Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama To Visit Israel Next Week; Senator Rob Portman Reverses Stance On Same-Sex Marriage; A Look At What Women Want; Interview With Michael Oren; What Happens To Items Banned From Airplanes; Michelle Obama On Cover Of "Vogue" Again
Aired March 16, 2013 - 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: President Obama about to embark on a critical and closely watched trip to Israel.
The high profile conservative senator makes a dramatic reversal on same sex marriage, talks about it exclusively to CNN.
Plus, all those items that didn't make it through airport security, we found out where they go and who is selling them now for a profit.
We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
It is a sight we rarely saw during his first term. But this week, the president was something of a regular upon Capitol Hill. He was there three days in a row, meeting behind closed doors with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in what's dubbed as a charm offensive by a president sometimes criticized and supposedly aloof when it comes to Congress.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is over at the White House watching all of this unfold, and the key question right now, what, if anything, do they believe there was accomplished during the so-called charm offensive?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, White House officials believe they accomplished some things with this charm offensive. They believe they made some progress. They feel the president got assurances from some Republicans that they might be willing to bend on the issue of raising new tax revenues by closing loopholes and deductions. They say it is a good week, but they are not going to pay for over the differences that they have with Republicans. They know that over in the house it is unlikely a lot of Republicans will sign onto new tax revenues as part of a grand bargain. And so, that's why administration officials have also been cautioning that the president has been talking to lawmakers about other issues like gun control and immigration. It is an issue and example that the president doesn't want to get bogged down on fiscal and budget issues.
But the White House officials are also hinting that perhaps, we might see more of a charm offensive after he gets back from his trip to the Middle East next week because they do believe at this point, Wolf, that it is working to some extent.
BLITZER: The president is going to Israel and then Jordan this week. It is a major trip, a lot to discuss, including Iran right now, what's going on, the president telling Israel television that Iran potentially is within a year of being able to make some sort of nuclear bomb. The pressure on the president during this trip will be significant.
ACOSTA: That's right. He was criticized during the presidential campaign by his rival, Mitt Romney, for not showing enough, I guess, (INAUDIBLE) you might say, when it came to issues of Middle East peace and the issue of the Israelis and Palestinians.
We can point out that the president will be arriving in Israel Wednesday. Of course, he will be meeting with leaders of Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Shimon Perez. He is also going to be, Wolf, delivering messages according to White House officials that are directly related, obviously to what is going on and conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. He is going to urge, White House officials say, the Israelis to show more of a change of approach when it comes to reaching peace in that region.
But getting back to the issue of Iran and developing nuclear weapons, they say the president will be very clear during his trip to Israel that the United States will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He was clear on that with Israel television, Channel 2 in Israel at the same time.
Jim Acosta. Thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper into what's going on here in Washington. Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" is joining us as well as or chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
This charm offensive, pretty charming but I don't know what did this accomplish? My dad used to say can't hurt to talk.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Can't hurt to talk and didn't hurt to talk. The president was applauded by many Republicans as well as Democrats. But, the problem is that these two sides are still as far apart on the issues as they always were, and the president has his base saying you can't cut back on Medicare, don't touch those entitlements, and you have Republicans saying you have got to do that, and you can't do the revenues.
So, I think the problems are as intractable as they always were, but your father was right. It doesn't hurt for them to talk because when they go face to face, maybe they can decide what is in the realm of the doable and start taking the small steps.
BLITZER: The president, Candy as you know, he made it clear that he is open to entitlement reform, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. But needs more tax revenue to come into the U.S. treasury. The Republicans say you got that at the end of December to avoid the fiscal cliff, no more increase in tax revenue. They can adjust loopholes, whatever, but if they do that, they lower the tax rate.
So, if there's no more tax revenues coming in and they hold firm to that, can there be a deal?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean, if everybody holds firm we - I mean, we are where we were before the charm offensive. I think its success depends on what you think the point was. If the point was to come up with a big deal, I don't know that that's possible. And the president doesn't know if that's possible and neither do Republicans. And by the way, let's also point out he talked to Democrats that don't want to touch entitlements. So, it becomes where do you cut from Medicare, you cut more from hospitals, you cut more from doctors? So, there are multiple problems on the policy front.
I think it becomes harder to demonize your opponent when you have a little lunch with them, and you talked, and you see that they are human beings. But, in terms of moving forward on a big deal, I don't think that will happen. Has the president helped him saying, well, you know, I can see next year the president going I tried to talk to them, I went up, I had dinner with them, I did all of that, what I need is a Democratic House. I can see that being --
BORGER: But it doesn't hurt the president, his popularity been headed in the wrong direction. The hold forced budget cuts have not helped him at all in terms of the way people feel he has handled the economy, so this doesn't hurt from their point of view. Because, as Candy says, he can always say that I tried, and by the way, the American public wants to see them talking to each other, so it works for both sides.
BLITZER: In the midst of everything else, the president is off to Israel and Jordan. I assume meeting with Palestinians at the same time. That's a tough issue.
CROWLEY: Yes, it is. And it is also tough as you know, the expectations came in. I mean, let's face it, nothing has happened, and no talks at all in two years.
BLITZER: In three.
CROWLEY: Right. And we are seeing very lowered expectations. We are also seeing the connection when you were talking to Jim between U.S. assurances that it will keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and the president's ability to convince Benjamin Netanyahu of that are directly tied to how much I think Netanyahu is going to give on, you know, settlements and whether he will stop at the West Bank, et cetera.
So, I think this is an interesting trip. But, I don't think at this point, at least, and maybe I am buying into lowered expectations, they're looking for much more than kind of like here I am, let's make- up. They had a very rough first Obama term.
BLITZER: They do.
BORGER: Well. It is the maiden voyage as president and they are making it clear they are not going over there with some new initiative, some new peace proposal to have turned down. So, they are kind of, the White House, is kind down playing this. I think they are also going to get pressure not only on Iran but also on Syria. And the question is, what do we do now? Should we arm the rebels, should we be more aggressive there with Assad? So, I think the president is going to get some tough questioning on that front.
BLITZER: Seventeen thousand Syrians this past two years now that more than a million, maybe two million refugees internally and externally. That is going to be a big issue as well.
Guys, thanks very much. "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday? You got some major guests.
CROWLEY: It is true. In fact, we are having Mike Rogers and (INAUDIBLE) on to talk about cyber wars which I don't know about you, but every time I talk to somebody on Capitol Hill, they go, you have to talk about cyber wars. So, we thought this, having learned that the first lady had her credit rating hacked, you know, sort of brings it home. Now, that's not China, but it tells you the art of the doable. So, we are going to talk about that.
BLITZER: The chairman on the Iraqi member. The house intelligence committee, good guests, 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley.
Guys, thanks very much.
A dramatic turnaround by a leading conservative on gay marriage. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio says he now supports marriage rights for same sex couples, couples. And it is a very, very personal reason that helped bring him to this conclusion. He spoke about it exclusively with our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana is joining us right now.
This sort of came out of the blue when I heard about this interview, Dana, that you had this week with senator Portman. I said, wow, I of course, was totally surprised.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Totally surprised and so is he. I got a call saying that this was a decision he made. He decided to do a television interview with us. And you know, this is something that happens, Wolf, all over America all the time, sons and daughters come to their parents, reveal that they are gay. The difference, of course, here is that his father is a high- profile conservative senator who campaigned for Mitt Romney. He was even on Romney's short list for running mate. And he invited us into his office to tell us this dramatic news.
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R),OHIO: Announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about. It has to do with gay couples, opportunity to marry. I, you know, come to the conclusion that, for me, personally I think that is something that we should allow people to do, to get married and they have the joy and stability of marriage that I had for over 26 years. I want all three of my children to have and including our son who is gay.
BASH (voice-over): That unexpected revelation came from Portman's 21-year-old son, Will, two years ago.
PORTMAN: My son came to Jane, my wife and I, told us that he was gay and it was not a choice, that that's part of who he is. And he had been that way since he could remember.
BASH: What was your reaction when he told you?
PORTMAN: Love, support, you know, 110 percent.
PORTMAN: Surprise, yes.
BASH: You had no idea?
PORTMAN: No idea. Yes. And, you know, again, that launched a process of rethinking the issue.
BASH: Until now, all this was secret to most, but not everyone.
You were vetted to be a vice presidential candidate. Did you tell Mitt Romney your son was gay?
PORTMAN: Yes. Of course.
BASH: And how did he react?
PORTMAN: I told Mitt Romney everything. That process is -- intrusive would be one way to put it. But no, yes, I told him everything.
BASH: Do you think that was a deal breaker?
PORTMAN: No, I really don't.
BASH: How can you be sure?
PORTMAN: Well, because, you know, they told me.
BASH: Portman was never outspoken on gay marriage, but he consistently voted against it, supporting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the defense of marriage act, and a bill prohibiting gay couples in Washington, D.C. from adopting children.
What do you say to a gay constituent in Ohio who says I'm so glad that he changed his position, but why did it take him learning he has a gay son, why didn't he as my representative care about my life before that? PORTMAN: Well, I would say that, you know, I've had a change of heart based on a personal experience, that's certainly true. I am on the budget committee, the finance committee for reason. Those have been my primary issues and focus. So, now it is different. You know, I hadn't expected to be in this position. But, I do think, you know, having spent a lot of time thinking about it and working through this issue personally that, you know, this is where I am for reasons that are consistent with my political philosophy, including family values, including being a conservative who believes the family is the building block of society. I am comfortable there now.
BASH: You know, a Senate may look at this and say he is a politician, why is he doing this now when he found out two years ago.
PORTMAN: Well, two things. One is, I am comfortable with the position and took me awhile to, you know, to rethink things and get to this position.
BASH: The second reason, the Supreme Court which will soon hear a pair of gay marriage cases. And Portman expected that to generate some questions about his position.
PORTMAN: I thought it was the right time to let folks know where I stand so there was no confusion so I would be clear about it.
BASH: And Portman told me he spent time with his pastor, even went back, and re-read the passage in Leviticus in the Old Testament which many Christians use as a source to opposition to homosexuality. And Wolf, after a lot of soul searching, he said that he decided that the institution of marriage was paramount, and that was true with his religion as well. And after all that came out, his son, Will Portman, sent a very simple, but powerful tweet. He said, I am especially proud of my dad today.
BLITZER: I am sure he is. Is he now likely, senator Portman, to become an activist, to take a really outspoken public role in support of marriage equality?
BASH: I asked him that question and his answer was effectively no, not at this time. He said he came to public office, focused on economic issues. He is going to stay focused on that. But, he also said that perhaps the fact that he did make this public statement, he had this dramatic reversal, will make some of his colleagues that know him well, conservative colleagues think twice, give it a second look at about whether they want to change their stance, too.
BLITZER: See if one of those Supreme Court justices is influenced by this as well because that presumably are going to be a pretty close vote among those nine justices, decision we expect by the end of June.
Good Work. Excellent work as usual.
BASH: Thanks, Wolf. BLITZER: Dana, appreciate it.
Still to come, the United States takes stock ten years after invasion of Iraq. It was $60 billion simply wasted in so-called investment in Iraq. What happened to those $60 billion supposed to build schools, hospitals, bridges, what happened to all that? We will tell you.
And later, women that want to reach their full potential, that means career, and family, good affordable child care, is it too tall an order?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then, we started looking into regular nannies, and they were getting salaries that were like, you know, basically the equivalent of what a teacher would make, and a lot of them were asking for 401(k) contributions, some of them were getting health care benefits. We are like my God, there's no way!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This week marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. U.S. troops are gone, but the bloodshed continues. This week, bombings in Baghdad caused dozens of casualties. Now, beyond the countless thousands of lives lost, there's a new accounting of how much the U.S. wasted, wasted in trying to reshape that country.
CNN's Jim Clancy has been looking at the U.S. special inspector's report.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): America's $60 billion splurge to rebuild Iraq, and what went wrong comes under the microscope.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About eight billion of the $60 billion appropriated by Congress for reconstruction in Iraq was wasted.
CLANCY: It could be more, we may never know. But, the 186 page report is certain of one thing, the Bush administration threw taxpayer money at Iraq missing a critical component, a plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This failure of planning and having a plan to execute these contracts and to provide accountability for the people who were in charge of this, totally lacking.
CLANCY: The result, among many other things, U.S. taxpayers shelled out $80 for a PVC elbow pipe that you can buy at home depot for $1.40. The first American administrators hired a comptroller named Robert Stein, and gave him more than $58 million in cash, which he promptly started stealing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The interesting thing about Mr. Stein was that he was a convicted felon at the time he was hired.
CLANCY: Felony fraud charges at that. He is now serving nine years in prison. In fact, 82 people have been convicted of financial wrongdoing in Iraq and more than $191 million has been recovered. Sixty more suspects are under investigation.
This report is almost all about U.S. taxpayer funds. But the Iraqis still have no complete accounting of what happened to billions of dollars of their own funds, blown by the U.S. into Iraq at the beginning of the conflict.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?
AMBASSADOR PAUL BREMER, HEAD, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: As so often in Iraq, the ideal clashed with the reality we faced.
CLANCY: Ambassador Paul Bremer, former Iraq administrator is notably absent from this final report. But plenty of others weighed in on what went wrong.
In rare agreement, some 17 Iraqis interviewed for the report saw little or no benefit from America's large jazz. There was no real planning done according to minister of justice, nor did they consult with the Iraqis on what was really need.
The report does not address the effect all of this had on Iraq itself. But, other Iraqi voices say the waste, bribery, and outright fraud contributed to a culture of corruption that plagues the country to this day.
GHASSAN ATIYYAH, IRAQ FOUNDATION FOR DEVELOPMENT AND DEMOCRACY: With The whole situation the Iraq now, it is lack of trust in the Americans, in the Iraqi government, and I'm sorry to say, even in themselves.
CLANCY: At the core of learning from Iraq this is a warning it could happen again unless the Congress creates an agency of experts who know the importance of a plan, strict oversight, and how to hold individuals and contractors accountable.
BLITZER: That report from CNN's Jim Clancy.
Our senior correspondent Arwa Damon has been covering Iraq throughout this decade of war, rebuilding, continuing turmoil. She is joining us now from Baghdad.
Arwa, that 60 billion that U.S. taxpayers spent in Iraq, that is just the tip of the iceberg that was only to build roads and some schools, some hospitals. So much of that money wasted. But what about more than trillion dollars that the U.S. taxpayers spent to defeat Saddam Hussein, keep U.S. troop presence there for nearly a decade. Is there any sense of gratitude that you're seeing from Iraqis, rank and file on the ground right now to the United States? ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf. Right now, you're not going to find gratitude on the streets of Iraq, especially not on the streets of Baghdad. But, one has to take into consideration the colossal price that the Iraqis paid for this war when at the end of the day it was a war they had absolutely no say in.
We're talking about more than 110,000 Iraqis killed. We are talking about the entire disintegration of a society, the violence that was unleash here, a brand of evil so different than to what Iraqis were experiencing under Saddam Hussein, an evil and the fear that they did not know how to navigate. We saw neighbors turning on neighbors. Iraq was the kind of country where one must remember this, people could not keep themselves safe because everything was a target, even garbage collectors were being targeted because they were viewed of working for the government. Even hair salons were being targeted by religious extremist groups because of their religious beliefs.
The entire country, everything that everyone knew to be real and normal was completely torn away from them. And even now today, the situation is far from being stable or secure. And we just heard that report there by Jim Clancy talking about corruption. That corruption exists, Wolf, at every single level imaginable in Iraq right now.
BLITZER: So that huge U.S. embassy in Baghdad, this was the largest U.S. embassy in the world, there were great expectations Iraq would emerge a pro-western country, Democratic, oil exporting company, revenue would come in, they could reimburse the United States taxpayers for liberating the country from Saddam Hussein. All of that was wishful thinking. Is that the sense you get on the tenth anniversary?
DAMON: Sadly, Wolf, it is. Look. Iraq has significantly increased its exports, especially in the last few years, but very little of that money is trickling back to the population. Basic services are still in shambles. Corruption, as I was saying so rampant, that much of that money ended up somehow being funneled towards political parties or for the personal gains of those that are in power.
We were speaking with the deputy head of parliamentary integrity committee that it meant to be investigating corruption. And he, himself, was saying that it is just really a ceremonial committee that was put together. But then, if they were to actually prosecute individuals, be able to go after them, just about every single minister, secretary general and director would find themselves behind bars.
A lot of the young here are also struggling, trying to find work because they say that unless they want to adopt these principles of corruption, they are effectively left out to the streets. The sense of despair amongst people right now is actually worse, Wolf, than it was when the violence was at its worst. And I think that is what's just so heart breaking about the situation in Iraq today.
BLITZER: Arwa is going to be with us throughout the week in Baghdad. We will be, of course, in close touch with you. Arwa, thanks for your terrific, terrific reporting.
When we come back, lack of affordable child care. Advocates say it keeps so many women from achieving their full potential. CNN look at what women want. That's next.
BLITZER: CNN is looking at what women want, Special Reporting on what's keeping some women from realizing their full potential. Today, an issue that impacts so many working moms out there, affordable child care.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester is here. She has been looking into this for us. What have you found?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf. You know, if you talk to a lot of working parents, one of the main reasons why a woman might leave the work force is because of child care. It can be incredibly expensive, and in some cases families are paying more for child care than for their mortgage or rent. So, what do women want? Well, how about affordable, quality child care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: On weekends, Becky Manicone of Vienna, Virginia makes sure homework gets done.
BECKY MANICONE, MOTHER: How old was you when you became a teacher?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE KID: Fifteen.
MANICONE: Very good.
SYLVESTER: During the week, it's the au pair who takes over when Becky and her husband, Nick, both lawyers leave for work. Like many parents, having reliable quality child care makes the difference. But until the couple had their girls, now ages eight and five, they had no idea just how expensive and hard to find child care can be. When Becky was still pregnant, she put her name on several day care waiting lists.
MANICONE: The wait lists were really long. At one place they said, well, if you give us a $500 nonrefundable deposit, we'll give you a priority list. And when we finally got off that list Sophia was already 2-years -old.
SYLVESTER: They looked at nannies.
MANICONE: People were getting paid like $50,000 a year.
SYLVESTER: If it sounds familiar, that is because --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANICONE: The wait lists were really long. At one place they said, well, if you give us a $500 nonrefundable deposit, we'll give you a priority list. And when we got off that list Sophia was already 2- years -old.
SYLVESTER: They looked at nannies.
MANICONE: They were getting paid like $50,000 a year.
SYLVESTER: If it sounds familiar, that is because many parents have been in the same boat. A survey by "Parents" magazine of readers who use child care found that 84 percent found it either challenging, very hard, or impossible to find quality care. The advocacy group child care where says infant care at a day care center can cost as much as $15,000 a year for one child.
LYNETTE FRAGA, CHILD CARE AWARE: In 36 states across the country, the cost of infant child base, infant titled care and center based programs is higher than the annual cost of a college educational for your college education.
SYLVESTER: Many parents do the math and figure that it's more cost-efficient to have one parent stay at home. And more often than not it's the mother.
But, even a temporary break can make it that much harder for a woman to get back in the labor force to continue the upward climb.
Dina Bakst with a group of better balance said employers need to leave in as well. Her group wants the federal government to expand the family medical leave act to include paid maternity leave and paid sick leave.
DINA BAKST, A BETTER BALANCE: When women can take the leave and have support, it both makes child care less costly and also keeps women on the job.
SYLVESTER: It's an issue that even House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi. has raised. Women have won the right to vote, have broken barriers in education and corporate board rooms, yet --
REP. NANCY REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The missing link in all of it is child care, to fully unleash the power of women, which will be very wholesome for our country. SYLVESTER: The Manicones opted for an au pair, more affordable than a full-time nanny. And they're also fortunate because they're able to work from home sometimes.
MANICONE: I think the flexibility from work is critical. And for us, it is a total godsend that we have flexibility in our schedules.
SYLVESTER: And that goes a long way, having a flexible work schedule. One complaint you hear a lot from parents is why is the school day 8:00 to 3:00, when the work day is 9:00 to 5:00? Other parents have suggested, how about making the summer break a little shorter? Then maybe, it won't cost so much in child care and summer camp fee. So, all of this, Wolf, just a little food for thought.
BLITZER: Not little, some significant food for thought. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that report.
Up next, just days before his first official visit to Israel, President Obama has been talking tough about Iran. I will speak about that and more. Israel's ambassador of the United States, Michael Oren, is next.
BLITZER: As the U.S. rushes to boost its missile defenses against a threatened North Korean nuclear attack, President Obama has been talking tough about Iran's nuclear program, using words like red lines, saying all U.S. options are on the table. All this comes as he prepares to head off for the Middle East in the coming days, his first official visit as president of the United States to Israel.
Joining us now is Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Good to be here.
BLITZER: The president was pretty precise in talking about Iran's nuclear program capability in an interview he gave Israel's Channel 2, that aired yesterday. I'll play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon. But obviously, we don't want to cut it too close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that your assessment, the Israeli government's assessment, that it would take a year, between now and a year, for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon?
OREN: Well, we -- we certainly appreciate the reaffirmation of President Obama's commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We're -- we're signed onto that program.
Now, our intelligence analysts, together with American intelligence analysts, look at the Iranian nuclear program. We see many of the same things. We draw many of the same conclusions. But I'll just refer you back to something that Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the general assembly last September, where he said the main issue is not when Iran gets a nuclear weapon or even how long Iran takes to get a nuclear weapon. The one question is, when we can no longer prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, because the Iranian program is not only just building up on its nuclear stockpile, it's also moving underground. And there's going to be a point where we'll no longer be able to the prevent them.
And that brought -- that point is not in the distant, distant future.
BLITZER: That's not a year from now?
OREN: Not in the distant future.
BLITZER: So when is it?
OREN: Well, back in September, the prime minister said it would be some time in the summer.
BLITZER: This coming summer? And so you -- is that the current Israeli intelligence assessment, that by this summer, that red line, if you will, where Iran has a capability to develop a nuclear bomb, takes place?
OREN: Not just the capability. It's when we can no longer see it. Just last week, the Iranians announced that they're building 16 new nuclear sites. I guarantee you, they're not going to be above ground. They're installing centrifuges, IR2 centrifuges,that will triple the time that they can put out enriched uranium.
And so instead of being able to break out over the course of, say, two months, it could be reduced to a matter of weeks. And that will take place underground where nobody is going to be able to see it.
BLITZER: Is your government and the Obama administration on the same page in terms of intelligence assessment, that this summer is, in effect, the so-called red line?
OREN: Well, again, we look at the same set of information and we draw many of the same conclusions. But there are structural differences between them -- between us. Israel...
BLITZER: What are the differences between Israel's assessment of when that red line takes place, which you say this is summer, and the U.S. assessment? OREN: It's not a difference of assessments, it's a difference of, say, clocks. I mean, Israel has a small clock that's moving very fast. America has a bigger clock that's moving slower.
Israel is a small country in Iran's backyard threatened with national annihilation by the Iranian regime. And we have certain military capabilities.
America, a big country far away from the Middle East, not threatened with destruction on a daily basis by the Iranians yet. And America has vastly bigger capabilities, so it can afford to wait longer.
BLITZER: So are you saying that if Iran doesn't back down and halt its nuclear program by this summer, Israel will take action?
OREN: I'm saying Israel will reserve the right to defend itself and that right has been recognized by President Obama. President Obama has said only Israel has the right and the duty to decide how best to defend its citizens.
BLITZER: But a lot of US...
OREN: And we are threatened.
BLITZER: -- a lot of U.S. analysts -- excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Ambassador -- don't believe Israel necessarily has -- has the capability to deal effectively, destroy Iran's nuclear program, if you will, that the United States needs to do that.
OREN: Israel has the ability to defend itself. It has the right and the duty to defend itself, Wolf.
BLITZER: So you could do it by yourself? That option you're holding open if the U.S. doesn't do it?
OREN: Our position, just like America's position, is that all options should remain on the table, and those options are real.
BLITZER: When the president meets next week with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will this be issue number one?
OREN: It will be one of the major issues we -- we discuss across the table. Of course, there's a wide range of issues. The -- the Middle East is in turmoil, whether it be the situation in the Sinai, in Syria, attempts to reanimate the peace process, and, yes, to address the advancing Iranian nuclear program.
BLITZER: Is the peace process getting off the ground at all?
Do you see anything happening on that front?
OREN: Well, that's a question I think you're going to have to pose to the Palestinians. We, together with (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: And the president will meet with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
OREN: And I -- I expect he'll pose that question to them. We, together with the United States, share the same policy. That's -- we call for the resumption of direct talks without preconditions to discuss all the core issues -- refugees, borders, Jerusalem's security -- to reach a solution based on two states for two peoples.
The Palestinians are not there. For most of the last four years, they've refused to negotiate. We hope they'll come and rejoin us at the negotiating table.
BLITZER: They blame Israel's continued expansion of settlement activity on the West Bank.
OREN: Well, in the past, we ripped up settlements out of Gaza, 21 settlements, 9,000 residents to advance the peace process. We didn't get peace, we got rockets rained down on us.
We froze settlement construction in the West Bank, you know, for 10 months to get the Palestinians back to the table.
The Palestinians have a lot of preconditions. It's not just settlements. We have no preconditions. We have a lot of things that we ask the Palestinians to do, but we don't for -- we don't form them as -- as preconditions.
We think the only way to resolve this conflict is through direct negotiations.
BLITZER: One final question. He's going to make a major speech, the president, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, but not before the parliament, Israel's Knesset.
Some Israelis are saying why?
OREN: Well, I think it's important that he reaches out to a wide swath of Israeli society, particularly young Israeli society. We have the youngest population per capita of any modernized industrialized country in the world. And they're representing Israeli universities. We have six major universities. Three of them are among -- listed among the 100 top universities in the world.
So it's going to be a great audience. And it's important to hear the message about the president's vision about the future and also to hear him express his appreciation for Israel's achievements in technology and science.
BLITZER: We'll be watching every step of the way.
I know you're heading back to Jerusalem to be on hand for that visit. Safe travels.
OREN: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
BLITZER: When we come back, ever wonder what happened with all of that stuff that doesn't make it past airport security? We found out. You might be shocked to find out who's making big money off it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see a little ten-pound kettle bell, the Shake Weight, a horse whip -- I don't know who would want to take a horse whip on a plane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You've probably seen it, even if it hasn't happened to you: airline passengers forced to dump banned items at the security check points. We found out where a lot of those items eventually wind up, and we were surprised to discover that someone is actually making a lot of money off them.
CNN's Renee Marsh has been looking into this story for us. Renee, what are you finding out?
RENEE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're finding out when those items leave your hands, Wolf, someone is making cash for this. Not necessarily the TSA, they're not making a dime. But your state government could be. Take a look at where it ends up.
MARSH: It's the final dumping ground for the items you're not getting passed the TSA. A spear, nunchuks, ax, heavy marble rolling pin and lots and lots of knives.
TROY THOMPSON, PENNSYLVANIA DEPT. OF GENERAL SERVICES: It has a fixed blocking blade and it also has a molding grip so you would not be able to bring it onto a plane still.
MARSH: But then something like this now you would be able to. So you wouldn't get things like this any more.
Every month, an average of 425 pounds of stuff ends up in TSA's hands at each of the nation's largest airports. The TSA boxes it up and ships it out to states that want to make a buck by selling it.
This is right off of the truck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MARSH: CNN goes behind the scenes in Pennsylvania, at one of the largest receiving centers. Buckets and boxes of your personal belongings from major mid-Atlantic airports like LaGuardia, JFK and Newark, all here.
(on camera): Now, would you say that of all the things that you're getting here in all of these huge bins, majority of them, knives, things of that sort?
THOMPSON: Yeah, I would say - I would say that they are knives, when they go through the TSA security checkpoints, they have the option of either, you know, sending those items home, voluntarily surrendering them so they can get on the plane.
MARSH (voice over): Well, Pennsylvania is turning this cold heard steel into cold heart cash. In the past nine years, they've made nearly $900,000 selling all the items you couldn't get through TSA security.
(voice-over): Some items sold at this government surplus store.
THOMPSON: Ten pounds of assorted black knives are going for $75 now.
MARSH: But most are sold on the govdeals.com Web site. So, if you want to get back that knife airport screeners wouldn't let through, you can get it here at a price.
MARSH: Well, it is the individual states, not the TSA, who set the price on these items and they base all of that based on the market value as well as the condition of the actual item.
BLITZER: Let somebody make some money out of it.
BLITZER: Rene, thank you very much. Rene Marsh reporting.
Up next, Vogue magazine takes us inside the Obama marriage. We have the scoop. That's coming up.
BLITZER: All right, it's another fashion first for the first lady. Michelle Obama making the cover of Vogue magazine not once but twice. CNN's Alina Cho is the first reporter to sit down with the reporter behind the story.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Second term, second cover. First lady, Michelle Obama, en "Vogue" again.
JONATHAN VAN METER, VOGUE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: There's something so groundbreakingly modern about the Obamas. You know, they are the first Black president and first lady. And you know, Anna Wintour at "Vogue" is crazy about them. CHO: "Vogue's" poweful editor-in-chief is a massive Obama fundraiser, once rumored to be the next U.S. ambassador to the U.K., so it's her friend, the first lady, appearing on "Vogue's" April cover, wearing a sleeveless dress by Reed Krakoff. Yes, that Reed Krakoff, the same designer Mrs. Obama chose for the inauguration. Here she is in Michael Kors. But writer, Jonathan Van Meters, spoke to both of them, the first lady and the president.
VAN METER: Them as a couple, their marriage, their children, how they live in the White House, how they deal with the bubble.
CHO: What struck him?
VAN METER: They're so sweet with each other. There's a lot of affection. And if there's any married couple to whom the phrase, they finish each other's sentences applies, it's them.
CHO: Of their marriage, the president says, "I think it would be a mistake to think of my wife when I walk in the door is, hey, honey, how is your day? Let me give you a neck rub. I think it's much more. We're a team." "Of his clothes, she jokes, this is the man who still boasts about this khaki pair of pants I've had since I was 20. And I'm like, you don't want to brag about that."
VAN METER: She very effortlessly tells a story that leads to a punch line that could crack you up. And what I loved is that, sometime, she and I weren't finished laughing.
VAN METER: And he was done and ready to move on, the president, and she would sort of look at me and keep laughing with me, like, I just loved that spirit in her, that jovial spirit, that really surprised me.
CHO: A story compelling readers to go beyond the cover.
Alina Cho, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Coming up, she's an 88-year-old grandma who try as she might just can't stop dancing.
BLITZER: All right. Here is a story that will make you want to get up and dance. And it stars an 88-year-old grandma who has become a huge online hit because she likes to drop her purse and boogie. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us the dancing nana.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most 88-year-olds are lucky to be walking down steps, let alone dancing down them to Runaround Sue. It started out as a weekly routine for Ester Feole and her 24-year-old granddaughter Chelsey, playing oldies. CHELSEY FEOLE, GRANDDAUGHTER OF ESTER FEOLE: That's how it happens. I pick her up for lunch or breakfast, and I blast the music. And she dances her way to the car. MOOS: Next thing you know "Runaround Sue" is running around the Internet, titled "Dancing Nana." You can tell she's really going to get down when she puts down her purse. When she sets that thing down, she means business - no runaround. CHELSEY FEOLE: People are loving the purse drop. MOOS: Ester wears her Life Alert like geriatric bling. On "Dancing Nana Part 2," she's "Dancing in the Streets." And on "Dancing Nana Part 3," she belts out a tune popular in her day. (SINGING) MOOS: But "Runaround Sue" is her viral hit, and she brings the house down with her last line: ESTER FEOLE, "DANCING NANA": Oh, I could dance all (EXPLETIVE DELETE) day. CHELSEY FEOLE: That's just the cherry on the topI remember filming, and when she said that, I was just like, 'Oh, my God.' MOOS: These days, Nana's dancing in the halls rather than in the streets. Cut. Stop the dancing. I hate to say it, but a few weeks ago, Chelsey's grandmother had to go into a nursing home because she's having problems with dementia. But Chelsey says she's the life of the nursing home. CHELSEY FEOLE: That sassy, you know, funky grandmother to all of us, I truly cherish this video. MOOS: She's an oldie but goodie -- even when she's bad.
ESTER FEOLE: Oh, I could dance all (EXPLETIVE DELETE) day. MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Love that. Eighty-eight-year old grandma, keep on dancing.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I am Wolf Blitzer in Washington. The news continues next on CNN.