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Search For New Supreme Court Justice Begins; Cuban-Americans' New Freedom

Aired May 1, 2009 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: The search is on for the president's first Supreme Court nominee, Mr. Obama showing a flair for drama in announcing that the Supreme Court Justice David Souter is calling it quits. This hour, how this president may shape the highest court and deliver for the voters who elected him.

Plus, hundreds of schools now are closed because of the global flu outbreak, and efforts to slow the virus are in overdrive. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside flu-fighting headquarters right here in the United States.

And Cuban-Americans enjoy new freedom to return to their homeland. May Day celebrations have special meaning in Havana right now.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

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

There's nothing quite like a Supreme Court vacancy to get liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans all fired up. Today, President Obama's promising to get advice from all sides, as he prepares to replace Justice David Souter -- the president going before reporters this afternoon to confirm that Souter will retire after the high court's term ends in June.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum. And it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October, when the court's new term begins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's check in with our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's over at the White House.

Ed, quite a surprise when the president showed up in the briefing room today to tell reporters, it's official. ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was, Wolf. And you will remember a couple nights ago at the news, the president almost joked about how full his plate is right now. He talked about two wars, a financial crisis, various bailouts. Now you can add to all of that a likely Supreme Court battle on the Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): The news was broken by the president himself...

OBAMA: This is kind of cool, Robert.

HENRY: ... interrupting the press secretary's daily briefing in progress.

OBAMA: I just got off the telephone with Justice Souter. And so I would like to say a few words about his decision to retire from the Supreme Court.

HENRY: The phone call and then formal letter from Justice David Souter stark reminders elections do matter. The former constitutional law professor now has the power to shape the high court.

OBAMA: I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families.

HENRY: The flash point in any confirmation battle is likely to be over abortion. Asked about the issue at this week's prime-time news conference, the president tried to stake out a middle ground.

OBAMA: I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.

HENRY: But Senator Arlen Specter's party switch this week could give the president a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and smooth passage of a liberal pick. While speculation is building about potential nominees, White House aide stress it's early. And a veteran of the Bush selection process says be careful with predictions.

RACHEL BRAND, FORMER BUSH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I remember during the Roberts and Alito process, there were short lists published in the newspaper with names on them that I had barely heard of, and I knew who was on the short list.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, officials here tell me there is a strong inclination to pick a woman, at least in some of the early conversations. But they stress there is no short list yet. And they say this field is still wide open, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry is over at the White House.

Jeff Toobin and John King are standing by. We're going to be speaking with them momentarily about this huge story, enormous ramifications for decades to come on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But there's another important story that's still gripping the nation right now, indeed much of the world, the swine flu outbreak. Human-to-human spreading of swine flu is rising, but there are some positive signs.

Right now, World Health officials confirm 365 cases of the H1N1 virus and counting. That includes 141 cases right here in the United States. Scientists are racing to develop a vaccine. And one Mexican politician claims there's evidence suggesting the virus is -- quote -- "letting up."

Meanwhile, President Obama says, be careful. Don't be overly afraid, he says. He talked about the flu outbreak at a Cabinet meeting today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It may turn out that H1N1 is -- runs its course like ordinary flus, in which case we will have prepared and we won't need all these preparations.

The reason that people are concerned is -- the scientists are concerned is this is a new strain. And so what happens is Americans and people around the world have not built up immunity in the same way that they have built up immunity to the seasonal flus that we're accustomed to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's go straight to our CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sanjay, you're just back from Mexico. You're on top of what's going on. Do they seem to have a handle on it right now? Or is this mystery still very, very robust?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the answer to both those questions, in some way, is yes. I think they're getting a better handle on it, but there's still a mystery here, Wolf, which is part of the reason I wanted to be here at the CDC.

Look, there's a lot of sort of basic mantras that you chant when something like this is developing, an outbreak. First of all, there's an emergency operations center at the CDC. It's sort of the nerve center of this place. I really wanted to be here, Wolf, because this is where they are doing some of the up-to-date monitoring, where they are trying to find the clusters, and they're also developing the best prevention strategies, school closings, things like that.

The Fort Worth school closing, what you were talking about yesterday, Wolf, the guidelines for that came from this nerve center, if you will.

But I think, more importantly, the question that is sort of arising is, as this thing is -- if this thing becomes worse, is a vaccine in the works? And that's a question I really wanted to drill down on. I hadn't received a good answer.

I talked to the laboratory director who would make that decision. Here's a little bit of what he had to say

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SHAW, CDC LAB DIRECTOR: We're all learning right now. We're -- we're doing the best we can as fast as we can, which is the message I guess we really want to get out. You know, we're working day and night trying to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: You know, so for day and night, working in the lab. They have been working in the emergency operations center since last Friday. They have really been ramping up. But the question still is how long will it take for this vaccine to get made; exactly when will it be available? And I think they're still working through some of those answers, Wolf.

BLITZER: As of noon today, Sanjay, the Department of Education says 433 schools across the country have shut down; 245,000 students now do not go to school. That number keeps going up and up.

Here's the question on the vaccine, because this is critical. How long before they know they have a vaccine that will be ready?

GUPTA: Let me talk you through the steps really quickly, because I think this is instructive.

First of all, here at the CDC they find the best variant of the virus to send forward for manufacturing. What I mean by that, what they mean by that, is they find the strain that's the most dominant. That's what they want to make the vaccine out of. After that, they send it to a manufacturing company and they make a dose of it, a test dose of it, if you will, and they test for safety.

That can take a few months. If the safety tests come back well, they send it back for mass production. The whole process over six months, probably, Wolf. It's a little bit hard to pinpoint that. It depends on some of the steps in between. But think about that. It's April -- May now, so we're talking late summer, early fall, probably, at the earliest, Wolf.

BLITZER: The clock is really ticking on this one.

All right, Sanjay, thanks very much. Sanjay is going to have a lot more later tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That begins 10:00 p.m. Eastern. And to see more on the swine flu's global impact and learn how to protect yourself, check out CNNHealth.com.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, as this recession drags on, a lot of Americans feel they have been dragged down with it.

A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows 56 percent of those polled say the recession has caused them to make significant changes in their lifestyle. And a quarter of those are angry or upset about having to do so.

According to the survey, 66 percent of Americans have either lost a job or seen it happen to someone close to them -- 71 percent have had their wages or hours cut back or seen that happen to a friend or relative, and, of course, there's the continuing declining values of things like 401(k)s and housing.

So, how can people stay positive with all this negative stuff going on? "U.S. News & World Report" talked to experts for tips on how to stay happy during the recession. Some of their suggestions include these, spending money on an experience, show tickets or dining out, rather than buying stuff, clothes, a cell phone, jewelry, working on meaningful relationships, especially with cheerful people, you know, like myself, being grateful for what you have got, spending time with those who are less fortunate, perhaps at a soup kitchen or a hospital.

That will to wonders for your spirits. Exercising can reduce symptoms of depression. And practicing acts of kindness, like donating blood or feeding a friend's pet.

So, the question is this. In light of the recession, what makes you happy?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, and post a comment on my blog.

Cheerful people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's Friday night. All right, Jack, as you say. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Yes, it is.

President Obama will soon exercise one of the greatest privileges a president gets, picking a Supreme Court justice. Who might he nominate? Wait until you hear some of the names being mentioned.

And many conservatives are gearing up to fight the president over his nominee, but one prominent senator has a message for his fellow conservatives: Back off. And a diplomatic thaw brings Cuban families together. Some Cuban-Americans are legally visiting Cuba for the first time. Are formal relations between Cuba and United States at the diplomatic, ambassadorial level? Is that next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama's promising his first Supreme Court nominee will have a sharp mind and a record of integrity. The former constitutional law professor is now studying possible replacements for the retiring Justice David Souter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors or constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Also with us, our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin.

John, based on the president's leadership style, what he's done so far and what he's said, what does it tell us about who he might pick?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said a lot during the campaign, and one of the things he said just before that bite we just played was, he also wants somebody who understands the law but has the empathy and the heart essentially to apply it to the struggles of people in the real world.

And that's what has conservatives saying, no, no, no, no. You pick a judge who understands the law and the Constitution, not somebody who brings their feelings to the bench. That is the battle shaping up.

This is the first African-American president. So there's a lot of political pressure on him to pick a Latino, to pick an African- American, to pick a woman. There will be a competition within the interest groups on the left, if you will, while we have a similar struggle and a very different struggle playing out within the Republican Party on the right.

Who will he pick? If you talk to people in his camp right now, they say, be patient. The expectation is a woman, and likely a minority woman, but, again, this is just beginning. This battle will go on for a while.

BLITZER: Let me play that clip, Jeff Toobin, for you, the president describing some of the things he would like to see in a Supreme Court nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Sometimes, we're only looking at academics or people who've been in the courts.

If we can find people who have life experience, and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was at the debate that I moderated out in Las Vegas.

Is it appropriate for those guidelines, Jeff, to be included in trying to select a nominee?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, I think people might not realize just how controversial what he said was, because the current Supreme Court is the first Supreme Court in the history of the country where all nine justices are former federal appeals court judges.

What Obama is saying there is that that's too many, that we need some people who are not judges, people like Earl Warren, who came from being governor of California, or Hugo Black, who came from being a senator. He's talking about broadening the pool from which he might draw for Supreme Court justices.

And that has risks and opportunities, and it hasn't been done for quite some time.

BLITZER: John, as a lot of our viewers will remember, David Souter, he was picked for the Supreme Court by a conservative Republican president, the first President Bush. He turned out to be a rather liberal or moderate Supreme Court justice.

What would this administration, this White House do now in the vetting process, to make sure a stealth conservative isn't potentially picked by the president?

KING: Yes, Souter is the living example of surprises in these picks.

Justice Kennedy, and Jeff knows this better than I, is another one, picked by Ronald Reagan. In Justice Kennedy's case, he has turned out to the middle, if not to the left of center. Justice Souter, not only George H.W. Bush picked him, but he was recommended by John Sununu, the conservative White House chief of staff, the former governor of New Hampshire, who said here's a good, solid conservative pick for you, Mr. President. All that praise from the Democrats today tells you that they came to love Justice Souter. This White House has an operations list. Look at all the experience of these people involved. The president himself, a constitutional law professor, has spent a lot of time thinking about this. Joe Biden was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has been involved in so many of these confirmations. Ron Klain, his chief of staff, worked in the Clinton White House and the Justice Department and on the Judiciary Committee.

They know the pool of people they're looking at. There is what Jeff mentioned, the possible unpredictability of going for a politician. But most of the people I talk to, Wolf, say they expect it will be a seasoned judge with a known record and resume this time, and maybe going off the board -- Sandra Day O'Connor also spent a lot of time in politics before she came to the bench -- maybe go off the board next time.

BLITZER: Is there a case in the pipeline right now, Jeff, that could be affected, because Souter, after June, is not going to be on the Supreme Court?

TOOBIN: Well, there are two big cases pending before the court right now which are really going to tell you a lot about where the court is now, the case about affirmative action in hiring in New Haven, and the case about the Voting Rights Act, which was just argued on Wednesday.

Both of those cases suggest that this Supreme Court, the conservatives may really go a long way towards creating a colorblind Constitution, where it is illegal to consider race in admissions, in employment, in redirecting, and that would be a huge change and an illustration of how, as the rest of the government, the executive branch, the legislative branch, is moving to the left, the Supreme Court, at least as currently composed, may be moving to the right.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

John King, you are going to have a lot more coming up on Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION" on this and a whole host of other issues, as well, is that right?

KING: A very busy Sunday. We will talk about the flu. We will talk about the courts. And we will have some exclusive conversations with Republicans leading a new outreach effort. It's going to be a fun Sunday.

BLITZER: Sunday morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern. We will be watching. Thanks very much.

The Obama administration is set to release some results of those bank stress tests next week. Will the government allow some financial institutions to fail?

Swine flu fears closing hundreds of schools across the United States, disrupting popular student activities in the process.

And you can now follow what's going on over at the White House by checking out Twitter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: While the Obama White House hasn't been shy about being tech-savvy, there was one piece of technology left untouched, at least until now.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's here to tell us what's going on.

Abbi, what is going on?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, you will remember during the campaign then candidate Barack Obama had an impressive following on Facebook, on MySpace and on Twitter.

Well, now the White House is getting ready to get into those spaces. Newly launched today, a Facebook page, a MySpace page, and a Twitter feed that people are already following, some of the posts very serious, reminding people to sign up for CDC health updates on swine flu, others a little more lighthearted, pushing people to this video here.

This is one of the recent posts, President Obama showing off his skills earlier this week in front of the UConn women's basketball team. This Twitter feed has already got 13,000 followers. And it only launched today. It's probably going to be a popular one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: No doubt about that.

All right, Abbi, thank you.

Some conservatives already are gearing up to challenge President Obama's choice to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter. But their power to influence the selection process may be severely limited.

Flu fears are preventing tens of thousands of students from going to class, 250,000, to be exact, not to mention the impact on their social lives. Is the disruption worth it?

And, in Havana right now, Cuban-Americans are celebrating the freedom to return their homeland on this May Day or any day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Wall Street will have to wait a little bit longer for the results of those bank stress tests. Regulators delayed the release until next Thursday. A White House adviser says one reason is, banks don't agree with the results.

Chrysler will close another five plants by the end of 2010. The closures are in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The automaker filed for Chapter 11 yesterday.

Wall Street ended the week on a positive note, the Dow closing up 44 points, but the bigger news is that April was the market's best one-month performance in nine years.

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

Many conservatives are bracing for the first Supreme Court justice nominee nominated by the Democratic president in nearly 15 years. And they're spoiling for a fight.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us. Dana was on a conference call earlier this morning.

And there was a lot going on from the Republicans, wasn't there, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was. It was abundantly clear in listening to these conservative activists strategize that they know full well they don't have the power to block President Obama's Supreme Court pick, but they also believe it is crucial for their movement to try.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Within hours of learning of a Supreme Court vacancy, conservative activists ready for battle, scrambling a conference call for some 60 groups to talk strategy, their first order of business, making the case there's a real fight to be had.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WENDY LONG, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK: The left and much of the media is going to be saying, oh, this doesn't really matter. You know, Obama's just going to be replacing a liberal with a liberal.

We need to push back against that immediately.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BASH: Conservatives have long seen the court as the battlefield for their core issues, from abortion to same-sex marriage. And activists hope to use a Democratic nomination to rally their depressed base.

ED WHELAN, PRESIDENT, ETHICS AND POLICY CENTER: It's a hugely important issue, both substantively and politically, and it's one that mobilizes conservatives and that ought to have real political resonance.

BASH: Talking points opposing potential Obama picks are already flying around the Internet. But many conservatives say they're worried Republicans senators don't have the stomach for the fight because they don't have the votes to win.

WHELAN: There will be a tendency on the part of some Republicans to roll over and play dead, exactly as they did in 1993, when President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That would be a real mistake.

BASH: Orrin Hatch was the Senate Judiciary chairman then, and is still a key committee Republican. His message to conservative activists -- back off.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You know, if they want a big fight that's ideological, you know, that's not right.

BASH: Hatch says he won't oppose a nominee just because of a difference in political philosophy.

HATCH: We're not going to get any conservatives on the Supreme Court. We're not going to get people who are pro-life on the Supreme Court from Barack Obama. We know that.

The question is, are they qualified?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Hatch told me that President Clinton and his aides actually consulted pretty closely with him on their two Supreme Court picks. He hopes President Obama does the same. And he also said to his fellow conservatives -- the activists who are trying to push Senator Hatch and other Republicans to push hard against any nominee -- he said, look, this president -- any president has a right to pick whomever he wants for the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: He's seen as a realist on this matter, Senator Hatch.

All right, thanks very much, Dana, for that.

Meanwhile, the spreading flu and the fear are impacting major teenage rites of passage amid school closures. Sporting events are being postponed. We're hearing that high school proms are being canceled. And one mother says swine flu fears are spoiling her 14- year-old son's first date.

Let's bring in CNN's Kate Bolduan.

She's looking at what's going on.

These school closures -- what is the federal government saying and doing about this, what, about a quarter of a million students around the United States are now being told don't go to school?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's tough news, Wolf. The fallout of this flu is hitting students and parents so hard. With a quarter million students out of class, education officials say they're not only concerned about the impact on student health, but on learning, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: In anticipation of the flu season... BOLDUAN (voice-over): The Obama administration is trying to stay on top of this ever-changing flu outbreak.

OBAMA: We, for example, are working with the Department of Education to provide clear guidelines for school closures.

BOLDUAN: With another 100 schools closed, Washington is now doubling the recommended time affected schools and daycare centers should close their doors.

ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The CDC recommends you strongly consider closing school for up to 14 days.

BOLDUAN: Education Secretary Arne Duncan stressed Friday student safety is priority one. However, teachers and parents alike need to start planning now to minimize the disruption of the school year, as more schools are likely to close.

DUNCAN: Have assignments ready to keep them busy and engaged for up to a week or the two, including handouts or books that students can take home so that learning continues.

BOLDUAN: The Education Department says more than 430 schools are temporarily shut down, 18 states now affected, an additional seven states since Thursday, including Rockville High School in Maryland.

FRAN PHILLIPS, MARYLAND DEPUTY HEALTH SECRETARY: The goal here is to stop or at least slow down transmission in the community.

BOLDUAN: School nurses on the front lines are on high alert, even holding hand-washing demonstrations to drive the point home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see how the germs have traveled from one person to the next person.

BOLDUAN: One small victory -- that message is at least starting to trickle down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing to be careful?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I'm washing my hands 24/7.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: 24/7. We're also told of five colleges with reported or confirmed cases of H1N1, schools like Northeastern University in Massachusetts have asked students and faculty to actually avoid shaking hands during this week's graduation ceremony, Wolf, because of it.

I guess, many say you just can't be too careful at this point.

BLITZER: Yes. Wow! OK. Thanks very much.

Kate Bolduan reporting for us. The former Cuban president, Fidel Castro, is sending a provocative May Day message to the United States. Castro wrote that the U.S. wants to see Cubans -- and I'm quoting now -- "return to the fold of slaves." It's vintage Castro, despite the fact that U.S.- Cuban relations are thawing a bit and Cuban-Americans are now free to travel to their homeland.

CNN's Jim Acosta is covering the traditional socialist May Day celebrations in Havana -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as we're discovering on our journey to Cuba, attitudes are shifting, not just among Cuban- Americans, but also here on the island. Fifty years after the revolution, Cubans are listening to President Obama and wondering if change is in the air.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Meet the only Americans who can now legally visit Cuba just about whenever they want. They are Cuban-Americans taking advantage of a new Obama administration policy that allows them to visit relatives in the communist country with almost no restrictions.

MERCEDES TORRES, CUBAN-AMERICAN TRAVELER: I appreciate it to the president to the United States, because we can go up to Cuba to visit our family whatever time that we wanted.

ACOSTA: Mercedes Torres and other passengers are waiting to hop a U.S.-authorized one hour charter flight from Miami to Cuba. She's taking bundles of food, clothing, and even toys back to her brother and sister on the island.

(on camera): You bring toys.

TORRES: Yes. They don't know Christmas. They don't know Santa Claus. And we're bringing something to them.

ACOSTA: Here we go.

These charter flights are so popular among Cuban-Americans, the planes are often full. And we're flying on a 767. As one of the charter officials told us, this is a light day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the city of Havana.

ACOSTA (voice-over): For most Cuban-Americans, this newfound freedom to see their homeland is part of a White House strategy to get a diplomatic conversation going -- first Cuban to Cuban-American, then maybe nation to nation.

At Cuba's May Day Parade, 50 years after Fidel Castro's rise to power, hundreds of thousands cheered the revolution, but they were not shaking their fists at the man in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, he's doing a good job now, but we'll have to wait and see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Well, we're going to move forward now.

ACOSTA: Even Castro may be softening just a touch. Take a look at this recent photo of Castro standing with California Congresswoman Laura Richardson. He's wearing two lapel pins, featuring the Cuban and U.S. flags.

(on camera): Cuban leader Raul Castro still says he'd like to discuss everything with the U.S. but he'd like to see more gestures from Washington.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is almost saying the same thing, adding it's Havana's turn to make a move.

That's a disagreement, but it's also a dialogue -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jim Acosta in Havana right now.

Thank you.

Some world leaders will be my guests here in THE SITUATION ROOM next week. Among them, the Israeli president, Shimon Peres; and the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. They'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM next week.

Closing the borders to prevent a flu pandemic from reaching the United States -- some anti-immigration conservatives are touting the idea. Now one conservative Republican is shooting it down.

And the outrage over a new GOP ad suggesting President Obama is putting the nation's security at risk.

We'll talk about all of that and a lot more with the best political team on television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN political contributor, Steve Hayes, of "The Weekly Standard;" and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin.

I had a chance, Gloria, to speak with Mike Leavitt, the former secretary of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration, an interview that will air tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He made the point that it would be a huge blunder to shut down that border -- that traffic between the United States and Mexico.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE LEAVITT, FORMER HHS SECRETARY: Closing the borders would have a dramatic economic impact. It would debilitate our capacity as an economy to respond to it.

And there are very difficult questions, like what do you do with U.S. citizens?

Do you deny a U.S. citizen re-admittance to the United States just because they might have been infected by a virus somewhere else?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And he goes on to say it simply is not a good idea, it wouldn't even be effective.

You know, there are plenty of conservatives -- a lot of populists out there who say you know what, if you want to protect the United States, end all this cross border traffic -- air, land and sea -- between the United States and Mexico.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this is thinking that this is the opportunity we've been waiting for, I guess.

I agree with the former HHS secretary and the president, who said in his press conference, it's like closing the barn door once the horses were already out. There's really no point in doing it, not to mention the effect it would haven't only on our economy, but on other economies. I think it would be a bad choice.

BLITZER: Steve, how significant is that push to shut down the border with Mexico?

What are you sensing?

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I don't think it's terribly significant. I mean I don't buy the president's logic that it's like closing the barn door after the animals have already left. I think it's different. I mean, I think there are risks to continuing to let people in from a population that's clearly much more infected than ours, at least in terms of density.

But I don't necessarily think we're at that threshold. And certainly it seems that the public health experts who have studied this in depth and have been looking at precisely these questions for years have reached the conclusion that it's not worth doing that at this point.

BLITZER: Roland, you grew up in Texas.

What do you think?

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I believe that public health officials should be making these kinds of calls, because they are the experts in this. Just like I don't understand when you have some political officials who are school board members -- like in Fort Worth, they shut down the entire school district when the health department did not even advise that.

And so I would rather, at this moment, with a health crisis, listen to health experts, not a bunch of politicians or, frankly, ideologues who are political hacks.

BLITZER: All right. Leave it -- let's -- let me move on and play this little clip of a new ad that some Republicans are taking a closer look at.

Listen to this, Gloria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just what is the administration's overarching plan to take on the terrorist threat and to keep America safe?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. There -- it's a Web ad, but what do you think about this new strategy in questioning the president's national security overall?

BORGER: You know, it's kind of -- it's kind of the Dick Cheney take. And I think it's the wrong take right now for the Republicans to be -- to be on.

I mean, quite frankly, the Democrats have always had a problem being charged with being soft on national security. But the electorate has changed. It's a younger electorate. And younger voters don't consider the Democrats soft on defense and national security.

So if they want to gather their base together, I guess that's a great ad.

If you want to add to your base, I'd say no way.

BLITZER: The chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus put out this statement, Steve: "The video posted on Congressman John Boehner's official Web site is a completely inappropriate message for the leader of the minority party to send to the American people. It's disrespectful to the hardworking Latinos across the nation, serving in every sector of our economy and our military's front lines."

HAYES: I don't even know how to react to that. I just think that's -- that's simply not the case. It didn't strike me that way at all.

I think it's a smart ad for Republicans. I think they need to start laying out markers, point to the places where you're truly different from the president. These are the issues. I mean they are different on Guantanamo Bay. They are different on interrogations. They are different on how to talk to or whether we should talk to our adversaries and/or enemies. I think this is precisely the kind of message that people...

BORGER: Or shaking hands?

HAYES: ...that people should do.

(LAUGHTER)

HAYES: Yes or shaking...

BORGER: Or shaking hands?

HAYES: Or shaking hands with Chavez.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: Sure.

BORGER: Yes. That's ridiculous.

MARTIN: And, Wolf, you know, when we finish playing that ad, I was sitting here laughing, because last I checked, didn't they try that national security thing for like six or seven months and it got them nowhere?

I mean Senator John McCain went from May all the way through November talking about those very issues. I mean message to John Boehner and all the conservatives -- it didn't work. So you might want to figure out what the issue today is...

BLITZER: All right...

HAYES: I couldn't disagree more.

MARTIN: ...the economy.

HAYES: I couldn't disagree more.

MARTIN: Well, the smartest way...

HAYES: I think it did work...

MARTIN: ...is to focus on fiscal policy. This is not going to work.

HAYES: No, it did -- it did work and McCain was actually making -- having -- making some traction with those arguments...

MARTIN: He lost.

HAYES: ...until the economy...

BORGER: And where...

HAYES: Until the economy overwhelmed everything else.

MARTIN: He lost.

BORGER: And where was the captain coming home having been rescued from the Somali pirates?

That wasn't in the ad, either.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by, because there's a lot more to talk about.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

Same-sex marriage media war -- it's raging right now and it's a -- and a controversial beauty queen is right in the middle of it.

But is either side really winning?

Plus, your answers to this hour's question -- in light of the recession, what makes you happy?

Jack Cafferty has your e-mail. Remember, it's Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour on this Friday night, we'll have the very latest on the spreading swine flu outbreak. But there are signs of hope. We'll have a live report from the Centers for Disease Control. A top CDC official joins us, as well.

Also, Supreme Court Justice David Souter announcing his retirement. That gives President Obama his first opportunity to make an appointment to the high court. We'll examine the legal and political impacts of Justice Souter's upcoming retirement and likely replacement.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose job it is to protect our sovereignty, is criticizing me for defending our sovereignty. We'll tell you what she said, what she meant. We'll figure it all out for you.

Please join us for all of that, all the day's news and more, at the top of the hour, as we wrap up this Friday night.

THE SITUATION ROOM continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A beauty queen's comments sparking new battles in the media war over same-sex marriage.

Let's go to Kara Finnstrom.

She's working the story for us.

What are we seeing -- Kara?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a new commercial has been released as part of what's said to be a $1.5 million dollar ad campaign that aims to stop the legalizing of same-sex marriage. It features a face that's now forever linked with this heated issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARRIE PREJEAN, MISS CALIFORNIA: I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FINNSTROM (voice-over): Miss California, Carrey Prejean, answering a question at the Miss USA pageant, for which she's been both scorned and heralded.

PREJEAN: This is not about me. It's about the future of marriage.

FINNSTROM: She's once again in the spotlight in this just released commercial from the National Organization for Marriage. It's the latest shot fired in an all-out media war over same-sex marriage that's drawn millions of hits on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No choice.

FINNSTROM: It all started three weeks ago, with another commercial backed by the same group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE GATHERING STORM")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a storm gathering.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MAGGIE GALLAGHER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: The purpose of releasing The Gathering Storm ad was to call attention to the serious concerns that millions of Americans have.

FINNSTROM: USC media analyst Dimitri Williams says Internet blogs and social Web sites change the impact of such ads.

DIMITRI WILLIAMS, USC MEDIA ANALYST: Thirty years ago, if this ad came out, there might have been protests, there might have been discussion. But there certainly wouldn't have been ads that were made in response -- the do it yourself tools posted to the Internet the same day. There wouldn't have been an exchange. There wouldn't be blogging.

FINNSTROM: Online now -- everything from slickly produced spots starring Hollywood A-listers...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm also afraid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I am afraid. Wait, did someone say that? FINNSTROM: To home videos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want daughter to have the right to marry the woman she loves.

PAUL KATAMI, "WEATHERING THE STORM": I felt personally attacked. Then I was moved to -- to do something because I recognized that it wasn't representing the truth about gay and lesbian couples and same- sex marriage at all.

FINNSTROM: Paul Katami's response video became one of YouTube's most viewed the day it posted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATAMI: And our equal rights are being taken away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FINNSTROM: Williams says the promising potential of YouTube is to start conversations, but that, for the most part, this charged issue has remained just as divisive online.

WILLIAMS: It's bad that everybody is arguing and talking past each other on these sites. But I suppose the only thing that would actually be worse than that would be them not talking at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FINNSTROM: And this media war is far from over. For Paul Katami's part, he has already shot a response video which he says will post to YouTube later tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kara Finnstrom, thank you for that.

Let's go right back to Jack.

He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: In light of the recession, what makes you happy?

Oliver writes: "Well, Jack, it's simple, really. Good weather has been doing the trick. It's funny how being able to wear shorts in Chicago really cheers up the whole campus."

Nic says: "I've been spending a lot of time outdoors. I go for walks, hiking, biking -- just enjoy the simple things. I don't need to go spend money like I used to. And it's been a real eye-opener for me."

Ko writes: "What makes me happy is I hope the age of excess -- the me decade and the rampant materialism that has defined our society since the 1980s -- will stop or at least be substantially reduced. We need to define ourselves based on what we do, not on what we have."

Nancy writes: "My health. Everything else pales by comparison."

Jeffrey writes: "Sex."

Arthur in Chicago says: "Peanut butter and jelly, the smell of good barbecue, fresh sheets on the bed and a play at the plate in baseball."

Connie says: "I'm happy I have my health and my job. I've been unemployed twice in my life and I know how difficult that can be."

Bob says: "During these trying times, it makes me happy to hear stories, see Americans helping each other and their communities that are struggling. All politics aside, just giving instead of taking brings me real joy."

Parker in Kentucky writes: "Friday makes me happy."

And Steve writes: "Knowing that if Jack Cafferty can hold a job, most Americans shouldn't be too concerned about the overall employment situation."

Thank you, Steve.

You have a nice weekend.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and find out what makes people happy during a recession -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

What makes you happy?

CAFFERTY: What, about me having a job?

BLITZER: No, no, no. What makes you happy, I said.

CAFFERTY: Being here with you every day, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. That's the correct answer.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty in THE SITUATION ROOM makes me happy, as well.

Have a great weekend, Jack.

CAFFERTY: You, too.

I'll see you Monday.

BLITZER: Thank you.

President Obama's administration is finding it can be an easy target for some late night TV. Comedians are finding humor even when the news is very serious. We're going to show you what's going on right ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's some Hot Shots.

In Mexico, a man wearing a protective mask races a crossing point in Tijuana.

In Chile, a demonstrator thrusts his fist in the air in front of riot police.

At the White House, members of the U.S. military take the oath of citizenship.

And in Kentucky, women wear some fancy hats in preparation for this weekend's Kentucky Derby.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Late night comedians will tell you they had a ball with the Bush administration. But President Obama's team appears to be providing some good material, as well, especially on the topic of swine flu.

Listen to David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Vice President Joe Biden got himself in a little bit of hot water because earlier on "The Today Show" he's shooting his mouth off. He's saying that the subways in New York City are not safe because of swine flu. Yes. Yes. Hey, Joe, listen to this -- the subways weren't safe before swine flu.

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: Buddy, buddy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The swipes at the vice president didn't end there.

Jay Leno took his joke one step further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Last night during his speech to the nation, President Obama told the American people they should cover their mouths when they cough to prevent the spread of swine flu and today he told Joe Biden to cover his mouth whenever he talks.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert couldn't resist the chance to poke some fun at what's becoming the face of swine flu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST "THE COLBERT REPORT": When you go outside, wear a face mask. Of course, you're going to want to ask anyone you see if they have swine flu. So to be heard, you'll want to cut a mouth hole.

OK?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Do you have swine flu?

Do you?

OK. Now, you are safe and can be heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In THE SITUATION ROOM on Saturday, we have the former Health and Human Services secretary, Mike Leavitt, with some flu advice for the Obama team.

Plus, one of America's most influential people. You know his name. THE SITUATION ROOM Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. That's tomorrow.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.