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THE SITUATION ROOM

Saving a Condemned Man; Administration Loan Fiasco

Aired September 16, 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're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: new revelations about an Obama administration loan disaster. We're learning that serious questions were raised before a $500 million loan to a company that collapsed in bankruptcy -- much more on the story coming up.

Also, a final global push to save the life of a condemned man in the United States. The dramatic turnaround from his trial that now has so many people around the world doubting his guilt.

Plus, a satellite on a collision course with Earth. More than 1,000 pounds of debris expected to scatter over hundreds of miles but no one knows where.

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.

New information fanning the controversy right now over a half a billion dollar loan by the Obama administration to a California solar panel maker that went bankrupt this month. Critics charge the loan was pushed through hastily, and now we're learning the administration provide more help to the company even as some staffers were sounding alarms about that company.

Lisa Sylvester is following up on her reporting from earlier in the week.

What are you finding out now, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a $535 million loan. We're talking taxpayer money that was put up to help this company called Solyndra. The loan had to be approved by the Department of Energy with Office of Management and Budget also weighing in.

Newly released e-mails show before the loan was granted, there were major concerns by some federal staffs about Solyndra's finances. But the Obama administration proceeded and even when it was clear this company was in major financial trouble, the Department of Energy continued to back the company up until the end.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER (voice-over): A growing scandal about what happened after Solyndra received $535 million in taxpayer money. Competition from China pushed the price of Solyndra's solar panels way down, causing the company to lose customers and burn through cash.

January of this year, Solyndra went back to the Obama administration and asked to restructure the Department of Energy loan to give it more time to pay it back. New details from e-mails show senior staffers at Office of Management and Budget knew they had a major political problem on their hands. Solyndra was held up as the poster child of green jobs when President Obama toured the company.

But days after Solyndra's plea for help, an OMB staffer wrote to another, urging the government to cut its losses and walk away from the deal. Quote: "If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse later than they would be today. At that point additional funds have been put at risk, recoveries may be lower, and the questions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment, not just once, which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies, but twice, which could be portrayed as bad judgment or worse."

Representative Cliff Stearns chairs the Energy Subcommittee looking into the scandal. He says the entire deal was bad from the get-go and trying the last-minute save put the taxpayers in a worse position.

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: They subordinated the $535 million of taxpayer money to the 75...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Well, we seem to be having some technical issues with that piece. But the bottom line is, there is some major concern that as this company was going under, that the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Energy continued to follow through, they continued to try to restructure this loan to try to save this company.

And now there's a lot of political fallout. A number of Republicans -- we saw a hearing two days ago that was held on Wednesday -- a lot of Republicans and lawmakers, they want to know what happened, why was this loan given in the first place, why was this loan restructured and restructured in a way where taxpayers were going to be paid after investors, so there are a lot more questions.

The White House, on the other hand, White House spokesman Jay Carney he says that the process that was used to determine who received this government loan was backed by the Department of Energy loans. He says this process was merit-based and that when it comes to cutting-edge industries seeking this kind of government help there's the potential for high rewards but there is also potential for high risk, and that's what they're saying in this case.

They said that it's not a reason to give up on this type of green type of technology, but I think as we move forward, we're certainly going to see more scrutiny of these types of programs, Wolf.

BLITZER: But there were all memos that were written by others in the Obama administration saying, not so fast, we need more time to vet this, be careful, we're not sure, right?

SYLVESTER: That's right. You know, this is -- what's so amazing about this story is you have these e-mails, and these e-mails have been released, internal communications, some of them marked confidential, in which you see there are first members of the Office of Management and Budget, also members of the Department of Energy, these are lower-end staffers saying, hey, wait a minute, why are we proceeding with Solyndra? Their financial picture, their finances, they are not really great. Why are we going to be giving them this $535 million loan without doing our due diligence?

And those are the questions. Why wasn't the due diligence done ahead of time? Some people have said it's because Solyndra, its main investor, has political ties to the Obama administration. But you can bet, Wolf, this story's not going away.

BLITZER: And let's not forget 1,100 people at the end of August simply lost their jobs when the company went bankrupt.

Thanks very much, Lisa. Good reporting.

The Solyndra controversy is already becoming fodder out there on the Republican presidential campaign trail. Congresswoman and candidate Michele Bachmann blasted the Obama administration over it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What did the stimulus give us last time?

CROWD: Nothing.

BACHMANN: Well, hey -- it gave us debt, OK. It gave us Solyndra. Wasn't that great? We got Solyndra, $535 million. As a matter of fact, I got a quote from our vice president, Joe Biden. And you know he's never wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

BACHMANN: And this is what he said. He said that the loan guarantee for Solyndra was exactly what the stimulus act is all about.

That's the truth. That's the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's dig deeper with CNN contributor John Avlon. He's the senior political columnist for TheDailyBeast.com.

How much of a potential, John, does this have to really substantively hurt the Obama administration? JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It sure doesn't help, Wolf. You know the power of narrative in politics and already you're seeing Solyndra become synonymous for this idea of government waste, the stimulus as a boondoggle and even worse verging on crony capitalism.

This is going to because a symbol going forward. And it looks like that staffer at OMB was right, that this has gotten much worse. The optics are much worse today than they would have been six months ago, before the second round. You have got half a billion dollars in taxpayer money lost and you have got 1,100 people out of work.

BLITZER: Will it undermine the president's latest jobs creation initiative?

AVLON: It's going to take a lot of wind out of the sails because it gives critics a credible argument to make, saying, look, if we're putting this extra money in to try to stimulate the economy, let's see how what we have we have done in the past works.

And this becomes the marquee example, exhibit A for what hasn't worked. Now, it's a bit of a shame because these sorts of loan guarantees are necessary to some extent. You can't say let's move the country toward independence, but then say that this wasn't the right way to do it. But clearly more scrutiny, more due diligence, and it will be a much harder sell for the administration to say trust us to invest in companies to stimulate the economy, particularly this new green jobs sector.

BLITZER: Donald Trump tweeted this sarcastic tweet a little while ago @BarackObama. "Great job on Solyndra. You are some extremely skilled venture capitalist. Stick to the memoirs and speeches."

It's got that potential to create that kind of, I guess, sarcastic, biting momentum.

AVLON: Exactly right.

That's when a political story becomes a one-word narrative. And there's certainly an ouch quality to that, although the Donald has had his own problems with bankruptcies in the past. That said, that's the second narrative that this story deepens, the idea that the Obama administration doesn't have enough CEOs in positions of power, that there is not have enough businessmen in the administration.

So Donald Trump's tweets, like all jokes, have a serious element to them, and that's it, that there are not enough accomplished businessmen inside this administration. There's too many academics.

BLITZER: You heard Michele Bachmann. But I suspect all the Republican candidates are going to start using this on their -- as part of their stump speeches.

AVLON: Oh, yes. This is going to be part of the narrative going forward for at least the next few weeks. This is going to become an exhibit A for why the government shouldn't put more money into trying to stimulate an economic recovery.

And so it's up the administration to really play offense, get the information out, put out the fire, and make the case, if they can, that while this was a failed investment, that this sort of bold experimentation is necessary to kick-start the economy, particularly in an area that the president really believes in, and has invested an enormous amount of political capital in, investing in creating a new green tech sector to help us compete globally in the future.

But this is a major blow to those efforts and it needs to be addressed, because you know what, Republicans will.

BLITZER: Very quickly, should the president say anything about this or let his aides deal with it?

AVLON: I think at some point the president will be asked about it. It's usually better in crisis communications to get out ahead of a story as opposed to letting it snowball on you like this apparently has.

BLITZER: John Avlon, thanks very much.

AVLON: Thank you.

BLITZER: It's been an intractable problem for U.S. presidents for the decades for the region. For President Obama, the Israel/Palestinian dispute is about to get more complicated, could impact potentially his reelection campaign. We're talking about the Palestinian quest for statehood. It's coming to a head in New York at the United Nations next week.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's working the story for us over at the White House.

What are they saying over there? What's going on, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Administration officials have been unable to head off a Palestinian effort to press for statehood at the United Nations next week. Now, no one knows exactly how this will play out, but what we do know is that, for this administration, much more than just foreign policy is at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: (voice-over): As the president fights to keep the nation's focus on his jobs plan, a new crisis looms. He will be thrust into a high-stakes showdown over Palestinian statehood when the United Nations General Assembly gathers in New York next week.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Palestinians will not, and cannot, achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations. It is a distraction and in fact it's counterproductive.

YELLIN: But it's going to happen. So says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

With peace talks stalled, Abbas insists he will ask the U.N. Security Council to give Palestinians statehood status, which the Obama administration vows to veto. That could alienate Arab allies the U.S. desperately needs, allies who might question the president's commitment to freedom for all people in the region, given his strong stand during the Arab spring.

AARON DAVID MILLER, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: I think already diminished American credibility is going to be diminished further. There's no question about that. We are neither admired, feared, nor respected in this region.

YELLIN: Exactly how the administration handles this diplomatic dance could also trigger a cascade of political troubles at home. Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York worries the president will lose some Jewish support because of his past rhetoric on Israel.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: I think there is the potential for being hurt in the next election if many Jewish voters perceive that the administration is not standing foursquare behind Israel, that there is somehow a "blame both parties" attitude.

YELLIN: There are signs of tension with the president's Jewish supporters, usually a reliable Democratic constituency. Many were angered by think speech, suggesting controversial borders for a future Palestinian state.

Then there was the awkward meeting in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lectured the president in the Oval Office. And this week, a Republican won a longtime Democratic and heavily Jewish district in New York, that victory seen in part as a rejection of the president's positions on Israel.

When it comes to Jewish voters, Congressman Engel says, there's still uncertainty.

ENGEL: I do think that people are uneasy, that they want to know what -- the president feels it in his guts. And many people don't get that feeling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, a majority of Jewish voters, I should point out, still do support the president -- according to Gallup's latest polling, 54 percent of Jewish voter as prove of the job the president's doing, but that is down from 68 percent who had that -- who approved earlier this year.

I should point out that Jewish voters make up a tiny percentage of the overall electorate, but they tend to be reliable Democratic voters, and given the tough election year the president is expected to face, he cannot risk alienating any part of his base -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know the president will be in New York addressing the General Assembly next week. Do we expect this issue on Palestine to go down while the president is in New York, Jessica?

YELLIN: It will definitely be the backdrop of every -- behind everything he's doing.

What could happen is that the Palestinian Authority could submit a letter to the secretary-general of the U.N. asking, applying for statehood, or they could issue a resolution to the General Assembly if they want to go to the General Assembly instead.

But these things do take some time to play out. You might not actually see a vote on the issue while the president is there. But as I say, it will be the issue looming large over everything the president does while he is at the General Assembly next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: I will be reporting from New York all of next week while the president's there, other world leaders, and among my guests next Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton.

Jessica, thanks very much.

Condemned to die for a crime many are now convinced he did not commit. We have details of the worldwide effort to spare a death row inmate.

Also, "The New York Times" columnist and author Tom Friedman, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to discuss growing concern about the U.S. standing as a global superpower.

Plus, a six-ton satellite hurtling toward Earth right now, we have a good idea when it will hit, but we have no idea where it will hit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In a last-ditch effort to save his life, supporters of death row inmate Troy Davis will be gathering for a vigil at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. They say he's innocence in the 1989 murder of a police officer.

Here's CNN's David Mattingly with the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three times scheduled for execution, three times delayed. Now, with all legal appeals exhausted. Supporters of convicted cop killer Troy Davis makes a final push for clemency.

(on camera): What makes you think you still have a chance to stop this execution?

LAURA MOYE, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA: Can we be sure that this man is not innocent? Can we be sure that the conviction of Troy Davis back in 1991 is still reliable? The thing that is so difficult to understand is why the legal process hasn't asked that question. MATTINGLY (voice-over): Davis was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of a Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail. Seven of nine eyewitnesses have since recanted, changed their stories. Some say they were originally pressured by police.

DARRELL COLLINS, WITNESS: I told them over and over I didn't see it happen. They put what they want to put in that statement.

MATTINGLY: Others have come forward implicating another man. One juror who convicted Davis questions her decision.

BRENDA FORREST, DAVIS JUROR: If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row.

MATTINGLY: With only a week to his execution, critics of the case against Davis include 51 members of Congress, the Vatican and former president, Jimmy Carter.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe that, in this particular case, there's enough evidence to the contrary to prevent this execution taking place.

MATTINGLY: An online petition supporting clemency for Davis exceeded 200,000 signatures in five days. But state and federal courts have all upheld Davis' conviction. The former DA who prosecuted Davis says the courts got it right.

SPENCER LAWTON, FORMER CHATHAM COUNTRY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm just disappointed that so many people have been led to believe that nobody has paid attention to these recantations. It is, as I explained earlier, simply not the case. It's just not the case. On what ground are the recantations more believable than the testimony in court? None. None.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's go live now to that rally the Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta.

David Mattingly is joining us live for that.

David, how optimistic are these supporters of Troy Davis that this execution can be prevented?

MATTINGLY: Well, Wolf, three times before, Troy Davis had an appointment to be executed here in the state of Georgia. This will be his fourth time.

Supporters I have talked to today say they believe this time is different because, first of all, they say their numbers are greater. Look at the hundreds of people that are gathered in this park here in downtown Atlanta.

This is just one demonstration planned across the country. Their voices are also louder. They have some high-powered names behind them this time. I spoke to one of his family members, his sister, who says that they spoke to Troy Davis today and they believe that this time there's something special happening with all these people around them that they believe that the Georgia State Pardons and Parole Board will be paying attention. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLY DAVIS, SISTER OF TROY DAVIS: Well, it is different because we have more power. God is still on the throne and we have more power, more support than ever because when -- yesterday, when Troy got the news that they had delivered over 650,000 petitions he called, and he was just so excited, so elated. He said that he knew he had supporters all over the world, but he didn't know that it was to this magnitude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: The Georgia Pardons and Parole Board will be meeting Monday morning. They will hear from Davis' attorney. This is their last-ditch effort to get his case changed, to get him off of death row. That board has the power to take him from death row to move him to life in prison or life in prison without parole.

They denied this to him once before. And something significant here, Wolf, this board has never gone back on one of its previous decisions. If they change this for this particular case, they will be making history -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see what happens Monday. David, you will be all over the story for us. Thanks very, very much. People all over the world are watching Atlanta right now.

Is America losing its position as a global superpower? I will talk about that and much more with "The New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a six-ton satellite is hurtling toward Earth. How serious is this threat from debris? Stay with us. We will explain right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Amid efforts to jump-start America's ailing economy, with its mounting debt crisis and newly downgraded credit rating, there's growing concern around the world about the current standing of the United States as a global superpower.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now, "The New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman. He's got a brand new book out that he co-authored with Michael Mandelbaum, the professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University, my alma mater. I always mention that. The book is entitled "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back."

Tom, thanks very much for coming in.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Great to be here with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations on the new book.

I'm going to start off with a clip, and it will be obvious why I'm playing this clip. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us and Singapore having better airports than us. And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth. That used to be us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now we know how you got the title.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Is that plagiarism a little bit? Did you pick that...

FRIEDMAN: No, we quote it right here...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You obviously are giving him full credit.

That used to be us, but it's not us anymore. What happened?

FRIEDMAN: Well, Wolf, this is a forward-looking book with a backward-looking title, and the reason is we really argued that we had a formula for success in the country.

It was built on five basic principles. Educate our people up to and beyond whatever the technology is, so they can master it. Second, have the world's best infrastructure. Third, have the world's best immigration policies to attract the most energetic and talented immigrants.

Fourth, have the best rules for investing and preventing recklessness, and, fifth, government-funded research. That used to be us. That's how we got here. That public/private partnership is how we became a rich country. And what the book is about is basically how we have lost all five. The arrow's pointing down on all five and our way back is to turn those arrows up again.

BLITZER: How much responsibility do you think President Obama has -- he's been president now approaching three years -- for getting the U.S. or preventing the U.S. from getting out of what you clearly describe as a rut right now?

FRIEDMAN: Well, our argument, Wolf, is that the hole we're in right now is not from 2008. It really is 20 years. It dates back to the end of the Cold War, which we dealt with as a victory. It was a great victory, but it also unleashed two billion people, Wolf, just like us who wanted to compete with us and collaborate with us.

And it was a moment when we really needed to be tying up our shoes to run the race, and we kind of put our feet up. And then unfortunately it was compounded by the last decade, where we tragically found ourselves having to chase the losers from globalization, al Qaeda and the Taliban, rather than the winners.

BLITZER: What's the single most important thing the president can do, given the fact there's a divided -- contract -- legislatively, he's probably not able to achieve much. But what can he do as president unilaterally through executive orders or whatever to help get the U.S. out of this hole?

FRIEDMAN: Unfortunately, Wolf, the hole we're in requires collective action. It's too deep.

It Requires collective action, of the kind that won the Cold War and World War II. And I think the most important thing the president can do is basically lay out his side of a grand bargain. He can't strike that bargain alone. He needs the Republican partner. But his side has to include a plan for cutting spending. We have made promises we cannot keep to future generations. For raising revenue -- we don't have enough revenue.

BLITZER: Which means tax increases.

FRIEDMAN: Tax increases. We cannot just shred our safety nets.

And, lastly, for raising -- I'm sorry -- and, lastly, for investing in these five pillars of our national greatness. We have got to do all three at the same time.

BLITZER: But you...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: As far as raising taxes, the Republicans aren't going along with raising taxes.

FRIEDMAN: Well, Republicans will tell you that's off the table, to which I will tell then you our future is off the table. We can't do this without doing all three. We've got to cut spending. We've got to raise taxes. I hope we can do it through tax reform. There seems to be some impetus for that in the Republican party -- and invest in the sources of our strength.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the potential Republican crop of candidates out there.

FRIEDMAN: Sure.

BLITZER: I did an interview this week with the eight Republican candidates. You see any of them have the vision that you and Michael Mandelbaum would like to see to help the United States move on to this next level?

FRIEDMAN: You know, I think Governor Romney probably comes close to it, although you never quite know because he has to spend so much time pandering to the Republican base right now to win the primary.

I think Jon Huntsman certainly would agree with 90 percent of this book, as well. Whether they can win their primary and deliver the Republican party to that agenda is a whole other question.

BLITZER: What about Rick Perry, who's the front-runner, obviously?

FRIEDMAN: He just doesn't -- he doesn't feel like someone who really has this sense of how we got here in full, you know? This sense that we've got to cut spending and raise revenue and invest in the source of our greatness. I'm ready to listen. It's too early on.

BLITZER: He's helped create a lot of jobs in Texas.

FRIEDMAN: I think there are situations in Texas that are peculiar to Texas, first of all. But I want to hear -- Perry's early in the race. One of the points we really make in this book, Wolf, we don't have a candidate. We have an agenda. And if Rick Perry signs on to this agenda or President Obama or Jon Huntsman or Romney, God bless them, we're with them. The country needs the agenda.

And so I'm not really here to pick candidates.

BLITZER: I've heard some of the other interviews, you've suggested maybe the country needs a third party, some sort of non- Democrat, non-Republican, somebody else who's going come in and pick up some of these ideas.

FRIEDMAN: Our points because we have an agenda, not a candidate, if no candidate actually pursues that agenda, we think it doesn't matter what we want. The country needs that kind of shock. We think someone will step into that -- that void, Wolf.

Where we are right now, I think our choices are very simple. We either are going to have a hard decade or a bad century. That is, either we're going to realize this hole we're in is not a couple of years old. It doesn't take just a little tax cut here, a little cut of spending there. We've got a -- we've been on a 20-year Mardi Gras, OK? And we've made up for a lot of hard work by injecting ourselves with credit steroids. We have to overcome that.

It's probably going to take a decade to get out of this hole. I think it will get quicker and quicker the smarter and harder we work at it. But if we don't do that, Wolf, assume a hard decade. We're going to have a bad century. We're going to look like a big Japan, I fear.

BLITZER: Let me pick your brain on the Arab Spring that has unfolded over these past several months. Is this working out the way you and I and most Americans would like it to work out?

FRIEDMAN: Wolf, my view from day one -- I was Tahrir Square when it happened in Egypt -- is that this is going to be a long, long haul.

These countries were led by a generation of tyrants, basically, who prevented any civil society institutions, any liberal politics, from basically emerging under them. So when they cracked at the top, the elevator went where? Straight to the mosque. And that was the only institution that was there.

So it's natural you're going to see this initial Islamic upsurge, and it's natural you're going to see this kind of chaos, frankly, because there are no institutions. You know, I can be optimistic about the Arab Spring as long as I have a very long time line.

I think the big question we have to request about all these other countries, Wolf, they need a midwife, somebody to help them through this process. Now, in Iraq we were the midwife, at a huge cost to our country. But at least we did get them through various elections and into a constitution.

Who's going to do that in Egypt? Who's going to do that in Tunisia? Who's going to do that in Libya? Who's going to do it in Yemen? Who's going to do it in Syria, if it goes down that road? That's a big question I still have. And without a kind of midwife, I think it's going to be -- it's going to take that much longer.

BLITZER: There's enormous concern here and in Israel about Iran right now maybe being on the verge of developing some sort of nuclear device. That could change the strategic equation big-time over there.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. That part of the world is just in -- I've never -- never been more depressed about it than I am now.

BLITZER: You've covered it for a long time.

FRIEDMAN: For my whole adult life.

BLITZER: All of us remember your book "From Beirut to Jerusalem."

FRIEDMAN: It -- there are, like, no positive trends -- I mean, other than the broad -- this upsurge, which is hugely important. People taking responsibility for their own lives.

But my bottom line in the Middle East right now, Wolf, or the Arab world, is stability has left the building, OK? If you're looking for stability, it's left the building. The question is what kind of instability are we going to have? Is it going to kind of have a positive slope, head toward a sort of South Africa transition, Indonesia transition, or is it going to have a negative slope and head toward a Somalia, God forbid, you know, Pakistan kind of situation? I don't know.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Tom Friedman, speaking with me earlier. The book is entitled "That Used to be Us." It's already a best-seller.

A last-minute reprieve for a Texas Death Row inmate. What moved the Supreme Court to delay his execution?

Also, a satellite expected to crash to Earth next week. More than half a ton of debris expected to fall over hundreds of miles.

Plus, police officers as you rarely see them, at least in uniform. Dirty dancing cops, that's what they're being called. And Jeanne Moos has the candid video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Getting new information right now about a gunman holed up at a U.S. Air Force base in Tucson. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr's, working the story for us.

Barbara, what are you picking up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Wolf, at this hour, U.S. military officials tell us what they believe they are dealing with is a single gunman holed up in a building on the Davis- Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.

This situation began unfolding several hours ago. The base went into lockdown until they could figure out what they were dealing with.

Right now officials tell us they believe it is a single gunman. No shots have been fired. No one has been injured. Several law enforcement teams, personnel, are on the site. And they tell us at this hour, the hope is whoever this individual is, they hope he surrenders with no incidents of violence.

The base remains pretty much shut down until they get this situation resolved in the immediate area of where it's happening, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. You'll keep us up to speed on that. Thanks, Barbara.

Meanwhile, a last-minute reprieve from the Supreme Court. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What else is going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right there, Wolf. The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the execution of a Texas Death Row inmate. Dwayne Edward Bach had eaten what would had been his last meal when he learned of the stay.

The court delayed Bach's execution due to questions about trial testimony that may have been racially tainted. A psychologist testified that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to commit future crimes. Bach had been set to die by lethal injection. He was convicted of two killings in 1995.

Bleak financial news for the maker of the Blackberry smartphone. Shares of Research in Motion fell sharply today, after the company announced weaker than expected second-quarter results.

Research in Motion once dominated the high-end cell phone market with the Blackberry, but it's had a tough time competing with Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platform.

Pakistan's prime minister has canceled his trip to the United States, due to floods that have killed more than 200 people. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Pakistan's foreign minister will travel to the U.S. in his place. Officials say at least 5.7 million Pakistanis have been affected by the flooding.

And Sir Paul McCartney and his fiancee, they plan to tie the knot in the same place where he married his late wife Linda back in 1969. Our sister publication "People" magazine reports McCartney and Nancy Shevell intend to wed at London's Old Marylebone Town Hall. The couple hasn't announced the date, but there is a lot of speculation out there, Wolf, that it's going to happen next month.

BLITZER: Do you how old she is?

SYLVESTER: I don't know how old she is.

BLITZER: She looks pretty young.

SYLVESTER: Yes. I don't know. We'll have people tweeting soon.

BLITZER: I hope they're very happy and have a wonderful, wonderful marriage and wonderful life. I met him once. He's a very nice man, and he's a great -- a legend. Good luck, Paul McCartney. Only wish him the best happiness in the world.

Listen to this because it's a little cute. Memorable, maybe not so memorable. We're talking about Donald Trump's dinner this week with Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. Not very memorable, apparently. Trump got the Texas governor's name wrong in an interview with TheStreet.com. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is the Republican field shaping up? Is there anyone that can deliver the fiscal restraint that you're looking for.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL-ESTATE MOGUL: I had dinner last night with Jim Perry. I was impressed with him. I'm meeting with Mitt Romney next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jim Perry, Rick Perry. You know?

SYLVESTER: What's the problem? The very next thing out of his mouth was, "I was impressed with him." Not impressed, apparently, enough to remember the guy's name.

BLITZER: Could happen to anyone. I've screwed up.

SYLVESTER: I have, too.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Experts say they have no idea where the debris from a six-ton satellite will land. Could it come crashing down near you? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A six-ton weather satellite is expected to plunge to earth sometime next week, with hundreds of pounds of debris showering over -- get this -- hundreds of miles. Right now experts don't have any idea just where that will be.

Let's get some more from our CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. I guess, Chad, how worried should we all be?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: NASA says there's a one in 3,000 chance of a piece, just one piece, hitting any one person. So not too worried.

But the problem is the biggest piece, Wolf, is 300 pounds on impact with the Earth. Not much bigger up above, of course, but a lot of this is going to burn up.

There is it, the UARS satellite. And right now it's very close to the eastern tip of Australia. See this pattern? It kind of comes and it goes a lot like the ISS pattern you could see, if you wanted to look at it, as well.

So it travels across the globe in little sections and around and around and around. So literally, they don't have any idea where this is going to land. It's called the UARS, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. In fact, it went up in 1991 to study the ozone layer.

In 19 -- 2005 they decommissioned it and brought it back down to a lower atmosphere so they knew some day it would tumble in out of space and into the ground.

The problem is 26 pieces of this are going to hit the ground. Many of them will burn up. But 26 pieces will not burn up all the way, and the biggest one will be 300 pounds. It will fall along a 500-mile stretch. From where the first one lands to where the last one lands will be 500 miles.

If you'd like to just get a little bit scared for a moment, this is all the stuff that's up in the atmosphere. There are 4,000 pieces up there that they can track, 22,000 that they can't track that are so small. One thousand of these are satellites that are working. The rest is all junk. Eventually, all of this is going to have to fall back to earth someplace. I'm worried about that 300-pound piece, Wolf.

BLITZER: A movie, science fiction movie that could be worrisome. Now, if it lands in the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic, that's great, but there's a lot of landmass out there, as well.

MYERS: That's correct. And the date that they think it's going to come down is September 24. They have no idea whether that's plus one day or minus one day. They say that they'll be able to give us a two-hour window. Two hour here it comes, two hours' notice, kind of like the two-minute warning that the president gives us so that we know when to take him on TV. A two-hour notice it's coming down.

But they'll be 25 minutes east or west, left or right of that, that it could come down. Could be a half hour early; could be a half hour late. In that one-hour stretch, Wolf, this thing travels 7,000 miles.

So even after they give us the two-hour warning, we're not going to have an idea for within 7,000 miles. Now, if they give us the two- hour warning and it's here, then in the next two hours certainly would be in the Pacific Ocean. But if they give it to us when it's here, in the U.S., maybe Asia, there's a lot of water out there. A lot of people living on land, too.

BLITZER: We're going to watch it very closely. I'm not worried yet, but maybe next week I'll start to worry a little bit. Thanks very much.

An alleged rogue trader in court as his former employer faces new fallout from a multibillion-dollar loss.

Also, Jeanne Moos and the case of the dirty dancing cops.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The battle for Libya raging on. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's happening in Libya?

SYLVESTER: Hi, there, Wolf.

Well, intense urban warfare is erupting in the few remaining Libyan cities still loyal to Muammar Gadhafi. Revolutionary forces are attacking loyalists in these areas.

One of Gadhafi's sons is allegedly coordinating the battle for the loyalists. It's unclear, though, where Gadhafi himself is.

Meanwhile, in Niger, Niger is refusing to hand over regime officials who have fled there.

And President Obama has signed a bill overhauling the U.S. patent system. The bill creates a first-to-file system instead of the current first-to-invent approach. It also provides better funding for patent approval. Currently, there's a 700,000-patent backlog and a three-year waiting list for approval.

SYLVESTER: London police have charged a UBS bank trader with fraud. The 31-year-old suspect, who allegedly made unauthorized deals, didn't enter a plea.

The Swiss bank has put its losses in connection with this case at around $2 billion. The credit rating agency Moody's says it's considering a downgrade of UBS. All this comes at a time of turmoil in European markets.

And Australian researchers say they have discovered a new species of dolphin. They've proven these dolphins are genetically different from any other dolphins in the world. Scientists made the discovery by looking at the dolphins' skulls and DNA. They originally thought these dolphins were one of two types of bottlenose species. But apparently, it's a new species of dolphins.

BLITZER: Good for the dolphins.

Remember a few moments ago we were having some fun at Donald Trump's expense? We were laughing. He called Rick Perry "Jim Perry." Well, guess what?

SYLVESTER: What?

BLITZER: He's right. My Twitter followers are correcting me. Guess what Rick Perry's real name is.

SYLVESTER: What is it?

BLITZER: James Richard Perry. Jim. That's his first name. Donald Trump is right.

SYLVESTER: Yes, but it's still a little odd. I still think it's a little odd. Everybody knows him as Rick Perry.

BLITZER: His real name is James Richard Perry. Jim. Let's call him Jim from now on just like Donald Trump.

SYLVESTER: Just to confuse everyone, right?

BLITZER: Thank you.

Much more coming up. Jeanne Moos when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Dirty dancing cops. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about arresting images. New York City police officers surrendering to scantily clad dancing girls? Laughter gave way to wide eyes and gaping mouths.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

MOOS (on camera): No, wait, it gets better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God!

MOOS (voice-over): The video was shot at last week's West Indian Day Parade, known as New York's most raucous parade. Nine people got shot at this year's parade. But the only shooting where these officers were posted was the shooting of the video that's now gone viral.

"Stop and Frisky" read "The New York Post" headline. Forget force. "Village Voice" called it "Excessive Use of Dance."

Though, actually, only a couple of officers did much dirty dancing on duty...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's reprehensible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're supposed to keep the order.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're too busy humping girls.

MOOS: On the other hand...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are human. If I was on a parade, and I was having fun and I had a cop who was having fun with me, I'd be happy about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they're having fun like they're at a bar.

MOOS: Think of it as community outreach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he's having too much fun working. If I did that at work, I think I'd be fired.

MOOS: But New York's police commissioner wasn't firing anyone.

RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER (via phone): You know, I'd prefer it didn't happen, but I don't want to make too much of it.

MOOS: Commissioner Ray Kelly told WOR Radio that the young women approached the police officers, and he noted that it's quite an unusual parade.

KELLY: You know, you kind of get caught up in the spirit of it.

MOOS: Even the commissioner has gotten caught up in the spirit of it. Enough to play the bongos.

(on camera) But New York cops aren't the only ones to get lured into dancing to the beat, while they're on their beat.

(voice-over) Look at this British policeman at the Knotting Hills Carnival. Instead of getting heat, he got a Facebook fan page dedicated to the dancing policeman.

And we're always seeing soldiers in Iraq letting off steam.

This retired police reserve sergeant says the New York officers were just being part of the neighborhood. It's community policing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His sergeant is going to educate him very quickly. Won't happen again.

MOOS: At least the New York cops kept their hats on.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. The news continues next on CNN.