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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize; Pressure Mounts on Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel
Aired October 9, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: red-hot debate over President Obama's surprise win of the Nobel Peace Prize. Even he questions whether he's deserving. This hour, what the president has and has not accomplished. Will this award make the division in Washington even worse?
Plus, the world view of America's new president. Why people in other countries may see him differently than we do. CNN uses its global reach to bring you unparalleled international reaction.
And disturbing allegations involving a baseball legend and the facility where his body was frozen. We will investigate whether the remains of Ted Williams and others have been abused.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
To hear President Obama tell it, he's as surprised as anyone else that he's now a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The announcement in Oslo, Norway, created shockwaves at the White House early this morning, and indeed around the world. You could hear the gasps in the audience when the winner was revealed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THORBJORN JAGLAND, CHAIRMAN, NORWEGIAN NOBEL COMMITTEE: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning.
After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday."
And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up."
So it's -- it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.
I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear, I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize, men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.
But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women and all Americans want to build, a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents.
And I know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.
And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Right now, President Obama's peace award potentially could be complicating his political battles here at home.
Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," which airs Sunday mornings.
The reaction has been fascinating, not only from around the world, but right here at home.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very fascinating.
Quickly, a political conversation here in Washington, Wolf. It will be interesting to watch. And consider the irony. He wins the Nobel Peace Prize, then spends most of his day in the White House Situation Room debating the question about whether to send more troops to war in Afghanistan.
Conservatives are saying the president didn't deserve this; how could he possibly win it? From the left, we might see, Mr. President, now that you're a big peacemaker on the world stage, you can't send more troops into Afghanistan.
I had a chance this morning to sit down with the man who, remember, a year ago this weekend was going into the final month of the presidential campaign. And I asked Republican Senator John McCain about many things. He was tough on Afghanistan. He talked about the economy and health care, but I asked him, of course, about the day's big news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING")
KING: The president of the United States who, a year ago this weekend, was your campaign rival heading into the final month of the campaign, is the Nobel peace laureate for 2009. Deserved?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Oh, I'm sure that the president is very honored to receive this award. And the Nobel Committee, I can't divine all their intentions, but I think part of their decision- making was expectations.
And I'm sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up. But, as Americans, we're proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category.
KING: Did it surprise you, a little more than eight months into office, at a time, when, yes, he has set some lofty goals around world, but he's not won more NATO troops for Afghanistan, he has not convinced the Israelis to do what he says is necessary to sit down with the Palestinians? Were you surprised?
MCCAIN: Well, I think all of us were surprised at the -- at the decision. But I -- I think Americans are always pleased when think president is recognized by something on this order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Senator McCain being diplomatic there, saying he was quite surprised, also saying he believes though the bar is higher now for the president. He has a lot to prove on the world stage.
And, Wolf, quickly there was a big debate in town whether this was deserved or not.
BLITZER: The chairman -- the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, he issued this statement.
I will read it to you, John. "The real question Americans are asking is, what has President Obama actually accomplished? It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain. President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action," to which the Democrats quickly shot back this, the DNC communications director: "The Republican Party has thrown in it its lot with the terrorists, the Taliban and Hamas this morning in criticizing the president for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize."
That was a pretty tough exchange.
KING: And if ever we needed a reminder that it doesn't matter what happens, it will quickly disintegrate into petty partisan politics, this was it.
The president won this award. A lot of conservatives are upset. They thought, A, they don't think President Obama has done enough to deserve it yet. But they found in the wording, the sometimes of the Nobel Committee, what they believe to be, as much as an embrace of President Obama, they see a repudiation, one last slap, if you will, at former President George W. Bush and his foreign policy. They think that is part of this. At the same time, Senator McCain decided to set the tone, to play statesman, and say, I'm surprised, but congratulations to the president and the country will respect him.
But we're in a very political climate, whether the issue is health care, troops in Afghanistan or even the president winning a Nobel Peace Prize, very quickly, polarized partisanship.
BLITZER: Yes. McCain usually does like to take the high road on these kinds of -- he doesn't like to get into the politics of, shall we say, the gutter.
KING: Of a Peace Prize.
KING: But you will be very interested to hear him talk about health care and what he says about the president's big decision on Afghanistan.
KING: He was very, very tough.
BLITZER: And we're still waiting to see what that presidential decision on Afghanistan is.
BLITZER: So, Senator McCain will be your guest Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION" 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right?
KING: Right here.
BLITZER: You've got some more guests, too, I assume?
KING: We do, two members of the United States Senate, two Democrats, to counter Senator McCain, both on Afghanistan, the big decision there. And, obviously, big vote in the Senate Finance Committee next week on health care, we will kick that around as well.
BLITZER: Excellent. Thanks very much for that, John. We will see you Sunday morning.
A public policy scholar says he woke up to the news of the president's Nobel Prize and something, in his words, didn't feel right.
Aaron David Miller is joining us now. He's a former Middle East negotiator for both Democratic and Republican administrations. He's now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars here in Washington.
Aaron, thanks very much for coming in. You said in this column you wrote at CNN.com today, you said, when you heard about it, something was seriously out of whack. What -- what did you mean by that?
AARON DAVID MILLER, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: I mean, I'm happy for the president Wolf, and, as an American, I'm proud, because this is a potentially transformational president.
But there's a disconnect, eight months into an administration, between effort and commitment, and results. And the reality is -- he may achieve them. He may well achieve them, but the reality is, he hasn't achieved them yet.
And I think, frankly, this has made the president's job even more -- more difficult. If the Europeans wanted to do something, why not add additional European forces to Afghanistan, help us, the Russians and the Chinese test the proposition that we can either induce Iran to give up its weapons program through sanctions or additional diplomacy?
This, I think, in a world that's galactically complex, with a president who already has got an extraordinary amount of unrealized expectation, is going to make it a little more difficult.
BLITZER: You agree that this was perhaps a slap at President Bush?
MILLER: There's no question, since this was a European initiative, that the two messages here were: Welcome, President Obama. We like your empathy. We like your transaction. And, goodbye, President Bush.
I don't think there's any question that the reason this award was given, in large part, was a marriage. It was a marriage of international and European happiness with the fact that Barack Obama is now president and a certain amount of gratification that his predecessor is gone.
BLITZER: You worked for many, many years -- decades, I should say -- in trying to get that Arab-Israeli peace process off the ground, and -- and some concrete results.
Can this president right now, based on what you have seen over these first nine, 10 months, get the -- the talks started and some reasonable prospect of success of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
MILLER: You know, Wolf, nobody ever lost money betting against Arab-Israeli peace. And this president probably won't either.
But I think he can get the talks started. I think it's even possible to sustain them. The real question is, can this guy, this president, given the leaders he's dealing with, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, produce the kind of conflict-ending solution that's been missing now for almost a decade? That's a real stretch. And I wish him luck, because we certainly need it.
BLITZER: So, you're pessimistic?
MILLER: Put it this way. The glass is not half-empty and it's not half-full.
It's just, I want -- and I think he understands that there shouldn't be any additional illusions on the part of the Republican or Democratic administrations about how easy peace-making in this region is going to be, or, as we have seen over the past eight years and we continue to see, how difficult war-making is going to be as well.
BLITZER: Aaron Miller, thanks very much for coming in.
MILLER: Pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: President Obama is looking to the past as he tries to figure out the future of the war in Afghanistan. Just ahead, what can he learn from the mistakes of Vietnam? I will speak to the author of a -- of a book that the president is now reading about that conflict and what America lost.
And General Motors ditches the Hummer to try to save itself.
And the ethics investigation of Congressman Charlie Rangel could hurt the entire Democratic Party -- how Republicans are now trying to make that happen.
BLITZER: One of the most powerful members of Congress is under an intense political microscope right now. We're taking about the New York Democrat Charlie Rangel.
He's fighting a House Ethics Committee investigation that's now expanding -- at issue, allegations Congressman Rangel did not initially report hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets on financial disclosure forms. He's since done so.
There are also separate allegations of financial impropriety, including claims he didn't pay all his taxes. Rangel is not responding to all of these allegations, but he has admitted to failing to pay taxes on $75,000 in income from a rental property he owns in the Dominican Republic, and admits some mistakes, like errors in his financial disclosure forms, could have occurred.
Let's bring in our CNN senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who is watching all of this.
The implications for the Democrats, especially a year from now, going into midterm elections, could be significant, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They could be. You know, right now, though, there are no cracks, no visible cracks, Wolf, in Democratic support for Charlie Rangel, but walking these halls, you can start to feel some tremors.
BASH (voice-over): Catch Charlie Rangel in the hallway these days shuttling between health care meetings, and he casually deflects ethics questions.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, the allegations have been made by newspapers' reporters, and I asked the Ethics Committee to review it.
BASH: Ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi why she blocked Republicans from removing Rangel as chairman of the tax-writing committee while he's being investigated for tax violations, and hear this.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He's one of the most experienced, knowledgeable people in the Congress about health care. But, even if he weren't, the process here is that the Ethics Committee reviews the situation.
BASH: Rangel's fellow Democrats are backing him now, but congressional election experts, like Amy Walter, say it may not last long.
AMY WALTER, POLITICAL ANALYST, "THE HOTLINE": Right. The longer this drags out, I just think the bigger a problem it becomes for Democrats.
BASH: The reason? Next year's elections. A Gallup poll this week raised a giant red flag from for Democrats. Americans are now almost evenly split now on whether they would vote for a Democrat or a Republican for Congress.
Rangel's ethics issues cause particular problems for Democrats, because, when they won the majority in 2006, voters called fighting corruption a top priority, and Pelosi made this pledge.
PELOSI: You cannot advance the people's agenda unless you drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C.
BASH: Now, not only are Republicans calling that a broken promise.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: She has not done it yet.
BASH: The Daily Kos, a widely read liberal blog, is, too, saying, Democrats will suffer if they don't remove Rangel as chairman, writing: "Memo to House Democrats: The culture of corruption crosses partisan lines."
Walter warns, Rangel is a threat to vulnerable Democrats. WALTER: The ones who were elected in 2006 and 2008 on the change and the anti-corruption theme, they are going to start looking for signs that this is becoming problematic for them. If they see those signs, I bet you will get a lot of defections.
BASH: Now, we talked to some of these vulnerable Democratic congressmen here this week, and they say, so far, the Rangel controversy is not resonating back home.
And, Wolf, when it comes to the House Democratic leadership, privately, sources say the real test for them is when the Ethics Committee finally issues the report that everybody is waiting for and, if it is harsh, what do they do then?
BLITZER: I mean, do you have any idea, Dana, when that committee report will be released?
BASH: That is the question everybody is asking. And believe it or not -- actually, I'm sure you can believe it -- it's not just Republicans who are pounding away. It is also Democratic leaders, because they understand that, the more this goes drip, drip, drip, the harder it is.
So, nobody knows, but the fact that they expanded their investigation yesterday may suggest it could be longer than Democratic leaders want.
BLITZER: Excellent point.
All right, Dana, thanks very much.
It's a race in one state that could have national implications, the governor's race in Virginia. There's been a lot of political mud- slinging between the Democratic and Republican candidates, and voters could cast votes based on the candidates and on Washington.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, has more.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Republican running for governor in Virginia is making President Obama's agenda an issue in the election. And the question is, will the outcome there be a sign of what to expect in next year's midterm elections?
(voice-over): In Virginia, Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor, embraced President Obama at a campaign event.
OBAMA: I know he is the right person for Virginia, and you know it, too.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
YELLIN: But he's been more reluctant to embrace the president's agenda. Asked if he was an Obama Democrat, he said:
CREIGH DEEDS (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a Creigh Deeds Democrat. So, that -- that's what I am.
YELLIN: He believes the national scene is hurting him.
DEEDS: A lot of what's going on in Washington has made it very tough.
YELLIN: And making it tougher is, Republican opponent Bob McDonnell is trying to link him to what McDonnell calls Washington's job-killing policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCDONNELL FOR GOVERNOR CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Creigh Deeds supports Washington's job-killing policies and called for Washington's mandatory cap-and-trade energy scheme that will kill 56,000 coal and manufacturing jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: McDonnell reinforced that message in an interview in CNN.
BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have made the national issues an issue in this race.
YELLIN (on camera): Yes.
MCDONNELL: Card check, cap and trade, unfunded mandates, major new deficit spending I think are things that are not good for Virginians. My opponent is either for them or he has been ambivalent about them.
YELLIN (voice-over): A new "Washington Post" poll shows the Republican candidate surging nine points ahead, with the Democrat struggling among African-Americans and young voters, both groups that flocked to support the president last year.
Still, political watchers say much of this race is about local issues, including transportation problems in the state that have little to do with the man in the White House. The Democratic candidate agrees.
DEEDS: I think this race is going to be about Virginia, about what it's going to take to restore confidence in our economy, about fixing our -- our clogged transportation arteries.
YELLIN: But, if the Democrat loses, no doubt, pundits across the country will see signs of things to come.
MARK ROZELL, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: The Republicans can now show they are alive and well and they are competitive in Virginia, but it also sends, I think, a national message about the Republicans' ability to come back in the Obama era. YELLIN (on camera): It's probably not a shock that the White House says they don't see the Virginia race as a referendum on the president. In fact, one aide says they just think Deeds is not a very strong candidate.
Still, that has not stopped the DNC from pouring money into the state. And don't be surprised if you see the president campaigning there for the Democrat before Election Day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, watching Virginia for us, thank you.
Flooding strikes a day care center. We're going to show you what happens to kids and babies trapped in knee-deep water.
And he judges politicians all the time. Now the radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been tapped to be a different kind of judge. Stand by.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
Well, the rugged off-road vehicle known as the Hummer will be soon in the hands of a new owner. General Motors has sold the brand to a Chinese equipment-maker in an attempt dig itself out of bankruptcy. Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corporation will acquire an 80 percent stake in the company. The remaining 20 percent will go to a private entrepreneur. The transaction still must be approved by the U.S. and the Chinese governments.
And firefighters in Little Rock, Arkansas, had to wade through knee-deep water, as you see right there, this morning to rescue victims dropped in a day care center hit by flash flooding. CNN affiliate KARK reports nine children and two adults had to be pulled from water that had reached waist levels inside that building. So far, there have been no reports of injuries. And most of Arkansas is currently under a flash flood warning.
And Miss America, there he is. Rush Limbaugh will be one of the seven judges at January's Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. And, if you want to see it in person, head to the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. The Miss America Organization says it is thrilled to have Limbaugh in the judge's seat. He is marking his 22nd year on the radio airwaves.
And move over, Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford. "Playboy" magazine has a new bombshell. She is none other than Marge Simpson. In a first for the magazine, a cartoon character will appear on the cover of its November issue, seen here on the entertainment Web site TMZ.com. The issue hits newsstands October 16. Playboy says Marge won't bare all. There will only be implied nudity.
WHITFIELD: Thank goodness, right?
BLITZER: I'm happy about that.
BLITZER: Thank you for that information.
BLITZER: Fred, thank you.
There's a lot of second-guessing here in the United States about President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, but, if nothing else, it's driving home just how popular he is overseas.
Just ahead: CNN around the world getting a wide reaction -- wide range of reaction, I should say.
And the quagmire of Vietnam, how can President Obama avoid similar problems right now in Afghanistan? I will ask the author of a book about the Vietnam War that the president has been reading lately and studying.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening right now: We know who won, but how about how he won on President Obama's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize? We're looking at the actual selection process. Wait until you hear who picks and how long this process has actually been under way.
And disturbing allegations involving a baseball legend and the facility where his body was frozen. We will investigate whether the remains of Ted Williams and others have been abused.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The newest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize either deserves it for his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy, as the Nobel Committee believes, or -- quote -- "hasn't accomplished anything to deserve it," as one man says, echoed by others.
After the surprise announcement that President Obama won the prestigious Peace Prize, the world is now reacting. And CNN is using its global reach to bring you that reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Morgan Neill in London, where believe can't believe Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think he's been in office long enough to warrant. It's not like he's changed the world in any way so far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bit early, isn't it, to be...
NEILL: While no official Iraqi government reaction has been given to President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize win, we did speak to one Iraqi parliamentarian Mahmoud Urman (ph) who told us that he believes President Obama was awarded this award prematurely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been a certain amount of surprise on the streets in Israel on the occupied Palestinian territories. One remark we've heard a couple of times is what has Mr. Obama actually accomplished so far. But what we have heard from the leaders on both sides of the conflict is glowing praise.
CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Christian Purefoy in Lagos, Nigeria. And as the most populist black nation in the world, they are extremely proud of what Barack Obama has achieved.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: in Berlin. Now here in Germany, people say they are surprised that President Obama should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at this stage in his presidential career.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We come here to the streets of Nairobi to tell people and ask people what they think about President Barack Obama winning the peace prize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a prize for all the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think it's very exciting for myself as a Kenyan and also for Americans all over the world.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORREPSONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance in Moscow. Even though the result isn't known yet, already Barack Obama has had a profound impact on often touchy relations between the United States and Russia.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, Egyptians look at this administration as a work in progress. But in a region where war is always looming, where the U.S. often flexes its military might, the feeling among many Egyptians is, it's a bit too early to be handing out the laurels.
AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Al Goodman in Madrid where people are surprised that President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been no official reaction from Beijing but officials here might just be breathing easy now that the U.S. president has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Atia Abawi in Kabul where we're getting a very interesting reaction from the Afghan people on President Barack Obama's win for the Nobel Peace Prize. They say that they appreciate his efforts to try to bring peace in Afghanistan, but they are still waiting for the peace to come.
BLITZER: Now that he's won an internationally respected peace prize, how can the president bring more peace to a raging war? The strategy for Afghanistan again will be in the focus of an extremely private meeting underway right now at the White House.
The participants, President Obama and his top national security advisers. The location, the White House situation room, and whatever comes of it you'll hear about it in this SITUATION ROOM. This could, could be a significant step toward directly tackling a military request for more troops to Afghanistan. We're watching what's going on over at the White House situation room right now. We'll update you as we get new information.
Since past is often prologue, what might President Obama learn about this war from a hellish war in the past? And joining us now, Gordon Goldstein, he's the author of the book "Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the path to war in Vietnam." Gordon, thanks very much for coming in.
GORDON GOLDSTEIN, AUTHOR, "LESSONS IN DISASTER": Thanks for having me on your program, Wolf.
BLITZER: The president of the United States has now let it be known he's reading your book. It's at his night table.
What's the most important lesson from Vietnam you think he needs to learn?
GOLDSTEIN: Well, you know, it's interesting, Wolf. Your program, of course, is the SITUATION ROOM. And over the past two weeks, there's been a remarkable drama unfolding in the White House situation room, where they have been debating strategy in Afghanistan.
And one of the lessons that we learned from how it was done incorrectly in Vietnam is that, at that time, they were debating a number and not a use. They were looking at the size of a troop increase and not the strategy that underpinned that troop increase.
It seems that the White House has absorbed that lesson, and they are trying to determine what the effect of strategy is in Vietnam before deciding how to resource that strategy. That's one...
BLITZER: A lot of -- a lot of people are making comparisons right now between Afghanistan, a potential quagmire there, and Vietnam, which you studied closely.
Is there an analogy there? GOLDSTEIN: I think there's a very powerful analogy there. Very briefly, in a historical sense, both of these countries have been the graveyard of empires.
Vietnam could never be conquered by the Chinese, by the French during their period of colonial ambition, by Japan at the end of World War II, or by the United States.
Afghanistan could never be conquered by Alexander the Great, the British, the Soviets in the 1980s. And now the United States is trying to resolve the challenges there.
Secondly, both countries had corrupt and ineffectual governments. In Vietnam it was the Diem brothers. In Afghanistan we have the Karzai brothers. They, in essence, appear to have stolen an election, and the president's brother is reputed to be a major drug trafficker. We don't have a viable partner there.
But finally, the most important parallel, Wolf, is in the realm of strategy. In Vietnam, we pursued a strategy of clear and hold. In Afghanistan, we're pursuing a strategy of clear, hold and build.
In Vietnam we focused on strategic hamlets. Here in Afghanistan, General McChrystal has advised us to pursue a strategy of population protection.
All right. In Vietnam...
BLITZER: But there is a -- there is a major difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan in that Afghanistan was the home of al Qaeda, which killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, as you know. And Vietnam didn't do that.
GOLDSTEIN: Well, obviously, the impetus for our engagement is dramatically different in the two cases. But the challenges we face there are very comparable.
Vietnam and Afghanistan share a geographical characteristic, which really compounds the difficulties. A border where the insurrection that we confront receives support and sanctuary...
BLITZER: So, let me interrupt, Gordon. Is it your position that the U.S. can't win in Afghanistan, just as it could not win in Vietnam?
GOLDSTEIN: I don't think we can embrace a broad-scale strategy of population protection as General McChrystal has advised. I think the president appears to be focusing on a much more narrowly targeted strategy, more on counterterrorism than on counterinsurgency. And I think if that focus is maintained, we have a better possibility of achieving our national security objective.
BLITZER: Would he be wise to accept General McChrystal's advice and deploy another 40,000 troops there beyond the 68,000 U.S. troops already there?
GOLDSTEIN: That depends entirely on what end we would be pursuing by deploying those troops. General McChrystal has argued for what he calls a classic strategy of counterinsurgency. And he says, and I quote, "the objective is a population defending the people means protecting them from all threats."
Well, we can't do that in Afghanistan. It is a country the size of California and New York combined. It's composed of 40,000 discrete villages. We can't achieve that objective.
So, that's why the president really needs to scrutinize what strategic purpose would be served by this troop increase.
BLITZER: What were you doing when you found out the president of the United States was reading your book?
GOLDSTEIN: I was in my office, and I received a phone call from a reporter who was writing about it. And I must say, I was happily shocked by that news.
BLITZER: And you hope he learns the lessons.
GOLDSTEIN: It appears that this president is very serious and methodical on how he is managing the strategy review. And I think that's good news for everyone.
BLITZER: Gordon Goldstein is the author of "Lessons in Disaster."
Gordon, thanks for writing this book, and thanks for coming in.
GOLDSTEIN: My pleasure. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: President Obama is preparing to face a powerful gay and lesbian group, and he may have a lot of explaining to do. Just ahead, have any of the promises he made to the gay community been kept?
Plus, astronomy fans didn't get a big bang out of it, the impact of NASA's crash into the moon.
BLITZER: President Obama is preparing to reach oath out to the gay and lesbian community. Tomorrow he becomes only the second sitting U.S. president to address the Human Rights Campaign. Members of the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights group are likely to try to hold him to some promises he made during his presidential campaign. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to fight for gay rights. So, why, nearly a year since the election...
CROWD: Yes, we can!
KAYE: ... are so many gays and lesbians growing impatient with the president they overwhelmingly supported and helped elect? (on camera): Barack Obama has called himself a -- quote -- "consistent and fierce advocate" of the gay community. Has his presidency lived up to that?
RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER ON SAME-SEX ISSUES: Not in these last 11 months, not yet, at least.
KAYE: "Keeping Them Honest," here are just some of the promises the president made.
Promise number one: to end don't ask/don't tell, which bans anyone openly gay from serving in the military.
OBAMA: I think that we should end don't ask/don't tell.
I have stated repeatedly that don't ask/don't tell makes no sense.
I believe don't ask/don't tell doesn't contribute to our national security.
SOCARIDES: The government is actively discriminating against us just because who we are. And this is happening on his watch.
KAYE: Promise number two: the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The president says he supports civil unions, not same-sex marriage.
SOCARIDES: President Obama has said that he wants the law changed, but he's taken no action towards doing that.
KAYE: Promise No. 3: a hate crimes bill that would make violent attacks on members of the gay community, because of their sexuality, a federal crime. The House approved the measure. But the Senate has yet to.
It's taking too long for people like Pam Spaulding, a lesbian who writes a political blog. While Pam and others realize the president also is dealing with Afghanistan, the economy, and health care, she says she's seen too many speeches...
OBAMA: Our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked...
KAYE: And too little action.
PAMELA SPAULDING, BLOGGER, PAMSHOUSEBLEND.COM: There is a long list of progressive issues that need to be acted upon. And where we fell in line was disappointing. I mean, it was almost as if we were put back into the closet and told to wait.
KAYE: Pam is especially disappointed in the president's failure so far to keep promise No. 4: to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act which would prohibit hiring and firing on the basis of sexual orientation.
(on camera) In June, the president did celebrate gay pride at the White House and he just appointed an openly gay U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. But critics call these, quote, "peripheral moves." As a candidate, the president promised them fierce action. Still the White House says the president is intent on making progress on the issues. But even supporters in the gay community say the president has made a lot of promises and still no action.
Randy Kaye, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: High hopes and harsh realities within the Latino community right now. A study out this week shows that nearly nine in 10 Hispanic young people say a college education is important. But only about half of them actually expect to get a college degree. It's a problem CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien has been looking into as part of her upcoming documentary, "Latino in America." Soledad is joining us now live with more on this. What kind of special pressures, Soledad, do young Latinos face right now?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, many are facing, frankly, in a word, economic pressures, Wolf. In our upcoming documentary "Latino in America," you'll meet 17-year-old Cindy Garcia, and this is a young woman who is really trying to juggle her school work with helping out at home and she shows this incredible willpower and such hard work but some of the barriers, the obstacles to her success are major. Take a look.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cindy Garcia is a senior at Fremont High School in south L.A. It's severely overcrowded, almost entirely Latino and 70 percent of its students don't graduate on time.
CINDY GARCIA, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I don't want to fall into the 70 percent, no. I know I deserve better than that.
O'BRIEN: It's not going to be easy. Cindy is more than a semester behind, and there's just three months until graduation. What happened your ninth grade year?
GARCIA: I guess I didn't find it important, like I didn't care.
O'BRIEN: Did you go?
GARCIA: To school?
O'BRIEN: You cut every day.
O'BRIEN: Every day?
GARCIA: Kind of, yeah.
O'BRIEN: Now she's trying to make up for lost time but family often trumps school. Cindy lives in this three-bedroom house with her mother, two sisters, baby brother and a two-and-a-half-year-old niece.
GARCIA: Close your eyes.
O'BRIEN: She's constantly pulled out of school to take care of the kids and help out at the family store which barely makes ends meet.
GARCIA: I think there's some more in the back but I don't think so.
O'BRIEN: Cindy also acts as a translator for her mother Onelia, who speaks no English. She's been sick and needs help navigating doctors' appointments. Do you ever want to say to her I need to be in school?
GARCIA: Yeah, I do.
O'BRIEN: And do you say that?
O'BRIEN: No. Why not?
GARCIA: Because -- because I'm the only one that can help her sometimes, you know, so I'm -- I can't, if it was something else, like go to the store with me, then, OK, but this is very important so I kind of have to be there.
O'BRIEN: It's a lot of responsibility. You're 17.
GARCIA: I guess, yeah.
O'BRIEN: Wolf, what's critical to remember here is that one in four school aged kids will be Latino in 2025, and that means that it is critically important that the Cindy Garcias of the world graduate, get their education. We profiled Cindy's path and really her breathtaking drive in "Latino in America." Wolf?
BLITZER: This is really going to be a special two days. But you have a book that's coming out right now on "Latino in America," as well, right?
O'BRIEN: Yes, same title, "Latino in America," the only title I can think of, I guess. But it's just come out, and it's really an exploration both of my background as a woman who is both African- American and Latina and then also bringing that experience to report on this documentary the year that we've really spent on it, so it's a combination, really sort of a companion to the documentary, and it's out now. BLITZER: Congratulations, Soledad. We're excited about both projects, Soledad O'Brien. Be sure to join Soledad and "Latino in America." It's a two-night event beginning 12 nights from now on October 21st only here on CNN.
Did you see it? Or better yet, could you see it? A spacecraft smashing into the moon? NASA updates how it went.
And disturbing allegations involving the baseball legend Ted Williams at the center of the facility where his body was frozen. Were Williams' remains abused?
BLITZER: NASA scientists say they're getting a lot of useful information from smashing two space craft into the South Pole of the moon. They are analyzing the data for signs of ice beneath the lunar surface. But some autonomy buffs aren't necessarily all that impressed. They were hoping to see remarkable photos of a huge plume of lunar dust. Didn't see that when we all got up this morning to watch.
NASA's soaring costs could help bring down the International Space Station. CNN's John Zarrella reports on the uncertainty surrounding this program.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a decade of construction. The U.S. cost alone including shuttle flights, $44 billion. That's right, billion with a B and still counting.
Now after all that time and money, the International Space Station is ready to do world-class science. The problem is, it may be scuddled before it ever has the chance.
ROBERT BRAUN, FORMER NASA CHIEF ENGINEER: The general idea that we would spend approximately 11 years building a space station, get it to its full operational capability and then kind of abandon it a few years later, to me personally, it doesn't make a lot of sense.
ZARRELLA: That's exactly what might happen. Funding to keep the station in orbit will run out by 2015. The promise of cures for diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and ground-breaking research may never be realized.
THOMAS PICKENS III, CHAIRMAN, ASTROGENETIX: We think that you can't do them on Earth. That the bias of gravity is so extreme that you really need to take them out of a gravitational influence and stat doing these things in state, it's probably the only place to get these done.
ZARRELLA: Tom Pickens company is already reaping the benefits. The salmonella vaccine developed in space is moving through the Food and Drug Administration for approval. The last shuttle flight carried the distinction, an experiment aimed at producing a vaccine for MRSA, a highly-resistant staph infection.
The absence of gravity allows for the rapid growth of very virulent bacteria, perfect for building vaccines, says Pickens.
PICKENS: That process on earth is extremely long. It can take up to 10 years to do if they get it at all and we've sent it up to space for really three trips and we found that we already had a vaccine for salmonella just after three trips.
ZARRELLA: During its construction, the station has been used for some experiments but not the kind that might produce miracle drugs and cures. Even if the station's life is extended, the science community acknowledges there are no guarantees the football field-sized flying laboratory will produce great breakthroughs and getting funding for a maybe is tough.
LEROY CHIAO, FORMER SPACE STATION COMMANDER: You can't sell the station on science, you know. You just -- we talked about this as a committee.
ZARRELLA: Retired astronaut Leroy Chiao served on the commission tasted with providing options to the Obama administration on the future of the U.S. space program. The commission recommended flying station until 2020, not just in the name of science. There's more at stake, says Chiao.
CHIAO: If we go ahead and stop it in 2015, that's going to break up that framework, and people will lose confidence, different countries around the world will lose in the U.S. as a leader in space exploration.
ZARRELLA: Where's NASA in all of this? Moving on.
BRAUN: NASA is very much an engineering organization. NASA was designed to accomplish amazing engineering feats in space.
ZARRELLA: Like Apollo, shuttle, space station. With shuttle retiring, NASA's attention has shifted to the next engineering challenge, sending humans back to the moon.
Still, the station's backers say funding to keep it flying is a no brainer. If you don't spend a fortune on a house, they say, and then abandon it. So the question is, is the hope of great science, not the promise, enough for the Obama administration to keep the lights on? John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.
BLITZER: Who are the deciders amid President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize win? We're looking closely at the people in the process that actually picked him. We have the details, details you'll rarely see or hear.
And it's a sort of David versus Goliath controversy. A health care providers wants to jack up rates on individuals but some legal crusaders say no way. One official calls the health insurance company, and I'm quoting now, "greedy."
BLITZER: Amid a looming vote on health care reform in the Senate and continued rancor on both sides, some consumers are taking a stand against health insurance providers being described as greedy. CNN's Jim Acosta has more.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, advocates of health care reform are holding up this case as evidence the insurance companies will do just about anything, even in a recession.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Elizabeth Beane is what the health insurance industry calls an individual policyholder. As a self- employed social worker, she has to buy her insurance on the open market.
ELIZABETH BEANE, INSURANCE CUSTOMER: It went up from $450 a month to $550 a month, $1200 over the year.
ACOSTA: Which may explain why she's rooting against her insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in a high profile legal fight with the state of Maine, a fight that's been dragged into the center of the nation's health care debate, a fight Maine's attorney general Janet Mills says she'll win.
JANET MILLS, MAINE ATTORNEY GENERAL: We'll go after them. We won't stand still for this.
ACOSTA (on camera): Earlier in year, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield proposed a rate increase for its individual policy holders of 18.5 percent. The state of Maine which has the power to regulate those rates said no, lowering that increase to 11 percent. So what did Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield do? They took the state of Maine to court.
MILLS: That wasn't enough for them. They're going back for more, and I just can't believe basically the greed of it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Mills says she was floored by Anthem's explanation, that 18.5 percent increase was what the company needed to make a small 3 percent profit.
(on camera): It seems like the gist of what you're saying is the nerve of these guys?
MILLS: Yeah. It's outrageous. Hello, it's a recession.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Anthem is owned by WellPoint, one of the nation's largest insurance carriers. WellPoint made more than $2 billion in profits last year. In a statement to CNN, a company spokesperson said, "The level of increase reflected the medical cost trends for our individual market members and included a modest pre-tax operating margin of 3 percent to cover profit and unanticipated risk." Anthem argues Maine's approved increase of 11 percent will result in no profits for the company, but Maine's attorney general says not so fast.
MILLS: In Maine alone, they paid almost $1 million to their Maine executives in one year alone. And that is an issue in this case.
ACOSTA: Elizabeth Beane says she is already spends a third of her income on health care, leaving her nothing for retirement.