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Islamic Extremists Gaining Ground in Pakistan?; President Obama on Credit Cards

Aired April 23, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Islamic extremists may be gaining more ground in Pakistan right now. The global danger's still very real, even after Pakistani paramilitary troops move in, dramatically.

And your exploding credit card debt -- what President Obama is doing to hem protect you from some surprise fees and shady lenders.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

One of the hottest sources of political anger and finger-pointing right now can be summed up in one word: torture. The Obama administration and Congress are caught up in a firestorm over the harsh interrogations of terror suspects during the Bush era and whether criminal prosecutions are now warranted.

Attorney General Eric Holder found himself in the hot seat on Capitol Hill today.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the attorney general seemed to crack the door open just a little bit more on potential criminal charges, even as White House aides are trying to slam the door on an outside probe.


HENRY (voice-over): The man with the power to prosecute Bush officials said he will not lead a political witch-hunt, but Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to pursue wrongdoing over alleged torture of terror suspects as far as it goes.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will not allow the criminalization of policy differences. However, it is my responsibility as the attorney general to enforce the law. It is my duty to enforce the law. If I see evidence of wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law.

HENRY: Holder's declaration came as White House aides suggested the president has decided against a Democratic push for an independent commission to investigate the enhanced interrogations.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president determined that the concept didn't seem altogether that workable.

HENRY: Aides say the president privately considered a 9/11-style commission, but ruled it out earlier this month, even though Mr. Obama talked about the hypothetical outline of an outside panel earlier this week.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the extent that there are independent participants who are above reproach and have credibility, that would probably be a more sensible approach to take.

HENRY: The White House is also dealing with the mixed signal from the Cabinet, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying he's worried last week's release of interrogation memos could help al Qaeda.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I also was quite concerned, as you might expect, with the potential backlash in the Middle East and in the theaters where we're involved in conflict and that it might have a negative impact on our troops.

HENRY: But Gates added he felt it was inevitable the memos would come out. White House aides insist everyone is on the same page.

GIBBS: The full national security team of this administration determined that the totality of this and the use of these techniques has made this country less safe.


HENRY: Now, aides say the president has ruled out the possibility of an independent panel, because he's afraid it was going to devolve into a political tit for tat, even though it appears maybe it has already reached that stage. Of course, lawmakers on the Hill could still put through a panel and force it on the president's desk -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much.

More blame and anger surrounding these allegations of torture. At issue, what did the House speaker and other top lawmakers know about the Bush administration's interrogation terror suspects and when did they know it?

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, for this part of the story -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as Democrats call more and more for investigations, Republicans are saying, hold on a minute. Some top members of Congress were actually briefed, including one who is now the House speaker. It was a hot topic at her press conference today.


BASH (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admits she was briefed that CIA officials might use harsh interrogation techniques, but adamantly denies being told they actually did.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We were not -- I repeat, not -- told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.

BASH: Pelosi was the lead Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002, when Bush officials authorized controversial interrogation methods like water-boarding against terror suspect Abu Zubaydah and others.

A newly declassified timeline of events released by the Senate Intelligence Committee says after those interrogation techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah, "CIA records indicate that the CIA briefed the chairman and vice chairman of the committee on the interrogation."

PELOSI: Flat-out, they never briefed us that this was happening. In fact, they said they would if and when they did.

BASH: When pressed, Pelosi would not say whether she raised objections when told controversial interrogation methods were even a possibility. She insisted that's not the point.

PELOSI: They come in to inform you of what they are doing. What my point was, are they doing this? No, they're not doing it, and then to leave there to see what recourse we had, which was none.

BASH: But the House Intelligence Committee's top Republican suggests Pelosi tacitly approved the techniques by not raising questions.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R-MI), HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: She could have said, I want to see the legal documentation. I want to know before you apply this technique why you're going to apply it.

BASH: Jane Harman, who took Pelosi's place on the Intelligence Committee, said last year she did raise concerns in 2003 about the legal basis for controversial interrogations.

But adding to the confusion about who knew what, when, Bob Graham, the Senate Intelligence chairman in 2002, insisted to CNN in a phone interview he was never briefed at all about harsh interrogation methods.

BOB GRAHAM, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It came to as much of a surprise to me when I read about them as it did anyone else.


BASH: But an intelligence official tells our producer Pam Benson that Graham and other Intelligence chairmen and ranking members did have detailed information about the interrogation program. In fact, the source said there were more than 30 briefings, Wolf, over the life of the program specifically devoted to its methods.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, the debate will continue up on the Hill.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wasn't it Nancy Pelosi who said the impeachment is off the table?


CAFFERTY: That's what I thought.

BLITZER: You were referring to the president, the former president of the United States.

CAFFERTY: Yes, George W. Bush.

BLITZER: That's correct.

CAFFERTY: Seventeen-year-old girls will soon be able to buy the morning-after pill without a doctor's prescription, and for that matter without their parents' knowledge or permission.

The emergency contraceptive is currently available to women 18 and over, but the FDA says it will soon be available to 17-year-olds as well. The agency decided to accept a recent ruling from a federal judge that lifts Bush era restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of Plan B to women. The judge also directed the FDA to determine whether all age restrictions should be lifted.

Plan B, or the morning-after pill, is emergency contraception that contains a high dose of birth control drugs. It's a series of two pills, actually, and if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex can reduce the chances of a pregnancy by almost 90 percent.

Women's groups say the decision's long overdue and -- quote -- "a strong statement to American women that their health comes before politics" -- unquote. Supporters also say the pill is safe and effective and could help reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies.

But critics, many of them conservatives, say that parents should be furious at this decision, as it steps on their rights as parents. Some also say the drug, which they liken to an abortion pill, will encourage sexual promiscuity.

The debate over the morning-after pill has been going on for years. Critics of the FDA says the agency has refused to listen to scientists who have recommended this drug be made available with no restrictions whatsoever.

So, here's the question: Should 17-year-olds be able to get the morning-after pill without a doctor's prescription? Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. A newspaper headline says the Taliban has entered Pakistan's capital city. That is not -- repeat, not -- true, but it is the fear. One lawmaker urging Pakistan to act and to act quickly.

Regarding neighboring Afghanistan, what do actual U.S. troops think about more troops going in? Wait until you hear what they are telling senators here in Washington today.

And where does President Obama earn high marks, and where is he off the mark as he approaches 100 days in office? We examine if he will help or hurt the U.S. auto industry.


BLITZER: Pakistani paramilitary troops now are within shooting distance of Taliban militants waging a power grab very dangerously close to the capital. But the deployment hasn't squelched global fears about whether Pakistan can rein in those Islamic extremists, adding to those fears, reports that Taliban fighters are on the move in other areas flexing their muscles against a nuclear-armed nation and a key U.S. ally.

CNN's Ivan Watson is in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): News of the Taliban advance spreading fear in the Pakistani capital. This newspaper vendor repeats a somewhat misleading headline: The Taliban has entered Islamabad. That's not exactly true, yet. But residents here are getting worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think they're near Islamabad, because they are coming to attack on Islamabad.


BASH: Lawmaker Haider Abbas Rizvi says the Pakistani government has to act fast.

ABBAS RIZVI: There's just one cities between Taliban and Islamabad and that's the city of Haripur. And Haripur starts right after these mountains.

WATSON: Taliban fighters emerged from their stronghold in Pakistan's Swat Valley this week, taking control of Buner, just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital. Local Pakistani officials say the Taliban are also armed and operating in the districts of Shangla and Upper Dir, in violation of a peace agreement signed by the Pakistani government last week.

So far, the federal government is standing by that agreement.

ABDUL BASIT, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: Agreement is a local solution to a local problem. And we do believe that its implementation would bring peace and stability to that region.

WATSON: But families have started to flee Buner, fearful of what's to come. Shops are closed, market streets deserted, the police stations and courthouses in this alpine region locked shut.

The Taliban say they want to impose their strict version of Islamic Sharia law across Buner and the rest of Pakistan.

(on camera): The Taliban have issued a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the Pakistani state. The U.S. government, the Pakistani media, and some Pakistani politicians are sounding the alarm about this growing and approaching threat. But, from the Pakistani government, there is little sense of urgency.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Islamabad.


BLITZER: Here in the United States, the secretary of state and the Pentagon chief are trying to keep the heat on Pakistan, urging it to take the Taliban's threat more seriously. They say the security of America and the world, in fact, is on the line right now.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know Wolf, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got everyone's attention when she talked about the Taliban being within hours of Islamabad. Now Congress is weighing in.


STARR (voice-over): Taliban forces continue to hold their grip just 60 miles from the capital, even as Pakistan sent forces to fight them off. Congress is making its frustration clear. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars to support Pakistan, which still appears unwilling to confront the militant's increasing power.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Pakistan is recognizing it needs to deal with the problem, but the inability to cope may be a result of years of U.S. neglect after the Soviets left the region 20 years ago. But the secretary, who says Pakistan is abdicating to the Taliban, is frustrated.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: ... because we're wondering why they don't just get out there and deal with these people.

STARR: Defense Secretary Robert Gates made his own push for a Pakistani crackdown.

GATES: My hope is that there will be an increasing recognition on the part of the Pakistani government that the Taliban and Pakistan are in fact an existential threat to the Democratic government of that country. I think that some of the leaders certainly understand that, but it is important that they not only recognize it, but take the appropriate actions to deal with it.


STARR: Now, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, left Islamabad just a few hours ago, after another round of talks with Pakistani military leaders, Admiral Mullen making it known through aides that the latest developments have been discussed, and that he is very concerned about the direction all of this is going -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very worrisome indeed. All right, Barbara, thank you.

From Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan, there's been a lot of debate about American troops there, and now American troops are talking about the war strategy themselves.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

What are they saying, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Forward Relations Committee asked for a raw assessment on Afghanistan, and they got it, not from the generals, but the corporals and sergeants who fought that war.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): As a young veteran, John Kerry criticized the Vietnam War.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), VIETNAM VETERAN: We're angry because we feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration of this country.


LAWRENCE: Thursday, he was chairing that same committee on the receiving end, as senators heard criticism of President Obama's order to send more troops to Afghanistan.

CORPORAL RICK REYES (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS: I know a troop escalation is a huge mistake. If you want to occupy the country with that many troops, that's a sign of poor intelligence.

LAWRENCE: Corporal Rick Reyes described the problems his unit faced on the ground.

REYES: There's no effective way to distinguish terrorists from the general population. So, we're forced to suspect everyone.

LAWRENCE: Others complain troops are not adequately trained on Afghanistan's culture and how hard it is to develop any loyalty.

STAFF SGT. GENEVIEVE CHASE, U.S. ARMY RESERVE: We rotate out units every six to 12 months. We then ask our Afghan counterparts to give the same hard-earned trust we earned nurtured over time to perfect strangers.

LAWRENCE: One young sergeant urged senators to keep funding the war and described an ambush where a sniper shot one of his men.

STAFF SGT. CHRISTOPHER MCGURK (RET.), U.S. ARMY: The last words O'Neill ever spoke were, "I'm sorry for letting you down." He was only 19 years old, yet he understood the mission was larger than himself. His last words were entirely selfless.

I held Evan's his hands and said the "Our Father" as he died.

Excuse me.

As I think back to that day, I understand the memory and courage of men like PFC O'Neill must be honored with a clear and coherent strategy to help the people of Afghanistan.


LAWRENCE: That sergeant says he felt abandoned when the U.S. switched its focus to Iraq. He fought in both wars and says he felt way more support from the Afghans than he ever did from the Iraqis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting.

Chris, thanks very much -- Chris Lawrence, our Pentagon correspondent.

Do labels matter? Some Republicans clearly think so, and they're challenging their party leader to slap one on the president -- the revolt the Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, is now facing.

And those harsh interrogation methods, President Obama says it's up to the attorney general to decide if there will be prosecutions. Today, what Eric Holder admitted he hasn't yet read.

And the president is taking a close look at your credit cards. The surprises, he says, have to stop.


BLITZER: It appears we're seeing the first challenge of a Republican Party chairman by Republican members, on one side, the new Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, on the other, some state party leaders.

According to "The Washington Times," the party leaders are angry that Steele won't brand President Obama and other Democrats -- and I'm quoting now -- as socialists. And the paper reports that the leaders want all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to debate and then vote on calling Democrats, including the president, socialists. In an e-mail to the RNC membership, the Indiana member James Bopp Jr. reportedly wrote this: "Just as President Reagan's identification of the Soviet Union as the evil empire galvanized opposition to communism, we hope the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a socialist party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism."

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

David, what do you make of this challenge to Michael Steele from some of his fellow Republicans?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a very odd story, isn't it, Wolf?

I can't remember a time when a sitting chairman of a political party has been openly challenged like this. And it does reflect the weakness of Mr. Steele's position and the fact that Republicans have yet to find a voice in opposition.

But it's also opening the door to some possible mischief. If they start down this road, there are people on the right who do consider Barack Obama a socialist, but most Americans do not. I think they get much farther with an argument that he's a tax-and-spend liberal, but the argument of socialist, I don't think that's a view most Americans share.

Now, what if they have this meeting and they have a vote? That's going to create a story in itself. What if they lose the vote? What if the majority say, no, he's not a socialist. What -- that sort of makes the whole thing look foolish.

But if the Republican Party officially goes on record to call him a socialist, I mean, I think most people at that point are going to say wouldn't it be better if the Republican Party came up with some alternative policies and put those out? And, yes, they have got -- there are individuals in the party who have policies. But you would get farther, guys, if you had the party itself embrace a set of alternative policies that would involve less spending and less taxes.

BLITZER: How worried should Michael Steele be about his leadership of the RNC right now?

GERGEN: Worried, because when you have 16 states sign petitions and -- to get him to do something, that's a man who is not a leader of his own party.

BLITZER: We will leave it there.

David Gergen, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: You know the economy is hurting when even Microsoft is suffering. Ahead, the computer software giant's historic slip today.

Ninety-four days into his presidency, we are going to rate Mr. Obama's efforts to keep the auto industry afloat.

And, later, the woman who skipped her high school reunion, and sent a stripper in her place.


BLITZER: Right now, President Obama's nearing his 100th day in office. But more importantly to many credit cardholders, it's almost the end of the month, and that can mean another painful round of bills to pay, bills that can be packed with surprise fees or rate hikes.

Today, the president confronted the heads of the credit card companies about these high costs and abuses.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

It's a story, Dan, that affects literally tens of millions of Americans.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. In fact, almost 80 percent of U.S. households use this plastic. Of course, not all of them are responsible. Here at the White House today, the president met with the likes of AMEX and also MasterCard.

And the president was telling these officials that everyone really needs some -- to do something in order to protect consumers.


OBAMA: ... more effective.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): President Obama wasn't cutting up credit cards, but he was going after companies that are maxing out their profits on the backs of consumers.

OBAMA: We want to preserve the credit card market. But we also want to do -- do so in a way that eliminates some of the abuses and some of the problems that a lot of people are familiar with.

LOTHIAN: Like starting off with a low rate, and watching it double, or unexpected fees.

To help consumers, the president wants all credit card forms to use plain language, no more fine print, give card-holders the information they need to comparison-shop, and he wants more accountability, oversight, and enforcement.

Mr. Obama's push for reforms comes a day after a congressional committee voted to clamp down on credit card rates and fees, something the industry strongly opposes, the American Bankers Association saying it "will have a negative effect on lenders' ability to offer reasonably priced credit to consumers and may make matters worse for the broader economy."

And some of the executives sitting around the president's table have pushed back, too, saying that any further action from the White House and Congress is unnecessary.

GIBBS: They believe what the Fed is doing is probably enough.

LOTHIAN: The president admits, there has to be a balance.

OBAMA: We think that it's been out of balance, and so we think we need to create a new equilibrium where credit is flowing.


LAWRENCE: And that balance, according to the president, credit card companies are able to make what he called reasonable profit, and consumers don't end up in a bad situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan, thanks very much.

As President Obama closes in on the first 100 days in office, he has already met with the leaders of 23 nations, spanning much of the globe. He's visited nine countries from nations as far away from Turkey and the Czech Republic to America's neighbors, Canada and Mexico.

Closer to home, Mr. Obama has visited 11 states since taking office, from Virginia and Maryland in the East to Colorado and California out West.

On our national report card, we're looking at how the president is doing with his strategy to save the American auto industry, Chrysler right now staring bankruptcy in the face and racing to meet next Thursday's deadline to come up with its own rescue plan.

The Treasury Department is now negotiating with Chrysler's lenders. At the same time, General Motors today told workers at 13 plants in the United States and Mexico that production will temporarily stop for several weeks over the summer.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION" every Sunday. These two manufacturers, G.M. and Chrysler, they're in deep trouble right now. I know you've been looking at this problem.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've been in a half dozen states with G.M. plants. And if that map is still up, just look at the scope of this. G.M. telling its workers in all of these plants they will have nine weeks off this summer, not two weeks off. That means more Americans idle. It means less income for those Americans. They do get paid when they're off, but not as much money. And it's obviously another punishing blow to the economy and another reminder of just what a hands-on role the administration is taking as it tries to help these companies get out.

In G.M.'s case, it still has to give its restructuring plan to the government. Most people believe this is going to end up in bankruptcy; Chrysler perhaps, as well; as early as next week.

So you have the administration trying to reach out and help. But even many of the blue collar workers who supported Barack Obama in the election don't like this. Some of the workers at G.M. think the president is reaching in too much -- firing the G.M. CEO. And more broadly in the American public, even though they want G.M. to survive, they want Chrysler to survive, the anger at the financial bailouts is affecting the mood about the government reaching out and helping the car companies (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: And the Treasury Department now apparently taking another swing at trying to restructure Chrysler.

KING: It's amazing, again, the depth of the government involvement. When this all started, people thought it would be loans to the companies, they would give the government a plan to restructure, the government would look and say yes or no and decide whether to give them more loans.

But the government is actually negotiating with Chrysler's creditors. The creditors want 65 cents on the dollar, roughly, of what they're owed. The government is saying maybe you'll get a quarter on the dollar of what you're owed.

The government is negotiating directly with the United Auto Workers. It is striking, again, the involvement of the Treasury Department and the Obama task force in trying to work out the details.

Next week, Chrysler likely to end up in bankruptcy. And then, during the bankruptcy proceedings, they hope to negotiate Fiat, the Italian automaker, coming in and becoming a partner with Chrysler.

BLITZER: And, you know, we're trying to understand how the American public feels about this sense of urgency. We've got some poll numbers. We'll put them up for our viewers.

Take a look over there at the effect on the U.S. economy if the auto companies go bankrupt. Ten percent said it would -- say it would be a crisis; 37 percent, major problems; 44 percent, minor problems; 9 percent say no problems at all.

I guess if you go to the State of Michigan, for example, the numbers would be a lot different.

KING: In Michigan and in an auto plant, the numbers would be different. But, Wolf, those are telling numbers, because if you look at the bottom, that's 53 percent of the American people, a minor problem or no problem at all. You have a majority of Americans essentially saying, you know what, this is a bad thing. We wish those workers well, we wish these companies would survive, but they don't think it's the role of the government to be reaching in, picking winners and losers.

That -- it shows you, for all of the good poll numbers the president has as he approaches this 100 day mark, there is a risk in taking this involvement. The White House is aware of it. They hope to work it out.

But, again, these are blue collar workers. But the public at large says you know, try to help them, but micromanaging might be too much.

John will have more on this on "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern until 1:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be watching.

KING: Thank you.

BLITZER: President Obama accused by critics of poisoning presidential politics with the release of those so-called Bush-era torture memos.

Plus, the president's first 100 days in office -- has he passed the most critical test?

The best political team on television is here to discuss all of that and more.


BLITZER: "The Wall Street Journal" calls it a poison injected into U.S. politics -- the release of the Bush administration memos on harsh interrogations. The controversy flared today on Capitol Hill.

Attorney General Eric Holder was questioned by lawmakers by charges by former vice president Dick Cheney that the Obama administration is withholding memos showing the controversial interrogation methods worked.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am not familiar myself with those memos. I've heard that Vice President Cheney indicated that such memos exist. I, frankly, have not seen them. I do not know if they exist.


BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about this and more, our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political contributor, Steve Hayes, of "The Weekly Standard;" and CNN political analyst, Roland Martin.

Is that unusual, that the attorney general doesn't even know if these memos that Cheney is talking about exist, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say. I mean it's clear that he's probably started to look into it. And -- and Dick Cheney was very sort of vague about what he was looking for. So, at this point, it's unclear whether the attorney general would know or not.

But on the larger point, Wolf, this whole torture memo mess has really opened up a Pandora's box here, pitting Republicans against Democrats on whether you should prosecute those Justice Department attorneys. And I think that's going to really be pretty toxic on Capitol Hill. And you can tell that just from the questions the attorney general was getting today.

BLITZER: Steve, there seems to be a difference between the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate on what to do next. Harry Reid says that there should be an Intelligence Committee review and then decide what to do next. "I think we have to get the facts," he says, "before we decide which direction to go."

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, she wants what they call a truth commission. "I have always been for a truth commission."

So there seems to be a split even among the Democrats, what to do next.

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Sure. And the White House, first -- after first indicating that they didn't want this kind of commission, then saying well, maybe, we're open to this kind of commission; now is saying again, apparently, today, we're not interested in this kind of commission. I think Democrats are in disarray.

But I find -- you know, the Eric Holder comment I find deeply disturbing in one respect.

I mean if they're declassifying these memos, does that mean that the attorney general doesn't even know if there are, in existence, memos that show that the programs might have done what they were meant to do?

That seems to me an awfully significant oversight.

BLITZER: Well, he's -- he's made the point, Roland, that there's an Office of Professional Responsibility over at the Justice Department that's been reviewing all of this. And, you know, he's taking a hands-off approach -- let the professionals go through the review and then he'll step in.

But go ahead and weigh in.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's exactly what he should do, because, again, if he weighed in all of a sudden, you would have the critics who are saying that you're a political appointee so therefore why are you involved in this?

And so I think you should keep the folks separate. Let them do their job and allow them to move forward. Absolutely.

BORGER: You know...

HAYES: You know, Wolf, though, there was one important thing that came out of Holder's testimony that he said right after the clip that we showed, and that was that he said he's not going to play hide and seek with these memos and that he wants to favor -- you know, he's in favor of openness and transparency where possible. I think -- and I think Republicans are taking that as a commitment to actually release these memos.

So I think it will be interesting to see what they redact and what they don't.

BORGER: I think they should take it as a commitment to release these memos because I bet, in the end, they'll probably do it.

But this, again, will lead you down the trail of -- for example, what did the White House speaker know and when did the House speaker know it?

She was on the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002.

BLITZER: House Intelligence Committee.

BORGER: I mean the House Intelligence Committee. She said today that she didn't know that they were using waterboarding.

But you can be sure that Republicans will be taking off after her on this and other issues. And -- and the public is conflicted about the use of these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

So where this leads...

BLITZER: All right...

BORGER: re-litigating old issues is a -- is a problem.

MARTIN: And, Wolf, the problem is where do you go now?

I mean at the end of the day...

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: At the end of the day, you determine what's the end result, what are you going to do?

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: You've got folks who are saying we should prosecute. But look, there's no great benefit, frankly, in terms of the path we're going down. That's why the White House should have stuck to their guns and what they said last week. And that is leave the past in the past and move forward.

BLITZER: A lot of the...

It makes no sense what they're doing.

BLITZER: A lot of his critics, the former vice president, Dick Cheney's, critics, Steve, including the editorial writers at "The New York Times," they're ridiculing him, saying, you know, when he was vice president for eight years, he wanted everything kept secret, executive privilege and all of that. But now, all of a sudden, he says release these top secret documents on the assessment of whether or not these enhanced interrogation techniques worked. And they're -- and they're calling him all sorts of names, as you know.

HAYES: Yes, right. Well, that's fine. Let them have their little hypocrisy pop. That's fine and it's funny.

But I think, at the end of the day, the question is do these memos exist and do they say what he says they say?

There's one way to find out and that's to release the memos. And you had John Boehner today, in his meeting with Barack Obama, among other people, pressing the president to release the memos.

I think Republicans actually have come around and are remarkably united that they should release these memos that Cheney raised and get them out quickly.

BORGER: But there...

MARTIN: But, Steve, hypocrisy?

The hypocrite is the vice president.

HAYES: Yes...

BORGER: Right.

HAYES: You know, Roland...


MARTIN: Steve, let me finish my point. Wolf made the statement, and that is, you have these folks who are criticizing the vice president. He was Mr. Secrecy.

If you want to stay that way, stay that way. But don't sit here and say release the documents because you want to look good.

BORGER: Well, I'm going to agree with Roland here because this -- this is the vice president who wouldn't tell us who was meeting with him on his energy task force.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HAYES: Look, I'm...

BORGER: Remember?

HAYES: I may have not been clear. I said, fine, have the hypocrisy moment. That's fine for "The New York Times" editorial writers. They can say that about him. I mean he certainly was secretive.

MARTIN: Do you agree...

HAYES: But it's important now on substance to get these memos out.

MARTIN: Do you agree...


MARTIN: Do you agree, Steve, that he (INAUDIBLE) -- HAYES: Yes, I've already...


HAYES: I've written -- I've written several times that he was very secretive. I don't think that's a surprise.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We're going to leave it right there. But we'll continue this conversation. Roland is going to have a lot more coming up at 800 p.m. "NO BIAS, NO BULL," 8:00 p.m. Eastern, a little more from -- more than an hour from now.

In less than a week, President Obama will mark his first 100 days in office. As a candidate, he pledged to make job creation a top priority.

Has he done enough so far?

Submit your video questions to

Tell us what you really think.

Beyonce singing the praises of the first lady of the United States. She's a huge fan of Michelle Obama's. And she tells CNN's Larry King why. You'll hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And here's a high school reunion story you've likely never heard before. One woman sent an impostor, who's also a stripper, to the reunion.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour, we're reporting on Attorney General Eric Holder's declaration that he will not lead what he called "a political witch-hunt" in the escalating controversy over the CIA's harsh interrogation methods.

Republicans, however, say Democrats are planning show trials. A leading Republican congressman joins me.

Also, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson accused of coercing Bank of America's CEO, Kenneth Lewis, into hiding massive losses from shareholders. We'll have that special report.

And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano facing new demands for her resignation after she said she wants to repeal a critically important law proposed by the 9/11 Commission and passed into law by this Congress.

We'll have the story and all of the day's news. Join us at the top of the hour.

THE SITUATION ROOM continues in just a moment.


BLITZER: Don Lemon is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Don, what's going on?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Lots of stuff, Wolf.

Remember this woman?

She's a homeless Florida woman who made a tearful plea for help from President Barack Obama earlier this year. She made big news when that happened, but she is still jobless and struggling. After hearing her plea at a town hall meeting, the president had told Henrietta Hughes that his administration was going to do everything it could to help her. But there were a lot of people in the same boat. She was just given a free home to live in temporarily by the wife of a Florida lawmaker.

Italy's government wants to move the summer's the G8 Summit from Sardinia to earthquake-stricken L'Aquila, about a one hour drive from Rome. Now, the premier, Silvio Berlusconi, says the move would be both to save money and help the devastated region. The April 6th quake killed nearly 300 people. Any change of venue would need to be approved by the other members of the G8, including the U.S. and Britain.

Indian police say the father of a child star of the hit movie, "Slumdog Millionaire," won't face charges. They had been investigating claims he tried to sell his 9-year-old girl to a reporter posing as a wealthy sheikh. Rubina Ali's mother filed a complaint against the girl's father on Sunday after a British tabloid reported he offered to give Ali up for adoption for $400,000 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Don, you can enjoy this next story.

Just listen to this for a moment.

Beyonce -- she's singing the praises of the first lady of the United States.

Listen to what she tells CNN's Larry King about Michelle Obama and her style.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think about -- everyone talks about her -- the way Michelle Obama dresses?

KNOWLES: Oh, she's so chic. And she -- one thing about her, she knows how to -- to dress appropriately. Wherever she is, she is just -- her lines are always clean. She knows how to dress for her body -- very timely. You see her pictures years from now, they will never be out of style or out of fashion.

And she's very, very classy, of course.

KING: But she ain't buying on Rodeo Drive.

KNOWLES: No. And that's something that she teaches us. You don't have to spend a lot of money to look like Michelle Obama, who is the fashion icon. I think that's, you know, something that, especially right now, in this time, we all need to -- to know.


BLITZER: All right. You can see Larry's complete interview with Beyonce later tonight on LARRY KING LIVE, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.

Jack Cafferty has "The Cafferty File" -- I know you've told our viewers you have a crush on the first lady, is that right?

CAFFERTY: That's correct.

BLITZER: All right. Let me tell you, I have a crush on Beyonce.

CAFFERTY: Well, yes. She's pretty cool, too.


CAFFERTY: All right. The question is: Should 17-year-olds be able to get the morning after pill without a doctor's prescription?

The FDA is going to make it available to them soon.

Gregory in Washington says: "Yes. The morning after pill is the next best thing kind of contraception and regardless of what religious types tell you, the science of the matter is that conception and implantation has not yet occurred by the time the morning after rolls around. Equating OTC morning after pills with drive-thru abortions, as detractors are bound to do, is simply incorrect."

A saddened reader in New Jersey writes: "Yes. It's better not to have a pregnant 17-year-old who isn't able to care for a child resulting from an unplanned pregnancy. We can't stop 17-year-olds from having sex. But hopefully if they don't become pregnant, they'll stay in school, become contributing members of society, rather than unwed mothers living on welfare."

Mike says: "Absolutely not. Conservatives are right. I am outraged at this as a parent. What's next? This is going to make it easier for kids to sneak around and hide the things that they're doing wrong. Maybe we should take away accountability all together -- just load up our kids' book bags with condoms and K-Y Jelly. What a liberal joke and mockery of morality. This country's decision-makers concern me." Jill says: "Yes. As a current high school teacher, I'm here to tell you, 17-year-olds are having sex regardless of what their parents want to believe. Unfortunately, I've seen many promising students, male and female's, lives derailed by accidental pregnancies. Making this available only acknowledges a reality that teenagers are faced with on a daily basis." H. in Arizona: "Absolutely not. Where are the parents? This has become nothing more than a country driven by sex and drugs. Where are the morals?"

Tom in Texas writes: "My great, great grandmother gave birth out of wedlock at age 17 in 1866. She may have liked this option rather than having to tell her German-born parents. That must have been an interesting discussion."

I'll bet it was.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

Have you ever met Beyonce -- Wolf?

BLITZER: No. But I'd like to.

CAFFERTY: I can -- I can tell.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.



BLITZER: When you want to make a certain impression, sometimes you can use a little help.


ANDREA WACHNER, COMEDY WRITER/FILM MAKER: This is my 10 year high school reunion. That is Cricket.



WACHNER: I decided to send Cricket as me to my 10 year high school reunion.


BLITZER: Not only did that woman send a stand-in, but that stand-in is a stripper. A "Moost Unusual" reunion, just ahead.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In South Carolina, people stood at the beach as smoke lingers offshore from the wildfires.

In India, an elderly man relaxes after casting his vote in a month long national election.

Also in India, an injured elephant receives help getting up from a crane.

And in Washington, over at the White House, a nest full of baby robin eggs begin to hatch. Some of this hours "Hot Shots' -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

A California woman who couldn't face going to her high school reunion sent a "Moost Unusual" stand-in.

Jeanne Moos has the story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What to yank the chains...




MOOS: ...of old classmates at your high school reunion, send a stand-in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You look very different from high school.

CRICKET: I know.


MOOS: An impostor who's a go-go burlesque dancing playing a stripper.


WACHNER: That is Cricket.


MOOS: And coach her through an earpiece.


WACHNER: He's got the same birthday as you.

CRICKET: You have the same birthday as me.


MOOS: Where better to reinvent yourself than at your reunion?




MOOS: The invitation alone can provoke dread.

(on camera): The name tags, the forced joviality, comparing wrinkles and weight gain.

WACHNER: And I had that initial reaction of oh, my God, I would never, ever go to this.


MOOS: This being her tenth reunion at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in California. But then comedy writer Andrea Wachner decided to turn it into a video project.

WACHNER: So I bought a ticket, got a hotel room directly above the ballroom and hired a crew.

MOOS: And sent in Cricket, with cameras feeding Andrea images show she'd know who was who.


WACHNER: Shawntel Covington.

CRICKET: Shawntel Covington.


MOOS: And what to say.


WACHNER: He was a young Republican.

CRICKET: You were a young Republican and now you're (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you know that?


MOOS: When a classmate suggested she didn't look like Andrea, Cricket said she'd had work done.



CRICKET: Because if you did, you have an awesome surgeon. You look beautiful.


MOOS: And then there was Alex Wormbrand.

CRICKET: I believe he was your first kiss?

WACHNER: Yes. He, you know, I kissed him once when we were like six years old.

MOOS: So Cricket planted one on him. Eventually, Cricket the stripper lived up to her name.


CRICKET: I felt like I had jump-started the party right then and there.


MOOS: They figured this is when her classmates really got suspicious.

CRICKET: I remember Andrea. She can't do that with her body.

WACHNER: She was -- she was no way she was that flexible.

CRICKET: She was -- she is not flexible.


MOOS: And then disaster struck.


CRICKET: I lost the ear piece. The ear piece fell out.

WACHNER: It's on the floor. It's on the dance floor right in front of you. Right in front of you. Right in front of you. Oh, she can't hear me.


MOOS: For more, go to Andrea's Web site,, where she's promoting the trailer she hopes to turn into a documentary.

(on camera): What more memorable way to end your high school reunion than getting thrown out?

Shortly after that dance routine, Cricket was asked to leave -- but not before this guy realized Cricket wasn't Andrea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like you better.


MOOS: More interested in union than a reunion.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...



CRICKET: Here I go.


MOOS: ...New York.


BLITZER: A reunion.

All right. Remember, next Wednesday night, we mark President Obama's 100th day in office with the CNN national report card -- "The First 100 Days." I'll be joined by Anderson Cooper, John King, Soledad O'Brien and the best political team on television.

And you'll be able to take part and you'll be able to vote online at, next Wednesday night, all of it beginning at 700 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.