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Greenhouse Gases a Threat; Controversial Climate Change E- mails; Carbon Footprint in Copenhagen

Aired December 07, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, the Obama administration declares global warming gases are a threat to the nation. This hour: what the president is trying to prove before heading to a climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Hillary Clinton's predicament in the murder conviction of Amanda Knox. So why does the Secretary of State seem wary about getting involved?

And a senator who tried to help his girlfriend get a job: Republicans asking for an investigation of Democrat Max Baucus as we learn more and perhaps too much about his romantic life.

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

Right now, the Obama administration is a big step closer to imposing the first regulations of pollutants blamed for global warming, declaring that greenhouse gas emissions are a real threat to Americans' health. It's a clear message to both climate change experts now meeting in Denmark and to the skeptics of global warming science.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry he's got the latest -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the president has been meeting with former Vice President Al Gore for almost an hour as he strategizes about exactly what to do in the days ahead in Copenhagen at a time when the president is reaching in what may be a critical stage in his effort to put together a climate change deal.


HENRY (voice-over): As the largest U.N. climate change conference in history kicked off in Copenhagen the Obama administration declared carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions do pose a danger to the public's health and welfare, setting the stage for either Congress to take dramatic action to curb global warming or the Environmental Protection Agency could crack down on its own.

LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: This administration will not ignore science or the law any longer, nor will we avoid the responsibility we owe to our children and our grandchildren.

HENRY: It's a move that could strengthen President Obama's hand when he heads to Copenhagen summit next week. But aides insist the timing is coincidental and was driven by a 2007 Supreme Court decision.

ROBERT GIBBS, White House PRESS SECRETARY: The timing is based on the fact that the first step of this process is being completed.

HENRY: But the president could have acted earlier on the court decision. And his own EPA chief Lisa Jackson seemed to suggest the announcement was made now for maximum benefit.

JACKSON: And we arrive at the climate talks in Copenhagen with a clear demonstration of our commitment to facing this global challenge. We hope that today's announcement serves as another incentive for far- reaching accord.

HENRY: Top Republicans said the decision should have been delayed until after a probe of climate-gate, e-mails hacked and leaked from an English university that have raised questions about whether some climate scientists have misled the world.

Congressman Joe Barton declaring, "Today's EPA action mimics the e-mails in one respect. It demonstrates that public relations priorities rather than straight forward science are driving U.S. policy-making on global warming."

The White House suggested the e-mail controversy is just a distraction.

GIBBS: I think everybody is clear on the science. I think scientists are clear on the science. I think many on Capitol Hill are clear on the science.


HENRY: But a top Republican, Cong. Eric Cantor said he fears this EPA action will lead to what he call bureaucracy run amok. So much regulation that it could choke off an economic recovery, a charge the White House vehemently denies -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Ed. Thanks very much.

The public has become skeptical about climate change over the past year. Our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll shows 68 percent of Americans now say global warming is a proven fact, but that's down from 76 percent in 2008. 58 percent of those surveyed say the U.S. should reduce gases that contribute to global warming even if other countries don't. That's down from 66 percent in a 2007 survey.

You won't find a lot of global warming skeptics at the climate change conference in Denmark, but you will find some. And they feel emboldened right now by those leaked e-mails in the controversy known as climate-gate.

CNN's Phil Black is in Copenhagen.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Copenhagen's Bella Conference Center has become an international temple for thousands of true believers, people who've have no doubt the planet is warming and humankind is to blame. But there are a few people here who do not believe.

LORD CHRISTOPHER MONCKTON, CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTIC: Most of the politicians don't know any science.

BLACK: Lord Christopher Monckton is one of them. He's a member of the British aristocracy and a passionate skeptic on climate change.

(on camera): So you believe all of this is a colossal waste of time and money?

MONCKTON: There is no need for it.

BLACK: None?

MONCKTON: None whatsoever.

BLACK: There are a lot of people here who disagree with you.

MONCKTON: Yes, but they haven't studied the science, most of them.

BLACK (voice-over): Monckton says the planet is not getting hotter. Its recent changes are natural and there is science to prove it. He's among the skeptics who have been emboldened by the so-called climate-gate scandal. Monckton says e-mails hacked and leaked from an English university show climate scientists are fiddling with their figures and misleading the world.

MONCKTON: Those scientists have been fabricating, inventing, tampering with, altering, hiding, concealing and destroying data.

BLACK: The scientists who wrote the e-mails deny the allegations, but they have developed so much momentum they were addressed directly during the opening ceremony of the conference.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri who leads the intergovernmental panel on climate change and defended his organization against what he suspects is a direct attack.

DR. RAJENDRA PACHAURI, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE: The recent incident of stealing the e-mails of scientist at the University of East Anglia shows that some would go to the extent of carrying out illegal acts perhaps in an attempt to discredit the IPCC. But the panel has a record of transparent and objective assessment stretching over 21 years performed by tens of thousands of dedicated scientists from all corners of the globe.

BLACK: At this conference, Dr. Pachauri enjoys a clear majority of support among activist, analysts, delegates; well, pretty much everyone.

ALEX STEFFEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WORLDCHANGIN.COM: It really has reached a point where climate skepticism has been pretty comprehensively debunked as a theory.

BLACK: Try telling that to Lord Christopher Monckton.

(on camera): What is your message to many thousands of people who have come here from around the world that surround us now?

MONCKTON: Go home, enjoy some quality time with your families. Stop worrying about the climate.

BLACK: Skeptics say they're a stubborn minority who will endure long after this conference has been judged to be a success or failure.

Phil Black, CNN, Copenhagen.


BLITZER: Well, we have a major debate on this very subject coming up in a few minutes. Stand by for that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty, he's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I like the phrase "fiddling with their figures."


CAFFERTY: President Obama said in last week's speech, he's going to send 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. But he also said July of 2011 is a target for beginning the withdrawal process. You'd never know it listening to some of his top assistants over this past weekend though. A lot of people didn't like that the president set a timeline for withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan.

Republicans suggested setting a withdrawal date 18 months out would simply allow the Taliban and other enemies to wait us out. Also, Afghan and Pakistani officials are worried that the United States will leave too quickly.

So here's a sampling of what we got over the weekend. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, quote, "We're not talking about an exit strategy and a drop-dead deadline."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "There isn't a deadline and only a handful or small number of troops might start withdrawing in July 2011, conditions permitting."

National Security advisor General James Jones says the July 2011 withdrawal date is, quote, "Not a cliff, it's a ramp for the beginning of turnover to Afghan forces." Jones added, the U.S. would be in the region for, quote, "A long time," unquote.

And the head of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus says, "The president's strategy doesn't trigger a rush to the exits."

There. That ought to clear things up, right?

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is asking for patience saying that his country's military might not be ready in 18 months to take over responsibility. There's an understatement.

Here's the question: President Obama said the U.S. would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July of 2011. Do you believe him? Go to to post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.

Could Secretary of State Hillary Clinton do anything to help a young American woman convicted of murdering and sexually assaulting her college roommate in Italy?

Listen to what the Secretary is saying and not saying. You'll see the real predicament the Amanda Knox case poses for the U.S.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story.

A huge global warming conference about to begin in Copenhagen right now; lots of serious views under way, serious debate unfolding.

Let's get Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe joining us from Massachusetts, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey. They strongly disagree on what's going on.

Senator Inhofe, let me start with you because the EPA administrator Lisa Jackson today she said this in announcing the steps the Obama administration wants to advance.


LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: There is nothing in the hacked e-mails that undermines the science upon which this decision is based.


BLITZER: Is she right?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Oh, no. She's not right. We had Lisa Jackson before my committee, oh, not more than a week, maybe a week and a half ago. She said that they relied upon the IPCC for the science that came to this decision to have the endangerment finding. And actually, I have a letter from her in writing saying that's where they get their science.

Now we see that that science has been pretty well debunked. And one thing interesting about this, Wolf, is that I remember a long time ago on your program -- four years ago -- I made a speech on the Senate floor where I talked about all these scientists coming in, talking about how they can't get their side on there and the science is all rigged.

And so I gave a speech on the floor that lasted about an hour on the floor and sure enough, what is happening today in this whole debate is just what we said was happening four years ago.

BLITZER: Let me let Congressman Markey weigh in. How much damage to these leaked e-mails do to your side of the story? Congressman, pick up your mike because I think it just fell off your lapel.


BLITZER: If you could just attach that to your sport jacket or suit that would be good.

MARKEY: I have it here. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right here we go. It's good now.

MARKEY: It does almost no damage at all.

In fact, the important thing to keep in mind here is that the National Academy of Sciences of every country in the world has endorsed these findings. It's not just the United States. It's not just the British. It's every country in the world.

And in addition -- and this is something that skeptics, the deniers -- cannot overcome. We are reporting this year the warmest ocean temperature in history. The last nine years have been amongst the top ten warmest in the history of the planet. There has been a six-degree increase in temperatures in Alaska over the last 50 years which is what's leading to villages actually falling into the ocean with the melting of the permafrost.

So the fundamental science has not been altered at all by this...

BLITZER: I want Senator -- hold on one second. I want Senator Inhofe to respond. But on the specific question of these scientists trying to prevent some dissenting scientific views from getting some air, from being known, you condemn that, don't you?

MARKEY: Well, absolutely. But, remember, almost all of the criticism that was in those e-mails was, in fact, included in the intergovernmental panel on climate change that the united Nations released. So it wasn't as though all of this skepticism wasn't, in fact, identified. It was only that -- the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world, thousands of them rejected the conclusions of this handful of skeptics.

BLITZER: Go ahead Senator.

INHOFE: Ed, you're in denial. You don't understand what just happened. This is a very serious thing.

Let me just tell you, I will read two things, Wolf. One is from the "Atlantic Monthly", "The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering." And this is the big one. The big publication in UK is the "UK Telegraph", "This is the worst scientific scandal of our generation."

You can't play this one down. This is a huge, huge deal. The fact that they are going into an endangerment finding using this as that science, that makes it that much worse. It's a recognition that we have won and they have lost in terms of a legislative cure for this.

Your bill is dead. It's not going to go anywhere. The Boxer bill is dead and for that reason, in order to save face at the big meeting that's watching this right now in Copenhagen they had to come up with an endangerment finding. I think the first thing that's...


BLITZER: Let me just explain to our viewers that endangerment finding allowed Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, to say that because these greenhouse gases threaten, she says, the public health and welfare of the American people she's moving forward with these unilateral steps, avoiding Congressional action.

Is he right, Congressman, that your cap and trade legislation is dead?

MARKEY: Absolutely not. We have already passed it through the House of Representatives. The Chinese, the Indians, other countries around the world have already announced that they are going to make commitments in Copenhagen over the next two weeks to show that they are going to begin to deal with the lowering of emissions in relationship to the GDP.

And in the Senate we know that Senator Boxer, Senator Kerry are working with other members including Senator Graham and Senator Lieberman and others toward the goal of finding a pathway towards the production of final legislation.

BLITZER: So why is it dead, Senator Inhofe? Why do you think the legislation is dead for all practical purposes?

INHOFE: Because I can count votes. And so can Ed and he knows this. Barbara Boxer might have as many as maybe 25 votes right now. You'd have to have 60 votes and the trend -- time is not your friend, Ed. The more people find out about that and the more that science is drawn and more people realize this would constitute the greatest tax increase in the history of America and accomplish nothing.

That's exactly what Lisa Jackson said. If we do it unilaterally in the United States, nothing is going to happen.

BLITZER: Let me talk about money, especially during times of economic distress. The World Bank, Congressman Markey, says that developing nations will need between $75 billion to $100 billion a year -- the poorer nations -- to adapt to climate change and a lot of money is going to have to come from U.S. taxpayers. At this time of economic distress, do you support providing these countries with billions of dollars to help them deal with climate change?

MARKEY: We will have to provide some help. Those numbers, I think are way on the high side.

But let me say this quite clearly -- we only produce eight million barrels of oil a day in the United States. We import 13 million from places all around the world that we should not be importing in.

We have a chance here to begin to back out that imported oil. We have a chance here to create 1.5 million to 2 million jobs in our economy in order to create a new industrial. And I understand the fossil fuel industry is going to fight this all the way with their junk science.

But remember this, if we don't create the one million to two million green jobs in America, we are going to wind up importing the wind turbines, solar technologies from China, from Germany.

That's our choice. Back out the imported oil, improve our national security, create new jobs here while we're also reducing emissions or else we're going to wind up ultimately behind the economic...

BLITZER: Hold on one second -- Senator, any chance Congress, the Senate will fund billions of dollars to poor nations to deal with climate change? Senator?

INHOFE: Oh, no. There's no chance of that at all. In fact, I understand that the president is going there, he's going to commit us -- this is what I read in the media -- to $10 billion a year for these developing nations.

Now, stop and think about it. China already owns $800 billion of our debt and we are going to give them $10 billion to be good boys? It's not going to happen. As long as they can keep us exporting jobs to China and India and Mexico, they're going to like it the way it is.

BLITZER: I would like to invite both of you to come back next week when the president is in Copenhagen at the end of this summit to continue this debate if that's ok with both of you.

INHOFE: It's fine with me, Wolf. Keep in mind what Ed says is we right now have enough resources. If we just develop our own resources we wouldn't have to be dependent upon any country for our ability to run this machine called America.

The Democrats won't let us drill, won't let us do what's necessary to exploit our own resources.

MARKEY: Wolf, we have 3 percent of the oil in the world. We consume 25 percent on a daily basis. The math doesn't work. We need a new plan with renewable energy, technologies long-term or else we're going to get deeper and deeper into the Middle East and that's what we are debating.

This issue that we are sending more and more troops over there we have to begin ...


INHOFE: We have the largest reserves in the world.

BLITZER: We're going to continue this debate next week, gentlemen.

MARKEY: I look forward to it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Part one today, part two coming up next week. Guys thanks very much.

INHOFE: Thank you Wolf.

MARKEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: The passionate debate over global warming shifts into high gear as world leaders and scientists meet in Copenhagen for the climate conference. What's the truth about global warming?

Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN: a special edition of Campbell Brown. She'll look at the science, the skepticism and the secrets surrounding global warming; "TRICK OR TRUTH" that's coming up 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Is the fight to pass health care legislation equivalent to the battle over civil rights? Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid says the GOP is on the wrong side of history and Republicans are rising to his bait.

The best political team on television standing by to assess.


BLITZER: We return to our top story now. The carbon emissions generated by the climate change conference in Denmark this week and next certainly have sparked some questions. Among those questions people are asking, is it all worth it?

Our Abbi Tatton is looking at the conference in Copenhagen by the numbers. How big is this event?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, any conference of this size it's going to means big emissions and a climate conference is just no different.

So looking at what's going on in Copenhagen, first of all there's the international travel to get there. There are 110 world leaders heading there. They're anticipating 140 private jets will be arriving at the airport in the early days of next week.

On top of that there's all the attendees, 15,000 of them; 5,000 members of the media asked for press credentials. They're all going to be heading to Denmark as well.

Once there, there is all the on-the-ground energy consumption figures. They've got 2,500 meetings at the Bella Center there in Copenhagen. They've got 100 chefs to cater to them; 10,000 Swedish organic chickens. You get the picture.

This is a big event. And so total emissions add up to 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide; to put that into some context, Americans put out 20 tons per person per year, so that's really equivalent to the output of about 2,000 Americans yearly.

BLITZER: Yearly?

TATTON: Yearly.

BLITZER: 40,500 tons. What steps are they actually taking to deal with this?

TATTON: Well, clearly, this is something the organizers are very aware of. They are asking delegates on the ground there to reduce, reuse, recycle; that's the message there. There's going to be no goody bags for the delegates in Copenhagen. They are being urged to not drink out of plastic bottles, drink tap water, use the shuttle buses. There are 200 bicycles for rent. And if you must travel by limousine please use one of the 122 climate-friendly limos running on bio-fuel there.

There is also a pledge to offset emissions a long way from Copenhagen. The Danish government has pledged $1 million to the country of Bangladesh to help reduce pollution in that country; make their brick-making industry a little bit more energy-efficient.

So, all those things in place to offset all those private jets that are going to be heading there had next week.

BLITZER: We'll be having extensive coverage of this, this week and next. Thanks very much Abbi for that.

A senator's ethics and his romantic life now in question: Democratic Senator Max Baucus denies he gave his girlfriend special treatment when he recommended her for a prosecutor's job. Critics see it though a lot differently.


BLITZER: An American student convicted of murder in Italy, now Amanda Knox's family, here friends, even her senator. They're hoping the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can intervene. Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is working the story for us -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary Clinton has spoken out on a number of cases where Americans were arrested or convicted in other countries, but not with Amanda Knox.

A senior state department official says it's not like a case of politically motivated arrest. There was someone who was killed here.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): The case of Amanda Knox puts the U.S. in a predicament. An American citizen convicted in Italy, a democratic country, a close ally of the United States. One day before the verdict, it pledged 1,000 troops to the conflict in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is treading carefully.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our consular affairs personnel have been in regular contact with her and with her family. We will continue that support which is the kind of work that we do on behalf of American citizens abroad.

I understand that there will be appeals taken and we will follow that and, of course, I stand ready to meet with anyone who wishes to discuss this case further.

DOUGHERTY: Family and supporters of Amanda Knox claim she was railroaded by Italy's justice system and anti-American sentiment. Convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison for sexually assaulting and murdering her British roommate.

EDDA MELLAS, MOTHER OF AMANDA KNOX: Amanda, like the rest of us, is extremely disappointed, upset about the decision. We're all in shock.

DOUGHERTY: Senator Maria Cantwell from Knox's home state of Washington wants to discuss the case with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Cantwell claims the trial wasn't fair. Tainted evidence, a prejudiced prosecutor, a jury that wasn't sequestered.

"I hope the State Department will look aggressively at the events as unfolded, she says, and express some concern"

But the State Department says there is no indication that Italian law was not followed.

IAN KELLY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Italy does have its own judicial procedures. It is a different legal system than our common law system. If there have been irregularities in this trial or any trial, there is a process in place for those irregularities as the defense counsel sees fit to raise them -- raises them. And so it is -- we need to let this process play out.

DOUGHERTY: Senior State Department officials tell CNN the U.S. will review the trial but is being cautious about commenting while an appeals process is under way.


DOUGHERTY: Meanwhile the Italian foreign minister says this case is not affecting relations with the United States and that Secretary Clinton has not discussed this case with his government -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, over at the State Department, thank you.

Let's get to that cloud now over Democratic senator who's been pivotal in the health care debate, that would be Senator Max Baucus of Montana. He now acknowledges recommending his live-in girlfriend for nomination as a federal prosecutor. Republican leaders are demanding an investigation.

Let's go to our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's one of those stories that makes you wonder, what was he thinking?


YELLIN (voice-over): He is at the center of the Democrats' health care fight.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), FINANCE CHAIRMAN: It's better health care for seniors.

YELLIN: A bad time for a distracting sideshow, but now Montana's senior senator is explaining why he failed to tell the White House a person he recommended as one of three candidates for an open U.S. attorney job in his state was his girlfriend.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Senator Baucus did not give us any information about those three names.

YELLIN: The senator even interviewed her while they were dating, but Mr. Baucus says he's mystified this is a story.

BAUCUS: Everything was straight on the up and up. I went out of my way to be up and up.

YELLIN: The woman is Melodee Hanes. An experienced prosecutor and former Baucus staffer. The senator says both were separated when their relationship began, and that Hanes was eminently fit for the U.S. attorney job.

BAUCUS: She is just so good. She is just so qualified. She just shines above everybody.

YELLIN: And he insists she got no special treatment. Along with five other candidates, she was vetted by an independent attorney and fellow Senator Jon Tester was present at her interview.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There is no legal issue. What Baucus did is not illegal under any conception of the law. It is a politically tone-deaf act.

YELLIN: To date, only the Republican National Committee is making hay of it, issuing a statement saying this demands the attention of the Senate ethics committee, but Hanes never got the job. She withdrew from consideration and now works at the Justice Department. As for Senator Baucus, he joins the ranks of politicians who shared just a little too much info about their romantic bliss.

BAUCUS: Melodee and I have had a wonderful, romantic relationship. We're very close. It's very, very happy in my life."


YELLIN: Wolf, you know that saying, TMI, too much information. Now the Department of Justice says that Hanes got her job there on her own merits and was not recommended by Senator Baucus. Multiple ethics attorneys say no laws were broken, and Senator Baucus adds that Hanes withdrew from consideration for the post as U.S. attorney because ultimately she decided she wanted to live in Washington where the senator spends most of his time, and if she had gotten that U.S. attorney job she would have to live in Montana -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you. Jessica Yellin working that story.

Abortion and health reform debate. Details of a new amendment and what could be a make or break moment. We're going to talk about that with the best political team on television.


BLITZER: Controversy right now as the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid compares the battle over health care reform to the battle over civil rights.

Let's talk about that and more with the best political team on television. Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile, Christian Broadcasting Network, White House correspondent, and CNN contributor David Brody, and CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Guys, thanks very much. Here's the controversial comments that Harry Reid made today.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Instead of joining us on the right side of history all Republicans can come up with is this. Slow down, stop everything. Let's start over.

You think you have heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery there were those who dug in their heels and said, slow down, it's too early, let's wait. Things aren't bad enough.

When women spoke up with the right to speak up, they wanted to vote. Some insisted they simply slow down, there would be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right. When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats we hear today.


BLITZER: All right. He was reading that. That was carefully prepared remarks. It was not off the cuff. Senator McCain and a lot of other Republicans are upset to somehow compare that we who believe firmly the principles that are being violated by this 2,000-page legislation as compared to people who supported slavery, I would very much appreciate if the senator -- Senator Reid would come to the floor and if not apologize certainly clarify his remarks.

That from Senator McCain. Did Harry Reid, Donna, go too far?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. Absolutely not. What Harry Reid was saying is that some of the opponents of health care are using the same tactics, the same language that many of the opponents of civil rights, suffrage and other progressive causes used to try to stop the progress we were making at that point in history.

He was not saying that the Republicans know more than I would accuse Democrats who opposed civil rights in the '60s of being somehow equated with bigotry. What he was saying is that they were using the same arguments.

BLITZER: David, did Harry Reid go too far?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I respectfully disagree with Donna. I think to equate people who oppose the health care reform to slave owners goes over the line. It's offensive. I think -- I like Harry Reid, I respect Harry Reid, but I think this was overdrawn.

And I think it's going to have interesting repercussions. Wolf, I'm not sure they need Olympia Snowe's vote. This didn't help.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Honestly, this is a serious debate about one-sixth of the American economy. And Harry Reid goes on the floor and, I think, crosses a line. I know what he meant. He said anyone who filibusters what is right is on the wrong side of history but he went a little far there.

And then Republicans are now all outraged and this is not what the health care debate needs right now. And it's why people are turned off from government because they are arguing about arguing. They're not arguing about the issues.

DAVID BRODY, CBN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I would say this. I mean the politics handbook suggests that you don't mention slavery. You don't mention the holocaust and any of this type of stuff when it comes to any sort of, you know, analogy that you're trying to give.

And so I think that was mistake number one. But I think beyond that, look, I mean they're trying to drive a different story line here which is the Republicans are stalling. They're delaying. And these were prepared remarks, like you said. And therefore, it's about changing the conversation. I think that's a big part of it, too.

BRAZILE: I think -- first of all, it's hard to believe that some people are accusing Harry Reid or anyone else with a straight face of injecting, you know, something as difficult, and painful and emotional as slavery was.

BLITZER: Harry Reid used the word "slavery".

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, because those who -- to people who are making the arguments -- David, listen to the arguments that they're making. They're using the same exact language that was used whether it was in the '60s with civil rights legislation, with women's rights legislation. It's the same -- that's the point he was making. I don't think he was accusing anybody of being slave owners.

GERGEN: Well, listen, it says when the country recognizes the wrongs of slavery there were those who dug in their heels, namely the people who are on the side of slavery. If that's not a direct comparison I don't know what is. I don't know how you can be more direct on that.

I agree with you, Donna, about the thrust of some of the remarks, but I do think this goes way over the line and I think -- you know, 55 percent of American people, well over 50 percent, oppose this legislation. You know, the president has -- and the Democrats haven't yet convinced people this is wise legislation.

And to say because people think it's unwise that they somehow should be equated with people who were on the side of slavery much less women's suffrage and these other issues, I do think it crosses one of these lines that we have.

I think David is right about that. That slavery and the holocaust are in these special positions in our discourse. That when you associate people with that you call them deeply offensive names and I think that's where the issue is.


BORGER: That's the environment, unfortunately...

BRAZILE: That's right.

BORGER: ... in which we are when you see people marching here in Washington carrying offensive signs of Barack Obama, you know, you see...

GERGEN: Those are offensive, too.

BORGER: Exactly.

GERGEN: I agree.

BORGER: You see it on both sides, which again I go to my point, which is why the American public says a pox on all your houses, guys. Just get me some health care here.

BRODY: I think Reid is also very frustrated. I mean, you know, he's clearly frustrated. And there is a sign of -- I don't want to say desperation, but close to it, I mean, more frustration than desperation in the sense that these are prepared remarks and he understood that the Republicans were making life difficult not to mention his own party. He's got problems there as well.

BLITZER: Donna, I'm going to give you the last word because I think everybody else was disagreeing with you.

BRAZILE: Well...

BLITZER: So go ahead.

BRAZILE: First of all, I know my leader. And I think he is a great man. He has a wonderful conscience and know -- and understand these issues. And I think the point he was trying to make, Wolf, was to basically say that they are using the same excuses and the same tactics.

BLITZER: I think you will agree with Senator McCain that, at a minimum, he should go out and clarify.

BRAZILE: Well, I hope Senator McCain accept my clarification that the senator was not -- the majority leader was not in any way impugning his great name or honor.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note. We suspect -- I suspect at least -- that Senator Harry Reid will clarify what he meant to say. Maybe he'd -- whoever wrote that, if he wrote it himself, it wasn't as artful or precise as it should have been.

All right, guys. Thanks very much.

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

Erica, what are you working on?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks. Just ahead, we are talking climate change. The conference, of course, in Copenhagen opening today and the White House taking a major step of its own toward regulating greenhouse gases without congressional input.

Also the president's surge in Afghanistan is on. The first orders in now for troops. They will be on the ground by the end of the month.

A new research on why so many American kids are having sex before their parents even mention the birds and the bees. Turns out, these parents could be behind their own parents when it comes to having the talk.

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

BLITZER: See you a few moments, Erica. Thank you.

President Obama and the boss. Mr. Obama's tribute to Bruce Springsteen. That's coming up. In his own words.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty joining us once again for "The Cafferty File." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour, President Obama said the U.S. would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. Do you believe him?

Chris in Ohio, "Absolutely not. President Obama merely threw in the talk of a withdrawal date to appease some in his own party. Then the administration immediately began hedging on the date. It reminded me of when a child tells a whopper and then starts trying to move closer to the truth without ever admitting the lie, which in my house got worse punishment."

A vet in Michigan writes, "Yes, hasn't the U.S. been withdrawing troops from Europe since 1945, Japan since 1946, Korea since 1953? The only place we've withdrawn troops from in my memory is Vietnam."

Paul in Plainville, New York writes, "I think President Obama intends to do what he said., to begin withdrawing troops in 2011. I also think he is wisely vague and will make his decision based on the unfolding situation on the ground as any wise leader would do."

Rory in Vancouver writes, "Jack, if you look at a map of Afghanistan and the surrounding countries, it appears Obama's positioning the troops so they surround Iran. Some in Iraq, some in Afghanistan. They now have 18 months to get ready for a new war. Just a thought."

Ed writes, "Our president has zero executive experience, zero military experience and is a very confused dude. Everything he says has multiple meanings. It's not that he's lying to us. He essentially has no idea what he's doing so how can his senior officials respond with any accuracy?"

And Cliff writes from Regal Park, New York, "After hearing that 90 percent of the afghan troops are illiterate and unable to handle tasks such as reading a map, the only way we'll be out of there by 2011 is if in place of American troops we send in American teachers. All we have to do is rename the initiative. No Afghan soldier left behind."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, look in your send thing on your computer. If you want to read more on the subject, you can go to my blog at where we post bunches of these when we don't have time to read on the air because Wolf won't let us.

BLITZER: All right.


You got two minutes to read. You get a few e-mails out there, right, Jack? CAFFERTY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: What is the send thing?

CAFFERTY: What's that?

BLITZER: The send thing.

CAFFERTY: The way we always say this, if you didn't see your e- mails here, you can go to the blog.


CAFFERTY: Well, if you didn't see your e-mail, if you sent it in to me it's on your send thing on the computer.


CAFFERTY: One of our viewers who is more alert than I am pointed that out.

BLITZER: Good point. Jack, see you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thank you.

One is the nation's chief executive, the other, though, is the boss. President Obama honors Bruce Springsteen.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Jessica Yellin for our "Political Ticker." Jessica, what do you have?

YELLIN: Wolf, Sarah Palin apparently has been selling more than books on her high-profile tour across America. Our new poll shows the public is warming up to her, at least a bit. Forty-six percent now say they have a favorable opinion of Palin, that's up from 42 percent in October, and her biggest fans, Republican men. The number of Democrats who dislike her, well, that's still near an all-time high, too.

Now liberals have a new bone to pick with Democrat turned independent senator, Joe Lieberman. A new TV ad targets Lieberman's opposition to a government-run health option and health care reform. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is spending at least $40,000 to air the spot in Lieberman's home state of Connecticut and right here in Washington, D.C.

And President Obama, he may have been born to run but he's willing to show some deference to the guy who wrote that hit song. Bruce Springsteen was one of the artists honored at the Kennedy Center last night. And listen to the president pay tribute to the rock 'n' roll legend.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I watched him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, when he rocked the National Mall before my inauguration, I thought it captured as well as anything the spirit of what America should be about. On a day like that and today I remember I'm the president but he's the boss.


OBAMA: So...



YELLIN: Not many people can be said to have rocked the National Mall. Pretty cool, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very cool indeed. Congratulations to Bruce and all the Kennedy Center honorees.

Tiger Woods' unhappy holiday. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look at a new twist on the scandal.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look at the scandal surrounding Tiger Woods.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In golf the lowest score wins, but when it comes to mistresses, the tabloids accuse Tiger of aiming high.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a new lady, number nine.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": All of these women, so far we know of nine women plus his wife.


WALTERS: That's exhausting.

SHERRI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": I don't know if I'm going to buy a pair of Nike gym shoes with a man who cheats with nine women.

MOOS: We don't know the real number but some are joking about "The 12 Days of Mistress."


MOOS: Well, Tiger did hit a tree, though no partridges were harmed.

(On camera): The end of the year is always a time for lists but who ever dreamed we'd be listing mistresses?

(Voice-over): Though not all of the lists agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This paper says nine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This paper says six.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's average it out.


MOOS: There are golf puns galore from three mistresses being "a triple bogey" to "Now it's a seven under for Tiger."

CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON": This is the day I wait for all year. It's Barbara Walter's list of the 10 most fascinating people has just come out. This year the list is just Tiger Woods and nine women he's sleeping with.

MOOS: Some say 10.

(On camera): Nine ladies dancing, 10 lords are leaping -- some are predicting a dirty dozen by week's end.

(Voice-over): Could hit 12. Getting a drumming from his wife was what "Saturday Night Live" joked about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I offer my profound apologies for these multiple transgressions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Multiple? So it happened more than once?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This just in, Tiger Woods is back in the hospital. This time I have a prepared written statement which I shall stick to.

MOSS: You know you have a lot of explaining to do when you're accused of having more mistresses that you can count on the fingers of one hand.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in the "Situation Room." Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."