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Same-Sex Couples Push President for Benefits; Protest continue in Iran

Aired June 17, 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: He hands some same-sex couples major benefits. Will it be enough? All that coming up plus the best political team on television.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In Iran, right now, anti-government protesters are risking condemnations, beatings, even death for their cause. They are calling for a new vote, disputing the presidential election. And they are demonstrating in the streets blatantly disregarding calls for unity from Iran's supreme leader.

Pro-reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, wants Iran's courts to release arrested protesters right away. And the ex-president, Mohammad Khatami, is joining in that call.

Iran's government has hit a new level of intolerance, suggest the Obama administration is fanning the fires. Iran's state-run media report that the government is accusing the U.S. of meddling. The U.S. denies that.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Reza Sayah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iran's political drama playing out on a football field in Seoul. In a match against South Korea Wednesday, several Iranian players wore green wristbands, an apparent show of solidarity for green clad supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Back in Tehran, Mousavi's so-called green movement pressed forth with another large rally in defiance of the Iranian government. Hundreds of thousands gathered for the fifth consecutive day of protests against the vote that delivered a landslide victory to incumbent president, Ahmadinejad.

Banned from the rally, CNN cameras, after an order by the Iranian government for members of the international media not to cover or broadcast images of demonstrations. Amateur video shows Mousavi supporters marching in silence. Their slogans on posters, peace signs in the air. Their way of avoiding clashes with Iran's riot police who had lined the streets.

A day after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, met with representatives of all candidates, he called on the winner and losers to be patient and reflect on their actions. Iran's all powerful Guardian Council says results of a partial recount of the vote will be ready by next week. But Mousavi, not backing away from his demand for a new vote.

Two days after the vote, President Ahmadinejad compared the unrest in the streets of Tehran to a few disgruntled fans of a losing football team. The disorder is nothing serious, he said.

During Wednesday's march, several signs had this message for the president. "These elections were no football match."

(On camera): It is almost unheard of to have this many consecutive demonstrations and rallies in Iran without government approval. But the Mousavi camp is undeterred. Mr. Mousavi has called for another gathering on Thursday but his call for his supporters to replace the color green with black to mourn those killed in a Monday protest.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we have the latest video coming in from our iReporters in Iran of today's protest. They're doing this at great risk to themselves. These demonstrations have been going on all week since the election last Friday.

Our Internet reporter, Abby Tatton, is going through all these iReports, these videos, the images. And it's amazing what's getting out.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Five days of reports, five days of protests and demonstrations. And this is what you're seeing at iReport.com.

On Saturday with a theme of chanting crowds of Mousavi supporters taking to the streets. The following day, students of the University of Tehran report that their dormitories came under attack by paramilitaries.

This is video. CNN has not been able to verify it with authenticity. CNN's iReport -- and Iran is investigating those allegations of violence.

Later on Monday, you'll remember this. The huge crowds that took to the streets in Tehran. This video sent in to iReport as well of those incredible scenes. The following day, this is when CNN no longer allowed to cover these protests.

Now we have silent protests, people arms outstretched, walking in front of the national TV. Headquarters here not saying a word.

More video like this coming out today. Again, huge rallies, today, Wednesday, day five, Wolf, and still they are taking to the streets, a calm, peaceful crowd is what our iReporter who recorded those scenes told us today.

BLITZER: And what about tomorrow?

TATTON: Well, as we just heard, Mousavi, on his Web site, called for more rallies tomorrow so it looks like this isn't going to let up.

BLITZER: Yes. This is not going to let up. And it clearly is moving along. We'll see what happens.

Abby, I know you're continuing to go through all these iReports. The images coming in and we'll get back to you.

Much more coming up on what's happening in Iran but we want to get right now to another story that's getting a lot of attention today. President Obama is granting some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees in the United States and around the world.

But some gays have not been entirely happy with the president saying he's been slow to act on their top priorities.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

Dan, I know we're getting ready to hear directly from the president in the Oval Office when he signs this memorandum.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The reporters still holding outside the Oval Office, not yet having the chance to go inside.

The administration, though, sees the signing of this memorandum as the first step, not the final step. One senior administration official saying they're simply trying to get their federal house in order. But some think that there are bigger issues that need to be resolved.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): On the campaign trail, a friendly embrace to the gay and lesbian community.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Surely, we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

LOTHIAN: Now the president plans to offer the domestic partners of federal employees long-term care insurance and health care benefits for their children. Bosses will be required to allow employees to take sick leave to care for them and for the partners of foreign service employees, the use of medical facilities overseas, among other things.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a matter of fairness.

LOTHIAN: Ed Horvath, who works full time for the Government Accountability Office, says this is a good start but with a husband of five years who battled pancreatic cancer, what this couple really wants is to share full health care benefits.

ED HORVATH, FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: I feel like we've been treated like second class citizens.

RICHARD NEIDICH, DOMESTIC PARTNER OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEE: To me, being treated fair on all issues is the fundamental issue that we're after to see resolved.

LOTHIAN: But health benefits, along with other demands from the gay and lesbian community, like Don't Ask, Don't Tell and ending the Defense of Marriage Act, can only be changed by Congress.

HORVATH: I'm disappointed that it can't go farther but I understand the limitations on what he can do.

LOTHIAN: Now there's pressure on the president to push hard.

JOE SOLMONESE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: He must call on Congress to give him that legislation that would provide health care benefits for the domestic partners of federal employees. That would complete the picture.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: So senior administration officials saying that the president is willing to sit down and work with Congress to get some of these issues resolved.

But I can tell you, Wolf, that right now, when you look at what's before Congress, they are looking at health benefits for federal workers but still no real movement at all. We're talking about Don't Ask, Don't Tell and also the Defense of Marriage Act.

BLITZER: All right. We're standing by. As soon as the reporters, the crews go into the Oval Office and get us that tape, we'll share it with our viewers.

Dan, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Here's an idea I hope doesn't catch on here at CNN. British Airways asking thousands of employees to work for nothing for up to one month because of financial problems. The airline has e-mailed workers offering them between one and four weeks of unpaid leave but with the option of working during this time.

Last month, the company showed a record annual loss of more than $650 million. And as the global recession drags on, the airline seeing demand for passenger seat and cargo space continue to fall while ever higher oil prices translate to more and more expensive jet fuel. The CEO of British Airways recently said there was absolutely no sign of recovery in the airline industry. Calling it by far the biggest crisis they have ever faced. He says he's agreed not to take a salary for the month of July.

But one of the biggest unions says that employees can't afford to work for free for a month. They say, while the company's CEO might be able to do that, ordinary workers cannot.

British Airways, which employs more than 40,000 people in the U.K., says the voluntary pay cut would be spread over several months. They say more than 1,000 people have already signed up for their work- for-no-pay plan so far.

So here's the question: "Would you be willing to work without pay for a month in order to try to save your job?" Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

What about you, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. I'd do it. To save my job, you know? You either take a loss for a month but then you have a job for years to come. Or you say no, you know, and then you don't have a job at all.

CAFFERTY: What if you do it for a month and then they say, well, we need you to do it another month?

BLITZER: Then we need to begin to re-assess.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: But let's not give any of our bosses those ideas.

CAFFERTY: No, no. Let's hope this never gets any traction here.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

New rules aimed at preventing another financial meltdown. President Obama unveils the most sweeping changes in bank regulations since the Great Depression. How will the new rules for financial firms actually work? Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is standing by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One of the breaking news we're following what's happening in Iran right now. CNN has obtained videos showing thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of supporters of the opposition president candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, quietly marching today in Tehran. They're getting ready for an even bigger demonstration tomorrow.

We're going to get back to that story shortly. Stand by. Meantime, the President Obama of the United States, President Obama, today unveiled a sweeping overall of how banks and financial firms need to be regulated, says his plan will help prevent another economic meltdown in the United States, indeed, one that has spread around the world and will benefit both businesses and consumers.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's taking a look at these changes.

Mary, how significant are they?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some of these changes are viewed as bolder as others, such as setting up an agency just to protect consumers. Here's a look at some of the key points and what they aim to do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Calling it a transformation not seen since the Great Depression, President Obama unveiled financial regulatory reforms aimed at preventing a future financial crisis like the country experienced this past year.

OBAMA: A culture of irresponsibility took root from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street.

SNOW: Among key changes, the Federal Reserve would be given more power over the largest financial players, not just the banks and limit the amount of risk they could take. Financial adviser Gregory Olsen says that is key.

GREGORY OLSEN, LENOX ADVISORS, INC.: If these things were in place three years ago, five years ago, we certainly wouldn't have had the severity of meltdown.

SNOW: Another change aims to prevent taxpayer bailouts of companies, like the kind given to American International Group, to ensure it survived.

OLSEN: Well, it seems to give the Fed more power in terms of being able to unwind a large financial institution, should that -- should they deem necessary, if they are not -- if they don't have the proper capital levels.

SNOW: Consumers are also a big part of the picture. A new watchdog agency would be charged with looking out for consumers when it comes to credit cards and mortgages. One policy analyst says that could create a potential clash.

JARET SEIBERG, POLICY ANALYST, WASHINGTON RESEARCH GROUP: You could see the Consumer Protection Agency actively pushing policies that could make it unprofitable for banks to offer certain products.

Our worry is that this clash is going to cause bank to pull back in their provision of credit and that's not only going to reduce profitability but it's going to mean there's less lending in the market.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now as the reforms head to Congress, it's expected they will be watered down since there's already a heated debate about some of these changes. In the meantime, though, some analysts say one potential immediate impact is to restore investor confidence in a system that needed fixing -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Still a lot of confidence out there that needs to be restored. All right, Mary, thanks very much.

Here's what President Obama had to say today about the type of financial transactions that led to the economic meltdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Loans were sold to banks. Banks packaged these loans into securities. Investors bought these securities, often with little insight into the risks to which they were exposed. And it was easy money while it lasted.

But these schemes were built on a pile of sand. And as the appetite for these products grew, lenders lowered standards to attract new borrowers. Many Americans bought homes and borrowed money without being adequately informed of the terms and often without accepting the responsibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's assess what's going on with our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi.

I've got some fast questions. Rapid fire.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BLITZER: Give me some quick answers. If these new regulations proposed today had been around in recent years, would U.S. taxpayers have been forced to spend billions and billions of dollars to shore up the mortgage giants, Freddie and Fannie?

VELSHI: Quite possibly not because mortgages which are resold by the banks that gives you the loan are called securitized mortgages. Securitizes instruments are not regulated. Right now the way the president is proposing that they would be regulated.

So it's entirely possible that if these regulations had been in place, we would not see this mortgage mess that we're in right now. That could have prevented it.

BLITZER: Would we have had to spend billions to bail out the insurance giant, AIG?

VELSHI: No. In fact, more specifically, that's one area that probably would have been covered very specifically. One, because it is a derivative of an investment. Those credit default swaps. It was a very small part of AIG that got the whole company into trouble.

And number two, the new law proposes a way that companies can't shop around to see who their regulator will be. It will all be regulated more commonly than it has been in the past. So probably AIG would have been avoided, Wolf.

BLITZER: If these regulations were in place would Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns have gone down?

VELSHI: No. Again, both of these companies were companies that had gotten themselves into trouble because of investments into derivatives, like this mortgage -- these loans that were packaged and resold, like these credit default swaps. And as a result of that those two companies might still be around if they were regulated the way the president is proposing that companies be regulated.

BLITZER: Could Bernard...

VELSHI: Particularly non-financial firms.

BLITZER: Could Bernard Madoff have gotten away with stealing $65 billion in a Ponzi scheme?

VELSHI: Quite possibly, yes, because what Bernard Madoff did was illegal under the old system. It would still be illegal under the new system. The issue you is enforcement. The only thing that might prevent a Bernard Madoff from happening is that all of these new rules might create a greater environment for actually enforcing laws around this sort of thing -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Ali Velshi, thanks very much.

The president of the United States has just signed into law a new executive order on gay rights.

OBAMA: Got everybody here? OK.

Well, today I'm proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation's pursuit of equality.

Many of our government's hard-working, and dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason -- the people that they love are of the same sex.

Currently, for example, LGBT federal employees can't always use sick leave to care for their domestic partners or their partners' children. Their partners aren't covered under long-term care insurance. Partners of American Foreign Service officers abroad aren't treated the same way when it comes to the use of medical facilities or visitation rights in case of an emergency.

And these are just some of the wrongs that we intend to right today. In consultation with Secretary of State Clinton, as well as OPM Director John Berry, my administration has completed a long and thorough review to identify a number of areas where we can extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service and executive branch government employees.

And I'm requesting that Secretary Clinton and Director Berry do so where possible under existing law -- and that the heads of all executive departments and agencies conduct reviews to determine where they may do the same.

Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it's the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent -- and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever.

Now, under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. And that's why I'm proud to announce my support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees.

I want to thank Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is behind me somewhere -- there she is, right there -- for her tireless leadership on this bill and in the broader struggle for equality.

I want to thank Senator Joe Lieberman -- Joe is here -- as well as Susan Collins for championing this bill in the Senate; and Representative Barney Frank for his leadership on this and so many other issues. In fact, this is his second trip to the White House today.

(LAUGHTER)

It's a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step. Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.

We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union. I'm committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come.

Thank you very much, everybody, and with that I am going to sign this executive order.

BLITZER: There you saw it, the president of the United States extending benefits to same-sex couples, federal employees not going as far as a lot of gays would like, a lot of other folks would like that as well.

We're going to assess what he has just done with the best political team on television. That's coming up. Stand by.

Also, we are getting new clues on that Air France crash off the coast of Brazil. Medical examiners say autopsies of the victims give a good picture of what may have happened to the airliner.

And efforts to reform the nation's health care system hit some obstacles today on Capitol Hill. Why disputes over costs may delay action.

And Iranian-Americans, they're watching, they're worrying and they're speaking out on the dramatic events in Iran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, Wolf.

Well, experts say autopsy evidence suggest that Air France plane broke up in the air. A spokesman for Brazilian medical examiner says the victims had multiple fractures of legs, hips and arms. A former NTSB officials says that suggests the jet had a mid-air breakup. The plane crashed in the Atlantic ocean last month with 228 people on board.

And take a look at this video. Thousands of Los Angeles Lakers fans trekked to the coliseum for a rally celebrating the team's 15th NBA title. There were so many fans who waited through the night that by dawn, the coliseum's outer gates were opened to accommodate them six hours before the rally actually was to begin. The parade began at Staples Center before ending at the coliseum.

An outdoor clothing retailer, Eddie Bauer, is filing for Chapter 11 today for the second time in four years, citing inability to pay back debt. Eddie Bauer's chief says cost from the reorganization back in 2005 combined with pressure from the recession left no other choice. Eddie Bauer has 371 stores nationwide with almost 1,100 employees, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's the sign of the times. All right, thanks very much, Fred, for that.

Iranians, they're watching the deadly political upheavals in their native land in horror from here in the United States. How are they staying connected with loved ones despite a growing government blackout?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now the breaking news out of Iran. Shockwaves of Iran's political upheaval spreading to American cities as well. Iranian expatriates watching all the violence back at home in horror, and taking to the streets right here.

Also, it's one of the most famous medical facilities in the country and worldwide. So what would health care reform mean for the Cleveland clinic? Our chief national correspondent John King is investigating the hidden impacts. Stand by.

And has President Obama simply taking on too much? What do Americans really think? We have some brand new poll numbers.

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

Amid death and protest, there's fear over what's happening in Iran right now. And there's fear in the United States. In the home of the largest population of Iranian-Americans, people are very anxious.

Let's go to CNN's Kara Finnstrom. She is in Los Angeles -- Kara?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in Los Angeles, the Persian population has grown dramatically since the late 1970s when families flood because of the Islamic revolution. Now many family are doing all they can to stay connected.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMIRA AZAPIRA, IRANIAN-AMERICAN: Attacks men and women, young and old.

FINNSTROM (voice-over): In Los Angeles, Arian Azapira and her daughter Samira are constantly checking the Internet for any word from family and friends. One cousin instant messaged that government hired forces terrorized a neighbor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They broke into the home. Tied his hands and feet.

FINNSTROM: Arian left Iran shortly before the 1979 revolution and runs a Los Angeles hat shop. She's protested against the Islamic republic for 30 years and wants a completely new regime.

Samira who relates to Iran's protesting youth believes candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi could be an important first step towards change.

AZAPIRA: He is promising freedom of religion, more freedom, you know. He even mentioned that he wanted women to be able to -- you know, walk around without wearing their headscarves.

FINNSTROM: Differences of opinion echo throughout Los Angeles, sparking debate about whether a new president can bring real change or the entire system of government needs to go.

Southern California has the largest population of Iranian- Americans in the country -- more than one million strong. On these streets in Westwood, Farsi replaces English.

(END VIDEO TAPE) FINNSTROM: Here in the heart of Persiantown, an Iranian bookstore widely believed to be the largest outside of Iran.

(voice-over): Activist Bijan Khalili (ph) owns this haven for Iranian expatriates. He says, regardless of personal politics, all Persians should support those who never left.

Dr. FARHANG HOLAKOUEE, IRANIAN RADIO SHOW HOST: 670 A.M.

FINNSTROM: Across town at Iranian radio station KIRN, Dr. Farhang Holakouee devotes his two hour show to emotional questions about Iran's fate.

HOLAKOUEE (through translator): Everyone in Iran is afraid that this will turn into another revolution.

What's happening, you know, to the Iranian community, and particularly to you, because right now, they are in the street and what's going to happen next?

FINNSTROM: Arian says she cannot sit idly just watching.

ARIAN: This is not a time to just, you know, be quiet.

FINNSTROM: Protests in the streets, radio talks, Internet buzz -- life lines linking LA's Persian neighborhoods to the people of Iran.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FINNSTROM: And the protests continue here in the L.A. area, with more demonstrations planned for later today and tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kara, thanks very much.

We're going to have more on the video that's coming in from Tehran. That's coming up.

But let me move on to another important story. Efforts to reform the nation's health care system hit some major stumbling blocks today. One bill is most likely stalled in a Senate committee, while debate on another got off to a rocky start.

Our Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us from Capitol Hill right now -- Brianna, what's going on?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a significant day for health care reform, certainly a bit of a beginning here in the Senate, but also a preview of just how heated this debate is going to get.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: This was about as historic as it gets for all of it. KEILAR (voice-over): For the first time, Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Health Committee gathered to go through their 615-page bill, section by section and line by line. It could be more than a week before a final committee vote, but it only took minutes for an argument to break out over the cost.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is a joke if we run through this stack of papers here without having some provision -- and I suggest we not move forward until we have some provision as to how we're going to pay for it.

KEILAR: But Senator Chris Dodd, pushing the bill in Chairman Ted Kennedy's absence, said the committee cannot put a price tag on the bill until it tackles 388 proposed changes -- almost all from Republicans.

DODD: You can't score a product that you haven't really developed. And that's what we're doing here.

KEILAR: The bill would create a so-called health care exchange, where consumers compare and purchase insurance coverage. It would require every American to buy insurance -- some with the help of subsidies. And insurers would not be allowed to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Democrats are also proposing a contentious government-run insurance plan to compete with private coverage. But Republicans say it will push private insurers out of business.

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: This just is deja vu all over again, as I say. I mean this is Hillary Care plus. I mean this is -- this is the elite of the elite deciding how everybody else is going to get health care in this country.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: This bill has just been accused of being similar or another combination between Ruth Goldberg and Karl Marx. However, our current system is a combination of Adam Smith, Darth Vader and "The Invasion of The Body Snatchers." So I like our plan better.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: The other Senate committee so key to health care reform, the Finance Committee, hit a snag today over the cost of its bill. In fact, it postponed votes, it appears, until after the July 4th recess -- and, Wolf, that could threaten the really high time line the Democrats have laid out for health care reform.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna.

Thanks very much.

She's going to be busy covering this debate up on the Hill.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King, right now, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." He's in Cleveland -- John, you were over at the Cleveland Clinic earlier today, one of the great medical centers in the world.

How is this debate here in Washington over health care reform playing out where you are?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating, Wolf, because we spent the day at the Cleveland Clinic. And that is an institution that President Obama holds out as an example of how things should be.

They have had great success. They provide among the top quality care in the world, not only the United States, and yet their costs are very low. And they have done that through wellness programs, through preventative care.

And as we spent the day there, we were asking the questions -- what do you do right that can fit in on the national level?

What are the lessons here in Cleveland that the politicians in Washington should be listening to?

And they do say an emphasis on electronic health records, an emphasis on wellness, an emphasis on keeping people out of surgery, out of the emergency room is the way to go.

But they do worry about the costs. President Obama, in his plan, wants to pay for the bulk of health care by squeezing federal payments for the Medicare and the Medicaid program. And the CEO of the hospital, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, tells us while he supports overall reform, he worries in the short-term that if the biggest way to pay for health care is to choke the federal health dollars that hospitals, especially in this tough economy, could suffer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. TOBY COSGROVE, PRESIDENT, CLEVELAND CLINIC: I think the concern right now is that 50 percent of the hospitals in the United States are running in the red. Fifty percent of the hospitals in the United States have had lay-offs in the last six months from their patients. So if you begin to look at reducing the amount of money that's coming to hospitals to look for -- look after patients, I think you're beginning to look at the failure of a group of hospitals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So you hear the concern there that squeezing Medicare and Medicaid to get the savings necessary to pay the big bill of health care reform will, in the short-term, hurt hospitals.

Dr. Cosgrove and others we spoke to, Wolf, said they believe over the long run, you will get those savings, by changing the way we provide health care in this country, emphasizing preventive and primary. But they are worried about a shock to the system in the short-term. And at this hospital, where they have revolutionized this electronic records, they say there's no question, it dramatically improves the quality of care. But they say it's still an open question and that perhaps President Obama is being a bit optimistic when he says it will also immediately give you big cost savings in the system -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The (INAUDIBLE) is going to be intense, but the ramifications are enormous.

And John is that to have a lot more coming up Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," 9:00 a.m. Eastern. "STATE OF THE UNION" from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern every Sunday.

You just saw the video of President Obama signing an executive memorandum on same-sex benefits. The president was in the Oval Office.

Is he doing enough on this issue?

Stand by. The best political team on television getting ready.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're constantly getting more and more pictures coming in from the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran in these very tumultuous days in Iran following the disputed presidential elections. We're staying on top of this story for you.

Let's assess what's going on right now with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; David Frum, the former speechwriter for President George Bush; and our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.

He's being criticized for not being as blunt in condemning the situation in Iran as a lot of folks would like him to be.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Some folks believe that he can actually effect the situation, that he ought to take the opportunity to effect the situation. I was talking to somebody inside the White House today who said, you know, it's easy for people to say that when you don't read the intelligence reports every day and see what -- and see what's going on and I...

BLITZER: Because the last thing the president of the United States wants to do is make matters worse for the opposition...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...those young people, courageous ones, standing up to the -- the clerics in Tehran.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I think the critics who are sort of criticizing the president at this point are absolutely wrong. The president needs to lean backward on this. We've had way too much talk on Iran unmatched by American action. However, where I think the critics are correct is that President Obama has been building himself to a position where he desperately wants to do a deal with the Iranians. That -- what he's always said...

BLITZER: What's wrong with that?

FRUM: ...I'm not getting rid of the nuclear weapons, I'm getting rid of the threat from nuclear weapons. He's lowering the bar.

So he is, here, implicated and this is the end of his diplomacy, because the situation there is going to be very confused. It forces him into a problem with the Iranian nuclear bomb to which he does not have a solution.

We need to understand that -- that's an American story, not an Iranian story.

BLITZER: Because, you know, he's getting criticized from the likes of John McCain, who's saying, you know what, these dissidents are risking their lives and they deserve vocal support from the president of the United States.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the president, in the last couple of days, has been trying to lend support to those dissidents. But as Gloria was pointing out, when you talk to senior people in the White House, they say, look, if the president really does start meddling -- he was accused today by the Iranian government of meddling...

BORGER: Right.

HENRY: ...even though people like John McCain are saying he's not meddling. So that's kind of ironic. But they say if he does, then all of a sudden, President Ahmadinejad has a great foil to say, look, this is being directed by Barack Obama.

BORGER: And, you know, it will be interesting to see if the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as a woman, becomes the de facto spokesperson for the administration as things progress in Iran, because, you know, as a woman, she can speak a little differently to the people there.

BLITZER: Because, there is a history...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There is a history and the president referred to it in his Cairo speech in the 1950s, when the U.S. did meddle in a democratically elected election in Iran. And that's been a litany in Iran for years.

FRUM: Yes, well, very insincerely so, because, of course, the mullahs and the clerics were the leading opponents of the regime. I mean they blame the United States now. They were on the CIA's payroll then. (LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Right.

FRUM: But the point is sometimes to keep out of the way. That has been the policy the Bush administration very intelligently followed in Venezuela. Don't give...

BLITZER: All right...

FRUM: Don't give Hugo Chavez an enemy. Don't give the Iranian an enemy.

BLITZER: All right, let me...

FRUM: Lean backwards.

BLITZER: Let me move on to some other issues. And we just saw it here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the president signing this memorandum, giving some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. They did it late in the afternoon -- very late in the afternoon. It's almost as if he was -- he was doing it under a lot of pressure from a lot of these gay groups that are deeply disappointed he hasn't done more.

HENRY: Under a lot of pressure because he hasn't moved forward on repealing don't ask/don't tell, for example, in the military. He is not in favor of same-sex marriage, which, obviously, the gay rights community is very upset about.

And I talked to some activists today who said what they were really looking to was not just this memorandum, which is kind of watered down. It doesn't go as far -- even though he's under pressure, it doesn't go as far as the community wants.

They were looking and watching closely what he was going to say at the end about moving forward and beyond. If you listen closely, he was very general. He wasn't too specific about what he's going to do on things like don't ask/don't tell. And so they're still wanting more.

BORGER: You know, there's a part of this in the administration where they -- they're asking Congress a lot these days. And extending full health care benefits, for example, requires the action of Congress. These regulations -- these financial regulations -- require the action of Congress. Congress is also now working on health care.

So there's a sense in the administration, OK, we're asking him to do a lot, where do we draw the line until these folks start to say to us, well, you're asking us to do too much?

BLITZER: Well, there is a new poll that just came out -- the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. And they asked, is President Obama taking on too many issues and he's not focused enough on the most important ones or is he focused and is he taking on this many issues because our country is facing so many problems? Look at these numbers. Thirty-seven percent say he's doing too much and is unfocused. Sixty percent say he's taking on issues because the country is facing so many problems. Three percent are unsure.

Were you surprised by those numbers?

FRUM: Well, I -- wouldn't the relevant question be not is he taking on too many issues, but does he have the right answers?

And if you're doing -- if you were doing lots and lots of things and you're giving the wrong answer to lots of things, that's a bad thing. If you're giving the right to lots of things -- I think one of the things he's suffering from -- and we were talking about this beforehand -- is that there's an increasing public reservation about the interventions into particular industries. The auto, as we know, is very unpopular.

BORGER: GITMO.

FRUM: And we -- and this has been -- for the critics who say, it's not that he's doing too much, he's doing too much and it's wrong.

HENRY: But that will play into the 60 percent number, where the 60 percent in that poll were saying, look, he's dealing with a lot of problems (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: They're saying basically...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ...the president has no choice. He's got to deal with...

HENRY: When you talk about GITMO, that's left over from the previous gentleman.

BORGER: Right.

HENRY: You talk about, you know, the interventions...

(CROSSTALK)

HENRY: ...falling apart.

BORGER: But if...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But if you were to poll the members of the Congress, who are actually the folks who have to vote on these things, I think if you talk to more and more Democrats, they're getting a little nervous, because they have to put themselves out on the line.

So long as he's popular -- and President Obama is at over 60 percent in the polls -- they're a little bit more willing to go along with him.

BLITZER: You know what is an area where he's hurting, Ed -- and you look at these poll numbers very closely -- is a lot of folks think he's simply spending too much money.

HENRY: Well, certainly. And that's what, when you talk about the intervention of General Motors and things like that, the White House response is, look, what's the alternative?

Do you want General Motors to fail?

Do you want these car companies to go under?

Do you want to lose hundreds of thousands of more jobs?

And so they have a sort of series of bad options, if you will. But that is why, when you talk about the spending of money, the next six months are going to be critical. And he's talking about health care and some of the other things. He's going to have to get some of that money back.

FRUM: And -- but there's no termination date on the spending of money. This is advertised as a temporary stimulus. There's a lot of logic to doing that. But that is not the program that he's actually served up.

BLITZER: Right.

FRUM: When -- when is the day we stop subsidizing the California Medicare program?

BLITZER: And remember...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ...there can always be a stimulus part two, as well. So this may not be the end of the spending.

BORGER: And health care. And health care.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Tonight, hundreds of thousands of people defying the Iranian government with a largest demonstration since Friday's disputed election. Iran is now accusing the United States of fueling that unrest, as it tries to stop the world from seeing what's going on.

Also tonight, is our government in Washington controlling too much of what we see and hear?

We'll have some surprising answers in our face-off debate tonight.

Also ahead, Boeing's newest jetliner, the Dreamliner, turning into a nightmare. We'll report on the hard lessons of outsourcing and why corporate America might think twice before shipping American jobs overseas.

And award-winning journalist, Richard Wolffe, author of "Renegade

The Making of A President," will be among our guests.

All of that, all the day's news and more at the top of the hour.

Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that, Lou.

An interview on the big issues interrupted by a little nuisance. And President Obama takes matters into his own hands -- literally. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.

Work without pay for a month in order to try to save your job -- that's the question that Jack has posed. Your e-mail -- Jack, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is would you be willing to work without pay for a month in order to try to save your job?

British Airways is asking employees to do just that.

Sean writes: "No, I wouldn't. The point of working is to make money to live on. Why do I have this nagging feeling if they weren't being paid, there would be few workers?"

Ed says: "I work for a company that hit tough times and we all took a 10 percent pay cut to try to save cash and the company. Entrepreneurial types understand this. Government employees and big company workers don't. By the way, the company failed. And that's the risk you take."

Excuse me.

Chuck writes: "It sort of defeats the whole purpose of working, doesn't it? It also sets a bad precedent, since it's tantamount to slavery."

Andrew said: "Jack, if I had to give up a month's pay to save my job, I'd do it in a minute. Times are very difficult, anything to feed my family."

Jeremy in Orlando: "I did this just last September. By November, the company I worked for went under. I haven't had steady work ever since. If your employer cannot pay you for a month, it's time to find another job."

Barbara says: "Loyalty from corporations is nil to none. It's not uncommon to be given a pink slip while you're away on vacation. No, I wouldn't work for free on only the possibility of having a job. The company would have to guarantee in writing that I will be gainfully employed."

Lee in New Jersey says: "That will be next. My employer is already telling me just be glad you have a job. Why do I suspect this is a precursor to the necessity to work for a month without pay?"

And Molly says: "I'd do it if the mortgage, the utilities and the grocery store bills were all waived for that month."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and check it out. You might find yours there or we'll find yours there.

I will find you here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow -- Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Yes. The fact that we even have to ask a question like that and the fact that British Airways is even doing it is a sure sign that this economic recovery has a long way to go.

CAFFERTY: And especially as relates to the airlines. They are simply getting crushed. Because of the recession, people aren't flying. Businesses have cut back on business travel. Oil prices are driving jet fuel prices up. They're really hurting.

BLITZER: Yes.

See you tomorrow, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thank you.

What happens then when you've got the president up against a fly?

It's the fly swat heard around the world.

CNN's Jeanne Moos will have the story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Here's a look at some Hot Shots.

In South Africa, fans shout slogans as a soccer match gets underway between Spain and Iraq.

In Hungary, a Greenpeace activist is forced off the ground and taken into custody during a protest.

In Alabama, a boy gets a face full of water as he slides down a natural water slide. And in Georgia, check it out -- the Atlanta Zoo announces a fundraising effort to keep help Chinese pandas at the zoo.

Good luck.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

When you're president of the United States, even swatting a fly creates a buzz -- and, of course, a Moost Unusual TV moment.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama wouldn't hurt a fly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CNBC)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: He wouldn't hurt it, he'd kill it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CNBC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The buzz in the press was full of admiration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TODAY SHOW," COURTESY NBC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't mess with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's one for one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he got him.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Everyone kept comparing it to the chopstick scene...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE KARATE KID," COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES)

PAT MORITA, ACTOR: Man who catch fly with chopsticks accomplish anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: ...from "The Karate Kid."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE KARATE KID," COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES)

RALPH MACCHIO, ACTOR: Hey, hey. Hey, Mr. (INAUDIBLE), look it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Look at what they're calling the president -- the human fly swatter having a "Dirty Harry" moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SUDDEN IMPACT," COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES)

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: Go ahead, make my day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CNBC)

OBAMA: And I got the sucker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: That sucker has become the most famous fly -- dead or alive -- on planet Earth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN," COURTESY MSNBC)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: After (INAUDIBLE) the president bent over and picked the dead fly up with a napkin. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be Jeff Goldblum.

MOOS: Jeff Goldblum...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...star of "The Fly."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE FLY," COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX)

JEFF GOLDBLUM, ACTOR: I'd like to become the first insect politician.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The macho fly swat bugged PETA. The animal rights group's reaction sounded like a fortune cookie proverb: "He isn't the Buddha, he's a human being and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act."

Though Obama supporters do occasionally portray him as Buddha. During one of the presidential debates, a fly perched on then Senator Obama's head and lived to buzz about it. OBAMA: In the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan...

MOOS: Now, it's the Web that's fly infested -- with parody videos. Ninja parodies -- the last seconds of the Obama fly is seen through the fly's eyes.

Another features a talking fly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom, did you see where dad flew off to?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And a touching send off...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...from "Taps" to "Flight of the Bumble Bee", captioned in Hungarian.

(on camera): But at least when the president of the United States kills a fly, he doesn't eat it.

(voice-over): Unlike Chase, the fly eating dog...

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Maybe the human fly swatter could teach this to first dog Bo.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Jeanne, thank you.

Here's a question -- should President Obama be doing more to help support gay rights?

Tell us what you think. Submit your video comments to iReport.com/situationroom. We'll try to get some of them on the air tomorrow.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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