Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Tiger Woods Apologizes; Obama Administration Defends New Afghanistan Strategy

Aired December 02, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And Tiger Woods apologizing for letting down his family. So far, though, his corporate sponsors aren't letting him down.

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

President Obama's top lieutenants on the front lines today defending his new strategy in Afghanistan, the secretaries of defense and state, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs presenting a united front before Congress, the war commander assigned to rally troops, while the vice president went before TV cameras, a major P.R. offensive in support of the commander in chief on this, the day after he laid out his new war plans.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, covered all the hearings up on Capitol Hill.

The president getting some praise, but also getting a lot of criticism, not just from Republicans, but also some Democrats.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And some skeptical Democrats certainly did ask about the fact that they don't believe they can trust the Afghanistani president -- the Afghan president, rather, Hamid Karzai, or whether this new policy is in the words of one lawmaker a clunker.

But most of that concern was overshadowed by lawmakers trying to pin down the president's advisers on the idea of bringing troops home by a date certain.


BASH (voice-over): Tough questions for the president's national security team, most not about 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but confusion over whether the July 2011 date to start withdrawing is a hard deadline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is that date conditions-based or not?


BASH: That sounded definitive, but the date certain became less certain, when pressed by GOP senators who call a deadline a dangerous signal to the enemy.

GATES: We will be in a position in particularly uncontested areas where we will be able to begin that transition.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Let's suppose you're not.

GATES: I think we will be in a position then to evaluate whether or not we can begin that transition in July.

MCCAIN: The president -- which is it? It's got to be one or the other.

GATES: We will have a thorough review in December 2010. If it appears that the strategy is not working and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011, then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself.

BASH: Later, Secretary Gates admitted, after that December 2010 assessment:

GATES: The president always has the -- the freedom to adjust his -- his decisions.

BASH: Secretary Clinton signaled flexibility, too.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Have we locked ourselves into leaving, Secretary Clinton, in July 2011?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving. But what we have done is to signal very clearly to all audiences that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan.

BASH: With Democratic coaxing, the Joint Chiefs chairman insisted July 2011 was well-thought-out, not arbitrary.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We think, with the additional forces, we will have very strong indicators about how this is going, and -- and in our ability to transfer and transition at that point.

BASH: But the defense secretary conceded, the exit date is aimed at part at politics at home.

GATES: I think the other audience, frankly, is the American people, who are weary of eight years -- after eight years of war, and to let them know this isn't going to go on for another 10 years.

BASH: That didn't convince some of the president's fellow Democrats at another hearing later in the House.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: My fear, as is the fear of so many others, is that we could easily get bogged down in an endless war.

MULLEN: This is not open-ended, and we are not going to escalate.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: Now, the defense secretary, who called the region the epicenter of extremist jihadism, got quite passionate at one point, saying that he signs every service member's orders to go overseas into battle, and said that he would not do that if he believed that they would get bogged down in Afghanistan. He even said -- quote -- "I wouldn't sign the orders" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Congress will be able to vote yea or nay in terms of appropriating additional funds for the war in Afghanistan. He will get a lot of support from Republicans, but the Democrats are mixed as far as funding this war.

BASH: They are. There are already a number of very staunchly anti-war Democrats who have said they're going to try to stop this policy to add more troops any way they can. The biggest tool that Congress has is the power of the purse.

They say they're going to try to stop that money from going, whether it is the current defense bill or, more importantly down the road perhaps additional funds that the White House might request, but, as you said, Wolf, the reality is there probably is enough Republican support for this, in addition to some Democrats, that it's going to be hard for them to stop that.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana.

Take a look who else has a beef with the president about his remarks on Afghanistan last night. We are referring to the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He issued a statement today responding to Mr. Obama's claim that, in the past, commanders repeatedly asked for reinforcements in Afghanistan, but never got them.

Rumsfeld says he's not aware of any such requests between 2001 and 2006 and he called the president's remark -- and I'm quoting Rumsfeld now -- "a bald misstatement."

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, brushed aside questions about that today.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I -- again, I will let him explain to the American public whether he believes that the effort in Afghanistan during 2001 to 2006 was appropriately resourced. You know...


GIBBS: Well, you go to war with the secretary of defense you have, Jake.

QUESTION: That's cute.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The Obama White House certainly has plenty to worry about right now, after the big revelation of his Afghanistan strategy, what exactly that strategy is.

The president last night said the direct military costs for the new policy in 2010 are estimated an additional $30 billion. That was in the president's speech last night. That's in addition to the $130 billion that's already been approved for America's wars next year.

So, where is the rest of the cash going to come from, the $30 billion extra? The president may have made the answer a bit more complicated when he said this back in February.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Finally, because we're also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget.

That is why this budget looks ahead 10 years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules. And for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.


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

Is the White House backing away from that earlier commitment, no additional so-called supplemental budgets outside the regular budget process?


Obviously, the White House knows it has to come up with this $30 billion, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked that question today about whether or not a supplemental -- they will be pushing for a supplemental. And he said that no decision had yet been made.

But clearly there's that chatter up on Capitol Hill that a supplemental seems like the most likely way to pay for it. Now, what had been floated now for some weeks is this war tax to pay for it, but that didn't get any traction. And in fact a senior administration official told me that at no time during the war council's discussions did this come up.

So, the bottom line, at least according to the budget office here at the White House, is that they will look to see if any of these issues can be addressed through the current budget. And if not, then they will look at going to Congress to come up with additional funding, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, because they always slammed the Bush administration for those supplemental budget requests to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said they weren't going to do it. We will see if they live up to that commitment.

Why the delay, though, in terms of pushing this decision down the road?

LOTHIAN: Well, clearly, it's to the advantage of this White House, Wolf, the longer they wait to come up with a way to pay for it and push it before Congress, because, as you know, if you give it more time, more troops will be on the ground there in Afghanistan. It makes it much more difficult for those who oppose any kind of funding to vote against it, because, if you vote against it, then essentially it's seen as a vote against the troops. So, the White House here sees that time is on its side here.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian is at the White House for us.

Thank you.

Let's get back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The battle lines are drawn when it comes to health care reform and Democrats in the Senate now say that the debate has practically stalled.

They blame the Republicans for blocking votes. The Republicans, of course, deny it, at issue, 10-year, $1 trillion piece of legislation that would require most Americans to carry insurance, expand Medicaid, and require insurers to cover people regardless of their medical history. That's what we do know about this bill.

But buried in the thousands of pages of legislation are other things that people might not know about. For example, under the Senate's health care plan, the secretary of health and human services would be granted broad new powers, including the authority to decide what procedures insurers would cover and who should get those procedures.

I don't know about you, but that idea just flat creeps me out.

Also, critics say that, despite President Obama's promise that illegal aliens won't get health coverage, hundreds of thousands of people here illegally could get just that under this legislation, because, while the bill's making their way through Congress either mandate or encourage businesses to cover all employees, there are no exemptions to screen out illegals, who usually get jobs by using fake identities.

Meanwhile, a new "USA Today"/Gallup poll suggests that despite all the efforts of the president and Democrats to get this legislation passed, Americans are leaning against it, with 49 percent saying they would tell their member of Congress to vote against health care reform. Only 44 percent say they would tell them to support it.

So, here's the question. Has your support for health care reform increased or decreased over the last six months? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If you believe the polls, it's decreased.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Well, that's not a good sign for Mr. Obama and the folks who want this legislation passed.

BLITZER: Not over with yet. There's still a lot of work to do. Thanks very much, Jack.

CAFFERTY: True, yes.

Attention, President Obama: Some of your staunchest supporters right now they are angry. Some Democratic lawmaker say the president is failing at one key thing. And they're making some political threats. Stand by.


BLITZER: President Obama could have some real problems of his hands, not necessarily from Republicans, but some fellow Democrats.

Some of those lawmakers say he's failing on a key issue, so they're making some political threats.

Let's go straight to our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's working the story.

Jessica, what's going on?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some Democrats on the Hill are taking aim at President Obama and their own leaders over unemployment, and this gives you a sense why.

Right now in the U.S., there are 13 states plus the District of Columbia that have unemployment rates north of 10 percent. They're spread across the nation all the way from California to Florida, Washington, D.C., Michigan. Americans are feeling the pain. And now some Democrats are demanding the White House get behind a new jobs program right away.


YELLIN (voice-over): Millions of Americans without jobs, are they being ignored? Some Democrats in Congress say yes, and they blame their own leaders.

REP. BOBBY RUSH (D), ILLINOIS: The White House needs to hear from Main Street. Leadership on both sides of the aisle needs to hear from Main Street. Obviously, there's something that's not getting through to them.

YELLIN: He's not alone. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are also slamming the White House, demanding the president do more to stem catastrophic job losses in minority communities.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We are prepared to do what we need to do to truly represent our communities and not simply be legislators who are just inside the box, going along with the protocols as usual. We're prepared to use our strength.

YELLIN: These members believe the stimulus is not reaching the hardest-hit Americans. Some of their proposals? Redirect remaining stimulus and Wall Street bailout money to jobs programs, demand banks do more for homeowners facing foreclosure, and pass a new bill to spur job growth, essentially a stimulus by another name.

The White House insists it's already focused on this issue, Thursday holding a jobs summit with CEOs, small-business owners and others.

GIBBS: What I think the president wants to do is hear from them on the type of environment that we can have that would allow for that hiring to take place.

YELLIN: That's not good enough for these frustrated House members, who say the White House listens too closely to business, especially Wall Street. Representative Rush has organized 128 House members to, as he says, bring the voices of the jobless to the table.

RUSH: Wall Street has been there for a while. Move over, Wall Street, because here comes Main Street.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, some Democrats are hinting that they could withhold votes on important legislation if the White House doesn't get behind a jobs package perhaps this year. And another threat, the two co-chairs of this Jobs Now Caucus, they're actually threatening to organize a massive jobless march on Washington, organizing some of the millions of Americans who are unemployed to make their voices heard by marching on the streets here in Washington. We will see if that happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks, Jessica.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

He's I guess beginning to feel some of the heat, not only on issues like jobs, but also on Afghanistan.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: These are the president's friends, Wolf, and it's very clear that these are the people that are saying, look, we have got to face voters in 2010. You don't, Mr. President. The voters care about unemployment, because they're unemployed, and you're not thinking about your base that brought you to the presidency, and we're going to remain you of that.

And Afghanistan is another huge problem for them. Do they want to spend this $30 billion on troops, or would they rather spend it back home on domestic programs, like jobs programs?

BLITZER: Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin, told me he's not going to vote for another $30 billion to fund the troops in Afghanistan. Listen to him.


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I'm extremely skeptical. And it will not help us in any significant way in the worldwide struggle against al Qaeda, which is my priority, is the president's priority, and is our national security priority.


BLITZER: He has got a problem here, the president.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He does, but they have a bigger problem, because precisely for what Gloria just said, which is a lot of them are facing reelection next year. And he's not up until 2012.

Look, the problem here is that you would expect that Russ Feingold would say that, because Russ Feingold has been against -- was against the war in Iraq, is notoriously anti-war. But he does have enough Democrats. We're in the middle of this -- well, hopefully not the middle -- or towards the end of this war, but it's been going on for eight years.

It's inconceivable that there will not be enough Republicans and enough Democrats to give him the $30 billion, $35 billion. They can make it difficult. Everybody will get their chance to complain. But in the end they're going to do it.

As far as the jobs thing is concerned, what is the balance here? You bring a million people to Washington to talk about the unemployed, and who does it reflect badly on? Well, it reflects badly on the president and the Democrats. So, do you really want to draw that much attention to it?

This is -- I think right now we need to look at this as -- not as posturing, but as positioning.

BLITZER: Because the Congressional Black Caucus, which you can't get a more reliable ally that the president with the Congressional Black Caucus, but there are some problem there.


BORGER: He's got problems.

And just wait and see. If the president decides to compromise on a health care reform and to forgo the public option, just wait and see how angry they can get on that one, Wolf.

BLITZER: As he may have no choice when all the dust settles in the weeks ahead.

BORGER: If he wants to get something passed.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much. Voice-mails said to be from Tiger Woods are adding fuel to the public-relations fire he's facing over an alleged affair -- details of the latest revelations coming up.



BLITZER: The presidents' new war plan may only add to the challenges faced by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, at least in the short- term. We're going to be mapping out hurdles. That's coming up.


BLITZER: President Obama's new war plan in Afghanistan is out, and the man who is charged with implementing it says -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Everything changes right now."

We're talking about General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He addressed the troops today, saying the U.S. has learned a tremendous amount about counterinsurgency since 2001.


GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: Counterinsurgency starts, as you know, with protecting the people, because, at the end of the day, the people are what we are here for.

We're here to respect the Afghan people. We're here to protect the Afghan people. We're here to enable the Afghan people to build their country. We're not going to nation-build. What we are going to do is allow a nation to nation-build.


BLITZER: The president's ambitious goals for Afghanistan facing major some hurdles.

Tom Foreman is here at the magic map.

These challenges are enormous, given the geography.


And if you want to boil it down to just a few things that you can understand easily, just think about three things here, are the promises and the problems they're facing here.

First of all, this question of a rapid buildup of Afghanistan troops there, well, there are a couple of key issues here. One, there's some difficulty recruiting, to some degree, particularly when you're talking about troops that will serve the whole country. This is a tribal region in many places. There are areas where people will happily serve their own area, but the idea of serving across the country is not something they're for. And they have got to pay for this. Just like our military people, they have to be paid. Afghanistan is desperately poor. The question is, who is going to foot the bill as you try to build the services up there that rapidly?

And one last question has to do with security. When you build up troops that quickly, how do you make sure that some of the people you are recruiting and paying for are not members of the Taliban who are being sent in as sleepers to present a problem in the future? Those are some of the challenges of that front. But that's just on the question of recruiting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's also some huge problem as far as timeline for withdrawing eventually U.S. troops?

FOREMAN: Sure. There's a timeline for withdrawing. That's an issue.

There's an issue of Pakistan being one of the big ones over here. Look, we know about this. You talk to many guests about this. They're right by the side here, so we have got this notion that there will be greater cooperation with Pakistan and with Afghanistan simultaneously.

Well, the problem, look at this map, and you can see the problem. This has been an area in Pakistan that has been rife with Taliban activity for quite some time. The Pakistani government has had trouble rooting people out here. They have had trouble getting rid of them, because, certainly, they have had cause to want to get rid of them if they could. They haven't necessarily been able to.

So, what we're essentially doing is talking about a second war that we have to somehow back. And the question is, does Pakistan really have the political will and the capability of dealing with this? Because as long as they don't, this is a backdoor to this border. And whatever pressure we put on the Taliban here, they can simply cross the border over here into a safe haven.

So, that's one of them. And the last one you mentioned, Wolf, very much is this question of looking at this withdrawal in 18 months. Well, what are the problems with that? Well, the simple truth is, the problem with that, the fundamental problem is the Taliban itself. They also have a say in what happens in this whole battle.

The president left plenty of wiggle room here. Don't forget that. He really said they have to reassess the situation on the ground. It may not happen in 18 months. We have to consider how we might be able to get out there.

But, bear in mind, one of the things the Taliban has been trying to do is to re-couch this whole battle as essentially a war of liberation of Afghanistan. That's what they're trying to sell it to people as and say, look, the U.S. is here to occupy us. And as troops build up, they will push that message even more.

So, the real question is, where will we stand in 18 months? Again, the White House has left a possibility for reconsidering that. But the simple truth is, there's an awful lot of unknowns out here. Those are the three main things that have to be kept in mind, Wolf, as we move forward to see if this plan will really work.

BLITZER: The more you study it, the more you see the hurdles out there, lots of challenges, lots of problems. Thank you, Tom.

The suspect in the Fort Hood shooting spree is facing a long list of new charges today. This afternoon, the Army charged Major Nidal Hasan with 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the 30 soldiers and two civilian police officers he allegedly shot and wounded. That's in addition to the 13 counts of first-degree murder he's facing for the November 5 attack.

The White House is changing the way it screens guests after the now infamous party-crashing incident last week. Administration staff members will now join Secret Service agents at security checkpoints to make sure all guests have been properly cleared to enter.

The announcement comes as we learn more about the couple who showed up uninvited and their contacts with a Pentagon aide.

Brian Todd has been digging into this story for us.

What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, new information that we have learned, not only about those e-mails that Tareq and Michaele Salahi exchanged with a Pentagon official about that White House dinner, but also about a charity event the couple organized that attracted some very high-end sponsors.


TODD (voice-over): It seems Tareq and Michaele Salahi have organized an annual polo match that doesn't live up to its billing. On its Web site promoting next year's match, it's called the Land Rover America's Polo Cup, but a Land Rover official tells CNN the company has pulled out. So has Cartier and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, who are also listed as sponsors.

Vivian Deuschl, spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton, told us they pulled out after 2007 event when the hotel sponsored the British polo team in its match against the U.S.

(on camera): What was promised? What was implied to Ritz- Carlton? And what really happened?

VIVIAN DEUSCHL, RITZ-CARLTON SPOKESWOMAN: Well, what was implied was since it was the British team and Prince Charles plays on the British team the term "royals" was thrown around quite liberally and everybody interpreted that to mean Prince Charles, and none of the organizes discourages from thinking that it wouldn't be. We found out at the very last minute that Prince Charles was going to be a no-show and, obviously, people were disappointed. TODD: Deuschl says she also heard from others involved in that 2007 event that vendors, clients and others who attended complained of poor organization, that food and other concessions ran out.

We've tried to get response from representatives for the couple but we've not heard back. CNN has also confirmed or at least four days the Salahis tried to get access to the White House state dinner, that's according to e-mails the couples exchanged with Michelle Jones, the Pentagon liaison to the White House who they appeared to know.

On Friday, November 20th, Jones e-mails Tareq Salahi: "Hopefully, I can get tickets for the arrival ceremony. The state dinner is completely closed and has been for a while." It doesn't deter Tareq Salahi who mails Jones the following Monday, "Do you know what time we need to be there, and which entrance we should go through?" Jones later e-mails back, "It doesn't seem likely, that she'd get tickets for the arrival ceremony." She e-mails the next day that the arrival ceremony has been canceled and, quote, "I'm still working on tickets for tonight's dinner."

A congressional source and attorney for the Salahis former lawyer confirmed the authenticity of the e-mails as reported by the "Associated Press," e-mails provided to the House Committee on Homeland Security.


TODD: Now, in the end, according to Michelle Jones and White House officials, the Salahis never got confirmation that they were on any guest list and they say that Jones also left that message on the Salahis' voice mail. The Salahis have claimed they were on a guest list.

Now, after the event, after Tareq Salahi thanks Michelle Jones, Jones mails back, saying, quote, "You are most welcomed," that she was, quote, "delighted that you and Michaele had a wonderful time," and she ends it, "Much love, Michelle" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A weird story. Now, we know the Salahis are supposed to testify tomorrow before the House Homeland Security Committee. The head of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, is supposed to testify as well. But the White House today said, no to another witness that some Republican members wanted to invite.

TODD: That's right. Desiree Rogers, she runs the White House social secretaries office. She was also asked to appear about the procedures that were followed at that event. The White House today said essentially that because of separation of power, she will not be appearing tomorrow at that committee.

BLITZER: Then we'll see if the Salahis show up at the hearing tomorrow.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: That could be interesting. Thanks very much. Hacked e-mails casting doubt on global warming and sparking a huge international controversy. One lawmaker is now calling it scientific fascism.


BLITZER: Let's turn to another high-level controversy right now. This one involves global warming. Today, White House science experts strive to beat back claims that inconvenient truths challenging climate change theories are being manipulated.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's working the story for us.

All comes at a very sensitive time, too, Mary.


And, you know, this is the first time that the controversy over the hacked e-mails from climate scientists was aired in a congressional hearing. But based on what we heard on Capitol Hill today, the e-mails are not changing any minds among scientists about the science of global warming.


SNOW (voice-over): This congressional committee on global warming had been planning to talk about the science of climate change. Instead, the recently hacked e-mails between climate scientists dominated the discussion.

Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner, who has acknowledged the earth is warming but says the danger is overstated, voted against the creation of this very committee on energy and climate change. He says e-mails in question poke a hole in conclusion that the question of human influence on climate change is settled.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: These e-mails show a pattern of suppression, manipulation, and secrecy that was inspired by ideology, condescension and profit. They read more like scientific fascism than scientific process.

SNOW: The head of the committee, Democrat Ed Markey, has written legislation designed to reduce global warming gases.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They sit over here using a couple of e-mails as a reason why we should stop all efforts to deal with this catastrophic threat to our planet.

SNOW: At center of the e-mails, Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia, who led the university's respected climate research unit. Jones has stepped down from his post while the university investigates. In one e-mail, he writes about a trick and later mentions "hide the decline," but it isn't spelled out.

The president's top science adviser is John Holdren. JOHN HOLDREN, WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE ADVISER: I haven't read all the mails either. It's not clear at this point what some of them mean. I would point out, for example, that the term trick, is often used in science to describe a clever way to get around a difficulty that is perfectly legitimate.

SNOW: Holdren says scientists will be examining the e-mails and their meaning, but he also said that human activity is beyond any reasonable doubt the primary cause of warming temperatures.

As the e-mails come under scrutiny, so is Penn State's Michael Mann, a recipient of some e-mails. Penn State says it's begun an inquiry. Mann tells CNN he welcomes it and he questions the timing of the e-mail hacking ahead of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

MICHAEL MANN, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY (via telephone): We have what appears to be an intentional smear campaign to distract the public.

SNOW: Republican Senator James Inhofe, who has called science behind climate change a hoax, says he wants an investigation.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: My reaction is some vindication because I gave a speech on the Senate floor four years ago in a related conversation where scientists had come to me and saying that this is not objective science, they won't allow dissenting views, and all of the things that are in these memos now.

SNOW: But the Union of Concerned Scientists says Inhofe and some of the lawmakers are just advancing conspiracy theories that won't change the scientific consensus.

BRENDA EKWURZEL, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: Ice sheets are melting, the seas are rising. These are facts on the ground that Americans see, they know that global warming is happening, and a few private communications are not going to change that.


SNOW: And, Wolf, what these e-mails are not doing is slowing the global efforts to reduce the growth of heat-trapping gases. The debate over how to do that moves to the International Climate Conference in Copenhagen next week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the timing of this supposed scandal couldn't be worse because it comes just before this huge international conference and the president will be there.

Thanks, Mary Snow, for that.

Tiger Woods on the defensive right now, as more allegation of infidelity surface. He issues an apology but can a squeaky-clean image help him weather the scandal?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The crash heard around the world leaves behind some skid marks of scandal we're talking about. For the first time, we're seeing the police diagram of Tiger Woods' car crash.

Take a look at this.

It shows the car, as it left the driveway, originally went through some shrubs over here, went out on the road, had a little collision into some bushy areas over here, finally went into this fire hydrant, hit the fire hydrant, and went into another tree over here. That was the final area where it rested. It was all messy. Not a very far ride.

Let's go to Susan Candiotti, though. She's got the latest on this story that is not going away -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The question is: Can Tiger Woods patch up his tarnished image after days and days of hooks and slices?


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Tiger's tango with the fire hydrant may be over...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Florida Highway Patrol has completed its investigation into this matter.

CANDIOTTI: ... but no sooner did Woods pay his $164 fine that the P.R. fiasco blasted into the stratosphere with new allegations of an affair. Cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs seen in this TV reality show tells "Us Weekly," she and Tiger were an item starting in 2007. She produced a voice mail she claims came from Woods two days before Thanksgiving and that middle of the night crash.


TIGER WOODS' ALLEGED VOICEMAIL: Hey, it's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off that and, just have it as a number on the voice mail, just have it as your telephone number. OK? You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. Bye.


CANDIOTTI: CNN could not independently authenticate the voice mail.

Within hours Woods responded but only on his Web site, where no one could ask questions, and he never directly admitted to an affair. "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without fault and I am far short of perfect. I'm dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family." Woods said he's a private man, "Personal sins should not require press releases," he said, "and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."

But while sticking to a statement be enough to salvage a dent in his carefully crafted, squeaky clean image, some P.R. experts are not impressed.

MIKE PAUL, IMAGE CONSULTANT: The pitfall of the story still continues and you don't want the story to continue. You want to start ending the story and by leaving those holes there, he continues the story.

CANDIOTTI: On the Tiger Woods Web site, fans weighed in on their hero's P.R. mess. "He failed at the only thing that matters in life. Being true to your word on your wedding day." And another, "I am still and will always be a fan."

Less clear is whether all his sponsors will stick with him. Some offer no comment. Nike said, quote, "Our relationship remains unchanged." Gatorade's reaction, "Tiger and his family have our support as they work through this private matter."

Can Tiger Woods put this behind him without answering some hard questions?

PAUL: You need to have some tough questions asked of you and you have the ability to answer them, own the situation 110 percent.

CANDIOTTI: If so, the public may forgive and forget, depending on how well Tiger plays the game.


CANDIOTTI: And on his Web site, he's apologizing to his supporters, but will it be enough to climb out of his P.R. nightmare? Wolf.

BLITZER: It is a nightmare, at least for now. Let's see how he does.

Susan, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Erica Hill to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

Erica, what are you working on?


We are going to talk a little bit more actually about the Tiger Woods drama. The golf great, of course, is now saying he let his family down, admitting to some transgressions. We'll find out what's next here.

Plus, President Obama's Afghan strategy is under fire from all sides today. The administration is really working hard at this point to sell the surge. What we want to know is, will the plan actually work? Our panel of experts tonight with firsthand knowledge of the situation on the ground is weighing in.

Plus, those alleged D.C. party crashers, they've got an invite and this time is it official, for sure. Congress is asking the couple to explain what really happened at the state dinner. They've got a few questions, Wolf.

Please join us for all of that and much more coming up at the top of the hour.

BLITZER: We'll see if they show up at that hearing tomorrow. Thanks very much, Erica.

HILL: Yes.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments.

A congressional hearing gets personal for the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, yielding congratulations on a family milestone.





BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CAFFERTY FILE: The question this hour. Is your support for health care reform increase or decrease over the last six months?

John writes, "My support for the bills in Congress has died. It's too expensive, no clear evidence they will reduce costs. It looks more and more like a balloon without the skin."

Morgan in Georgia, "My support for health care has increased. My support for this particular health care bill has decreased. Yes, we need reform. We also need reform that will be effective and efficient. This bill is neither."

Katie in Illinois, "I support health care reform even more strongly. When you see the health care entities, big business and the Republicans spending millions of dollars to defeat it, that's proof that it's the right thing to do. You're always quoting critics but you ignore supporters. How about a little more middle of the road, Jack?"

Rob in Georgia says, "Something needs to done; all this bickering is pointless. I'm tired of all the arguing. Let's just take the reform, get it up and running, and take care of all the problems as it rolls. They first had to make a Constitution before they could amend it."

Guy in Hawaii, "Aloha. I'm sick of the whole debate. It's unhealthy for me to pay attention anymore. I'm going to eat my vegetables, exercise, and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In the meantime, I'm taking two aspirins and calling nobody notice morning that has anything to do with health care, health insurance or politics. I think I'll feel better."

Reed writes, "Decrease. This government is proving it can't run anything, as usual."

Allen in Idaho, "It's strong now, it's always been strong. I don't understand how anyone who has respect for life and human dignity can be against covering all Americans in the health care system. We live in the richest country in the world. Thousands of Americans die every year because they don't have basic health care. We should all be ashamed."

Michael says, "China will not allow us to have health care reform. It will cost them too much money."

If you don't see your e-mail here, because we chose not to use them, but you might find it on the blog which is at

Tough to make the cut on this stuff, you know? We've got thousands of e-mails.

BLITZER: But they all make to the blog, right?

CAFFERTY: Most of them, not all of them. But it's usually 200 to 300 on for each question on the blog.

BLITZER: OK. That's good to know.

CAFFERTY: And the rest of them, you're out of luck.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Thank you.

A lawmaker quizzed the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Afghanistan today. The secretary is also congratulated on a much different matter, a personal milestone within her own family. We'll explain, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


CLINTON: ... at Camp Atterbury in Indiana.



BLITZER: Checking in with Jessica Yellin. She's got our political ticker -- Jessica.


A stinging defeat today for gay rights advocates. The New York State Senate has rejected a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The state assembly had approved the measure and Governor David Paterson had promised to sign it. Paterson is calling the failed vote one of the saddest days of his political career. A new poll out today shows a narrow majority of voters in New York State actually support making same-sex marriage legal.

A recount maybe in the works in the Atlanta mayor's race. With all precincts reporting, former State Senator Kasim Reed has a 620- vote lead. That is narrow. But his opponent, Mary Norwood, is not conceding her bid to be city's first white mayor in decades. Now, hundreds of provisional ballots will be counted tomorrow, and Norwood is threatening to demand a recount after that.

Well, the centrist blue dog Democrats in the House of Representatives may be losing more of their bite. They've been a headache for President Obama every so often, and now, Congressman John Tanner of Tennessee says he will not run for re-election next year. Tanner has served two decades in the House. And Republicans are champing at the bit to try and grab his seat. Just last week, another blue dog congressman, Dennis Moore of Kansas, announced his retirement.

And here's another fun story. Members of Congress, they just couldn't wait to offer their congratulations about Chelsea Clinton's engagement. We all want a piece of that one, right? Her mother was on Capitol Hill to defend the president's new Afghanistan war strategy, but that didn't stop lawmakers from getting personal with a future mother-of-the-bride.

Listen to this exchange.


SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I'm gratified all of you with the president took the time to think this through to maximize our chances of getting it right. So, it's good to see you again. On a somewhat lighter note, I haven't had a chance to see you since the news about your daughter was announced -- congratulations.

CLINTON: Thank you very much.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: First, please give my heartfelt congratulations on the youngest Clinton on her decision to make a monumental move in her life.

CLINTON: Thank you, it was a very long, thoughtful process.



YELLIN: Well, you got to wonder if the mother of the bride ever accused the couple of dithering on their way to the altar.

BLITZER: They've been a couple for a while. Congratulations to Chelsea and Mark. A nice couple, indeed.

When we come back, Jeanne Moos on Tiger Woods.


BLITZER: Tiger woods' car accident being re-created on a Taiwanese Web site.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a most unusual re-enactment.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Usually, we use animation to illustrate, say, the H1N1 swine flu virus going up a nostril. Or even a technique of waterboarding. But now, you can watch Tiger Woods being tortured in a Taiwanese computer-generated re- enactment. It's generating lots of laughs, at least.

Critics are picking a part the recreation. She's beating the wrong window. Tiger's Escalade has been turned into a minivan.

Re-enactments are par for the course on Taiwan's Apple Daily Web site.

(on camera): The online news service tends to animate any big news story. It even got fined for animating violent crime too explicitly.

(voice-over): Especially crimes involving kids. Look who else they featured?

The couple that got into the White House state dinner.

ANNOUNCER: Mr. and Mrs. Salahi.

(on camera): Of course, not all re-creations of news events have to be animated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Craig moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot.

MOOS (voice-over): Slate used stand-ins to sit down and act out how former Senator Larry Craig's adventures in the men's room.

E used actors...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was having this discussion with Nicole...

MOOS: ... to re-create testimony at O.J. Simpson's civil trial and this does not qualify as a reenactment...

CONAN O'BRIEN, TV TALK SHOW HOST: I understand they've already updated the latest version of Tiger's video game. (VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: A sports comedy show in New Zealand, they re-created a version of Tiger's story in which his wife rescued him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dramatic rescue is completed as Elin resuscitates her husband with CPR and mouth to mouth.

MOOS: Taiwanese weren't the first to animate Tiger. Gatorade was, portraying him as a boy in an ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now look here, Little Tiger...

MOOS: Big Tiger's recreation has inspired jokes. What's the difference between a Cadillac Escalade and a golf ball? Tiger Woods can drive a golf ball 400 yards.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. Up next, CNN TONIGHT.