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President Obama Talks National Security; Former Guantanamo Detainees Returning to Terrorism?

Aired May 21, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Obama tries to convince Americans he can close Guantanamo Bay's prison camp and still keep them safe. But the former Vice President Cheney warns the president doesn't have a plan at all. This hour, could dangerous terror suspects wind up in your backyard?

And when train and bus drivers text, the results can be deadly. There's a powerful new call to ban them from messaging on the job.

And signs that your tax dollars are at work creating jobs -- how the Obama administration is showing off projects funded by the economic stimulus package.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama and former Vice President Cheney stepped up to separate podiums today with this much in common: Both are on the defensive for their handling of the war on terror, their dueling speeches coming so close together that the audience gathered to hear Cheney watched the president's remarks on while they were waiting.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He watched and listened to both of these speeches today.

There was a lot -- lot of drama in the air here in Washington.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Definitely a lot of drama here in Washington.

And, you know, what the president laid out in his speech today was nothing new. We have heard much of that from the administration before. But what the president was trying to emphasize today was his national security policy and to tell Americans that he will keep them safe, even as the former vice president was going to bat for his administration.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Standing in front of a copy of the Constitution, President Obama delivered a defense for his national security policies, from banning so-called enhance interrogations like water-boarding, to closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.

LOTHIAN: While the president admitted some detainees could wind up in U.S. prisons, he tried to calm fears that it would put Americans at risk.

OBAMA: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security.

LOTHIAN: But both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill want proof. They rejected funding to close Gitmo until more details about what will be done with all detainees are provided.

In his speech, the president did not fill in all the blanks. But he did blame the Bush administration for creating a -- quote -- "mess."

OBAMA: Our government made decisions based on fear, rather than foresight. But, all too often, our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.

LOTHIAN: In what felt like a Republican response, former Vice President Dick Cheney struck back in his own speech, defending harsh interrogation techniques...

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts had failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do.

LOTHIAN: ... and criticizing the Obama administration for trying to close Gitmo without a plan.

CHENEY: The administration has found that it's easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo, but it's tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America's national security.


LOTHIAN: Cheney also said that to bring the worst terrorists into the U.S. would be -- quote -- 'cause for great danger and regret."

But Mr. Obama as well as aides here at the White House don't see it that way. In fact, the president today pointed out that there are already dangerous terrorists inside U.S. prisons -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Dan Lothian is at the White House.

Fellow Democrats who helped derail the president's goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp listened very closely to what he had to say today.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is up on the Hill.

Is it fair to say or maybe not fair to say that there was a game- changer of sorts, because that's certainly what the White House would have liked?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly doesn't seem to have happened, at least not according to what I'm hearing here from Democrats, Wolf.

We talked to the Democrats who have been taking political incoming on this, and they say that they are relieved the president gave this speech laying out his reasons for closing Guantanamo Bay, but it's just a start.


BASH (voice-over): In many ways, it is fellow Democrats in Congress like Ben Cardin President Obama was trying to reassure. But Cardin tells CNN, one key element is still missing, a plan.

SEN. BENJAMIN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: I think we should close Gitmo Bay, Guantanamo Bay. I thought his message was the right message, but we still need the details.

BASH: Congressional Democrats remain frustrated with the president for putting them in a vulnerable political position by asking for $80 million to close Guantanamo without a plan for prisoners there. All but six Senate Democrats were so concerned, they voted to ban terror suspects from the U.S.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: What we don't want is for them to be put in prisons in the United States. We don't want them around.

BASH: The president argued forcefully for bringing at least some Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would not answer whether he will fight him on that. Instead, he read a prepared muted response to the president's speech.

REID: We have received today a broad vision from President Obama, and that's important that he did that. We're all awaiting the details of this plan. And he's going to come up with one.

BASH: Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn's reaction was anything but muted. When he heard the president insist it's safe to put Guantanamo Bay detainees in federal prisons...

OBAMA: Highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety.

BASH: ... he shook his head. His Colorado district houses a supermax prison where convicted terrorists are now serving time and it's being talked about as a place for Guantanamo terror suspects. REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: People that live around supermax and work there don't want terrorists to come into the community. If you're guarding someone who wants to kill Americans at all cost, that's really a danger that you didn't sign up for.


BASH: Democratic leadership now -- leadership sources, rather, now tell me that Democrats actually asked the White House several weeks ago to send them a plan for closing Guantanamo before they asked Congress to vote for funding on the closing of Guantanamo.

And I was told that the White House simply said they could not send that because it's not ready. And, Wolf, today, Democrats are again saying that until they get those details, the terms of this explosive debate, it's not going to change.

BLITZER: Yes, this is really tough, tough stuff, very, very complicated indeed.

Dana, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Jack. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: With the economy pretty much in the toilet, millions of Americans are learning the hard way how to cut back on expenses. And many have even begun saving more and actually living within their means, but not everybody.

And for those of you who have a wife who always needs the latest pocketbook or perfume or a husband who can't live without the new iPhone, this might help you. "Money" magazine, a sister company of ours at CNN, has a great piece on how to get your spouse to stop overspending.

Research shows that people who overspend usually do it to feel good or feel in control, not because they really need what they're buying. And, in fact, purchasing new items often makes them feel powerful and secure.

Therefore, the worst thing you can do, according to "Money" magazine, is lecture your spouse on the virtues of saving. The more you talk about that, the more likely he or she will be to go out and want to buy even more. Instead, it's more effective to have your spouse own the problem, meaning keep track of what your household spends, then ask your husband or wife to review it.

Don't say anything else. That way, he or she has the choice to cut back or not. And if it doesn't work, it might be necessary to get separate bank accounts. Or if the situation is really out of hand, well, you might need to take more even drastic measures. And we know what those are, don't we?

Just keep in mind, though, at the end of the day, the latest gadget or piece of clothing is a lot cheaper than divorce court.

Here's the question. How do you get your spouse to stop overspending?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

I think most of the arguments in a marriage are about money.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what they say. Money's a big, big cause. That is a good question with no easy answer, Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's -- that's why we're here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, thank you.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty will be back with the answers. That's coming up.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned that President Obama has chosen someone for a highly sought-after job. The person is a political friend. Get this. We're also learning how Queen Elizabeth feels about the president's choice.

Signs of economic recovery, literally -- is it smart to spend your money on signs to prove that your money is being well-spent?

And texting while driving, what if a bus or train driver does it? A top official says that could put your life at risk.


BLITZER: It's certainly one of the highly sought-after government posts. And we have learned President Obama has picked someone for it.

Let's go straight to our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to learn what's going on -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN has learned that President Obama is intending to nominate one of his prominent fund-raisers as the next ambassador to Great Britain.

Sources familiar with the nomination tell CNN Chicagoan Louis Susman will get that plum diplomatic job. Now, Susman retired earlier this year as vice chairman of Citigroup. And according to the same sources, the British government and Queen Elizabeth have signed off on that choice.

Now, you will remember that, during the campaign, President Obama promised a change to the diplomatic court. He said that he would place more trained diplomats in top jobs, rather than gifting them to high-dollar donors. And this pick would seem to fly in the face of that promise.

Susman is a longtime Democratic fund-raiser. He helped bring several hundred thousand dollars into then Senator Obama's presidential campaign. "The Chicago Tribune" nicknamed him -- quote -- "the vacuum cleaner" for his ability to sweep up campaign dollars.

And you might remember President George W. Bush chose two of his prominent moneymen for the same post. So, Wolf, this move continues a White House tradition of placing top campaign supporters in prominent diplomatic posts.

BLITZER: Any indications more campaign fund-raisers are in line to get some of these diplomatic assignments?

YELLIN: Yes, one other. The White House has already tapped Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a key backer for the president in Pennsylvania, as the next ambassador to Ireland.

But we should add that government reform advocates say, right now, they are not so concerned if these are the exceptions. They're still going to keep a very close eye on his choices -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, every president has done it. This is by no means unusual. They have all named fat cats to big plum diplomatic assignments, as we know.


BLITZER: So, this is not new. But what you're pointing out is...

YELLIN: He promised a change.

BLITZER: He promised a change, and we will see what happens down the road.

YELLIN: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jessica Yellin.

You may not be seeing significant signs of an economic recovery, at least not yet. But like many state and local governments often do, the Obama administration is counting on lots of signs to make sure you know the federal stimulus money is at work.

Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit has been looking into this story for us.

And, Drew, what signs are you seeing?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, not just any signs, Wolf, very specific signs, right down to the letter, on how the Obama administration wants these signs to look.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): If you have stimulus money being used to build or fix roads in your state, the Federal Highway Administration says signs just like this one in Colorado are strongly recommended.

The federal Department of Transportation has notified recipients that "President Obama made the commitment that all projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will bear a recovery emblem."

There are even specifications for the signs, right down to the tenth-of-an-inch, for type and color. The goal, according to the president back in March, is to show stimulus money putting America to work.

OBAMA: Let be it a reminder that our government, your government, is doing its part to put the economy back on the road of -- of recovery.

GRIFFIN: You may think that's a good idea, but Oklahoma Senator and Republican fiscal watchdog Tom Coburn says, in an economic crisis, spending federal tax dollars to build these signs is, well, stupid, even if it does amount to a thousandth of 1 percent of the total stimulus spending.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I don't think we ought to be wasting money on that. If we're doing a project, so what if it came from the stimulus money?

GRIFFIN: We asked the Department of Transportation how much this will all cost. A spokesperson couldn't tell us because all the states differ on price. But Illinois' Department of Transportation says, at about $300 a sign, that state alone will spend $150,000 in stimulus funds on signs.


GRIFFIN: If you do the math, like we did, Wolf, two signs apiece on the 2,500 projects so far, it adds up to about $1.5 million, now, to some, a drop in the bucket of the huge $787 billion stimulus package, but, to others, an unnecessary expense at a time when every drop of that money counts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Drew Griffin, reporting for us, thank you.

You aren't supposed to do it, but many of you have done it. You fire off a text message while you're driving. Imagine train or bus drivers doing it as they drive passengers around. Might that put you in danger?

CNN's Kate Bolduan is taking a closer look at this story, because there are serious, serious consequences.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Serious consequences, Wolf.

Many states already have some form of law on the books prohibiting texting when you're behind the wheel. But when it comes to the professionals driving you around, the man in charge of the -- the country's transportation system says it's a potentially deadly distraction that needs to stop.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN (voice-over): The bus accident in San Antonio, the trolley collision in Boston, and the tragic commuter train crash in Los Angeles, where 25 people died, authorities say all are linked to texting while driving. And it's these images driving the debate.

Should Washington step in? The secretary of transportation says, when it comes to public transit, yes.

(on camera): Is it time for a federal ban on texting while driving?

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Look it, I -- I think it's time for the Department of Transportation to work with Congress on a law that bans cell phones and BlackBerrys for people who are operating buses, light rail. We are going to require zero tolerance when it comes to safety. We -- we just have to.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Twelve states and Washington, D.C., prohibit all drivers from texting. Most mass transit agencies also ban texting or e-mailing on the job. But Secretary LaHood wants to eliminate the temptation altogether.

LAHOOD: I really think that we should ban the -- the ability of employees that are driving vehicles to have on their person a BlackBerry, a cell phone, so that there is no temptation to use them. They -- they can't bring them to work.


BOLDUAN: Now, the trade association that represents the wireless communications industry says it's also against texting while operating a vehicle. But they do point out 300,000 calls a day are made to 911 from cell phones.

Now, one spokesperson says he wouldn't want his own bus driver to be without that life-saving tool.


BOLDUAN: But that's one circumstance, as we have been talking about.

BLITZER: Let him use it for a life-saving tool, not to order a pizza.


BOLDUAN: The problem is the temptation. When it's there...

BLITZER: Good point. All right, Kate, thanks very much.

A looming shakeup at AIG, the troubled insurance giant that took up billions in government bailout dollars, paid millions in bonuses, about to get a brand-new leader -- why the chief is stepping down.

Also, newly released KGB documents are shedding light on American spies during the Cold War. We're combing through them for you.

And released from Guantanamo, but how many former detainees return to practicing terrorism? we found out, and the number may shock you.


BLITZER: All right. We are just getting this in, coming in from New York City.

Let's check in with Fredricka Whitfield.

What's going on, Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, flu-like symptoms still bringing big problems for the school system there.

We understand that six school buildings in New York will be closed tomorrow beginning. Four are in the Queens, four in Queens, one in the Bronx, and one in Brooklyn. Because of unusually high amounts of flu-like symptoms is how they're putting it. They're not necessarily saying swine flu straight out, but instead flu-like ill answers taking place there.


BLITZER: Atomic secrets, code names, espionage, details of Soviet spying right here in the United States in the 1930s and '40s are now online. They describe encounters with Alger Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, even Ernest Hemingway.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She has been combing through these documents. What are we learning?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, according to one researcher, that there were more spies here than we knew about and those that we knew about were doing more.

There are now more than 1,000 pages of dense handwritten notes online taken by a former KGB officer, Alexander Vassiliev. He had access to KGB files in the 1990s. And this week, researchers at the Woodrow Wilson Center have been giving a conference detailing just what they found within them.

Some of the names, you will recognize, Ernest Hemingway, for one, code name Argo. According to these notebooks, the notes suggests the writer met with Soviet agents in the 1940s, expressed his desire to help, but did not give over any political information.

Then there's new names. A long-sought agent code-named Fogel, these pages him as engineer Russ McNutt, recruited by Julius Rosenberg in the '40s as part of Soviets effort to obtain atomic secrets. McNutt died just last year, Wolf. That would have been more than 50 years after the Rosenbergs were executed.

BLITZER: There's always been controversy surrounding Alger Hiss, who was a State Department official.

What, if anything, did we learn about this?

TATTON: Well, it's a name that pops up frequently in these pages here.

Here's one mention of him as part of a former spy ring. This was a mention made in 1949. These researchers that have looked through this conclude that case closed; he was indeed a Soviet agent. There's a book out called "Spies" on their findings. And there was a whole conference about this, this week at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

BLITZER: Yes, there's people obsessed with this kind of stuff. And now they have a lot more material.

TATTON: A 1,000-plus pages.


BLITZER: Yes. A lot of revisionist history will be written as a result.

Thanks very much.

Americans have mixed emotions about the wars in the United -- the wars the United States is fighting right now. Stand by to find out one scenario that would get the public to support a ground war.

And fresh ammunition for critics of closing Guantanamo Bay -- startling statistics about freed detainees returning to the business of terror.

And could dangerous suspects from Guantanamo wind up in your backyard? We're going to be mapping out some of those super-secure facilities where some detainees might go.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: An attorney says the Alabama police officers seen on that videotape beating a man involved in a car chase were doing their jobs. The lawyer representing the officers says they didn't know the man was unconscious. The officers are appealing their firings.

The teenager who authorities say is the only surviving pirate in a high-seas drama pleaded not guilty today. The young Somalian is accused of leading the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama and kidnapping the ship's captain.

A different kind of meeting with the president -- the Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steelers and about 50 wounded troops visited the White House today and put together care packages for U.S. troops.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, six years into the war in Iraq, how have American feelings on those conflicts changed? Have they changed?

We have some brand-new poll numbers just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, who is taking a closer look.

Bill, how does the American public view these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?



SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Is this a breakthrough? Most Americans believe things in Iraq are going well for the United States, according to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Time to unfurl that old "Mission Accomplished" banner? Not quite, because public support for the war has not budged. Just 34 percent favor the war in Iraq. That number has not changed much since 2006, when the country voted decisively to end the war.

President Obama argues, the real threat to the United States lies elsewhere.

OBAMA: For the first time since 2002, we're providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SCHNEIDER: The war in Afghanistan is the mirror image of the war in Iraq. Just 36 percent of Americans believe the war in Afghanistan is going well.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The violence level is up. Taliban is much better organized than they were before.

SCHNEIDER: But more Americans support that war because the enemy in Afghanistan -- the Taliban and Al Qaeda -- clearly threatens the U.S. And Pakistan -- they've got nukes.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: No other country faces the kind of internal security threats that Pakistan does. I mean, very few have armed gangs that could mount attacks on -- on nuclear sites.

SCHNEIDER: Is the public ready to send troops to stop that from happening?

Let's recap. Most Americans do not favor the war in Iraq. The public is split over the war in Afghanistan. But nearly 60 percent would support sending U.S. ground troops into Pakistan if it looked like the Taliban or Al Qaeda were about to seize power.


SCHNEIDER: So to summarize, the American public is weary of Iraq, wary of Afghanistan and worried about Pakistan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good summary there.

Thanks very much, Bill Schneider.

President Obama is standing firmly in his goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp -- a prison camp that he describes -- and I'm quoting now -- as "simply a mess."

But there are real concerns about prisoners who are released and then return to terror.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence -- Chris, explain what's going on.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon hasn't even released its report on this issue yet. But we talked to some people who have knowledge of the preliminary information and it shows one out of seven detainees may be suspected now of going back to terrorist activities.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): More and more detainees are suspected of returning to terrorism after being released from Guantanamo Bay. An administration official says military intelligence officers are still verifying the evidence, but it's likely to show more than 14 percent of the prisoners who are let go take up terrorist activity again or are suspected of doing so.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan are still looking for one of the confirmed cases -- a Taliban commander named Mullah Abdullah Zakir, who was released from Guantanamo two years ago. In April, we asked the top commander there if he was a serious threat.

GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: Absolutely. And we are seriously after him.

LAWRENCE: But in perspective, let's compare American presidents. The Justice Department reports 60 percent of violent offenders committed a new crime within three years of leaving a U.S. prison.

CHRISTOPHER BOUCEK, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I think it's important to keep in mind that 14 percent of, you know, 530 detainees is actually pretty good compared to other recidivism figures we have.

LAWRENCE: More than 100 Guantanamo detainees have been released to Saudi Arabia. And Chris Boucek has studied the Saudis' rehabilitation program. Detainees are given money and support and have extensive classes to talk about why their beliefs are not based on Islamic principles.

BOUCEK: And when you get released, your family and your child are told that they're responsible for you.


LAWRENCE: And as to the ratio of those former detainees suspected of going back to the battlefield, a source tells CNN that number is clearly going up, not down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You mentioned, Chris, the Saudi rehabilitation program.

Why not simply send more of these guys to Saudi Arabia?

LAWRENCE: Because it's all based on tribal responsibility. If they -- it makes sense for, say, a Yemeni who grew up in Saudi and has family there. But it needs those social connectors, really, to work.

If someone just goes and takes the classes and then leaves Saudi, there's no way to control their behavior from there.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.

Thanks very much.

Let's bring in Tom Foreman.

He's here at the magic wall -- Tom, we're going to take a little closer look at the president's reference today to these supermax prisons. If any of these detainees from Guantanamo Bay are brought to these supermax prisons, he says they'd be in there and in there for good.


Now, let's look at -- for reference -- where Guantanamo is. It's down here in this part of Cuba, on the southern end. And if we looked all the way down, you can see that it's on the southern side and the eastern end.

This is -- those pictures you saw a minute ago from -- from Camp Delta, that's right there. This is the area we're talking about and that's where we're talking about taking people out of.

If you widen it out to the whole United States, all of the yellow dots represent some type of federal facility where they might hold prisoners, but the big red ones are the ones that matter. Those are the most secure ones -- the big ones that we really care about.

And this one in particular gets a lot of attention. This is in Florence, Colorado. It's called a supermax. It's been there for about 15 years, something like that. And this prison is quite the place.

It was designed to be able to hold the worst of the worst prisoners. It's in Florence, Colorado, down south of Colorado Springs. It's all pretty much in the foothills of the mountains there. And it's a pretty bleak place, in some -- in some ways. If you move in closer, you can see it's divided into individual areas -- very, very high security. They have poles in here. They have wires across here to make sure that a helicopter can't land to take someone out.

When they built it, they said they built it so that it would be able to withstand even a rocket attack if someone tried to come in and get somebody out.

And living inside here is a different matter altogether. If you fly in to take a look at one of the cells, this is where a typical prisoner there lives. You can see all the furniture is made out of reinforced, molded concrete, so they can't even break anything loose to make a weapon out of. This is where they live all of the time.

And just as importantly is the view from outside. We'll take you outside very quickly, if we can get it back out there real quickly and show you one more view. This is the way it looks on the road nearby to give you a sense of how isolated this area can be, Wolf.

Roads stretching off through the mountains over there. Inside this prison, people do not even have views out the window so they can give reference points to other people who might want to contact them which way they're facing.

That's why they call it the supermax -- one possible place for those prisoners to wind up.

BLITZER: Yes. And the president made reference to it in his speech today, so we'll see what happens. You don't want to go to this place.


BLITZER: All right, thanks...

FOREMAN: Because you're not coming out.


Thanks very much for that.

Dueling speeches revealed dueling world views -- President Obama versus former vice president, Dick Cheney. The best political team on television is here to discuss.

Plus, Steven Spielberg's plan to make a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals a family at war with itself. The King children battling over their father's legacy. We'll tell you what's going on.


BLITZER: It was more than just two administrations squaring off -- it was two drastically different world views competing, as President Obama and former Vice President Cheney gave back to back speeches earlier today on national security. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight. But all too often, our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often, we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens -- fell silent.



DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked and, therefore, needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event, coordinated, devastating but unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort.


BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about that and more, our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent and host of the "STATE OF THE UNION," John King; and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin -- Gloria, if you take a look at these two very different views, they're competing for support out there among the American public. And Americans might, you know, say they'll hear one side and say that sounds pretty good.


BLITZER: They'll hear the other side and say that sounds pretty good. In the end, they're going to have to decide who's -- who's right and who's wrong.

BORGER: They are. And right now, of course, Barack Obama is substantially more popular than Dick Cheney. But I think these are two serious men who have very different ideas about how to fight terrorism. And I think what the public was treated to today, in many ways, was a discourse on that.

And I think -- don't forget, this is the first time we've really seen this kind of a battle, because John McCain, when he ran for the presidency, actually supported the closing of Guantanamo.

So this is the first time you've really heard the Bush world view from somebody other than George W. Bush. And I think it was a treat for the American public to kind of hear the argument.

BLITZER: But listen to this point, John, that Billy Dennis, Jr. of the Mesquite, Texas makes, one of the iReporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILLY DENNIS, IREPORTER: In a duel between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney is a duel between one of the most popular versus one of the least popular political figures in America today. When you choose the wrong messenger, then the message becomes irrelevant. And Dick Cheney is absolutely the wrong messenger.


BLITZER: All right. A lot of Democrats obviously believe that and probably many Republicans do, as well.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are a great number of Republicans, Wolf, who wish Dick Cheney would retire and stay quiet, although there are fewer Republicans today than there would have been two weeks ago on the specific issue of GITMO. Because, if you notice, the president is in a bit of a political pickle right now. And that's one of the reasons he had to give this speech today.

It is the Democrats who took away the money to close down Guantanamo Bay, not the Republicans, because the Democrats say this president did not think first and have a plan to what will you do with the detainees before he signed the executive order saying we're going to close the place down.

Now, former Vice President Cheney today said closing it down is a mistake. He also had a completely opposite opinion than President Obama on the effectiveness of those enhanced interrogation tactics.

But on the short-term question of will the president get his money to close down GITMO and can he keep this timetable to close it down, on that one, right now, the president's in a bit of trouble. And most Republicans would tell you that on that limited point, the former vice president is helping their case.

BLITZER: And, Roland, did the president convince folks out there that he knows what he's doing as far as these 240 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are all about?

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, time will tell. I mean, if you look at the existing polling data from CNN, it shows that Americans are believing in the president and following him. And so you did -- you did have this amazing study, if you will, of Obama presenting this, you know, futuristic view and Cheney looking sort of -- sort of with a back to the future view.

So what's going to be very interesting is really what happens over the next seven to 14 days -- how will the president be able with Democrats giving him that huge pushback, that 90-6 vote, to get the people to understand that we have to do this his particular way.

He is now forced to come up with a plan on what to do with them. That's why he spent a lot of time -- and I saw your interview with Robert Gibbs and I talk to him later on in the show tonight, where they are talking about, look, there are existing terrorists in U.S. prisons, so it's not a new idea. And so how they handle that will also tell what happens with those detainees.

BLITZER: And he's going on a major overseas trip in the coming weeks, as well, which is going to take up, obviously, a lot time.

MARTIN: He has to sell it.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by for a moment,

Abbi Tatton is going to come in -- Abbi, come on in here into THE SITUATION ROOM, because we've got a unique way of looking at these two very different speeches.

And I want to you explain to our viewers what -- what we're going to see.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Right. Right now, we've got the pictures of the two speakers here.

We're going to take those down for a moment and put up the words that they used earlier on.

On the left here, if you see a word jump out at you, that's because it was stressed earlier today.

On the left, in red, this is the speech of former Vice President Dick Cheney. You can see immediately what jumps out to you there -- terrorists. 9/11 is emphasized. The word interrogations comes up again and again.

On the right, we've got the speech from President Obama there, this one in blue. Guantanamo, of course, emphasized; but, also, people, American came again and again. And the word security, Wolf. If you look at these two side by side, you will see that security was popping up again and again in both of them.

BLITZER: All right. Very interesting stuff. This -- we call this word cloud, is that right?


BLITZER: All right. Let me go back to Gloria -- Gloria, you see the emphasis with a clear difference between these two speeches today. There's no doubt that the former vice president says, you know what, he was so influenced by 9/11, people say did you change, because we didn't know you afterwards, because you seemed to be a different person.

He basically said, yes, 9/11, he was in a bunker on 9/11 and it changed him.

BORGER: Yes. And he said you bet I was. And the reason he's talking about terrorists and 9/11 is he was explaining his rationale and the rationale of the previous administration in establishing Guantanamo and trying to say Barack Obama is wrong in trying to -- in trying to get rid of it.

When you look at Barack Obama's words, he's talking about the future, not the past. He's talking about how we have to close down Guantanamo, what he's -- what he's got to do, how he's got to think of the American people. Because don't forget, he's the fellow in office right now.

BLITZER: Did it work, when the dust settles -- John, what do you think?

KING: Well, Wolf, President Obama has the clear popularity lead and he has the power of the presidency right now.

What I found most striking, Wolf, about the president's speech was in the part about Guantanamo Bay, the short-term political ditch he is in right now. He went back to the construct for the first time on national security to the same argument he uses on the economy -- this is a mess, he used the word mess -- I inherited from George W. Bush.

That is how he asked for patience from the American people on the economy -- I inherited a mess from George W. Bush, I need time.

Today, for the first time, he said Guantanamo Bay was a mess I inherited from George W. Bush, I need a little time to figure it out. And then he made the moral case, he believes, for closing it. The vice president disagrees. But a very interesting political construct from the president today...

BLITZER: You know...

KING: trying to move past or advance what is a problem at the moment.

MARTIN: And Wolf, politically, the reality is the president also knows that he cannot allow any national security conversation to get away from him. That has always been the Achilles' heel of Democrats -- the Democrats. And the last thing that he wants, frankly, is for the Republicans to have any upper hand on this conversation, recognizing 2010 and also 2012.

BLITZER: Roland is going to have...

BORGER: Can I just say...

BLITZER: You can't because we're out of time, unfortunately.

Roland is going to have a lot more coming up at 8:00 on "NO BIAS, NO BULL."

Guys, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you. Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, we'll have much more on the showdown between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney. Cheney stepping up for the Republican Party. The president defending himself against both liberal and conservative critics. The former vice president says there's no middle ground in the fight against terrorism.

Also, the confrontation between the Republican Party and House Speaker Pelosi. House Minority Leader John Boehner demands a bipartisan investigation into what the speaker knew and when.

And a violent attack on a bus caught on tape -- a man punching a blind woman in a head. Her fellow passengers come could her rescue and her seat mate stands by to protect her. All of that.

And in our Face-Off debate tonight, the controversy over a 13- year-old boy whose family refuses to allow him to have cancer treatment.

Join us for all of that, all the day's news and more at the top of the hour right here on CNN -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

We'll see you soon.

A King family feud that may prevent Steven Spielberg from making a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr. -- why King's children are seriously divided.

And our question to you this hour -- how do you get your spouse overspending?

Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.


BLITZER: Jack is back with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question is how do you get your spouse to stop overspending?

Mike in San Francisco: "My wife keeps the books, pays the bills and is as tight as a tick. We've both reached the age now where watching a bank account grow is more fun than going shopping and blowing money on nonsense."

Tom writes from Switzerland: "Marry somebody who is not an American, someone who has not grown up in our sickening credit and consumer culture, someone who doesn't adhere to the buy now pay later mind set, which has perverted our country and brought us to the brink of ruin."

Richard in New Hampshire: "The secret to a successful marriage is separate checking accounts, assuming both are working, and separate bathrooms -- and both are equally important." Matthew in Oxnard, California: "You can't. Once a spender, always a spender.

I'm 17. My parents have been divorced for five years because one of them is a shopaholic."

Heather writes: "How do you stop your spouse from overspending? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hands?"

B. writes: "Waterboarding?"

Elisa writes: "My husband was patient with my overspending for way too long. Eventually, he showed me a spread sheet with exactly how much was overspent on food and entertainment for several months in a row. He suggested we get two new bank accounts -- one joint savings, one joint bill paying account. Now, I don't feel I'm being over controlled or I am out of control."

Kevin in Charlotte, North Carolina: "My wife is from the Hamptons. She's never heard of overspending."

And Mike in Louisiana: "What overspending? I make it, she spends it. After 30 years of marriage I've found that as long as I don't spend anything, there's no overspending. She spends it all."

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.

And if you want a serious take on the subject, "Money" magazine has a pretty good piece on it this month.


CAFFERTY: My favorite is my wife is from the Hamptons, she just -- she's never heard of overspending.


BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: The children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. guess what -- they're at odds right now with each other and the director Steven Spielberg over a planned movie about their father.

Stand by.


BLITZER: One of Hollywood's most prominent directors wants to make a movie about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But there's a division among the civil rights leader's children about moving ahead with the film.

A.J. Hammer, the host of HLN's "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT," has our story -- A.J.?

A.J. HAMMER, HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Wolf, when Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Studios announced that they were going to make a movie about the life of Martin Luther King, they didn't expect to find a family divided on how to protect their father's legacy.


HAMMER (voice-over): It was a picture of family unity back then, but not now. Two of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s children, Bernice and Martin Luther King III, were already fighting their brother Dexter in court over their father's estate. And now, they say they're not ready to sign off on a movie deal about their father -- a deal they were not privy to.

BERNICE KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S DAUGHTER: I think Mr. Spielberg is a great producer and we look forward to hearing from him about the scope of this -- this agreement. We know nothing about the agreement. We have no details about the agreement, to say whether or not this particular one is a good idea.

In general, yes, it's wonderful to -- to do a film about Dr. King.

HAMMER: Dexter King is the chief executive of the King estate and he green-lighted the DreamWorks proposal. He told us that despite the current legal issues, he wants to work with his siblings and that: "I sincerely believe that the film project we have been working on with DreamWorks, a company with unrivaled resources for making epic films of the highest quality, offers an unprecedented opportunity for educating the largest possible audience about our father's legacy as the leader of America's greatest non-violent movement."

But DreamWorks wants no part of this family argument, telling us: "The purpose of making a movie about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to tell a great story which could bridge distances and bring people together. We remain committed to pursuing a film chronicling Martin Luther King's life, provided that there is unity in the family so we can make a film about unity in our nation."


HAMMER: Friends of the family have told CNN the three children may need a mediator to find the kind of unity their father called for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A.J. Hammer, thanks very much.

We'll continue to watch this story, together with our viewers.

I just want to remind all of our viewers out there, in the United States and around the world, THE SITUATION ROOM, we're on the air, weekdays, obviously, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern. But on Saturdays, we're on for one hour, 6:00 p.m. Eastern every Saturday, right here on CNN. If you didn't know that, you know it now.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.

Good evening, everybody.

It's President Obama versus former Vice President Cheney. The president saying the Guantanamo Bay prison has set back America's moral authority. The former vice president says nothing is more consistent with American rivals than stopping terrorists.

Another political showdown -- this one on Capitol Hill between House Speaker Pelosi and House Minority Leader Boehner. Boehner now demanding a bipartisan investigation into what the speaker knew and when.

And a violent attack on a bus caught on tape -- a man punching a woman in the head -- a blind woman. Her fellow passengers come to her rescue, setting an example for the nation.

And the controversy over a 13-year-old boy whose family refuses to allow him cancer treatments.