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The Situation Room

Obama Health Care Reform in Critical Condition?; Iran's Supreme Leader Speaks Out

Aired June 19, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As Congress -- as concerns rise about a trillion-dollar price tag, Democrats are urging the president to step up his direct involvement.

And he says his grilling by airport screeners was unconstitutional. But this passenger recorded the whole thing on his iPhone. Wait until you hear it.

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

A stunning setback for reformers and threats of a new crackdown, as Iran's supreme leader dashes their hopes for a do-over of the disputed election. Here are the latest developments we're following right now.

In a public sermon, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared an absolute victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He dismissed vote-rigging allegations, criticized the massive protests and threatened a tougher crackdown.

During his sermon, the crowd chanted, "Death to America." But after night fell in Iran, opponents climbed to their rooftops and shouted, "Death to the dictator." And in open defiance of the ayatollah, they are planning another big rally, meaning that crackdown could come very, very soon.

One of the few Western reporters still in Tehran right now is CNN's Reza Sayah. With the stage now set for a potential confrontation, I asked Reza to take us inside Iran and give us a sense of the tensions that people are feeling right now.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I think the emotions, the feelings have evolved. It's been up and down.

I think, earlier in the week, you did see some excitement. Before that, you saw a lot of tension with those brutal crackdowns on the part of riot police and members of the Basij.

And now what I'm sensing is some tension reemerging. We spoke to some supporters of Mr. Mousavi. Every day, we ask them, do you plan to attend another rally? Do you plan to attend another demonstration? And they said, yes. Tomorrow, they are planning to attend the demonstrations, but they were clearly tense. They heard the supreme leader's message today. He made it crystal clear that he doesn't want to see any more of these protests. Keep in mind, this regime over the past 30 years has been very uncommunicative. They have played it very close to the vest. They don't like their conflicts within to be played out in the public.

And that's what we have seen over the past week. So, he's made it clear that he doesn't want to see any more of these public protests, and the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi realize that this is an important day, that they may be on the verge, this regime may be on the verge of getting ready for a crackdown much tougher than we saw earlier this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Reza, what's the image of the president of the United States, Barack Obama? You have had a chance over these days to speak with a lot of Iranians. What are they saying about this U.S. president?

SAYAH: It depends which Iranian you speak with.

Over the past few days, we have attended some protests, some supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, and on several occasions, I have had people come up to me and said: We need the U.S. president, Barack Obama, to listen to us, to listen to our cries for help. We need better relations with the U.S.

He's a very popular person among the reformists, among supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi. But then you have the Iranians who showed up in mass today to listen to the Friday prayers and listen to Ayatollah Khamenei's speech. And this was a speech during which once again you heard "Death to America," "Death to America."

And, after that speech, we spoke to many a people who were in attendance, and they blamed much of the crisis, much of the turmoil that we're seeing unfolding here in Tehran on America, on Washington, and on President Barack Obama -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The opposition -- I asked the question, Reza, the opposition, the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, would they like to see the president of the United States get more outspoken, if you will, on their behalf, or -- or stay more on the sidelines?

SAYAH: Well, I think they do, but I think they're very realistic, and they don't expect him to do much more than he has done.

But I think, when it comes to the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, they're curious to see what he does. He's the key at this point. It's his move. You had the supreme leader come out and side with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And now it's Mr. Mousavi's turn.

This is a big day tomorrow, another rally scheduled. We have had one rally after another over the past week without permission from the government. That's unheard of in Iran. We have another one tomorrow. We spoke to members of the camp, and they said they're trying to get a permit, which is something that they hadn't tried to do in the past few days. They have moved ahead with these rallies without permission.

But, tomorrow, they said they're going to try to get a permission. But we spoke to the interior ministry, and they said flat-out, flat-out, that: We are not granting Mr. Mousavi permission for tomorrow's rally.

BLITZER: And I want to be transparent with our viewers, Reza, in the United States and around the world. You're still restricted into what you can do as a journalist covering this story. Is that right?

SAYAH: Yes, no question about it.

A couple of days ago, we were limited to one report a day. Earlier in the week, they told us we were limited to our office space, our work space, and we were banned from covering and broadcasting images of these rallies and these demonstrations.

But it's very interesting. They told us we are allowed to attend Friday prayers today; we are allowed to hear what Ayatollah Khamenei had to say.

And we did. We did attend it. They welcomed us. Our cameras were there to see his speech. And we're just taking it a day at a time. We don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, what instructions are going to come down tomorrow from the government.

BLITZER: Reza Sayah, we want you to be very careful, our entire CNN team over there. We will stay in touch. I know you're limited to filing only one report a day. We appreciate...


BLITZER: That was the report from Reza Sayah, his only opportunity to file today.

For over an hour of today's sermon, the ayatollah focused on the election, the protests and the West.

CNN's Abbi Tatton is here. She has been taking a closer look at his choice of words.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is the ayatollah's speech in terms of the words he most emphasized, he most repeated.

And, as you can look, you can see election, you see people, not the incendiary words that are jumping out at you here. This was a steadfast defense today of the election, of the process, the ayatollah calling the election a great manifestation of the people's participation.

Another thing you're going to see jump out at you, establishment, Islamic establishment, something that was repeated over and over again, reiterating the established order, the government that he called sound and healthy, an establishment that he said would never manipulate results. And, then, buried within all that was the crystal-clear message that was, if you disagree, that, if you protest, there will be consequences.

BLITZER: And the opposition, those who support Mir Hossein Mousavi, what's been the reaction?

TATTON: Well, we have been following online so many messages being passed around today, spreading the word of tomorrow's rally, even after this speech that many people listened to, defiant messages in some cases saying, if there's two million of us, what can they do?

Having said that, some of our iReporters that have shared these pictures over the last couple of days have expressed definite caution, Wolf, saying that they heard the message today loud and clear.

BLITZER: We are going to have much more on this story coming up this hour.

Thanks very much for that, Abbi.

But let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I am sure you are aware that Sunday is Father's Day, are you not?


CAFFERTY: And we wish you a happy Father's Days.


BLITZER: And I wish you a happy Father's Day as well.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

President Obama not letting it go by unnoticed, devoting a large part of today to promoting the importance of being a good father as a national goal, the president attending a series of events around Washington, including a town hall on personal responsibility. He invited boys from local schools to the White House.

I watched a little bit in the office earlier -- it was terrific stuff -- joined by high-profile athletes, actors and celebrities. The president wrote an essay about fatherhood that will appear in "Parade" magazine on Sunday.

In it, he talked about growing up without a father himself and how that helped him to understand the importance of fatherhood -- quoting here -- "We need fathers to step up, to realize their job doesn't end at conception, that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child, but the courage to raise one" -- unquote.

The president admits that he is an imperfect father, makes mistakes, sometimes allows work to interfere with his responsibilities as a dad. And you might recall on the campaign trail last year, Mr. Obama often talked about the importance of fathers being present and active, especially within the African-American community.

There are about 24 million kids in this country growing up with absentee fathers. A disproportionate number of these kids are black. These children are more likely to fall into poverty and crime and to become parents themselves as teenagers.

So, here is the question. What kind of impact can President Obama have on fathers and families? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

I can't help but think back, Wolf, that that little speech that he made during the campaign probably helped him to become elected. I think it resonated with lots of people.

BLITZER: It was one of several important issues, but there's no doubt it was very, very important. Great question, especially this weekend, Jack. Thank you.

Growing fear among Democrats that President Obama's health care reform plan may be in critical condition right now. Some think only the president himself may hold the cure. We are getting new details.

Plus, one passenger's airport tussle with the TSA, it was secretly recorded and now at the center of a lawsuit.


TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICER: But you want to play smart ass, and I'm not going to play your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) game.



BLITZER: All right, there are dramatic developments unfolding right now involving the president's health care reform system.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

Ed, is the president's health care reform plan on the rocks right now?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's what I am hearing from senior Democratic advisers. They say they are warning the White House that they are very worried that the president is falling behind here, that he is having trouble sort of breaking through to the American people, that some of the Republican message, concerns about government takeover of health care, about the costs, starting to resonate, in part because of two big blows to the plan this week.

Number one, you had Senator Kennedy's plan, there was a cost estimate that came out that it's going to cost $1 trillion, a lot of money with all this government debt already piled up, and it's still going to leave millions of people uninsured.

And, then, secondly, Max Baucus, another senator, he has got a bill, first cost estimate, $1.6 trillion, so high, they have now gone back to the drawing board.

Now, top aides at the White House say, look, it is still early. Robert Gates today said, it is about the second inning if it were a baseball game. They know there is a lot more time. But they are privately concerned that they have got some roadblocks here they're going to have to get through.

BLITZER: I think these innings are going fast, because yesterday Rahm Emanuel was quoted as saying it's only the first inning. And now it is the second innings. They have got to get their innings straight.


BLITZER: Does the president have any plans right now, Ed, to get this thing back on track?


And what these Democratic advisers are saying is that they are urging the White House to get the president out there even more. He gave that speech to the American Medical Association. He did a town hall meeting in Milwaukee.

But now, this coming week, on Wednesday night, he's going to be in prime time with ABC News doing a town hall from the White House on health care. I am also told that, in private, top White House aides are considering a news conference with the president for Wednesday afternoon, before that prime-time event to try to drum up more support for this health care plan, make the case to the American people.

They haven't signed off on the news conference yet, but it is one of many things under consideration -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by for a second.

I want to bring Brianna Keilar, our congressional correspondent.

Brianna, what are the Democrats on the Hill doing to help out the president right now?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, three of the most powerful Democratic chairmen in the House who head up the three committees that are in charge of health care, they put out their rough draft of a bill today.

This is it, 852 pages really chock full of Democratic priorities. They have actually boiled them all down to one user-friendly sheet here that really gives you their message, the 12 ways health care reform will help you and their family.

And here is what they say their plan will do. They say, if you like your doctor, you like your plan, you will be able to keep it. If you don't like it, you will be able to choose from a government-run insurance plan or from other private plans.

And for preventative care, they say they will eradicate co- payments and deductibles. Their ultimate goal here, Wolf, is to get 95 percent of Americans covered. But something they don't tackle in this huge bill is how much it is going to cost and how they are going to pay for it, a very controversial part of health care reform.

But in the House, these Democrats, they are trying to portray that they are unified, that there is some momentum. But as you heard Ed mention some of those stumbles in the Senate, that's really what we have been focused on this last week because of the importance of what is going on in the Senate, because they are considering two different bills.

They really stumbled out of the gate this week, and so these House Democrats trying to change that focus, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, are you getting any inklings over there at the White House that the president may be willing to compromise and give up on the -- the government-sponsored insurance program that would compete with the private insurance companies, and go for these co-ops, as they are called on the Hill, looking for some common ground, potentially, with Republicans?

HENRY: Not yet ready to compromise, but it's clearly on the table, one of many things he may give in on eventually.

This president has been pragmatic in the first 150 days or so. We have seen him compromise on other things, but he's not going to do it at this early stage. And I think, as Brianna is pointing out, Democrats keep pointing, and are top people at the White House, telling me, look, they got have all this unity in the House. That's a good thing for Democrats.

But, in the House, it's easy. They can muscle almost anything through, because they have the votes. The Senate is where all the action will be.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much guys, Ed Henry and Brianna Keilar.

He was the first federal judge charged with sexual crimes while in office. Now, angry that he would have collected a salary in prison, the House of Representatives is taking some very strong action.

And President Obama is playing it cautiously on Iran, but Senator John McCain says he should get tough. Who has the right approach? "TIME" magazine's Joe Klein is just back from Iran.


JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": McCain is dead wrong, I'm sorry to say. I think that the president has been absolutely right. (END VIDEO CLIP)



BLITZER: He declared President Obama in excellent health just before he entered the White House. Now the president's former physician weighs in on his famous patient's health care reform plan. Guess what? He doesn't think much of it.

And a man detained by airport security screeners is suing, saying the search was unconstitutional. The incident was all captured on his iPhone.

And he covered the presidential election in Iran. And now "TIME" magazine's Joe Klein is just back from 10 days in Tehran, sharing his insight and his suspicions.


KLEIN: So, in a lot of places, my suspicion is -- it is just a gut suspicion -- they threw in a lot of votes before the voting even started.




Happening now: How do you count 40 million paper ballots in two hours? That's what supposedly happened in Iran. Joe Klein of "TIME" magazine was there. I will ask him how this drama will end.

His patients include the poor and the powerful, even Barack Obama before he became president. So, why does this Chicago doctor think the administration needs a second opinion on health care reform?

And he says his constitutional rights were violated. He is suing over a heated confrontation at the airport with TSA agents. And he has got the evidence on his iPhone -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

President Obama has been walking a tightrope when it comes to Iran, a delicate balancing act to avoid provoking the regime. No such hesitancy today in Congress, though.

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

Dan, the president seems to be coming under increasing pressure from some members of Congress to speak out more forcefully.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, a push on the president and this administration to do more to respond to the situation in Iran, all the way from Iran to Capitol Hill. But, you know, all this week, this administration has sounded like a broken record, saying that they do not want to interfere in the Iranian elections.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): After giving Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a strong vote of confidence, Iran's supreme leader delivers a tongue-lashing to the Obama administration.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN (through translator): They should feel a little embarrassed.

LOTHIAN: A defiant and self-righteous rant that seemingly does little to rattle the White House.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to be used as political foils and political footballs in a debate that's happening by Iranians in Iran.

LOTHIAN: But the administration's muted response, unwilling to condemn the elections and support the demonstrators, has not gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: We are here because, when America hears the call for freedom, we ought to answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The resolution is agreed to.

LOTHIAN: A unanimous sentiment. In a 405-1 vote, House members passed a nonbinding resolution condemning the violence and supporting all Iranians, who, lawmakers say, embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

Up next, the Senate -- a similar resolution has been introduced by the president's chief campaign rival.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's unfortunate, in a way, that this resolution is required, since the administration does not want to -- quote -- "meddle."

LOTHIAN: But Iranian analyst Afshin Molavi says the president's decision to not meddle is the right strategy.

AFSHIN MOLAVI, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: He needs to be on the record as standing with the Iranian people. But that does not mean he should aggressively insert himself into the political debate in Iran or aggressively insert himself into the battle between the regime and protesters, because that could potentially backfire.

LOTHIAN: A delicate balance, he says, for an administration trying to wean Iran from its nuclear program.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN: As for the resolution, a senior administration official says that they welcome it because this official saying that, when you look at the broad themes, it really mirrors the administration's position of respecting the will of the Iranian people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian is at the White House. Thank you.

Iran's supreme leader has now shut the door -- shut the door completely -- on a new election. But Iran's reformers say the presidential vote was stolen. Do they have a good case? And what do they do now?


BLITZER: And joining us now, Joe Klein of "TIME" magazine. His piece is entitled, "10 days in Iran: What I Saw at the Iranian Revolution."

Joe, thanks for coming in.

KLEIN: Good to be here.

BLITZER: You're just back.

Was this election rigged?

KLEIN: I think so.

Ahmadinejad might have won it anyway, but it would have been a lot closer. It was -- there were too many signs. When the -- the results went up two hours after the polls closed, they had 40 million -- 40 million -- paper ballots. How do you count those?

By the way, I think there was an also -- also a lot of ballot- stuffing. I spoke to a number of people who were guarding the precinct boxes, and they didn't get to see the ballot boxes before the voting started.

So, in a lot of places, my suspicion is -- it's just a gut suspicion -- they threw in a lot of votes before the voting even started.

BLITZER: Because, if Ahmadinejad wouldn't have gotten 50 percent, there would have had to have been a runoff...

KLEIN: Right.

BLITZER: ...against him and Mousavi without any others in the race. And that could have been the kiss of death for Ahmadinejad.

KLEIN: Absolutely. But I've got to tell you, as -- as an old political reporter, I watched the debates. I watched these guys campaign. Ahmadinejad was the best candidate out there. He just trashed Mousavi and Karroubi in their debates. He was kind of a demagogue, a little bit of Ross Perot with those economic charts. And he did these direct attacks on his opponents. So it was very un- Iranian.

BLITZER: Are we seeing in Tehran now what some are calling the Tehran Tiananmen?

KLEIN: Yes, we are. They put a million people in the street today. I don't think anybody, a week ago -- on Saturday, when we saw the results of this election, all of us were talk -- who were there were saying and talking to Iranian sources. We were saying, well, they'll be on the streets for two or three days and then it will go away.

But it keeps on getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And now you see, at the very top, you see this divide according to generations. You have the generation that made the revolution, people like Rafsanjani, Mousavi and those -- and those people. And then you have the generation that fought the Iran-Iraq War.

And those two sides are at loggerheads at the very top of the Iranian government.

BLITZER: What's the impact of this Internet technology -- all the various forms, whether Facebook or Twitter?

What is that impact on the ground?

Because you were there. You were walking around during these demonstrations.

KLEIN: Well, they tried to stop it. I mean, you know, the text messaging is huge there. And it was also the way the Mousavi campaign had organized itself. That's how they did their phone trees and so on.

And the supreme leader cut it off Friday morning as the vote began. The Internet was pretty much cut off. A lot of sites were blocked. You couldn't get into BBC Persia, which is an important one there.

The satellite dishes were working. But Twitter was working, as well. And that's how a lot of people got to -- got the information on where to go and how to organize.

It is a remarkable thing. And the thing that we should always remember about Iran compared to a lot of those other countries in that region is that it is a better educated population. The women are far better educated. It's a much more middle class society, very sophisticated.

And so the word gets out, people can make discerning choices. And -- and they know what they're doing.

BLITZER: John McCain would really like the president of the United States to be more vocal and assertive and express his support for the opposition, the dissidents.

Is McCain right? KLEIN: McCain is dead wrong, I'm sorry to say. I think the president has been absolutely right.

You know, I interviewed a lot of the leading reformers in Iran about the chances of U.S./Iranian negotiations. And they are very aggrieved. They don't like us very much, even the reformers. They talk about -- they talk about our support for the Shah. They talk about our support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. They talk about axis of evil.

They -- the idea that we're always meddling in their society is very, very central, even to the reform movement.

So it's right for the president not to meddle now. And, also, if he did, if he did start spouting off the way McCain did, it would give the mullahs an excuse to put the tanks in the streets, kill a lot of people and say we're doing this because the Americans are meddling -- the Americans have aroused the -- the population. We have to get things under control.

BLITZER: Make a prediction for us.

What's going to happen?

KLEIN: God only knows. God only knows. You know, I -- I think it's likely that the -- the established order will stay in charge. The thing to watch is the religious order -- the religious authorities and whether they turn against Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you.

Joe Klein of our sister publication, "Time" magazine.


KLEIN: Good to be here.

BLITZER: President Obama's own doctor now speaking out against his efforts in health care reform -- why he says the president isn't getting the right input.

And one general finds out the hard way -- don't call Senator Barbara Boxer ma'am.



BRIG. GEN. MICHAEL WALSH: Ma'am, at the -- at LACPR...

BOXER: You know, do me a favor.

Could you say Senator instead of ma'am?

WALSH: Yes. BOXER: It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it.

Yes, thank you.

WALSH: Yes, Senator.



BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN's Joe Johns; and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

They're all part of the best political team on television.

Paul Wolfowitz, David, the former deputy secretary of Defense, wrote in "The Washington Post" today: "Coming from America, silence is itself, a comment -- a comment in support of those holding power and against those protesting the status quo. And if we appear so desperate for negotiations that we will abandon those who support our principles, we weaken our own negotiating hand."

He says no comment is not appropriate for the president of the United States.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think he has a point. And that's especially appropriate today, after this very hard line speech by the ayatollah, which really suggests we may be facing serious violence as early as tomorrow -- a Tiananmen Square kind of confrontation.

I think it's really important, it seems to me, for the administration to be out in front really in advance, calling for a lack of violence -- to respect -- a respect and a democratic way of trying to resolve this, but especially to avoid the violence.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But I think you saw the president today, in an interview on CBS, change his tone a little bit -- a little bit, saying that the world is watching. And, also, you're not hearing him talk about engagement, negotiation. You know, you're not -- you're not hearing any of that anymore.

GERGEN: It's so subtle, it's almost beyond, you know, -- you know, beyond, you know, anybody recognizing it.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a huge moment for Iran, but a lot of people say it's a moment for Iran. And the fact of the matter is, there's a long history here. The United States isn't liked in that part of the country, going back, again -- I'm sorry to say it again -- the Shah of Iran. There are a lot of issues in that part of the world that are unique to the relationship between this country and that country.

GERGEN: We paid a big price for being very muted in the Tiananmen Square. And it would be a great shame if that were to happen again.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. The next few hours, as we say, could be critical.


BLITZER: And CNN is not going to go away from this story -- Gloria, on health care, the president's own personal physician quoted as saying this: "I have a suspicion they pick people from the top echelon of medicine -- people who are right about it, but haven't been struggling in it. He doesn't see all the pain. It's so tragic out here. Obama is wonderful. But on this one, I'm not sure if he's getting the right input."

Dr. David Schneier, his former doctor was quoted in "Forbes."..

BORGER: His ex-doctor, clearly, now, Wolf, yes.

BLITZER: "Forbes" magazine.

Is this health care plan really in trouble right now?

BORGER: Look, I think the Democrats are complaining. They're worried this isn't going to get through on the president's timetable.

I guarantee you that health care is going to die five or six times before anything gets out of either the House or the Senate.

But I think, from the people I speak with in the White House, they say this is just part of the ebb and flow of getting this done and the real action is going to be in the fall. If you get something out of both houses, in that conference committee, the bill will be written and the president will be very involved.

BLITZER: And you've covered the Congress for a long time. The real action is really going to be in the Senate, because in the House, the Democrats have a really lopsided majority.

JOHNS: There's no question. And there are some Democratic insiders who are saying that the Democrats and the White House need to start reaching more out to Republicans -- make a showing of an attempt to get Republicans votes in, because in some times, that informs the moderates. That gets the moderates to come with you, if you show you're trying to get Republicans.

So there's a lot of things for them to think about.

But this thought of putting something on the president's desk by July, a lot of people say if he sees a bill on his desk in Thanksgiving, it will be a very happy time.

BLITZER: Is this deja vu all over again for the Democrats?

You were there in the Clinton White House...


BLITZER: ...and during Hillary Care and it collapsed.

GERGEN: It did collapse. And health care reform got a real setback this week with this report coming out and saying how expensive (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: The Congressional Budget Office report.

GERGEN: ...much more expensive than anybody thought. And -- and I think the Democrats are in some disarray now, trying to figure out what to do about the cost. Until they solve the expense problem, they're not going to be able get the bill through.

I think, Gloria and Joe Johns are right, it's likely to pass. But it's going to have to be very watered down or they're going to have to do something nobody ever would have imagined they'd do, they're going to have to put on a lot more taxation to pay for it.

BLITZER: And, you know, one of the key things that will come up -- and I don't want to get into process -- is will it need 51 votes in the Senate...


BLITZER: ...or will it need 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate?

We can discuss that down the road.

But right now, I want to play this little clip because it's getting a lot of buzz out there.

Senator Barbara Boxer of California having this exchange at a hearing with a brigadier general.


BOXER: Why has it been delayed?

WALSH: Ma'am, at the LACPR is...

BOXER: You know, do me a favor?

Could you say Senator instead of ma'am?


BOXER: It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

WALSH: Yes, Senator.


BLITZER: I thought -- I thought he was going to say yes, ma'am.


BLITZER: That would have been -- that would have been really funny.

But does she have a point?

BORGER: Do me a favor, Wolf?


BORGER: Would you call me senior political analyst?

BLITZER: I always do.


BLITZER: I always give you all that respect.

BORGER: I worked real hard for that title.


BORGER: I think she's just a little edgy on that. I think it was a little over the line.

JOHNS: I will say, walking around the halls of the Capitol, there are people you run into who will look at you askance. If I'm a United States senator, I want to be known as a senator.

And so, you know, it's a -- it's a personal preference for a lot of these folks. I take nothing away from her. You know, she did fight hard for that -- that title and -- and that's what I call her when I see her.

BLITZER: Although in some parts of the country -- you're from North Carolina. Referring to a woman as ma'am, that's very polite.

GERGEN: It is very -- it is very polite. Good for her. I bet that if he's being addressed by her and she said sir, what do you think about this, he'd say, you know, in his own mind, I wish she'd call me general. I worked years and years and years for that.

BLITZER: All right. Now here's the key question, because you guys, I assume, are getting ready to go to the Radio & TV Correspondents Association Dinner over here in Washington. The president of the United States, he always comes.

Is he going to be funny tonight or, given the seriousness of what's going on, he says, you know what, maybe it's a moment for some serious discussion with the news media?

BORGER: You know, David used to work in the White House and you can probably speak about this better than I can. But I think, again, it's another fine line that a president has to walk because he's there. For some, reason, we make presidents become comedians. And so he might tell a joke or two. But then I think he's going to have to end up talking about what's, you know, the seriousness of what's going on in Iran.


BLITZER: And we're going to have...


BLITZER: We're going to have live coverage here on CNN. I think he speaks sometime around 8:40 or something like that, during Campbell Brown's show.

And I'll be filling in for Larry King later tonight. We'll have full analysis of what's going on.

So stay with us not only for Iran, but also for the president at this dinner tonight.

Guys, thanks very much.

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


Tonight, at the top of the hour, we'll have the latest from Iran, where Iran's supreme leader warned of a bloody crackdown on demonstrations against President Ahmadinejad. And tonight we'll the strongest reaction yet from the U.S. government.

Also tonight, Democrats in Congress introducing a draft health care reform bill.

But still not yet resulted -- who would pay for it all. Top Republicans say the whole thing needs to be scrapped. Some Democrats are afraid that that is exactly what will happen.

And in our face-off debate tonight, America's toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, live in that debate from Phoenix. The issue tonight -- the sheriff's immigration crackdown, accused of racial profiling. That's what they'll be debating.

And from gay rights to health care to Wall Street, has the Obama administration fumbled on key issues?

One of the things we'll be discussing with our political panel tonight.

We hope you'll join us for all of that, coming up in just a few minutes here on CNN -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lou.

See you in a few moments. A TSA agent in a heated confrontation with an airline passenger, but they don't know it's being recorded. Now, we have that recording. You'll see why it's at the center of a lawsuit.

Plus, President Obama on the hole in his heart that no one could fill.


BLITZER: A battle is now brewing between the agency that oversees airport screeners and the attorneys representing a man who says he was searched unconstitutionally. The man says the proof is on his iPhone.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, now to tell us what this case is all about -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the secretary of homeland security over what it calls unlawful searches and detentions at airports. The potential evidence -- a tape-recording of TSA screeners.


MESERVE (voice-over): This iPhone captured the conversation between a Transportation Security Administration agent and a passenger.


UNIDENTIFIED TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICER: I'm just trying to ask some questions to figure out what all this is about so I can get you on your plane. But you want to play smart ass and I'm not going to play your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) games.


MESERVE: The agent was talking to Steve Bierfeldt. He works for The Campaign for Liberty, an outgrowth of the Ron Paul presidential campaign, which promotes constitutional rights. Bierfeldt was flying out of St. Louis when screeners saw this cash box in his carry-on.

At the time, it contained about $4,700 -- proceeds from the sale of political items. Although there are no restrictions on carrying large sums of money on flights within the U.S. the TSA detained Bierfeldt, and, along with other law enforcement agencies, questioned him for almost half an hour and appeared to threaten him with arrest -- unaware the phone in Bierfeldt's pocket was capturing every word.





STEVE BIERFELDT, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, THE CAMPAIGN FOR LIBERTY: Yes, sir. And I'm asking you if I'm legally required to answer that question.

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICER: Answer that question first, why do you have this money?

BIERFELDT: Am I legally required to answer the question?


BIERFELDT: No, sir. I'm not refusing.


BIERFELDT: I'm simply asking my rights under the law.



BIERFELDT: Swearing at me, cursing at me, threatening to handcuff me, take me to the DEA and the FBI, just the inconvenience -- no, that's -- it's not within bounds at all.

MESERVE: The TSA says an agent has been disciplined for using inappropriate tone and language, but said in a statement, "A passenger who refuses to answer questions may be referred to appropriate authorities for further inquiry."

The ACLU says Bierfeldt did not refuse to answer questions and his detention and questioning violated constitutional protections against unlawful search.

LARRY SCHWARTZTOL, ATTORNEY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: TSA believes its passenger screening is an opportunity to engage in freewheeling law enforcement investigations that have no link to protecting flight safety.


MESERVE: The ACLU and Bierfeldt believe this incident is reflective of a much larger problem. But this passenger happened to be carrying a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and the latest technology -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jeanne. Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now.

You see what you can do with your iPhone, Jack?

It's amazing.

CAFFERTY: I don't have an iPhone.

BLITZER: I know you don't.

CAFFERTY: No. So I would just be a victim.

But they said the guy's being disciplined. He should be fired.

But you can't fire them, right?

That's part of the problem.

The question -- what kind of impact can President Obama have on fathers and families?

Once again today, he used a good part of his day to draw attention to the important role he says fathers have in this country and in their families and in their homes.

Faye writes: "He's going to have a huge impact just continuing to live life as he does. He's not just telling us, but showing us an example of a good husband and father. We are so fortunate to have a man like this in the White House. Happy Father's Day to all fathers everywhere."

Thank you, Faye.

Joe in St. Louis: "Create an environment where fathers can find secure, long-term jobs."


John in Seattle: "If we want better fathers in America, we need better mothers. A man cannot enforce his custody rights without going to court. And since women are taking half our income in child support, we can't afford a lawyer, so we just give up. When women stop using children as weapons to punish their children's fathers, we'll see the number of absentee fathers drop dramatically."

Glenn writes: "I know from experience what it's like to grow up without a father. It's something that leaves an indelible impression on a child's life forever. If President Obama wants fathers to be more responsible to their kids, I say amen. He's to be commended for this concern for fatherless children. That hasn't happened in this country for a long time."

Claudia writes: "President Obama can only set the tone. The men who already act fatherly will continue to do so. Perhaps some biologicals will be nudged into the father column." And Krissy says: "Obama is a great example, not only for men, but also for women who are making decisions about the type of men they want in their lives. He raises the bar for what people should expect from parents and I think he's a great thing for the country. Engagement with your children is so important. It's good that Obama knows being a good president isn't just about passing laws, it's challenging all of us to be our best."

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 have yourself a bang-up Father's Day, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: You, too.

A wonderful Father's Day with you and the kids.

Thanks very much for that.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER:, Jack Cafferty is a good man.

When we come back, we're going to update you on a story that's just developing right now. Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice nominee, has been a member of an all women's club. And she now makes a decision about that membership.


BLITZER: All right, we're getting this story in just in right now.

Let me go to Don Lemon -- Don, what's going on with the Supreme Court justice nominee?

LEMON: Yes, you talked just before the break about Sonia Sotomayor. And here's what we're just getting in from the Associated Press, Wolf.

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has resigned from an elite, all women's club after Republicans questioned her participation in it. Now, Sotomayor says she resigned from the Belizean Grove on Friday. That's the name of that club, Belizean Grove. She did it on Friday.

Today, in a letter to Senators, she said she is convinced the club does not practice discrimination. But, she says, she didn't want questions about it to distract anyone -- anyone from her qualifications and her record during confirmation hearings -- Wolf, so there you go. She's resigned from that club.

BLITZER: All right, Don.

Thank you.

President Obama kicks off Father's Day weekend with a personal message on being a dad and growing up without one.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is here with more on this story. And it's got a lot of meaning for a lot of people out there.


President Obama says he made a pledge when his daughters were born -- if he could be one thing in life, it would be a good father. And that's what today was all about.


OBAMA: I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise my and my sister. And it's because of them that I'm able to stand here today.

But despite all their extraordinary love and attention, that doesn't mean that I didn't feel my father's absence. That's something that leaves a hole in a child's heart that a government can't fill.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): President Obama took that experience to a group of at-[risk youth Friday, telling them not to make the same mistake.

OBAMA: To the young men who are here today, I just want you to know that even if your father was not there, you can be there for your child when you had a child. And it's not a bad thing to wait to have a child until you've got your act together.

BOLDUAN: And to get the message out, the president brought in some celebrity fathers, including skateboard legend Tony Hawk, celebrity chef Bobby Flay and basketball stars Dwayne Wade and Alonzo Mourning -- all fanning out to non-profit mentoring organizations throughout greater Washington.

(on camera): President Obama talked about fathers need to step up.


BOLDUAN: What does that mean in today's world?


BOLDUAN: What does that mean for a father to say needing to step up?

MOURNING: Well, first of all, I think it's just understanding that -- you know, understanding that our children are facing more and more challenges. And we, as fathers, need to be a little bit more responsible in providing them opportunities and encouragement and hope for our kids.

D. Wade and myself, we're fathers. And we understand the responsibilities that come with it. BOLDUAN (voice-over): It's estimated nearly 20 million children today are growing up without dads -- something President Obama said must improve.

The fathers at Friday's event seemed to get the message.

JOHN KING, FATHER OF 7: Everything I do should mean something. And so I want my time on Earth to be spent well, so my children can look back and say my dad did this for me.


BLITZER: That's a very, very moving moment for a lot of dads out there. And I know you have a special Father's Day greeting for yours.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Well, Happy Father's Day to my dad and Happy Father's Day to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, thanks very much.

That's it for us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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