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THE SITUATION ROOM
GOP Presidential Candidates in New Orleans; Obama and Boehner Hit the Links
Aired June 17, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in the Situation Room. Happening now, bloody clashes inside Syria as thousands of refugees just across the border get a visit from the actress and U.N. special ambassador Angelina Jolie.
After sparring in New Hampshire, GOP hopefuls are gathering in New Orleans right now. Michele Bachmann -- you just saw her -- she grabs the spotlight, but still to come, an appearance by someone who could change the whole equation for Republicans.
And President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner may have found a way to communicate. They will hold a summit on the golf course. Will they bet the national budget on the outcome?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news and political headlines all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Despite a brutal crackdown, thousands turned out for protests across Syria today. They were once again met by troops and tanks. We are getting reports right now of mass arrests, at least five more deaths. The unrest has moved beyond Syria's border. In Lebanon, at least four people died in clashes sparked by the Syrian situation. And thousands of Syrian refugees are now camped inside Turkey.
The actress and U.N. Special Ambassador Angelina Jolie paid them a visit today in a camp near the border.
BLITZER: And joining us now from the border between Syria and Turkey, she's just in Turkey, our own Arwa Damon.
Are those refugees still flooding in from Syria into Turkey right now? How tense is that situation, Arwa?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the number of refugees coming into Turkey is really growing by the day. There are now close to 9,700 of them.
And the majority still are from the northwestern part of the country, where that military crackdown does continue. And they bring with them horrifying stories of having to flee from the Syrian security forces, most of them firmly believing that they would have been massacred if they had stayed behind.
And even more disturbing is these reports that we are getting from this network of activists that have established a number of spotters who are watching the movements of the Syrian military. One of these activists who is stationed right alongside the Syrian-Turkish border inside Syria said that he heard gunfire overnight and the spotters then reported that these Syrian troops were around to three five miles from the Turkish border.
And you can only imagine the tremors of fear that that has been sending amongst the Syrian refugees who are still inside Syria waiting to cross into Turkey.
BLITZER: The actress Angelina Jolie, a special United Nations ambassador, she showed up where you are today. Tell us what she was doing, what her mission was. Did you have a chance to speak with her?
DAMON: No, Wolf, we did not have a chance to speak with her. She was not doing any sort of sit-down interviews with the media.
But did show up at one of the refugee camps that is actually an old tobacco factory that has now been converted into this refugee camp. She had a very unique opportunity, because the media has not been allowed into these camps in Turkey, nor have organizations like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.
So, she was able to see firsthand the types of conditions the refugees were living in, hear their stories, the same type of stories that we have been hearing throughout. She spoke to one woman who had given birth inside the reform camp whose husband had been killed.
And also right before she arrived, there was something of a small demonstration inside this camp, people chanting their support and their gratitude towards Turkey for all it has done, but also begging the United Nations, the international community for help. One man holding up a sign saying the Syrian military is killing their own people, please make them stop. And most of the refugees, and -- they're certainly grateful for any sort of attention, additional attention that is being brought to their cause at this stage, Wolf, because they are desperate, they say.
BLITZER: Desperate indeed.
Arwa Damon, on the border between Syria and Turkey, Arwa, we will stay in close touch. Thank you.
BLITZER: While the Obama administration flexed its muscles over Libya, committing air and sea forces there, it's relied on occasional scolding and some slow-moving diplomacy to address the bloody repression in Syria. And critics say that is simply not enough.
Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She is over at the State Department with more.
What is going on, Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Syrian president is putting his country on a path to being a pariah state. That's what administration officials told us today.
They say that the U.S. is collecting information on possible war crimes by Syrian security forces. And they also say that they are looking at the possibility of sanctions on the oil and gas sectors. Now, those are tough words, but are they tough enough?
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Under pressure to show more leadership to stop the violent crackdown in Syria, the Obama administration says it's the Syrian people who are in the lead.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls Moscow, lobbying reluctant Russia to support some kind of U.N. resolution on Syria.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a good conversation.
DOUGHERTY: But no details, and no call yet to the also reluctant Chinese.
President Obama, meanwhile, has not spoken out publicly on Syria for a month.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Assad now has a choice. He can lead that transition or get out of the way.
DOUGHERTY: Former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says the president is going to lose credibility unless he treats Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the way he treated Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
(on camera): Here was the tweet that you put out: "It's odd that Obama think Representative Weiner should resign, but not Assad. Sending lewd tweets violates public service, but not killing people?"
So, that's pretty provocative. What do you say?
P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Well, what I'm saying is that the United States still, as a state of policy, believes that somehow Bashar al-Assad can lead a transition in Syria. But day in and day out, the extreme use of significant state-sponsored force to put down this protest, in my view, makes this untenable.
DOUGHERTY: A senior administration official admits -- quote -- "This is going slowly. In a perfect world, we should be moving faster."
In Libya, this official, says, Gadhafi's threat to destroy the opposition stronghold of Benghazi spurred the U.N. to authorize the use of force to protect civilians. In Syria, however, this official says, there hasn't been this kind of galvanizing effect. There is however an appalling amount of violence and deaths, he says, and the U.S. is trying to build a broad-based approach to increase pressure on the Assad regime.
But military intervention, as in Libya? The outgoing U.S. defense secretary says that kind of international groundswell simply is not there.
ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Libyan intervention started with a resolution from the Arab League, involved a resolution by the GCC, and ultimately a U.N. Security Council resolution. I see no appetite for any of that with respect to Syria.
DOUGHERTY: Now, the Syrian president is expected to deliver a speech this Sunday, the first in two months. But the administration is simply brushing it off. They say that Assad can say whatever words he wants, but they say he has made a lot of statements, but that the Syrian people, they claim, will be looking for change on the ground -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jill, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Professor Fouad Ajami. He's director of Middle East studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Fouad, thanks very much for coming in.
FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Thank you.
BLITZER: You wrote a very stinging column in "The Wall Street Journal" this week entitled, "Syria: Where Massacre Is a Family Tradition."
Any signs that Bashar al-Assad is going to ease up on what's going on or, is it only going to get worse?
AJAMI: Well, I wish our words, I wish our columns, I wish our editorials, I wish our programs would alter things on the ground.
I think one's words I think are weak when you see these children, when you see the poor people of Syria fleeing their own government, fleeing their own soldiers, crossing the border into Turkey, carrying with them their hopes, their dashed hopes for what they had wanted for their own regime and their own country.
It's a terrible story. There is no progress in sight and there is no evidence that the Syrian regime is about to change...
BLITZER: Are there any cracks in that regime? AJAMI: Well, I think the cracks are -- they are not quite what we would want.
I think the killer units of the regime, the brigades of Bashar al-Assad's brother Maher, the units of the regime that the regime depend on them are still with the regime. I think they are beginning some attempts in Syria to try to draw the Alawi community, the community from which Bashar hails, to draw them away from Bashar.
For example, this -- today, the protests in Syria were named for a legendary Alawi resistance fighter in an attempt to get the Alawis to believe that there is a life for them after Bashar.
BLITZER: In Libya, we saw several Arab countries go against Gadhafi, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar.
BLITZER: We saw Kuwait.
Do we see any split, as far as the Arab world and Bashar al- Assad, right now?
AJAMI: Alas, no. And I think the Syrian people themselves in placards, in signs, in statements to reporters, they are lamenting the great, shameful Arab silence.
Look, it's the Turks who are helping the Syrians, not the other Arabs. And so you are absolutely right. On Libya -- because the Libyan strongman, Gadhafi, was a brigand, because he belittled the other Arab leaders, they broke with him. On Syria, alas, I think the great, shameful Arab silence continues
BLITZER: NATO and the U.S., they're making it clear, unlike Libya, there is no desire to do anything militarily against Syria right now.
That is sort of telling the Syrians, you know what, do what you want.
Secretary-General of NATO Rasmussen announced, publicly announced to the Syrians that we intend no intervention in Syria. Why telegraph it to him? Why help him with this? Why not create a moment's doubt that perhaps the powers of the world are coming?
I think, in every way, in every way that the world can telegraph this, I think Bashar al-Assad has been told that there is no great rush to come to the help of the Syrian people.
BLITZER: In Libya, Saif al-Islam, the son of Gadhafi, he's now suggesting, if there were free and fair elections there, Gadhafi would abide by those elections. What do you make of that proposal?
AJAMI: Exactly. We should give him his title. Remember, Wolf, this is Dr. Saif al-Islam, so we have to give him...
BLITZER: He has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.
AJAMI: Exactly. I love this. Now, here is how Saif al-Islam still thinks about the world. I have a quotation which is an elaboration of what you just said.
"I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Libyans stand with my father and see the rebels as fanatic Islamist fundamentalist terrorists stirred up from abroad."
So, he calls upon the Libyan people to accept an election at the same time that he insists that they are terrorists stirred up by troublemakers from abroad.
BLITZER: Do you believe that President Obama should comply with the War Powers Act and get formal congressional authorization for what the U.S. and the NATO allies are doing as far as a military campaign in Libya is concerned?
AJAMI: I think no such things.
I think some members of Congress really, in my opinion, basically kind of fishing in troubled waters. Look, most presidents have looked at the War Powers Resolution and ignored it. And I think what the administration is doing, it's saying, this is short of a war. It's kind of on the horns of a dilemma, I think, the Obama administration.
It fights this war, but it is not really wholly committed to it. Then some members of Congress, particularly the Republicans who have suddenly become isolationists -- these are the -- traditionally the believers in national security. They are now second-guessing the administration.
I think the administration should continue to do its best in Libya. I don't think Congress can micromanage this conflict.
BLITZER: Fouad Ajami, as usual, thanks very much.
AJAMI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Republican presidential hopeful, they strut their stuff in front of an important audience, the Republican Leadership Conference. But who was the standout? We are going there live.
As Republicans hammer President Obama on unemployment, a top adviser to his reelection campaign said the numbers are not necessarily the most important thing.
And it may be this weekend's most closely watched game. We will preview the so-called golf summit between President Obama and the House speaker, John Boehner. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Republican hopefuls are gathered in New Orleans right now for the Republican Leadership Conference. And the candidates are trying to take advantage of this showcase.
Our deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, is there as well.
Paul, you have been watching all of these candidates out there. Who was the biggest stand out today?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, Wolf, in my mind, I think the biggest standout was the person you just interviewed about a half-an-hour ago. That's Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Listen, everybody, all four of the Republican presidential candidates here who spoke today got a great applause. This is like preaching to the choir in a way. You have got about 2,000 hard-core Republican activists, strategists right here at the conference.
Herman Cain did well. He got a lot of standing ovations. Ron Paul, his supporters flooded the room. Of course, he got a lot of ovation. Rick Santorum did OK as well. But I think Bachmann, among all, she was probably the biggest rock star of the day. It was almost Sarah Palin-esque watching the crowd rush in to hear her speak and then afterward, as she was working the room, signing autographs, and whatnot.
Take a little taste. Here's a little taste of how it went today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Get ready, 2012. The Tea Party will be bigger than ever, because the Tea Party and all of America has one goal. And it's this, that Barack Obama will be a one-term president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But it's up to us, it's up to the people, it's up to the Congress, it's up to all of us, and it's up to us to get a president that won't put up with this nonsense and won't go to war so carelessly.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You mess with Israel, you are messing with the United States of America!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CAIN: They are our friends! RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I'm the only person who has announced for president who has said I immediately supported the Ryan plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: OK. So, that was today. Tomorrow, all eyes are going to be on Rick Perry, the Texas governor, who is speaking here. He got big applause last year.
But now, of course, Rick Perry is maybe thinking of running for the White House. So, stay tuned. We will report back on that one tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: He's called what is supposedly some minor back surgery coming up next month as well.
Romney, he is a no-show there? Why?
STEINHAUSER: Romney, Pawlenty, and a few others no-shows here, not because they didn't want to be there, their campaigns say, but they had scheduling conflicts already. A lot of these people trying to raise money. It's near the end of the second quarter, and a lot of them already have very busy schedules -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. That's the excuse I guess a lot of them give.
Thanks very much, Paul.
Paul is on the scene for us in New Orleans.
He's the most powerful man in Pakistan, arguably, so why is this man the key to relations with Washington? We will tell you what's going on.
And President Obama and the House speaker, John Boehner, they're hitting the link together this weekend right here in Washington.
BLITZER: The U.S.-Pakistani relationship is seriously frayed right now, seemingly to the breaking point. One Pakistani general, though, may be the key to keeping things going. But after the raid that killed bin Laden, he is now under intense pressure from within Pakistan.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has a closer look at what's going on -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.S. has cozied up to this general for years in Pakistan. The question is, of course, has it done any good?
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): This is the most important man in Pakistan, and for months, U.S. officials have been on a parade of visits, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Nobody has worked that harder than me very frankly with the leadership.
STARR: Mullen alone has made nearly two dozen trips to Pakistan, meeting with General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief of staff, the most powerful man in the country, trying to persuade him to crack down on terrorists.
But since the U.S. raid killing Osama bin Laden, Kayani is under fire from his own officers, who think he is too pro-U.S., but was kept in the dark about the raid. Kayani is under such internal pressure, even Mullen is pulling back.
MULLEN: I think we need to give it a little time and a little space as they go through this introspection.
DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": In the eyes of the Pakistani public, all of these trips by American official, pleading, demanding, scolding, you name it -- I mean, every trip had a different theme -- I think that the Pakistani public watched this and wondered, is our military just kind of a punching bag or lackey of the Americans?
STARR: The administration worries Kayani could be driven out by disgruntled commanders -- one U.S. officials saying -- quote -- "He has a serious political problem within his military."
Panetta says Pakistan is not paying attention.
LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: My view is that the terrorists in their country are probably the greatest threat to their sovereignty.
STARR: Backing off, just for now, may make sense to some.
IGNATIUS: Our embrace of the military, because we needed them so much, reinforced the military's really too strong position in Pakistani life. So, if there is criticism of the military now, criticism of General Kayani by the public, by the Parliament, that's good.
STARR: But Panetta warns a time-out between the two cannot become a permanent breakup.
PANETTA: They are a nuclear power. And there's the danger that those nukes could wind up in the wrong hands.
STARR: Now, nobody knows, of course, whether General Kayani will survive in his current position, but if he does not, there are other hard-liner Pakistani generals that could take over some of these key positions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Barbara, for that.
He missed an opportunity to go after Mitt Romney at the GOP debate, but now Tim Pawlenty is trying to make up for it.
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BLITZER: A missed opportunity in Monday's Republican presidential debate.
The former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had slammed his rival Mitt Romney over the health care reform he enacted as Massachusetts governor, calling it Obamneycare in an effort to link Romney with President Obama's health care reform law.
But Pawlenty seemed to back down in person. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Why would you chose those -- choose those words maybe in the comfort of a Sunday show studio?
Your rival is standing right there. If it was Obamneycare on "FOX News Sunday," why isn't it not Obamneycare standing here with the governor right there?
TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is -- President Obama is -- is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program. He's the one who said it's a blueprint and that he merged the two programs.
And so using the term "Obamneycare" was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's get some more on the evolving GOP field.
Joining us, the moderator of that first CNN debate, our chief national correspondent, John King. He's the anchor of "JOHN KING, USA."
John, since that night, Tim Pawlenty, the former two-term governor of Minnesota, he acknowledges now that he made a big mistake.
KING: He faced a lot of criticism, that he was too timid. That if you're going to launch an attack on Sunday, why do you blink and back away from it on Monday, the first big nationally televised debate? He put out a tweet as the week closed down, acknowledging his mistake. He also went on FOX News Channel, on a program there, to say he wished that he had been a bit more combative.
The knock after was not only that he didn't keep up the health care argument against Governor Romney, but he appeared to be timid. And the question is are you presidential? Can you debate? One question in this debate was who the Republicans wanted to debate Barack Obama next September. And so Governor Pawlenty faced some criticism there. He's trying to cover
BLITZER: Some people are already saying, among those seven, some of them might drop out sooner rather than later, but there must be a No. 8, a No. 9, and a No. 10. Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, the U.S. ambassador to China, he's set to announce in coming days, but a lot of people are watching to see what Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, does.
KING: Huntsman definitely is. The Statue of Liberty will be his backdrop in the week ahead. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, says, "Let me finish my legislative session." That's about to happen. Then he'll think about it. He's facing a lot of pressure, and if you listen to his words and his body language, Wolf, he seems more inclined to think about it now more. Maybe this is a good idea, as opposed to a couple months ago, he would say, "I don't want to do this."
You get from the body language that he's much more interested and much in the Gingrich staff that essentially fired the candidate. Jessica mentioned in her piece. Most of them are sitting and waiting now, available to Governor Perry, actually a great asset. We know he can raise the money. One of the big questions is: can you put the nuts and bolts together? He has a pretty talented, experienced team waiting, if he wants run. BLITZER: Now, you heard his speech in New York at that Republican gathering this past week. He certainly sounded like a presidential candidate to me.
KING: And he has fight, and he has energy and passion. And when a lot of people look at the Republican field, they see that in Michele Bachmann. They question whether she can rise to being a nominee. They look at the other candidates. Maybe Mr. Cain has it, but as the people you look at, the politicians, the governors, they think, you know, Romney, great record. Does he have the passion? Is he the right debater?
Pawlenty, the criticism we just talked about, has people looking around a bit. This happens a lot early on. People say "eh" about the field; they're looking for something else. But Governor Perry, a good fund-raiser, a lot of passion, a lot of conservatives like this.
BLITZER: A significant wild card out there still, Sarah Palin's new movie coming up, positive about her. We don't know what she's going to do.
KING: We don't. And so you have to read the clues. She took this bus tour. She said she was exploring it, she was contemplating it, she was looking at it. And she said she loved the trip, which had a lot of people thinking she ' more inclined to run now.
However, she still has her job as a FOX News commentator, and they have set the standard, at least for the other candidates on their staff, the potential candidates on their staff, that if you're actively exploring a run for president, you have to take a leave of absence. So it leads -- it begs the question, has she privately assured them she's not running? She says we'll get an answer. She can wait the longest, perhaps. We might have to wait another month or so, maybe even longer for that.
BLITZER: Isn't it, at this point, Mitt Romney's to lose?
KING: No. You can't say that this early, but he is certainly the front-runner.
BLITZER: The polls show him way ahead.
KING: Normally, Republican -- normally, you can say that. Normally, the Republicans have sort of the heir apparent. It was George W. Bush; it was John McCain. It was even Ronald Reagan.
BLITZER: Bob Dole.
KING: Bob Dole. This race, Romney is the guy who's been around the track and he has the best fund-raising operation. He's way ahead in New Hampshire, and he's built a pretty good campaign team everywhere else. So he has significant advantages.
But a lot of Republicans question whether those old "next guy in waiting" rules apply after what we saw from the Tea Party, after you see some of the conservative doubts about Governor Romney. So he is -- yes, he's ahead. I wouldn't put him up there in John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole status in the Republican tradition, because a lot of people think this is a party in turmoil. It's a party still trying to find a new leader. Maybe, Wolf -- maybe --the old rules don't apply
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, you know, he seems to have self- destructed. But you never know.
KING: He's -- he drives the ideas debate. He is passionate about the policy. Can he raise money after this happened? He was already struggling fundraising. That's one of the reasons so many of his staffers quit. Watch over the next couple of months how much he can raise.
But then, you have to look at the calendar. You can stay in the race, but you have to win somewhere. To become the nominee, you have to win delegates. Is he going to win Iowa? Nobody sees that happening right now. Is he going to win New Hampshire? No one sees that happening right now. If you don't win Iowa and New Hampshire, you better do it quickly in a place like South Carolina. No one sees that happening right now. It's early, but every other candidate can draw you. I can win in Iowa and come in second, a plausible track. People are having a hard time doing that for the speaker, so he has a lot to prove. First raising money, assembling a team, and he's got to find a place to win.
BLITZER: A lot of work -- work to do. All right, John. Good work on the debate. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: And for our North American viewers, much more coming up on "JOHN KING USA" right at the top of the hour.
With Republicans hammering President Obama on the economy, the White House wants to put its own spin on jobs as the president battles for reelection. Listen to what Obama reelection campaign senior strategist David Axelrod told our own Candy Crowley, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Can the president win with a 9 percent unemployment rate?
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA REELECTION CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST: I don't think the unemployment rate will be at 9 percent, but I don't -- I don't think there's a magic -- I'm not an economist. I believe we will make an improvement, just as we've made. We were at 10.2, and it's down to 9. I think that it will go down. But I don't think that's the fundamental issue.
The fundamental issue is how do people feel? Do they feel like we're making progress? Do they feel like we're moving in the right direction? And do they feel like the person on the other side of the battle would hold out greater hope? And I'm very confident that -- that we will be in the right place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You can see Candy's full interview with David Axelrod this Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." It airs at 9 a.m. Eastern and replays at noon.
A check of the day's other top stories coming up, including Gabrielle Giffords as she returns home for a visit with her family, her first since being wounded in an assassination attempt.
And President Obama and the speaker, John Boehner, may have found a way to communicate on the golf course. Our own Brianna Keilar is here. She's getting ready to watch that golf. She's also a pretty good golfer herself. She's in the studio. Stand by.
BLITZER: The double rainbow over Central Park in New York. A beautiful, beautiful day indeed.
Just six months ago, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was in critical condition with a head wound, but things will be a lot different for her this weekend. Mary Snow's monitoring that and the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Mary, what do you have?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another positive development. Gabrielle Giffords is returning to Tucson for a brief visit with her family this weekend. It's her first time home since January, when she was transferred to Houston for rehabilitation after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt. Giffords was discharged this week and will continue her treatment in Houston as an outpatient.
The FBI searched the northern Virginia home of a U.S. Marine Corps reservist who was found acting suspiciously at Arlington National Cemetery. Information he gave led investigators to a car parked in bushes near the Pentagon. Nearby roads were closed as a precaution, snarling traffic. The FBI says no explosives were found, but they are investigating an unknown material found in the man's backpack.
A vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York state has been delayed. The measure, introduced by the governor, has been passed by the assembly, but it's one vote short in the senate. Wavering Republicans want protections for religious institutions. The legislative session ends Monday, and the bill's fate is uncertain.
And for the first time the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed the resolution backing gay rights. It calls for equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. The resolution introduced by South Africa passed with 23 votes in favor and 19 opposed. The U.S. State Department calls the move an historic step -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much.
Last night, I was privileged to attend a night for hope, feeling and laughter at the Stand Up for Heroes dinner here in Washington. My friends Bob and Lee Woodruff created a really important foundation to help our wounded warriors. Bob is the ABC news journalist who was severely wounded in Iraq but has made a truly amazing recovery. They've raised lots of money for the troops and their families.
I met many of them at the dinner and was understandably moved. Their stories of courage and survival are amazing.
It was appropriate that Jon Stewart, who spent a lot of time with our troops, did some very funny stand up at the Stand Up for Heroes dinner. He's a genuine national treasure, even though he often makes fun of me.
What also really moved me and everyone else at the dinner was the excellent performance of our national anthem by four troops. It was the best I've ever heard, and I want to share it with all of you right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(MUSIC: NATIONAL ANTHEM)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Beautiful job indeed. Very moving night. To find out how you can help, if you want to help those wounded warriors, go to Remind.org. A good, good cause.
A dying father, a former CNN colleague determined it make sure he's there for his young daughter. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by to join us.
BLITZER: For those of us here at CNN, the name Nick Charles means a lot. One of the network's first sportscasters, he's been bravely battling stage four bladder cancer for nearly two years. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, recently spent some time with Nick at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
It's a heart-breaking story, but it's also an inspirational story, Sanjay. Tell us a little bit about what's going on.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no question, Wolf.
First of all, it is hard to do stories like this, especially when everybody knows Nick so well, the original face of CNN Sports.
Two years ago, Wolf, after being healthy, really, his whole life, he was having some troubles. He went to the doctor, and he diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer. He was told at that time, again, two years ago, that he had about two years to live.
And he -- it hits like you think it might hit anybody. He started asking questions like the one he asked me, which is what would you do if you suddenly heard that sort of news? How would you change your life? He's changed his life, Wolf, in ways big and small. Big changes, but also it's specific ones. For example, he keeps a journal every day and notes to his family that he wants to leave behind, thoughts about his life. And he wanted to read some of it for me, as well. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK CHARLES, CANCER PATIENT: I know it's going to take all of God's grace, which is never in short supply, to make me live longer. I want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so we can be a family here in Santa Fe. If -- sorry about this. If God takes me home, it will be forever. Meanwhile, I'm not going anywhere today.
GUPTA (voice-over): So tough for him to write, and it's tough to hear. But Nick knows he at least had the chance to leave something behind
(on camera) How do you feel when you read those?
CHARLES: They're just so reinforcing to me that I know, because she's going to read them. I've talked to people who would just long to hear their parent's voice or read something from them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: He's talking about, you know, writing in that to his 5- year-old daughter, Giovanna, Wolf. A little bit of a legacy that he wants to leave behind for her.
There are other things, Wolf, just the little lessons. One thing that he really tried to reinforce to me is this diagnosis has forced him to live in the present like he's never done before. But it also hasn't stopped him from dreaming and imagining the future.
It may surprise you to know that he and his wife, Cory, decided to build their dream House after he was diagnosed. Their dream House. They've been picking out colors, designing rooms, buying a piano, all the while knowing that there's a good chance he wouldn't spend much time in this House.
He walked me over to a closet in what will be Giovanna's room and pointed to where her clothes would hang, and he said, "Look, in that corner one day her prom dress is going to be hanging there. And it's something I'm never going to get to see."
And it was one of the times that his face really fell to pieces, Wolf, as you might imagine. You know, he lost his composure, and I lost mine, I'll tell you as well. But he is such an inspiring guy, and the changes that he's made in his life after being smacked in the face with his mortality are really incredible.
BLITZER: How's he doing right now?
GUPTA: Well, you know, he's sick, Wolf. He's lost a lot of weight, maybe 20 pounds. He's -- he's anemic, meaning his red blood cell count is not high. He's losing his balance. He's on oxygen. But you know, he's -- he's in the end stages of cancer, but he's still got his spirit. It doesn't take away his insight. It doesn't take away his intelligence. And it was still just an incredibly inspiring time to -- just to be with him.
BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much for doing this. We, of course, send all of our love to Nick, Cory, the entire family. I appreciate it very much.
BLITZER: For our North American viewers, "JOHN KING USA" is coming up at the top of the hour. But among -- among his guests, by the way, Republican Senator Jim DeMint, a conservative group now trying to draft him to run for president.
And maybe this weekend's most closely watched game. We're not talking about the U.S. Open. Brianna Keilar is here with a special preview of the so-called golf summit between President Obama and the House speaker, John Boehner.
BLITZER: Here's a look at today's "Hot Shots."
In Iraq, a protester holds up pictures of a relative calling on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to release them from jail.
In England, swimmers raise money for charity by taking part in the largest swimming event ever held in England.
In India, musicians perform in traditional attire in a two-day music festival aimed at bringing more tourism to the area.
And in England, two employees set up a Monet painting at an auction house. Experts say the painting is worth around $30 million.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.
President Obama and the House speaker John Boehner may have found one good way to communicate. They'll hold a summit tomorrow here in the Washington, D.C., area on a golf course.
Our Brianna Keilar is here covering this story for us. Brianna, what do we know about this?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's pretty extraordinary, Wolf, that they're doing this, amidst negotiations over spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling, and just one day before Speaker Boehner says that President Obama will be breaking the law by not seeking congressional authorization to have the U.S. military involved in Libya. You have these two men hitting the links. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KEILAR (voice-over): They may not be on the same course politically, but President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both spend a lot of time golfing. The president even takes practice swings at work from time to time. This one was before a 2009 event in California. And Boehner's famous tan, he says it's from his hours spent golfing.
Appropriately, the president's a lefty. The speaker, right- handed. Though oddly he putts left. Some common ground perhaps? For the first time Saturday, they'll be playing golf together. The interest in this game is intense. Well, at least among us reporters. White House press secretary Jay Carney has been answering questions about the round for more than a week.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have heard no trash talking from the president on this.
He feels that it is a very useful thing to do. And this is an opportunity that I think has value beyond the game.
KEILAR: That's because the White House and Congress are involved in negotiations to increase the debt ceiling before August 2. Representing the White House in those talks, Vice President Joe Biden. He's also the president's partner on Saturday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
CARNEY: I think because he's vice president of the United States.
KEILAR: Yes, but it doesn't hurt that Biden is a six handicap, according to "Golf Digest." President Obama is a 17. That's not terrible, but he probably won't stand up so well to Boehner. He's an 8. Good enough to play with Tiger Woods in a pro-am two years ago.
Boehner's partner, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio and a former member of the House Budget Committee, could be his secret weapon. He hasn't released his handicap.
Birdies, pars and bogeys aside, what will this game really accomplish? The speaker has a proposal.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Somebody said, well, you know, if the president wants strokes from Boehner, Boehner ought to say to the president, "Mr. President, you can have all the strokes you want. It will just cost you a trillion dollars a stroke." I thought that was a very good idea.
KEILAR: It seems the president won't be taking Boehner up on the offer.
CARNEY: I think I can say with great confidence that they will not wrap up the 18th hole and come out and say that we have a deal.
KEILAR: So we may actually find out, though, who's going to win, because the White House says they might reveal the scores after the round. My money, Wolf, is actually on Vice President Biden, because I have from a source at a local golf course that he's been on the range there twice this week.
BLITZER: Practicing, practicing. Do we know where they're going to play, which golf course?
KEILAR: They're not saying, the White House says, because of security, but I think we kind of have an idea, because the White House did pick the course, I'm told. It's already determined.
Now, Boehner is a member of Burning Tree Country Club here, so I think it's probably not going to be there, because he didn't get to pick it. The president normally plays at Andrews Air Force Base and Penns Court, Belvoir (ph). I'm thinking it's probably Andrews, but we'll see. Probably one of those courses.
BLITZER: You're a pretty good golfer yourself. Maybe they should invite you. What's your handicap?
KEILAR: I don't know what it is anymore. But I was at one point a 6.
KEILAR: I was.
BLITZER: So you played in college? Is that what?
KEILAR: High school.
BLITZER: That good. So you could really hit that ball?
KEILAR: Many years ago.
BLITZER: Not that many.
KEILAR: A few.
BLITZER: If they invite you to play, you'll go along?
KEILAR: Oh, I would completely go.
BLITZER: You'll be covering the story for us.
BLITZER: You're our senior golf analyst.
KEILAR: I will be tomorrow.
BLITZER: At least tomorrow. That's what I was going to say.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
KEILAR: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good luck. Brianna Keilar reporting for us.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. Here in North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.