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The Situation Room

Jobless Rate Hits Double Digits; Nightmare in Orlando

Aired November 06, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This hour, we're learning more about his financial problems.

And we now have double-digit unemployment here in the United States, the worst in two decades. Are Americans losing patience with the bad economy and with the president?

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

This hour, new video of the alleged Fort Hood gunman. That's believed to be Major Nidal Malik Hasan in the second row at a homeland security conference here in Washington back in January. Law enforcement sources now tell us that Hasan was armed with a 5.7- millimeter semiautomatic pistol.

We're told the gun known as a -- quote -- "cop killer" was bought legally. We also have confirmed that Hasan cleaned out his apartment yesterday morning. That was the morning he allegedly killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others. Three exclusive pictures are said to show Hasan at a convenience store that very same morning.

At Fort Hood today, a moment of silence in honor of the victims. The bodies will be flown tonight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. There will be no media coverage of the arrival at the request of the soldiers' families.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan was born in the Washington, D.C., area. He pursued his career in psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and as a lifelong Muslim, he regularly prayed at a mosque just north of the nation's capital in Silver Spring, Maryland.

That's where Brian Todd is right now with more on what we're learning about Major Hasan.

Brian, tell us what you're learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are learning really just now about the complexities in Major Hasan's life. And to get a sample of them, we spoke with people who saw him where he lived, where he worked and where he worshipped here for about five years.


TODD (voice-over): Midday prayers at the Muslim Community Center, where Major Nidal Malik Hasan prayed at least once a week, helped review charity applications, but otherwise seemed to blend in. (on camera): What were your impressions of him? Was he someone who was more devout than the average parishioner here? Was he -- was he fanatical at all?

IMAM MOHAMED ABDULLAHI, MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER: My impression was, he was a little calm. And I never seen him arguing with anybody. He was -- just used to pray and leave.

TODD (voice-over): Mohamed Abdullahi, the imam of this mosque, says Hasan did ask a former imam here to help him find a wife.

(on camera): Was that successful? Was there...

ABDULLAHI: No, he said he wasn't -- that was not successful.

TODD (voice-over): Dr. Asif Qadri ran a clinic at the mosque. He says he struck up an acquaintance with Hasan over their shared experience training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

(on camera): When you relayed to him how great your experience at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was, what was his response?

DR. ASIF QADRI, MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER: He concurred with me. He agreed with me. It was a very nice place to work. You know, I got the impression he was very happy what he was doing, you know. Then I hear that he had some problems there. I don't know what kind of problems he had.

TODD (voice-over): A retired Army psychiatrist who was a training director at Walter Reed when Hasan interned there tells CNN Hasan had difficulties at that hospital that required supervision. He didn't want to give details.

DR. THOMAS GRIEGER, MILITARY FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: It's not uncommon during internship that, you know, interns require periods of extra supervision. And, you know, he responded to the supervision that he received.

TODD: Dr. Tom Grieger told the Associated Press that Hasan's problems at Walter Reed stemmed from his interaction with patients.

Professionally, personally, the alleged Fort Hood gunman is portrayed as a man of complexities. His own family says that he had been taunted after 9/11 and had unsuccessfully tried to leave the military early. But a neighbor down the hall at an apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, echoed the sentiments of those who observed him at his place of worship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would never have believe that, because he seemed so calm. And, you know, he was never upset with anything whenever I saw him.


TODD: Now, as for the people who worship here, the imam says he is concerned about the possible public backlash at this mosque, but a member of the board of directions tells us he is confident in the relationship that the mosque has built with the relationship. It's a relationship that has been cultivated since 1976 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, have they beefed up security at that mosque?

TODD: They have not yet, Wolf. And I asked the board of directors' head if they were going to do that. He said not at the moment. He's not planning on doing it. He said he will contact the police and maybe try to beef up security, but not until something happens, so you just got to hope that it's either minor or it doesn't happen at all.

BLITZER: Let's hope. All right, Brian, thank you.

Brian is in Silver Spring, Maryland.

President Obama offering new tributes today to the victims at Fort Hood and to the men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day for their country. Earlier, he discussed the Fort Hood investigation with federal officials, spoke out about the massacre for a second day.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't know all of the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all of the facts.

What we do know is that their families, friends, and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday in one of the worst mass shootings ever to take place on an American military base.

So from now until Veterans Day, I have ordered the flags at the White House and other federal buildings to be flown at half-staff. This is a modest tribute to those who lost their lives even as many were preparing to risk their lives for their country. And it's also a recognition of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our safety and uphold our values.

We honor their service. We stand in awe of their sacrifice. And we pray for the safety of those who fight, and for the families of those who have fallen.

And as we continue to learn more about what happened at Fort Hood this administration will continue to provide you updates in the coming days and weeks.


BLITZER: Also today, the president met behind closed doors with other wounded troops at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington, D.C. He spent about an hour and 40 minutes there. No cameras from the news media were allowed inside.

The family of the suspect has just put out a new statement. And it says, in part: "We are all asking why this happened. And the answer is that we simply do not know. We cannot explain nor do we excuse what happened yesterday."

The statement goes on to say: "Yesterday's violence in no way reflects the feelings, beliefs or principles of our family. We have spoken with the FBI, answered all of their questions, provided them with all the information we have. We will continue to provide information and cooperate with law enforcement until this is resolved and explained to all of us" -- that statement just released by the family of Major Hasan.

Stay with CNN for a prime-time special investigation inside the Fort Hood shootings. That's tomorrow night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

We will have much more coming up on the massacre in Fort Hood. Stay with us this hour as well.

But, on this, the day after the massacre, another gunman sparked a nightmare, this time in Orlando, Florida. Right now, a suspect is in custody,. Police pepper him with questions as a shocked city asks, why were six people shot?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you do it? Why did you do it?

JASON RODRIGUEZ, SUSPECT: They left me to rot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They left you to rot? You're mad at your employers?

RODRIGUEZ: No, I'm not -- not mad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who left you to rot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who left you to rot?


BLITZER: That was the suspected gunman Jason Rodriguez. He was peppered by questions by the news media as he was walked there.

If you didn't hear what he said, when asked why he allegedly shot six people, he said -- and I'm quoting him now -- "They left me to rot."

Let's bring in CNN's John Zarrella. He's our man in Orlando right now.

The suspect in this case previously worked, John, at that engineering firm where the shooting rampage took place.


Reynolds Smith & Hills is an engineering firm in that building behind me there, that office building there. And he had worked there up until 2007, when he was let go. According to company officials, he was let go for performance issues. They would not say any more than that or elaborate on exactly why he was released from that job.

But it was 11:00 a.m. this morning, some seven hours ago. And, of course, you can see still a crime scene here. The crime tape is just now, the yellow tape being taken down by police here. But it was 11:00 a.m. when shots rang out in that office building.

People began to scamper. The SWAT teams were called in to start evacuating the folks that work in that building and at the same time to try to find this 40-year-old man. He was not there. He had gone to his mother's house and they tracked his car to his mother's house, where Rodriguez surrendered without incident to police.

But, again, as he was brought into the police headquarters there, you could hear him say that he was left to rot. Now, company officials say because so much time had passed, they had no reason to believe or suspect that he was violent or that anything like this would have taken place -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Zarrella in Orlando for us working the story -- John, thanks very much.

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

A lot of folks, Jack, have simply suggested -- quote -- "copycat." This Orlando shooting spree happening the day after the Fort Hood shooting spree, it could be a totally random coincidence, certainly not necessarily a copycat.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: On the other hand, it could have been somebody who's been sitting for two-and-a-half years with this festering inside him, some sort of imagined injustice at his employers, and then something else makes the news like the Fort Hood shooting, and it is just enough to push him into action. He said something about, they left me to rot.

If he did this, he's about to find out what rotting is all about.

BLITZER: And, Jack, just, before you start "The Cafferty File," you have covered law enforcement for a long time. There's always fears of copycats after these kinds of incidents.

CAFFERTY: Oh, absolutely. And it wouldn't be surprising if in the next day or two or week or so that there was another whack job someplace that picks off gun and goes on a rampage.

It's unfortunate, but I guess it's one of the prices you pay for instantaneous mass communication and the impact of the news media.

Now, if you buy into the axiom that you're only as strong as your weakest link, then this country is in some serious trouble. Consider this -- 75 percent of the America's young people between the 17 and 24 are unfit for military service. Army statistics show these youngsters are ineligible to enlist for a number of reasons, from a lack of education to illegal drug use, being overweight, out of shape or having a criminal record, 75 percent. What would we have done when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor if that had been the situation with our population then?

This disturbing news comes just a month after the Pentagon met its annual recruiting goals for the first time since 1973. But military commanders are quick to point out that, during economic downturns, recruitment numbers go up and -- quoting now -- "a weak economy is no formula for a strong military" -- unquote.

This is scary stuff. We continue to fight two wars. There are additional potential threats from places like Iran and North Korea. And here is a very real sign that our standard of living is declining. Research shows that almost half of all U.S. children, 90 percent of African-American children, will be on food stamps before they reach the age of 20.

The current recession could push those numbers even higher. The study in "The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine" says that many of these kids could be at risk for malnutrition and other problems associated with poverty. What kind of future is that for half of our children and by extension for this country?

Here's the question. How confident are you in the next generation of Americans? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

That's very depressing stuff, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. When I read that report, I was depressed too, Jack.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jack Cafferty.


BLITZER: We will be back with your e-mail. That's coming up.

Also we're going to have much more on what's going on in Fort Hood, Texas, on this, the day after that massacre, but also news we're watching, including unemployment. It's so bad right now you would have to go back to the Reagan era to see an unemployment rate this high, 10.2 percent announced today. Will Americans soon lose patience with Barack Obama?

And another number we're watching, that number would be 218. That is how many votes are needed in the House of Representatives to pass a massive health care reform bill. Democrats' biggest problem right now, persuading other Democrats to vote for the bill.


BLITZER: We will get back to the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings. That's coming up. Stand by.

But there's other news happening right now, including the economic news. For many Americans, it hardly seems like the recession is ending, word today that the nation's unemployment rate has risen to 10.2 percent, double digits for the first time since 1983. That came as President Obama signed a bill today extending jobless benefits up to 20 weeks.


OBAMA: But history tells us the job growth always lags behind economic growth, which is why we have to continue to pursue measures that will create new jobs.

And I can promise you that I won't let up until the Americans who want to find work can find work, and until all Americans can earn enough to raise their families and keep their businesses open.


BLITZER: Let's get right over to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, how much concern is there at the White House right now that these bad economic numbers will convince a lot of Americans to lose their patience with the president?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, White House officials I spoke with today say they recognize they have months, not years, before the American people just raise their hands and give up on this altogether.

There are a couple of really important dates to look at. Obviously 2010, midterm congressional elections, if you don't see those job numbers go up, that's going to be a real problem for some Democratic lawmakers, who might lose their seats.

We're also talking about 2012. Clearly, that's a good ways away, but if we don't those numbers don't go in the right direction, that could be the presidency for Obama.

There's one benchmark that people are not talking about that you should watch out for. The Economic Recovery Act started in February in earnest. Since then, more than a million jobs have been saved or created. That's what the White House is saying. That's what some economic experts are saying as well.

If that number in two years -- it expires, obviously, this program -- if that number doesn't get any better, if there's not a net gain of jobs over the losses, you're still going to have unemployment rising. That is what they're looking out for, so those three benchmarks very important for this White House, but they realize it's months, Wolf, not years.

BLITZER: Yes, time, the clock is ticking, Suzanne. Thanks very much. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Democrats spent today fighting for votes, Democratic votes they need to pass the House version of health care reform. It's a fight that could go on all weekend.

Let's get the latest from our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

What's going on, Dana, because we were bracing for a vote on the floor of the House tomorrow.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That is still what Democratic leaders say they are going to do. That's their goal, but I can tell you that means a very late night tonight twisting arms, because I spent a lot of time today outside the House chamber talking to Democratic lawmakers. Many are still undecided about whether or not their party's prescription for fixing the health care system in this country is the right one.



REP. BILL OWENS (D), NEW YORK: I do so swear.

PELOSI: Congratulations. You are now a member of the....


BASH (voice-over): The Democratic winner of Tuesday's bitter New York special election sworn in.

OWEN: I'm proud to begin a new chapter of service to my country.

BASH: Giving Democratic leaders another vote on health care and making their enormous majority in the House even bigger. House Democrats now hold 258 seats. They need just 218 to approve their health care bill. You would think that wouldn't be so hard, until you talk to Democrats like Maryland Frank Kratovil.

REP. FRANK KRATOVIL (D), MARYLAND: At the moment, I'm a no on the bill that is coming to the bill on Saturday.

BASH: He was undecided, but the first-term congressman from a swing district concluded he couldn't vote yes. Why?

KRATOVIL: The cost of it, overall cost of it, is substantial. The impact on the deficit I think is still going to be substantial.

BASH: Other conservative Democrats are now saying no for similar reasons. South Dakota's Stephanie Herseth Sandlin broke the news on her Web site, warning, her party's health care plan does not include sufficient cost containment and deficit reduction measures.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: We're getting there.

BASH: But the Democrat in charge of counting votes admits they're not there yet.

CLYBURN: We do have a huge majority, but we also have a very diverse caucus.

BASH: That's especially true when it comes to abortion.

REP. STEVE DRIEHAUS (D), OHIO: I'm a pro-life Democrat. And several of my colleagues are.

BASH: Undecided Democrats like Steve Driehaus are demanding that their leaders toughen restrictions on abortion to ensure that no taxpayer dollars can be used.

DRIEHAUS: No federal funds used to pay for abortions. And so that means no federal funds used to pay for abortions in the public option, no public funds used to pay for abortions for people receiving subsidies on the exchange.

BASH (on camera): Or your vote is no?



BASH: Now, this issue, abortion, still threatens to derail the House Democrats' health care bill, because there are a number of anti- abortion Democrats who feel the same way. That is why, as we speak, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is in marathon meetings, she has been all day, working to find a compromise on this issue, even engaging the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Why? Because several Democrats told us that they need their blessing in order to believe that the restrictions on abortion in this health care bill are tough enough to get their vote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, we will watch all weekend together with you, see what happens, a lot at stake. Thank you.

Muslims in the U.S. military fighting in Muslim countries, what is going on? Are they being harassed? You're going to hear what veterans are telling us.


BLITZER: We're getting some new pictures of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspected shooter in Fort Hood. We're getting those pictures ready to show you. Stand by. You will see them in a few moments.


BLITZER: There are almost 2,000 Muslims on active duty right now in the United States army. Stand by for their reaction to the massacre at Fort Hood. Will they pay a price because the alleged gunman shares their faith? And we're also learning more about the weapons used in the massacre and why so many were killed so quickly. We will have a live report that's coming in from Fort Hood.


BLITZER: We're just getting this information in from our Pentagon producer, Larry Shaughnessy. Let me be precise.

The suspected shooter in the Fort Hood massacre, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, he has now been moved from Fort Hood to the Brooke Army Medical Center. That's in San Antonio. He was helicoptered there just a little while ago.

The helicopter arrived approximately 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. He's being guarded. According to the U.S. military, he's in critical but stable -- stable condition. Beyond that, they're not providing more details, other than to say that Major Hasan is now at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

We have also just received some new pictures of the suspect in the Fort Hood rampage. These images of the Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan come from the Uniform Services University of the Health Sciences, where Hasan studied in Bethesda, Maryland. They show him in 2000, 2003 and 2007. You can see those still photos right there.

Now, other Muslims in the U.S. military say they fear his alleged crime may make their situation even harder.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us with more on this sensitive story.

What are you hearing -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's definitely concern. And a relative of Nidal Hasan says Hasan told his family he had been taunted after September 11th and had said that he wanted to leave the military. That raises the question of what it's like for Muslim members currently serving the U.S. military.

We spoke to some Muslim veterans about their experiences.


SNOW: (voice-over): Watching the Fort Hood massacre unfold, former Marine Qaseem Ali Uodah says beyond his shock and horror, he felt something else.

QASEEM ALI UODAH, FORMER U.S. MARINE: I was praying that it was not a Muslim because of the potential negative adding to the negative image that seem to have -- people seem to have in regards to Islam or Muslims.

SNOW: But when the military identified the alleged gunman as Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an American Muslim, former Marine Robert Salaam knew what it could mean. ROBERT SALAAM, FORMER U.S. MARINE: Fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are looking at their Muslim comrades and are a little bit worried. They're a little bit more skeptical. And it's human nature. And I -- I experienced it. Muslims all over the armed forces experience it today.

SNOW: Twenty-nine-year-old Salaam converted to Islam while serving in the Marines shortly after 9/11. He says he was not harassed. But he says with the U.S. at war in Muslim nations, he felt he had to work harder to prove he wasn't a Muslim extremist.

SALAAM: You have to prove that you're not one of them. And just as you feel that they're starting not to see you as the Muslim soldier, sailor or Marine, but they're starting to see you as just one of the other members of the unit, things like this happen and you don't even want to get out of bed. You don't want to go to formation.

SNOW: Salaam recalls in 2003 when a grenade was thrown into a tent filled with U.S. soldiers in Kuwait, killing two officers and injuring 14 others.

Army Sergeant Hasan Akbar was convicted and sentenced to death. His lawyer said he was mentally ill and said he wanted to stop U.S. forces from attacking other Muslims.

Salaam says among young recruits, the question of Muslims fighting in Muslim countries does come up.

SALAAM: But I tell other Muslims who want to join the military and who are in the military that you're not fighting Muslims, you're fighting those who claim to be Muslim but are doing -- they're the will of Satan.

SNOW: And former Army Sergeant Abdul Rashid Abdullah says with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslim soldiers are better positioned than most in working with locals.

SGT. ABDUL RASHID ABDULLAH, FORMER ARMY SERGEANT: The military needs to look at the Muslims as -- as an asset. A lot of times we bring in, through cultural or our linguistic capabilities, that can really help in these situations.


SNOW: And as for other incidents, we spoke to the director of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council. He told us while there have been some cases of harassment in reported to his organization, he says the military was actively involved in resalving -- in resolving them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in New York.

Thanks very much for that.

At Fort Hood today, the military brass trying to keep the troops strong after the massacre in their midst. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN MCHUGH, ARMY SECRETARY: This is a time for "Army strong" to mean what it says. And this is a time to know that we are working every moment to ensure that their safety and security is met to the highest possible degree.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I'll tell you candidly, this was a kick in the gut not only for Fort -- the Fort Hood community, but also for our entire Army.


BLITZER: All right. Let's go back to Fort Hood right now.

CNN's Sean Callebs is on the scene for us -- Sean, I take it you have some new information on the second gun that was used?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. Well, you know, one was a .357 revolver. That is some new information that we've gotten within just the past half hour or so. We also know that he used a five point -- an FN 5.7. This fires a -- a bullet often called a cop killer. So, well, 50 people either wounded or killed, certainly we have a lot more insight into that, as to those weapons.

We have some more information on what happened to Major Hasan in the 12 hours leading up to the shooting.

We begin about 2:37 in the morning, the morning before the shooting. A neighbor who shared a common wall with him in an apartment said he heard a great deal of thumping and noise going on. Well, it turns out that is when Hasan was giving his furniture to a neighbor, telling that neighbor that she could have it because he was going to be deployed and not coming back. A lot of people wondered, was this a very ominous sign that -- of what he intended to do. We can't answer that at this hour.

But then about -- a little bit later, 2:37 in the morning, Hasan called his neighbor, Willie Bell, and asked him to turn on his wireless so he could use his computer. He did it then. But he called back at 5:00 in the morning, made the same request. He did it again.

Now, we do know that Bell was taken into custody by authorities and he was questioned for four hours. Also Bell's laptop, which Hasan had used on occasion, was also seized. Bell did tell CNN that he was asked much more than just about the wireless.

So that's some of the information, Wolf, that we're gaining about Hasan leading up to this shooting.

BLITZER: Sean Callebs on the scene for us.

We'll check back with you.

And we'll have more on this story coming up, the aftermath of this massacre at Fort Hood. Also, unemployment here in the United States soars into double digits.

Are Americans running out of patience with President Obama?

The best political team on television is standing by.


BLITZER: Lots of political fallout from the tragedy at Fort Hood.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our senior political analyst, David Gergen; Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Paul Begala; and Republican strategist, Terry Holt.

I just want to point out that Paul and Terry have some connections to the health care debate. Paul consults for the Service Employees Union International and one of Terry Holt's clients is the AHIP or A-Hip, as it's called, the health insurance -- the health insurance lobby here in Washington. I guess we can call it that.

Let's talk a little bit, David, about Fort Hood. A crisis like this develops at a time when the president is deciding whether to dispatch more troops -- 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. You've served in four White Houses. Take us behind-the-scenes.

What happens?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, this has been a very sobering 24 hours for this White House. I think that Afghanistan was already an agonizing decision, the president having to send people into harm's way. Now he has this, you know, troops who are getting ready to go to Afghanistan and Iraq and -- and all this happens.

So I think it's everyone around the president -- I think -- I was there in the White House today and I can tell you, it was a quiet place.

There are two things about it. This kind of moment can be, as Paul will recall with President Clinton when we had Oklahoma City. It's a time when the president can -- can reunify the country. He, in effect, can play consoler-in-chief. And it was -- that was actually a turning point for Bill Clinton in -- in his -- in rebuilding his own presidency.

BLITZER: I remember going out to Oklahoma City and watching him. And he was very impressive.

Is this a moment, Paul, where the president should go to the -- the funerals and speak to the nation about these 13 Americans who were killed yesterday?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I suspect we'll see him at Fort Hood. But there's -- there's always a question of timing. You don't want to get in the way of the investigation, of these families' initial very, very raw horrible pain. And I do want to say personally, my prayers are with them. My stepfather served -- my father-in-law served at Fort Hood when -- when he was in the Army and it's -- it's a family. And he -- he is the Potter Familias figure now.

I remember President Reagan doing that when the Challenger exploded -- a horrific shock. But -- but he rose to the occasion.

And this president, I do think, showed a real sense of calm and comforting, at the same time some -- some strength and resolve. And you want to get that right. You can't show the rage that a lot of us feel behind-the-scenes.

BLITZER: Because it's the balancing act, Terry, as you well know.

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: It is. I think that it is a moment for -- for his responsibility as -- as the commander-in-chief and as the president, to -- to set the right posture and set the right tone. I was gratified to know that he didn't take a lot of media when he went out to Walter Reed, you know, following the tradition...

BLITZER: He didn't take any media.

HOLT: Exactly. So...

BLITZER: No pictures were allowed.

HOLT: So I think that's -- that's, you know, the proper approach.

The question is, you know, moving forward, he goes back to being a lobbyist for health care tomorrow on Capitol Hill. And so it is -- it's, you know, one foot in the debate of the day and the other foot, you know...



HOLT: That's right.

BORGER: You know, that's part of the job.

But, you know, I think we've seen a president where, clearly, the burdens of the job right now are on him. You can see it yesterday when he made a statement about what was happening at Fort Hood. We saw him when he went to Dover. Today, he went to Walter Reed.

And, you know. This is somebody who is making a decision about sending young men and women into harm's way. And he's been involved in this process on Afghanistan and on health care. I think it -- it weighs on him (INAUDIBLE).

HOLT: It's a moment where politics gets trumped by the national mood. And -- and his posture adds to what our mood should be about these kinds of things.


BLITZER: It, also...


HOLT: ...a huge non-partisan...

BLITZER: David, you were driving at this, I think it complicates his decision-making process in terms of what to do about Afghanistan.

GERGEN: It shouldn't, but it may color the decision-making. I mean he ought to decide on other grounds. But I think, Wolf, because he's going to make this decision now after his trip to Asia, I think this will sort of -- this element will fade a little bit...

BLITZER: Do we know that for sure, David?

GERGEN: I think we're pretty certain it's not coming quickly. And that -- that was certainly the sense I got at the White House today.

But let me say, there's something that's different about this and that is with Orlando happening the very next day, there's a sense of this sort of violence in the society. And I don't want to go too far on this, but in a sensitive -- but, Wolf, the -- the threat levels are up for a lot of people in this country.

It includes some prominent people. There are more things floating around on the Internet. The -- there are more security people around the White House in general. I have seen this in past administrations where actually members of the White House staff have to have security.

And I think that -- I think it -- it can be said -- and I think it's not a secret -- the threat levels in general.

So this is not some act that seems way over there. This is something that's happening in a way that it has personal -- you know, you -- you -you can feel this if you're one of these personalities who suddenly got thrust into this. And I'm not just talking about government. There are some other prominent people in this country who find that the threat levels are going up.

BORGER: But you feel it just as an American citizen.


BORGER: I mean, you know, one day you have Fort Hood, the next day you have somebody in Orlando who is angry at his... GERGEN: Yes.

BORGER: his employer. And you -- everybody's been asking the question...


HOLT: We're going through a horrible recession. We've been at war for six or seven years.

BORGER: Well, that's true. That's true.

HOLT: Anxiety in the electorate was obvious in -- in the last presidential election. And I think we still have a lot of anxiety about our quality of life and our -- and our prospects for the future. That's -- that's definitely out there.

BEGALA: It does, though, feel different. I mean, obviously, we had Oklahoma City in the Clinton presidency. We had 9/11, for goodness sakes, in the Bush. But the -- you had a -- a crazed gunman in Pittsburgh opening fire on police officers. You had a -- a Nazi -- let's call him what he was -- go into the Holocaust Museum and allegedly murder a guard. You had another gunman go into a church in -- in Kansas and -- and murder an abortion doctor. You had -- in Knoxville, Tennessee, a gunman went into a uni -- Universal Unitarian church and opened fire on the congregants there.

It's been a bloody year. And -- and that's -- it's heartbreaking, but it raises -- I think David is right, it raises a real concern.

BLITZER: So let's get back, David, to how this all plays out in the -- on the president's thinking.

GERGEN: Well, I -- I -- I think that Gloria has it right and that the burdens of the office are, I think, having some -- or making a stronger impact on him. I think he's a more sober person. This was -- I think the last 24 hours have not been easy for him. But it's also the process of just governing. I mean, you know, look how hard it is to make a decision on Afghanistan. Look how hard it is just to get the House to vote for his health care plan. Now we -- everybody thought this was going to be -- you know, if they can schedule a vote this weekend, it would happen. It turns out they're short.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: And we don't know if they're going to make it or not. So I think all of that is making the job of the presidency perhaps tougher than even we appreciate on the outside.



BLITZER: If anybody hasn't noticed, this president, since the election a year ago exactly, he has aged. If you look at the pictures then and now, he clearly feels that burden and it's very visible.

BORGER: Well, you know, and -- and I think, also, he believed because he had the votes in the Senate and he had a large majority in the House that he could do anything he wanted pretty quickly. And I think that hasn't come to pass, obviously.

BLITZER: It has not. All right, guys. We'll watch to see what happens this weekend -- to see if they can get to that magic number of 218 votes in the House of Representatives. You know Nancy Pelosi is not going to have roll call unless she's 100 percent certain she has 218 votes. So they're doing a lot of twisting -- arm-twisting right now.

Have a great weekend, guys.

BEGALA: Thank you.


BLITZER: In that nightmare at a U.S. military base, you heard a lot about the alleged gunman.

But what about the victims?

We're going to tell you what we know about those who lost their lives at Fort Hood.


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker right now, a SITUATION ROOM interview makes the political world sit up and take some notice.

Check out this new ad from the conservative group, the Club for Growth, targeting Florida's Republican Governor, Charlie Crist.


GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: We know that it's important that we pass a stimulus package.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since Charlie Crist helped pass Barack Obama's...


BLITZER: That ad goes on to claim that Florida's economy is now worse since the stimulus was passed. The Club for Growth says it wants to set the record straight about Crist's support for the stimulus after my interview with him on Wednesday.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama's spending program -- nearly 200,000 Floridians have lost their jobs. Unemployment is the highest in decades. Personal income is down.


BLITZER: Do you have any regrets about endorsing the economic stimulus package?

CRIST: Well, I didn't endorse it. I -- you know, I didn't even have a vote on the darned thing, but I understood that it was going to pass and I wanted to be able to utilize it for the benefit of my fellow Floridians.


BLITZER: Take a note that Crist said he didn't vote for the stimulus package because he never had the chance to, he wasn't a member of the Congress. He didn't actually deny supporting it, though. Parsing words, but it's a sensitive issue when you want to get the Republican Senatorial nomination in the state of Florida.

Let's go back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is how confident are you in the next generation of Americans?

Sheryl writes: "As an education specialist and researcher, I believe to my bones the only way to fight the poverty that plagues the next generation is through education. We adopted our daughter out of U.S. poverty. Her sister was murdered through urban peer violence. Education and having her most basic needs met is what's making the difference for our now 13-year-old daughter. Her sister had equal potential, but had to attend school in a dangerous environment. Education is life. The alternative is poverty, incarceration or death."

Emden in Texas writes: "They can't be worse than my generation. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Our legacy -- massive debt, unsecured borders, ever increasing drug traffic to our kids. We've squandered everything our parents and grandparents left us. In spite of this, people are dying to get in. Go figure."

Greg says: "We threw out our Judeo-Christian heritage, its symbols, its moral restraints, its guidelines and this is what secularism has given us back."

Tom writes: "We're a nation full of children raising children. I have no confidence in our future."

Stephanie says: "I'm 52 years old. I've worked with young and old people. I've met some very hard working, dedicated and intelligent young people. I feel this generation is the same as any other generation."

Joe writes: "I used to be a Marine Corps recruiter. From my experience, I can tell you, we are screwed." And Harry writes from Kentucky: "Careful, Jack. I'm sure when you were growing up, you heard your elders proclaim something negative about you and your generation and how the country was going to hell because of you. Guess what? They were right."

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

I heard that a lot actually -- Wolf.


Jack, have a great weekend.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: I'll see you Monday.

BLITZER: Most of the past two days we have told you a lot about the soldier, a United States Army major, alleged to be the attacker over at Fort Hood, killing 13 Americans. Now we're going to tell you the stories of the victims, when we come back.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The bodies of the 13 Americans killed in a rampage at Fort Hood are now being flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Meanwhile, we're learning more about some of those killed and wounded. Their families have given us permission to share details of their loved ones.


Aaron Thomas Nemelka


Hometown -- West Jordan, Utah

19 years old

Youngest of four siblings


Jason Dean Hun


Hometown -- Tipton, Oklahoma

22 years old

Voted "most quiet" in his high school senior class


Michael Pearson


Hometown -- Bolingbrook, Illinois

Played guitar

Slated for Afghanistan redeployment


KRISTOPHER CRAIG, BROTHER OF MICHAEL PEARSON: I told my mom that there's no way he could have been there and there's no way somebody got on base and shot people unless it was one of our own. And then not a half hour after I said that, it was on the news that it was one of our -- one of our own soldiers.


Joy Clark


Hometown -- Des Moines, Indiana

27 years old

Shot in arm


Ray Saucedo


Hometown -- Lansing, Michigan

Father of two


Amber Bahr


Hometown -- Random Lake, Wisconsin

Treated other victims on the scene


LISA PFUND, MOTHER, AMBER BAHR: She just said she went running and didn't realize she was shot until she went to the E.R. And she was shot in the back.



Grant Moxon


Hometown -- Lodi, Wisconsin

2008 grad University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse


Keara Bono

Hometown -- Kansas City


Slated for Iraq deployment


Justin Johnson


Hometown -- Punta Gorda, Florida

Mother says he was shot in the chest and the leg


ROXANNE JOHNSON, MOTHER OF JUSTIN JOHNSON: And I heard dush, dush, dush in my ear.

And I said, what is that?

So I thought -- at first, I thought he was just kidding around with me and turning up the video game. And then I thought, maybe it's a training exercise, so I started listening. Then I hear all the screaming and -- and the crying.



Kimberly Munley


Hometown -- New Hanover County, North Carolina

Father is former mayor of Carolina Beach


Matthew Cooke


Hometown -- Afton, New York

Shot five times


George Stratton, III


Hometown -- Post Falls, Idaho

18 years old


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard 15 rounds went off really quick. And he just said it was ear shattering and he couldn't hear anything. And he dropped down to take cover and then he said he peeked out from behind what -- wherever he was -- his cover position was. And -- and the guy happened to be standing right in front of him. He said he was five feet away from guy and he just shot me right in the shoulder.