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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Meets With Palestinian Authority President; Roland Burris Plays Defense
Aired May 28, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I'm confident that if Israel looks long term -- looks at its long-term strategic interests, that it will recognize that a two-state solution is in the interests of the Israeli people as well as the Palestinians.
And certainly, that's how the United States views our long-term strategic interests -- a situation in which the Palestinians can prosper, they can start businesses, they can educate their children, they can send them to college, they can prosper economically. That kind of situation is good for Israel's security. And I am confident that the majority of the Israeli people would see that as well.
Now, obviously the Israelis have good reason to be concerned about security, and that's why it's important that we continue to make progress on the security issues that so often end up disrupting peace talks between the two parties.
QUESTION (through translator): President Abbas, you've met with President Obama, and perhaps you shared some of your ideas about permanent status resolution. What was in these ideas, and what kind of appropriate mechanism that you have discussed to realize them and carry them out?
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT: We have shared some ideas with the President, but all of them basically are embodied in the road map and the Arab League Initiative, without any change, without any modification.
Regarding the mechanism to carry it out, of course, there is a mechanism through the Quartet as well as the follow-up committee from the Arab nations. Such a proposal will need to be looked at, studied; then we'll see where to go from here.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you plan to unveil any part or all of your proposal for Mideast peace when you're speaking in Cairo next week, or is it some other message you intend to deliver?
OBAMA: I want to use the occasion to deliver a broader message about how the United States can change for the better its relationship with the Muslim world. That will require, I think, a recognition on both the part of the United States as well as many majority Muslim countries about each other, a better sense of understanding, and I think possibilities to achieve common ground.
I want to emphasize the importance of Muslim Americans in the United States and the tremendous contributions they make, something that I think oftentimes is missed in some of these discussions. But certainly the issue of Middle East peace is something that is going to need to be addressed. It is a critical factor in the minds of many Arabs in countries throughout the region and beyond the region. And I think that it would be inappropriate for me not to discuss those.
I'm not going to give you a preview right now, but it's something that we'll certainly discuss.
One thing that I didn't mention earlier that I want to say I very much appreciate is that President Abbas I think has been under enormous pressure to bring about some sort of unity government and to negotiate with Hamas. And I am very impressed and appreciative of President Abbas's willingness to steadfastly insist that any unity government would have to recognize the principles that have been laid by the Quartet.
In the absence of a recognition of Israel and a commitment to peace, and a commitment to previous agreements that have already been made, it would be very hard to see any possibility of peace over the long term. And so I want to publicly commend President Abbas for taking that position because I think it's a position that's in the interest of the Palestinian people, in the interests of peace in the region, and it's something that the United States very much agrees with.
QUESTION (through translator): Mr. President, if I may, President Bush hoped that you would have a Palestinian state by the time he leaves office. It didn't happen. Do you have a time frame when this Palestinian state is going to happen?
Are you talking about a timetable for negotiation?
QUESTION (through translator): The first question to President Abbas: Mr. President, did you receive any kind of clear-cut commitments from President Obama, or any pledges that would help you to strengthen your hands when you are dealing with the Palestinian public and opposition among Palestinians that this peace process activities could be viable and could be actually productive?
And the second question was, did President Obama ask you to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
ABBAS: President Obama basically talked and reaffirmed the international commitments that we all agreed to, and they are all embodied in the road map. He talked about the necessity to have two states, he talked about the importance of stopping settlement activities, and he also talked about the importance of achieving peace through negotiating all permanent status issues.
Obviously without discussing and negotiating permanent status issues there will be no progress. We know that all the six issues of permanent status were discussed with the previous Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Olmert, and what is needed right now is to resume the discussions with the current Israeli government.
OBAMA: And in terms of a timetable, I have not put forward a specific timetable. But let me just point out, when I was campaigning for this office I said that one of the mistakes I would not make is to wait until the end of my first term, or the end of my second term, before we moved on this issue aggressively. And we've been true to that commitment.
From the first week that I arrived in this office, I insisted that this is a critical issue to deal with, in part because it is in the United States' interest to achieve peace; that the absence of peace between Palestinians and Israelis is a impediment to a whole host of other areas of increased cooperation and more stable security for people in the region, as well as the United States. And so I want to see progress made, and we will work very aggressively to achieve that.
I don't want to put an artificial timetable, but I do share President Abbas's feelings and I believe that many Israelis share the same view that time is of the essence, that we can't continue with a (inaudible) with the increased fear and resentments on both sides, the sense of hopelessness around the situation that we've seen for many years now -- we need to get this thing back on track. And I will do everything I can, and my administration will do everything I can -- my special envoy, George Mitchell, is working as diligently as he can, as is my entire national security team, to make sure that we jump-start this process and get it moving again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And so there you have it, the president of the United States, the president of the Palestinian Authority in the Oval Office just moments ago, President Obama making it clear he is determined, right away, to try to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and noting that this will be a major portion of his speech next week in Cairo to the Arab and Muslim world.
Let's talk about the breaking news, what we just heard.
Joining us now, our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.
Dan, you were in the Oval Office during that exchange that they had. Take us a little bit behind the scenes. What did you see? What did you feel from the body language and from the words they uttered?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, from Mahmoud Abbas, Wolf, you know, just looking at his body language, he seemed very comfortable.
But he was also very confident and then committed to the peace process. You heard him talk about how, you know, he really believes that now is the time to capitalize on this and to get that peace process.
And -- and he also said, you know, that commitment from the Palestinian people, that he's committed to doing the security duties, to make sure that the area is secure, so Israel can be safe, so, a commitment from the Palestinian president certainly here talking to the president, committed to -- to this process -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, Jill, the president of the United States also had some relatively strong words for the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Israel must halt all settlement activity on the West Bank, also reaffirming U.S. support for what's called a two-state solution, a new state of Palestine living alongside Israel.
Yesterday, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, she sort of set the stage for these comments by the president.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I think that's very important.
I mean, it was even-handed. He did say that the Israelis have to stop the settlements, freeze the settlements, and he also said two- state solution. But he also said that the Palestinians have to secure, make sure that the security on the West Bank is in existence.
And, also, he said: Frankly, I told President Abbas we have to reduce the incitement of anti-Israeli sentiment in the mosques and in the schools.
But, Wolf, you know, I think there was one almost offhand -- but, of course, nothing is offhand -- comment by the president. He said: I -- talking about the settlements and his conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu a week ago, 10 days ago, here in -- right in the Oval Office, where Netanyahu basically said he wouldn't make a commitment in stopping those settlements -- and the president said: I don't make decisions on one conversation that we had last week.
In other words, he's kind of dismissing that and saying, there is room for movement on this. And, you know, he's intimating that, of course, he wants Netanyahu to move on that.
BLITZER: And he also said, on a two-state solution, the president -- he said: I don't want to assume the worse as far as Israeli opposition to a two-state resolution. I want to assume the best.
Candy Crowley, there was implied criticism of his predecessors, former President Bush, former President Clinton, the president, President Obama saying: You know what? I'm not going to make the mistake of waiting until the end of the first term or waiting until a second term. I want to do whatever I can right now. CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
And it certainly is something that he talked about a good deal in the campaign and used, in fact, that exact phrasing, saying, we can't leave this. It's too important. He -- he connected it to the entire region, to the war in Iraq, to the Israeli/Iran relationship, which is obviously hostile.
So, he sees this as an entire puzzle, not just about Israel and the Palestinians. It is interesting to me that they chose last night here, in the form of Hillary Clinton, to say, listen, the settlements have to stop, no new settlements. We're not talking about, you know, new -- we are talking about even going into existing settlements and putting in new developments.
I think this -- sort of you were talking earlier, Wolf, about all politics being local? I think this was for President Abbas, who desperately needs something to take back to the Palestinians, who are skeptical that the U.S. is actually going to be an honest broker in this case.
So, I think that's why you have seen a lot of this tough talk toward Israel, is to try to bring -- sort of try to boost the Abbas image and the Abbas power in the Palestinian side.
BLITZER: Because he's seen by the U.S. as a great hope for the peace process.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right, Candy, about that.
All right, guys, thanks very much, Candy Crowley, Jill Dougherty, Dan Lothian.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to restructuring the American automobile industry, the Obama administration is at least knee-deep in the process -- pardon me -- perhaps even more.
General Motors expected to follow in the footsteps of Chrysler and file for bankruptcy in the coming days. It would be the largest industrial bankruptcy in the history of the United States. GM says a committee of bondholders has agreed to a new deal offered by the government.
It would erase GM's unsecured debt in exchange for company stock. If the deal goes through, the government, which has already -- that would be us -- has already lent GM close to $20 billion, could have a 72 percent stake in GM, and provide billions more in financing for General Motors to keep operating while it's being reorganized.
The administration's stated goal for GM is to return to profitability. The White House says it wants to play as minimal a role and exit the investment as quickly as they possibly can.
But the risks to the taxpayers are huge, when you consider that U.S. auto sales are near their lowest level in 27 years. Not everybody's sure the level of the Obama administration's involvement in this is a good idea.
A poll taken in Michigan by Detroit News/WXYZ shows 42 percent of those surveyed say the president's role has actually hurt the domestic automakers, while 39 percent say he's been helpful.
Here's the question, then. Is the government getting too involved in the American automobile industry? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.
Dashing the dreams of a generation, that's coming up.
Also, Illinois Senator Roland Burris is playing defense again, after federal prosecutors release FBI wiretaps of his talk with the brother of the indicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Also, an alarming number of suicides at the home of some of the Army's toughest soldiers, what is the military doing about it?
Plus, Bristol Palin's ex bares his soul and his chest. Levi Johnston talking about his former fiancee, his baby, and his rocky relationship with the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: The controversial Illinois Senator Roland Burris may have some bigger problems than the newly released FBI wiretaps.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar.
Brianna, what are you learning?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this conversation caught on tape is one that Senator Burris failed to mention first in an affidavit and then under oath before Illinois lawmakers. And legal experts say it's this, what seems to be a changing story, that could really be the bigger issue for him.
KEILAR (voice-over): Senator Roland Burris is adamant he did not pay for his Senate seat.
SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: I did not deliver a dime. I did not raise a dime, because I knew I couldn't. I did not, because I knew that it would carry with it the implications of I'm trying to buy the seat. I said that. KEILAR: On the defense again, after federal prosecutors released FBI wiretaps of Burris talking with the brother of indicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
This conversation happened in November, before Governor Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell President Obama's Senate seat and before he appointed Burris to fill the vacancy. The governor's brother, Rob, asked Burris to donate to the reelection campaign.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BURRIS: OK. OK. Well, we -- we -- I will personally do something, OK?
ROB BLAGOJEVICH, BROTHER OF ROD BLAGOJEVICH: OK. All right, Roland.
BURRIS: And it will be done before the 15th of December.
BURRIS: All right?
BLAGOJEVICH: All right. Hey, you're a good friend. And I will pass on your message.
BURRIS: Please do.
BURRIS: And tell Rod to keep me in mind for that seat, would you?
BLAGOJEVICH: I will let him know.
BLAGOJEVICH: Bye, Roland.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KEILAR: Burris did not donate to Blagojevich's campaign and says he did nothing wrong. But as Illinois prosecutors and the Senate Ethics Committee investigate the appointment, a former lawyer for Congress says the real problem for Burris isn't whether he donated campaign money, but whether he lied about his extensive contacts with the governor's associates.
STANLEY BRAND, ATTORNEY: Everyone is looking at the merits of whether he engaged in pay-to-play or not. That's really almost a side issue. The question before the state prosecutor and, to some extent, the Senate is whether he lied under oath.
KEILAR: That's Stan Brand, who used to be counsel to the House of Representatives.
And he says if the Senate decides that Burris has, say, perjured himself, that would be a serious offense. Perjury could warrant expulsion. But, however, he says, keep in mind, Senate ethics investigations move very slowly.
And, Wolf, talking with Democratic sources up here, they say Democratic leaders are really resigned to the idea that Senator Burris will be hanging around until his term is up next year. And they don't expect that he would be able to win reelection if he decided to run -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much -- Brianna Keilar up on Capitol Hill.
Taliban fighters say it's payback time in Pakistan -- just ahead, a bloody wave of bombings and what the U.S. is doing about it.
And a U.S. Army base in crisis -- what military officials are doing about a shocking series of suicides.
And the father of Sarah Palin's grandson opens up about the governor's -- quote -- "fake smile" and the family he almost married into.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: A seesaw day on Wall Street ends on a positive note, the Dow closing up 103 points. The Nasdaq gains 20 points.
A woman is removed from near Air Force One minutes before President Obama's arrival. She was carried away after refusing to leave.
And Fidel Castro calls out Dick Cheney over alleged torture. The ex-Cuban leader says harsh interrogation techniques should not have been authorized -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A Taliban commander calls it payback for an American ally's massive assault on Islamic militants, a new wave of bloody bombings across Pakistan, with hundreds of suicide bombers said to be on call.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the story -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. intelligence believes one insurgent leader in particular may be behind the latest wave of attacks in Pakistan.
STARR (voice-over): Two closely timed explosions rocks the Khyber Bazaar here in Peshawar, killing at least eight, wounding dozens, leaving carnage and ruins in a busy marketplace, just one of four deadly attacks in less than 24 hours in Northwest Pakistan, where the military has been attacking Taliban strongholds.
On the outskirts of Peshawar, four police officers are killed in another suicide bomb attack, the wounded, rushed to hospitals. A fourth bomb exploded in a nearby suburb.
U.S. officials tell CNN these Taliban suicide attacks appear coordinated and sophisticated. The fear now? The Taliban are unleashing a new assault on Pakistan cities in retaliation for Pakistani military operations against Taliban safe havens in the volatile region.
In a rare public appearance, President Obama's national security adviser voiced his support for Pakistan's efforts to deal with the militants.
JAMES JONES, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The response by their military, so far, has the support of Pakistani people. The government's popularity has shot up a little bit in the polls.
STARR: The latest violence followed a massive bomb attack in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, that killed two dozen and left hundreds injured, damaging buildings belonging to the police and intelligence services. The U.S. now believes the attacks are the work of follows of Baitullah Mahsud, a key Pakistani Taliban leader who may have hundreds of suicide bombers under his control.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: Baitullah Mahsud has now reportedly called Pakistanis to evacuate their major cities because more Taliban attacks are coming. U.S. officials say capturing Mahsud now must be a top priority for the Pakistan -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara.
Thanks very much.
A deadly, deadly situation.
Meanwhile, there has also been a deadly explosion in Iran, ripping through a mosque where worshippers were attending an evening prayer service. It happened in a city of Southeastern Iran, near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iranian news agencies say at least 15 people were killed, more than 50 wounded. The semi-official Fars News Agency attributes the blast -- and I'm quoting now -- "to a terrorist incident."
Now to a very disturbing story involving the United States Army. An alarming number of soldiers committing suicide. At Fort Campbell in Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne, 11 soldiers have just taken -- taken their lives just this year. The Army base is taking steps to address the issue.
Our pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is at Fort Campbell and he has details -- Chris, what's going on?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the base commander has ordered a three day stand-down and ordered his leaders to identify and update their list of soldiers most at risk for suicide.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): A Fort Campbell soldier was nearly three times more likely to kill himself than die in war. Three soldiers from here have been killed in Afghanistan this year. Eleven have committed suicide.
BRIG. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, FORT CAMPBELL: This is not the reputation of the legendary Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne division.
LAWRENCE: That's why General Stephen Thompson addressed each soldier and the base has suspended all nonessential training for three days to focus on prevention.
(on camera): One family told us they thought their dad committed suicide because he took too much on his shoulders and couldn't handle the stress. And yet a lot of your speech yesterday focused on don't let your unit down, don't let your country down.
Do you risk putting more pressure on these soldiers?
TOWNSEND: Because we really don't know what caused these things, certainly any -- just about anything you say is -- there's some risk associated with just about anything you tell these soldiers to do.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): The general told them it's their duty to ask for help, which the Army will provide.
TOWNSEND: And I talk to the soldiers -- warriors -- the way warriors talk to one another.
Now, am I concerned that I'm maybe adding stress to their plate?
Maybe, but -- but not greatly.
LAWRENCE: The message resonated with this young private, whose husband is stationed 10 hours away.
PFC. LISA DOBSON, STATIONED AT FORT CAMPBELL: I try as much as I can to go see him. So, I mean, that's stress. And I've talked to my sergeant about it. And as long as I talk to somebody about it, I feel better about it.
LAWRENCE: But officers say some soldiers still need convincing.
1ST LT. RILEY MCEVOY, STATIONED AT FORT CAMPBELL: Especially in the infantry, you know, we have a mentality that we're hard and we're harder than anyone else and, you know, any sign of weakness brings us down as soldiers.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LAWRENCE: That's why the general says they are privately counseling those with marriage problems and teaching soldiers how to better recognize some suicidal clues. Everyone here has been assigned a battle buddy and they all carry a card with the personal information on how to help that soldier -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Anything else they're recommending?
Anything else you're hearing, Chris?
LAWRENCE: Well, Pentagon officials say the ultimate solution to this is to get people more time at home with their families. But they admit that is not going to happen until we are completely out of Iraq in a year-and-a-half. And some Pentagon officials say they are privately holding their breath for the next 18 months until they can get to that point.
BLITZER: Yes, this is very disturbing stuff.
All right, Chris Lawrence, in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
According to the Pentagon, by the way, suicide among active duty U.S. soldiers has been increasing for the past four years. In 2005, there were 87 suicides. In 2006, the number rose to 102. In 2007, 115 soldiers took their lives. And in 2008, a record number -- 133 Army suicides in 2008.
It's the question President Obama didn't ask his Supreme Court nominee -- where does Judge Sonia Sotomayor stand on abortion?
We're looking at past rulings for some clues.
And new revelations about Alaska's first family from the young man who almost became Sarah Palin's son-in-law. Levi Johnston talking candidly and actually posing for some intimate photos at the same time. We have it all.
BLITZER: And let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, right now; David Frum, the former speechwriter for former president George W. Bush; and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin -- Gloria, there's a front page story in "The New York Times" raising some questions about where the Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, really stands when it comes to abortion rights for women.
Among other things, the article said: "When she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes, she has reached outcomes, in some cases, that were favorable to abortion opponents."
Now, some abortion rights advocates are quietly expressing unease that Judge Sotomayor may not be a reliable vote to uphold "Roe v. Wade," the Supreme Court ruling that allowed abortions to go forward.
What are you hearing about this?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the White House is being very cagey about this. They make it very clear that the president, in his private session, did not specifically apply any litmus tests or ask her the question about the right to privacy; that, rather it was a broader conversation.
But I think, Wolf, you have to assume that given where the president stands on "Roe v. Wade," given the fact that he believes that it's settled law, I think you have to assume that she would agree with him on that.
BLITZER: What do you think, David?
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, I think the president thinks he knows. And I bet he's right. Presidents are not surprised very often by Supreme Court justices anymore.
BLITZER: George Herbert Walker Bush...
ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: ...was pretty surprised by David Souter.
MARTIN: That's right.
FRUM: George Herbert Walker Bush was surprised. They didn't do due diligence there. But that -- that was a case of not having done your homework very carefully.
This team looks like it does do its homework. And the age of surprises is not -- is over. I think that the last -- Souter was a small surprise. You have to go back to the '50s for big surprises.
And, in any case, there were already five votes to sustain "Roe v. Wade." I think that you'll find there's still five, maybe even more.
BLITZER: And, Roland, there's no doubt that they have been studying her record -- lawyers at the White House and others -- for at least three or four months. So I have to assume what David Frum assumes, that they did their homework, knowing how passionately the president feels on this.
MARTIN: Again, we can sit here and assume all day, but the name David Souter also comes back up because, again, folks who are on the right, they thought that he was going to be a reliable vote.
Remember, Harriet Miers, when her name came up, there was other dramas (ph) associated with that. But conservatives kept saying we want to be absolutely sure that she is strong on the pro-life issue. President Bush kept saying, trust me, I know her. They said, Mr. President, we don't trust you enough.
And so I think these liberal groups, they have an absolute right.
Now, the question, though, Wolf, are they going to go to the mat?
How hard are they going to press this administration on this issue?
That's the real question, will they challenge President Obama on this issue?
How will they really know for sure?
And, look, it's 5-4. This -- she could tip it. She could tip it the other way.
BORGER: You know, politically, the White House is just where it wants to be, though, right now. They've got the pro-choice groups asking questions. They've got the pro-life groups asking questions about her. And that is precisely where they want to be.
As long as the president is convinced that she agrees with him on "Roe v. Wade" -- and we don't know -- again, as David says, we don't know the answer to that, because we weren't in that room and neither was anyone on the White House staff, when he talked to her about her judicial views.
FRUM: Well, they have the National Lawyers Guild about her, which is a group as far to the left as it is possible to get and still remain within the American legal system. The...
FRUM: So the National Lawyers Guild may not be happy.
FRUM: But a lot of that is about advertising. As Gloria and Roland have said, it is about -- that the more the far left groups say, gee, not exactly perfectly -- she hasn't taken out a penknife and given us a blood oath -- that that gives the president more opportunity...
FRUM: ...to say, well, see, she looks kind of moderate (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Roland, during the confirmation process, the testimony, she'll walk around it a little bit, but we'll get some better ideas.
MARTIN: OK, look, we already know what she's going to say -- until I see the case in front of me, I will make a decision based upon that. I mean Kevin Duberstein, in Candy's piece earlier, he gave the answer that every judge gives.
So we can recite that answer without her even testifying. We know what the answer is going to be.
But again, it's one of those issues where you simply just don't know. And so the president rolls the dice. And, again, we can keep going -- she's replacing the one guy who flipped and the conservative right, they're still ticked off about David Souter.
BORGER: I don't think it's a roll of the dice. I do not think it's a roll of the dice...
MARTIN: You never know...
BORGER: ...with this president.
MARTIN: But you never know. You don't know.
BORGER: I think he knows.
FRUM: Of course you know. That was -- that was the reason -- look, that was the background -- I was very involved in the Harriet Miers' fight. And one of -- the point that those of us who were in that fight made to the president was, if you're -- you have no excuse not to know. It is possible to know. If you've done your work properly, you don't know.
And if the answer is you don't know, then you've picked the wrong person, because there are people there whom -- who can know. But here's what we...
FRUM: Here's what we will learn from the hearings, though. We won't learn anything about her views. She will conceal that. But we will learn something about the nimbleness of her mind. We all saw what John Roberts was like when confronted with hard questions.
Can she meet that test?
Will she be the equal of the very powerful minds that are on the court right now?
BLITZER: Will the Supreme Court, when this issue comes up the next time, Gloria, follow the will of the American people -- look at the polls, for example?
And they're not supposed to, But justices often do that, as you know. The last poll we did, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, should the Supreme Court overturn "Roe v. Wade?," 30 percent said yes, but 68 percent said no. So it seems to be a pretty strong view on that specific issue.
BORGER: It is. And when I spoke with the White House adviser about this very question today, the adviser said to me, Sonia Sotomayor will be in the mainstream of American opinion. So, you know, you have to believe that that is what he's referring to.
BLITZER: David, do you have a problem with this nominee?
FRUM: Do I have a problem with this nominee?
Well, I kind of wish our team won the election and we got to pick the nominees that we like. But having lost the election and having lost the Senate, too, it's kind of hard to do anything about it.
So I don't like it.
Do I have a lot of hopes that the Republicans are going to be able to do much about it?
No. But if -- let me put it this way, if she is not the best that the Democrats have to offer, that will be exposed at the hearing, not her views, but the quality of her mind.
And Republicans do have a right to insist that Democrats put forward at least the best they have.
BLITZER: Was she the best, Roland, that the Democrats have?
MARTIN: She was the best according to the President Of the United States. He is the only person who makes that choice. We can sit here and play armchair quarterback, but it's president's call. And so it's -- this is who the President offered. This is what we have.
BLITZER: Because everybody remembers Clarence Thomas, Gloria, when the first President Bush said he was the most qualified person to sit on the Supreme Court and a lot of people, obviously, strongly disagreed.
BORGER: Right. But I'm told what attracted the president to her was the way she makes decisions. And the word that folks in the White House keep using is the precision with which she makes decisions. And what that means is that they believe that eventually she might be able to convince a justice like Justice Kennedy, who's a swing vote, to sometimes vote with her because of the way she decides, which is not on broad ideology, but seems to be based on precedents.
BLITZER: And we'll be covering those hearings every step of the way.
Guys, thank you very much.
FRUM: Thank you.
MARTIN: Thank you. BLITZER: He's the father of Sarah Palin's grandchild, but he says he's uncomfortable about the Palin family. Levi Johnston talks about the risks and poses for some intimate pictures for "GQ Magazine."
Plus, the newest viral video on the Internet -- Whack-A-Kitty. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.
He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour -- is the government getting too deeply involved in the U.S. automobile industry?
Rosemary in New York: "There will be no auto industry if Obama doesn't step in. Previous administrations had conflicting interests, blocked fuel efficiency, blockade mileage requirements, etc. This is the last hurrah and Obama is the first president to step in."
Greg in Arkansas writes: "The auto industry will be OK as long as the government plays the role of referee and stays out of design and procurement. I don't want to see a multiple use transportation system vehicle with an $800 toilet seat that needs to be repaired with a $300 hammer."
Robert in Florida: "The government should not be involved at all in the auto industry. Has anybody thought about the fact that the government intervention in private corporations is what's causing this mess and making it worse? Let bad businesses do what they would normally do in the normal business world -- fail. Let other businesses take their place."
Peter writes: "No, it's not. The auto companies screwed up long ago. They were out of sync with the environment, with customer needs and energy efficiency and they were driven by selfish greed. The government is refocusing them now -- and they -- now, that they face bankruptcy, they need adult supervision."
Steve in Florida: "Personally, I think the American companies had every opportunity to avoid the ditch that they're in. As we speak, I'm watching G.M. and Chrysler dealerships close down while they're building a brand new Volkswagen dealer on the same block. Corporate heads should be rolling somewhere in this process. The situation as all due to pure negligence and the lack of foresight by management."
Remo from Austin, Texas: "Yes, it is. I really don't want to deal with Obama Motors. Frankly, he's the last person I want to buy a car from."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.
See you tomorrow.
We're getting some new insight into the life of a young man thrust into the public spotlight by the presidential campaign. Levi Johnston, the former fiance of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol, opening up to "GQ Magazine."
CNN's Brian Todd is here with the story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we spoke to the writer who spent time with Levi Johnston in Alaska. He describes him as someone who has a John Wayne idea of masculinity -- a young man who struggled with the publicity surrounding his relationship with Bristol Palin.
TODD (voice-over): This is the image of Levi Johnston the public was introduced to during the presidential campaign -- a young teenager in love with the daughter of the Republican vice presidential nominee and embraced by Sarah Palin's family.
But a story appearing in the July issue of "GQ Magazine" offers a glimpse of what life has been like since then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN, "G.Q." MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT: Everything that's happened to him has stalled his future a little bit. It left him in a kind of limbo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Writer John Jeremiah Sullivan caught up with Johnston in Wasilla, Alaska. His article is illustrated with photos of a bare- chested Levi tending to his newborn son, Tripp.
But it seems visiting with Tripp at the Palin home has been rather challenging. Johnston says: "Just going over there makes me pretty damn uncomfortable. Todd never says anything, really. Sarah, I don't know. She's a politician. She knows how to throw in a fake smile and look happy. They're pretty good at that."
Johnston and Bristol Palin called off their engagement shortly after their son was born. Bristol is appearing right now on the cover of "People" magazine wearing a cap and gown, holding Tripp.
When Sullivan asked Johnston whether the couple might get back together, Johnston responds: "No, I don't think that's going to happen."
When asked if he wants it to happen, he says: "That's just not even in my mind."
Sullivan says the experience of being thrust in the public eye hasn't been a pleasant one for Levi Johnston.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LARRY KING LIVE")
SULLIVAN: The reticence that he's shown on television is, I think, a real -- a real defense mechanism and a kind of -- a kind of shell that he's developed around himself to deal with this -- this hurricane that's really blown into his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Sullivan says this is the real Levi Johnston -- an authentic Alaska outdoorsman, something Senator McCain may have recognized back on that tarmac during the presidential campaign. Grabbing a hold of him, Johnston says, Senator McCain told him: "You have good hands. Those are good working hands."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: We contacted a spokeswoman for Sarah Palin, who declined to comment on the "G.Q." Article and instead directed us to the "People" magazine story on Bristol Palin -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Why did Levi Johnston do this interview with "G.Q." Magazine?
BLITZER: Because he's really opening himself up.
TODD: He is. And there's going to be a lot of -- a lot more blowback to him right now after this.
We asked the writer that question. Sullivan's impression is that there is a financial motivation to it. He says that Levi Johnston has had some trouble getting work because of all the publicity surrounding his relationship with Bristol Palin. He has -- Sullivan believes he might be hoping that this turns into a book or a TV deal.
BLITZER: There's no indication "G.Q." Magazine is paying him for this article.
TODD: We don't know that and, you know, again, I think -- you know, Sullivan -- there was no indication of that. And Sullivan is thinking he might have other financial motivations.
BLITZER: OK, good.
Brian, thanks very much.
A new twist on an old game. You've heard of Whack-A-Mole. Well, there's a new version with kittens that's become an Internet sensation.
BLITZER: We're just getting this into THE SITUATION ROOM. President Obama is dispatching a high level team to Asia to deal with the nuclear crisis involving North Korea. The deputy secretary of State, James Steinberg, will lead the U.S. delegation. We're monitoring this story, obviously, for you.
On a very, very different note, what started as one family's game played at home has turned into an Internet sensation. But not everyone likes it.
CNN's Jeanne Moos has a look at this Moost Unusual video.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know that old arcade game Whack-A-Mole?
Holy moly, look what it spawned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to play Whack-A-Kitty.
MOOS: Maybe you're asking yourself, am I allowed to laugh at this?
ROBERT BELLUSO, COO-CREATOR, WHACK-A-KITTY: No kittens were harmed in the making of this video.
MOOS: Family Doctor Robert Belluso of Monongahela, Pennsylvania made the video. But the game was his fiance's idea. Lynn Anne Dougherty saw how much their five kittens enjoyed playing in a box with holes, so she took it a step further.
LYNN-ANNE DAUGHERTY, COO-CREATOR, WHACK-A-KITTY: This is just a paper towel roll with paper towels wrapped around and electrical tape.
MOOS: Now, Whack-A-Kitty has gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of views. Animal Web sites have gone batty over it. The comments are almost all favorable: "I just cried laughing." "Weird, but funny." One Web site called it: "a case of cruel and unusual cuteness."
(on camera): Now, maybe some of you out there think it's just not nice to Whack-A-Kitty.
(voice-over): And maybe you'd like to whack a reporter just because I'm telling you this story. As one person posted: "What kind of sick so and so are you? Time to call PETA."
But we called the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and even they didn't mind: "The video is cute. We don't see any abuse."
Though Robert has been subjected to occasional abuse for this.
BELLUSO: They want to kill me.
MOOS: On the Web, cats have turned the tables.
MOOS: Tink here tried to whack a fake mouse. One Web site compiled the five best whack a kittens -- though the cats were doing the whacking, from fingers to our favorite, whack a ferret.
MOOS: And we mean a real ferret.
MOOS: As for the five stars of Whack-A-Kitty, Timothy here was the last one waiting to be adopted. And whether it's a cat whacking a ferret...
MOOS: ...or kitties being whacked by humans...
MOOS: ...the cats aren't commenting. As they say, if cats could talk, they wouldn't.
Jeanne Moos, CNN...
MOOS: Get me out of here.
MOOS: ...New York.
BLITZER: Now, let's wrap it up with some of the Hot Shots.
In Hong Kong, participants gets drenched as they compete in the annual dragon boat races.
In Washington, sellers exchange a high five during the national spelling bee.
In Moscow, former border guards arm wrestle.
In Paris, a worker pushes a cart of giant tennis balls.
Some of the hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.
Tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Senator John McCain. He's picking his candidate for the California governor's race. We'll talk to him about that.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.