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Afghan War Strategy Under Scrutiny; Obama Commits 30,000 More Troops; Hard to Say I'm Sorry; Security Vacancy

Aired December 03, 2009 - 09:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And meanwhile, the news continues. Here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins -- Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Good morning, John. Good morning, Kiran. And good morning to you, everybody. A very busy day right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Here's what we have. Today, the economy is job one at the White House. A jobs summit looks to find work for 16 million Americans who are now unemployed.

And decision Afghanistan. The new strategy is in place, the political debate is under way, and the administration reaches out overseas.

Plus, the power of the apology. The mea culpa of Tiger Woods got us thinking, what are the top 10 public apologies of all time? We'll tell you about it.

Good morning, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. It is Thursday, December 3rd.

Want to get you started on this busy day. Right off the top at the White House this morning, our correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is standing by, focusing on the sputtering job market. Can the administration really make a difference and jumpstart hiring? We'll get to that.

Plus, Stephanie Elam is looking at just how big the unemployment problem really is. She'll have those latest jobless numbers that came out just a couple of minutes ago. We'll get a little bit more analysis there.

And also, our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is going to be talking about the new war strategy in Afghanistan. As you know, the debate continues, but consensus builds.

First off, the nation's unemployment rate. It's been languishing at a 26-year high and optimism is running low. So the Obama administration is gathering business and labor leaders today to discuss job creation.

Let's go straight to the White House now and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux with the latest.

So, Suzanne, good morning to you. What exactly is... SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Heidi.

COLLINS: ... today's event all about? We've been waiting for it. It was announced a while ago. And today is the day.

MALVEAUX: Well, we're getting new details from the White House about this event or so. We know that the president and the vice president are going to be meeting with some CEOs of some top companies, Google, as well as FedEx, but also union leaders as well as academics.

All of them, basically, getting in a room together, breaking up in smaller groups as well, to talk about some things that the government can do to help the private industry create more jobs for the American people.

The White House, very much aware of the criticism that is being lobbied against them because the economic stimulus package, $787 billion, surely has turned the corner when it comes to the recession on some major economic indicator, but when it comes to jobs, a lot of Americans feeling a lot of pain when you mention that 10 percent unemployment number.

So they're going to -- the president's actually going to talk in individual groups to some of these leaders. He's also going to take questions, we are told, from the audience later in the afternoon, open up the floor to questions, so he can actually see if they can generate some ideas.

No major announcements, Heidi, that we're expecting out of this jobs forum today. Really, it's more like kind of a talking session, if you will. Some highlights of the criticism, clearly. Democrats are saying, you need to do more. This economic stimulus package is not enough. We need a second one, focusing on jobs, particularly when it comes to big cities and minority communities.

The Republicans are saying that this is a waste of money to begin with and there's not enough accountability in terms of where those dollars are going. Specifically, a group here, it is the American Small Business League, put out a statement saying that they're concerned that President Obama's job forum is yet another publicity stunt designed to yield positive public relations as opposed to creating new jobs.

They specifically want the president to support legislation. They say if President Obama were really serious about creating jobs, he would back legislation to redirect over $100 billion a year in federal infrastructure spending to the small businesses where most Americans work and where nearly all new jobs are created.

I put that question to a senior administration official, Heidi, and they said, clearly, they're going to be looking at ways that the government perhaps can help create and generate more of those infrastructure projects. Building the roads, building the bridges, that kind of thing. So that's what we're expecting from today. COLLINS: All right, very good. Obviously, I think the question would be, what happens then after they have sort of this brain storming session? And there had been criticism, you know, in the past about it's not really about saving jobs or job saving, it's about creating jobs. Two very different things.

People are also going to be talking about the amount of money that's actually been used from the stimulus program. Do you think that will come up today?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly. They're going to talk about what's been used, what's still out there, how do you make the best use of the money, and where's the money going, quite frankly. Who's keeping track of this, clearly.

One of the things the president is going to do is not only listen to folks here today, some top folks on the business food chain, but also regular folks, if you will. He's going to travel tomorrow to Allentown, Pennsylvania. That is when he's going to go to a community college.

It's part of what they're calling a main street tour, a series of visits by the president to reach out to the American people and say, hey, what's going on with you. You know, how are you doing, and how can I help?

COLLINS: Yes, all right. Well, we will watch that very closely. Sure do appreciate the breakdown. Suzanne Malveaux in front of the White House this morning.

Let's take a minute now to break down the unemployment picture. And CNN's Stephanie Elam is here to crunch some of those numbers and provide a bit of perspective.

So, Stephanie, the urgent need to jump-start the hiring is very evident.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. And you can't put enough emphasis on it, Heidi, either. You know, we just got the latest numbers for initial weekly jobless claims for the week of thanksgiving, and it's showing that the number was 457,000.

That's actually a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's figure and it's also less than what was expected. Now part of that may be the fact that offices were closed on thanksgiving, some people couldn't go in to apply, but we are seeing that there is a bit of a decline there.

But let's take a look at the broader picture of the unemployment situation in the country. In taking a look back when the recession began, in December of 2007, we had an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.

Then flash forward to October of 2009 and look where we went. The unemployment rate at 10.2 percent. The first time it's been that high since October of 1983. So far this year, employers have cut about 1.25 million jobs. And that is already more than 17 percent than what were cut last year.

So just to show you how bad this year has really been, obviously, the recession really kicking into gear towards the middle -- or I should say the fall of last year when we saw that whole financial crisis.

But take a look at this graph here. It puts into it perspective here. The job cuts peaked in January. See there? We lost 471,000 jobs just in one month alone.


ELAM: In January of this year, that was the worth of it. That's the worst number that we saw. If you look at October of 2008, lost 380,000 jobs there, at the beginning of the chart, and take it through October of this year, and you can see we're now losing 190,000 jobs.

So job are going -- job losses are going in the right direction right now, but still, there's no one who's going to argue that that is a good number. Overall, you want an unemployment rate that's at about 5 percent or below that. That means full employment for the country.

Clearly, we are not anywhere near that right now. And what we will be looking to see what the unemployment report continues to show us, Heidi.

COLLINS: Sure, of course. And when you look at the ratio to job creation, which we keep talking about, especially today, that's an entirely different discussion.

Listen, Stephanie, I know that we're going to be getting some fresh unemployment numbers tomorrow.

ELAM: Right.

COLLINS: What are we expecting there?

ELAM: Yes. When you take a look at those numbers and you can see the November jobs report, right now it's expected that there will be a loss of 114,000 jobs. Again, a lot of jobs lost, but still moving in the right direction with less job losses.

Also the unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 10.2 percent, where we are now. That is still really, really high. But at this point, it's not expected to go up. Obviously, we'll get those real hard numbers from the government tomorrow and we'll be able to keep our eyes on that.

COLLINS: All right. And that is exactly what we'll do. Stephanie Elam, thank you.

ELAM: Sure.

COLLINS: To Afghanistan now. And a greater commitment from our NATO allies. Foreign ministers are meeting right now in Brussels to talk about the mission and the president's plan. Italy's government is saying they'll send another 1,000 troops. NATO is expected to add a total of 5,000 troops to the 42,000 they already have there.

Here are the top five nations in terms of troops in the international security assistance force now. The U.S. has committed 29,950 to NATO. Britain has 9,000. Germany, a little over 4,000.

So defending the president's plan, some of the key players are back on Capitol Hill today for a second day of tough questions from Congress. You are looking at some live pictures coming in now from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense secretary, Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen are testifying there today. This will follow a full day of sometimes contentious questioning in both the House and Senate yesterday.

CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has more.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tough questions for the president's national security team. Most not about the 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan but confusion over whether the July 2011 date to start withdrawing is a hard deadline.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Is that date conditions-based or not?


BASH: That sounded definitive, but the date certain became less certain. When pressed by GOP senators who call a deadline a dangerous signal to the enemy.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Will we withdraw our forces based on conditions on the ground or based on an arbitrary date?

GATES: We will be in a position in particularly uncontested areas where we will be able to begin that transition.

MCCAIN: Let's suppose you're not.

GATES: I think we will be in a position then to evaluate whether or not we can begin that transition in July.

MCCAIN: Which is it? It's got to be one or the other. It's got to be the appropriate conditions or it's got to be an arbitrary date.

GATES: We will have a thorough review in December 2010. If it appears that the strategy is not working and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011, then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself.

BASH: Later, Secretary Gates admitted after that December 2010 assessment...

GATES: The president always has the freedom to adjust his decisions.

BASH: Secretary Clinton signals flexibility, too.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Have we locked ourselves into leave, Secretary Clinton, in July of 2011?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving, but what we have done is to signal very clearly to all audiences that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan.

BASH: But the defense secretary conceded the exit date is aimed in part at politics at home.

GATES: I think the other audience, frankly, is the American people, who are weary of eight years -- after eight years of war and to let them know this isn't going to go on for another 10 years.

BASH: That didn't convince some of the president's fellow Democrats at another hearing later in the House.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: My fear, as is the fear of so many others, is that we could easily get bogged down in an endless war.

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: This is not open ended and we are not going to escalate.


COLLINS: Dana Bash is joining us now from Capitol Hill with a little bit more on this.

Dana, it's confusing. How do we think today's hearing is going to be a little different in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

BASH: You know, my expectation is that it's going to be different in that we're likely to hear more of what I and my colleagues here have been hearings in the hallways from the president's fellow Democrats. Didn't hear it much yesterday which is that deep skepticism.

And the reason, Heidi, is because the Foreign Relations Committee where these -- the president's team, they're testifying, actually has just started, and has some Democrats who have been very openly opposed to what the president is doing. Like Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and even Barbara Boxer who put out a very terse and blunt statement the night of the president's speech a couple of nights ago, saying that she flatly opposes this idea of sending more troops.

So yesterday, as you saw in the piece, a lot of the focus -- most of the focus was over confusion of what that exit date means and the whole idea of whether or not July 2011 really does mean that troops will start coming home or not. My expectation is that today there will be a lot more focus on the escalation of the troops, the 30,000 troops that the president promised to send into war, because again the fellow Democrats he has on this committee, many of them just think that is flatly the wrong move and they are vowing to oppose it.

COLLINS: Yes. So to be clear, it's the Democrats' position that -- not all of them, but certainly the majority that you're talking about here, are still concerned about sending more troops at all, not the fact that they were announced at the same time as a date to begin withdrawal?

BASH: Right, the way that this is sort of playing out party wise and along partisan lines is, you know, it's strange bedfellows that you've got Republicans who have long called for exactly what President Obama is doing, increasing the military footprint in Afghanistan to help prop up the Afghan military and police, but they don't like the fact that the president, along with that, announced this withdrawal date.

Well, Democrats, on the other side, they have opposed sending more troops and they're the ones who wanted a withdrawal date. So you sort of have the flipside...


BASH: ... when you're talking about different parties. So, again, my expectation is we're going to hear a lot more concern and opposition to the whole idea of sending more troops whereas yesterday the concern was about bringing the troops home.

COLLINS: Yes, all right, Dana Bash, we'll be watching those committee hearings, obviously, and some that happen a little bit later on in the House Armed Services Committee as well.

Dana Bash, sure do appreciate that. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

COLLINS: At the White House now, new security measures are in place following the apparent breach at last week's state dinner. The White House says its staff will now be stationed at the security checkpoint to make sure there are no mistakes with the guest list.

Meanwhile, the White House has rejected a request for its social secretary to testify at a House hearing on the breach. That's coming up next hour. And the so-called party crashers have declined that invitation as well. The committee chairman says if the couple is a no-show, they may be subpoenaed.

Defending a decision dating back nine years ago. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee stands by his actions in the case of a man accused of killing four police officers.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And good morning again. I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. A big storm rolling up the east coast with the winds behind it and another one hot on its heels that will drive, well, maybe some snow, some more snow into Texas.

We'll run it down when weather comes when the CNN NEWSROOM returns.


COLLINS: A man accused of helping alleged cop killer Maurice Clemmons avoid arrest could face trial as an accomplice to murder. Police fatally shot Maurice Clemmons Tuesday after a two-day manhunt. He allegedly gunned down four police officers at a coffee shop in Lakeland, Washington.

Investigators say Darkus Allen who served time with Clemmons in Arkansas helped him eluded capture. Meanwhile, former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, is defending his decision to commute Clemmons' sentence nine years ago.


MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I looked at the file, every bit of it, and here is a case where a guy had been given 108 years. Now, if you think that a 108-year sentence is an appropriate sentence for a 16-year-old for the crimes he committed, then you should run for governor of Arkansas.

You're looking at this nine years later and trying to make something as if that -- you know I could look into the future. I wish I could have. Good Lord, I wish I had that power. I wish I could have done that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I guess I'm wondering...

HUCKABEE: But I don't know how anyone can do it.


COLLINS: Suspect Darkus Allen and five other people are being held in Washington state for allegedly helping Clemmons escape.

Rob Marciano standing by now because we need to talk about some massive wind. Where is that? What's happening?


COLLINS: All right. Sounds good. Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

COLLINS: We'll be back to you later on.


COLLINS: Meanwhile, time now to check some of the top stories we are watching this morning. Pakistan's prime minister says Osama bin Laden is not in his country. He made the comments during a stop in Britain this morning. The British government announced $83 million in new funding to help Pakistan fight terrorism.

Syrian officials say a deadly explosion in a Damascus suburb this morning was not an act of terror. The blast badly damaged a bus. An unknown number of people are dead. Syria's interior ministry is telling state TV a bus driver and two gas station workers were pumping up a tire when it exploded.

The communication was bad, but the guidelines are good. That's what members of the task force that recommended those new mammogram guidelines are saying to Congress.


COLLINS: Now to the controversy over those recent breast cancer screening guidelines. Members of the task force that made those recommendations are doing a bit of backpedaling yesterday on Capitol Hill.

You remember, the guidelines advise women ages 40 to 49 not to get routine mammograms.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us now to try to make sense of some of this.

So I'm so curious because the fallout of this, what had happened, was huge. We heard from survivors all over the place who said, hey, I found my breast cancer in my 40s. And they wanted to know how on earth the panel came to this.

Did they succeed in clarifying the message at all?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it was a bit clearer, although there are still a lot of confusion around this. I thought what was so interesting about this, and maybe not unexpected, was the discussion really started to focus a lot more on health care reform and what the impact of recommendations like this, on task force might have...


GUPTA: ... on health care reform. With regard to the mammogram specifically, they couldn't answer that question. But they did talk a little bit more about the mammograms. Here's how they put it.


DR. DIANNA PETITTI, U.S. PREVENTIVE SERVICES TASK FORCE: The task force is saying that screening starting at 40 should not be automatic nor should it be denied. Many doctors and many women, perhaps even most women, will decide to have mammography screenings starting at age 40. The task force supports those decisions. The task force communication was poor.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: And therein lies, you know, part of the problem because they admit that it was confusing, but there are still a lot of questions. What they said, I sort of took away three points, that mammograms are more effective starting at age 50. Doesn't mean that they're not effective starting at age 40, they're just more effective.

They also made this point that there is some costs, psychological cost to a woman having false positives. They find something, they get a biopsy, they go through that process, they think there are some psychological costs.

And they still say the same which they've been saying all along is that patients should have conversations with their doctors ahead of time, which is, you know, that's a message we always talk about. But again, you know, there's so many women out there who don't get mammograms that probably should.


GUPTA: That's the other side of the argument. This might make it even worse. And there's a lot of women out there who get cancer and who never had a risk factor. What are they supposed to do? You know, they're still going to get these studies.

COLLINS: Yes. You mention the psychological cost. Is this not about insurance cost?

GUPTA: Well...

COLLINS: Was that discussed at length?

GUPTA: Sure.

COLLINS: Because I'm just trying to, you know, hear what insurance companies might now be able to say.

GUPTA: Sure.

COLLINS: If you have a task force that says, don't really need them, then the insurance companies can say, can they not? Well then, you know, we don't have to pay for them?

GUPTA: Right. And they say the same thing. I mean they've been asked that question since the start.


GUPTA: And they always say this wasn't about cost. But you're absolutely right in the sense that AHIP, which is the organization overseas insurance companies, has used task force recommendations...


GUPTA: ... to help dictate their guidelines in the past. We talked to them as well and they say there's no immediate plan to change that. But could -- somehow if there's a public option, for example, could this somehow direct what would or would not be covered?

Keep in mind, this is a constant battle between public health and individual risk. People are going to say what is the most effective medically, what's the most cost effective and how do we plan insurance coverage based on that. But this is -- I think what is controversial about this, this is where the rubber hits the road. Exactly a situation like this.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean you're a physician. You deal with insurance all the time. If there are questions about what needs to be covered and what doesn't, what do insurance companies usually do?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean -- who's to say what happens a year from now, five years from now?


GUPTA: Ten years from now. But I think one thing that you heard that task force member say is that most women will probably still get their mammograms starting at age 40, so hopefully that may alleviate some of that. Who knows?

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. I know that you'll continue to follow it.


COLLINS: Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: On Wall Street, it's day two in a series of reports on the labor market. Yesterday, a study showed 169,000 jobs were lost last month. Today, we learned how many people are joining the unemployment lines.

Susan Lisovicz is in New York now with more details on this.

Hi, there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. It's a sign of the times when 169,000 jobs lost in a month is considered a big improvement. What we're looking at here is a trend. And for the second day in a row, we have a report showing that the labor market is getting better.

New claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly fell for the fifth straight week. However, some of the decline may be because unemployment offices were closed for thanksgiving. Of course, this comes on the day that President Obama is gathering business leaders, union officials, and economists at the White House for his jobs summit.

That labor report is helping to boost market sentiment today, and so is news that Bank of America will pay back the TARP money it got from the government, all $45 billion of it. The move will let government pay restrictions on the bank, a big incentive, and possibly speed up B of A's search for a new CEO.

General Electric, meanwhile, has inked a deal to sell a majority stake in NBC's Universal to Comcast that's valued at $30 billion. It will make Comcast one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world. It could mean we get our movies on cable, computer, cell phone, everything else quicker.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Banking Committee is holding a confirmation hearing on Ben Bernanke's second term as Federal Reserve chairman. His confirmation is almost assured, although some lawmakers are angry about all the Wall Street bailouts, and say he failed to detect the housing crisis.

And checking the early numbers, well, the Dow is, well, it's moving higher, just by eight points. The NASDAQ composite also higher. Not a bad start. Heidi?

COLLINS: Not a bad start. We'll keep our fingers crossed, as always.

Susan Lisovicz, thank you.

LISOVICZ: See you later.

COLLINS: The view from Capitol Hill, a unique take on the Afghan war strategy from two congressmen who served there.


COLLINS: Top officials with the Obama administration are on Capitol Hill for a second day. You see them there. They're answering more questions about the new mission in Afghanistan. This hour, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen are appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A little bit later on today, Gates and Mullen will head over to the House Armed Services Committee.

Joining me are two of its members, and both have unique perspectives on the war. We spoke with them yesterday, too.

Republican Representative Duncan Hunter of California served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps officer. And for 31 years, Democratic Representative Joe Sestak was in the Navy, rising to the rank of admiral. He ran battle group operations in Afghanistan.

Congressmen, thanks again for joining us today. We heard an awful lot of testimony yesterday. Some of it certainly heated. I'm wondering, if you have the opportunity to question the dignitaries today, what will you be asking?

Representative Sestak, I'll start with you.

REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My first question is that we were promised benchmarks by which we would measure our progress in this conflict in Afghanistan last March. We don't have them yet. And if you are going to insert a lot of assets, what are those measurements by which you judged how much assets you needed there.

Second, if you've set a definitive deadline to begin a redeployment, but your major objective is al Qaeda in Pakistan, how does that deadline measure up with these benchmarks of progress?

And third, for Mrs. Clinton -- Secretary Clinton, back in Vietnam days, we had probably about 15,000 Foreign Service officers in USAID. They are part of the civilian surge. 5,000 went to Vietnam. We've only got about 1,200 Foreign Service officers today in USAID. Where's this civilian surge going to come from?

COLLINS: Now if I understand correctly, Secretary Clinton will not be at the House Armed Services Committee today. She's right now before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, correct?

SESTAK: I think you may be right.


SESTAK: But we are expecting to have secretaries, a representative there.

COLLINS: Right. Correct. So have things changed for you, at all, Representative Sestak, since yesterday, when we spoke to you? What did you think of the proceedings yesterday?

SESTAK: I thought they were good proceedings. I thought there was a defining question on this date of beginning the withdrawal. And I thought Senator McCain actually did a very nice job on that, as Senator Levin did on the same question I have about the benchmarks.

See, my issue is that it's about al Qaeda in Pakistan. And this deadline, they seem, is intended to have an effect on Afghanistan's central government. I think we should not rely upon that weak read. And so, therefore, I'm more interested in and even more so since yesterday, what's our measure of progress towards the real threat to America, al Qaeda, and Pakistan.

COLLINS: Understood. Representative Hunter, the same thing for you. What will you ask today, and your thoughts about some of the questions that were asked yesterday. And, of course, Representative Sestak is talking about whether or not conditions on the ground will dictate when any type of withdrawal could occur.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Yes. You know, I actually think that the president's speech was nuanced enough to where that July 2011 timeline is really a July 2011 transition to like a status of forces agreement in Afghanistan, like we have in Iraq now. So I think it's nuanced enough to where we're not going to stick to it. I'm going to ask about that, to where if it is flexible and it's really a transition timeline, not a withdrawal timeline. Two, only 30,000 troops. McChrystal asked for 40,000 troops. Why the 30,000? Why not 40,000? What other strategic things are going on throughout the world to where I think the president had to sit back and say, hey, we actually can't give 40,000. We can only do 30,000, because there's other contingencies that we may have to deal with, and we may not have the actual troop strength to do 40,000. So I'm going to ask about that too, I think.

COLLINS: Yes. And I think, obviously, the hope is that NATO will supply some of those forces and we have a little bit more numbers on that right now.

HUNTER: If not, have NATO send Euros. And by Euros, I don't mean people, I mean money. So this is going to cost $30 billion a year. I would like that broken down, too, if possible. But why not have NATO then step up and say, OK, we're not going to supply troops, but we're going to pay for a lot of this. And we're going to pay for the sustainment of that Afghan army that's going to be really hard and frankly impossible for Afghanistan to sustain on its own with its economy. Why should the U.S. bear that load by itself? Why not have NATO kick in for that as well?

COLLINS: Well, you mentioned the Afghan army, and if the both of you would, listen with me for just a moment to some of the proceedings that went on yesterday.

This is Secretary Gates talking a little bit more about how the Taliban may react or what their plan may be 18 months from now, in July of 2011.

Listen to this.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: What are they going to do? Are they going to lie low for 18 months? That would be terrific news because that would give us open field running. Are they going to go back to Pakistan and wait for 18 months? Terrific. It gives us the opportunity without opposition to help the Afghans build. Are they going to lie low in Afghanistan if they are not attacking Afghans, if they are not blowing things up, if they are not attacking our coalition troops? Then, again, that gives us a huge opportunity.

On the other hand, if they're going to engage, if they're going to be as bold and as aggressive as they've been over the past year, then they will encounter 150,000 foreign troops and a couple of hundred thousand Afghan troops who will root them out.


COLLINS: Aside from getting your general reaction to some of what the secretary said there, Representative Sestak, a couple hundred thousand Afghan soldiers, where are they coming from?

SESTAK: That's an excellent question. I'm a little concerned that the administration may be putting too much reliance upon the Afghanistan army and military getting built up with acceleration. It will take a lot of time for that. And it gets back to my point. I agree with what the secretary just said, but the issue of this definitive date that's been set, you've noticed the muted response from the leaders of Pakistan on that.

COLLINS: Certainly.

SESTAK: My concern is what does it say, not to the Taliban. He's right. We're going to find them. There's going to be somewhere as Pakistan on that side of the border moves forwards and we're out there protecting. But my concern is what's it say in to Pakistan about our commitment of getting the al Qaeda in Pakistan and supporting them with the Taliban that they are not crossing over if we set this deadline.

To me, again, it comes back to benchmarks, measuring progress, so the public knows what are the probabilities and when, of an exit, from Afghanistan. And to me, that's what it comes back to. That's why this question of a deadline speaks to me, more of what the impact is on Pakistani leaders, because we want them in the fight and not having their intelligence begin to say, oh, I'm going to take a risk-averse approach here and keep my ties in, badly, as they presently have supporting some of the bad Taliban in case they need them as we depart.

COLLINS: Yes, and it's $7.5 billion that the country has given over five years in aid to Pakistan. And some of the results of that, if you will, it seems we're still waiting for.

And Representative Hunter, I would love to know if you agree about some of these Pakistan issues, obviously, with Representative Sestak. But also curious to know, I mean, you were there, you were in Afghanistan, you were in Iraq as well.

Are there going to be some new training methods, or these 200,000 Afghan soldiers, are they going to be suddenly committed in a different way than they've been over the past eight years?

HUNTER: I don't know. You know, the Afghan military is not going to be able to be sustained after we leave at any point whether it's five years, ten years, or a year and a half. They're not going to be able to be sustained by their own company. So they're going to have to be sustained by us, by our allies, or they're going to have to kind of break up into kind of militia-type unit who go back to their outline areas. They take care of them. They are train. You know, soldier second, civilians first. There's going to have to be some kind of a breakdown like that.

When it comes to Pakistan, though, there's two different Pakistani thoughts from what I understand. One is the Pakistani people want us to go. You know, some of them see us as occupiers. They don't know if they trust the western influence. The other side is the Pakistani military leadership wants us to actually stay. They want to know from us that we're going to be around and we're going to help them in the long run, because they have to fight Taliban and al Qaeda in their own country. We want them to do that. But they want to know that they have our backing for that. So it's extremely complicated, once again.

Here's the bad part about this, though. A counterinsurgency means getting the Afghan people to, you know, go along with you, trust you, work with you, as much as possible. This deadline, if the Afghan people aren't as, you know, let's say they aren't as nuanced as we are. They don't understand that there is flexibility, they just see a 2011 deadline. They're not going to work with us. They're not going to turn the IED guys in. They're not going to turn in shooters, because they think that they're going to get killed later. So it's not about us. We understand what that deadline means. It is flexible. It's a transition period. The Afghan person, I don't think, understands that. They just see July 2011, U.S. is leaving.

COLLINS: Obviously there are --

SESTAK: Heidi, may I add one point to that for just a moment?

COLLINS: Yes, quickly.

SESTAK: Very quickly. I liked his earlier point. This is why I believe as he's talking about militias, notice what the secretary testified yesterday. We're going to go to a sub-national provincial governors, potentially tribal chiefs in order to leave behind stability, and hopefully not overlie upon this corrupt, inept government there. That's why there's question on this deadline is important. Who's it speak to? And that's why we need progress, measurements by which we can see what our progress is. And that's what we don't have yet.

COLLINS: Understood. Well, hopefully there is some room for that. And again, the two of you on the House Armed Services Committee. We'll be talking, at least with the Joint Chiefs chairman and also the secretary of Defense today.

Thanks so much, again, for your insights today.

SESTAK: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Representative Hunter and Representative Sestak.

We begin our top stories now on the issue of health care reform. Today the debate lands on the floor of the senate. Lawmakers are expected to cast their votes, their first votes, that is, on elements of the overhaul. Among the proposals, $460 billion in Medicare cuts and an amendment that would give women no-cost preventative care. It would include procedures like mammograms.

In Somalia, at least 16 people are dead after a suicide blast erupted at a graduation ceremony. Police say the bomber was dressed as a woman. Among those people killed, three government ministers and nine students. At least 50 others students were injured. So far no claim of responsibility.

How do Governor Mark Sanford and Emperor Henry IV end up on the same list? Stick around. We'll tell you why.


COLLINS: In Somalia, at least 16 people are dead after a suicide blast erupted at a graduation ceremony. Police say the bomber was dressed as a woman. Among those people killed, three government ministers and nine students at least 50 others students were injured. So far, no claim of responsibility.

How did Governor Mark Sanford and Emperor Henry IV end up on the same list? Stick around we'll tell you why.


COLLINS: Later today, we'll see her, but may not hear from her; the New York woman who denies having an affair with Tiger Woods. The lawyer that is for Rachel Uchitel says there's a scheduled news conference in Los Angeles and that she will do all the talking.

Now, this comes one day after the world's number one golfer apologized for what he called, quote, "transgressions." Woods has been out of sight since wrecking his car early last Friday morning outside his Florida home.

That coupled with his carefully worded apology have fueled a lot of speculation and it's gotten our Josh Levs thinking about some other very public apologies, or non-apologies, as the case may be.


COLLINS: Hi, there, Josh.

LEVS: Hey there, Heidi. Yes, it's got a lot of people around the country and around the world doing this too which is why "Time" magazine came up with this list of some of the most buzzed about apologies or non-apologies of all time.

You can see the list right here, there starting off obviously with Tiger Woods just because it's the one everyone's talking about right now.

Some of these are about personal indiscretions, like this one right here, probably the most aired apology ever, of President Clinton about his affair with Monica Lewinsky saying he deeply regretted misleading people including his wife.

Over here, you've got South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. He's on the list apologizing for hurting people with his affair.

On the flip side of this a lot of people looking at this today, Ashley Dupre who you might remember as "Time" points out, she was that call girl, a former call girl in the scandal surrounding former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. In the interview with "People" magazine, she had a message for his wife saying, "I'm sorry for your pain."

Now, some of the examples on this list are about issues, not personal indiscretions, including this from President Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently.


LEVS: And that was this past summer after the president said Cambridge Massachusetts police had acted stupidly in arresting Harvard professor Henry Lewis Gates Jr. The president did not actually apologize there and as Heidi mentioned earlier, some of the examples on these lists are non-apologies.

But others are straight up, I'm sorry. Got to show you this one; Mel Gibson for example when he said, "I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words." That is for his anti-Semitic remarks to police officers when he was arrested for DUI.

Let's do one more screen here, it's the most serious one on the list. From former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara saying, "We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why." He wrote about this in his memoir discussing the management of the Vietnam War.

And though, we could tie up with that one but I'm going to mention one more thing that I find so interesting about this list. Also on this list over here, Play-Doh and Henry IV. So if you want a little bit of a history lesson and also learn a little about where, in some ways the modern concept of the apology came from. You can see it all right there.

We posted it for you. You'll be able to blog and it's also at Facebook and Twitter, JoshLevsCNN. You can even stack it and move the order yourself and tell us what you think, is "Time" crazy and is "Time" right. It's getting a lot of traffic. And Heidi, I'm curious what people say about this.

COLLINS: Yes, no question. All right, Josh.

There's so many more here. I wish we had time to get to. It's very interesting.

LEVS: Keeping on all of that. Yes.

COLLINS: And the Michael Moore one calling the president a deserter.

LEVS: Michael Moore is on the list as a total non-apology. Where said instead of apologizing he just adds to what he said.

COLLINS: Yes, understood. All right, well, we'll check it out, definitely.


COLLINS: Josh, thank you.

LEVS: You got it, thanks a lot.

COLLINS: In fact this morning we want to know what is one of the worst things that you've had to apologize for? Yes, we're asking for confessions. Go to our blog at, we'll read some of those responses in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Keep it clean, OK because otherwise we won't be able to read it.

So should TSA agents be unionized? It's a key question that could affect your security. It's already causing a problem with the administration.


COLLINS: We certainly have a lot going on this morning. Our CNN crews are in place as you can see to bring it all to you.

We want to check in with some of them now beginning with Poppy Harlow in New York. Hi there Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Well, hi Heidi. In Washington today, the White House holding a major jobs summit, a 130 different business leaders and economists will be there. But when you ask the average American, most of them aren't feeling any hope. We're going to have more on the state of the job market in America coming up in the next hour.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And if you are say, looking for a job across the northeast today, you're going deal with some winds. So hold on to your hat. And if you're looking for one maybe tomorrow afternoon or tomorrow night across the south, you may need your snow gear. We'll talk more about that in the next hour.

LEVS: And I'm Josh Levs. What is suddenly causing a storm here on the Internet and where have things gone cold? There's a new list showing what everyone is suddenly searching for and what people have stopped caring so much about. We're going to show you.

COLLINS: Hmm, interesting. All right guys, thanks so much.

And also, from the home front to the front lines, we're following a new Army recruit as he begins his military journey.


COLLINS: A question of security: the Transportation Security Administration or TSA as you know it is charged with screening people and packages. They check planes and ships but there's a key vacancy in the chain of command.

CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve with the story.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, despite all the talk about the urgency of national security, there is one high profile federal security job that is empty. A member of the senate is holding up the confirmation of the man nominated to take the helm at the Transportation Security Administration because of a heated debate over unions, security and politics.


MESERVE (voice-over): 50,000 transportation security officers screen, inspect, question and observe at the nation's airports to keep dangerous people and items off planes. Senator Jim DeMint believes giving them collective bargaining rights would hurt security.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Collective bargaining would standardize things across the country, make it much less flexible, much harder for the agency to adapt to changing threats around the world.

MESERVE: Harder for instance to react to something like the 2006 plot to blow up airplanes with liquid explosives. Within hours the TSA ramped up security and changed policy to ban carry-on liquids.

The union representing 12,000 TSO say DeMint's argument is rubbish pointing out that employees of the Border Patrol Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Protective Service and others all have full union representation.

JOHN GAGE, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: No one talked about union membership when the cops and the firefighters went up the stairs at 9/11 at the World Trade Towers. No one talks about our two officers -- two union members who took down the shooter at Ft. Hood. There was nothing in their union membership that stopped them from doing their duties.

MESERVE: During the presidential campaign Barack Obama wrote the union that giving TSOs collective bargaining rights would be a priority. Unions gave him valuable support in the election.

DEMINT: It's all about politics, it's payback to the unions.

MESERVE: DeMint pushed the issue at a hearing on Wednesday.

DEMINT: How can collective bargaining enhance security in our airports?

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, Senator, the answer is collective bargaining and security are not mutually exclusive concepts.

MESERVE: DeMint is holding up the confirmation of Errol Southers to head the TSA to make his point though Southers has been noncommittal on the union issue telling DeMint he wouldn't recommend anything that would potentially compromise the safety and security of the flying public.

JAMES SHERK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think the nominee understands the confirmation process and that he doesn't want to say anything controversial. But ultimately once he's confirmed it's not going to be his choice. It's going to be the choice of the secretary and ultimately the choice of the president and the president made it clear where he stands.


MESERVE: Meanwhile, the union is accusing DeMint of jeopardizing security by holding up the confirmation of Southers to fill a critical aviation security position.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: Jeanne, thanks for that.