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President Obama Speech Planned in 'Heart of Arab World'; President's Plans for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'; Interview With Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Aired May 8, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the president of Afghanistan blames the United States for the deaths of more than 100 civilians. President Hamid Karzai talks to me and delivers a strong message: Stop all U.S. bombings in Afghanistan.
Also, might terror suspects soon be interrogated not by humans, but computer-generated figures that look like humans? Wait until you hear what the Pentagon is doing.
And don't look for swimsuits in this beauty contest. The women will be covered head to toe. In this competition, manners and morals trump face and figure. Here she comes, Miss Beautiful Morals.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We'll get to all of that, including my interview with President Hamid Karzai. But the president of the United States, President Obama, he certainly promised to reach out to Muslim nations when he was a candidate, and now President Obama is making good. He met with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan here in Washington this week, and now a planned speech in what the White House calls the heart of the Arab world.
Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry. He's following all of these developments.
He's heading to Egypt, Ed. What's going on?
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs already deflecting questions from reporters today at his daily briefing about whether this is a good choice given the fact that President Hosni Mubarak has been resistant to democratic reforms. Gibbs insisting this is not an endorsement of any one leader or government.
Instead, as you noted, the White House believes Egypt is in the heart of the Arab world. And let's remember, the outreach to the Muslim world, the broader Muslim world, began on week one around here, the president giving his first television interview to Al Arabiya in office. Then it continued in Turkey, when he took off his shoes before going in to the famed Blue Mosque to show respect. And then he went before the Turkish parliament and delivered this message... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let me say this as clearly as I can. The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.
In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, White House aides say the president wants to build on that message when he delivers his speech on June 4th in Egypt. That's right before he heads to Normandy, France, to mark the D-Day anniversary. It's going to be a very busy summer of foreign travel for this president -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If he goes to Egypt, does that automatically mean he goes to Israel as well?
HENRY: It does not. In fact, when we were in Europe, there was a lot of speculation that the president, on the June trip, might go to Egypt and then on to Israel. Today, Robert Gibbs saying the president has no plans to go to any other countries in the Mideast.
Obviously, a little bit of tension right now tween the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu, who does not want to yet endorse a two-state solution. As you know, the president visiting with the Israeli president just a few days ago here at the White House, not meeting yet with the Israeli prime minister. Very interesting. He has no plans yet to go to Israel -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, it's interesting. They say Netanyahu is supposed to come around May 18th...
HENRY: Here at the White House, yes.
BLITZER: ... to Washington for a meeting with the president at the White House, but that would be extraordinary in terms of U.S.- Israeli relations for a president of the United States to visit Egypt and not visit Israel at the same time, but we'll watch the story, together with you, Ed.
Thanks very much.
Another important story we're following right now, President Obama has warmly welcomed people who are openly gay in his White House, and he's opening welcoming some gays to the White House right now, recently for the White House Easter egg roll. But some wonder if his administration will make the ultimate step, repeal the ban against gays in the military.
Let's go to CNN's Kate Bolduan. She's working this story for us. A lot of sensitivity on these matters, Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure is, Wolf. New high- profile pressure on the White House today. Dozens of gay, lesbian and transgender West Point graduates are banding together, calling on the president to keep his campaign promise.
We spoke with one of them.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Lieutenant Dan Choi is a West Point graduate, fluent in Arabic.
LT. DAN CHOI, FMR. SERVICEMEMBER: I've been to Iraq. I want to serve again.
BOLDUAN: But just this week, Choi received discharge papers. Why? Because he said he's gay.
CHOI: The Army says, no, go home. Pack your bags. You're fired.
BOLDUAN: The Army crites Choi for moral or professional dereliction, saying, "You admitted publicly that you are a homosexual, and your actions negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard."
Choi says his unit feels just the opposite.
CHOI: They come up to me and said, "Hey, sir. We know and we don't care." And some of them said, you know, "We respect you so much because you were honest enough, that you trusted us enough, and what you're doing is the right thing."
BOLDUAN: It's estimated more than 12,000 servicemembers have been forced out since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was started in 2003. Candidate Obama pledged to repeal the law banning gays from serving openly.
OBAMA: I have stated repeatedly that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" doesn't make sense.
Why would we want able men and women who are willing to sacrifice on our behalf, why would we tell them no?
BOLDUAN: But so far, no action from President Obama.
Choi says he'll keep fighting. But now, more than ever, he's looking to the president for help.
CHOI: I would, number one, tell him, don't fire me, I have something to contribute to the Army.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN: Now the White House has said the president is consulting with top defense advisers like Secretary Gates on what the impact of a repeal would be. Meantime, it remains a very risky political issue in Congress, which would need to overturn the law -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kate, for that story.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There is no chapter in the saga over who knew what and when they knew it when it comes to the ongoing torture debate. The Obama administration just released records that show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed in September of 2002 about "the enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed against al Qaeda prisoners." Past tense, "had been employed."
The documents don't list the specific methods covered during that briefing. However, during the preceding month, the CIA apparently waterboarded Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times. And this doesn't exactly match what Pelosi's been telling us.
Pelosi has previously acknowledged being briefed on the CIA's program but says she only knew about methods they were considering, not about ones they actually used. As recently as a week ago, Nancy Pelosi said, "We were not -- I repeat, were not -- told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." Well, with the release of these new records, Pelosi then came out with a carefully-worded statement that she had only been briefed once, that she was told the techniques were legal, but that waterboarding had not yet been used.
Republicans have been accusing the Democrats like Nancy Pelosi of hypocrisy for getting all outraged about torturing terror suspects and calling for investigations. Republicans say the Democrats have known about this stuff for years and are only now causing a row because suddenly the information has been made public. Former CIA director and former Republican congressman Porter Goss describes these lawmakers claims as "a disturbing economic of amnesia."
So here's the question: Do you believe Nancy Pelosi when she says she was never told about torturing prisoners?
Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.
The president of Afghanistan blames the United States for the deaths of more than 100 civilians. And President Hamid Karzai demands that the U.S. stop all U.S. bombings in Afghanistan. He sits down with me and delivers a very harsh message.
The latest on a suspect whom police thought wanted to kill students and Jews, he's now been arrested.
And California's first lady on the pain of dealing with a parent with Alzheimer's. Maria Shriver is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The president of Afghanistan has bitter complaints with the United States. It involves what could be the single deadliest incident involving Afghan civilians since U.S. troops invaded back in 2001.
Just a short while ago, President Hamid Karzai sat down with me here in Washington. We talked about this week's U.S. strikes in an area for insurgent activity. A senior U.S. military official tells CNN up to 50 people died in that operation, mostly suspected terrorists, but innocent women and children also died.
President Karzai, on the other hand, insists more than 100 people died, and he blames the United States. He says they were civilians. He says President Obama extended apologies.
Now Mr. Karzai demands one thing -- for the United States immediately to stop all bombings in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: And joining us now is the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.
Mr. President, welcome to Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.
HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: Happy to be with you again.
BLITZER: Always good to see you.
KARZAI: Always good to see you.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about these civilians who have been killed, whether in U.S.-led air strikes or other incidents. We see these very disturbing scenes of angry demonstrators in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan right now shouting, "Death to America!"
Do you accept the U.S. explanation that the U.S. accidentally killed civilians in these air strikes, or what else was going on?
KARZAI: Well, civilian casualties and the manner in which military operations are conducted has been a source of serious concern to the Afghan people for a long, long time. Because of the strength of the Afghan relation with America, because of the desire of the Afghan people to have a better future, and because of the desire of the Afghan people to defeat terrorism completely, and in alliance with America, there has been a lot of tolerance in Afghanistan for these incidents. But the more of these incidents, the lesser the understanding in Afghanistan for these incidents.
BLITZER: Who's responsible? And what goes wrong if there is accidental air strikes that kill civilians? KARZAI: Well, the air strikes are not acceptable. This is something that we have raised in the Afghan government very clearly, that terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, not in Afghan homes. And you cannot defeat terrorists by air strikes.
BLITZER: But if they have U.S. or NATO -- they have information that there are Taliban or al Qaeda suspects holed up, and they're firing, or whatever, isn't it wise to go out there and kill them?
KARZAI: It's not wise to use an aircraft. It's not wise to drop bombs from air on villages.
We cannot justify in any manner, for whatever number of Taliban, for whatever number of significantly important terrorists, the accidental or otherwise loss of civilians. So this is something...
BLITZER: Did you mention that to President Obama?
KARZAI: We spoke about that, and President Obama was very nice and kind to retract and extend his sorrows and apologies for these incidents.
BLITZER: In this most recent incident -- and maybe 100 or 150 civilians, men, women and children, were killed -- do you know for sure that it was the U.S. who did this?
KARZAI: This was definitely caused by bombings, yes. I came to know this morning definitely.
BLITZER: Because there was some suggestion maybe the Taliban were using hand grenades to blow up the people to blame the Americans.
KARZAI: No. No, now we know for a fact. Our delegations concluded, they look at the area. I got different word from the government this morning that there were more than 100 casualties, nearly 125 to 130 civilians lost, deaths -- children, women, men -- and that it was done by the bombings.
BLITZER: U.S. bombings?
BLITZER: Will you demand what from the United States, compensation now?
KARZAI: We don't demand those things. We don't demand those things. We don't demand compensations, we don't demand any other assistance for our civilians lost.
We demand the proper conduction of operations. We demand an end to these operations.
BLITZER: You want all air strikes over with?
KARZAI: An end to air strikes. We believe strongly that air strikes are not an effective way in fighting terrorism, that air strikes, rather, cause civilian casualties. And that's not good for the U.S., that's not good for Afghanistan, that's not good for the conducting of the war.
BLITZER: Does the Taliban use human shields to try to protect themselves?
KARZAI: Yes, they do.
BLITZER: And so how do you deal with that?
KARZAI: You deal with that by using Afghan forces in the villages, using the villagers, using the Afghan government institutions, using daytime operations, using daytime search operations conducted by the Afghan forces, or the Afghan forces cannot succeed. Then the international forces can come and help us from a distance, far (ph) or close.
BLITZER: Is it your bottom line that the Americans, the U.S. military in Afghanistan right now, are, as they say, trigger happy?
KARZAI: Well, I wouldn't describe them as trigger happy, but I would demand that we take a lot more care, as I have demanded in the past -- which has caused tension between us in Washington, our demands -- that they take a lot more care in the conduct of the war on terrorism. Specifically, I would remind them once again that the war on terror is not fought and should not be in the Afghan villages and homes, that the Afghans are friends, with the Afghan people, the war succeeded in defeating the Taliban. That the air strikes, especially, and sudden bursts into homes at night are not in any way good for this war.
BLITZER: A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban gave an interview to our Nic Robertson, one of our correspondents, and said this...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIULLAH MUJAHID, AFGHAN TALIBAN LEADER'S SPOKESMAN: Afghanistan will be the Vietnam for them. I want to tell you clearly, we will win and they will die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is there a possibility that the Taliban will win in Afghanistan?
KARZAI: No. No, that's a lot of nonsense.
The Taliban should not be killing the Afghan people by suicide bombs, by roadside bombs. They should not be throwing acid at the faces of Afghan children going to school, Afghan girls going to school.
They should not be murdering Afghan religious leaders, Afghan community leaders. They should not be destroying schools and clinics and doctors and engineers. They should not be destroying their own country. They should come back to Afghanistan and live with the Afghan people, with their own people, and allow the international community to work with us to fight al Qaeda and the terrorists, and to build our country.
BLITZER: We invited our viewers from around the world to submit some questions for you knowing we were going to be doing this interview. We got this from Jimmy Deol of Toronto, Canada...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY DEOL, CNN IREPORTER: President Karzai, is it a likely scenario that the elusive peace in Afghanistan will only be possible by making some kind of at least a regional power-sharing deal with the Taliban?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARZAI: No. I think that that's not right to do.
What we are suggesting is a peace deal with those Taliban who are not part of al Qaeda; who are not part of any terrorist network; who are not up to any evil against Afghanistan or the rest of the world; who accept the Afghan constitution and the way of life; who can then peacefully return to Afghanistan and settle down in their country, and then contest elections, go to the parliament, stand for the president, and do like all like other Afghans do; have responsibilities, have privileges as Afghan citizens. That we offer completely. And they can be governors, they can be all that they want, but through the Afghan constitutional process and through the political norms that we have set now.
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more of this interview coming up later, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and we go through extensively that law, the law that he signed that effectively allows a husband in Afghanistan to go ahead and rape his wife if she doesn't want to have sex.
A lot more of the interview coming up with President Hamid Karzai.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
Right now, let's get to the breaking news.
Ed Henry, our senior White House correspondent, is back on the north lawn.
A decision by this administration to go ahead and fire someone?
HENRY: Well, that's right, Wolf, the first time in this young administration that a top aide has stepped down over a flap here. The president, just moments ago, accepting the resignation of Louis Caldera, the head of the White House Military Office, essentially taking the fall for that Air Force One flap.
You'll remember the low fly-over of the New York City skyline there in Manhattan. People in New Jersey and New York both scared thinking that maybe that there was a terrorist incident going on or something. Instead, it was just a photo-op, essentially.
They were trying to take new publicity photos for the jet that is normally Air Force One when the president is flying on it. That was coordinated by the White House Military Office here.
You'll remember the president was irate when he first learned about that happening, the mix-up. The White House, just moments ago, releasing a report on what went wrong, and also releasing one photo of that fly-over. We're just getting all that information in at this moment, Wolf.
But the bottom line is the president has now accepted the resignation of the head of the White House Military Office, Louis Caldera. This first reported by "The New York Daily News," now confirmed by senior White House officials. Also, the president ordering now his deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, as well as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to figure out and to make sure this does not happen again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. We've been showing our viewers that photo, the official White House photo that was just released, Ed, showing that plane, Air Force One, when the president is on board, flying over the Statue of Liberty. A pretty dramatic shot that they released, one picture.
All right, Ed. Thanks very much. We'll get more on this story as it comes in.
Questioning suspected terrorists, could the interrogations actually be done by something called an avatar? We're going to show you what the Pentagon is developing to get the advantage in the war on terror.
And the polar bear fight President Obama is not stepping into. We'll explain what's going on, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the wave of the future in questioning terror suspects, thermal imaging and even simulated interrogation. You're going to be getting an inside look at what the government is now developing.
A very different beauty pageant in Saudi Arabia. In this contest, women compete for the title of Miss Beautiful Morals.
And the first lady, Michelle Obama, and her staff, they head out for a burger lunch just a couple of days after the president and the vice president did the same thing.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
America's job sinkhole just got deeper. April's numbers are out, and unemployment is now at a 25-year high. Families everywhere are struggling, which is why California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a big test in the coming days as he tries to pull his state out of a budget crisis.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us now with more on what's going on.
What's likely to happen, Bill, to Californians as they get ready to vote in 10 days?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This Schwarzenegger movie could have a very bad ending.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): He started out as the good guy. The Terminator from "Terminator 2" would saved the Golden State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I can promise you that, when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Now he's turning into the bad guy, Mr. Freeze from "Batman and Robin."
SCHWARZENEGGER: If those initiatives fail, then there will be less money available, billions of dollars less, and it has to come from somewhere. So, people should be aware of that.
SCHNEIDER: On May 19, California will hold a special election to vote on six propositions. They call for tough choices, spending cuts, tax hikes, borrowing from state lottery profits. The measures were put on the ballot by the governor and the leaders of the state legislature. Hey, bipartisanship, isn't that what voters want?
Maybe not says , the former Democratic governor who got terminated.
GRAY DAVIS (D), FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: You have two conservative Republicans and two liberal Democrats and a centrist governor that came up with something bipartisan. The test for the California voters, who constantly say they want bipartisanship, is to see whether they mean it.
SCHNEIDER: A new poll shows five of the six measures going down for defeat.
Then what, Mr. Freeze? SCHWARZENEGGER: Therefore, there will have to be additional cuts made, if it is in law enforcement, if it is in fire, if it is in health care, if it is in education.
SCHNEIDER: Only one proposition seems likely to pass, the one that prohibits a pay raise for elected officials if the state is running a deficit.
Are the voters scared?
DAVIS: We may not be able to convince the -- the public this time that the wolf is at the door, because we have cried wolf so many times. But, trust me, when the doorbell rings, it will be the wolf.
SCHNEIDER: The problem is, the voters in California have seen this movie many times, many times before -- Wolf.
And, by the way, when Governor Davis talked about the wolf at the door, he wasn't talking about you.
BLITZER: I hope not.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Bill.
Governor Schwarzenegger's wife is taking on what she calls an epidemic for baby boomers. Maria Shriver is the co-executive producer of a new HBO documentary, "The Alzheimer's Project." It's something that is very close to Maria Shriver's heart. Her father, Sargent Shriver, suffers from Alzheimer's and no longer even recognizes his daughter.
BLITZER: The first lady of California is here to talk about this with us.
Maria, thanks very much for coming in, but, more important, thanks so much for doing this documentary on HBO. Tell us how it -- how it started. What made you decide you wanted to really do this and talk so personally and openly about your dad's Alzheimer's?
MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY OF CALIFORNIA: Well, Wolf, I wrote a book in 2004 for children called "What's Happening to Grandpa?" And I approached HBO at that time. And they didn't think the time was right to do the subject. Not enough people were talking about it. Not enough people had been diagnosed.
And then, about two years ago, Sheila Nevins, whom I have tried to work with on and off for many years, called me and said: I think the time is right now. The numbers are ballooning. People are really interested. There's a major federal study under way. And we want to do it in a big way. Will you be involved? And I was thrilled, because I knew. I could tell just by the way people come up to me that the numbers were changing. And I thought it would be a great television event and that people would be interested in the subject.
BLITZER: How is your father doing?
SHRIVER: Well, he's doing well. If you saw him, you would think he's doing well. and my brothers take him out to ball games to watch their kids play and that sort of thing.
But I think, you know, Alzheimer's is a challenging emotional disease. It's challenging financially, spiritually, in every single way. So, when I go home this afternoon to Washington and go in and see my dad, I will introduce myself to him , and I have to keep doing that.
and I will get a reaction somewhat like that man just had, the reaction to his wife, where he said, "You are?" And I get that same reaction to my dad when tell him I'm his daughter. He goes: "You are? Isn't that wonderful" -- and will shake my hand or kiss my hand and marvel that I am who I say I am.
BLITZER: So, how does that make you feel?
SHRIVER: Well, it's complicated.
I mean, you -- it's -- it's complicated to put into words. It's a "whoa" moment when you realize that your parent doesn't know who you are and that -- I think there are many "whoa" moments in Alzheimer's. When you realize that that person isn't who they used to be, that's a -- like an "aha" moment, when they don't know your name or don't know the simplest things, and when you realize they need 24-hour care.
And, so, at every step of this disease, you have a moment that takes you aback and says, OK, now I will deal with this new normal.
BLITZER: Because your dad, a lot of us remember, he was the first Peace Corps director; he was a vice presidential candidate.
How old is he right now?
SHRIVER: He's 93. He was also a presidential candidate, started the war on poverty, Head Start, Legal Services For the Poor, Job Corps, a lot of incredible poverty programs that are still in existence today.
And he had the most sharply-tuned mind of any human being I have ever seen. And when I testified in the Congress about a month ago, I talked about, he knew everybody in that building. He knew their politics, their soft spots, who they were married to, what their whole life story was about.
So, this is a man who could do a crossword puzzle in, you know, seconds. And Alzheimer's struck him down. So, I think that, while we say the numbers are 5.5 million to six million people, anybody dealing with Alzheimer's know that the millions more are impacted by the one person who has the disease.
And they say, every 70 seconds, a new person is being diagnosed. And, as Speaker Gingrich and Senator Kerry and Justice O'Connor testified to the fact that this disease alone will break the health care system if we don't find a cure, and then revamp the health care system to deal with Alzheimer's.
BLITZER: How many years has it been since he's -- he was diagnosed? In other words, how many years have he has been going through this?
SHRIVER: Well, he was diagnosed in 2003, but he knew that he had Alzheimer's for several months before that.
And I think it's up to every family individually about when they want to tell people, who they want to tell. And we tried to work with our dad. I think you also work with the -- your loved one to maintain their dignity.
And my father loved giving speeches, so that was kind of our first hurdle, was to try to regret the speech indications that came into him. And I think, back then, there was also a lot of confusion around the disease. You didn't want people to think he didn't know or you didn't want people to know what you knew. There was a lot of that.
I think that's lessening now. I'm hoping that this project on HBO will bring, as I say, Alzheimer's out of the basement and into the living room and make it acceptable to talk about.
And different cultures, I would say, Wolf, also deal with this in different ways. And 70 percent of people with Alzheimer's are living at home. A quarter-of-a-million people are caring for grandparents with Alzheimer's. This is an American family epidemic.
And I am hopeful that this Alzheimer's Project will put some light on this really complicated disease.
BLITZER: It's really an important project.
You have another illness in your family, your uncle Ted Kennedy, who has brain cancer. How is he doing?
SHRIVER: Well, I can only tell you that I did an interview this more on a rival network. And the only call I got of the day was from Teddy. So, when I checked any messages, there was a message from Teddy saying: "I watched you. You're doing great. I'm doing great. And keep up the good work." You're so -- you know, went on and on, as only a loving uncle can do.
So, he sounded great this morning. I'm hoping to see him this weekend.
But I think, also, with -- whether you're dealing with cancer or Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, you learn to kind of take a day at a time and count your blessings that you have person on that day in front of you.
BLITZER: Well, give your uncle and your dad our best.
SHRIVER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And we wish them only, only the best.
The documentary, "The Alzheimer's Project," airs on our sister network, HBO, Sunday night.
Maria, thanks for coming in.
SHRIVER: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: The unemployment rate climbs to its highest rate since 1983. President Obama outlines -- outlines how he wants to help. But our political strategists will debate if he's right.
And a surveillance camera that can survive a terrorist attack, it's one strategy being explored to keep you safe on busses, trains and subways. Jeanne Meserve will be here to explain.
BLITZER: Capturing an explosion in pictures as it happens -- U.S. security experts want a camera that can survive a big blast and protect your bottom line at the same time.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has been working the story for us. She has the details -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the government thinks it has found a faster and cheaper way to develop and deploy new security solutions. It's trying to get a bigger bang for a buck.
MESERVE (voice-over): A bus splinters apart, destroyed by a bomb -- this is a test of a new technology and a new business model.
STEVE DENNIS, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: This one has its electronics, its optics in the front. And buried inside is a protected memory unit.
MESERVE: The technology, surveillance cameras that can be mounted inside a bus, train or subway car that can store a week's worth of recordings and survive a terrorist attack, like those that tore apart trains and buses in Madrid and London.
DENNIS: This plays an integral part in being able to understand what it was that happened in the previous events, so that we can develop better patterns of being able to predict and prevent, you know, such future events. MESERVE: But, instead of spending government money to design and deliver the new cameras, the Department of Homeland Security harnessed competition in the private sector.
With mass transit a prime potential terrorist target, DHS asked transit systems all across the country what security products they need and would actually buy. The department then posted on the Internet specific requirements for the new technology.
TOM CELLUCCI, CHIEF COMMERCIALIZATION OFFICER, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's solution-agnostic. You define your problem in a way that many different organizations or people could offer solutions.
MESERVE: And many did. Twenty-six companies responded. Within months, two developed prototypes. DHS is now testing them to make sure the cameras and images can survive a major blast. Transit systems may be able to buy them for about $200 apiece as early as this fall.
MESERVE: DHS is using this same model to develop other technologies, believing it more efficient than traditional government procurement. The taxpayer invests less. Private-sector companies compete for a known market, and the country gets more security -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much.
Dick Cheney has some advice for Republicans -- what the former vice president says would be a huge mistake for the GOP.
And President Obama in a venue where he's expected to be funny -- we will explain what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us, the Democratic strategist James Carville, and the Republican strategist, the former McCain campaign adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
The unemployment numbers, James, today out, 8.9 percent. That's the highest unemployment since 1983. And I know a lot of people say it could have been worse. But for those who are losing their jobs, it doesn't get much worse.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. And that will have, what, 539,000 people...
BLITZER: That's 539,000 families, too.
CARVILLE: Right, exactly. And that was on top of 600,000, and on and on and on. It's still very, very shaky. I think the president was wise to sort of acknowledge that.
Some -- an economist will tell you that there's some glimmers of hope there, but these are employed economists that see glimmers of hope.
CARVILLE: If you're unemployed, it's still...
BLITZER: What does he need to do, the president and his economic team, Nancy? And you were an economic adviser to -- to John McCain.
NANCY PFOTENHAUER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. Right.
BLITZER: What does he need to do to see this reversal really much more robust?
PFOTENHAUER: Well, first of all, right now, government has become an actor in the economy. And that actually introduces an element of uncertainty. It doesn't matter what political party the president is or who's in charge of Congress. Once government becomes an unpredictable factor, you have got investors who stay on the sidelines.
And what I think has happened is, we had a dip in unemployment because of the worldwide national economic meltdown. But the numbers are not coming back as quickly as they should, primarily because of this uncertainty. So, we need to make...
BLITZER: You have got to get the government out of the world...
BLITZER: ... the -- the private sector.
But, right now, James, it's -- it's pretty hard to do that, given the -- you know, the demand. For example, these big banks...
BLITZER: ... GM, Chrysler, they're crying out for the -- a big government.
CARVILLE: Right. Right.
BLITZER: The era of big government, they say, is desperate. They need it.
CARVILLE: Right. I don't think the government really wants to be in the banking industry or the car business. I think they would love to get out of it.
But stock market investors, at least for now, are coming back with -- with some gusto. But that's not the job market. And I think that it's going to take a while to dig out of this. And I think they're going to have to just hold the course steady. And I think the president is wise not to overpromise, because this is not pleasant. This is not pleasant for a lot of people.
BLITZER: You know, there's a lot of debate going on within the GOP, what do you do next? How do you get out of this rut?
The former vice president, Dick Cheney, he had some advice for his fellow Republicans. Let me play this clip.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "SCOTT HENNEN RADIO SHOW")
RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. And I, for one, am -- am not prepared to do that, and I think most of us aren't.
Most Republicans are -- you know, have a pretty good idea of values and aren't eager to have somebody come along and say, well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, you know, there's a lot of Republicans right now who think that strategy that the vice president is supporting is going to just merely shrink and shrink this party, and it will sort of become sort of a regional party; it won't have the national big tent that a Ronald Reagan, for example, envisaged in the '80s.
PFOTENHAUER: I don't think that is the case, because, really, the reason the Republicans lost power is because they became less true to their principles, particularly in the area of fiscal discipline.
I mean, you have always had the American population believing that the Democrats were the party of the heart and the Republicans were the party of the head. And, so, they trusted them more on fiscal issues.
And, when that wasn't there anymore, they went with anything that was change. Now, that's why all that President Obama had to do was just represent change, because people were ready to fire the people who were in charge.
Now the challenge for him is that he's got to define that change. And, frankly, I think the way he's defining is one that is not in with the mainstream of the American population. He's far to the left.
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: I asked Nancy to give the Democrats some advice.
Go ahead. Give the Republicans some advice. Do you follow Dick Cheney's advice? Or is there another strategy?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, you are losing young voters by 2- 1.
BLITZER: The Republicans?
CARVILLE: The Republicans are, which is the biggest ongoing -- it -- it -- there's actually a crisis, and the first thing you do in a crisis is you acknowledge that there's a crisis.
Look, they're not going to be able to not be a conservative party. I mean, Rush Limbaugh would knock them back to next week if they tried any such thing.
But, in -- in that framework, yes, they should -- they should try to establish some bona fides on fiscal discipline, which they completely lost during this Republican Congress and a Republican presidency. I think that's very essential to their brand.
And the second thing that they need to do is, is, they have to figure a way that they can communicate with people without coming across as hateful or -- or -- and that's the way that so many of them come across.
Now, I think there's some young guys in there, Eric Cantor...
BLITZER: Give me some specific -- who's a Republican that comes across as hateful right now?
CARVILLE: Well, you look up -- just -- all you got to do is turn the television on, OK?
CARVILLE: I'm not going to mention people that are on other networks.
BLITZER: Well, are we talking about a Republican like the leadership in the House or the Senate?
CARVILLE: Well, I think that the -- the House leadership -- I think the House leadership, I think that Cantor comes across as a kind of affable guy. He doesn't sort of come across...
BLITZER: And what about Boehner?
BLITZER: Boehner, John Boehner?
CARVILLE: Boehner comes as -- he's a nice guy, but he comes across as -- I think he's very -- comes across very political.
BLITZER: And Mitch McConnell in the Senate?
CARVILLE: McConnell, hard, kind of steely guy.
BLITZER: But I'm trying to get a sense. You say Republicans being hateful, are you talking about pundits on television, or are you talking...
CARVILLE: The face of the party, they don't have a congressional face. The face of the party is as much pundits on television as it is congressional leadership. That's -- and that's -- that was our problem when we were out of power, too.
BLITZER: All right.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Nancy.
CARVILLE: Their problem is, they come across...
PFOTENHAUER: Well -- well, I would just say that the problem that I think or the challenge that the Democrats have is that now they're going -- they can't go from just attacking Republicans. They have to actually govern.
And where we started in this segment about the economy is something that they will have to answer to. They have raised taxes. They have increased spending dramatically. They have made protected -- they have -- protectionist -- protectionist saber-rattling, this is the worst thing you do in an economic downturn.
And they are not getting the recovery that they would have gotten if they followed the right path. They're going to responsible, held responsible to that by the Democrats, whether they're a likable spokesperson or someone who's less likable.
CARVILLE: I don't how to say this, but the country is now like 50 percent on the right track. This president has literally changed -- changed -- he's changed the way that the country feels about itself.
This is a magnificent accomplishment. You have got, what, like 30 -- the stock market is up 35 percent. Investors out there are saying time and time again, we like what we're seeing from this government. We like what we're seeing from this administration. I don't know if it will continue. I have no idea.
PFOTENHAUER: Dead cat bounce. Dead cat bounce.
BLITZER: We will see.
I mean, but people -- it's not like things are not getting done and people are not starting to feel a little bit better about what's happening in the country. I would be the first to say, there's a long, long way to go.
BLITZER: James, you're going to be back in the next hour. You have got a brand-new book that you have just written.
CARVILLE: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: We're going to talk about that. So, don't leave.
Nancy, thanks very much.
PFOTENHAUER: My pleasure.
BLITZER: But we will have you back.
PFOTENHAUER: Thank you.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
BLITZER: He's the president of the United States. His name, President Alabama? At least, that's what one hugely popular device says.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai tells me, the U.S. should stop bombing in his country immediately -- coming up, more of my interview with the Afghan leader. He dismisses al Qaeda terrorists. And wait until you hear him say how long he would like to see U.S. troops in Afghanistan. I was surprised when I heard the number.
And a beauty pageant where beauty is not necessary -- necessarily an ingredient. In this competition, manners and morals trump face and figure.
BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": flags and flowers, prayers and praise. Friends and loved ones are remembering Jack Kemp. They gathered today here in Washington for a memorial over at the National Cathedral.
Jack Kemp, a former Republican congressman who rose to become a major political figure, he served as a Cabinet secretary in the first President Bush's administration and was the Republican vice presidential nominee back in 1996. Jack Kemp died Saturday, after battling cancer. He was 73 years old and will be missed.
President Obama may not be taking kindly to being called President Alabama. That's -- but that's reportedly how a popular new gadget pronounces his name. Amazon's book and newspaper device the Kindle can also speak out whatever you're reading.
But, according to "The New York Times," when it pronounces the president's name, Obama becomes Alabama. "The Times" reports that Amazon is now fixing the problem.
Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Do you believe Nancy Pelosi when she says she was never told about torturing terror suspects?
Michael says: "Yes, I believe her. The prior administration only thinks they told Congress what they were doing. My guess is, they used so many weasel words that no one, except for maybe Karl Rove, had any clue what they were being told. When the administration systematically lied about everything, why would anyone believe they told the truth in this case?"
D. in Atlanta writes: "No, Jack, I don't believe Pelosi. Because of the public outcry over torture, she is now doing what is expedient, a little cover your situation. She knew. She did not have the backbone or political will to stand up and say something."
Bill in South Jersey: "No, I don't believe her. But that's not the point. Debating this in the media isn't how we should be proceeding. We really need an open, frank investigation conducted by a special prosecutor as to exactly what went on and who knew about it. I'm disappointed with the Obama administration in not supporting such an action."
Robert in Arkansas writes, "If I have to choose between believing Nancy Pelosi or the people who sold the war in Iraq, I think I will give the benefit of the doubt to Pelosi."
Ed in Chicago says: "I'm disinclined to believe Pelosi. Although I'm sure she has always opposed torture, I strongly suspect she feared political blowback of speaking out against it in the post-9/11 culture of those years. Now that it's politically safe, she's trying to say the right thing, and hoping not to be exposed."
K.C. in Ohio says: "Jack, I wouldn't believe Pelosi if she said tomorrow was Saturday. Her time is up."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there, among hundreds of others.
BLITZER: We will do that, Jack. Thank you.
And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: an all-out offensive to eliminate Taliban fighters. Pakistani forces strike from the air and on the ground, but half-a-million civilians are fleeing for their lives.
Dick Cheney answers President Obama on water-boarding. Was there another way to get information out of terror suspects? Ariana Huffington and Tony Blankley, they're standing by to weigh in.
And he says his party will keep winning and Republicans will keep getting spanked. Democratic strategist James Carville, he's here. We're going to talk about his brand-new book, "40 More Years."
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
More than half-a-million jobs were lost last month, 539,000, to be exact. But there were fewer layoffs than expected. And, in the gloom of this struggling economy, that almost -- almost -- counts as at least a little bit of good news.