more than a thousand. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.

Well, a top Spanish official hotly denies suggestions that Spain is to blame for the outbreak that has reportedly killed 16 people in Germany and Sweden. Last week German officials implied Spanish cucumbers were the cause, but Spain's deputy prime minister says there are no cases in Spain. And now Spain says the European Commission has lifted a warning against cucumbers from that country.

Bahrain today lifted the emergency laws that had allowed for the recent suppression of dissent of the Gulf kingdom continues a crackdown on the Shiite political opposition movement while Bahrain's Sunni ruler is appealing for dialogue. Sources say authorities have filed charges against four top opposition leaders.

And Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak, will face a criminal trial August 3. That word today from Mubarak's lawyer. The former leader who was forced from office in February is accused of consenting to a plan to kill protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. He allegedly ordered police to use live ammunition. Mubarak denies the charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. The ailing ex-leader has been held in a military hospital since April.

And the Shuttle Endeavour touched down at Florida's Kennedy Space Center overnight, completing its 25th and final mission. Next month the Shuttle Atlantis will make the last flight for NASA's fleet. Endeavour Commander Kelly says it was sad to see his craft land for the last time, but he adds the U.S. will eventually build other spaceships, better than those of today.

And it was a sad day for basketball fans as one of the biggest athletes ever, both in size and personality, is announcing his retirement. We're talking about Shaquille O'Neal, known to most of his fans as simply Shaq. He posted a video to his Twitter account, saying that he intends to hang up his size 23 shoes after 19 seasons in the NBA.

Shaq won four championships, made the all-star team 15 times, and finishes his career fifth on the all-time NBA's scoring list.

And I'm sure, Wolf, you're probably sorry to see him go, to retire.

BLITZER: I'm going to miss him. In fact, I interviewed him here several times. A really, really nice guy. Great ball player. We're going to miss him on the court. But you know, he's got a lot of things on his mind right now. He's be doing a lot of good things. Good luck down the road to Shaquille O'Neal.

SYLVESTER: Yes. I'm sure we'll see more of him, too, in the future.

BLITZER: We'll invite him here. Whenever he wants to come on our show, he's got an open welcome. Thanks very much, Shaquille O'Neal, for all the great basketball over the years.

A man drowns in San Francisco Bay while firefighters and police watch from the shore with no attempt at all to rescue him. We're pressing officials to explain why. What happened?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tragic incident in Northern California over Memorial Day is now prompting outrage and policy changes. An apparently suicidal man in the city of Alameda drowned. First responders were there, but they weren't allowed to rescue the man, partly because of the city's budget.

CNN's Dan Simon is working the story for us. He's got these horrific details for us. What happened here, then?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what happened here just doesn't seem right. For nearly an hour, police officers and firefighters stood here on the shore in Alameda as they watched a man go deeper into the water behind me. There are lots of bystanders here, dozens of them. They thought there would be some kind of rescue. But it never happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON (voice-over): Fully clothed, 52-year-old Raymond Zack made his way into the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay, apparently intent on taking his own life. His mother yelled out to a bystander to call 911. Alameda fire crews and police arrived in minutes, but none attempted to save the distraught man's life.

DEE BERRY, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Damned frustrating.

SIMON: Fire officials say budget cuts two years ago eliminated their water rescue training. So department policy prevented crews from entering the water. Witnesses watched in disbelief as first responders stood by, while Zack got deeper in the water. He could be seen alive with water up to his neck.

WARREN BRUNETTI, WITNESS: I just think -- I don't know why, you know, then aren't taking their uniforms off and diving in there. That's -- and I was jut really surprised.

SHARON BRUNETTI, WITNESS: What if it were a 10-year-old boy or a 5-year-old girl? They don't go in the water? I would go.

SIMON: A Coast Guard vessel was unable to reach the man. Eventually, a bystander, 20-year-old woman, attempt a rescue. But when she reached him, the man was dead.

CNN spoke with interim fire chief Mike D'Orazi. Among the reasons for not going in, he says crews were not sure if the man would get violent and endanger rescuers.

(on camera) People say to themselves this is crazy. These are fire fighters. They're trained to save people's lives. They're not going in to save this man's life?

INTERIM CHIEF MIKE D'ORAZI, ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA, FIRE DEPARTMENT: I understand this and believe me, our firefighters are very frustrated. They were standing on that beach, and I don't want to talk to the police officers, but I think that they were equally as frustrated.

ROSEMARY MCNALLY, ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT: What were they thinking when they did nothing?

SIMON (voice-over): An angry public lashed out at the city council at a meeting Tuesday night.

ADAM GILLITT, ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT: This just strikes me as not just a problem with funding but a problem with the culture of what's going on in our city, that no one would take the time to help this drowning man.

SIMON: The mayor says the funding to train the firefighters will be reinstated.

MAYOR MARIE GILMORE, ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA: If we could go back in time and change it, we would. Obviously, we can't. And so what we have to dedicate ourselves to is making sure something like this never happens again.

SIMON (on camera): Why didn't any of them say, "You know what? To heck with the policy. We're going to go give this a shot"?

D'ORAZI: I believe there was discussion on the beach regarding whether or not they should just go in and try to take care of this. But once again, we have to defer to the scene, you know, the scene commanders and what they felt was the most appropriate course of action.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: Well, the fire department says they will soon retrain these firefighters on how to do ground-to-water rescues. But before that happens, Wolf, they have reversed the policy, and they say that firefighters will be able to use their common sense and use their discretion to try to launch one of these rescues if it happens again.

BLITZER: Yes, they've got to save people's lives. That's issue No. 1, obviously.

All right. Dan, thanks very much.

So what did Donald Trump and Sarah Palin talk about when they went out for pizza? Palin reveals details to CNN in an exclusive interview. We'll show it to you. You'll hear what she has to say when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sarah Palin's bus tour of historic American sites took a detour to New York City last night. The potential GOP presidential candidate met with Donald Trump, who recently declared himself a non- candidate after weeks of toying with a White House run. The unexpected visit was followed by even more unexpected outings. Palin and Trump went out for pizza with a crush of news media in tow.

Afterwards, CNN's political producer, Peter Hamby, nabbed this exclusive exchange with Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Didn't Trump bring up any other names when you talked to him?

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: About specific candidates, candidates and just what our perception of each of these hopes. It is interesting, yes. We're kind of on the same page.

HAMBY: How was dinner?

PALIN: Dinner was great. We had great pizza. Wasn't that good? It was real New York pizza. And it was fun to get to be there.

HAMBY: A lot of people in Alaska say you were sort of known for retail politicians. I mean, if you do run -- I'm not going to ask you if you're going to run, but would you -- would that one-on-one kind of interaction still be possible for you as a global celebrity now? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) PALIN: I would hope I would never get -- I would never lose that ability or that desire to get to be with that one-on-one relationship with people. I think it is -- the most valuable thing that a person, a professional politician, anybody can have is that desire to have that one-on-one relationship with people. That's how you learn and grow and figure out what the needs and concerns are so that you can know what to concentrate on to help meet those needs.

So yes. If someone was to lose that, you become a typical politician, and that's pretty tragic in my eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a specific (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

PALIN: You should ask my dad that, because my dad was saying -- he was saying exactly that. He was like, wow, he's really down to earth. He's -- you know, like he seems on TV even more grounded. And that's refreshing. That's nice.

And that's how I -- what my takeaway from any conversation with Trump has been, that in spite of all of his surroundings and a whole different world from where I have come, he -- he's a very real person and very grounded and very concerned about the same things that we're all concerned about. Yes.

HAMBY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in New Hampshire the end of the week, what the details are. But what will you say to voters there? Obviously, a huge -- huge voice in the nominating crowds? Is there anything special you're going to say there?

PALIN: Nothing different or -- nothing different from what I would say to voters in any other state. I honestly don't look at states according to when their primaries are. You know, to me, an American is an American, no matter what their primary election dates are. And just very interested to know what it is that folks in New Hampshire...

HAMBY: They're very special voters, though.

PALIN: Well, they're special but not just because have a certain date of a primary election. They're special because -- because they are American, and they -- obviously, they want jobs. They want safety in their communities. They want strong national defense. They want the same things that everybody else wants. So I don't know. I guess that's that kind of non-politician in me, not -- not looking at a New Hampshire voter any differently just because they have, you know, an earlier primary.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Excellent hustle by our reporter Peter Hamby, catching up with Sarah Palin on the road.

While most news media are focused on Palin, Jeanne Moos is watching her daughter Piper, who's having a summer vacation she'll probably never forget.

Plus, why maids in some luxury hotels in New York are now being given panic buttons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester's monitoring some of the top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf.

Well, 250 Japanese seniors hope to play a key role in ending the crisis at Japan's crippled nuclear plant. Dubbed the suicide corps by a government official, the retirees want to replace the workers currently deployed at the plant. They say they have less sensitivity to radiation, arguing that an older person's cells divide more slowly than those of a younger person.

Two New York luxury motels will now provide maids with portable communication devices equipped with panic buttons. The move comes after Sunday's arrest of a former Egyptian bank executive charged with sexually abusing a Pierre Hotel housekeeper and the earlier arrest of the former head of the International Monetary Fund, charged with sexual assaulting a staffer at the Sofitel.

Well, hurricane season begins today, and forecaster predict there will be more storms than usual. They expect 16 named storms and 9 hurricanes, including 5 major ones. The government forecasting agency, NOAA, has released the list of hurricane names for 2011, and the first on the list, Arlene, followed by Brett, Cindy, Don and Emily.

And remember Balloon Boy? I know Wolf does. That was the Colorado kid who everyone feared had floated away in a flying saucer- shaped balloon. His parents were later charged in what turned out to be a hoax.

Well, now the family has moved to Florida, and they say they want to auction off that balloon to raise money for Japanese tsunami victims. Their suggested bid, $1 million. So they apparently, Wolf, are still chasing the limelight.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember Falcon Heene, the little boy, saying, when I was filling in for Larry King, saying, "Who the hell is Wolf?"

SYLVESTER: That's the famous line. We all remember that.

BLITZER: We wish the family only the best.

Let's get back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That is priceless.

Question this hour: "Why do politicians think denying an allegation or changing the subject somehow means that it will just go away?"

Paul in Seattle says, "Because they're often right. Deny, change the subject, tap dance until the next big story hits. That's the game. Politicos like Anthony Weiner, whether rightly or wrongly accused, know that, in this hot 2011 news year, they'll be bumped off page one in about a day and a half."

Kim writes, "They think an allegation will go away, because it usually does. In these days of saturation news broadcasting, the race to put everything on the air guarantees our attention fan will not be a factor. On top of that, we now expect our politicians to be totally unethical at some point in their careers."

Ken in North Carolina: "That's the way all used car salesmen are trained. They believe that, because usually in the end they watch you drive away in your brand-new used clunker, praying that you make it off the lot."

Paul writes, "Denying an allegation is within anyone's right. It's not up to anyone to prove their innocence. Nobody can control the media's desire to pursue any story they feel may garner viewership, no matter if it's trivial or not. The media sets their own agenda, will follow any scent of guilt, which can be a good thing if the subject matter is important, but that's not always the case."

Dave in Nashville writes, "There's nothing more frustrating than how politicians spin words in lieu of answering the question. And there are only two reasons they do this. Either they can't simply truthfully answer or they love to hear themselves talk. Take Anthony Weiner. He must think he's a rock star to imagine giving a speech to 45,000 people as his answer to whether he tweeted his tweeter to that college kid. And the voters keep re-electing them. It's unreal."

Sean writes, "The same reason they don't try to do anything productive. They know attention spans are very small. We're far too busy worrying about Pippa and the Kardashians to be bothered."

You want to read more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I will do just that, Jack. Thanks very much. See you back here tomorrow.

"JOHN KING USA" is coming up at the top of the hour. Stand by for that. But first, Jeanne Moos shows us Piper Palin's excellent summer adventure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Chances are you never had a summer vacation like the one Piper Palin is having right now. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If a teacher asked Piper Palin what she did for her summer vacation, she can leap right into the "We, the People" bus trip saga, though very few people have their very own bus. How many 10-year-olds can say they've been hounded by the press?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't step on the kids, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make a hole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make a hole.

MOOS: Or had pizza with Donald Trump.

S. PALIN: We had great pizza. Wasn't that good? It was real New York pizza.

MOOS: Or went motorcycle riding with Mom on the back of Dad's bike.

Oh, sure, she had to entertain herself, cramming gum into her mouth while she listened to mom give interview after interview. And sometimes -- she had to physically drag her mom away. And occasionally, it took...

S. PALIN: And where's the school?

MOOS: ... not just one tap on the shoulder, not just two...

S. PALIN: In fact, Todd or -- hold on one second, honey.

MOOS: Three taps and she's out. Finally. But even a kid...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Piper, what did you think of the Statue of Liberty?

MOOS: ... isn't immune to the lure of the limelight. In a role reversal, Mom watched while Piper described her favorite part.

PIPER PALIN, SARAH'S DAUGHTER: Seeing the torch.

MOOS (on camera): We haven't seen this much of Piper Palin since she first made her mark at the Republican convention.

(voice-over) Made her mark on her brother Trigg by liking her hand to slick down his hair. A CNN producer was so smitten by her sassy behavior at the convention that she named her dog Piper. Here, Piper, the one in the Snoopy T-shirt.

The trip hasn't been all excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supporting the troops...

MOOS: Piper looked momentarily bored and hot on a scorching day touring Fort McHenry.

(voice-over) Some say Piper is acting like her mother's miniature bodyguard. She's been seen leading her mom with outstretched arm.

S. PALIN: Contemplating...

MOOS: And FOX 29 in Philadelphia captured what looked like a body block as Piper wedged herself between a reporter with a mike and her mother. The move provoked tweets that Piper was head of Palin's security and a bouncer press secretary in the making.

Watch how she handles the media onslaught. Get that microphone off of me. When the media roll up, there's only one thing to do...

P. PALIN: Move off the window.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

P. PALIN: Move off the window.

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Good for Piper.

That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.