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THE SITUATION ROOM

Unemployment Rate Climbs; Environmental Terrorists Attack

Aired September 4, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We first told you about the private contractors' wild naked parties just days ago. Well, today, we have learned that they are leaving Afghanistan, as well as their jobs.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is following this investigation, as well as the outrage -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, every single one of those guards is being interviewed by U.S. Embassy security staff in Kabul and investigators from the State Department are on the ground now, too. Today, heads began to roll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): a "Lord of the Flies" environment in Afghanistan? The State Department says no matter how you describe it:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was awful. It was disgusting.

DOUGHERTY: Now, at State Department insistence, at least eight armored security guards working for ArmorGroup North America shown in these photos taken at raucous, lewd parties on the base where they lived have been fired from their jobs protecting the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two more resigned, all flown out of the country Friday.

The top U.S. diplomat in Kabul tells CNN those responsible are out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some management and any of the individuals that were involved in this very disgusting behavior that occurred.

DOUGHERTY: The firings and replacement of the entire management staff in Kabul come just days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded immediate and aggressive action. Aides say she was horrified by what she heard and saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's genuinely offended by what has occurred.

DOUGHERTY: Everyone in the photos was fired, but State Department officials admit they can't rule out that some might have been coerced as part of a hazing ritual, a concern raised by a watchdog group that made the photos public.

The Project on Government Oversight also says some guards complained to management to no avail before blowing the whistle and urges they should be protected from retaliation for doing so. One whistle-blower, a subcontractor at the embassy, tells CNN he was forced to resign after it became apparent he was the source of some of the complaints.

His company, R.A. International, denies that, and tells CNN, "He resigned of his own free will."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: Now, the State Department says that those parties took place off embassy grounds at the guards' camp, so they did not know what was going on. But now they have diplomatic security staff in place and they are monitoring the camp.

And the State Department also says that, depending upon how this investigation ends up, they could terminate the entire contract of ArmorGroup in Kabul -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Jill Dougherty, thank you very much for the follow-up.

NATO is investigating one of its own airstrikes in Afghanistan after a number of civilians were killed. The alliance says that it was targeting a pair of fuel trucks stolen by Taliban insurgents -- 90 people were killed, including Taliban militants and civilians who had been siphoning fuel from tankers. NATO says it had been told no civilians were in the area, but that information proved to be wrong.

Friends and family mourning the death of a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan are in an angry battle with a news organization -- at issue, the decision by the Associated Press to run a photo of the Marine's final moments of life. Now, his family had asked the wire service not to publish the image.

I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, who's following the story.

Hey, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Suzanne.

More Americans in Afghanistan died in August than any time since the war started. But it's this picture of one death that is the heart of the controversy. And we want to tell you right off the bat it is a picture that CNN has decided not to show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): When the Taliban ambushed a Marine patrol last month, a rocket-propelled grenade ripped into Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard. The Associated Press snapped a picture of him mortally wounded and now has released it, against the family's wishes.

JOHN BERNARD, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. MARINE: I can promise you, if it was their son or daughter, they wouldn't do it. LAWRENCE: On the phone, I spoke with Corporal Bernard's father.

BERNARD: I think they were given a privilege by being assigned to that specific unit and that they were privileged to be there when my son was called home. And I think they abused that trust.

DOUGHERTY: Defense Secretary Robert Gates himself -- quote -- "begged the AP not to release it" and in a letter to the company's president called the decision appalling.

The controversy comes just as President Obama considers the possibility of deploying more American troops to Afghanistan. The photo was actually one of many captured by a photographer embedded in Corporal Bernard's unit, including later scenes of fellow Marines honoring him.

The AP says Bernard's death shows his sacrifice for his country, and releasing the photo was not an easy decision -- quote -- "We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is."

CNN has chosen not to show the photo and AP video showing similar images, out of respect to the wishes of the family.

Some newspapers ran it. Others refused to. One media critic says he would not have run the photo, but:

DAVID ZURAWIK, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": That's exactly why some younger people say they don't consume the mainstream media and they go online, is they don't want gatekeepers and filters and people telling them what they should see.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Now, that picture was just one part of a nearly 2,000- word story that the AP told. It included an interview with the corporal's father, who complained about the military's rules of engagement.

The father feels -- he's an ex-Marine himself, and he felt that protecting Afghans was putting American troops at unnecessary risk. John Bernard told me he wrote those letters of complaint just three weeks before his son was ambushed -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Chris.

Well, Jack Cafferty is joining us this hour with "The Cafferty File."

Hey, Jack. What are you following?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Suzanne.

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, consider this. For the first time since this question was asked in the 1930s, fewer than half of Americans approve of labor unions. A new Gallup poll shows organized labor taking a big image hit in the last year.

The poll finds only 48 percent of those surveyed approve of labor unions, and that's down from 59 percent a year ago. While approval of unions is down among most groups, the biggest decline comes among independents.

Also, while 66 percent of Americans say unions are beneficial to their own members, 51 percent say that unions mostly hurt the economy. And that number's up from 36 percent in 2006 -- 42 percent say they want unions to have less influence, compared with 25 percent who want more influence. Last year, those two numbers were about even.

In the past year, a lot has happened and much has changed. These new poll numbers come during an economic recession, with record unemployment, and in the aftermath of a major taxpayer-funded bailout of the two of the big three auto companies. And when Congress was considering those bailouts last winter, the polls showed a lot of Americans blamed the unions for the automobile industry's problems.

So, here's the question. In light of the Labor Day holiday, has your opinion of labor unions changed over the past few years?

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

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Jack.

Well, some cargo plains don't have bathrooms, so angry pilots, they want you to know what they use when nature calls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where you use to go for a number one, and a much bigger bag for a number two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Why should these pilots be forced to fly with no bathrooms and what are the employers saying?

One of the president's men faces calls for his head, green jobs adviser Van Jones, whose name is attached to a conspiracy theory suggesting the government allowed 911.

And conservative critics of President Obama travel the country on a so-called tea party express, saying things like this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't want this to be a communist, socialist nation. That's what our troops died for. It's so we would not be enslaved by the Nazis or the communists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: A new spike in the unemployment rate. It jumped to 9.7 percent last month. Now, that is the highest level since June of 1983. Back then, Ronald Reagan was president, "Dallas" was the number-one rated TV show, and a young known as Barry Obama was graduating from Columbia University.

Right now, the recession is a drag on public opinion of President Obama. His honeymoon may be over, but are Americans feeling any love for Republicans?

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here with some new poll numbers.

And what are you finding.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're finding that, look, that, first of all, nobody expected the president's approval numbers would stay stratospheric, and they haven't. Everybody figures it's going to take a while for Republicans to resurrect themselves, and it will.

But inside this new poll, Suzanne, there are encouraging things for both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): The president's summer slide in the polls continues, but as he hovers in the mid to low 50 percent range, there's no equal and opposite movement for Republicans. Democrats continue to dominate on the biggest issues of our time.

When it comes to handling health care, the economy, and Afghanistan, the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Americans believe Democrats would do a better job, even in traditional Republican strongholds, taxes, foreign affairs, deficits. Democrats virtually tie the GOP. Republicans prevail substantially in only one category, who is best able to handle the challenge of terrorism.

Overall, the CNN poll found 52 percent of Americans believe Democratic policies will move the country in the right direction. Just 43 percent say that of the GOP. Still, support for Democrats has gone down five points since May, and support for Republicans has ticked up by four. Also worth watching as the health care debate heats up September:

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We just don't need the federal government this involved in the delivery of our health care.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is, we can do it in a bipartisan fashion, but the most important thing is getting it done for the American people.

CROWLEY: On the subject of who isn't playing well with others, Republicans still fare worse, but the number of people who think the president is not doing enough to cooperate with the other side has jumped by 10 points.

Also worrisome for Democrats, 64 percent of Americans say they are angry about the way Washington is working. And most of the anger is directed at the party in power, Democrats. The trend lines are inklings of hope for Republicans as the calendar marches towards another election year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We're taking back America in 2010.

CROWLEY: A catchy little jingle, but it's with 13 months and five to 10 poll points premature. Inklings do not an election make.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And while 64 percent sounds like a lot of Americans are angry, that's not a revolutionary kind of number, not yet.

In 1994, the election which swept in the Gingrich revolution, 72 percent of Americans described themselves as angry.

MALVEAUX: So, what do we think in terms of the -- how this is going to impact the health care reform debate going forward?

CROWLEY: I think it does impact it in this way.

First of all, the president doesn't have the kind of strength that he had when he first began to push health care reform. We have seen that not just in the polls. We have seen it in the town hall meetings. And, second of all, I think it's fascinating that almost half of Americans think he's not trying hard enough to reach out to Republicans.

So, here we have a president that is being squeezed by the left and squeezed by the right and being told basically by half of Americans you need to reach out more. I think that -- those kind of poll numbers, you and I know that poll numbers do influence politicians.

MALVEAUX: So, maybe he will reach out a little bit more. We will see.

CROWLEY: We will see.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Candy.

Well, some new entries from our "Political Ticker."

CNN has learned that the White House is quietly working to draft its own version of health care legislation. The administration had been letting members of Congress fight over the details by themselves. But multiple sources say that if the president delivers his own bill to Capitol Hill, it could happen some time after his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

One way or another, we hope to get more specifics from the president next week on his vision of reform. The White House says from, now on, it's visitors' list may be an open book. It will start releasing the names of most people who visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Advocacy groups have called for the logs to be made public to help determine who is influencing the administration's policy.

And the White House says some names will still be kept private if they're for a sensitive meeting, say, or for national security, if that's at stake.

And for 18 years, they hung pink ribbons to remember their friend and neighbor who was kidnapped. She is now free, but her hometown has changed forever.

A college football player sucker-punches a rival, and then takes on his own teammates. His unchecked emotion leads to serious consequences.

And could you imagine if Michelle Obama said this? Japan's incoming first lady claims to have ridden on a UFO to the planet Venus. She says it was very beautiful and very green.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Now a rather unusual walkout by workers. Pilots are striking against a cargo airline. And they essentially have one big demand: bathrooms.

Our CNN's Jeanne Meserve is here with the rest of that story.

Jeanne, tell us about this.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, they have a couple of demands. But think about this, being on a plane for hours without a bathroom. Cargo pilots for Amerijet say that's what they have to put up with every time they fly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): Striking Amerijet cargo pilots are raising a stink over working conditions, specifically the lack of bathrooms on the Boeing 727s they fly. They offer a show-and-tell in a YouTube video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where you use to go for a number one, and a much bigger bag for a number two, which we don't want to show you.

MESERVE: Pilots say there's no private place to use the bags, and, once they're full, they pose a sanitary challenge.

DAWN LESCHINSKI, FIRST OFFICER, AMERIJET: It's put in back of the cockpit. It's sealed up, put in a bag until we return back to Miami to dispose of it. MESERVE: The pilots claim the planes were delivered with bathrooms, but Amerijet took them out to reduce weight.

KAMAL PITEL, AMERIJET CAPTAIN AND SHOP STEWARD: Initially, they didn't provide anything. The bags that they have given us, they didn't even provide those. Eventually, they realized that there were some corrosion issues when crew members would have to go into the cargo hold to use the bathroom. So, that's when they started to provide pee bags and bags for going number two.

MESERVE: Amerijet refused to comment on the lavatory issue. Pilots for other small cargo airlines say they have similar setups.

And the Federal Aviation Administration says there's no requirement that any aircraft have a bathroom, including passenger jets the public flies. That's "not an aviation safety issue. It's a passenger or crew member comfort issue."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: We also spoke to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, which polices workplace safety. It says aircraft are not within its jurisdiction. So if and when the striking pilots begin flying again, they may well be left holding the bag -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Is there anyone who does think that this is a safety issue?

MESERVE: Yes. There's a group called the Business Travel Coalition. They say that pilots have to make split-second decisions quite often when they're flying, and even on the tarmac. They don't believe pilots should be distracted by having to go to the bathroom. So, yes, they say this is about safety, not just about sanitation -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jeanne. Very interesting story.

Well, a group known for their ecoterrorism strikes, saying it is protecting the environment from harmful radio waves.

Plus, an Obama administration figure is under fire. First, he called Republicans a nasty name. Now we're looking into his alleged link to a 9/11 conspiracy theory.

And Bill Clinton has some advice for President Obama, as the fur keeps flying over health care reform.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The name Van Jones may not ring a bell with you, but you may have heard that the administration adviser used a foul word to describe Republicans. Name-calling is just part of the controversy surrounding him.

Today, the White House was asked about this. Our Mary Snow, she is looking into the man, as well as this uproar.

Mary, what do we know?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, that uproar, so to speak, escalated beyond controversial remarks.

The administration official was pressed to answer questions about why his name is linked to a movement pushing conspiracy theories behind 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Van Jones may not be a well-known administration figure as an adviser for green jobs, but he's been thrust into the forefront over questions surrounding this 2004 petition he signed on the 9/11 Truth. org Web site demanding "... a call for immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur." Van Jones is listed as "Signer 46."

Asked why his name is on it, an administration source tells CNN that Jones did not carefully review the language in the petition. And in a statement, Jones said, "I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Jones' name appearing on the petition, responding, "It's not something the president agrees with," and that Jones continues to work in the administration.

Jones has also gained attention for comments he made before his White House job, including this one now on YouTube when he was talking about Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How were the Republicans able to push things through when they had less than 60 senators but somehow we can't?

VAN JONES, OBAMA ADVISER: Well, the answer to that is they are (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JONES: That's a technical term.

And Barack Obama is not a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And so, now, I will say this -- I can be an (EXPLETIVE DELETED), and some of us who are not Barack Hussein Obama are going to have to start getting a little bit ugly.

SNOW: In 2005, he was quoted in the "East Bay Express" saying, "By August, I was a communist" when explaining about his radicalization following the acquittals in the police beating case of Rodney King in 1992. Jones said, "If I had offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize." The green jobs guru has come under scrutiny by conservatives, notably, Fox Television host, Glenn Beck. Defenders of Jones say Beck targeted him because Jones was formerly with a group now working to get advertisers to boycott Beck's show. The boycott came after the Fox host called President Obama a racist.

Before this, Jones was primarily known for his environmental work. Back in May, in comment on the "San Francisco Chronicle's" Web site, Jones even won the praise of former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, now a Republican candidate for governor in California.

MEG WHITMAN: I am a big fan of him. He's done a marvelous job.

SNOW: Whitman now says she didn't know Jones well and is distancing herself, saying it's clear he holds views she entirely rejects.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: And, Suzanne, the pressure is growing tonight. The chairman of the House Republican Conference, Congressman Mike Pence, is calling on Jones to either resign or be fired. And Republican Senator Kit Bond is now calling for a Congressional oversight hearing looking into the fitness of Jones as a senior White House official -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Mary.

Well, let's talk about this with CNN senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; former Bush speechwriter David Frum; and "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief, David Corn -- Candy, let's start with you here.

Is this -- is this significant, this controversy over -- over Jones?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will be significant -- no. I mean, in the end, even if he goes or if he stays, we're going to move on let's say, to health care or Afghanistan. But I think -- we were talking earlier, I'm of two minds about this, about whether he's going to have to go, whether the pressure is building.

On the one hand, when you begin to have an office holder who's issuing paper statements of apology, that's kind of the first domino that goes and it usually ends with out the door to spend time with their family.

On the one hand -- and you also have Robert Gibbs saying well, you know, he still works with the administration, which isn't really rah-rah. On the other hand, I -- I'm not sure people, at this point, care about Van Jones' job as much as much as they care about their own jobs. I think it's lost in the other things that are going on.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": I'll tell you why it's significant. He literally wrote the book on green jobs and how to hook up blue collar workers with a green economy. And he is now -- he's not an adviser to the president. He's an adviser of the Council of Environmental Quality. But his job is making sure that the $80 billion that's -- that's targeted for green jobs actually goes to -- goes to good -- good sources of green jobs.

And he is one of the top experts in the field. "Time" magazine named him one of their most 100 influential people in the world, on the basis of this, not any of the 9/11 stuff. So if he does leave, it is -- it will be a blow to you -- to the administration's effort to promote green jobs.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: So the guy who is going to be inspecting $80 billion worth of contracts is saying, don't blame me, I don't read things before I sign them. That's his -- his current defense.

Look, it is outrageous for someone to be taking pay from the United States government after having publicly accused the United States government of being complicit in the murder of 3,000 Americans. He -- he...

CORN: But he hasn't done that, David.

FRUM: That's what he signed. He should be ashamed...

CORN: No...

FRUM: ...to be in that job. He shouldn't want that job. It is disgraceful.

And I have to say -- just one more thing, since we mentioned Glenn Beck's name. For those of us who are Republicans, who have fought the fight to keep our party clear of the crazy conspiratorial thinking that we're hearing on the Glenn Beck show, it is humiliating and offensive to me that this administration is now going to corroborate Glenn Beck's wild accusations by putting somebody like this on the public payroll in the public trust. It's outrage.

MALVEAUX: Is that fair?

CORN: Well, I don't -- I don't think it's fair. I mean he -- his explanation -- I mean, listen, I wrote about the 9/11 movement years ago, saying it was bunk and that liberals and progressives and anybody should stay away from it.

I'm sorry he didn't take my advice.

But right now, he's in there for a different set of reasons. And he's one of the most qualified people on that front. If we lose him -- if the administration loses him, it will be bad, I think, for the country.

MALVEAUX: I wonder how much responsibility the Obama administration has for this?

This is the questionnaire, obviously, that cabinet members had to fill out before actually going through the process of -- of getting their jobs. And it was not the kind of thing that these czars have to go through and fill out. But a couple of the things that it asks: "Briefly describe the most controversial matters that you've been involved with during the course of your career. Speeches -- identify all speeches you have given. If available, provide text and recordings of each."

If the Obama administration had required this of some of these czars, like this individual, would -- would that have averted this whole controversy?

CROWLEY: I think, actually, you're hitting on the point of the czars. You have a point simply because there are so many people, many of them conservatives, but also Senator Robert Byrd, who said wait a minute, what is the deal with these czars?

They don't go through the same scrutiny that, say, cabinet members do and they're totally out of the purview of Congress. No one is overlooking them.

So it is -- it has been one of the problems that some people see in the Obama administration, that there's been sort of two tiers of government here. And one of them is sort of outside what they usually require. In this case, it might have helped, although what one person considers controversial that they have said and another person considers controversial can be two different things.

CORN: Right.

FRUM: And it should be said, it looks today like there's not one such signature, but maybe two. There was a second one surfaced today.

MALVEAUX: OK. We're going to come right back here with the best political team and this next topic -- Bill Clinton offers President Obama some unsolicited advice.

Also, two radio towers toppled -- an environmental extremist group claims responsibility and says it's protecting all of us.

And she is not officially Japan's first lady yet, but she's already grabbing the headlines.

Is it any wonder when she says her soul rode on a triangular- shaped UFO to another planet?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We're back with Candy Crowley, David Frum and David Corn.

But first, CNN's Deborah Feyerick to tee up the topic -- Deb, start us off.

FEYERICK: Well, Suzanne, is a health care compromise in the works?

We now know the White House is quietly working on its own plan.

This after President Obama let Congress go it alone for months.

But will everyone be satisfied?

Nancy Pelosi says: "A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House." And the speaker of the House has plenty of Democrats on her side.

But at the same time, President Obama is being bombarded with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I see the things that Obama -- the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress is doing as really threatening the future of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe he's trouncing the Constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I question everything our government is doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is something happening. We don't know quite what it is, but it's happening. And people who ordinarily wouldn't turn out into the streets to protest are turning out to the streets to protest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're the sleeping giant that has been awakened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Afro-Leninism is coming to you on a silver platter. Barack Hussein, Obama -- he ain't my president, people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Well, that was from the tea party.

So can the White House please them all?

Well, probably not. Maybe that's why former President Clinton told "Esquire" magazine that President Obama should forget about making everyone happy. His advice -- don't even worry about the Republicans.

That might be easier said than done.

So here's the question, everyone -- should the White House even bother trying to come up with a compromise health care plan?

Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Deb.

David, kick it off. CORN: Well, you know, I don't think the White House has to worry about the charges of Afro-Leninism and their -- and this small slice of right-wing wackos that we saw on the campaign trail last year, who are getting a lot of attention now. I mean what he has to worry more about is keeping at least his own party behind him.

Not just Nancy Pelosi, but 80 or so other House Democrats said they want a bill with a public option. So at least you have to pass that in the House and see what you can get out of the Senate. And there will be a conference. There will be a lot of wrangling. And there's some room for compromise.

But I think the president will -- you know, if he undercuts his party at the start of this process, that probably won't serve him well.

MALVEAUX: I have no idea what Afro-Leninism is, but go ahead, David.

What do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: But, yes, I epitomize it.

Nancy Pelosi has challenged the president to a test of strength and he cannot afford to lose that test of strength, because if she dictates to him against his instincts, I think, and against the instincts of a lot of people in the White House that there must be a public option in order to apse her liberal band in the House, that will be a real sign of presidential weakness.

He has to apply discipline to the liberals. You know, so often -- how often have we heard it said, when we talked to our liberal friends over the recent years, if we only had that Nixon plan again. We will never, never make that same mistake of allowing our fanaticism to get in the way of the best of what -- get in the way of something positive.

And yet here it is. They're happy. They're succumbing to the same temptation. He needs to curb his party.

CROWLEY: Well, part of the -- to Bill Clinton's remark about I wouldn't worry about the Republicans, he's not worried about the Democrats. He's worried about the Democrats. That he had this phone call that CNN is now reporting, Dana Bash and others, with liberal members of the House today, just trying to feel them out about, well, how much of a public option do you actually need?

He -- you know, he is going to have to walk this line. And it's very, very tough because the fact of the matter is, he can't pass, through the liberals, the same kind of thing that he has to pass through people like a Kent Conrad and Claire McCaskill and -- the more conservative Democrats on the Senate side.

I mean this is something -- he's going to have to compromise. And I think that's what this upcoming speech, obviously, is about, to sort of set that -- that tone. And also, if he is going to write his own piece of legislation, which I'm -- I still sort of wonder about exactly what form that will come in -- I think you will see the president is going to have to dial this back and not because of Republicans.

MALVEAUX: We're going to have to leave it there.

Candy, David, David, thank you very much.

Well, new details of an old arrest -- Phillip Garrido, the man accused of holding Jaycee Dugard for 18 years, accused in another crime decades ago.

And she says she eats the sun, has known Tom Cruise in a previous life and has ridden on a UFO to Venus -- all of this from the soon to be first lady of Japan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: In Washington State, two big radio towers attacked. It's apparently the work of environmental extremists known for this kind of violence.

Our CNN's Kate Bolduan is here with the details -- hey, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Suzanne.

Amazing pictures. It's a group described as ecoterrorists. And they're claiming responsibility for knocking down these radio towers, citing health and environmental reasons.

Now, the general manager of KRKO radio station, that owns the towers, tells me this incident cut their coverage by 70 percent, that it costs -- it could cost a couple million dollars to repair and it could be months before the towers are back up.

According to the Snohomish Sheriff's Department, neighbors heard heavy equipment early this morning. And you can see what deputies found when they arrived -- towers toppled, construction equipment nearby, as well as a sign that includes the initials ELF. Now, the Earth Liberation Front, ELF, says they did it. But law enforcement isn't confirming whether they think that's true or who they think is responsible.

The group said, in part, in a written statement, the ecosystem and "local residents do not need additional sports news radio station towers that come at the expense of reduced property values and harmful radio waves."

The group also is suggesting those radio waves cause cancer and harm wildlife.

The FBI has labeled this group as a domestic terrorist group and, clearly, the FBI is now investigating -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Now, Kate, this isn't the first time that this group has been associated with destruction like this?

BOLDUAN: You might have to jog your memory, but this group has claimed responsibility for a string of incidents throughout the years, including a fire at a Vail, Colorado ski resort; a massive blaze of million dollar mansions in Seattle -- just look at those flames -- and another fire at a Utah -- at a Utah lumberyard. And that's really just to name a few -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

MALVEAUX: In California, police have seized the van of kidnapping suspect Phillip Garrido. It was towed from the backyard where he is accused of holding Jaycee Dugard captive for 18 years.

Meantime, police are combing through records of unsolved crimes, looking for possible links to Garrido. And they are uncovering criminal allegations in Garrido's past.

Here's CNN's Dan Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It happened 37 years ago at this Antioch motel. It's where police say Phillip Garrido drugged and repeatedly raped another young girl. Authorities say, the victim, 14 at the time, is now coming forward after seeing Garrido's image splashed on television -- essentially saying there's more you need to know about this guy's past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MAY 6, COURTESY SFGATE.COM)

LT. LEONARD ORMAN, ANTIOCH POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mr. Garrido was charged in the matter. The details of that are very slim at this point, with respect for records to rely on. But at some point, the prosecution was dropped.

SIMON: That's because, the victim declined to testify against Garrido. It's not clear whether he ever entered a plea in the case. According to police, the girl and a friend met Garrido, then 21, and another man near the public library. They got in a car and were given drugs. Later, they wound up at this motel, where the alleged rape occurred. Eventually, the girl's parents came to pick her up and called police.

Word of the old arrest came on the same day we learned how the now 29-year-old Jaycee Dugard is coping since reuniting with her family. Dugard allegedly spent 18 years in captivity in Garrido's backyard.

Tina Dugard is Jaycee's aunt.

TINA DUGARD, JAYCEE DUGARD'S AUNT: Jaycee and her daughters are with her mom and younger sister in a secluded place reconnecting. I was with them until recently. We spent time sharing memories and stories and getting to know each other again. Jaycee remembers all of us. She is especially enjoying getting to know her little sister, who was just a baby when Jaycee was taken.

SIMON: Tina Dugard describes Jaycee as a remarkably resourceful mother.

DUGARD: Although they have no formal education, they are certainly educated. Jaycee did a truly amazing job with the limited resources and education that she herself had and we are so proud of her.

SIMON: This is how Tina would have remembered Jaycee, more as a child than the 29-year-old woman she is today.

DUGARD: Not only have we laughed and cried together, but we've spent time sitting quietly, taking pleasure in each other's company. We are so very grateful to have her home.

SIMON: Jaycee...

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty joining us again -- hey, Jack, what are you following?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour -- in light of the Labor Day holiday, has your opinion of labor unions changed over the last few years?

A recent Gallup Poll showing the opinion of unions, as far as Americans are concerned, is declining, especially over the last year or so.

Jim writes: "Labor unions have outlived their usefulness. They pad their members' paychecks with absurd benefits that nobody else has while holding the employers hostage to their demands. They are the primary reason why so many businesses have chosen to locate outside the country."

Mike in Kentucky says: "The price that was paid for all the benefits being enjoyed by today's retired union workers was the bankruptcy of their employer. No company can afford the outrageous wages and benefits being earned by their undereducated, overpaid laborers. Bust the unions before they bust the U.S."

Shaun in Indiana: "Labor unions were established for a reason -- to keep the common worker from being trampled on by big business and the corporate grindstone. If, over the years, they've gotten the power to actually make changes to the system, I say more power to them. They're working to make the lives of your mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter better and I applaud them for that."

Michelle says: "Unions used to fulfill a useful purpose. Now they mostly justify less work for more pay, reward those who do less, make excuses and have very greedy executives. You complain Wall Street execs, check out some of the compensation of the union executives. It's not much different. It's become Chicago-style politics. They claim to be for the little person or the worker, but ultimately, they're only looking out for themselves."

Linda in Arizona says: "There's been a concerted effort by big business and the corporate run Republicans to kill support for labor unions in this country and the unions have played into it nicely with what often can only be called corruption. Nevertheless, they're still the only people who even pretend to care about workers. I will always be a union supporter."

And Noel in Nashville, Tennessee: "Jack, it seems to me, the general public opinion of everything has gone down recently. We have become a nation of pessimists and cynics."

And on that happy note, I will bid you adieu until Tuesday.

MALVEAUX: All right.

CAFFERTY: Have a nice weekend, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Have a good holiday weekend, Jack.

Well, she says she has flown on a UFO to Venus and that she knew American actor Tom Cruise in a previous life.

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MALVEAUX: Japan's incoming first lady already grabbing headlines. Wait until you hear what else she said.

Plus, cyclists enjoy a rainbow in Florida -- one of our Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Here's a look at Hot Shots.

In Jerusalem, a woman bows her head in prayer During Ramadan.

In Venezuela, a demonstrator covers her mouth with a sign reading "No More Chavez."

In Florida, cyclists enjoy a rainbow on their morning ride.

And in India, a 3-month-old monkey sleeps on its owner's head.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Well, she's a future first lady who claims to have a colorful past, including a close encounter with a UFO.

Kyung Lah reports from Japan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America's first lady may be grabbing the fashion headlines, but Japan's soon to be first lady is capturing out of this world attention. Miyuki Hatoyama, in an interview on Japanese television, claimed to know actor Tom Cruise.

(VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Not in this life, but a previous life.

(VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Cruise's closest Japanese connection may be his role as a star of "The Last Samurai." But Hatoyama says Cruise was Japanese in his previous life and he'd know her if they met.

(VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: On the same talk show, Hatoyama says she eats the sun, "Like this, like this," she says, saying her husband does it, too.

(VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Her husband, Yukio Hatoyama, in a stunning political upheaval this week, led his opposition party to overthrow Japan's longstanding ruling party. The new party in charge promises to shift Japan's economic strategy and its relationship with the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan.

Before the dust settled on the election, the eccentric writings of Hatoyama's wife began to surface, like this spiritual cookbook.

(on camera): Mrs. Hatoyama also wrote this book. There's a two month waiting list to get it on Amazon. You can't find it in any bookstores in Japan. It's called "Very Strange Things I've Encountered." And she says a very strange thing. She says that while she slept, her soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and she went to Venus. In case you're wondering, Mrs. Hatoyama says Venus is very beautiful and very green.

(voice-over): Mrs. Hatoyama is a new breed of first lady for Japan -- a divorcee and a former actress. She openly says she commands more equality from her husband and is unafraid to express her thoughts.

TOMOHIKO TANIGUICHI, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, KEIO UNIVERSITY: Definitely refreshing, fun to look at and fun to learn more about, because so -- she is so different.

LAH: Political analyst Tomohiko Taniguichi believes this UFO talk is harmless for now and points out she has the ear of the world's most powerful man in the world's second largest economy.

TANIGUICHI: If she tries to intervene into the political decision-making process, then the people's reaction would be changed dramatically. But at the moment, the nation is in its honeymoon period for this newcomer.

LAH: Whether quirky comments from a wife would affect global policy remains to be seen. Political watchers anxiously await for unearthly happenings from Japan's new first family.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT".

Lisa Sylvester is in for Lou -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Suzanne.

Tonight, is the White House telling teachers what to teach in your child's classroom?

The White House dismissing this as a partisan attack, calling it "silly season."

The nation's unemployment rate at its highest in a quarter of a century and that doesn't even include the millions of Americans who can't get enough work or have given up searching entirely.

And that killer wildfire near Los Angeles is the work of an arsonist and now there's a homicide investigation. We'll have brand new details in a live report.

Also, more trouble for a presidential adviser. Maybe you've heard the crude remark he made about Republicans. Well, there's a lot more to this story. And we'll have all of that straight ahead.