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The Situation Room

Tornado Disaster; President Obama Addresses British Parliament; Interview With Benjamin Netanyahu; U.S. Reducing Forces in Pakistan; Democrats Score Upset Victory in New York; Monster Twister Up Close; "Oh, God, God, Help"; Midwest Bracing for New Storms

Aired May 25, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, we -- we're following breaking news. Parts of the Midwest now at a rare high risk threat level for another day, as the area braces for a new round of severe weather. We're tracking the latest tornado warnings. We're also live in Joplin, Missouri, where 1,500 people are still -- still unaccounted for.

And President Obama on the world stage taking care on this day in London to reaffirm the U.S. bond with Israel just days after igniting a fierce controversy over the Middle East peace process.

Does Israel trust the president, this president of the United States?

I'll ask the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. My interview with Netanyahu, coming up.

And it could be Newt Gingrich's worst political nightmare.

Will hundreds and thousands of dollars in Tiffany's jewels wind up costing him his bid for the White House?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


But up first, take a look at this -- the powerful twisters plaguing the Midwest. We're getting in new video out of Chickasha, Oklahoma. And words simply cannot describe what you're about to see, as this monster storm hit about this time yesterday.

Watch this new video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crossing the road. God (INAUDIBLE).



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it out your window. Get it out your window.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're good. (INAUDIBLE). Oh, my God. Back up. Oh, no. Stop. Oh, no, what it destroyed. Brandon, back -- oh, it's a trailer house.

Slow down, Brandon.

No, slow down. You're going to hit the debris.


BLITZER: Amazing video, indeed.

Those storms, by the way, have already claimed 10 lives in the state of Oklahoma. The governor there declaring a state of emergency in 68 counties just a short time ago.

And in Arkansas, the death toll has climbed to four people from that same string of bad weather.

Let's go to Joplin, Missouri right now. Fifteen hundred people remain missing three days since that deadly tornado. Many of those who survived are only now beginning to come to terms with what happened.

CNN's Casey Wian is joining us now from Joplin with one family's dramatic story of survival -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, imagine surviving one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history by holding onto a couple of dog crates while your home collapses around and on top of you.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A beautiful house in a Joplin, Missouri suburb reduced to a memory. It belonged to Jim and Stacy Richards, who are just now telling a harrowing tale of survival.

Jim was at work when the tornado struck.

JIM RICHARDS, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I started to come home. I got a text from my wife. The first couple were gibberish. And then finally it came through, saying, "Help, roof under."

WIAN: Then came a desperate voice mail from Stacy. Jim hasn't been able to bring himself to listen to all of it until now.


There was this kind of pressure in my ears. And the next thing I know is that dirt and grit and stuff was hitting me in the face. I realized that the roof was coming off.

WIAN: And she was in between those two kennels?

J. RICHARDS: These two kennels, yes. She was trying to have -- trying to have one hand on top of each, one on each. S. RICHARDS: I could feel the dog's crate lifting up. So I got went straight -- I got on the floor and I was holding the dog crates and I had one either dog under my arm. And things started to land on me. And I actually did get trapped. I remember thinking the next thing that lands on me, I'm going to probably die.

WIAN (voice-over): Stacy was pinned for about 20 minutes, unable to contact her husband or son.

S. RICHARDS: My son texted me and said, "Are you OK?" And it was the most awful thing, because I couldn't tell him, no, I'm not. And that was awful, laying there screaming and screaming and screaming and -- yes, it was horrible.

WIAN: Stacy and her three dogs survived, rescued by a neighbor.

J. RICHARDS: I have no idea how she walked out of there.

WIAN: Battered and bruised, she still has a sense of humor.

S. RICHARDS: No. I didn't feel like Dorothy in Kansas. I felt like Stacy in Joplin, where the house was ripping off from the foundations.

WIAN: They took refuge in a local hotel, enduring another round of tornado warnings Tuesday night. The next morning, Jim met with his insurance company to assess the damage.

J. RICHARDS: We've got everything. We've got a three bedroom, two bath. We're into anticipating being able to get them paid either today or tomorrow.


WIAN: Now the Richards have not decided whether they're going to use that insurance settlement money to rebuild at that location of their house or relocate somewhere else.

What they have decided, Wolf, though, is that the next house they live in is going to have a basement, so they have more protection from tornadoes.

BLITZER: Based on the anecdotal evidence, do a lot of the people you've talked to out there have insurance, tornado insurance?

WIAN: Most of the folks do. The insurance adjusters we're talking to say, you know, anybody who's got a mortgage on their house is likely has home -- homeowners insurance and it has some tornado coverage. There are some folks, though, who may be retired people on fixed incomes who have paid for their homes, maybe rolled the dice and didn't have that insurance. And those folks are in real deep financial trouble -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Casey.

Thank you.

It certainly is not yet over.

Chad Myers is joining us from the Severe Weather Center, tracking more -- more possible tornadoes.

Is that possible -- Chad, more tornadoes on the way?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. A day a lot like yesterday, although, Wolf, we have not seen the big tornadoes yet. We haven't seen the maxi tornadoes, those 150 mile per hour wedge tornadoes, as we talked about yesterday. But we have watches and warnings from Ohio through Illinois and Indiana, back down into Missouri and as far south -- even into Texas, even a larger area today. And the storms today are a little different than yesterday. There were more of them. They're slightly smaller, but they are still all by themselves -- they are called discrete cells. They are still out there.

And when they're not bouncing into each other, they can rotate. And every storm today, every storm that's out there, that's been out there by itself, has been rotating. In fact, right now, I'll just give you these pink boxes. There are over 20 active tornado warnings right now. Now, that doesn't mean that there are 20 tornadoes on the ground. But there are 20 storms that are rotating significantly by the radar that the National Weather Service says, yes, you'd better put a warning out, because a tornado could come down at any time. Twenty separate storms are rotating right now. The most severe very close to St. Louis, especially south of St. Louis, also into Little Rock. We've had tornadoes on the ground near Ohio and also into Indiana. But St. Louis under the gun tonight, I think, at least for the next few hours, as everything slides on off to the east eventually.

There's a storm right there, just south of Kirkwood. It probably slides to the east of Kirkwood, but has a significant hook on it. And that hook always tells us that there could be some type of tornado with it.

We're still getting video in from -- from Channel 9, Channel 5 and 4 from Oklahoma City. Yesterday, we talked about the storm as it moved over near Piedmont, Oklahoma. There is a search going on, underway right now. Even a state helicopter is on the ground down here, flying very close to the ground, looking for missing people.

And, Wolf, you can only tell why. Because there should have been a house there, there, there, there. Those houses are completely gone. There's nothing left. There is a concrete slab left on the ground and that's it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Don't go -- don't go away from that wall over there, because you know who David Payne is, right?

MYERS: An old intern of mine. Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Well, he's a famous storm chaser right now.

MYERS: Yes, he is.

BLITZER: And he did some amazing work yesterday in Oklahoma.

He's standing by to speak with both of us, Chad. We're going to debrief him on what's going on. I don't understand these storm chasers.

I'll ask him, what makes someone drive a vehicle into a tornado, basically?

But, you know, we'll talk to him.

Stand by for that.

MYERS: Sure.

BLITZER: Is there a way to control tornadoes or even keep them from happening?

Some scientists say it's possible. We'll have some -- some of the theories and consequences and more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We'll speak to a tornado storm chaser in just a few moments.

But Jack Cafferty is keeping his eye on politics this hour.

He's here with the Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Just when we thought that maybe she had decided to just go away and leave us alone comes news of Sarah Palin the movie.

Next month, a secretly produced two hour long feature film all about the former Alaska governor will be released in Iowa, where the 2012 campaign kicks off with the Iowa caucuses in February. This is a million dollar production put together by conservative filmmaker, Stephen Bannon. He agreed to make the film after Palin and her staff asked him last November to produce a series of videos that would highlight her accomplishments as governor and reestablish her as a GOP maverick.

It's probably a short movie.

After its initial release in Iowa, the film will open in New Hampshire, the home of the first official primary.

She'd better hope it's a blockbuster.

According to the latest poll of New Hampshire primary voters, Mitt Romney outpolled Sarah Palin by a margin of more than 6-1, 33 percent to 5.

Now, if you're looking for something besides Palin propaganda, there are a couple of new books to read. "Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years" by ex-Palin aide, Frank Bailey. It's based on thousands of e-mails that he kept while working for Palin during her run for governor in 2006 right up through her failed bid for vice president in 2008.

He says Palin loves to play the victim and he calls her leadership style "chaotic."

I would also strongly recommend "The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power" by investigative reporter, Geoffrey Dunn. This book, which I have read, chronicles a lifelong pathology of deceit and makes the claim -- makes the point that she's lied about almost everything her entire life.

Now, there's also some juicy personal stuff in this book. The book is well researched and it ought to be required reading for anybody considering supporting a presidential run by this woman.

Here's the question -- with the GOP field so weak -- and it is -- should Sarah Palin run for president?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

In Oklahoma, actually, near Oklahoma City, utility poles are sent flying through the air and KFOR meteorologist, a storm chaser, David Payne, caught it all on tape. Watch this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here, David. Get out of here now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maxi tornado coming in to Piedmont. Piedmont, get out of the way. Oh, my gosh!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, get out of there and safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is tremendous. David Payne, are you still with us? Violent tornado coming into Piedmont. David, are you there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Mike. Can you hear me?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's half a mile-wide wedge. It's another killer tornado. Mike, it went across Highway 81 is when it intensified and it almost got us. It intensified right on top of us. It's amazing. It's a half mile wide.


David Payne is joining us on the phone right now. Chad Myers is going to join in on this conversation as well.

David, what was it like in the middle of a tornado like that when you see these utility poles flying just above your vehicle?

DAVID PAYNE, KFOR METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Well, obviously, my heart is racing at that point. But, you know, Wolf, I'm really not thinking about that, honestly. When a day unfolds like that, my job, you know, is to get people to move.

And I kind of go numb to what is going on around me. I understand what is in front of me and what I'm close to, but I think the fact I'm just trying to get people to either get out of the way, or go below ground, that is going to be and is a deadly tornado.

And I -- when all that stuff is breaking around and flying armed me, you know, I'm like, wow, this isn't good. But, you know, I wasn't at that point I wasn't panicking yet. I was doing OK.

I've done this for a number of years now and I wasn't out of my comfort zone but, you know, my anxiety level -- it goes up and if you were to take my heart rate at that time for that two-hour period or three-hour period, I think it would be -- it would be up there just a bit.

BLITZER: But, was there a moment where you thought -- you know what, this could be the end?

PAYNE: You know, I've been doing this since the late '80s and like I said, I interned for Chad a long time ago back in the day. The May 3rd, 1999 tornado here in Oklahoma, I've chased a lot of big event. I chased a lot of big tornadoes.

And yesterday, there was a point when I was coming north and east, or moving north and east of El Reno, and we're looking at EF-3 at this point. And I'm moving east, and these tornadoes will wobble like an eye of a hurricane. They pivot and they'll sometimes they'll turn and rotate north.

That storm, that tornado, about a quarter of a mile away from it, it starts to turn left and at the same time, it doubles and triples in size. It -- that's how a tornado works. It's water. It's fluid. It's always changing in size and strength.

And it became basically back to an EF-4, maybe an EF-5, you'll find out probably later today. And at one point yesterday, there's a piece of video that's out there that I was on the outer wall, there was debris breaking off and it was getting large around me, and I was moving east on a road and for about four or five minutes, I could not get ahead of it and for the first time in my life, doing what I do, I actually was a little worried yesterday.

That's really been the first time that I thought, OK, this -- I'm in a bad, bad place right now. I just kept going east and got out of the circulation and I was fine. I looked back behind me and it literally was half a mile wide and it was just -- it was a grinder. I mean, it was a huge, huge back to that horrible, horrible tornado.

BLITZER: I want Chad to get in to this conversation.

I remember Chad when we had the breaking news and David Payne was reporting all of this information yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You mentioned that you knew David.

But go ahead. Ask him a question.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: David, do you realize that you and Mike Morgan saved some lives yesterday? And I know that's why you do it. People think tornado chasers are kind of the cowboy, go out for the adrenaline.

Tell people why you go out there and risk your life.

PAYNE: Well, and -- you know, you said it, Chad. The thing is, we have to get people to move. And if I go on the air, whether I'm in the studio or in the field, and I'm low key, you know. To me, that doesn't get people to move.

I have to get -- my job is to get people to move to get off their lazy boy and to go to a safe spot. Or like yesterday, we were telling people, you need to leave your home. If you're out ahead of it far enough, you can't stay home and ride this out.

Your house will not be left. There won't be a center part of your house. There won't be an interior closet. You're going to have to leave your house if you're going to survive.

And the reason we go out, the reason we do this every spring, it's the same now as it was when you were here, Chad, is to get people to get up and really think, you know what? This is serious. This guy is not out here running around, you know?

And now, it's so much different, because now, they can see what I'm seeing. I have two cameras streaming the tornado the entire time. Every viewer sees the tornado play-by-play, mile-by-mile from my car. And it's just a matter of just getting people to up and out of the way. Just to save lives. That's what we're trying to do.

BLITZER: And you did save lives.

MYERS: There are houses -- there are houses out there, David, that literally all that's left is a slab. So, there's -- even if you were in the best place in your house, some of that in that tornado yesterday was not survivable.

How do you tell people to leave their house when we've been telling them for years to stay in their house? That has to be -- that has to be the oxymoron.

PAYNE: No, and I know. And you know what? We -- it's a double-edged sword and we understand that. May 3rd of 1999, when the other, you know, the big event rolled through here, it's a mile-wide -- half mile-wide tornado, same set up. But it was coming through a more populated area, we didn't tell people to get out of the way. It was basically go below ground or go to your safe spot.

And then, after the event, a lot of people went to their safe spot. There were people that lost their lives from going to their safe spot, but a lot of people did not die but there were some that did. But a lot of people, when you -- when you have the 20, 30 hour, two-hour warning time, they simply got in their vehicles and they left their neighborhoods.

But you're right, though, when it's moving through a highly populated area, if you were to come on the air and say, we need the city of Oklahoma City to evacuate, then it would be total gridlock.

So, you have to be more of a precision. You know, if you live in El Reno. And that's another thing that I can do.

When you pinpoint where the tornado is, when you say if you live between this mile line and this mile section, you need to either leave or go below ground because there's a chance you will not survive above ground. And you're right. It's been discussed in many rooms about what to tell people. No doubt about it -- most of the tornadoes that happen every year, you can go to your safe spot and walk away. Less than 5 percent, less than 2 percent -- this year might be a little different --- but in normal years, you know this, these tornadoes are this large and this violent.

But yesterday, Chad, every tornado that was developing, it would cycle. It would come down even stronger. It was coming down. It was going from half a mile, coming down as a mile wide.

You're not going to survive that if you're going to your interior closet, simply put. You have to get out of the way. And a lot of people yesterday we're finding out now, left. They were 20-minutes ahead of it and said, hey, we're out of here. We're not going to ride this out.

BLITZER: David, be careful over there. We'll check back with you. Of course, Chad Myers is standing by as well.

David Payne is a courageous guy and I agree with Chad. He saved lives, even though he took his own life at risk to go shoot that video. Thank you very much.

Much more on the tornadoes coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, some of the other news we're following, including the accused shooter of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the individual who killed several others. So, why isn't Jared Lee Loughner facing jail time? There's shocking news coming out of Arizona, straight ahead.

And NASA is telling one of its Mars Rovers to phone home or else.

That story and much more after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Getting back to our top story: the tornado devastated the Midwest. More amazing and harrowing tales of survival coming out of Joplin, Missouri, right now, only days after the devastating tornado that hit that part of the country.

Let's bring in our CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. She's on the scene for us.

What's the latest, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, we heard so many stories about people who rode out the tornado in their homes and were able to survive. But we've also seen hundreds, literally hundreds of cars that have been smashed in this tornado like this truck behind me that's up on its side, up against this three. Some of these cars are not even recognizable.

But we've got a story to tell you about, about an 18-year-old girl. Her name is Ashley Hoke and she was right here in this car. She was driving home from her high school graduation. About a block and a half of the street here, the tornado picked her up in this vehicle and her best friend. It flipped it in the air and somehow it landed and on all force straight up.

This is a convertible car. Take a look at this, inside. You can see in the passenger seat that that this metal post has gone right through the seat. While her friend was fine outside of some broken hands, Ashley had a bunch of debris in her hand that had to be surgically removed. But she's OK, outside of that and a broken shoulder.

Following Ashley was her parents. They were in separate cars. John and Sharon Hoke, and they tell us about their horrifying experience.


SHARON HOKE, MOTHER OF INJURED DRIVER: I was just in the car that got -- we just pretty much drove right into the tornado. And all we do is turn the corner and get in a parking lot. And when we don't know what happened, we couldn't see anything, we knew the windows blew out. We hear things hitting the cars. The building we pulled up against collapsed on the hood.

And when we climbed out the back when it was over, there were two cars wedge on either side of us, on each side there was a car wedged. And we know if that's why held us because we could feel it picking up, picking up, picking up. And we don't know how it didn't go.

Out the window or the car go up in the air. But there were two cars wedged on each side and the building on top.


JERAS: John and Sharon were just fine when they got out of their vehicle, outside of some scratches and some bruises. Ashley and her best friend held hands and ran across the street to St. John's Medical Center to get help. She's out of the hospital and was way able to walk up to her car and be just fine today.

And on a side note, Wolf, their home was also devastated in this tornado. There was nothing left and they don't have a basement. So, how they made it all the way home, who knows if they would have survived this tornado?

BLITZER: Amazing stories, indeed. All right. Jacqui, thank you.

To our viewers, we're going to have more on this story coming up. But if you want to find out how you can help those devastated by the tornadoes, go to You'll find a lot of organizations, ways that you can help those in need,

Other news we're following, including President Obama and the first lady honored. They honored Queen Elizabeth with a dinner at the U.S. ambassador's residence in London tonight. The president's day began with a major speech to parliament in which he called America's and Britain's leadership in the world essential to the cause of human dignity.

Here's CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry.


ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in that big speech, the president tried to make the case that while China, Brazil, India, others are rising on the world stage, these U.S.-European alliances still matter, especially in places in Libya, where he asserted a humanitarian crisis was averted because of military action.

The president also tried to make a special effort to show the world that he and British Prime Minister David Cameron and close, but not too close.

(voice-over): Their short sleeves rolled up, the two men used the flames of a barbecue grill to counter the image this special relationship is too chilly.

After flipping burgers for American and British troops, they peppered their statements with informal greetings.

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Barack and I know well the shared history of our countries.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, David. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

HENRY: But meeting five years to the day Tony Blair and George W. Bush had a joint news conference of their own, they were careful to insist they're not that close. Cameron, not wanting to be Obama's poodle with Afghanistan.

CAMERON: I think every relationship between a president and a prime minister is different. HENRY: And Mr. Obama making clear that unlike the other guys plunging into Iraq, there was no rush into Libya without a coalition.

OBAMA: In terms of historical analogies, I just want to underscore, this is not the United Kingdom and the United States alone. We have a broad range of partners under an international mandate designed to save lives.

HENRY: Both men vowed they also want to save the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, with the British prime minister racing to Mr. Obama's defense over his controversial Mideast speech.

CAMERON: And I describe the president's speech as bold and visionary, because I think it did an absolutely vital thing, which was to talk about '67 borders with land swaps. So, as the president said, if you think about what both sides absolutely need to know to start this process, those two things are in place.

HENRY: The president said both sides will need to make wrenching compromises, but he was careful not to mention the phrase "1967" again, no doubt not wanting to rile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When a reporter asked whether he agreed with the hard line Netanyahu took on Palestinian refugees this week, Mr. Obama ducked a chance to criticize him and instead put pressure on the Palestinians.

OBAMA: I don't want the Palestinians to forget that they have obligations as well. And they are going to have to resolve in a credible way the meaning of this agreement between Fatah and Hamas if we're going to have any prospect for peace moving forward.

HENRY (on camera): Mideast peace, along with the future leadership of the International Monetary Fund are likely to be major topics that come up on Thursday for the president's next stop in France for the G- 8 summit. Then it's on to the final stop of Poland, which like the first stop in Ireland, has a lot of American immigrants that may play a key role in the 2012 election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, joining us from London.

Thanks very much.

And my interview with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, part one coming up next.


BLITZER: A tense exchange between the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Obama captured the world's attention this week. I asked Mr. Netanyahu about it in our one-on-one conversation at Blair House here in Washington.


BLITZER: Mr. Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It's a pleasure.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your relationship with the president of the United States. How would you define it?


BLITZER: Really?


BLITZER: Because there seems to be some significant tension.

NETANYAHU: That's because you're never in the conversations. I'm in the conversations.

BLITZER: Well, when we saw what was going on in the Oval Office last Friday, it seemed like it was a little rough.

NETANYAHU: Well, let me tell you something. I think we can have some disagreements, but we have an agreement about the basic alliance between Israel and the United States, the quest for peace, the need for defensible borders, the inadmissibility of Hamas, the need for the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state. These are pretty mighty agreements.

BLITZER: I want to get through specifics, but bottom line, do you trust President Obama?

NETANYAHU: I heard from the president a reiteration of his ironclad commitment to Israel's security. What people don't focus on -- because the press blows up every disagreement beyond proportions -- people don't know that our security cooperation now is at the highest it's ever been. They don't even know -- or they know, but they don't take into account that the United States just helped us with the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system.

We just intercepted seven rockets in midair. That's a first in combat history. That's Israel and American cooperation.

BLITZER: So is the answer yes?

NETANYAHU: The answer is, I trust President Obama to commit his commitment to Israel's security is something that I believe is genuine, and it's backed not only by word and by deed -- and speaking of words, the president spoke about this commitment not only to the Israel-America lobby, AIPAC, he spoke about it in front of the Arab world twice in Cairo, and in the speech he made the other day. I think that's significant.

BLITZER: I asked these questions -- in part, there was a -- the foreign affairs columnist for "The Wall Street Journal" today -- I don't know if you saw the article, Bret Stephens article entitled, "An Anti-Israel President." "What Mr. Obama offered as a formula for war, one that he will pursue in a second term." NETANYAHU: Look, I think the president wants peace, and he wants to secure peace for Israel. And that's what I want. We have different ideas on how to pursue it, but we agree on the goal. And in many ways we also agree on the path to achieve that goal.

BLITZER: Do you look back on that Oval Office -- that 15-minute exchange -- and we carried it live on CNN, a lot of networks took it live -- when some of the senior White House officials, they told me that they were angry that you seemed to be lecturing the president.

NETANYAHU: Well, if that's what they thought, that's a misimpression. And there was no intention to do that.

I have the highest respect for America. I spent my high school years here. I value the America, I value the presidency, I value the American president. I mean, that's just wrong.

I was there articulating what I, as the leader of Israel, the leader of the Jewish people, what I believe are the important principles to safeguard Israel's future and to achieve our quest for a secure peace.


BLITZER: A lot more of the interview coming up in the next hour.

Other news we're following as well, including in Missouri. Families are searching for loved ones. Anderson will have an update on a search for a teenager.


BLITZER: Getting some more information out of the Pentagon just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM involving Pakistan and Libya.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is here to join us.

Pakistan, first. What's going on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, the relationship between Washington and Islamabad couldn't be more intense in the days after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Well, now the Pentagon acknowledging for the first time it is pulling some of its training troops and other U.S. forces out of Pakistan.

A Pentagon spokesman says in the last two weeks, the Pakistanis have asked for the U.S. to reduce its military presence in Pakistan, and now the U.S. is beginning to do that. Very few details. We don't know how many, Wolf, but it's a real sign of how tense that military relationship is, because the U.S. military basically invaded Pakistan to go kill Osama bin Laden.

On Libya, more acknowledgement today. The Pentagon saying for the first time openly it is providing munitions -- that's bombs, missiles, ammunition -- to the NATO allies for this extended bombing campaign over Libya. You have seen the pace pick up in recent days. The U.S. is now helping by giving the NATO allies the bombs to do that. BLITZER: And so the U.S. is giving the weaponry, if you will, to the NATO allies. So the U.S. taxpayers pay for that?

STARR: We are asking the question right now. There has been some reimbursement, but we do not know at this point whether NATO has fully reimbursed the United States for every piece of armament that the Pentagon has provided.

BLITZER: Because they are approaching a billion dollars in expenditures so far.

STARR: Absolutely. It's a very big cost.

BLITZER: Just the U.S. on Libya.

STARR: Very big cost.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

BLITZER: Dramatic new surveillance tape capturing horror as Sunday's deadly twister hit Missouri.

And a small congressional race in New York State potentially spelling -- potentially -- big trouble for the GOP.


BLITZER: Take a look at this. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll revealing just whose approach to Medicare Americans are supporting in the wake of the controversial Republican plan to overhaul the program for seniors.

It shows as of right now 49 percent back up President Obama's vision of Medicare, 40 percent back the GOP's vision. We're talking about Congressman Paul Ryan.

Also at this hour, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is forcing Senate Republicans to go on the record about Republican Congressman Ryan's Medicare plan. That plan played a major role in a big election upset in western New York. A House seat controlled by Republicans for more than 40 years is now controlled by Democrats.

CNN's congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is joining us now with details -- Kate.


Well, the fallout from that congressional election in western New York is being felt far from that area, and the big issue in that race, Medicare, has become the newest political football up here.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): Chance of victory in western New York reverberating on Capitol Hill, as a reliably red congressional seat turned blue overnight.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Why? Because the number one, two, and three issue in that congressional district, as is all over the country, is destroying Medicare as we know it.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: The radical Republican agenda to end Medicare as we know it is fundamentally wrong. Americans agree, New Yorkers agree, the voters in the 26th District agree.

BOLDUAN: Democrats are pouncing on the special election win as a sign of things to come, calling it a successful early test of their 2012 election strategy, a strategy with one clear goal -- try to try to make the House Republican budget plan authored by Congressman Paul Ryan a political liability and brand his proposal to dramatically reform Medicare as radical.

Congressman Steve Israel is in charge of getting House Democrats elected.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: This is a huge shot in the arm. We needed 25 seats to take the House back. We now need 24. And I'm optimistic that our plan is working.

BOLDUAN (on camera): You handed the political playbook to Democrats for 2012?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), BUDGET CHAIRMAN: If you're willing to lie and demagogue Medicare and scare seniors, then, yes, they have a political weapon. I'd say shame on them for lying to seniors. They've distorted this so much. Remember one thing -- our plan doesn't change benefits for a person 55 years of age or higher.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Congressman Ryan is not only not backing down, he's pushing his proposal harder, changing Medicare from a government- run system to a program giving seniors subsidies to purchase insurance.

He even released a new video to further explain the plan.

RYAN: If we do nothing, Medicare spending will nearly double over the next decade, exhausting its remaining funds.

BOLDUAN: Despite the bruising election loss, House Republicans are standing by Ryan's proposal, though both publicly and privately, they acknowledge they need to get better control of their message and respond more forcefully to attacks.

RYAN: Americans want the truth. They want facts. And so, we have a year and a half to get truth out.

Again, our budget is so clear. It doesn't change benefits for people above the age of 55, and it saves Medicare for the next generation.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN: Wolf, just a moment ago, Senate Democrats staged a vote to take up the Ryan budget plan, knowing full well it would fail. And it did. But they're relishing in the opportunity to get Senate Republicans on the record on this issue, particularly those facing tough re-election battles -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Have they released the roll call yet, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Haven't released the roll cal yet, though, Wolf. There were 57 no's, 40 yes's. It was simple majority of those -- those present at the vote were working on who voted no. Particularly the Republicans that voted no will be of interest, and we're taking a look at that.

BLITZER: Yes. That's where we see how vulnerable they might be --

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- for those who are up for re-election come November, 2012.

Kate, thank you.

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: With the GOP field so weak, should Sarah Palin run for president?

Jim writes from Alabama, "She shouldn't run because she's not qualified. She's also a lightning rod for the press, and her goofs make her an easy target for the Democrats. If that's not enough, her family problems, ethics issues, dishonesty, and the fact that she's divisive, well, that should be enough."

David in Florida writes, "God help us. There are probably enough Tea Party lunatics, radical religions lunatics, and ultra right-wing lunatics out there to get her elected, not to mention the ordinary lunatics."

Al writes, "Enough with Sarah Palin already. You got a crush on her or something? She couldn't even carry Alaska if the election was held today. She's just another passenger in the GOP clown car."

Bryan in Colorado, "Would it be too much to ask you to tweak your questions to be a bit more intellectually stimulating? She's a Bat Chain Puller -- that's an obsolete railroad term. She shows not positive qualities, complains all the time, and says, 'Look at me.'"

"She's a real-life quitter as governor of Alaska. The prospect of our society even considering such a joke is probably one reason our country is below any other industrialized nation's standards for hiring sound leadership."

Andy in Massachusetts, "As soon as Little Miss Polar Bear can prove that she can pass a fifth grade geography test, why not? If not, she can stay in Alaska and annoy Alaskans." Frank in Pennsylvania, "I say run, Sarah, run. It rounds out a field that includes a candidate who forgot he was for health care reform before he was against it, a family values man with multiple affairs, and an actual businessman who is getting limited attention."

"Why not have someone who isn't bothered enough to even read the newspaper? I wish I could see Russia from my back yard. I might need to move if one of those people gets elected."

And finally, B. writes this: "If Sarah Palin is the answer for the Republicans, then I would hate to see the question. She's not competent to lead our country. She may have a fire in her belly, but I think it was Taco Bell for lunch."

If you want to read more on this -- we always get a ton of mail on her -- go to my blog,

BLITZER: Will do. Thank you.

Jack Cafferty will be back with "The Cafferty File."

Could thousands of dollars in Tiffany's jewels -- should say maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars in Tiffany's jewels throw a wrench in Newt Gingrich's race to the White House? We're digging deeper.

And could the alleged Tucson shooter be freed just months after that deadly massacre that left a congresswoman with a severe brain injury?


BLITZER: Newt Gingrich says he wants to talk about jobs, energy, other issue issues, but the Republican presidential candidate can't seem to escape questions about his charge account at a luxury store. We're talking about Tiffany's.

Let's go to Lisa Sylvester. She's working the story for us -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, you know, sometimes diamonds are not a girl's best friend, especially if your husband is running for president. The family charge account at Tiffany's is now becoming an issue for Newt Gingrich.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is known for her great taste in jewelry. No wonder. The couple had a revolving credit line of $250,000 to $500,000 at Tiffany's, a bit over the top for a guy who is running for president, says Politico reporter Jake Sherman, who broke the story.

JAKE SHERMAN, POLITICO: But $250,000 in jewelry, I mean, that's what a lot of people pay for their house, $300,000, $400,000. So people don't exactly understand how someone could go into debt. I mean, we're talking about debt of $250,000 to $500,000 on jewelry. SYLVESTER: This is a stunning string of diamonds worn by Callista Gingrich. A similar version on the Tiffany's Web site costs $45,000. These cluster diamond earrings that she's wearing here, a similar pair is $5,200. The matching necklace, $9,500.

Just two strands of pearls cost $975 on the Tiffany's Web site. Callista has several layered around her neck.

(on camera): Imagine having a credit card with a $500,000 limit to shop exclusively at one store, Tiffany & Company, although the former House Speaker describes himself as actually kind of frugal.

NEWT GINGRICH (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I own no debt. None. OK? My house is paid for. Our cars are paid for. We run four small businesses in a way that I would think people would like.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Gingrich says he has done well with several successful businesses since he's been in the private sector. Tiffany & Company confirmed that Gingrich doesn't owe the retail store any money at this time, and in a statement said, "All customer information is confidentially held at Tiffany & Co. With the permission of Speaker Gingrich, we can confirm that his Tiffany Time Account has a zero balance and that all payments were made in a timely manner."

The Tiffany's flap isn't going away. Add it to the rough start in his presidential bid. Gingrich managed to tick off members of his own party by attacking the House GOP budget plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

And in New Hampshire, the Tiffany story continued to dog him.


QUESTION: Do you feel like working families --

GINGRICH: No, I feel you are far more fascinated with that than most Americans, none of whom have asked -- normal Americans actually ask about jobs. They ask about energy. They ask about all sorts of things that affect their lives.


SLYVESTER: Now, all of this came to light because Callista worked as a clerk for the House Agricultural Committee up until 2007 and was required to file disclosure forms.

Now, from 2005 to 2007, Tiffany's lobbying on mining issues more than doubled, from $100,000 to $240,000.


BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.