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THE SITUATION ROOM

More Storm Worries; President Obama Under Fire

Aired September 1, 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 you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: tropical weather posing threats on two fronts. As Katia churns in the Atlantic, a tropical storm appears to be forming in the Gulf of Mexico and it could be taking aim at New Orleans.

Also, what some are calling a new level of dysfunction here in Washington. We are looking at the fight over President Obama's speech to Congress. James Carville, among others, standing by.

Plus, the controversy over the new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a quote that critics say makes Dr. King look very bad.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's something brewing in the Gulf of Mexico that has hurricane-scarred New Orleans on edge this hour. Just three days after the sixth anniversary of Katrina, the city is now bracing for up to 10 inches of rain from a system like they become Tropical Storm Lee. Oil rigs in the Gulf already are being evacuated.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says he doesn't like the look of things

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH LANDRIEU (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: What I want to tell folks here though is what we do know is that there is high wind, there is a lot of rain and it's going slow. That's not a good prescription for the city of New Orleans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go straight to our meteorologist Bonnie Schneider in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

Bonnie, explain what we are seeing right now.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, right now what we are watching is a lot of heavy rains sweeping across the New Orleans area as well as coastal sections of Alabama.

The rain is really just the beginning. We are going to be watching for some very strong wind as well with this system. Even though it hasn't yet formed into an official tropical system, it's definitely an area of disturbed weather we are watching very, very closely.

Let's take a look at it on the satellite perspective. You can see the bright orange here. That indicates the higher cloud tops where we're getting convection or thunderstorms. There is some wind shear breaking it up a bit, but as you heard from the mayor, the biggest problem is it's a slow mover.

Right now, the National Hurricane Center has not yet named the storm. They were flying around it this afternoon looking for that closed circulation. If they do find that and they do find those tropical-storm-force winds of 39 miles per hour or greater, it will be Tropical Storm Lee. And that actually may occur tonight.

Now, with this storm, we not only have the threat for some strong wind, but also flooding. The computer models have really been all over the place with this, with some of them taking it onshore and then looping back into the Gulf and then back onshore again.

The reason we're seeing such a disparaging look at the models, it has to do with the steering winds. They are so light, that there is not one strong influence to push the storm one way or the other. It would be so beneficial if all of the models were pushing the storm towards Texas, where we actually need the rain.

But unfortunately the consensus seems to be more of a northward flow. Now, with that said, the biggest threat, as I mentioned, was the slow movement of this tropical system. When you have a slow mover in the Gulf, you get a lot of rain. And look at this, the bullseye over New Orleans.

The scale here says by Sunday at 6:00, we could be looking at 10 inches or more of rain. Some of the models take it all the way up to 15 inches as you go into Labor Day. It's a big threat for flooding here and flood watches and warnings have been posted along the coast not just for Louisiana, but into Alabama as well.

Now, if that's not all, we are also tracking yet another tropical storm. This was just a hurricane earlier downgraded to a tropical storm. I am talking about Katia.

Now, the variance is not much. Right now the winds are at 70 miles per hour. So this is a very strong tropical storm. And when you look at the track for Katia, what you find is that it won't take long before this storm becomes a hurricane again and it may grow into a major hurricane, meaning Category 3 or stronger, and that may occur on Monday, the track taking it steadily to the northwest.

Will it make that turn away from the U.S.? It's just too early to say. Because it will take a slow movement to work all these miles across the Atlantic. But one thing we are noting is that Katia needs to be watched. It will grow in intensity. And don't let the name tropical storm name fool you. This is a storm that is growing in intensity and we are also of course monitoring the Gulf Coast for flooding, the flood threat all across southern Louisiana -- Wolf. BLITZER: Bonnie, thanks very much.

Meantime, the impact of Hurricane Irene is still being felt. Some of the worst flooding, swamped Vermont, Upstate New York and New Jersey, where people are just starting to bounce back from the mess and sharing some remarkable stories of survivor.

Let's go to Cranford, New Jersey right now. That's where our national correspondent Susan Candiotti is standing by live.

What are you seeing there, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Here in Cranford, Irene's wind and historic floodwaters are long gone, but look at the mess it has left behind for the 22,000 residents here. All this stuff to clean up. And among all the amazing survival stories we have heard, one stands out. A man who is a husband and father who defied evacuation orders and when the river started to rise, he panicked. Instead of going up to the second story of his house and staying put, he went downstairs, opened the front door and dove into waist-high water.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: The river is right in your backyard. You're watching the water go up and then you see your kids' play set right in the back of the tree. What are you thinking?

RICHARD BUONTEMPO, SURVIVOR: I'm thinking that it's very dangerous and it's time to leave this place.

CANDIOTTI: As you're looking outside, what is the storm looking like and what's going on in your head?

BUONTEMPO: Well, the house is surrounded by water. And I thought about eventually leaving 3:30, 4:00 on Sunday. So I grabbed my credit card and my keys. I literally opened the door. The water rushed in.

CANDIOTTI: Show me where you went. I started walking down here and I did one of these. I finally got here and the water is up to here. I walked, I walked. Literally, the water is slashing in my face.

So I walk up here and I know this is the lowest point to come up. I literally walk up and it goes higher ground and I literally grabbed on to the railing here. And my neighbor is pumping the water out very well.

CANDIOTTI: What did you say to him?

BUONTEMPO: I said, I got to get the heck out of here. He goes, what are you, nuts? I said, I'm swimming out of here. I am getting out of here.

CANDIOTTI: Are you walking...

(CROSSTALK)

BUONTEMPO: No, I'm swimming where I hold to branches.

And I get pushed over here. I grab on to the pole here, let go, and then I get thrown all the way over the way here.

SAUL ZUCKER, NEIGHBOR: I lost sight of him at the front door. And so I decided to come over here. He said, hey, Saul, keep an eye on me. So, this is a great view. So I walked over here, looked out the window, and I saw him rest on top of that wooden fence. And he started doing the backstroke.

BUONTEMPO: Back-swam to the bushes over there. And then I see him in the window and I just gave him a thumbs up.

CANDIOTTI: Did you think your life was on the line?

BUONTEMPO: Oh, absolutely. I thought I would be a dirt nap out in the street and literally done and be dead. And I guess an angel or somebody or Saul was watching me get to where I had to go. It was not a point of -- I just had to do it. I have four kids and literally I'm on my own. And I have to get out.

CANDIOTTI: You made the decision and you were going for it.

BUONTEMPO: Yes. Yes. But I brought my credit card and my car keys.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: That's all he needed is credit card and his teeth and his car keys and he backstroked to safety, Wolf.

And this is the kind of mess that he escaped here. Now, his wife and his kids were somewhere else and they were out of harm's way. They didn't know what he decided to do ahead of time, but when they found out afterwards, they were not very pleased about it, but certainly happy that he made it out OK -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's just one story. Multiply that by many, many times. And you get a sense of the urgency and the enormity of what happened in New Jersey and Vermont and Upstate New York and Connecticut and elsewhere.

Thanks, Susan.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake last week had more of an impact on a Virginia nuclear plant than we first thought.

Our Brian Todd has been investigating the situation for us at the plant since the quake hit.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for the first time in American history, an earthquake has actually shifted those massive casts that hold spent nuclear fuel.

These things weigh 115 tons each and hold at least 15 metric tons of spent fuel. This information coming out even though officials at the plant knew about it shortly after the quake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): East Coast's biggest earthquake in decades had this effect on a school at the epicenter. Now it turns out just a few miles away in central Virginia, huge containers holding spent nuclear fuel rods, each of them 16 feet high weighing 115 tons, holding at least 15 metric tons of spent fuel, shifted during the earthquake, something plant officials never said at the time.

An official with Dominion Virginia Power, which owns the North Anna nuclear power station, says 25 of the 27 vertical casts moved between one inch and four inches. The officials says none of the casts were damaged and no radiation leaked out. But anti-nuclear activists are alarmed.

KEVIN KAMPS, ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVIST: Very concerned because this material is ultra-hazardous inside. This is high-level radioactive waste. If you lose radiation shielding, you can deliver a fatal dose in a few minutes' time to a person at close range.

TODD: Also according to Virginia Dominion Power, horizontal bunkers next to the vertical casts also holding spent fuel rods sustained what an official called cosmetic damage, concrete coming loose on their surfaces.

I asked nuclear expert James Acton for perspective on all of it.

(on camera): How dangerous is this?

JAMES ACTON, ASSOCIATE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Not terribly, I think, is the short answer to that.

Any time something slightly unexpected happens with dry casts, then it is a cause for some concern. And it has to be investigated to see whether there is a systemic problem here. But I think the safety risk here was absolutely tiny.

TODD: All right. But they shifted four inches. What if one of them started wobbling, hit another one, and then you have got the bowling pin effect of them falling down? Isn't that a real danger?

ACTON: Well, had the shaking been large enough, then that would have been a concern. But if you think about this in terms of your refrigerator at home, when your refrigerator is on and the motor is going, actually it's quite easy to push the refrigerator even though there is absolutely no chance of the refrigerator tipping over. (voice-over): We were at North Anna the day of the earthquake and all day the next day. We kept asking about damage to the plant, were told it was very minimal. We were never told that the spent fuel casts had shifted, even though an official there says they knew about that early on.

(on camera): Should they have told the public sooner about the movement of the casts?

ACTON: It doesn't help the nuclear industry if there is any hint of them covering anything up. So I think it would have been better had this information come out earlier.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But James Acton reiterates the safety risks with the shifting casts was -- quote -- "minuscule."

Now, when I asked an official with Dominion Virginia Power why they didn't tell the public sooner about the issue with the casts, he said -- quote -- "We had a lot going on. There was no indication of any problem, and there isn't any problem" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Brian, there are now new questions about whether this plant was actually designed to withstand an earthquake.

TODD: That's right. An official with Dominion Virginia Power says last week the company notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the earthquake may have shaken the plant more than it was designed to handle.

He says the company is analyzing the seismic features, the ground motion of the earthquake, and then will determine whether the ground motion exceeded the plant's design.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thanks very much.

Here on the East Coast, safety nets are going up along the ceiling of the Washington National Cathedral, a new precaution after the building was damaged by the recent earthquake. The cathedral was open to reporters today for the first time since the earthquake.

It will stay closed for repairs for another week and then reopen in time for President Obama to speak there on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

The fight over President Obama's speech to Congress, new political fodder on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, does this show maybe a little insecurity on the part of the president?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Has partisan political bickering reached a new low? We're going to talk about that, a lot more. James Carville standing by, "TIME" magazine's Rick Stengel as well.

And breaking news about the health of 9/11 first-responders and cancer. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will join us live.

And a blistering critique of the new national monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from a prominent African-American.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Down there in the Lone Star State of Texas, Rick Perry is also known as Governor Good Hair.

In fact, when he jumped into the race a couple of weeks back, fellow Texan Paul Begala described it as -- quote -- "when Rick Perry threw his hair in the ring."

Say what you want about the current Republican front-runner -- love him or hate him -- but the guy's got great hair.

And maybe it will help Perry go all the way to the White House.

In any case, it probably won't hurt him.

In recent memory, especially since when you could see these guys on TV, our commanders-in-chief have all been blessed with the good hair gene.

In fact, you have to go all the way back to the '50s and Dwight Eisenhower to find a bald-headed president. Of course, he was credited with winning World War II. So it didn't matter whether he had any hair or not.

Even if they go significantly gray while in office, like Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, the presidents seem to have pretty healthy heads of hair.

Perhaps it's no coincidence that many of those aspiring to the office, like Perry, are blessed with good hair genes as well.

Look at Mitt Romney, or even John Edwards back in 2008.

Edwards reportedly went all out for his hair, spending as much as $400 for a haircut. Wait until he sees the haircuts he could get in prison, but that's another story.

The point is, in the age of television, appearance matters. I don't expect we'll elect another bald-headed president anytime soon, which is too bad, because there's probably a lot of qualified bald folks out there.

Anyway, this all got us wondering if there's something magical about good hair and politicians.

And that's the question: When it comes to politics, how important is hair?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

Wolf, you could be elected. I probably could not.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Look at Eisenhower. You have better hair than he had.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but not by much. The country loved him based on his performance in World War II. But he was the last one that occupied the office that didn't have anything on top.

BLITZER: Interesting. Jack, thank you.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: The headline should have read President Obama to address Congress, but instead the focus is now on some of the political bickering between the White House, the House Republican leadership over the timing of the big speech.

We have just learned, by the way, that an agreement has been reached on the timing. The president will address a joint session of the Congress one week from tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We will have live coverage right here on CNN one week from tonight.

Our political contributor John Avlon put it this way. The spat is a new low and a new indicator of how dysfunctional Washington is.

CNN's Jim Acosta has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if the president and the Congress can't agree on the timing of the job speech, the thinking goes how can they agree on a jobs bill?

(voice-over): On Twitter, it has been dubbed Speechgate, but it could easily be called a jobs fail.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is coincidental.

ACOSTA: Roughly 24 hours after the White House first laughed off suggestions it was trying to bigfoot an upcoming Republican debate by having the president give a job speech to Congress at exactly the same time.

CARNEY: Whatever the competing opportunities on television are, whether it's the Wildlife Channel or the Cooking Channel, or -- I wish that I could say that... (CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: It took only hours for the administration to give in to Speaker John Boehner's demands to move the speech to the next night.

CARNEY: Wednesday seemed to be the best option. When that was not available or when that seemed to be a problem, Thursday was fine with us.

ACOSTA: The White House blamed it all on the media.

CARNEY: I know you guys love this stuff. I know it's catnip.

ACOSTA: Not to mention for the Republicans running for president.

BACHMANN: Now, does this show maybe a little insecurity on the part of the president?

ACOSTA: When it's easier for the president and the speaker to set a tee time for golf than a date to address the jobs crisis, it could be another sign Washington's wheels have come off.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think in the beginning we thought there was one wheel coming off the car and then two. And now we're down to four.

ACOSTA: And perhaps an important lesson for the White House.

GERGEN: The Republicans have often been painted as the arrogant ones. They're people who were just trying to force their way on to things. This time, it was the White House caught in that situation.

ACOSTA: A new CNN/ORC poll finds nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the economy.

At this food stamp office down the street from the White House, people are tired of the games.

(on camera): You don't think they know what is going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not with a price like minimum wage. A person really can't live off of it, feed themselves, pay their bills.

ACOSTA: What do you think about the way that the Congress and the president are all arguing?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's something they are not doing right. I mean, it's like, if it ain't one thing, it's another, but, for real, at least tried to help us. We really need help.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: And the president may be running out of time to fix the economy. His own administration's budget review recently forecast that unemployment may hover at around 9 percent through his reelection year, a toxic number for any incumbent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: To put it mildly. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's dig deeper right now with our Democratic strategist, the CNN political contributor James Carville, and Rick Stengel, the managing editor of our corporate cousin "TIME" magazine.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

First to you, James. Who was right in this exchange between the president and Boehner on the timing of the president's address before a joint session of Congress?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I'm a little hurt you all didn't include me in the hair segment that you had there.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Yes, I don't know if it was intentional or not.

Wolf, I actually think the White House messed this thing up. I think they were trying to be clever, and for what reason? Why wouldn't you want the public to see these Republican clowns debate each other? That's what I really don't understand. You ought to try to have as big an audience as you can to see Michele Bachmann or to see Governor Good Hair.

I am miffed by the whole thing. And the last thing they needed to do is to paint themselves in a situation where it looked like that Boehner out-negotiated them again and that's exactly what happened.

BLITZER: Is that what happened, Rick?

RICHARD STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": They both look like part of the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

The way I would argue it if I were the president is to say, look, there a lot more Americans who are concerned about a 9.1 unemployment rate than are paying attention to the Republican race for president right now. And that is absolutely true.

He has to continue to try to rise above it. And part of the problem that people feel like a plague of both of your houses is that everything is politicized. They interpret everything that Boehner does and the president does as being political. And that's not good for anybody.

BLITZER: Rick's colleague, "TIME" magazine, James, Michael Scherer, writes this in the new issue. I will put it up on the screen. "He," referring to the president, "faces a perception problem, not just with Congress but with a growing share of the American people, who think he is so eager to find compromise on key issues of national importance that he allows himself to be pushed around. Wednesday's confusion will not help to solve this problem.

You agree with Michael Scherer?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't agree totally with him, but I agree partially that that's the perception. Again, the last thing that they needed, because Boehner said he got 98 percent.

There was a hilarious cartoon in the New Orleans paper who had this couple watching TV. And they said that they moved the Social Security retirement age to 106. And the guy looks at his wife and says, uh-oh, Obama has been compromising again.

I think the perception is, is that the Republicans outmaneuvered him in the deficit deal, and then he had to come out with this date and then back off of it. And I don't think that's what they want right now either with their Democratic base or with independent voters. It is not a huge thing, but this was not a good thing for the White House.

BLITZER: Does he need to strengthen that perception, Rick, that he is tougher with the Republicans?

STENGEL: Yes, Wolf, I think he does.

And Michael Scherer writes in our print magazine this week that he is going to take more of a confrontational strategy starting in the fall. I think it will look something a little more like the Harry Truman 1948 campaign against the do-nothing Congress.

Unfortunately, this is a guy who campaigned for hope and change and he will run for reelection as an antagonist of the Republicans. And that is something that he is not terribly comfortable with, but I think people feel like he needs to do.

BLITZER: You are a strategist, James, and a real good one.

If you were advising the president right now -- and he has got a big speech on jobs one week from today -- what would you tell him?

CARVILLE: I would say the first thing is fire some people.

Things are not going well. It happens in every administration. Secondly, the speech is not the big thing. It's the follow-up to the speech. Whatever it is, it will have good proposals. He's got some sound ideas. But you have to follow through with them.

And it's not just about the speech. And none of it will pass. The Republicans would not pass anything that he is for. But it can carry him through the election, do it in a way that you're comfortable with and a tone that you're comfortable with. But follow through. Give the speech Wednesday night or Thursday night, whenever it is -- I guess it's Thursday -- and continue to give it thereafter, some version of it.

Just stick with the thing and give people a -- drive this thing home. And if they do that, then they will be in a little bit better shape.

BLITZER: Is it a reelection blueprint he should be doing, knowing it's not going to pass the House and the Senate, Rick, or should he find some speech that has a chance at least of doing something positive?

STENGEL: Well, I think James's point is really good. One of the problems with the administration is that they tend to look at the speech as an end point rather than a beginning point.

That speech on Thursday should be the beginning of him saying this is my argument. This is what I want to do. This is how it should be, even if the Republicans do not sign on. The problem is, is that to many people see him as somebody who is splitting the difference all the time, rather than someone who has a policy.

CARVILLE: Yes. That is the problem. He's got to carry it through to the election.

It's enough he can contrast himself to Rick Perry, who wants to repeal the 20th century. You don't say, well, we are just going to repeal it to 1950s. You have to dig in and give your sort of alternate version to it. And that's the critical thing here.

BLITZER: James Carville is happy that the speech will be at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, kickoff time for the Saints and the Packers 8:30 p.m. Eastern, so plenty of time to listen to the president, watch him here on CNN, James, and then go watch -- you are going to be at the game? Are you going to the game?

CARVILLE: I'm not going to the game. Unfortunately, I will watch it on TV, but I'm going to be out in California, Palo Alto. But I got my -- but the Tigers, we got Saturday night playing Oregon.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You have got a lot of stuff going on.

CARVILLE: I do.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Let me put on the screen the cover of the new issue of "TIME" magazine, because it's really a terrific issue, "What to Eat Now: Uncovering the Myths About Food by Dr. Oz."

Plus, "Are Vitamins Worth It?" It's a special nutrition issue, "TIME" magazine. I'm looking forward to reading this article.

Guys, thanks very much, James Carville and Rick Stengel.

We have been waiting 10 years, now about to get breaking news about a brand-new study that suggests some of the 9/11 first- responders in New York paid an especially dear price for their courage, still paying that price right now.

Also, why renowned poet Maya Angelou says the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial here in Washington, D.C. makes the civil rights leader look like a -- quote -- "twit."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're just getting the breaking news about the health of 9/11 first responders. A new study just published, a study of firefighters, begins to answer a nagging, nagging question. Could cancer cases among those first responders have anything to do with the terror attack on the World Trade Center?

Let's go to Atlanta. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been investigating the health of these people for more than a year. Does it confirm what a lot of us have long suspected, Sanjay, that the dust that they inhaled has now resulted in cancer for many of these first responders?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to the -- to the lead study author, who happens to be the physician for the New York City Fire Department, the answer to that question is yes. And I'll tell you, the -- that was surprising even to this lead study author, who's been following firefighters, taking care of them for years even before 9/11 and been sort of following them along over the last 10 years.

This is a pivotal time, Wolf: 10 years now of data to look back and say what exactly happened to these workers? And was there- - was there changes in the rates of cancer?

And what he found specifically was there was a 19 percent increased risk of cancer among these firefighters, these first responders. And what was interesting, if you dig down into the study, as I did with him, he actually excluded certain cancers that occurred very quickly after 9/11/2001. He thought could they be related to 9/11? Maybe not, maybe so. So let's exclude them.

If you include those cancers, as well, Wolf, the number actually is 32 percent increased chance of cancer if you actually were working on the pile immediately after these attacks. Pretty remarkable numbers. Dr. Prezant, again the lead author here, he agreed to it down and talk with me ahead of the release of this embargo. And here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID PREZANT, STUDY AUTHOR: As we start seeing answers, we want to answer their question. Is cancer increased? And I will have to tell you that my initial bias was that, for the first 10 or 15 years, we would not see an increase. That's another reason why I think our findings are so strong, because I actually thought we would find the opposite.

GUPTA: You were surprised?

PREZANT: Very much so. Whether we can say that cancer is increased in other responders or area residents, we have no idea. This is a study about firefighters. Their exposure is so unique, 85 percent of the exposed were present in the first 48 hours of the collapse, when the exposure was massive. That is a very unique exposure.

GUPTA: Firefighters watching, they have the lingering question: why do they get this cancer and was it related to the dust? And you would say what?

PREZANT: For most instance, it was World Trade Center-related.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Pretty remarkable, Wolf, to hear him say that.

Again, a couple of caveats. He mentioned this, but the study was a firefighters only. So be careful not to generalize to the entire Lower Manhattan area or the people who were in that area at the time.

And also, even though it's ten years now, Wolf, this is still considered an early study in the world of science. He'd love to see what happens at 15 years, 20 years. But again, he was surprised by this. He was surprised there was such an uptick in cancer, but that's what the data has shown, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I know, Sanjay, you, yourself have been studying the contents of this dust that was -- that was so obvious during those hours and days and weeks that followed the attack on the World Trade Center. You've got a documentary coming up here on CNN entitled "Terror in the Dust."

What did you find out specifically about this dust, in your own investigation?

GUPTA: You know, what we found is that, when something like this happens -- these towers came crumbling down -- that, you know, so many different chemicals were released, and sometimes they combined with each other. So you can have benzene with asbestos.

And then a lot of them would just sort of, you know, linger on the dust. So even though the chemicals may have started to, you know, evaporate or go away, if there was some chemical that was still attached to the dust, people could breathe that in, this jagged dust, into their lungs, and that could cause a lot of the respiratory problems which nobody has denied exists.

What I found fascinating was that that dust subsequently, even after causing the respiratory problems, could cause inflammation within the body that Dr. Prezant talks about and other doctors do, as well. And that inflammation could have been the genesis of some of these cancers to which he is referring. Also, Wolf, there -- what I also find interesting is there are some things that are unknowable. In the 48 hours after these attacks, there were gasses in the air, gasses that were just released, gasses that were components of fuel. And they just disappeared. So as much as they collected that dust and examined it, it was just a reflection of what actually came to the ground and was collectible. We will never know, we can't know exactly what was in that air within those first 48 hours that people were breathing in.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks very, very much. Important information.

And an important programming note for our viewers. You can see Sanjay's full investigation in his new documentary, entitled "Terror in the Dust." It airs next Wednesday, 11 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Top Republicans wanted him to run for president, but Congressman Paul Ryan said no. And now he's explaining why in his first television interview on the subject. He talks to our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Also, some scathing criticism of the new national memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Why critics say it makes the civil rights leader look bad.

Plus, a decade after they fell, New York's Twin Towers lives on in the movies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some influential Republicans wanted this young congressman to run for president. He decided not to. Now Paul Ryan is revealing the reasons why. He gave his first TV interview on the subject to our own chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's just back from Wisconsin.

Gloria, what did Congressman Ryan say to you?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he was out camping with his family, Wolf, when this story, as he puts it, virtually exploded. Because he's been getting a little bit of pressure from some party elders. People like our own Bill Bennett. Also Bill Kristol, the editor of "The Weekly Standard," and others to get into this race. And he decided in the end that he didn't want to do it, and take a listen to why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: A lot of people tried to convince me that I should jump in this race. As you can tell, that the race is not formed fully yet. My answer really hadn't changed. If I'd really wanted to run for president, I would have done it months ago. And I think in any job in politics, you can have balance with your family, but I'm not so sure you can do that with this particular job. And so I just couldn't get over that. And when other people want you to run for president more badly than you yourself do, I think that kind of says something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: It does, Wolf, and I should add, though, that when I asked him whether he would consider a vice-presidential bid, he was a lot less Shermanesque. And sort of didn't give me a solid yes or no. So I think that question is still open.

BLITZER: A lot of people have suggested he could be a good running mate for any of the Republicans.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Marco Rubio could be a running mate, the Republican senator from Florida, which is a pretty important state.

BORGER: Yes, well, Paul Ryan, as you know, is pretty controversial because of his budget, which changes Medicare. So it will be interesting to see whether a presidential candidate would actually want to put him on the table.

BLITZER: Did he give you a sense on whether or not he thought this new super committee was going to come up with a great new plan that will deal with all of this?

BORGER: He did. He seemed to be pretty pessimistic about it. I mean, all of us in Washington thought he was going to be appointed to the super committee, chairman of the House Budget Committee. It turns out, Wolf, that he didn't want to go on it. Maybe it's not such a great political move to be on the super committee.

But he made the case that there's not going to be any grand bargain, and he specifically said to me the reason there won't be any grand bargain is that, as far as Republicans are concerned, that would mean that Barack Obama would have to put health-care reform on the table.

BLITZER: You mean to do away with this health care?

BORGER: To do away with it. And you know that Barack Obama is not going to do that.

BLITZER: You think he's getting ready to support any of these Republican candidates?

BORGER: No. No, he's not. He made a point that he doesn't really know a lot of them. He also made the point, Wolf, and take a listen to this, that this is not the year for an establishment candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: We've had a history in this party is kind of giving it to the next person in line. That's not the kind of nomination we need to have. This needs to be an election as great as the problem that we have, which is it needs to be a referendum election on the American ideal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Not exactly a vote of confidence, I would think, in Mitt Romney, when he talk about getting a different kind of candidate.

BLITZER: They're all going to be back in Washington in the coming day. All the House members, the senators. We're getting ready for a little excitement.

BORGER: The candidates are going to be at our debate. Right?

BLITZER: September 12.

BORGER: You got it.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

A national memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. now at the center of some controversy over a quote on the side of the new monument.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Words carved into the new monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have left the famed poet Maya Angelou incensed. Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester. She's working this story for us. Why is she so angry?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she is using very strong words here. She was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she is upset over an inscription at a new memorial meant to honor him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): An impressive monument sitting along the waterfront in Washington, D.C. But there's controversy over one of the featured inscriptions that reads "I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness." Poet Maya Angelou telling "The Washington Post" the quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit. And the inscription reflect exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. said.

Listen to the speech delivered two months before he death, in which he describes how he would want to be remembered.

REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.

SYLVESTER: We asked the monument's architect was it wrong to edit out the word "say that I was."

(on camera) Do you think, by shortening the quote, that some of the meaning has been lost?

ED JACKSON, MEMORIAL ARCHITECT: No. I think by shortening the quote, it has become more succinct, and it's easier for the person to grasp his own definition of who he was.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): The monument's architect says they had to shorten the quote because of a space issue. Originally, the quote in its full length was to be inscribed on the monument's marquee wall, where there was ample room. But then organizers at the last minute decided to put a different quote there.

JACKSON: "Out of the mountains of despair, a stone of hope," and you see that.

SYLVESTER (on camera): Some people have taken issue with the design itself, saying that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looks too stern and that he looks angry. And the fact that the sculptor who designed the statue is from China. The stone is from China. In fact, that it was made in China.

(voice-over) Sculptor Ed Dwight, who was consulted early on in the project, isn't pleased with how it turned out.

ED DWIGHT, SCULPTOR: The statue represents everything that King wasn't. King was a very, very humble man. And if you read his speeches and stuff, he was very -- he was really worried about people making too big a deal about what he did in his life.

SYLVESTER: But tourists have been flocking to the monument. The controversy notwithstanding, folks we spoke to say it's a beautiful tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

CRAIG ROBINSON, TOURIST: Martin Luther King would have been touched that he touched the lives of just human beings. And -- and I don't see any problem of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Architect Ed Jackson says Maya Angelou was part of a historic committee consulted throughout the project and that she never raised any objections early on. And I asked them if they would change the inscription to reflect the exact quote. And he said no, that that is a paraphrase, Wolf, and that is what they are sticking with.

BLITZER: Controversial. It's controversial. Thanks very much for that report. Interesting.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File." Plus, the towers may be gone, but the World Trade Center lives on in film.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is a little on the silly side: "When it comes to politics, how important is hair?"

John in Florida writes, "Look at some of our more popular presidents. JFK, nice hair. Bill Clinton, nice hair. On the other hand, look at Eisenhower, elected in 1952, won a second term, very popular, not much hair. Just that button, 'I like Ike.' Maybe we ought to just settle for intelligence, honesty and somebody who can talk to the American people without babbling."

James writes, "Hair's very important in politics, as the voting public attempts to avoid snakes and lions. How much a particular candidate looks like one or the other is a subconscious determinate for the electorate. The Founding Fathers, knowing this, insisted on leveling the playing field with wigs. Wise men indeed to have all the men look like women."

Mike in Minnesota writes, "It's a really good point, Jack. If Michele Bachmann ran as his VP on the promise of $2-a-gallon gas and Rick Perry promised the cure for male pattern baldness, the White House would certainly be theirs. Sadly, that's just barely a joke."

Tammy on Facebook writes, "Maybe that's why Trump decided not to run: bad hair day every day."

Ken in California: "It seems we're asking what's more important: what's on top of the head or what is in the head? What has been coming out of the candidates' heads of late has been quite hair- raising indeed."

Robert in California writes, "Well, the last president who had a receding hairline was Ford, and he lost to Carter. Ye, must matter."

And Tony writes, "All I can say, Jack, is that if hair's an issue, it's lucky for you you're not running for office."

If you want to read more on this, there are additional insults aimed at me on the Web site, CNN.com/CaffertyFile, or you can go through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

Tony's a bit of a comic.

BLITZER: Yes. The good news is you're tough, Jack. You can take it.

CAFFERTY: I got thick skin.

BLITZER: Very. Me, too. Thanks very much.

Almost ten years after they fell, the World Trade Center Towers stage a bittersweet comeback in the movies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The World Trade Center Towers are now revisited again and again through the power of film. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a decade of images of the Twin Towers gushing smoke, maybe it's time to see them in the rosy glow of the movies.

Inspiring awe in "Home Alone 2," a cemetery backdrop in "Dog Day Afternoon," something to make "Crocodile Dundee" feel like he'd arrived. Something to make you feel sad about leaving.

And now a New York filmmaker has made a montage of Twin Tower movie cameos, featuring over 75 clips.

Blink and you'll miss the towers seen through the car's rear window.

It took video cartoonist Dan Metz seven months working on and off to compile the montage, even using disaster movies. But mostly showing the Twin Towers as a compass in the background.

DAN METZ, VIDEO CARTOONIST: You've seen the Twin Towers burning and falling for ten years now, but you never -- we don't get to think of it as just, like, 30 years of them standing there, so it's a celebration of that.

MOOS: Celebrated with a cast ranging from Superman to King Kong.

(on camera) Do you miss the Twin Towers?

METZ: I do miss the Twin Towers a lot.

MOOS: And amid all this missing, film buffs can't resist telling Dan Metz about the clips he missed in his montage.

(voice-over) For instance, "They missed 'The Simpsons' episode, the one in which Homer goes all the way to the top of one tower, desperate for a bathroom, and when he finds it out of order, he goes all the way to the top of the other tower."

"Didn't see Godspell' in there either," noted someone. The cast sang atop the World Trade Center as it was nearing completion in 1973.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: There's plenty of sad irony in old film clips like this from "Trading Places."

DAN AYKROYD, ACTOR: In this building, it's either kill or be killed.

MOOS: After 9/11 the towers were removed from "The Sopranos'" open. So was a "Spider-Man" tease showing bank robbers in a chopper ensnared by Spider-Man's web, spun from tower to tower.

But instead of staying stuck in images of destruction, Dan Metz celebrates the life of a building that, even in its absence, remains a huge presence.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

FRANK SINATRA, SINGER (singing): New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's it for me. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.