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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Job Growth Takes Big Hit; John Edwards Indicted; Yemen Palace Compound Attacked; Interview With Austan Goolsbee; Drugs Killing Some U.S. Troops; 'Strategy Session'
Aired June 3, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.
Happening now, a new punch in the gut for America's workforce and for the Obama White House. We're looking at why the May jobs report is so disturbing. And I'll ask the president's top economic advisor what, if anything, can be done to turn the numbers around.
Plus, a deadly attack on the palace compound in Yemen. This hour, the fate of the embattled president and fears of an all-out civil war and al Qaeda hot spots. The stakes for the U.S. are enormous right now.
And former presidential candidate John Edwards in court and under indictment. He's now facing criminal charges that he paid his mistress with political cash.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But up first this hour, but up first this hour, a new jobs report that analysts are calling depressing and downright scary. It's adding to the fears that the country may -- repeat, may be sliding back into a recession. The unemployment rate went up a tenth of a percent in May to 9.1 percent.
But that's not the worst part. Only 54,000 jobs were created in May and you could see that is far below the games over the last few months. Economists had predicted May job's growth would be three times bigger than it turned out to be.
Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is traveling with the president in Toledo, Ohio. He's joining us live now.
A huge disappointment not just for the president and the White House but for the workforce, much more importantly.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And, you know, the reason that the president came here to this Chrysler plant where by the way I'm standing on the assembly line of the Jeep Wrangler is because the White House really sees this as a good news story. A controversial rescue plan that the administration believes has really paid off.
But as we saw with those job numbers today, the economy and the economic problems are much bigger than the auto industry.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Don't let this beautiful view of Toledo skyline fool you. The unemployment picture isn't pretty here either.
JUSTIN GOATLEY, UNEMPLOYED: It's almost impossible. It's just really hard for anybody.
JESSICA JAMAICA, UNEMPLOYED: It sucks for a lot of us, Americans, middle class, especially trying to take care of a family.
LOTHIAN: Not far from the Chrysler plant where President Obama was greeting workers -- and touting the auto bailout along with 1 million jobs saved in the industry --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We decided to do more than rescue the industry from crisis. We decided to retool it for a new age.
LOTHIAN: -- we drove by job placement agency, Impact Employment Solutions, and found a traffic jam with people like Justin Goatley, a former certified computer technician, looking for work, six months and counting.
(on camera): How do you pay the bills?
GOATLEY: You can't really. Borrow from friends or they got a plasma center here in town that you can go donate blood, $55 a week. It's barely to get by, but it helps a little bit.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): There was a mix of frustration and hope with each job application that was shoved to this mail slot. One woman kissed hers for good luck.
Jessica Jamaica was a stay-at-home mom forced to find a job to make ends meet.
JAMACIA: My husband got laid off. He was working for a factory for five years and unemployment is running out. So, it's really hard.
LOTHIAN: Weaker than expected jobs numbers were not encouraging. The Labor Department said 54,000 new jobs were created in the U.S. last month. Economists had expected more than 150,000.
And the unemployment rate edged up from 9.1 from 9 percent in April.
President Obama did not specifically address those numbers, but told a crowd of mostly Chrysler employees the overall economy is still struggling.
OBAMA: For all of our friends, all our neighbors who are still feeling the sting of recession, there's nobody here who doesn't know someone looking for work and hasn't found something yet. LOTHIAN: White House advisers and top aides describe the jobs report as a bump in the road to recovery and said the overall trend is moving in the right direction. But on this corner in Toledo, they are waiting to feel it.
JAMAICA: I mean, it's going downhill. I think it's getting worse before it's getting better, to be honest.
LOTHIAN: Now, there was an "oops moment" for the president during his remarks. He was talking about the rough terrain that the economy was facing. He said that one of these Jeep Wranglers would have a hard time with it. That's when everyone in this audience shouted no and the president quickly corrected himself.
Now, Wolf, one of the things that we have not talked about, the other political implication, and the White House doesn't discuss this publicly, but political experts say that this will be a major hurdle for the president in 2012 election if things don't turn around.
And already today, we saw Republicans taking shots. Mitt Romney saying that the president's economic policies have only made the recession worse -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Since FDR, no president has been reelected with unemployment higher than 7.2 percent. Right now, it's 9.1 percent. We'll see where it is a year from now.
Dan Lothian on the job for us, as always.
I'll speak to the chairman, by the way, of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee, later this hour. We'll talk about the new jobs report and what -- what the administration can do to try to turn things around.
Right now, though, a one-time political rival of President Obama faces the possibility of going to prison for up to 30 years. We're talking about former Senator John Edwards. He was indicted today by a federal grand jury in connection with the money he paid his mistress.
The 2004 vice presidential nominee and two-time presidential candidate denies he broke any laws.
Let's go to North Carolina. Our own Joe Johns is standing by. He's been watching all of this unfold.
He appeared in court and then made a statement, Joe. Update our viewers.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, this was just a painstaking investigation. It went on for two years, had a lot of moving parts, seemed like it would just last forever. And today, it simply I think you could say it exploded. The case put on the docket here in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a six-count indictment alleging false statements, conspiracy, a slew of illegal campaign contribution charges -- all of this stemming from the lurid affair he had with a woman named Rielle Hunter and attempts to keep that affair and the child who was born out of that affair secret from his wife Elizabeth who was sick and dying from cancer and later died.
By the end of business today, not only have we had charges on the record against Mr. Edwards, we also had him pleading not guilty before the court here in Winston-Salem, and he appeared before the cameras to talk about it just a little bit without taking questions. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no question that I've done wrong and I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I've caused others. But I did not break the law and I never, ever thought that I was breaking the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: The issue really is whether hundreds of thousands of dollars that changed hands essentially to keep that affair secret was done so either to protect Elizabeth Edwards from finding out or to keep him viable as a candidate in the 2008 presidential election. He was released on his own recognizance today with a number of conditions -- including he can't leave the country, he can't leave the 48 lower states and he had to give up his passport.
He was also told that he had to stay away from one of the people who gave so much money towards that motive. That would be Rachel Bunny Mellon.
And this case will continue and we're expecting to hear certainly more about it in July.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, the actual court -- the case will begin in July? Is that what you're hearing?
JOHNS: Yes. Well, they have a whole schedule of things that they have to do and in July is about the first time they have an issue on the calendar. The question, again, will be whether he wants to plead or whether he actually wants to set a trial date and that's when we'll know more about it, sometime in July, Wolf.
BLITZER: That young woman we saw standing behind him was his daughter. So, we'll watch this very closely. Joe Johns on the scene.
Later, we'll speak to Jeff Toobin and get some legal analysis of what's going to happen. Stand by for that.
But let's move to another major story we're following right now, the uprising in Yemen and the threat of an all-out war and a very, very active al Qaeda outpost. The Yemeni embattled president and the prime minister -- they were both injured today in an attack in the palace compound. A Muslim preacher and three bodyguards were killed.
CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is following the latest developments from Abu Dhabi. He's been to Yemen on many occasions.
President Saleh came out and spoke briefly on Yemeni television. Mohammed, tell us what he said.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was an audiotape that was released on Yemeni state television just about an hour and a half ago. In the audiotape message, President Saleh thanked all of the sons and daughters of Yemen who had wished him well and said that he was doing well if they were doing well. Here's a little bit more of what President Saleh had to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PRES. ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, YEMEN (voice-over): I salute the armed forces everywhere and the courageous security forces who are keen on combating the attacks by a criminal gang outside of the law and not affiliated with the youth's revolution present in the Change Square.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAMJOOM: Wolf, it's important to note that all day, Yemeni government officials promised that President Saleh would appear before camera, would give a press conference to talk about his state of health, to talk about what was going on the country. The fact that he did not actually appear on camera, that it was only an audio message, is really leading to speculation that the injuries sustained by the president are much more worse than originally thought. A lot of speculation at this hour in the Yemeni capital, especially about how vulnerable the president is and how vulnerable his security forces are -- the fact that they sustained this kind of an attack is a real worry for those in Yemen right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I've spoken with a lot of senior U.S. officials, Mohammed, who have made the point that they have sleepless nights worrying that al Qaeda, specifically al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who is based in Yemen, if they take over that country, it would be a huge nightmare for the United States.
How realistic is that fear that al Qaeda takes over this strategically important country?
JAMJOOM: Wolf, as you mentioned, this is a huge fear for U.S. officials, for Western officials, for allies of Yemen, especially also the regional neighbors like Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a hub in Yemen. It is deemed to be the most threatening wing of the al Qaeda network. They've been able to create a base there by which they can launch or try to launch successful attacks against the West, against regional neighbors -- spectacular attacks they have tried to launch in the last few years. That was before all of this political turmoil.
Let me just tell you about one very worrying development in the past week. In a city called Zinjibar, this is in the province called Abyan in Yemen, this is a province own to be a hot bed for militancy and for al Qaeda in that country, where there's a huge presence of security forces. In the past few days, Islamic militants actually seized the city of Zinjibar. They've been clashing with security forces ever since.
So, the fact that this has happened at a time where there's such political turmoil, when everybody is wondering if President Saleh is going to step down, leads many to speculate that al Qaeda is going to try to make its presence more known. That they're going to try to take over more areas of the country, and this is a huge concern for the U.S. and other allies of Yemen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Indeed, it is. Mohammed, stand by. Thank you very much.
Meanwhile, the situation in Libya isn't improving either now. President Obama is getting serious backlash up on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle.
Plus, a deadly and mysterious E. coli strain. Why the FDA is struggling right now to try to figure out how to deal with it. Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A truly stunning show of disapproval today for the U.S. military operation in Libya and a direct slap in the face of the president of the United States. It was delivered by the House of Representatives in a vote that crossed party lines.
Let's go to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is monitoring this story.
Pretty extraordinary development, Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty extraordinary, Wolf. You called it a show of disapproval. It was also a show of frustration. The vote was 268 to 145. And it was the strongest statement yet coming from Congress on the U.S.'s role on Libya.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): As fighting in Libya rages on, Congress issues a direct challenge to President Obama and his war policy.
Harsh criticism coming from both the right --
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: No, Mr. President, authorization to go to war comes from the American people and it comes from the United States Congress. We must stand tall and true to the Constitution.
BOLDUAN: -- and the left. REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Yes, he's a thug who wants to be removed. But it cannot be that America has to be 911 for the world and that we are the ones that have to respond everywhere every time.
BOLDUAN: This unusual coalition of lawmakers coming together to send a blunt a message, voting on a resolution by House Speaker John Boehner that demands the president make the case for continued U.S. involvement in Libya.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This resolution puts the president on notice. He has a chance to get this right. And if he doesn't, Congress will exercise its constitutional authority and we will make it right.
BOLDUAN: The vote comes after the president ignored the 60-day deadline requiring congressional authorization for military action. Speaker Boehner's resolution gives the president 14 days to explain the costs and justification for committing U.S. forces to the operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes are 268.
BOLDUAN: But Speaker Boehner only introduced the measure under pressure after a tougher resolution by liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich was gaining support from not only the president's own Democrats but Republicans as well -- a call for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces within 15 days and could have passed.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: In the weeks leading up to the war, the administration had time to consult with the Arab League, the United Nations, the African Union, but apparently had no time to come to this Congress for approval.
BOLDUAN: The Boehner resolution is non-binding but it's a strong bipartisan rebuke of the president and a statement Speaker Boehner calls the first step.
BOEHNER: There is not any question in my mind that Congress is going to take further action in the weeks to come.
BOLDUAN: That further action, Wolf, could be considered pulling funding for the mission. The chair of the House Armed Services Committee has already threatened that.
Meantime, White House reaction, you may ask, the White House -- even before the vote, a White House spokesman said that he thinks that these resolutions were unnecessary and unhelpful -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Not every day we have dozens of Democrats rebuking the president of the United States on a national security issue. Kate, thanks very much for that report.
The United States says it's disappointed that a woman who said that she was gang-raped by Libyan forces has been expelled from Qatar. Eman al-Obeidy had grabbed the world's attention this spring when she very publicly made those accusations. She later fled Libya for Qatar hoping to be resettled as a refugee until she was suddenly deported yesterday. Witnesses who met with al-Obeidy after she was forced to return to Libya say she appeared battered and bruised.
We're following new details on the hacking of e-mail accounts of top U.S. government officials. The alleged culprit: China. What the State Department is now saying. Stand by.
And Dr. Jack Kevorkian once dubbed "Doctor Death" is now dead himself. What led to his passage. That and much more coming up.
BLITZER: The State Department officials and top Chinese officials to raise concerns about the hacking of Google e-mail accounts in the United States.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lots of concern about this story.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, this is a serious situation. A State Department spokesman is confirming the issue has been raised with China saying it, quote, "reflects the seriousness of the allegations."
According to Google, hackers based in China targeted the account of, among others, U.S. government officials. The Chinese government has denied involvement.
The doctor who became a central figure in the movement to legalize assisted suicide is now dead himself. Jack Kevorkian died this morning at a hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. He suffered from kidney problems.
Kevorkian was dubbed "Doctor Death" for helping more than a hundred severely ill patients end their lives back in the 1990s. He faced murder charges numerous times and spent eight years in prison after a 1999 conviction. Kevorkian was 83 years old.
And John McCain is warning that the so-called "Arab Spring" uprisings could spread beyond North Africa and the Middle East. Speaking in Myanmar's largest city, the Arizona senator said, quote, "that the winds of change are blowing and will not be confined to the Arab world." McCain says he urged Myanmar's military rulers to implement reforms or face possible revolution. He also met with pro- democracy advocate and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.
And the childhood home of Britain's newest prince has sold at auction. Kate Middleton, of course, recently married Prince William in a very lavish ceremony, lived in the house west of London until she was 12 years old. Today, it was bought by a pair of school teachers for almost $800,000 -- Wolf. BLITZER: Somebody has got the house. Thank you very much, Lisa.
We'll get back to our top story: the gloomy economic report out today, unemployment going up. What happened? Is the recovery over? I'm speaking with one of the president's top economic advisers. That's coming up next.
Plus, figuring out a deadly strain of E. coli. Why it's like nothing scientists have ever seen before.
BLITZER: Not exactly breaking knew but it's just come into THE SITUATION ROOM.
We've now confirmed that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the speaker of the House, John Boehner -- they have agreed finally to join forces and play a round of golf. It's going to happen on Saturday, June 18th, in the Washington, D.C. area. We don't know which country club where they're going to be playing golf, which course. We don't know the two individuals who will make up that foursome, but we'll find out and we'll let you know. It's an encouraging sign, maybe they'll get to business while they're playing golf.
They've been talking about it for months. It's finally going to happen. Boehner and Obama on a golf course here in Washington. Let's see if anything positive emerges from that.
Let's get back to our top story right now:
A new and disturbing sign that the U.S. economy is getting weaker. The government reports today that only 54,000 jobs were created in May. It's far less than the 170,000 new jobs that economists were expecting. The unemployment rate rose one tenth of a percent last month, to 9.1 percent. Analysts expected the jobless rate to go down to 8.9 percent.
BLITZER: Joining us now from the White House, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee.
Austan, thanks very much for coming in.
AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Thanks for having me again, Wolf.
BLITZER: The numbers, as you well know, are not very good. What happened?
GOOLSBEE: Well, you know, as I said, last month, when it was 100,000 plus above expectations and I'll say again now, don't ever make too much out of any one month's number. What happened is, we had some headwinds coming from gas prices, coming from the events in Japan, some of the events in Europe, slowed the growth rate a bit, and that did slow down the job creation.
But the overall trend, which is a more accurate barometer of how the labor market is doing than any one month report, shows that, you know, the last six months we added 1 million jobs in the private sector. So, I think we are charged. We've got to get the growth rate going higher and we've got to get the job engine revved back up.
BLITZER: All right. So are there specific ways to do that? Do you have any new initiatives that you're planning as a result of the not so good numbers from last month?
GOOLSBEE: Well, look, as I say, you don't want to conclude anything about trends from one month's job report. Just like last month's report was excellent and well above expectations, that doesn't -- you don't want to adjust the policy on a month-by-month basis.
The things that the president did in December which have been contributing to the economy for the first five months and will contribute for the rest of 2011, the business tax incentives and the payroll tax cut for 150 million workers, those are really important, and I think if we hadn't had that, the impact of some of these headwinds would have been substantially worse than they have been. I think you've seen the president is carrying out this regulatory look back where he's asked the 20 big agencies to come back with plans to eliminate outdated regulations, to streamline regulations that are too costly.
I think that's trying to improve the investment climate so business might have more of an incentive to invest here. But the overriding thing is that we shifted from a circumstance of rescue that was in place when the president came into office, where we're losing 780,000 jobs a month, teetering on the edge of depression, in a moment like that government is the driver of recovery. Now we're shifting to the private sector being the driver of recovery. So it's all about incentives.
BLITZER: So no more immediate plans for a new economic stimulus package, a new jobs bill? No more tax cuts, at least not planned right now?
GOOLSBEE: Well, look, it's a fundamental jobs strategy, but the jobs strategy as you're transitioning to recovery is try to help get the private sector to stand up. So the public sector has been subtracting jobs.
BLITZER: Well, is there a new initiative for you to do this to try to help that?
GOOLSBEE: Yes. As I described, we have got tax policy to encourage private investment, we've got the payroll tax cut to give the incentives to workers. We've got the regulatory streamlining, the Startup America, which are about trying to remove barriers for investment.
And I think on the deficit reduction side, the negotiations are going reasonably well. This is not a one-day phenomenon. But the president's view that we ought to have a balanced plan, and that if you have a balanced plan, that will allow you to preserve the investments in education, in research and development, in infrastructure that we need to grow, I think that's also pretty sensible.
BLITZER: One of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, issued a statement today saying, "Today's unemployment numbers show that we are going backwards, and that is the wrong direction for America. President Obama's policies made the recession worse, and as a result more people are out of work."
You want to respond to Mitt Romney?
GOOLSBEE: Well, look, I'm not going say any personal thing about Mitt Romney. I will say we tried the alternative approach of, let's have high-income tax cuts and let's not try to have broad base growth in the 2000s, and it ended up in the worst recession since 1929.
The president's policies helped pull us out of a tailspin where we're losing 780,000 jobs a month when he takes office. And in the last six months, we've added a million jobs. In the last 15 months, we've added more than two million jobs in the private sector.
We've got to keep going in that direction. You know, this is -- there are going to be stumbles along the way. We've known that. We've got a long way to go, but we've got to continue the upward trajectory that we've had over the last year.
BLITZER: One of your jobs is the forecast. Right now, unemployment, 9.1 percent.
Where do you think it will be a year from now?
GOOLSBEE: You know, we got an official forecast and we update it every six months. So the next update will be in August. We should have substantially more information than we have today just from this one.
In our official forecast that came out with the budget in February, we said by the end of 2012, the unemployment rate would be 8.2 percent, that the unemployment rate would average four 2011, 9.3 percent. Thus far, obviously, it's come in below that, and job creation has been higher than what we forecast at that time. But I don't know what the updates will be by the time we get to August.
BLITZER: You know, no president has ever been elected -- re- elected with a higher than 7.2 percent unemployment rate. So this must be -- since FDR, we are talking about. So this must be a source of deep concern.
GOOLSBEE: Well, look, you're the political expert. I'm just the economic policy guy.
I will say that what we need is to have improvement. I don't know how many times the unemployment rate has been higher than, you know, 8, 9 percent in an election. I know that if we're adding millions of jobs a year, like we did -- in the last 15 months, we added two million jobs in the private sector. That's the direction we've got to be headed. We've got to have a policy that is oriented to growth and, yes, we're going to have some stumbles, we're going to face some headwinds at different times.
But if you look at what the private sector is saying in their forecast, they are still anticipating a rebound for the second half of this year. That comports with what the government forecast says. And that's what we've got to do. The only way out of the hole is to climb your way out, and that's what we've got to do.
BLITZER: Well, good luck. Let's hope you climb out of that hole. A lot of people are looking for jobs, and they need all the help that they can get.
Austan Goolsbee, thanks very much.
GOOLSBEE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll speak to David Gergen more about the jobs situation. That's coming up in the next hour.
Meanwhile, a teenager's school trip to Central America turns deadly. The bizarre circumstances that led to his death and new details about the security guard who killed him.
Plus, U.S. troops overmedicated? Wait until you see what we found out in an investigation.
Our "In-Depth" report, that's coming up.
BLITZER: Now "CNN In-Depth," questions about whether the men and women fighting to protect our country are being overmedicated with sometimes deadly results.
Here's our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gunnery Sergeant Chris Bachus survived the assault on Baghdad, a deployment to Afghanistan, and a second tour in Iraq.
(on camera): What specifically killed your brother?
JERRY BACHUS, BROTHER OF DECEASE MARINE: He stopped breathing. He died because he mixed narcotic drugs.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Jerry Bachus says by the time Chris went back to Iraq in 2007, he had changed. BACHUS: He was putting himself in situations where he was exposing himself to potential enemy fire. According to his commander, he was going John Wayne.
LAWRENCE: He had been hospitalized for anxiety. They suspected traumatic brain injury from an IED. But Sergeant Bachus kept deploying.
BACHUS: Whenever they had an issue with him, they would increase either the dosage or the potency of the individual pill.
LAWRENCE: A bomb couldn't kill this Marine, but a bottle did. He died on base at Camp Lejeune. Cause of death, "multi drug toxicity," an accident. The autopsy shows a potent mix of sedatives, opiates, and antidepressants in his system.
Officials found 27 bottles of pills in his room, almost all prescribed by military doctors within the past 90 days.
BACHUS: How could a team of doctors that are allegedly working together prescribe all of those things together?
LAWRENCE: It's a question all the branches have been asking. A recent Army report found one-third of soldiers are taking at least one prescription medication.
(on camera): Do you think there's been an over-reliance of prescription drugs in the Army?
BRIG. GEN. RICHARD THOMAS, ASST. SURGEON GENERAL, U.S. ARMY: I think in some cases, yes.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Brigadier General Richard Thomas says the Army set a 30-day limit on new prescriptions and ordered comprehensive case reviews for any soldiers prescribed more than three drugs. It's also trying to promote alternative treatments.
THOMAS: So whether it be acupuncture or biofeedback or yoga therapy, there's a host of other things we can provide to patients to take care of them right other than narcotics. Now, narcotics still may have a role, but it doesn't have as big a role.
LAWRENCE: A former soldier himself, Jerry Bachus says his brother would still be alive if the military's medical system wasn't swamped by the hundreds of thousands of troops needing treatment.
BACHUS: You're going to give me whatever I need to make me feel better, and you're going to make me go away because there's 1,000 people standing in line behind me that just came off the bus with me.
BLITZER: You know, Chris, this is a pretty shocking story when you see all those 27 various prescriptions that actually killed this sergeant.
Give us some perspective. How common is this development in the U.S. military right now?
LAWRENCE: Wolf, even the Army surgeon general's office admits that this was a change in direction from the Pentagon. You know, deploying troops under these types of medications. In other words, they weren't deploying troops like this under these kinds of meds 20 years ago, but the Pentagon determined that there were actually very few prescriptions that would necessarily disqualify a soldier or Marine from deploying.
Look, it's tough. There are no good drugs that deal with all of the symptoms and all of the problems that some of these troops are facing. Add to that the fact that sometimes, troops will go to a private doctor which keeps their prescription out of their military record, and sometimes what is becoming an even bigger problem, wounded soldiers and Marines trading prescription drugs among themselves -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that toxicity, you combine all those drugs and it will kill you. Obviously, in this particular case, it did.
Good report. Let's hope they fix the situation with the U.S. military.
Thanks very much, Chris.
An overseas school trip is supposed to be a dream come true, but it turned into a nightmare for a Kansas class. The strange circumstances that left an American teenager dead.
Plus, the political fight over Libya. Should the U.S. simply get out of that fight right now? We're talking about that in our "Strategy Session." That's coming up.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, our CNN political contributor Roland Martin and CNN.com contributor David Frum, who's with FrumForum.com.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: Is the Republican field final now, or they still sort of flailing, hoping some more will come in?
DAVID FRUM, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Chris Christie is having dinner with supports from Iowa, so presumably --
BLITZER: He said no so many times.
FRUM: Presumably, he's still got a little part of his brain that is thinking about it. But we have, I think, the major outline of the field, and we have this question. How is it that Mitt Romney, who is the presumptive frontrunner, how he can't get on the front page of the papers in New Hampshire, while Sarah Palin is dominating the press and getting all the details of Paul Revere's ride wrong, thinking he worked for the British, not for the colonials.
BLITZER: Because love her or hate her, she's got pizzazz. She's got sparkle. And she brings a lot of excitement there.
FRUM: She can grasp (ph) on constitutional history.
BLITZER: You know, we're hearing all sorts of names now as potential candidates. I made a little list: George Patkai, the former New York governor; Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor; Jim DeMint, the senator; Rick Perry, the governor of Texas; of course Sarah Palin.
Do you think more of these Republicans are going to jump in?
MARTIN: I think the field is largely set, but also the world has changed.
Remember, in 2007, we had Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Biden. They were all in the game early.
We all thought in the next election, oh, they are going to be jumping into the race very early, but the world has changed. Social media has changed.
I think if you're a Republican candidate, you don't have to get in, in May or June. I really believe this campaign will not start until really after Labor Day. You can raise money online. People still are sitting on the sidelines. And there's still, I think, a two-or-three-month window for a candidate to say I can get in.
The Iowa caucus isn't until the end of February, early March. And so you have a lot of time there to really still put together a strong campaign.
BLITZER: With Sarah Palin that's true, because you have 100 percent name recognition already.
FRUM: You have to raise money.
But this terrible economic news today, after half a year of really disappointing economic news, indicates how very vulnerable the president is. Normally, presidents tend to win re-election in the United States, but not if they are presiding over an economy as bad as this.
MARTIN: But you know, Wolf -- and we talked about this on Ali Velshi's "YOUR MONEY," which will air this weekend -- what's interesting about this economy, we keep waiting for these monthly numbers as if something dramatic is going to change.
What I think, we're operating in a new normal. And that is, we've been telling folks for three years, we're spending too much, we shouldn't be expecting any changes. Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, said this will be years in the making. I do believe that we can't expect the usual type of economic turnaround. It is going to take a longer period of time because, also, Americans are simply not buying as much. I think they also learned their lesson, I can't keep overextending myself. This is a different type of economic condition.
FRUM: But that's not adequate. We are going to lose a generation of young people, 20-somethings who do not begin their career. And we know there's all kind of data about what it does to the whole rest of your economic life if you don't get started.
And this -- we're into -- if we're into a period of Japanese slow-growth economics, it's not surprising, but it's pretty dangerous that we now get this Italian-style politic where we're having these shenanigans over the debt ceiling and real misconduct, gridlock in the political system in Washington.
MARTIN: But Wolf, I think one thing. This is what happens, the bible talks about it, when the children will pay for the sins of the mothers and fathers.
This is what happens when the previous generation acts in a bad way, impacting these college graduates. The way we operated for the last 20 years, rising debt, buying the homes, spending more than we should have, enormous debt, this is what happens. We're now operating in a reality of how we lived for 20 years.
FRUM: That may be so, but when Austan Goolsbee then comes on your show and says, basically, we're out of ammunition, or out of ideas, and our economic policy for the next -- is to repeal a few regulations here and there --
BLITZER: Well, obviously, he's (ph) not going to approve a lot of spending for another stimulus package at this point.
FRUM: Well, if they've got an idea, at least let's hear it. It's not much of an excuse to say, well, the Congress won't let us do what we think is right. Obviously, they have no idea what to do.
BLITZER: Let me talk about this rebuke that the president received today, not just from Republicans and John Boehner. You expect that. But from dozens of Democrats who basically slapped the president over his strategy in Libya today.
You saw that vote.
MARTIN: Of course. And here are the same people who are clamoring from the president to do something. Here are the same people who are saying we can't stand idly by and watch another Rwanda. We need to have another dictator out.
And so, absolutely, the president has to be more clear as to what our strategy is. But when you have the same folks who are saying have a no-fly zone, let's bomb them, let's send in troops -- you had Senator Lindsey Graham saying all of the different things -- and now saying, well, we're unclear what's going on, you can't have it both ways. You can't talk about help those in need to fight Moammar Gadhafi and then complain about it.
BLITZER: Well, Lindsey Graham didn't vote today. It was the House Republicans who voted.
BLITZER: So Lindsey Graham I think supports the strategy in Libya.
FRUM: What you can fairly complain about is to say that the president should go to Congress and get authorization.
BLITZER: Why doesn't he do that?
FRUM: I don't know. Congress would have given it to him had he asked at the beginning. Congress would probably give it to him now.
BLITZER: Is it just sort of an executive/legislative branch feud that goes on in every administration, you're not going to force me to do it because that could set a precedent and that could undermine future presidents?
MARTIN: I believe so.
FRUM: I think it may be something more than that.
The president has waged this war in a very diffident way. He doesn't even say that the country is at war. And in his rare statements about it, he defines his mission as protecting Libyan civilians, not as ending the war with the overthrow of Gadhafi. I think he's hoping if he doesn't mention the war, people will forget that it's going on.
BLITZER: In this day and age, they're not going to forget. It's cost U.S. taxpayers, the Libya part along, a billion dollars taxpayer money. A billion dollars. And that number is going up and up and up.
MARTIN: And even today, President Clinton still gets criticized for what took place in Rwanda.
BLITZER: In Afghanistan, it's costing $2 billion a week.
MARTIN: Yes. And that's really the real issue in terms of what's happening with Iraq and Afghanistan. At the end of the day, America has to decide, do we support democracy or we don't? But don't sit here and complain we should be doing more in what took place in Egypt and Bahrain and other places, but then say, oh, this is just too much. We're schizophrenic on this. FRUM: In both Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush went to Congress. I don't want to argue the legality of it, but it's just a smart idea to do it.
BLITZER: On that note we'll leave it, guys. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: This programming note -- CNN's New Hampshire presidential debate, less than two weeks away. Join us Monday night, June 13th, as the Republican hopefuls square off on the issues, only here on CNN.
Fears of an all-out civil war in Yemen after its president is injured in an attack that left several others, including high-ranking officials, dead. What's at stake for the United States in a country that houses hundreds of al Qaeda members?
And the deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe has now sickened people here in the United States, as scientists are racing to find out more about this super toxic strain.
BLITZER: Experts are now cautioning that a strain of deadly E. coli bacteria that's killed 18 people in Europe, sickened 1,800 others, is unlikely to hit Americans in huge numbers. But what if they are wrong, these so-called experts?
Let's go CNN Lisa Sylvester. She's looking into this story for us.
What are you learning, Lisa? What are the researchers saying?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, well, we have new information. There are four people in the United States who have become sick from the new E. coli strain. All four, it's important to point out, were recently in Germany.
And in addition, there are two U.S. service members living in Germany who have also become ill. U.S. health officials have stepped up screening of produce from Germany and Spain. And meanwhile, scientists are racing to find out more about the deadly pathogen.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Dr. Glenn Morris spends his days studying and tracking bacteria at the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. Now he's dealing with a deadly mystery -- two E. coli strains that have combined in Europe to produce a super toxic new strain.
DR. GLENN MORRIS, EMERGING PATHOGENS INSTITUTE: Picking up bad genes from both and coming out with something that seems to be even worse than the two starting ones.
SYLVESTER: At least 18 people in Europe have died and more than 1,000 others have become sick from that new E. coli strain which has hit a disproportionate number of women. Unlike other outbreaks, this new strain does not appear to be centered on the very young and old, whose immune systems may be weaker. And the origin is also a big question mark which the CDC is trying to answer.
DR. ROBERT TAUXE, CDC DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It's really not clear at this point what the source of this is. And we don't know what an animal reservoir would be for this organism.
SYLVESTER: E. coli is usually transmitted in tainted food. As a result, the USDA screens meat and poultry for E. coli, but inspectors focus their efforts on detecting E. coli 0157, the version that killed four children in a 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak.
The Food & Drug Administration is screening lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers from Spain and Germany for E. coli. But the watchdog group Food and Water Watch says the regulations are still lagging.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have plenty to do here to tighten up our system. There's no basis to say that we're immune to something like this. There's definitely more that our regulators should be doing.
SYLVESTER: Back at the Emerging Pathogens lab in Florida, they now have a hold of the scientific data for this new strain, and they are among the scientists rushing to understand what makes it so deadly and how best to treat it.
SYLVESTER: The Food & Drug administration insists that the U.S. food supply is safe, and the FDA says because of the relatively short are shelf life, very little fresh produce comes into the United States from the European Union -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Lisa. Thanks very much.