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THE SITUATION ROOM
Balloon Drama Real or Hoax?; Hillary Clinton Speaks Out
Aired October 16, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If 11-year-old Erin Buenger, whose all too short life touched so many in this community, could travel to Washington and lobby members of Congress for cancer funding while going through chemotherapy, if she could raise money by making lanyards and writing her own cookbook, all while making the honor roll, then, surely, you can find ways to serve, even when you face challenges in your own life.
OBAMA: And that ultimately is the idea at the heart of President Bush's vision, that each of us has a role to play and all of us has something to contribute.
He didn't call for one blinding light shining from Washington.
OBAMA: He didn't just call for a few bright lights from the biggest nonprofits.
But he called for a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard. And today...
OBAMA: Today, 20 years later, think for a minute about the impact that he has had. Think of the thousands of people and organizations who have been named points of light, the countless others he inspired to do their part.
Think of all the people they touched and the lives they changed and all those who were helped who went on to help others.
That's the extraordinary ripple effect that one life, lived humbly, with love for one's country, and in service to one's fellow citizens, can have.
May we each strive to make that kind of difference with our own lives. Thank you, President Bush.
OBAMA: Thank you, Texas A&M. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And there he is, the president of the United States with the former president of the United States, the first President Bush, along with the defense secretary, Robert Gates, himself is former president of Texas A&M University in Texas, the three men together celebrating Points of Light.
It's not all that common nowadays in the highly charged political environment of Washington to see a little cooperation between the president and the former president. A nice picture, indeed.
Let's assess what we just saw, what we just heard with the best political team on television.
Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile, conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey -- he's editor of CNSNews.com -- and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.
I know, David, this touches a spot very close to your heart. You're working with students at Harvard all of the time, indeed working with students all across the country. Why can't there be more of this kind of goodwill in this current politically charged environment?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, one wishes there could be, but I must tell you this younger generation does represent great hope for America.
President Obama, President Bush standing there together with a former president of Texas A&M Bob Gates, and the woman who runs the Points of Light Foundation, Senator Sam Nunn's daughter, Michelle Nunn, who came in to organize this from Atlanta, where she lives.
Wolf, as you know, there is an outpouring of idealism and desire to serve the country in the younger generation that's overpowering. As President Obama said, we haven't seen anything like this in generations, but it does represent great hope. Kids are volunteering to do some of the toughest jobs in America, and just like our soldiers are serving on the front lines, people are serving in AmeriCorps, people are serving in a variety of volunteer ways.
And they represent enormous hope for the future.
BLITZER: It was moving, Donna Brazile, this week to get the numbers from the Pentagon. I used to cover the Pentagon. All of the recruiting far met their expectations. Young men and women are volunteering to serve in the United States military, whether in the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Army. And that symbolizes what we just heard from the president.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I was with the Boys and Girls Club of America earlier today in Ohio and one of the things that many of their leaders were talking about is this great desire as David mentioned of young people who want to serve, who want to give back, who want to be part of something bigger than just their family, who want to part of the larger American landscape.
Much of this I believe occurred in the aftermath of September 11, but it's so wonderful to see President Obama standing next to President George Herbert Walker Bush. As you know, I was able to go down there a few years ago, not with this program, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, because he wanted to encourage the young people there at that college there to participate.
BLITZER: Is this just a brief little point of light, Terry, or is this more than that?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, I think it's a good thing, Wolf, whenever any president gets up and uses the bully pulpit of office to call people out to be volunteers to get involved in their communities.
I will throw one little bit of salt on here. As a conservative, I think there's a little irony when the federal government gets involved in programs like AmeriCorps, where they are paying people to volunteer. You're preempting the local community action that ought to come from the grassroots up, ought to be locally controlled, and ought not to be remunerated by federal taxpayers.
GERGEN: Can I respond to that?
BLITZER: You can, David.
GERGEN: Terry, how do you feel about the all-volunteer military force, people who are paid to help defend the country?
GERGEN: Do you feel that's also a problem? Or do you think...
JEFFREY: No, not at all.
GERGEN: Don't you think there's something parallel between having volunteers in service and volunteers to the military who serve...
JEFFREY: Well, yes, there is something parallel, but I would make this distinction.
A core function of the United States government in the Constitution itself is to defend the nation and maintain a military. And that is a core function of the federal government.
Local community activity, people getting out and being involved in their neighborhoods in local things ought to be local and I think that's also part of our Constitution. The 10th Amendment leaves those things to the states and to the people.
GERGEN: I would remind you that in the 1930s, one of the first acts that Franklin Roosevelt did was create the Civilian Conservation Corps. He put 250,000 young men in the woods, in the forests to create national parks by that summer. It was the single most popular program in the Great Depression. Americans loved it.
BLITZER: Candy -- I want to bring Candy into this conversation.
As someone who spent a lot of time covering the first President Bush, he looked pretty good today. He looked pretty -- he's not that young anymore. But I was impressed by his demeanor, his witness.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And what's interesting to me, just sort of in light of this conversation, is sort of to go back, because you do look at him and think, wow, he looks great.
Obviously, the son now looked more like the father than the father does at this point. But the fact of the matter is that when this Points of Light program, I remember this so distinctly. This was one of those things where everybody rolled their eyes, right? A thousand points of light and -- and every week, they would bring in a point of light.
And it would be some volunteer who had done something rather -- and it stemmed from a convention speech after Ronald Reagan -- and Ronald Reagan was seen as too mean. The Republicans knew they had sort of a mean problem. And there was that kinder, gentler -- it was going to be a kinder, gentler administration, right?
And then people said, fine, so what are you going to do about the poor? How are you going to be kinder and gentler to the poor? And up came Points of Light. And it was ridiculed at the beginning and now it is this huge thing.
So, out of some very partisan sort of political things can spring some programs that do a lot of good, and I think this is one of them. And it doesn't surprise me that George Bush is up for this particular occasion.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This White House also issued a presidential proclamation in honor of another 20th anniversary, which is the Americans With Disabilities Act, which came under George H.W. Bush. And so in a way this appearance today by this president is to honor that as well as the Points of Light. And that was also something that continues in fact to be derided by many conservatives, but it's something that has changed the face of this country.
BLITZER: Should we read anything into this, Terry, the fact that the second President Bush was not there with his dad at this event at Texas A&M University?
JEFFREY: Well, that's interesting.
George W. Bush has a kept a very low profile since he's been out of office. Vice President Cheney has been out there engaging on the CIA and on the interrogation issue. But I think it's pretty obvious that the younger President Bush doesn't want to be involved in the public policy debate at this time.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that, David?
GERGEN: I think that's right.
It was notable in particular his silence on the day of the Nobel Peace Prize when so many people did have comments one way or the other. But he has been out on the circuit. Interestingly, he and Bill Clinton have become a pair out on the speaking circuit and they have done pretty well, I understand.
BLITZER: Well, they have made a lot of money giving those speaking engagements.
GERGEN: I think they have had a lot of fun, too.
CROWLEY: It's not volunteering.
BORGER: It's not volunteering. You're right.
BRAZILE: He's writing his book. He's writing his memoirs. And I'm sure that he's keeping in touch with his former staff.
CROWLEY: Well, and he took his cue from his father, too. When he looked at post-presidencies, it wasn't Jimmy Carter's post- presidency or Bill Clinton's. It was his father's.
He said that before he left office. I remember talking to him and he was saying, no, I'm going to be -- my dad got off the stage and stayed off the stage. Now, he did say he was going to go make some money, but he feels very strongly at least up until this point and when he left that you ought to leave the stage to the president's, because it's a tough job.
BORGER: I'm wondering in watching this group today what is actually going to go on backstage, because here the president is facing a huge foreign policy challenge in what to do about Afghanistan.
There you have former Secretary of State Jim Baker, former president of the United States and the secretary of defense all together. And I guarantee you that those folks have found some time to get together, as they should, and discuss the issues that confront this president.
BLITZER: Well, I'm glad we had a chance to see a little cooperation between the political parties today. Don't go away, guys. We have a lot more to discuss.
I want to go to Jack Cafferty, though, right now for "The Cafferty File."
Jack, it's nice to see the president with the former president up on the stage together.
CAFFERTY: That's good stuff, and I am reminded of the partnership that Bush 41 and Bill Clinton put together, which was another example of, you know, setting differences aside.
I want to read you something that's a bit of an update on the 4:00 question we did. There's a justice of the peace named Keith Bardwell down in Louisiana that I kind of took off on at 4:00. And thousand of you wrote in about it. He refused to give a marriage license to an interracial couple, citing some sort of concern for their unborn children. It was an offensive bit of business.
And I just got a statement about five minutes ago in my office from United States Senator Mary Landrieu, who is a Democrat, represents the state of Louisiana.
I want to read it to you: "I'm deeply disturbed by Justice Keith Bardwell's practices and comments concerning interracial marriages. Not only does his decision directly contradict Supreme Court rulings. It's an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long. I call upon the Louisiana Judiciary Committee to use its authority to have Justice Bardwell dismissed from his position. He clearly has no intention of administering the law or upholding justice for interracial couples" -- that from U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, representing the state of Louisiana.
All right, now, when it comes to flu season this year, it's a twofer. In addition to the regular old garden variety flu, we have the added worry of the swine flu. Officials now say that Swine flu has been linked to the deaths of 11 more children in just the last week -- 43 kids have died from swine flu in the last month in this country. In a normal winter, fewer than 50 children die from the flu during the entire flu season. One vaccine-maker says children under 10 will likely need two shots of the swine flu vaccine in order to develop full immunity, not surprising, since children need two doses of the regular flu vaccine the first time they get it in order to develop full immunity. So, have fun with the kids and getting their four flu shots this year.
For adults, it's believed one shot of the swine flu vaccine will be enough. Here in New York, health care workers had been ordered to get vaccinated or face losing their jobs. But today a judge temporarily halted the mandatory vaccinations, at least for now.
And even though the swine flu is causing what's called widespread disease in 41 states, a lot of people don't plan to get the vaccine. Some of them say they're concerned about side effects or the safety of it.
"The New Yorker" magazine reports in an article called "The Fear Factor" that the anti-vaccine, anti-government and anti-science crowd has had a big impact on public opinion, even though the odds that a vaccine would make you sicker than the illness itself are -- quote -- "practically zero."
So, here's the question. Do you have any reservations about getting a swine flu shot? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
Wolf, you going to get the swine flu shot?
BLITZER: I suppose I will, but I got the regular flu shot, and it worked out just fine.
CAFFERTY: I just got my regular flu shot today, actually, and I'm still here. So..
BLITZER: You're still around. All right, Jack, we need you. Don't go away.
CAFFERTY: All right.
Thanks very much.
Attention, critics of President Obama. The commander in chief effectively says, bring it on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I'm not tired. I'm just getting started.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: You can throw whatever you want at me. Keep it coming. We're going to get this done.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The president talks tough outside Washington, D.C. Is he egging for a fight? What's going on?
And is Hillary Clinton getting the last laugh? A late-night comic jokes about her being more popular than the president in a new poll. Is the secretary of state grinning? She talks about her popularity in a brand-new CNN exclusive interview.
And is it a horror or is it a hoax? That's what so many of you are asking about the so-called balloon boy. I will speak with a sheriff in Colorado who's key to making that determination.
BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a major player of the president's war council, as he struggles with a new battle plan in Afghanistan. We have heard reports of divisions within the Obama administration over the war. Now Secretary Clinton is talking about the road ahead.
She sat down for an exclusive interview today with our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Secretary Clinton thanks very much for taking out the time to talk to us.
Afghanistan, let's talk about that. Afghanistan's electoral commission is coming out with its report. The Afghan ambassador says that that commission is likely to order a runoff election. Should President Barack Obama wait for the results of that runoff election before he makes his decision on troops for Afghanistan?
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Jill, first let me say we're not positive what the election commission will recommend, but clearly whatever their recommendation is I believe should be followed. And if that requires a second round, that is what should happen.
I think that the president is well aware of all the permutations of what can happen in the election. It is likely that they will find that President Karzai got very close to the 50-plus-one percent. So, I think that one can conclude that the likelihood of him winning a second round is probably pretty high.
DOUGHERTY: Could that runoff election be carried out, do you think, if it happens within a month? And what if it's stretched on into the spring? Could Afghanistan survive without a legitimate government until then?
CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. First of all, I think it could be carried out since, as I said, the ballots are printed and certainly some planning has been done. It could absolutely be carried out within the next few weeks, before the snows come. We have problems in the south, as you know, because of the intimidation from the Taliban and al Qaeda at every turn trying to prevent people from participating, but I think it could be, but we won't know. We have to wait until the decision is made, because certainly I don't want to prejudge or preempt whatever the election commission itself is going to determine.
DOUGHERTY: But the decisions in the administration right now, looking at President Karzai, there are numerous allegations of corruption, fraud, et cetera. Is he really damaged goods? Because after all, the administration says they need a reliable partner, that the whole strategy is pinned on having a reliable partner.
Is he a reliable partner?
CLINTON: Well, I think that -- let's wait and see how this election turns out. Let's determine what the winner, assuming it is President Karzai, commits to do it, and the measures of accountability that can be put into place to more effectively guarantee the outcomes that we're seeking.
I think, unfortunately, over the last eight years there wasn't the kind of expectation that should have been set for what the United States and the international community expected to be delivered, but we're going to change that, and we are in the process of working through the best ways to do that.
CLINTON: We had a real election. Now, were there irregularities? Yes. And has there been an accounting of those irregularities? Yes.
But the fact that an election was held in a conflict as terrible as this one is in many parts of the country, that it was a real election, with rallies and platforms, and a number of people did quite well, the two predominant winners, we know, President Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, I think, should be also recognized.
So, we're trying to be realistic here, and not blow too hot or too cold. In fact, I think that the prior administration was too unrealistic in the way that they treated both our involvement and the number of troops that we put in to achieve our goals and the relationship they built with certain leaders in Afghanistan.
So, we're trying to recalibrate this and I think we're well on the way to do that.
DOUGHERTY: The deliberations that the president is having about Afghan policy, troops, et cetera, you have been in obviously on all of them. You were on one when we were coming back from Moscow on the plane.
DOUGHERTY: And, yet, you said in an interview this week that you haven't given him your -- offered your best advice to the president. Why not? Why not yet? When you are going to do it and what are you going to tell him?
CLINTON: Well, the process that we have pursued, which I really believe has been not only useful, but quite informative to all of us, is leading up to where we will give our best advice.
But it would have been premature, because we wanted to examine every assumption. There were no questions or topics off-limits. Everybody came to the table with all of their -- you know, concerns were laid out.
I think we have done a thorough job of analysis, and now we're moving into the decision phase. And I'm sure that the president's going to be asking all of us what is our advice to him, and then, when he makes a decision, what is it we are all going to contribute to actually executing his decision.
BLITZER: And let's bring in Jill Dougherty right now. She did the interview with the secretary of state.
Jill, I was a little surprised at how blunt she was in suggesting, if there is a runoff election, Karzai is going to win and the U.S. is going to have to deal with him down the road.
DOUGHERTY: Yes, that was interesting, because other administration officials haven't gone that far.
But she seems to be saying, you know, the writing is on the wall, that even, if there is this runoff, that he will be -- he's close enough to the a 50 percent plus one. And she seems to be saying, this is a guy that we're going to have to deal with.
But what are they going to do? Note her phrase measures of accountability. They're going to hold Karzai to these measures of accountability and they're also going to work with those regional leaders, kind of an insurance policy.
BLITZER: Good work, Jill. Thanks very much.
Jill had traveled with the secretary to Russia earlier in the week.
BLITZER: The ballooning controversy -- did a Colorado couple truly believe their son had floated away, or was it all a giant hoax? My interview with the family prompts investigators to ask more questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
FALCON HEENE, 6 YEARS OLD: You had said that we did this for a show.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Coming up, I will speak with the sheriff who's leading the investigation and ask him what happens next.
And Hillary Clinton reveals what she may do next once she retires from public office.
BLITZER: It's the question many Americans are asking right now. Did a Colorado couple really believe that their 6-year-old son had floated away in a homemade balloon, or did they undertake a hoax on the notion to promote themselves?
The sheriff says there's no evidence yesterday's balloon drama was staged, but he says he's going to question the family again, after seeing my interview what them last night. Listen closely to the 6- year-old, Falcon Heene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
BLITZER: Did he hear anything?
Did he hear you screaming out, "Falcon, Falcon?"
RICHARD HEENE, FATHER OF FALCON: He's asking, Falcon, did you hear us calling your name at any time?
F. HEENE: Mm-hmm.
R. HEENE: You did?
MAYUMI HEENE, MOTHER OF FALCON HEENE: You did?
R. HEENE: Well, why didn't you come out?
F. HEENE: You had said that we did this for a show.
R. HEENE: Man.
M. HEENE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Falcon Heene's remark, that he did it for the show, is fueling a lot of speculation on the Internet and across the country.
And Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden is caught right in the middle of all of this.
BLITZER: Sheriff, thanks very much for coming in. I know these are hectic hours for you.
First of all, I understand you have now had a chance to see this video of that balloon actually leaving the backyard. What's your assessment of it?
SHERIFF JIM ALDERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: Well, actually, the video is very consistent with what we were told by the parent. If you see, there's two different type of ropes. It looks like there's a real light white cord, which was actually the tethers that were supposed to hold this thing to the ground.
When he did the countdown and pulled a different cord, that actually released a linchpin that was supposed to allow the balloon to go up to 20 feet. And supposedly these other tethers were then going to hold it. So, what we saw in the video is consistent to what we were told.
BLITZER: What you were told by the parents, is that right?
ALDERDEN: That's correct.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the comment you made earlier. You say you want to re-question them now, after what they told me last night on "LARRY KING LIVE."
Explain what kind of questions you want to ask them.
ALDERDEN: Well, clearly, your interview stirred up a lot of controversy with the statement that was made by the young boy regarding, "Why did you do this?" and that, "We did it for the show."
We had interviewed the family at length yesterday. We had investigators -- not just patrolmen, but seasoned investigators on scene with the family during the course of the day. You know, the reactions of the parents and the children at different times during this episode, when they believed that the child was in the aircraft, when it landed and he wasn't there, certainly, their emotions, their non-verbal responses were very appropriate to the situation, according to the investigators that were on scene.
I can tell you, having got to the scene somewhat after the boy came out, I -- I, too, saw the parents were visibly shaken by this event and certainly seemed very credible.
That said, the statement that was made by the boy last night certainly deserves to be questioned. There's a certain amount of skepticism. And we certainly want to go back and re-interview the family and try to establish their credibility with that regard.
BLITZER: And I just want to be precise, as opposed to speculation or assumptions or anything like that, do you have any evidence -- any hard evidence that this was a hoax or a staged event?
ALDERDEN: Absolutely not. And that's the thing. You know, the -- the media, the public is -- they're -- they're free to speculate as to what this might be. We have to operate on facts and what can be proven. And we don't have any evidence at this time that this is anything other than what it was reported to be.
BLITZER: And if in -- but if, in fact, it was a hoax, then the two things that you would want to investigate would be a false report to police. That would be one of the issues that would be on the agenda.
What would -- what does that entail?
ALDERDEN: Well, that would be the primary issue, as far as any criminal conduct or liability with regards to it. If they made a false report to authorities, that would be a class three misdemeanor under Colorado statute. That's the only thing where we see any criminal culpability in this situation. So that's what we would be pursuing.
BLITZER: You said something intriguing earlier in the day when you met with reporters about having been in contact with child protective services. Three little boys ages 6, 8, and 10 with these parents. And I wonder if you want to explain what you were referring to, because there have been some speculation -- speculation out there that the parents have taken these boys, in terms of tornado chases, into dangerous situations.
So explain what you had in mind.
ALDERDEN: Well, exactly what you stated, Wolf. You know, we do have reports that they took these children in a potentially dangerous situation with a tornado. Certainly you have the issue of what sort of danger is imposed by having these helium containers, by having this balloon in the backyard.
You know, I think it would be appropriate to involve the protect -- child protection to at least see what the family situation is and whether the children are in a safe condition. I think we just have to do that.
BLITZER: That's just as a precaution, out of an abundance of precaution?
Once again, you have no evidence that these...
BLITZER: ... That the parents aren't fit to raise these three little boys?
ALDERDEN: That -- that's absolutely right. But certainly the question has been raised, given the totality of the circumstances -- and, you know, it needs to be looked at and a decision made in that regard.
BLITZER: You also said earlier that immediately after that balloon took off, he started to get on the phone. The first phone call, you said, was to the FAA. The second phone call was to a local TV station. And the third phone call was to 911.
BLITZER: And I wonder if -- if that sounds normal to you in -- in a tragedy or an emergency like that?
ALDERDEN: Well, clearly, it is not a normal response. One would expect, typically, that a parent in that situation would call 911. However, there was a logical explanation of the parent of why they thought to call the FAA, that being that the balloon was headed toward an airport. You know, he has some expertise in that area, at least, and -- and knew that this could be going over airspace. And he supposedly wanted to notify the FAA, as well as to see if the FAA could track the location of where this balloon was going. That was his explanation.
I have to report that we have not been able to confirm through the FAA that that call, in fact, took place. We're working on that, but we haven't been able to establish the appropriate contacts yet to verify that.
BLITZER: And what about to the local TV station?
Is there a recording of that phone call?
ALDERDEN: You know, I don't have that, but I did see some other media coverage that showed somebody in the news -- newsroom, I believe, of Channel 9 that reported that.
But, again, we're trying to collect all this information. Between all of the media interviews that were done, we want to collect all of that and have time to digest it before we proceed further.
BLITZER: Sheriff, we're going to stay in close touch.
Good luck in this investigation.
Appreciate your spending a few moments with us.
ALDERDEN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: A new poll about Hillary Clinton's popularity provides some late night laughs when Conan O'Brien -- for Conan O'Brien, I should say. We asked the secretary of State about it in that exclusive interview.
Plus, from the governor to "The Apprentice" -- Rod Blagojevich may wind up facing Donald Trump's firing line.
BLITZER: A Gallup Poll shows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's favorable rating 6 points higher than President Obama's -- a role reversal not lost on late night comedians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN," COURTESY NBC)
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: Hey, a new poll just came out that shows that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now more popular than President Obama. That's right. Yes, Hillary -- Hillary said she's thrilled -- thrilled to win a popularity contest a year after it matters.
O'BRIEN: She couldn't be happier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The secretary of State actually made her feelings quite clear.
Listen to what she told our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, in the exclusive interview.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Let's look at this Gallup Poll that just came out. You were more popular than the president. President Obama, 56 percent; Clinton, 62.
Why do you think that is?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, I have no idea. I see the polls -- they go up, they go down, about me, about others. But I think that, in general, the people in our country approve of what the president is doing and his leadership. But it's hard. You know, I mean, look, being president is hard. I know that from having watched it closely. And certainly the change in tone that we're trying to bring to foreign policy -- we are very pragmatic about this. I mean, you know, this is -- this is a clear-eyed approach at trying to engender greater support for the decisions we think are in the best interests of the United States. And, apparently, the people in our country think we're on the right track.
DOUGHERTY: And you have talked this week -- there have been a couple of questions coming to you about your next mission after the State Department, how long you would stay.
Do you want to stay -- let's say that the president is re- elected, would you stay, do you think, for another term?
And, also, retirement -- I mean, after this trip, I guess, to Moscow, I'm thinking that that...
CLINTON: Well, you and I had better have a long time, you know?
DOUGHERTY: Well, we're just about the same age. So I think it's time to start thinking about this.
What do you think -- what -- what -- you know, what does retirement look for -- look like for Hillary Clinton?
What would you want to do? CLINTON: Well, I have no idea because I've never had the opportunity to do that. But I love my job. I love representing our country. I am very pleased by the relationship I have with the president, the vice president, you know, the White House, national security team. So it's a great joy.
But it's also extremely demanding. And, I mean, I've been on a very fast track for most of my life, but particularly for the last, you know, 17 years. So at some point, I think it would be time to, you know, maybe have a little more space to reflect, to write and relax and -- but I have no -- I have no idea when that will be.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring back the best political team on television.
We'll start with David Gergen.
You know, she's not that old, David. She's, what, 61, 62 years old. And now this is the second time in a week we start hearing her speculate about retirement.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, upon prompting. I think that's important to -- to note. I don't think anybody thinks she's going anywhere any time soon.
BLITZER: Yes, but if somebody said to David Gergen, you know, are you getting ready to retire, you'd say absolutely, positively no.
GERGEN: Well, I hope so. I think I would. But I have to tell you, Wolf, that I thought what was interesting about this is this popularity business is -- is very interesting, because the difference is that among Republicans, President Obama was far more popular among Republicans at the beginning of his term than was Hillary Clinton. He's fallen some 40 points among -- among Republicans. She's stayed pretty steady.
And so now among Republicans and what accounts for her lead over him in this poll is that she's 16 points higher in approval among Republicans than he -- than he is. That's very interesting.
BLITZER: Let's ask...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, David...
BLITZER: Let's ask a good conservative, Terry Jeffrey, who is here. Why is that?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF CNSNEWS.COM: Well, I don't find it surprising. After all, she's not really been on the front lines of the domestic political debate. President Obama's been out there pushing some very controversial stuff. He's held his liberal base. He's alienated Republicans more than ever and he's starting to lose the middle. But she's not out there fighting these things. That's why.
BORGER: Well, I -- you know, I think, also, particularly in terms of Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton may be seen as someone on the hawkish side of the equation here. But, also, in American politics, she is seen as somebody who has gone from a presidential candidate to be -- who -- who fought forcefully against Barack Obama. And now she is seen as a true team player and people like that. And they admire that in her, that she has -- has learned how to adapt to that and she's doing a good job.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She gets high marks, Wolf, for not only helping to implement the president's foreign policy agenda, but also, as Gloria said, being a team player. She's also refreshing. When people across the -- the world hear that Hillary Clinton is coming, they all want to like meet her. They -- they like to interact with her. So she's a valuable asset to this administration. But more importantly, she's an asset to our country.
BLITZER: Well, she is a superstar in the sense that she's a personality in her own right, Terry. And she does have that -- that clout when she goes around the world.
JEFFREY: Well, there's no doubt. And I would say, I do think she's doing a good job as secretary of State. I think she is a voice of reason. I do think she's to the right of President Obama on foreign policy and in this Afghan debate. And I think to the degree that people in the country are actually listening to that, they're probably more where she is than where they suspect the president is going.
GERGEN: Yes, Wolf, my sense is that what -- that Terry has put his finger on something important, that conservatives do see her as being to the right. I was actually with a major moderate Republican -- Democrat last night who said I -- I was all for Obama, I'm actually now more for Hillary, because I think she's more middle of the road than he is.
But the other thing I think one has to take into account here, there is a good deal of buzz that she's a super -- around Washington that she's a superstar in the country and around the world. But she's not necessarily a superstar at the table where the decisions are made in the White House.
BORGER: Well, that's...
GERGEN: There's some sense that she's not -- you know, she just doesn't have that heavyweight status at that table that one might think, given her superstar status.
BORGER: Well, that's...
BLITZER: Should she be saying, David -- should she be saying publicly what she said to Jill Dougherty today, that if there's a runoff election in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai is going to win? GERGEN: I thought she did speak out a little more on Afghanistan and I welcomed it because I think she's been too muted. I think the -- I think the White House needs to give her more latitude to speak up as the chief foreign policy architect for the administration and to say things that need to be said. And I -- I thought that that interview actually broke some new ground in terms of her being a little crunchier, not being quite as hidden in her views and actually speaking out as the spokesperson she -- she needs to be as secretary of State.
BORGER: Well, I think it really remains to be seen, doesn't it, what influence she does have inside that room in terms of Afghanistan and in terms of the policy that the president adopts.
However, I will say, I've also heard that she does have a good relationship with the secretary of Defense.
BORGER: And that they, together, are a pretty strong unit, particularly in terms of what's going to happen on Afghan policy.
BRAZILE: You know...
BLITZER: Well, let's assume they're -- they're a unit, Donna, the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense.
Are they part of the Joe Biden unit or are they opposed to the Joe Biden unit?
BRAZILE: You know, I don't want to be a fly on any of those walls.
BORGER: I do.
BRAZILE: Well -- but -- but, Wolf, you know, soon after the P5- plus-1 sat down with the...
BLITZER: You're talking about the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council.
BRAZILE: I learned all of this from you, trust me.
BRAZILE: But soon after this meeting with the Iranians, who did President Obama send to Russia?
Who did he send to follow up?
Hillary Clinton. That's because he has a very strong relationship with the secretary of State. They talk often. They have lunch often. And while we don't see them in public a lot, they are very close.
BLITZER: Let me let Terry go ahead. JEFFREY: Well, I'll just say, you know, if you -- according to "The New York Times, Secretary Gates and Senator -- Secretary Clinton are much more hawkish than Joe Biden is on what we're going to do in Afghanistan. He's talking about basically pulling out of cities and just going after Al Qaeda and the Taliban. They want to be much more engaged than that.
BLITZER: Yes. What -- what was interesting also in the interview, David, was she said, you know, the United States has to start thinking in terms of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the same breath. You can't deal with two separate issues, because this is all a part of the same problem.
GERGEN: Yes. That is what -- that's been the argument that Richard Holbrooke brought to the administration early on, when he came in as a special ambassador to make. They call it AFPAK, in effect. And the wisdom of that was being demonstrated here in the last few days with all of this unrest in Pakistan. The number of attacks there have been pretty -- it's been pretty high. And it's causing some second thoughts and I...
BLITZER: It's, in part...
BLITZER: ...because the Pakistanis are -- are doing what the U.S. has asked them to do, the new government in Pakistan. They're -- they're really going after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in these border areas alongside Afghanistan.
GERGEN: That's absolutely right. And it's -- but it's -- it's -- it's getting tough there. And I -- one of the interesting questions tonight is did they have to wait to get this Karzai thing straightened out before they could make a decision about the troops?
Does that account for some of the indecision we've seen, this stringing out of meetings?
This is very, very unusual for a president to go through this -- this long set of meetings in such a public way...
BORGER: Or does it...
GERGEN: ...about a war strategy.
BORGER: Or does it just give them more time, which is what they...
BORGER: ...you know, which is what they may -- may want.
But, also, don't forget, Joe Biden has been talking about an AFPAK -- Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, as well. So the fact that the secretary of State mentioned that today, I thought, was quite interesting, because they may be trying to find a way to thread the needle to some degree.
BLITZER: I love saying AFPAK. It's sort of like Aflac, but it's AFPAK.
BLITZER: Very different.
BRAZILE: Yes, very (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.
Have a great, great weekend.
It's a question for all of us -- will you, will your family get the swine flu vaccine?
Jack Cafferty -- that's his question.
He's got the answers.
And former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is spotted on the set of a reality TV show.
That and much more coming up on our Political Ticker.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, we now have a statement from the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, concerning the refusal of a Louisiana justice of the peace to marry an interracial company. It was a question I did in the 4:00 hour of THE SITUATION ROOM. It got a huge response.
Here's a statement from the governor: "This is a clear violation of Constitutional rights and federal and state law. Mr. Bardwell" -- the justice of the peace -- "Mr. Bardwell's actions should be fully reviewed by the judiciary commission and disciplinary should be taking immediately, including the revoking of his license."
The question this hour is, do you have any reservations about getting a swine flu shot?
Some of you do.
John in California: "When the government gives the drug companies immunity from any blame if all this goes wrong, both criminally and civilly, then I have reservations. If it has been tested and it's safe, why do the companies need these protections? It makes you think."
Susi in Tucson: "I will not. I don't feel the vaccine is completely safe, nor am I confident it will actually prevent the swine flu.
I'm also one with of those wacky conspiracy theorists who believes the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies are more interested in making more billions than in your health."
David in Orlando: "None whatsoever. Both my wife and I are heart patients. My wife is a heart transplant candidate. As our regular flu shots didn't bother us, we would be crazy not to protect ourselves. We have friends who are anti-vaccine, but with the H1N1 here in our country, we're being very careful with who we associate with. Vaccines all around."
Barb in Arizona says: "I still remember the 1970s, when the swine flu invaded us. The vaccine was produced so quickly, people died from the vaccinations. After 60 days of injecting people, the government stopped it. That has to tell you something. I'm afraid that has happened this time, too. So, no, I will not get it."
And R. in Boston writes: "My husband, a doctor, and I got our regular flu shots two weeks ago, no reactions. This week we got our H1N1 injectable shot. So far, no reactions. Oink, oink, maybe I spoke too soon." Cute. "Last year, avian, this year swine, next year monkey? It looks like we're just making the pharmaceuticals rich via the fear tactic."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and check it out. It might be there.
Have a nice weekend for yourself, Mr. Blitzer.
I will see you on Monday.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
And, you, too.
Jack Cafferty with The Cafferty File.
Disgraced, impeached, removed from office -- the former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, has already lost one job. There's a chance he could hear the words "you're fired" again -- this time, from "The Donald."
BLITZER: On our Political Ticker, guess who could be going head- to-head with Donald Trump this season of "The Apprentice?"
We're talking about the former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. "People" magazine reports the disgraced Blagojevich was spotted on the set of the hit show, along with celebrities Sharon Osbourne and Darryl Strawberry. NBC, however, not confirming the cast. This summer, Blagojevich's wife, Patti, appeared on the network's reality series, "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here".
South Carolina's first lady tomorrow will make her first public appearance since moving out of the governor's mansion in August. An aide says Jenny Sanford will participate in the Susan Komen Race for the Cure in the Charleston area. Her husband, Governor Mark Sanford, admitted to an extramarital affair back in June. She's writing a memoir. It's scheduled to be published in May.
Remember, for the latest political news anytime, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com. Always check out what's going on behind- the-scenes on Twitter -- wolfblitzercnn, all one word.
Tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM, a desperate housewife leaves Wisteria Lane and sits down with me. We're talking about the actress, Eva Longoria. That's coming up tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
Kitty Pilgrim is sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.