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The Situation Room

Reversal on 9/11 Trials; Karl Rove's Book; Shooting outside the Pentagon; Violent Incidents; Millennial Second Thoughts; Mitt Romney Interview

Aired March 05, 2010 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the Obama administration rethinks its plan to try the alleged 9/11 mastermind. Will he face a military court instead of a jury in New York City -- this hour the political pressure on the White House to reverse course.

And Karl Rove unplugged, the architect of the Bush presidency is admitting his biggest mistakes and settling some old scores. We'll reveal what's in his new book before it goes on sale.

And no apology from Republican Mitt Romney. He's doubting his own new book and accusing President Obama of fueling anti Americanism around the world. I'll ask him about that and Sarah Palin and his own White House prospects in 2012.

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

It's been a controversial idea from the start, trying 9/11 suspects in a civilian court in the city where the twin towers crumbled over eight years ago. Now the White House is considering whether to switch course and listen to critics who say Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants should not be treated like common criminals. It would be a stark reversal that could also have political consequences for the president.

Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is looking into the story for us. Ed, what's going on here?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, there's no question this would be a major flip-flop if the White House changed their mind and did not have these terror trials held in civilian courts. What White House aides are trying to do today is really calm down this furor among liberals about this potential flip-flop.

They insist that contrary to what "The Washington Post" reported today a decision is not imminent and that in the words of one White House official I just spoke to that this review is ongoing, it's going to take weeks to make a decision, but nevertheless, there is no doubt that in private when you talk to senior officials, there is a clear signal being sent that they're heading towards a reversal here, that they would use the military tribunal system set up by the Bush administration to try these terror suspects. That is exactly the opposite of what then candidate Barack Obama promised and it is the opposite of what his own attorney general, Eric Holder promised just a few months ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They will be brought to New York, to New York, to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood. I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial just as they have for over 200 years.


BLITZER: So what's the fallout, Ed?

HENRY: Well you know, the White House points out, when you talk to officials, they're dealing with a new political reality here that they don't have the supermajority in the Senate, the Republicans are not going to support, for example, funding these terror trials in civilian courts. They need to reach across the aisle.

But nevertheless, I talked to a top official at the ACLU and liberals there are furious. They say that the president promised that this was an important principle to show that the U.S. is better than the terrorists and that the rule of law stands here, and that you could do that in civilian trials. And in fact, this ACLU official told me that over the weekend they are going to start running ads against this White House denouncing where all of this is headed. So they're clearly getting a lot of pressure from the left -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry over at the White House, thank you. There may be some valuable lessons for team Obama within the pages of Karl Rove's new book. George W. Bush's long time political adviser is opening up about some of the toughest moments he had in the White House. Lisa Sylvester has a copy of Rove's new book. It doesn't go on sale for a few more days, but what stands out to you, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, Karl Rove is really seen as a guy who is a brilliant political adviser, but the book shows another side, someone who grew up with not a lot of money, who worked very hard as a teenager and during the Bush years he sometimes was in real emotional turmoil and he acknowledges at least one big mistake.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): It's a book about setting the record straight. Looking through the rearview mirror, Karl Rove says had the United States known Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, things might have been different.

"Would the Iraq war have occurred without WMD? I doubt it. Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use of force resolution without the threat of WMD. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq's horrendous human violations."

But Rove says that was a hypothetical because conventional wisdom was that Saddam Hussein did have the weapons. "So, then did Bush lie us into war, Rove writes. Absolutely not." One of the biggest mistakes during the Bush years, Rove says, was not responding and setting the record straight. They didn't because they thought it was "beneath the dignity of the president to refute such outlandish charges. If you wrestle with pigs, the old line goes, you get muddy."


SYLVESTER: 9/11/2001 molded the mindset of the Bush administration, the president determined to keep Americans safe.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you and the --


BUSH: -- the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.


SYLVESTER: A speech that showcased President Bush as a leader. It was 20 years before to the day, September 11, 1981, when Karl Rove faced a personal tragedy, the suicide of his mother described in a chapter called "A Broken Family on the Western Front". His family situation drove him to the comfort of books and eventually to a career in politics. The low point for Rove personally during the Bush presidency was when reporters were camped out at his home and he faced a possible indictment over leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the media, stress that also fell on his wife and son.

Upon finding out that federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was not likely to charge him, he says he placed the receiver in its cradle and wept. Ron Christie is a friend of his who worked with him in the White House. I asked him what Rove wants to accomplish with this book.

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Karl wanted the world to see a different side of him, rather than just being Bush's brain of the architect or some of these nicknames that you hear about him, I think people wanted -- he wanted people to see him as a human being and as a very warm person rather than some of the caricatures that are out there.


SYLVESTER: The book is also meant to be his account of what happened, a record for the history books. Now Rove does take aim at some individuals in the media and with President Obama and Wolf, he also talks about some of the differences that he had with Secretary of State Colin Powell. In one instance he says that Powell thought of him as a politico, somebody who is wading too much into policy and Powell (INAUDIBLE) called him actually when he was annoyed with him, he used to call him Private Rove and he used to say, get down and give me 20. Well one day Rove in his full suit, he did just that, so you can see that there was -- that was essentially the nature of their relationship. But throughout the whole book, Rove remains very dedicated and very loyal to President Bush.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) Karl Rove can do 20 push-ups --

SYLVESTER: Well it was pretty impressive --


SYLVESTER: There's a great picture of --

BLITZER: This is a big book, too. It's a lot of pages he's written over here, 600 pages --

SYLVESTER: Yes and he does and he covers a lot of ground. I mean he doesn't actually spend a lot of time in the book talking about his family situation. He does -- he starts off the book that way to give a little bit of background about him, but most of it is chapter by chapter, detailing the eight years or so with President Bush.

BLITZER: Lisa thanks very much. Lisa Sylvester will be back in a few moments.

Officials say he calmly walked up to the busiest entrance at the Pentagon and started shooting. Why? They are revealing, even bizarre details surrounding the suspect's background. We'll share those with you. Stand by.

And with this Pentagon shooting now and the recent attack on an IRS building, some are wondering, is there a disturbing pattern going on? One expert will explain what he calls the fright wing.

And the government says these machines will help stop terrorists from blowing up planes. Critics say they perform virtual strip searches. More body scanners could be coming to an airport near you.


BLITZER: It happened suddenly, leading to a lockdown at the Pentagon and an adjacent Metro station, a gunman fatally shot after wounding two police officers. Now we're learning details about the shooter. Authorities say he acted alone and it turns out he had a history of mental health problems. CNN's Dan Simon is in Hollister, California.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the parents of John Patrick Bedell put out a statement today saying that their son's actions were a result of an illness and not because of a defective character. We know that Bedell had been committed to a mental hospital at least three or four times, according to the local sheriff here in Hollister, California.

The sheriff today describing an incident that took place in Amarillo, Texas on January 3rd when a deputy pulled Bedell over for speeding, and apparently that deputy was also concerned about Bedell's mental health. In fact, he called Bedell's parents. The sheriff picks up the story from here.


SHERIFF CURTIS HILL, SAN BENITO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: The next day they filed a missing persons report on him because there is a history of mental health problems with him that the family has been dealing with for apparently a number of years. So that prompted them to go ahead and file this report.


SIMON: Bedell eventually returned home, but his mother was apparently concerned over a receipt she saw for $600 from a Sacramento shooting range that we don't know if that was for a gun or for some form of ammunition, but obviously something that the parents were very concerned about -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Dan -- Dan in Hollister, California. Here's a question. Is the Pentagon shooting part of some sort of emerging pattern of incidents? John Avlon is the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America" (ph). He is also a columnist for the He is joining us now from New York.

You remember a couple of weeks ago a pilot flew into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. You got an intriguing piece on the "Daily Beast" (ph) today suggesting you see some sort of pattern here. Tell our viewers what you see.

JOHN AVLON, COLUMNIST, DAILYBEAST.COM: Well what you've got here is not just evident mental illness, Wolf, but he does seem to be imbibing deeply from the conspiracy theories that percolate around the Internet, what I call the fright wing of American politics, the place beyond right and left, but where conspiracy theories really take on a whole life of their own.

He appears in his online writing to have been a 9/11 truther, someone who believed that the World Trade Center was demolished from within rather than attacked by al-Qaeda. He refers to conspiracy theories surrounding the John F. Kennedy assassination. And a lot of this stuff is the kind of things you see when you troll around the Internet at some of these wingnut sites. The theories that get pumped up there, and for some unhinged folks, they can take them too far, and that's what we've seen certainly today and also in the case of the IRS plane.

BLITZER: What else jumps out at you as you assess yesterday's incident?

AVLON: Just the commonalities, we've seen -- you know there is a drug beat along these fright wing sites about government control, the rise of martial law. Really they're sort of pumping up an apocalyptic urgency that some folks can take them too far. The 9/11 truth movement is part of that. This certainly -- this gentleman in some of the writings we've seen seems to be variantly (ph) anti-Bush and Cheney, more so than any comment specifically about President Obama that have emerged yet.

But it's part of a larger trend we're seeing. Some folks especially in the last year to 18 months taking some of these paranoid fantasies from online and translating them into violent action and that's something that we should all be concerned about and be aware of -- connecting the dots --

BLITZER: So you can't really pigeon hole it to be the far left or the far right, can you?

AVLON: That's exactly right and that's why I call it the fright wing, not the right wing or the left wing. It's the fright wing. It's this murky ground of conspiracy theory to exists well beyond the far left and the far right, but it's gaining traction in the minds of some folks, and unfortunately in the minds of some unstable folks.

BLITZER: But you did see that report that just came out by the Southern Law Poverty Center suggesting that in the first year of the Obama administration, there has been a rise in some of these extremist groups.

AVLON: There has been a huge rise, and that report is very indicative of what's been going on in this first year of the Obama administration, in particular. A massive rise in the number of patriot groups and militia groups, which can be classified as hatred groups. Really, these groups that are really trying to recruit from anti-government impulses and many of them do gain a lot of their adherence from people who believe that the government is out to get them.

So there has been a massive outgrowth in these kinds of extremist groups. It's one of the things that happens. You know hate is a cheap and easy recruiting tool, but hate leads to violence and that's sometimes what we see. That's certainly what we saw yesterday at the Pentagon.

BLITZER: But if there are mentally disturbed individuals out there and they could get access to a weapon, for example, there is apparently not a whole lot that someone can do about that.

AVLON: Well, lone gunmen are a problem throughout history, and that's the real problem here. It's rarely the broad ideological movement. It's the one individual who breaks off. But as we saw in the 1990s, when there was another rise in the so-called patriot movement at that time with Timothy McVeigh (ph), you know it's sometimes the lone individual who's really had this stuff seeped into his soul who can cause terrible, terrible damage. Yesterday the two guards thankfully survived with superficial wounds. But we are seeing this up growth in extremist groups. And when you connect the dots, it's time for us all to be aware of.

BLITZER: John Avalon, thanks very much.

AVLON: Thank you.

BLITZER: They're young, they're active, and many of them supported President Obama's campaign. Will young voters stand by him and the Democrats in the future? You may be surprised by some new research that's coming out. And a facelift for Benjamin Franklin. The face on the $100 bill is set for a little cosmetic procedure.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf. Well a congressional committee is challenging Toyota's commitment to finding the source of safety problems that have forced the recall of millions of vehicles. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has questioned a shortage of documentation regarding testing for sudden acceleration by Toyota cars. The carmaker has recalled eight million cars worldwide to address sticky accelerators. The government has received dozens of complaints from Toyota customers who say the fix did not resolve the problem.

And they've provided relief in Haiti. Now the group known as the Red Falcon (ph) is coming home. More than 700 U.S. soldiers based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They helped provide meals, shelter and treated more than 7,000 patients over more than 40 days. Meanwhile President Obama will meet with Haiti's President Renee Preval (ph). That will happen Wednesday at the White House.

More efforts to stop terrorists from blowing up planes, the government announced 11 more airports will get full body scanners. Boston gets them today. By summer's end, airports in Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City, Charlotte and in California, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland and Los Angeles. Nineteen U.S. airports already have 40 machines. Critics though derive the screening as virtual strip searches, but the TSA says the images are blurred and that they won't be saved.

And what's in your wallet? Are you sure your $100 bills are real? Well to make sure they are today the government announced it will redesign the $100 bill. The Treasury Department says the new version will help foil counterfeiters, and we'll see this new face lift for Ben Franklin on April 21st -- Wolf. I know there was a talk just recently -- there was a congressman who wants to actually put President Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill, so we'll see if there's going to be some changes there on the 50 as well.

BLITZER: Yes, want to replace Ulysses Grant with Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill, but it looks like Ben Franklin is going to get a little Botox --


BLITZER: -- to make sure that we don't see those counterfeits.

SYLVESTER: That's a good way of putting it, a little Botox for Ben.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, maybe he needs it. All right thanks Lisa. When it comes to politics and the voters, nothing is set in concrete. Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti checked in with one voting block that was wild about then candidate Barack Obama for 2008. They're called millennials (ph). She found some surprising shifts -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, millennials (ph) are described as kind of generation wide voters. They're youthful, considered hopeful and are big into social networking. They've also been solid supporters of the Obama administration, but a recent study shows that enthusiasm may be softening.



CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Candidate Obama was the darling of the so-called millennial voters.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A new generation is saying it's our time.

CANDIOTTI: Yet millennial voters between ages 18 and 30 say they're still waiting for results.

MEGHAN CROSS, MILLENNIAL VOTER: I'm disappointed that we haven't seen the kind of change that I think a lot of people my age were looking for.

CANDIOTTI: Meghan Cross is 23 and landed a P.R. job after graduating college two years ago. Dan Nainan (ph) is a 29-year-old comedian and actor. Both identify themselves as independents who voted for Obama. Nainan (ph) went to his inauguration and even performed at some of the events.

(on camera): Are you still as big a fan?

DAN NAINAN, MILLENNIAL VOTER: I feel a little disappointed. I hope I can say this. I feel like you know when you go home with someone and you wake up the next morning and they're not quite what you thought they were, you know not as attractive.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): A new Pew voter research study of millennials (ph) shows their support of Democrats is slipping, their support for Republicans growing. In 2008, millennials (ph) favored Dems 62 percent of the time, Republicans only 30 percent. In 2009, millennials (ph) still favored Democrats, but that support slipped to 54 percent and rose to 40 percent for GOP candidates.

PROF. LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It makes perfect sense because the electorate as a whole has become less enamored with President Obama and the Democrats since the high point of the election in 2008.

CANDIOTTI: Studies show that love lost among millennials (ph) is largely because their text-savvy president is seen as not having been able to do much about the sagging economy.

(on camera): Do you think he has spent too much of his political capital on health care compared to the economy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that -- I think he's doing a tremendous (INAUDIBLE) because if it fails, he's going to look really bad.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): That unease might translate into backlash come midterm elections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely think that right now I'm leaning more Republican than I had been.

MORLEY WINOGRAD, CO-AUTHOR, "MILLENNIAL MAKEOVER": Millennials (ph) are much more interested in bottom line results and that's what they're still waiting for.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): What do you think the Obama administration has to do to keep millennial voters like you in their camp?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get something done. Accomplish something. Finish.

CANDIOTTI: Millennials (ph) say they haven't given up on Obama, but some say they're keeping their options open -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Susan, thank you. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin competed for late night laughs this week. Will they face-off for a much bigger prize in 2012? Just ahead I'll ask Romney about his presidential prospects and whether he believes that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president of the United States.

And it was a shocking rumor and completely wrong, claiming that the chief justice of the United States was ready to step down. What's even more shocking is how this rumor got started.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney sends a strong message to President Obama in the title of his new book. It's called "No Apology: The Case for America Greatness". The former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate says Mr. Obama has simply done too much apologizing. I spoke with Romney today. Earlier we brought you part one of the interview. Here's part two.


BLITZER: In the book, this is what you write about President Obama, and I'm going to read to you from this little segment. "Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined." Then you go on to say "There are anti- American fires burning all across the globe. President Obama's words are like kindling to them." Specifically, what are you referring to?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, he said that we've been derisive, dismissive. That we haven't listened to other nations. That we've been arrogant. He said that America has dictated to other nations. He said that on Arabic TV. Look, America has freed people from dictators. He was historically wrong in my view and he was also wrong to take an apology tour to the world at a time when people are looking for leadership and strength.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) the level of anti-Americanism around the world has somewhat been reduced since he took office?

ROMNEY: There's no question, but if America is weak and if retreat from our insistence on human rights and free enterprise and freedom --


ROMNEY: Well for instance in Iran and North Korea we've seen advances again towards nuclearization (ph). And we don't see the president taking any bold action to get the kinds of sanctions --

BLITZER: He's trying to get sanctions --

ROMNEY: And here we are -- he gave to the Czech Republic and Poland a kick in the face by taking out missile defense and got nothing from Russia in return. That was Russia's number one objective from America. He gave it to them and got nothing. He got nothing --

BLITZER: But President Bush didn't exactly score a whole lot of achievements with North Korea and with Iran either.

ROMNEY: President Bush was fighting obviously for tough hard sanctions. What he did not do was give to Russia their number one objective, without getting something in return. President Obama could have received from Russia the kind of support we needed to get the kinds of tough sanctions to let the Iranians know we're not going to stand by and let them become a nuclear nation.

BLITZER: You were on late night TV, this week. Sarah Palin was on a competing late night TV show. Do you see her, assuming you want to run in 2012, once again for the Republican presidential nomination, as your biggest threat?

ROMNEY: Well, I wouldn't make an assumption. I'm not meaning I'm going to run again. That's something in which we have to...

BLITZER: It's possible you might.

ROMNEY: All things are possible in this great world of ours, but that's not a decision we've made. BLITZER: I mean, with "No apology: The Case for American Greatness" is a book that, if someone would write who's thinking about running president.

ROMNEY: Actually, it's a book that flowed from my 25 years in the private sector, seeing what's happening around the world and recognizing that we're on a course of decline being set by Washington that we have to reverse. But as to Sarah Palin, look, she brings a lot of energy and passion to our party, she may well be a Republican presidential contender in 2012 and we'll see how she does.

BLITZER: Do you think she's qualified?

ROMNEY: I sure do.

BLITZER: You do?


BLITZER: Because...

ROMNEY: Well, she's qualified. She's been a mayor, she's been a governor, she's been part of a presidential campaign, she's got a lot of support.

BLITZER: So, she's ready to be president?

ROMNEY: She sure is.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit, in the amount of time we have left, on this quote, from Paul Krugman, the liberal columnist from the "New York Times" wrote this today. He said, "The parties now live in different universes, both intellectually and morally. I'd say it's because Republicans have moved hard to the right, furiously rejecting ideas they used to support. What are the implications of this total divergence in views? The answer, of course, is that bipartisanship is now a foolish dream."

Is bipartisanship a foolish dream?

ROMNEY: Actually, I don't think so. There is bipartisan rejection of the Obama health care plan, as pointed out by Mitch Daniels, I mean, Mitch McConnell, excuse me. We've seen a growing consensus in the nation that the far left course that this president has taken is not being accepted by the American people.

Look, President Clinton was a Democrat who moved towards the center, who recognized that America is a center right nation. And the course being taken by the leadership in Washington, in the House, the Senate and in the White House, is simply not going to be accepted by the American people. And I do believe that Republicans represent far more closely the views of the American people than does the administration, today.

BLITZER: Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. I knew that's who you were referring to. So, if you did become president, you would reach out to the Democrats and try to find that elusive bipartisanship?

ROMNEY: Look, the only way we can deal with the real challenges we face is if we have a consensus of the American people and if we have leaders in both parties willing to reach common ground.

When we dealt with our health care problems in Massachusetts, I worked with the Democrats. I had to. My legislature was close to, well, 85, 90 percent Democrat. We have got to do things on a collaborative basis. We have got to do that in Washington to deal with not satisfying the agenda of the left wing of the Democratic Party, but instead satisfying the needs of the American people to strengthen our country at a very critical time.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney's new book is entitled "No Apology: The case for American Greatness." Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: He's an Iraq was veteran who was treated for post- traumatic stress. He's back on foot patrol right now, but this time he's pounding the streets as a campaigner for office.

And a bus which began its journey in Mexico is involved in a fatal crash in Arizona. What transportation officials have now learned about how that vehicle was being operated.


BLITZER: We've seen a number of Iraq war veterans run for political office, but few, if any, are like this man. He's been treated for post-traumatic stress, now he's trying to turn nightmare into a positive experience.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, spent some time with him in Pennsylvania.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this Philadelphia neighborhood, one time army captain Shannon Meehan is back on foot patrol. Walking the street, knocking on doors, talking to people.

SHANNON MEEHAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE CANDIDATE: I grew up in this area around here, just recently retired from Iraq. As a continuation of my service I'm running as state representative for my area.

STARR: Three years ago in Iraq, Shannon's job as an army platoon commander was to try to win over the citizens. As he launches his campaign for state legislature, he's open about his experiences in war.

MEEHAN: By painting an honest picture of myself, because I will be honest, I will show you who I am and who I've become. I always felt that I benefited...

STARR: I first met Shannon last year at Ft. Hood, Texas, where he was being treated for traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress.

(on camera): You have written extensively about the incident that has caused you to suffer from posttraumatic stress. I'm wondering how that's going for you now.

MEEHAN: Ever since that day back in Iran in June when I took the lives, inadvertently, of innocent Iraqi family, I've been forever changed. And their deaths, the memories of those children and that family, you know, they will follow me. They always will.

STARR (voice-over): When he was in Iraq, Shannon had called in a strike on a building no one knew Iraqi civilians were there. He felt deeply responsible.

(on camera): You and I hadn't talked in, I'd say, a few months, and then you suddenly e-mailed me a few weeks ago late one night.

(voice-over): I asked him to read some of what he sent me.

MEEHAN: It almost feels as if the further I got from Iraq, from the Army, the more my mind would delve itself into it all. Now, being completely ripped away from it all by being medically retired, part of me feels that signified the end -- the end of it all for me.

I'd finally abandoned them all, the ones we lost and the ones I killed. I felt like I had this disease inside me, this dark secret that if anyone back home had known that what I had done, there's no way that they could accept me. I would be seen as this monster.

STARR: Shannon says he finally began to see the way ahead with the birth of his son Brady and the support of his wife, A.J.

MEEHAN: And what I was able to realize is that I'm not done yet. My service does not have to end there. I can continue, and I will continue to serve. My name is Shannon Meehan.

STARR: Back in the neighborhood Shannon hopes by campaigning for votes...

MEEHAN: Thank you very much, I appreciate the support.

STARR: ...he will also find his own way ahead.

MEEHAN: For me it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity to tell the people of the district who I am and why I want to do this.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania


BLITZER: Good luck to him, he's had a remarkable, remarkable situation. He's trying to do the best he can. A wild rumor about the chief justice of the United States; we'll show how the false rumor spread like wildfire. We'll track down how it got started.

Plus, violence at Jerusalem's holy places. Israeli police clash with Palestinian stone-throwers and dozens of people were reportedly hurt.

And six people die in an Arizona bus crash. now transportation officials have shocking news about the way that vehicle was being operated.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM, right now.

What else is going on -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, Arizona officials say the company involved in this morning's fatal bus crash outside of Phoenix was operating illegally. Six people were killed when the bus, owned by California-based Tierra Santa, Inc. crashed on Interstate 10 about 30 miles south of phoenix.

A state public spokesman says the bus lost control, rear-ended a pickup truck, then the bus rolled at least once and several people were ejected. The bus, carrying 21 passengers began its trip in central Mexico. The Transportation Department says Tierra Santiago's license expired last month.

Violent clashes broke out in Jerusalem today after prayers at one of Islam's holiest sites. Israeli police say the trouble began at the al-Aqsa mosque when Palestinian youths began stoning police and worshippers below at Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall. Police charged in, firing teargas and rubber bullets. Dozens of people were reported injured, including a number of police officers.

And on Wall Street today, a shot of optimism. Stocks ended higher on news that the government's unemployment numbers showed fewer job losses in February than expected. Employers slashed 36,000 jobs last month. That's far fewer than the 50,000 predicted by economists.

And at the end of the day, the Dow Jones average was up 122 points to close at 10,566. The NASDAQ was up 34 point, closing at 23.26.

The Congressional Budget Office, though, paints a long-term fiscal picture with even more red ink than President Obama did last month. The CBO predicts that over the coming decade, the administration's budget plan would generate deficits totaling $9.2 trillion, that's $1.2 trillion more than the administration predicted. The non-partisan agency says its expectations for future tax revenues not as optimistic as Mr. Obama's -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Not necessarily good news for all of us. We'll be saddled with a lot of debt, there.

SYLVESTER: But, have a good weekend, Wolf. This was my last hit for the evening, so see you Monday.

BLITZER: See you Monday. Enjoy the weekend, Lisa. Thank you.

SYLVESTER: Thank you, too.

BLITZER: It was a wild, wild rumor about the chief justice of the United States and it spread like wildfire. We tracked down how that false report got started and how it circulated so quickly.


BLITZER: There was a wild rumor about the cheat justice of the United States and it spread like wildfire. Our Brian Todd has been tracking down how that false report got started and how it simply took off.

What happened?

BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Took off, indeed, Wolf. It took just minutes to spread around the Internet, the blogosphere, even onto one news network.

The rumor about the Chief Justice Roberts' retiring was never true. What makes this even more extraordinary is how it got out and where it likely came from.


(voice-over): It seemed to spread about as fast as you could text it and hit send, a rumor that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was "seriously considering retirement." It was first posted Thursday on the celebrity Web site Radar Online with the detail that Roberts would be leaving for personal reasons. It moved with warp speed through the social media, into newsrooms, and even made it on the air onto Fox News Channel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are reports online that the nation's Supreme Court Justice, John Roberts, is considering stepping down. That would be a huge deal.

TODD: The Fox anchor quickly added their own reporter was saying the story wasn't true, and it wasn't. A spokesperson from the court quickly steered CNN away from the story, as well. At some point Radar Online updated to say Roberts would not be leaving.

How did this rumor get so far so fast? It apparently started here, at the Georgetown University Law Center during a class of criminal justice taught by Professor Peter Tague.

Two students present who wouldn't go on camera, tells CNN that Tague opened class by telling his 100-plus students that Roberts would be stepping down, but to just keep that information between them, but at least one student sent e-mails out. Others may have sent out Tweets or other messages and within minutes, Radar Online had posted it.

The Web site has not disclosed exactly where it got the information and didn't return our calls and e-mail. The students say about a half hour after he told the class about Roberts, Tague told them he'd made it all up. They say he did it to teach them that informants in the criminal justice system are not always reliable.

Matt McGrath, Kim Allen and Phillip Sanguinetti took Tague's class last year. They said he did the same thing with them.

KIM ALLEN, GEORGETOWN UNIV LAW STUDENT: He started the class, and he tells everybody, close their laptops, he has something to tell us, and then he says that we're all going to find out tomorrow that John Roberts is retiring.

TODD: Did you suspect anything?

MATT MCGRATH, GEORGETOWN UNIV LAW STUDENT: It did seem a bit strange, but on the other hand, Professor Tague has sort of a courtroom voice, you know, he's got a very serious manner, and I was inclined to believe what he said at first.

TODD: But these three say no one in their class sent the information out, and they quickly realized it was game playing.

PHILIP SANGUINETTI, GEORGETOWN UNIV LAW STUDENT: It just seemed very unlikely that a law professor, even if he had this knowledge, would impart that kind of knowledge to a whole -- a massive bunch of students, there are 120-odd students in the classroom.

TODD: Howard Kurtz of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES says "all media is susceptible to this and it's a cautionary tale."

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES: Every media outlet on the planet has got to be more careful about repeating and trumpeting and acting as a rumor chamber...


TODD: Will Professor Tague use this method in the future? We repeatedly call him and looked for him at the law school center, we never reached him. That might have been because the law school started its spring break today, but maybe not. The law school would not comment on any of this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'd like to starts my spring break today, today.

TODD: Wouldn't we all?

BLITZER: But I couldn't do that. Could to be back in school. Did those three students think this was a teaching tool?

TODD: They all three said absolutely they thought it was. They said he really drove home the point that in the criminal justice system, when you rely on an informant to establish probable cause for a warrant, you simply have got to be careful about trusting the word of one person. They all three said they hope he keeps doing, that little method he does, and they remember it a year later.

BLITZER: It spread just like that. (INAUDIBLE) It was a false rumor and that was that. All right, Brian, thank you.

Let's check in with Jessica Yellin. She's filling in for Campbell Brown tonight.

Jessica, give us a little preview. What's coming up?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey Wolf, wait until you see what's happening in one California school. Because of budget cuts, a single class has had 10 teachers, 10, in just six months. And that same school was on lockdown the day our crew was there because police thought a couple neighborhood gunmen might be hiding out on campus.

Also, Taser International, they say more than 1.8 million people have been tasered and that its guns are safe. But tonight, we have the story of a man who claims a stun gun caused his heart to stop and cost him his short-term memory. That's all coming up, Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Jessica, Thanks very much, Jessica, (INAUDIBLE) at the top of the hour.

In a couple weeks, a new program starts here on CNN and from Washington. When we come back, our own John King joins us to preview his new show.


BLITZER: He has some very exciting news for all of you, and CNN's John King wants to reveal it to you, right now. Watch this.


JOHN KING, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: How did we get here?

One of the things they do tell you in this business is having your name associated with a show is important. And that's actually a little bit uncomfortable for me.

My dad and my mom used to disagree on politics sometimes and it was great dinnertime conversation to watch them go at it. My dad read three or four newspapers when he could. Boston, at that point in time was a city of many newspapers. I use to deliver one of them.

My first job in this business I love is as an intern at Providence, Rhode Island when the let me cover the legislature. And I couldn't believe people got paid to do this.

I was already in deep in like and I fell in love. But, so it is. I'm the anchor of the show, so it should have my name attached to it. The USA part is a lesson learned from the past 25 years, really, but reinforced in the past year, when I was lucky working on the Sunday show to visit 50 states in 50 weeks. The mission incorporated in that most important part of our title is that even though we will sit most of our days in Washington, D.C., we will always have people out roaming the country, we will always have people out looking for good stories out there, and that you cannot cover national politics just by being in Washington, D.C.

Seven o'clock at night in a family is a social, sometimes rather chaotic time. It's a time for conversations. We want to be part of those conversations, and we have to earn our place.


BLITZER: John is here, March 22, the new show starts on a Monday. Talk a little about what you want to do?

KING: Well, No, 1, want to build on the solid work you do everyday in THE SITUATION ROOM, and you've been filling the 7:00 hour, and as you know, a lot happens in the 7:00 hour, so when there's breaking news, we will do that like only CNN can.

On other days, we'll try to build on the reporting in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll use our people around town. We'll cover all the big political stories, here in Washington: the health care vote, you talked earlier today, this big decision about perhaps changing their mind in the administration on how to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. We will cover those stories with our reporters and empty their notebooks of all their sources.

But Wolf, one of things we're also going to try to do, unlike any other show covering politics, right now, is to connect the dots out in the country in this great mid-term election year, when they're having big votes in Washington, what race is out there for the House, for Senate, for governor will they impact? If they're having a vote on health care and it effects that so-called Cadillac tax, union members don't like that, we're going to go to a union hall that day. We're going to reach out into the country.

I won't be able to travel as much as I did for the Sunday show, but I'll travel once in a while. We'll take the show on the road. Later in the election year, and we will have crews out every day of the week, across the country so that we can talk about the big issues, the big debates, who's winning in Washington, but just as importantly, if not more importantly, what does it mean for everyday Americans who are still struggling in this tough economy.

BLITZER: You picked a good year to start a political show. That's going to air at 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. This is going to be a hot campaign, all the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, a lot at stake.

KING: And you see it, you see more Democrats retiring right now when they look at the odds, they look how tough this year was. A lot of Democrats saying, forget it, I don't want to be a ballot this year.

You see a legendary Republican like John McCain facing a primary in his home state, just two years after he was the Republican presidential nominee. You see the Tea Party movement and the conservative movement sometimes having disagreements with the Republican Party.

There are tensions on the left, as well. And so you can see that happening here in Washington. People having a tough time voting for legislation, people saying no on health care, yes on health care. You see it here, but you also get a much better feel for it if you go out in the country and meet those people. Meet the people who are running primaries against incumbent Democrats and Republicans, Meet the people who are organizing the Tea Party movement. Meet the people on the left who are mad about the health care bill. Why hasn't it been passed already? So, we will connect the pieces, hopefully and while we do it, have some fun.

BLITZER: Monday, March 22 it starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. JOHN KING, USA.

KING: And you'll you'll get to be on time for the basketball games and get see your lovely wife.

BLITZER: Spend a little extra time in the SITUATION ROOM. Not!