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Nightmare Over for Two American Journalists; President Obama Announces $2.4 Billion in Clean Car Grants; What Really Happened in 2008 Election?

Aired August 05, 2009 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, they're free, they're home. Two American journalists mark the end of a long ordeal in North Korea as new details emerge about what was going on behind the scenes to secure their release.

Also, the battle over health care reform increasingly waged in the streets at the grassroots level. We have new poll number this hour revealing who's leading the fight.

Plus, explosive new revelations of what really happened in a contest unlike this country has ever seen. We talk to the authors of a new book about 2008 and the extraordinary election.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.


A joyous end to a five-month living nightmare for two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea. Laura Ling and Euna Lee are back in the United States, arriving in southern California, along with former President Bill Clinton, who traveled to North Korea to help secure their release. They spoke briefly, along with former Vice President Al Gore. The women were on assignment for his cable network, Current TV, when they were detained.


LAURA LING, JOURNALIST: To our loved ones, friends, colleagues, and to the complete strangers with the kindest of hearts who showed us so much love and sent us so many positive thoughts and energy, we thank you. We could feel your love all the way in North Korea. It is what kept us going in the darkest of hours, it is what sustained our faith that we would come home.

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the thousands upon thousands of people who have held Laura and Euna in their prayers, who have written letters and called and sent e-mails, we are very, very grateful.

The past 140 days have been the most difficult, heart-wrenching time of our lives. We are very grateful that we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea and we are so happy to be home.

LING: Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp. And then, suddenly, we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked in through the doors we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.

GORE: They really put their hearts in this. It speaks well of our country that when two American citizens are in harm's way, that so many people would just put things aside and just go to work to make sure that this has had a happy ending. And we are so grateful...

LING: But we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here home and free.


MALVEAUX: We're now learning new details of what was going on behind the scenes to bring Ling and Lee home.

CNN White House Correspondent Dan Lothian is working that part of the story.

Dan, I know it was very difficult yesterday to get information out of this White House, but now we have more details.

What do we know?


You know, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters in a conference call, there was a lot going on behind the scenes, and that this had been going on for months, according to this official. Even pointing out that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton had been pushing the administration to make sure that these two journalists were safe and to quickly gain their release.

Now, this all began back on March 17th. Take a look at the wall there. That is when Ling and Lee were arrested on the Chinese/North Korean border.

On June 8th, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. But according to this senior administration official, the real breakthrough came in mid-July. That is when both of these journalists, in phone conversations with their family members, said that they would be granted amnesty, according to the North Koreans, if they could produce a high-level envoy like President Clinton to come to North Korea to gain their release.

Then, on July 24th, the weekend of July 24th, National Security Adviser General Jim Jones sat down with former President Clinton, talked about him getting engaged in this mission. President Clinton had two concerns. He wanted to make sure that this would be seen, communicated as a humanitarian mission, but he also wanted to make sure that there was a guarantee here of success.

He was given that guarantee. So, on Monday, which was August 3rd, that's when President Clinton when to Pyongyang. He met with North Korea's president. They met for about an hour and 15 minutes and then had a two-hour dinner.

After the two journalists were returned to the United States, reunited with their family members, that's when President Obama stepped to the mike.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reunion that we've all seen on television I think is a source of happiness not only for the families, but for the entire country.

I want to thank President Bill Clinton. I had a chance to talk to him for the extraordinary humanitarian effort that resulted in the release of the two journalists. I want to thank Vice President Al Gore, who worked tirelessly in order to achieve a positive outcome.


LOTHIAN: So, President Obama had a phone conversation with Mr. Clinton, but also says that they hope to get together later and talk about more of the details of that meeting. And also, the national security team expected to debrief with the former president -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And Dan, the White House all along had been saying that this was a private mission, but from what you've explained, it certainly sounds like they were intimately involved.

LOTHIAN: It really does. And again, it points to what the official had told us, that they really had been engaged in this for months, working behind the scenes, quiet diplomacy, to try to gain this release. And we talked to a former U.S. ambassador with a lot of knowledge in that region, and he says, by all accounts, everything he has seen and heard, the U.S. government was fully engaged.

Take a listen.


JACK PRITCHARD, PRESIDENT, KOREA ECONOMIC INSTITUTE: It was an official visit. It was sanctioned by the U.S. government. It was brokered behind the scenes by the U.S. government. You know, this is in name only a private visit by the president.


LOTHIAN: So, why did the White House then emphasize this is a private mission? Well, the ambassador says that it was key in separating what was taking place, which was a humanitarian mission, from any kind of nuclear talks. The U.S. really wanted to make that clear, that this had nothing to do with anything else other than freeing these two journalists -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks, Dan.

Well, boosting the economy and making cars more fuel efficient, President Obama made a connection between the two today as he announced billions of dollars in government grants to develop battery- powered vehicles. The president made his announcement in Elkhart County, Indiana. It is also known as the RV capital of the world and an area extremely hard hit by the recession.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry is there -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the president is out on the road here trying to defend the stimulus package. But I can tell you, locals here actually think the program is working pretty well.


HENRY (voice-over): The recession has absolutely rocked the RV capital of the world. Elkhart, Indiana's unemployment rate peaked at 19 percent, twice the national average, as dealers of recreational vehicles struggle to say afloat.

ROB REID, GREAT LAKES RV CENTER: It's been the most difficult thing I've done in my 42 years of life. It was a struggle. Nobody saw it coming.

HENRY: Rob Reid says he's using less electricity each day to pinch pennies at this location after closing his other dealership, forcing him to lay off a dozen employees.

REID: Being a smaller or medium-sized company, they become your friends, you know, because we're with them even more so than we are our families a lot of times.

HENRY: At City Hall, Democratic Mayor Dick Moore says traffic at local food banks has never been so intense, and donated backpacks are pouring in for kids going back to school. Still, the mayor believes Elkhart is getting back on its feet thanks to $14 million in stimulus money, though he cautions, the president can't get too optimistic.

MAYOR DICK MOORE, ELKHART, INDIANA: That's what I would say to him. You know, thank you, Mr. President. This program is working here in Elkhart, Indiana.

Now, the problem with that is the guy that's standing here in your place that's unemployed. He doesn't buy that at all.

HENRY: That's why the president was bearing more gifts, revealing Indiana will be the second biggest recipient of $2.4 billion in grants for electric vehicles.

OBAMA: ... powered by the next generation of battery technologies all made right here in the USA. Right here in America.


HENRY: The mayor insists stimulus money spent around the country is trickling down to his city as people are starting to buy RVs again. MOORE: It isn't a Elkhart, Indiana, stimulus program, it isn't the state of Indiana stimulus program. It's a stimulus program for the United States of America. So, when you talk about how the money flows, somebody gets money in California and one of our factories here supplies some parts to that company in California, we benefit from it.

HENRY: Back at the RV lot, Rob Reid agrees sales have picked up, and so has his outlook.

REID: I always feel optimistic, because if you start to feel it, then your customers are going to feel it. So, we're optimistic no matter what happens, because we don't want the economy or the doldrums of Elkhart right now to set the tone for our business.


HENRY: Unemployment has gotten better here, dipping from 19 percent to about 16 percent, but that's still far above the national average of 9.5 percent. And that's why Republicans back in Washington are charging that the stimulus may have helped the economy on the margins, but still has not provided the jolt that the president promised -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Ed.

Well, time now for "The Cafferty File." And Jack Cafferty joins -- I get to be right next to you, Jack. Right here.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's good to be with you, Suzanne, absolutely.

MALVEAUX: Good to see you in person.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Welcome to the big city.

President Obama marking his second 100 days in office this week. He has many more days in front of him, but we are going to take note of this particular anniversary.

The economy remains one of the top issues like it was during the first 100 days. Many think the recession may soon be ending.

The housing situation showing signs of bottoming out, perhaps turning around a little. Cash for Clunkers boosting the auto industry. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 17 percent since Inauguration Day.

But unemployment's now at 9.5 percent. It's expected to go higher. The deficit has increased by almost $800 billion. Also on the economic front, the president signed a bill cracking down on credit card companies and their fees.

Meanwhile, the debate over health care reform has taken center stage over the last month or so. Republicans and some conservative Democrats continue to oppose health care reform, particularly the costs involved. If that doesn't happen, it would be a big blow to the centerpiece of Mr. Obama's domestic agenda.

As for foreign affairs, the president made that historic speech to the Muslim world in Cairo during his second hundred days. Mr. Obama also set a cautious tone in responding to the Iranian demonstrators protesting their disputed elections.

So, how's he doing? Well, these days Americans give President Obama an average approval rating of 54 percent. In June, most of these same polls showed him above 60 percent, and his ratings were even higher during the first hundred days. But as all politicians learn, once you start governing, your approval ratings tend to go south.

Here's the question: How would you characterize President Obama's second 100 days?

Go to, post a comment on my blog.

Not coincidentally, there's a big special program on this here network tomorrow night at 8:00 marking...

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Well coordinated here, huh, Jack?

CAFFERTY: There you go.

MALVEAUX: Well, CNN is counting down to the second 100 days of the Obama administration. And tomorrow night, as Jack mentioned, we're going to issue a new national report card on the president.

This hour is going to be your chance to vote on one of those questions. We want you to grade the Obama administration's handling of health care reform.

You can do it right now. Call in your grade right now at 1-888- GRADE-09. That's 1-888-472-3308.

You can also text your grade to 22360. Standard message rates do apply. And vote online at

We will report the results in our "Strategy Session" coming up later this hour, but you've got a chance to weigh in on this right now.

Well, the untold story of an extraordinary election. What was going on behind the scenes in "The Battle for America 2008"? The authors of a new book join us later live with those details.

Also, online clues to a rampage, what the shooter was writing just before that rampage.

Plus, Bill Clinton and Al Gore together again. What's the relationship really like now?


MALVEAUX: Well, it was an election unlike this country has ever seen. Now there is a riveting new account with explosive new revelations about the 2008 election. The book is called "The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election."

Authors Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson joining us now.

I've seen both of you obviously on the campaign trail over the last year or so. It really was quite an extraordinary experience as a journalist to see these characters unfold.

What was the one thing that you thought you saw President Obama, then candidate Obama, on the stump making a promise, and you thought this is just not something that he's going to be able to pull off here? Because he promised the world on that stump, I remember, and now he has to govern -- Dan.

DAN BALZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA 2008": Suzanne, I think the most interesting way to look at that question is, what were the things he didn't quite resolve as a candidate running for president that have now come to be potential difficulties for him in the Oval Office? And part of that was he had two different appeals.

One was a very big agenda -- health care, energy reform, and then of course the economy. The second was kind of a notion that he could try to bring people together, that he would offer a different kind of politics without specifying exactly some of all the thing that were going to be in his policies. He never was able to sort of square that circle during the campaign as effectively as he might have, and I think that's one of the reasons he's run into some trouble right now.

MALVEAUX: Haynes, what do you think?

HAYNES JOHNSON, CO-AUTHOR, "THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA 2008": The biggest problem he had was making people feel comfortable with him. I mean, he was, indeed, a remarkable figure, but he promised a great deal, and people weren't sure about it. And then when the election came, maybe it was going to be nirvana, but of course governing is very, very hard.

Will we stumble around in politics? And he was stumbling recently, and so, he's got a hard way ahead of him right now.

MALVEAUX: Well, Haynes, you bring up a very good point, the fact that running for office and actually governing are two very different things here.

And Dan, I want to ask you, I mean, one of the things that we saw was really an evolution of Barack Obama during this campaign. I remember early on in the summer where people, they were nodding off during some of his speeches. They weren't quite engaged with the Barack Obama that we tend to get to know and remember the last part of the campaign here.

Has his style changed as someone who actually governs?

BALZ: Well, I mean, it's interesting, as there were those periods in the summer of 2007 when he wasn't doing well. We now know that he was deeply unhappy with himself, and his campaign advisers were unhappy. So, he has been through difficult periods before.

But as Haynes said, you know, there's an old expression, "Candidates campaign in poetry and govern in prose." And I think the style that Barack Obama used in the campaign trail, which was to create a great deal of inspiration and passion among his followers, is much more difficult to do when you're trying to sell the details of a very complicated health care bill, or an energy package, or even to pull an economy out of the worst recession that we've had since the Great Depression.

So, the nature of the challenges is much different, and so he's had to figure out what's the most appropriate way to lead. How do you deal with Congress? At the same time, how do you hold public opinion on your side?

MALVEAUX: Haynes, what do you think is working for president now and what's not?

JOHNSON: What's working is that people still have confidence in him as a leader. They don't have confidence as much in the policies that he's talking about, the health care. There's great doubt about that.

Is the economy really coming back? Is there going to be environmental change? Is the country together? Have we put aside the hatred and division of the past period in our public life?

But there's still a reservoir of trust and belief in Barack Obama, but that's a personal thing, not a policy thing. And now he's in the middle of dealing with both, and it's very difficult.

MALVEAUX: There's an interesting story that you both write about when you talk about a memo from one of his top strategists, David Axelrod, where it seemed as if Barack Obama really -- he wanted to please people. He wanted to make people like him in a way.

Can you explain what that memo was about? And how does that really give us a window into what he's trying to do now and pleasing all sides?

BALZ: Suzanne, it's a fascinating memo because it talks not only about how Axelrod believed that Barack Obama had what it took at that moment, that he was the right person for the moment, but at the same time had some questions, particularly about whether he was tough enough to go through the rigors of a presidential campaign.

He basically said, I don't know whether you can really take a punch. You hate criticism. You want people to like you so much. His view was that Obama would have to prove himself during the course of the campaign.

Now, we know that David Axelrod believes that Barack Obama did prove himself through the course of the campaign, but in a sense, he's now having another set of tests which are very similar to that. Does he have now the strength to get through this difficult period, to take on the fight that he's engaged in, in health care? Does he have the resilience resilience, the strength, the toughness, and the patience to be able to get through that?

MALVEAUX: Haynes, are we actually seeing the president back in campaign mode?

JOHNSON: Sure. Of course. He has to be in campaign mode.

He's got to sell his program. He's got to convince people that, I'm right. If you stick with me, we'll be better, we'll be stronger, but it's going to be difficult. And he is in a campaign mode.

That's what politics is for a president. You've got to have a bully pulpit, you've got to ring the trumpet, you've got to say, people, follow me. And that's the real test of presidential leadership.

MALVEAUX: All right. Got to wrap it here.

Haynes and Dan, either one of you want to give the president a grade at this point?

BALZ: No. We'll leave that to the people you're talking to on CNN.

MALVEAUX: OK. All right. Fair enough.

Thank you so much, Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson.

BALZ: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks very much. It's a very good read, "Battle America 2008."

Well, major changes in store for a city brought to the brink of destruction by war. What's in store now for Baghdad?

Plus, targeting women inside a gym. Did the gunman warn of his murderous plan in online writings?



MALVEAUX: Happening now, a deadly shooting at a Pennsylvania gym. Police say a man on a mission to kill opens fire. Four people are dead, including the suspect.

What was the motive? We'll have a live report.

New information about a horrifying accident in New York. Police now say a woman smoked marijuana and drank before plowing her minivan into an SUV, killing eight people, half of them children.

And window washers in Boston hanging on for their lives 37 stories up. Details on the unbelievable rescue mission.

Wolf Blitzer's off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want you to grade the Obama administration's handling of health care reform. Thousands of you have already weighed in. Vote online at, or call in your grade right now at 1- 888-GRADE-09. That's is 1-888-472-3309.

You can also text your grade to 22360 -- the results in our "Strategy Session" in just a few minutes. So, not -- not -- you can -- still have time, not too late.

First, let's bring in our CNN political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, who are the two sides fighting in this health care reform debate?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what they're fighting over is what I call the satisfied majority.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Where do the people stand on health care reform? Divided. In our new CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, 50 percent favor President Obama's plan. Forty- five percent oppose it.

Politicians pay attention to intensity, and opponents of health care reform feel more strongly about it than supporters. Opponents also say they're more likely to attend a public forum on the issue.

Why are Democrats having so much trouble rallying support? Here's one reason. Solid majorities of Americans say they're satisfied with their health care and their health insurance. A whopping 71 percent are satisfied with both. They're the satisfied majority.

How does the satisfied majority feel about health care reform? They're inclined to oppose reform, but may be persuadable.

Critics warn that reform means too much government control over health care.


SCHNEIDER: Suzanne, the battle over health care is increasingly being fought at the grassroots level, and sometimes literally in the streets.

Now, the question that we asked that was most interesting here is, would Americans rather see the government or the insurance companies make critical decisions involving health care? And you know what the answer was? Americans are divided. Democrats prefer government. Republicans prefer insurance companies.

Most Americans listen to that question, and they say, yikes; are those the choices? -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Bill.

Well, as you had mentioned, health care is being fought really at the grassroots level, a lot of protests that are taking place on the streets.

Let's bring in our CNN's Sandra Endo, who is seeing it firsthand in Chicago.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the health care debate is heating up at the local level. It's an issue which touches every American. And now, with lawmakers back in their hometowns, many people are finding ways to make their voices heard.


ENDO (voice-over): Dan Sherry takes us behind the scenes, where he and other volunteers are getting ready to rally for health care reform.

For Dan, the battle is personal.

SHERRY: The day the insurance company took away my insurance, my life expectancy dropped two years.

ENDO: He says, a couple of years ago, he was busy running two small businesses and missed one health insurance payment. Dan says the mistake knocked him and his family off their policy. He was able to get his wife and three kids back on, but Dan was denied since he was previously diagnosed with high cholesterol.

SHERRY: But they wouldn't insure me anymore, because now I had a preexisting condition, high cholesterol.

ENDO: He's taking his fight to the streets...

SHERRY: Yes, we can!


ENDO: ... joining the health care debate at the grassroots level, volunteering with a group called Healthcare For America now, a coalition of advocacy groups, including the health care workers unions, ACORN, and the NAACP, who are pushing for the administration's health care initiative.

(on camera): Here is where policy and protest collide -- a pro- health care reform rally over here -- just across the street, the counterargument.


ENDO (voice-over): These rallies for and against the issue are scheduled a throughout August to send a message to lawmakers during their summer break. Both groups also send members to ask tough questions at town hall meetings, sometimes turning the events into shouting matches.

American Liberty Alliance is one of the groups organizing people against health care reform. ALA claims credit for helping to organize the anti-tax tea party rallies in April, a movement which started through Twitter.

Corrine Williams decided to join their effort a couple of weeks ago.


ENDO: While, on this day, the anti-health care reform group is not as large in numbers, Corrine is helping to organize a major rally for later this month, a nationwide event.

For her, she says, the proposed reforms just don't feel right.

CORRINE WILLIAMS, AMERICAN LIBERTY ALLIANCE: I don't like the idea of the government saying, you know, this is what we're going to let you -- you know, this is what -- the kind of treatments we're going to pay for, these are the kinds of doctors you can go to.

I want to have control.

ENDO (on camera): These organizations are getting faster at mobilizing. They largely rely on the Internet to create online meet- up groups and ask for small contributions to fund their cause -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: Thank you.

More telling numbers in our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Twenty-three percent of those asked strongly favor President Obama's health care plan. Twenty-seven percent moderately favor it, while 12 percent moderately oppose it, and 33 percent strongly oppose it.

And look at this. Opponents are much more likely to attend a town hall meeting on health care reform, 48 percent, compared to just 37 percent of supporters.

Well, let's bring in our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

And, Gloria, we see these numbers here. We're trying to make sense of all of this. People, they may want to attend town halls, but we have seen a lot of these have been disrupted.


MALVEAUX: What do we know about the protests, what's taking place on the streets, and how do people really feel about this?

BORGER: Well, what we do know is that some of these protests have been organized, or at least encouraged, by some conservative groups that are very opposed to health care reform.

And we also know that one group actually employs the same public- relations team that was used in 2004 for those Swift Boat ads against John Kerry.

Now, the White House has decided to -- to have an aggressive pushback, as one house -- one White House adviser told me. And you can see in an ad that the DNC has to produced that they are pushing back strong. And let me quote you a line from this DNC ad, talking act these protesters.

It says, "They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they have called out the mob."

MALVEAUX: Those are pretty strong words. What -- what is the White House trying to accomplish, do you suppose?

BORGER: Well, they're trying to -- they're trying to marginalize these groups, Suzanne. They're trying to portray them as somewhat on the fringe.

And what they're really hoping for is sort of a backlash against the tactics. You remember, during the last campaign, you had those folks showing up at the McCain/Palin rallies, calling Obama all kinds of names.

And there was a backlash against that, to the point where McCain had to sort of say, stop it. That's not right.

They're hoping that's what's going to happen this time, but, you know, they're not taking any chances. As your last piece showed, they're organizing at their own grassroots level, using the Internet in the way they did during the campaign.

MALVEAUX: OK. Gloria Borger, thanks so much for your insights, Gloria.


MALVEAUX: Well, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, what's their relationship like now, after decades of ups and downs? Well, we will talk about that and much, much more in our "Strategy Session."

Also, a killer's plan online -- what the gunman in a Pennsylvania shooting rampage posted right before he struck.

Plus, while you're grading President Obama on his second 100 days in office, so is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. He's going to be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Disbelief in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after a gunman opened fire at an L.A. Fitness gym. Politics say the suspect walked silently into the building, turned off the lights, and fired off a barrage of bullets, killing three women, and then himself.


CHARLES MOFFATT, ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: There was nobody who was in that club that could have did anything to prevent Sodini from committing this horrendous act.


MALVEAUX: A law enforcement source told CNN that the gunman had been identified as George Sodini, a 48-year-old member of the gym. The suspect left an online diary providing insight behind this act.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has all the details.

Abbi, what did he put online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, it appears that Sodini was editing this online diary just in the very last hours before he went to that gym.

We were able to extract time and date information from some of the posts. And it appears that 6:07, 6:10 p.m., this Web site was being edited. Police say the following hour, he was already in this fitness center.

Some of the things he put online, a resume, almost, his date of birth, his date of death, with yesterday's date on it. He documented the planning he had done putting -- going into the shooting, saying he took off days earlier this week to "practice my routine. Tomorrow is the big day," he wrote.

And other details there, saying that he had been planning this for many months, but hadn't gone through with it. At one point, he said that he wanted to wait until after the election happened to carry it out. And, then, January 6, he actually said he had gone -- he had chickened out. He brought the loaded guns and everything, but couldn't go through with it.

Suzanne, one of the fascinating and scary things about this Web site is how you get to this information. It's not there on the front page. It's almost hidden on the Web site. The Web site asks you to put in or guess the date of his death. If you put in the correct date, which was yesterday, that's where you find all this information.

MALVEAUX: Oh, that's bizarre.

Now, is it our understanding that he was actually targeting women?

TATTON: There are ramblings on this Web site, going through the fact that he has never had a girlfriend or for a very long time, that he's always single.

He's saying just a couple of days ago, the biggest problem of all is not having relationships or friends. And police say that a suicide note that was found with him has similar ramblings about the fact that he's so angry that he couldn't find a woman.

MALVEAUX: All right, Abbi Tatton, thank you so much.

Well, former political partners now teaming up again to bring home two journalists jailed in North Korea.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to thank President Bill Clinton for undertaking this mission and performing it so skillfully and all the members of his team who -- who played key roles in this.


MALVEAUX: Bill Clinton and Al Gore reunite. Are old tensions between the two in the past? Our political experts weigh in.


MALVEAUX: Earlier, we asked you to vote and grade the president's performance on health care reform. Thousands of you voted. And here's what you said.

Overall, you gave the president a B. Sixty-one percent of you gave him an A. Twenty percent of you gave him an A. Everyone else was in between. Thousands of you also graded the president's health care reform efforts online.

Let's go over to Tom Foreman at the magic wall for more.

Tom, what are we learning?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, when we look at the magic wall and the developments we're having here, we're -- we're coming up with a unique way where you can participate in this yourself at any moment online.

Go to, CNN politics, and now you can see our grading system in here. What you can do is pick a topic, one of these questions here, and then you can go over here, and you're able to move up and down this wall and pick out grade you want to. And then you assign that grade to what you think of the president on the handling of this.

So, let's take a look at some folks the examples that we have seen so far. For example, on the question of the economy, this is what we're getting here. Now, the scale is over here. You will get a sense that the A's are the reds. Down here, the C's are the greens, which you see a lot of here. And then the purples over here are the lowest ones. So, you see we have a lot of greens in here. About the best you have got in here is, is the District of Columbia has a C-plus. This, as we may note from what Suzanne said a moment ago, is lower than what we were hearing and what we're getting from the phones right now.

If we look at health care reform, look at this, a lot of purple in here, a lot of people very unhappy in these parts of the country about that, these also typically parts of the country that might not support a Democratic president or nominee for the president, and still not that strong -- go out in the other areas, one more area.

The overall grade for Barack Obama, more like a C in many, many places. But it's early on. You can participate in this. And, as we look toward our special tomorrow night, when do we the second 100 days, get online. Check it out at Take part. Record your vote, and then you can even see how your state has reacted to all of this voting about the President Obama's second 100 days -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Tom, once again, overall, you gave the president a B. And 61 percent of -- 61 of you -- percent -- actually gave him an A. Twenty percent gave him an F.

Everyone else was in between -- so, health care a real hot-button issue, one that our political gurus are -- are not afraid to tackle.

Joining us now for today's "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and Republican strategist John Feehery.

So, what do we make of these grades?

Let's start with -- start with you, Jamal.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the first thing I have to say is, obviously, for...


SIMMONS: ... those of us who follow this, this isn't exactly a scientific poll.



MALVEAUX: We never claimed it was scientific, Jamal.


MALVEAUX: We were just asking viewers to weigh in here. Come on.


SIMMONS: So -- so, I will take it as a grain of salt that people online aren't -- aren't actually viewing it as a resounding success. I would say the president probably deserves about a B or a B- plus, most because, right now, the assignment isn't incomplete. He doesn't have a bill. He doesn't have health care reform passed. Once he gets that passed, then I think we can more accurately grade him.

But, for so far, I think he's doing pretty well. I would like to hear a little bit more of the talk about the costs from the president, but, other than that, I think he's doing really well.



JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Jamal got it exactly right on the incomplete part -- part.

The president hasn't done anything yet. And he doesn't even have a bill that -- that he really strongly support in the Senate. I think the fact of the matter is that he has -- he set up an artificial deadline in August. We didn't reach that. He let the House pass a -- a cap-and-trade vote first, which really hurts his votes with the Blue Dogs in the House.

You know, I -- it's really incomplete, and it's actually bordering on failure. I think that he's lost the communications battle. And I just done think that he's actually -- it's not clear to me that he's going to actually get a bill. And, if he doesn't get a bill, that is going to be a big fat F.



SIMMONS: Well, you know, John -- John, I wouldn't go betting against Barack Obama right now. We have seen this guy be able to pull out a lot of -- more trickier things out of the fire -- out of the hat. So...


FEEHERY: Well, I don't know, Jamal. Listen, it's probably the trickiest thing he's ever dealt with. Health care has a long history of being very tricky. And I don't think he's handled it as -- as skillfully as I thought he would.

MALVEAUX: I want you guys to take a real quick here -- a look at this RNC ad that is attacking the president, the first 200 days of his presidency, calling it simply a failure. Take a listen.


NARRATOR: The presidency of Barack Obama, 200 days. It started star-studded, high hopes, all smiles, photo-ops and reassurances, even an official White House photo for the first pup.

With an economy at a crossroads, his experiment started, government takeover after takeover, a...


MALVEAUX: John, do you think that's fair? I mean, an utter failure here? I mean, you are seeing changes, signs that the economy is starring to turn around, that it perhaps prevented one of the worst recessions of all -- depressions, rather, of all time?

FEEHERY: Well, I -- I think it's -- I think it's fair in the sense of it's a good political ad. I think that you're trying to -- they're trying to set the tone and the expectations.

I mean, the -- the fact of the matter is, the press has made a big deal out of this 200-day thing, so I think the RNC is doing what's appropriate for them to do, which is, you know, raising questions about his record in the first 200 days.

I would like to point out another ad that you didn't run having to do with the DNC calling people who have some complaints about the health care bill an angry mob. I guarantee that ad is going to have reverberations politically for the next six months.

MALVEAUX: And we will actually be showing that ad, you should know, John, later in the program.

FEEHERY: Oh, good.

MALVEAUX: So, we will...

FEEHERY: Excellent.

MALVEAUX: Equal opportunity here.


MALVEAUX: But, Jamal, why don't you weigh in on this?

SIMMONS: Well, I'm looking forward to ad, because -- the DNC ad -- because I actually think that there is an angry mob out there.

I think that -- you know, I remember being in Florida, where I first met you, Suzanne, down in West Palm Beach, when this was going on with the recount. And we had -- remember, in Miami, they had those white-collar mobs that were storming the building in Miami?

I think this is another example of that. Somebody needs to call Brad Blakeman and find out where he is when these...


SIMMONS: ... when these mobs are showing up all over the country.

We need to make sure, as Democrats, though, that we have an alternative group out there that's keeping the message for health care reform, so anybody who's neutral who shows up at one of these rallies recognizes that this isn't just Republicans who are against it. There are a lot of people who are for health care reform, and they're willing to speak up also.

MALVEAUX: OK, Jamal, John, got to...


FEEHERY: Well, Jamal, you're right about that.


MALVEAUX: Got to leave that there. Sorry. Sorry.


MALVEAUX: Running out of time here.

FEEHERY: All right.

MALVEAUX: But thank you so much, Jamal and John, for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

FEEHERY: Thank you.

SIMMONS: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Well, if you missed this dramatic and emotional homecoming for journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, we are replaying the entire footage of their return to the U.S. from North Korea. You can catch it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And seven kidney transplants involving 14 recipients and donors who didn't match -- the story is straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: On our "Political Ticker": Americans are speaking out on Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and a majority say to the Senate, confirm her. Fifty-one percent of those asked in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll say they want to see her serve on the court. That's four points up from June. Thirty-six percent oppose her nomination.

Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is stepping up his national profile, fueling new talk of a possible run for the White House in 2012. It's just been announced that he will be the keynote speaker at a Florida GOP fund-raising dinner this month. He will be sharing the podium along with former Miss California Carrie Prejean, who stirred up a national controversy with her outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage.

And, remember, for the latest political news any time, check out our

Jack joining us now again with "The Jack Cafferty File."

Hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Doesn't Governor Pawlenty run that state where it took them like two years to figure out who won the Senate race up there?

MALVEAUX: Oh, you know.



CAFFERTY: Just wondering. Inquiring minds want to know these things.

The question this hour is, how would you characterize President Obama's second 100 days?

It didn't take two years, but it took too long.

J.G.: "Wake me when it's over. Hopefully, things can't get any worse than they already are with this man. A community organizer does not make a good president. With no business sense or understanding, how can he possibly relate? He is spending beyond our means, no way to pay for it, other than increasing taxes, since he isn't doing what he promised to do, which was to cut out the pork."

Justin in North Carolina: "The market is up. Thousands of cars were bought with cash for clunkers. Iraq is winding down. Our people got out of North Korea. And Republicans have been reduced to birthers or town hall screamers. I would say that's an A-plus."

Andrew says: "I am still waiting for his economic stimulus to work. He really ought to complete his first assignment before moving on to something else. And if it takes tax increases on the middle class to finance his health care bill, then he might as well just hand Congress back to the Republicans on a silver platter."

Christopher in Canada: "Hey, Jack, the only problem I have seen in the second 100 days is the ongoing fear-mongering being spewed by the Republicans and FOX News. America should be very proud of your new president. I know we approve here in Canada."

Bill in Sacramento: "President Obama gets an A-plus for trying. He is the most open president the American public has seen in a long time. He always appears to have a good, solid grasp of the issues. He explains his positions in a way that is both intelligent and easy to understand."

And Adam in Simi Valley, California: "Obama has successfully pushed a truckload of his progressive agenda into the national consciousness. We now have czars in America. With the steps taken to socialize medicine and tax energy, coupled with the horrific first 100 days of bailouts and wealth redistribution to those who never deserved it, he is well on his way to his socialist utopian society, where we are all equal, and everyone is entitled to the same lifestyle, regardless of how hard they have worked to succeed. I am sure that deserves a gold star in someone's book."


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

We got a lot of mail on this question, all kinds of opinions. They're like noses, you know. Everybody's got one.

MALVEAUX: And a different kind for everybody.



MALVEAUX: A lot of B's for the president.

OK. Thank you, Jack.