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THE SITUATION ROOM
Preview Of What Obama Will Propose In His Jobs Speech To Joint Session Of Congress And To American People; Democrat Defends Tea Party Slam; West Threatens to Leave Black Caucus; Libya Horror Stories Emerging; U.S. Contractor Imprisoned in Cuba
Aired September 3, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: President Obama gears up for his make-or-break jobs speech after a horrible August unemployment report. This hour, the proposals he's likely to unveil and whether they'll actually put Americans back to work.
Also, infighting within the Tea Party Movement, and a congressman's explosive charge that elements of the movement would like to see him hanging from a tree.
And we'll take you inside the archives of Moammar Gadhafi's brutal regime and uncover secrets that massacre victims took to their graves.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There is little to celebrate this Labor Day weekend here in the United States for millions of Americans who want to be working, but simply can't find a job. And there's no comfort for them in the government's latest labor report, which shows the economy basically added no jobs in August, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at a dismal 9.1 percent. It all puts even more pressure on President Obama as he gets ready to unveil his highly anticipated jobs plan later this coming week.
Our Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin is joining us now with details of what potentially we could expect.
You're digging, Jessica. What are you finding out?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this plan is likely to focus on jump-starting short-term jobs growth with some longer term infrastructure investment. Now, that means government spending, which Democrats consider essential, but Republicans are sure to attack as more stimulus.
YELLIN (voice over): Even during a speech to the American Legion in Minnesota, the president couldn't resist a preview of his highly anticipated jobs plan.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Next week I'll be speaking to the nation about a plan to create jobs and reduce our deficit. A plan that I want to see passed by Congress. We've got to get this done.
YELLIN: It's an effort to jump-start the economy and shore up his dwindling poll numbers. A recent CNN/ORC poll shows only 37 percent of Americans approve of how the president is handling unemployment. So next week, he's rolling out a package that's likely to include an extension of a payroll tax cut for workers, which is set to expire at the end of the year.
Also possible in the plan, businesses could get a tax break for each new worker they hire, or even an additional credit for hiring the long-term unemployed. Outside policy makers consulted by the White House say other possible ideas include a program that gives the long- term unemployed job training experiences with local businesses. And new spending on infrastructure; it could bring back Build America Bonds, which can make it cheaper for cities and states to build roads and bridges, or fund school renovations and programs to make low- income housing more energy efficient.
YELLIN: Wolf, the White House is tight-lipped on the final product, no surprise, they don't want it to leak. But they have made it clear that the president will propose that Congress offset all new spending in this package with additional cuts, which he plans to recommend to that congressional super committee. So, the White House says that they view this the package as revenue neutral in the end. No doubt Republicans will see it differently, Wolf.
BLITZER: But are you getting the sense, Jessica, that they want a package that could actually pass the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, that could deal with a potential filibuster in the Senate? Or is this simply a blueprint for the president's re-election campaign?
YELLIN: Wolf, it's a little bit of both. Because they're adamant that the proposals that will be in this package are elements that have had bipartisan support before. For example, these payroll tax cuts have had Republican support in the past. But they're not naive inside the White House and realize that because of the political environment, there is a high likelihood that this plan will not ultimately pass and could just become political fodder in the election year.
BLITZER: We're already deep into election year politics. There's no doubt about that. Jessica, thank you.
Let's dig deeper right now with our chief political correspondent, the "State Of The Union" host, Candy Crowley, and our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
We're looking ahead to the president's big speech, Candy, Thursday night, before a joint session of Congress. But hovering over all of it, these latest numbers we got this week, unemployment remaining 9.1 percent, effectively zero job growth for all practical purposes. That does not bode well.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": No. And a forecast, by the way, that they put out, the OMB put out, that doesn't forecast much more throughout next year.
BLITZER: At 9 percent, continuing unemployment for next year.
CROWLEY: Yes, so what does the president need to do? He needs to -- listen, 9 percent unemployed is going to stick with him through the whole year. He's got to convince the 91 percent of Americans, that are employed, that they're not going to lose their jobs. He's going to convince the people who do have a home that they're not going to lose their home. Because now it becomes for him trying to convince Americans that things will get better. Because we already know they're not going to get that much better next year, at least in terms of the jobless rate. So he's got to get that consumer confidence thing, and by the way, that voter confidence thing going.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And the other half of that is that he has to convince people that what the other guys are proposing would take you down the wrong road. So he's going to try and say, look, if you vote for them, if you listen to just them, the economy will get even worse. Now, didn't work for him so well in the 2010 midterm elections.
CROWLEY: And he doesn't have just one guy now, is the problem.
BORGER: That's right. But he's saying, their economic theory, he will say, is going to fail America if you're looking to create jobs.
BLITZER: And the Republican presidential candidate's wasting no time blasting the president for this anemic jobs report. Listen to Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obama is not working. And he is disappointed the American people. And this morning, very bad news. Did you see the numbers that came out on job growth? Look, there is zero faith in Barack Obama, because he's created zero jobs last month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Having said that, the president does have the year, plus, before November 2012, which is a long time to get the country's act together, at least moving in the right direction, and his own act together.
CROWLEY: And in convincing the country it's moving, because if your forecast is, we're going to have kind of anemic growth, and that's their forecast. And unemployment's not going to get much better, and that's their forecast. He has to buck history, number one, a president with that kind of high unemployment rate has never been re- elected at 9 percent. And he has to convince people, as Gloria said, that whatever is being proposed on the other side is worse. The problem is, that a re-election bid is about the person in office. And somehow, he has to buck that as well.
BORGER: Well, and Barack Obama doesn't really want this election to be a referendum on his performance on the economy, because if that's the case, then, actually, he doesn't win. What he does want is to turn it to whomever is going to be opposing him and say, what would he do that would have gotten us out of -- or she, that would have gotten us out of this ditch? And so we haven't gotten to -- we haven't gotten to that point in the campaign yet.
But at the White House, they are looking to history. They're looking at FDR, they're looking at Ronald Reagan. They're saying these two fellas got re-elected --
CROWLEY: Ronald Reagan at 7.2.
BORGER: And unemployment was going down, not up with Ronald Reagan.
CROWLEY: It's hard to tell trajectory. But let me tell you what President Obama has on his side. Like no other candidate I have known, and even now as president, there is this in the ground water, in the electorate groundwater, there is a hope that he will succeed. They're mad at him, they don't like his policies, as we've seen in all of these -- but there's some kind of resonance there that he still has, that if he can recapture some of that hope, all his opposition made fun of it, but if they can recapture it, then he's onto something.
BLITZER: Candy has a good point. Because if you look at the polls and you dig deeper in all of these polls, whether it's our poll, or any of the other polls, the job approval number on the economy may not be good. The overall job approval number may not be good, but likability.
BORGER: They still like him.
BLITZER: Americans still like this president.
BORGER: They still like him.
CROWLEY: And they want him to succeed.
BORGER: Unless you're part of sort of the hard-core base of the Republican Party, which really does not like Barack Obama, but for independent voters, there's still a sense of giving the guy a chance.
BLITZER: I think the latest numbers I saw do like the president, in the 60s, 65 percent of the American public say yes.
CROWLEY: That's what I'm talking about. There's this in the ground water, in the electric ground water, there is some place that he can grow, but he's got to tap into it.
BORGER: And the big question is, does he care about people like me? And that number's been going down for Barack Obama. So it will be interesting to see if he can get it going in the right direction to convince people he cares about them. BLITZER: Big speech Thursday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have live coverage, obviously, of the president's address before a joint session of Congress.
Ladies, thanks very much.
This additional programming note: I'll be the moderator when CNN hosts the Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida, along with the Tea Party Express and several other Tea Party groups. Monday night, September 12th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.
Trouble at a nuclear power plant in the wake of that earthquake that rocked the East Coast. We're going to show you what some activists are alarmed about.
Plus, flood victims left high and dry. Many will be starting from scratch, because they don't have Flood insurance.
Plus, a Democratic lawmaker's racially charged slam against elements of the Tea Party Movement. It sparks a heated debate between Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin.
BLITZER: Floodwaters from what once was Hurricane Irene are receding and a long cleanup is ahead. The storm killed dozens, left millions of people without power. Residents of North Carolina's barrier islands can begin going home this weekend. In Vermont, many people will be starting, though, from scratch. CNN's Amber Lyon has this report from Wilmington.
EILEEN RANSLOW, BUSINESS OWNER: We can handle snow. Not this much water all at once.
AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 10-foot-high floodwaters poured through Eileen Ranslow's 40-year-old flooring business.
RANSLOW: Oh, it's devastating. It's devastating, you know?
LYON: Eileen's family business once made $1 million a year, she says, but revenue dwindled by three quarters in the economic downturn. Now this family says they're facing at least $300,000 in damages. They don't have flood insurance, and they're not alone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had a little cry, and then just said, OK. OK. This was Sunday night, before they even let us into town. We kind of snuck in and came in. And it was just, it was just, you know, in shock. We're still in shock.
LYON: Mud covers the clothes at this consignment shop, but these two won't be covered by insurance.
LYON: What these are Gucci pants right over here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice Gucci leather pants. They were like butter. Now they're like mud.
LYON: But some things can't be replaced. This is Ann Coleman and she's a local artist and her entire studio filled with originals was just washed away by the waters.
ANN COLEMAN, ARTIST: When I first realized it was gone, I just couldn't believe it. It was like, like it was gone.
LYON: 30 of her original paintings went downstream with the gallery.
COLEMAN: I think the one that got me the most was a piece I did in 1978 of my Gram's house, and it was incredible, this watercolor. I did it when I was recovering from a broken neck.
LYON: Pile after pile of once-valuable goods, but floodwaters haven't washed away Wilmington's sense of community.
SARAH BOISBERT, VOLUNTEER: You can't just sit around. You have to get up and do something. I mean, there's just no other explanation. You just have to.
LYON: Who are these volunteers?
RANSLOW: They're just people. Like the gal yesterday said, you know, they're neighbors. And in Vermont, we're all neighbors.
BLITZER: Heartbreaking story, indeed. Amber Lyon reporting from Wilmington in Vermont.
We're also learning that that earthquake that hit here in Washington, D.C., not that long ago had more than impact on a Virginia nuclear power plant than we first thought. Our Brian Todd has been investigating the situation over at the plant in Virginia.
What are you learning, Brian?
Well, Wolf, for the first time in American history, an earthquake has actually shifted those massive casks 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 now, even though officials at the plant knew about it shortly after the quake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD (voice over): The 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 casks moved between 1 and 4 inches. The official says none of the casks were damaged and no radiation leaked out. But anti-nuclear activists are alarmed.
KEVIN KAMPS,. BEYOND NUCLEAR: Very concerned, because this material is ultra-hazardous inside. This is high-level radioactive waste. If you lose radioactive shielding, you can deliver a fatal dose in a few minutes' time to a person at close range.
TODD: Also according to Dominion Virginia Power, horizontal bunkers next to the vertical casks also holding spent fuel rods a sustained what an official called cosmetic damage, concrete coming loose on their surfaces. I asked nuclear expert James Acton for perspective on all of this.
(On camera): How terrible is the damage?
JAMES ACTON, CARNEGIE (ph) ENVIRONMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Not terribly, I think, is the short answer to that. Anytime something slightly unexpected happens with dry casks, then it is a cause for some concern. And, you know, it has to be investigated to see whether there's a systemic problem here. But I think the safety risk here was absolutely tiny.
TODD: They shifted 4 inches, what if one started wobbling, hit another one, and then you've got the bowling pin effect of them falling down. Isn't that a real danger?
ACTON: 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's absolutely no chance of the refrigerator tipping over.
TODD (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 that it was very minimal. We were never told that the spent fuel casks had shifted, even though an official said they knew about that early on.
(On camera): Should they have told the public sooner about the movement of the casks?
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.
TODD: But James Acton reiterates the safety risk with the shifting casks was, quote, "minuscule". Now, when I asked an official with Dominion Virginia Power why they did not tell the public sooner about the, those casks, 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 now there are questions, Brian, and correct me if I'm wrong, about whether or not this plant was even built to withstand this kind of an earthquake. TODD: That's right. An official with Dominion Virginia Power says last week the company notified the NRC that the earthquake may have shaken the plant more than it was designed to handle. He says the company's analyzing the seismic features and the ground motion of the earthquake, and then will determine whether the ground motion actually exceed the plant's design.
BLITZER: A lot of work to do. Brian, thanks very, very much.
Horrific accounts from prisoners allegedly held captive by Gadhafi's forces. Troubling new details coming in from Tripoli.
Plus, infighting in the Tea Party Movement. Deep divisions that could mean trouble for a powerful political force.
BLITZER: Here in the United States, the Tea Party movement is working to energize its supporters right now, with new rallies this Labor Day weekend. This, as the movement deals with internal movements and renewed allegations of racism. Here's Jim Acosta.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're having a Tea Party across this land.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If President Obama is searching for a way to energize parts of the Democratic base, look no farther than the Tea Party. The conservative anti-big government movement which just scored a big victory in debt deal on Capitol Hill has liberals in Congress hopping mad.
REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) CALIFORNIA: As far as I'm concerned, the Tea Party can go straight to hell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the real enemy is the Tea Party.
ACOSTA: At a series of town halls and job fairs in Democratic districts, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have accused Tea Party-backed Republicans of kicking the poor and even outright racism in their zeal for cuts in government spending.
REP. ANDRE CARSON, (D) INDIANA: Some of them in Congress right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and, I'm sorry chairman, hanging on a tree.
ACOSTA: Asked about those comments later, Congressman Andre Carson defended his remarks to CNN.
CARSON: I stand on the truth of what I spoke. My intentions weren't to hurt anyone or any group.
ACOSTA: As the Tea Party Express was launching its latest bus tour across the country, the grown up's chairwoman seemed to wear some of the criticism as a badge of honor. AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: It's a testament to the power that this movement is having. We have them running scared right now. We are a threat to their leftist liberal agenda, and they don't know what to do.
ACOSTA: Another Tea Party leader, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, argues the movement is inclusive.
HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would know racism if I saw it. I do not see it, nor have I experienced it in the Tea Party Movement.
ACOSTA: But there are other Tea Party questions brewing, such as some of the small crowds at its events and there's infighting. When the Tea Party Express recently agreed to let Mitt Romney to speak at a gathering this weekend, another Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, bailed from the bus tour. FreedomWorks Brenden Steinhauser says Tea Partiers will go to the speech to protest Romney. A man some conservatives call the father of Obamneycare.
BRENDEN STEINHAUSER, FREEDOMWORKS: He's been dismissive of the Tea Party Movement, but now that he is struggling in his polls he now seeks to pander to the Tea Party movement in New Hampshire and across the country.
ACOSTA: You think he needs the Tea Party movement now?
STEINHAUSER: I do. I think he wants the Tea Party vote.
ACOSTA (on camera): Then there's Sarah Palin. First she's in, then she's out, and then she's in at a Tea Party event scheduled this weekend in Iowa. Coincidentally, Christine O'Donnell was disinvited twice from the same gathering. One of the events organizers blamed it all on logistical concerns. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin are both weighing in on Congressman Carson's explosive charge that the Tea Party Movement would like to see him hanging on a tree. Stand by for our "Strategy Session".
Also, hard evidence of a brutal massacre in Libya. Some of Moammar Gadhafi's ugly secrets uncovered.
BLITZER: Following up on Jim Acosta's report that you just saw, we're seeing the Tea Party stir up a lot more red hot anger on the left. But do renewed allegations of racism within the movement cross an ugly line?
Let's get right to our "Strategy Session". Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, and CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. I want to follow up, and I'll start with you, Donna, on Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. Some very, very controversial, explosive words he said the other day. Listen to this and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANDRE CARSON, INDIANA: Some of them in Congress right now, of this Tea Party movement, would love to see you and me, I'm sorry, Chairman, hanging on a tree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. In case our viewers didn't hear that properly, "Some of them in Congress, in this Tea Party Movement, right now, would like to see you and me, I'm sorry, Chairman, hanging on a tree."
Donna, did he go way too far?
DONNA BRAZILE, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF BRAZILE ASSOCIATION: His remarks tell us what's wrong with our political discourse today. There's no question, Wolf, that for African-Americans who understand this history, especially a history of lynching, to use such language is something that inflames and not informs people.
So, yes, I clearly would not have advised him to say that about the Tea Party or any other party or caucus. But it tells us a lot about the level of incivility, the level of extreme language that's being used.
And it's not just being used in the context of the Tea Party. It's being used in the context of talking about the president. It's been used in talking about other members of Congress. So I would advise him not to use that language.
BLITZER: And Congressman Allen West, Mary, the Republican conservative from Florida, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
He responded this way, I'll read to you what he said in a letter to the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. "As chairman of the CBS, I believe it is incumbent on you to both condemn these types of hate-filled comments and to disassociate the Congressional Black Caucus from these types of remarks. Otherwise, I will have to seriously reconsider my membership within the organization."
Should he stay in that organization, you think, Mary, Allen West?
MARY MATALIN, EDITOR IN CHIEF OF SIMON AND SIMON AND SCHUSTER: Well, it's not representative of great American black leaders. You know, Glenn Beck did an astounding, remarkable series on the civil rights struggle in this country, including black founding fathers.
And that congressman and Maxine Waters who said all the Tea Party can go straight to hell, they are not in that great tradition. And they should be condemned. And a huge attraction, a significant attraction, and this is quantified in the polls, to Barack Obama, among white people, was his promise to be post-racial. This is retro-racial, and not only should the CBS condemn it, the president should condemn it.
BRAZILE: Absolutely not.
MATALIN: This is a moment for him to step up and say, enough is enough.
BLITZER: Donna, I want -- also respond to the suggestion that Mary made that Congresswoman Maxine Waters who said that these guys can, in her words, go to hell. Did he go too far as well?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I want to step back, and I think everyone should step back and breathe a little deeper. Because some of the comments made by Tea Party members towards the president, towards other Americans, it's been downright hostile.
Again, it's inflammatory. I don't support this level of incivility right now among our elected officials. And I think Congressman West, who's also made some inflammatory comments, regarding Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I don't want to go back and forth, back and forth.
I think it's important that Congressman West. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. They represent millions of American citizens, black, white, and others. They have every right to challenge the Tea Party, to challenge Republicans, and to challenge the president when they feel that their constituents are not being served.
So I take personal, and as well as professional distance from these comments because they're not the comments I would make, knowing the history of this country. And let me just say this about Glenn Beck.
For Glenn Beck to somehow or another tell people of color or any Americans about racism, about blackness, about our founding fathers, I'm sorry, walk a day, walk a mile, but don't tell me anything when Glenn Beck also insulted the president.
MATALIN: You know what, Donna --
BRAZILE: He insulted the president of the United States.
MATALIN: Donna -- Glenn Beck is not telling you or anyone anything other than the history and there --
BRAZILE: He don't know my history. He does not know my history, nor does he know the history -- he could read it, Mary. I know my history, but for Glenn Beck to lecture any person of color about history, when he made the uncivil comments about President Obama, I am so sorry, Mary, I draw the line there.
Look, my history is an American story. Your history is an American story. But what Glenn Beck has tried to do and his level of civility, has not add to it, he's subtracted to it. So I'm sorry, on Glenn Beck, I draw the line. You've been more civil than Glenn Beck.
MATALIN: Well, you can draw the line. I don't even know what you're talking about, Donna, but I'm going to ask you this. Did you see any of his programs? Did you watch any of his remarkable documentaries on the founding and the black founding fathers and the scholars that he had on and the scholarship that he did, and the accolades that he received from the black community?
This -- you're making your point that you were disregarding earlier, which is, we're just judging people and saying things about people without even knowing who they are or what they've said. This is not a show about Glenn Beck, but he's the furthest thing from a racist.
And I think why this, why we have to have this conversation because what's happening with Democrats and liberals, if you oppose their policies, then they brand you a racist --
BLITZER: Hold on, Donna, hold on one second. Donna, hold on one second.
BRAZILE: I disagree. We should have this conversation again, but I finally disagree.
BLITZER: Wait a second. Mary, you remember when Glenn Beck said that President Obama has a deep-seated hatred of white people. You remember when he said that? Mary.
MATALIN: That was -- yes! I do remember that.
BLITZER: So what does that have to do with -- is that a factual statement?
MATALIN: Glenn Beck was -- put that in the context of a number of things that were in Barack Obama's background, which hadn't been condemned. That Barack Obama didn't condemn. I'm not condoning that remark.
BLITZER: Well, forget about condoning, are you condemning -- Mary, are you condemning that remark?
MATALIN: I do not think that Barack Obama has any deep-seated hatred for anybody.
BLITZER: So you condemn Glenn Beck for saying that?
MATALIN: No, I do not condemn him for saying that, because he said it in the context of remarks just like this, that this president that promised us to be post-racial, that's what he ran on.
BRAZILE: No, he did not.
MATALIN: -- has not lived up to that promise.
BLITZER: Donna, are you condemning Andre Carson, the congressman, for saying that Republican members of the Tea Party in the House of Representatives want to see him hanging on a tree? BRAZILE: First of all, as I said, Wolf, that I don't believe his language informed anybody --
BLITZER: It's a simple question. Are you condemning him for that?
BRAZILE: As I said, that I disagree with the language he used.
BLITZER: Here's what I don't understand, guys --
BRAZILE: Given the history --
BLITZER: Why can't either one of you condemn outrageous statements?
BRAZILE: Because we'll be doing this every day and not talking about any issue of substance, if I have to condemn --
BLITZER: After Gabrielle Giffords was attacked the way she was, shouldn't we condemn members of Congress and others who go out and make these outrageous statements, Mary?
MATALIN: I think any language that does not contribute to civic dialogue in a conversation, in a discussion, without people saying that as a liberal, as a Democrat, as a Republican, as a conservative, that level of incivility, Wolf, is why we're sitting here today. Talking about should we condemn what this member of congress said when every week a member of Congress will say something stupid.
BLITZER: Well, it's not just stupid --
MATALIN: It is stupid! It is stupid.
BLITZER: But it's beyond stupid, Mary.
MATALIN: And it's insulting, Wolf.
BLITZER: When Glenn Beck says that the president of the United States has a deep-seated hatred for white people, and his mother, she has passed away, was white. His grandparents who raised him were white. That is an outrageous statement. I don't understand why you can't condemn that.
MATALIN: I condemn it in a vacuum like that, but in the context of the church that he attended and did not disavow for 20 years until he was running for president, which roundly weekly, in the most vicious in racist language, condemned whites, that's the context that Mr. Beck was speaking about.
But Mr. Beck, by the way, is not a sitting member of congress. I'm going to agree with Donna, my dear friend that somebody's going to say something stupid every week, but when you disagree with a policy that has no grounds to call -- that the policymaker a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist, or any disgusting, despicable attacks like that. And not only did this president run as post-racial, he ran as post- partisan.
BRAZILE: He did not run -- I want to clear the record, we believed that electing our first African-American president, biracial that we would enter a period of post-racial. We did not enter that period.
We're still at that mountaintop moment where with we cannot even have a conversation about what constitutes racism or racist because we don't have the language, Mary. And we don't have the relationships and the partnerships and the people that actually got us into that moment.
And the president of the United States cannot be only the person who will lead us in that era.
BLITZER: Mary Matalin, Donna Brazile, a good, important discussion. My position, basically, is a very simple one. If you're a member of Congress, a member of the media, a member of anybody else and you say something that is clearly outrageous.
Good folks have a responsibility to stand up and condemn it for what it is, an outrageous and potentially dangerous statement given the atmosphere that's going on right now, but that's just me. Guys, thanks very much.
And this additional note, a reminder, I'll be the moderator when CNN hosts a Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida, along with the Tea Party Express, several other Tea Party groups as well, Monday night, September 12th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
The archives of the Libyan prison may hold answers for families who say their loved ones were massacred by the Gadhafi regime.
And Cuba holds an American prisoner, testing Washington and his health. We have an exclusive interview with his very worried wife, who fears the worst.
BLITZER: In Libya, horrific accounts emerging right now from people held captive by the Gadhafi regime in one of the country's most notorious prisons. Let's go to Tripoli. CNN's Arwa Damon is standing by. Arwa, what are you finding out?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, while the opposition here and residents of the capital are continuing to celebrate their control over Tripoli, at the same time, the more the rebels are gaining control over various parts of the country, the more they are really uncovering about the atrocities of the Gadhafi regime and some of the stories that we're hearing, Eolf, they are truly hair- raising.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy or this family or this guy, they could be dead or alive, we don't know.
DAMON (voice-over): There are piles of photos, audio, and videotapes, stacks of files, papers, the morbid archive of Tripoli's infamous Abu Salim prison, the site of the 1996 massacre that left at least 1,200 political inmates dead. The location of their bodies is still unknown. Many believe they have yet to discover mass graves. Saleh Marghani is trying to save what's left.
SALEH MARGHANI, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: I think the most important thing to do now for all of this evidence and many other piles of it is to preserve them to be presented, say, in court or for researchers, for historians, so people would know the facts.
DAMON (on camera): This file says on it, translated, to mean the groups of stray dogs, and inside are the names of various political activists, and this is how the regime used to refer to them. Many of them detained decades ago.
MARGHANI: This guy, age 21, was killed in 1984, already.
DAMON: Some of the documents are already gone forever, turned into ash in a fire a few days ago, possibly arson at the hands of someone who doesn't want Abu Salim's secrets uncovered.
It pains me. These were some of the best Libyan men, this man says, sifting through a box of photos. His older brother, Rajib, was held here, accused of being a member of a banned religious party
Now he's searching for clues, holding on to a tiny sliver of hope that his brother with is alive. He was doing his military service in 1989, he tells us. He stopped coming to visit, so my parents began to worry and search for him. At the base where he was stationed, they were told he was never there.
After a year of scouring the whole country, they finally tracked him to Abu Salim. We saw him three times, for 15 minutes each, he remembers. The last time was in 1993, and then they closed the door and from that moment until now, we have not seen him.
In 2009, the family received a death certificate that Rajib had died in 1996, but they don't believe it. The archives that holds the answers for so many families is being moved to a secure location, where the hope is that one day, perhaps, the secrets of Abu Salim will be uncovered.
DAMON: And so, Wolf, while the political leadership is putting forward blueprints for a political transition to democracy, while they are also trying to rein in the guns on the streets, many of them trying to stop civilians from firing them randomly, as they do so often here. They also have to figure out a way to deal with this country's dark and tortured past.
BLITZER: Arwa, I guess there's still a lot of celebratory gunfire going on in the Libyan capital. Some of the pops that we're hearing, is that what we're hearing?
DAMON: Yes, Wolf, there are large celebrations that are still taking place, a sizable one right underneath us. People are still relishing in the euphoria of having ousted Gadhafi from the capital, of finally feeling free.
But what the National Traditional Council is trying to do is stop these various, most of them young men who have guns from firing them constantly into the air, because there have already been a number of incidents where people have been wounded by this type of celebratory gunfire.
And this is just, you know, one example of the types of broader issues that the country's going to have to deal with moving forward, setting up real and true rules of law, institutions that are going to function, and of course, there is going to have to be some sort of accountability at the end of the day.
BLITZER: I just want you to be careful over there, Arwa. We'll stay in very close touch. Arwa Damon reporting from Tripoli.
A U.S. aide worker finds himself behind bars in Cuba, and his family is deeply concerned he may not make it out. Also, Jill Dougherty goes one on one with the worried wife of this individual. Stay with us. A heart wrenching CNN exclusive report coming up.
BLITZER: Now to a story you'll find only here on CNN. A contractor for the U.S. agency that steers civilians' humanitarian aid around the world is in prison right now in Cuba. And that's severely testing U.S.-Cuba relations, creating great worry for his wife and family.
She spoke with our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, in an exclusive interview. Let's go to the State Department right now. Jill is working this story. This is a significant story, Jill. Tell our viewers why.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It is. Well, let's say who Alan Gross is. He's a development expert. He's worked in almost 50 countries around the world. Then according to the State Department he went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there.
And now his wife who lives in Washington, D.C., told me she fears that she's never going to see him alive again.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Judy Gross last saw her husband Alan in a Cuban court nearly six months ago. She says that husband of 41 years has gone from a vigorous 62-year-old to a gaunt, pale old man.
(on camera): How concerned are you about his health?
JUDY GROSS, WIFE OF ALAN GROSS: Very, very concerned. He's so frail. Now he's lost over 100 pounds and when I saw him, you know, I could see his bones sticking out.
DOUGHERTY: Alan Gross is an international development worker. The State Department says in Cuba, he was providing internet equipment to the island's Jewish community. A Cuban court found him guilty of trying to subvert the Cuban government and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
GROSS: I respect the sovereignty of Cuba. I have learned from my parents and through experience that respect is something that one must have in order to receive.
DOUGHERTY: Judy Gross reads from a statement that her husband wrote by hand and delivered to a Havana court in March. Is that what he sounds like?
GROSS: That's very outgoing, very confident, very moral, very ethical.
DOUGHERTY: Alan Gross loves music.
GROSS: One string.
DOUGHERTY (on camera): So these are instruments that he collected?
GROSS: Some of them, not all of them.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): And there were times early on when Judy Gross had hope music would help him through his ordeal.
(on camera): When he was in prison, he actually played instruments with his guards?
GROSS: Once or twice, I think it was the warden of the prison who I think was a musician gave him an instrument.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): In early August, the Cuban court turned down her husband's last appeal. She's asking President Raul Castro and the Cuban government to release him on humanitarian grounds.
GROSS: One of my biggest fears is I'm going to get a call from my attorney one day saying Alan had a heart attack or something happened to him. I don't know if I'll ever see him again. I don't know if he'll set foot on U.S. soil.
DOUGHERTY: And Alan Gross' imprisonment is affecting not only his family, but U.S.-Cuban relations which up to this point were improving. The State Department is telling us that this is a major impediment to continuing that improvement. Wolf --
BLITZER: And there have been several U.S. officials, members of Congress, others who have gone to Cuba to try to get his release, right, Jill?
DOUGHERTY: Yes, but at this point, Wolf, it appears that the only thing since the legal system has done its work. Now it's clemency they would have to appeal. That's why they're appealing to the president of Cuba and to the government to let him go.
BLITZER: We'll watch this case very closely. Obviously a lot of stake. Jill, thank you very much.
The hour would not be complete without some parting shots of women dancing in India for one, this and some other compelling images coming in from around the world all coming up just ahead in our "Hotshots."
BLITZER: Here's a look at this week's "Hotshots." In India, women dance after praying to the Hindu God of destruction during a festival.
In Slovenia, rowers compete in a women's championship. In France, a man harvest grapes at a vineyard. In Israel, look at this -- swimmers and a dog watch as a loggerhead sea turtle sell is set free. Hot shots, pictures coming in from around the world.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5 to 7 p.m. Eastern, every Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.