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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bodies of Fallen Troops Come Home; GDP Up for the First Time in a Year; Put Politics "On the Back Burner"; Human Crisis and Heartfelt Response; Documenting Jackson's Last Days; Bill Cosby Honored; The Obamas Like You Rarely See Them

Aired October 31, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The president honors fallen Americans in the dark of night. He explains why he wanted those see the flag- draped caskets from Afghanistan. Will it influence his decision on sending more troops in?

Also, long-awaited economic relief. The Obama White House claims credit for better than expected growth. I'll ask the president's top economic adviser if another stimulus package is need or not.

And the controversial idea of putting cameras in the cockpit. This hour, the airline mysteries that could solve and the problems it might create. We want to welcome our viewers of the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the situation room.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like all those who give their lives in service to America, they were doing their duty and they were doing this nation proud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama paying tribute on Monday to 14 Americans killed in two helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. The single dark largest loss of American life there in more than four years. Then on Tuesday, eight U.S. soldiers were killed by roadside bombs helping to make October the deadliest month and deadliest year of the eight-year old war. In the early morning hours of Thursday, President Obama received the bodies of many of this week's casualties at Dover air force base in Delaware.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Obviously, it was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day. Not only our troops but their families as well. Michelle and I are constantly mindful of those sacrifices of the burden that both our troops and our families bear in any wartime situation. It's going to bear on how I see these conflicts. It is something that I think about each and every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The casualties certainly weigh heavily on the president as he considers sending as many as 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. And further complicating matters, a startling report this week about the brother of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai. And joining us now, the Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist and Author, Tom Ricks. He's now with the senator for new America's security. I think that here in Washington. Tom, thanks very much for coming in.

TOM RICKS, CENTER FOR NEW AMERICAN SECURITY (voice-over): You're welcome.

BLITZER: How complicated will this revelation make the situation in Afghanistan "The New York Times" reporting that President Muhammad Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, who's allegedly a huge drug dealer in Afghanistan, has been on the CIA payroll for years.

RICKS: I don't think it complicates the situation in Afghanistan particularly. I think Afghan as assume that this sort of thing is going on. I think they would be surprised if the guy's not on two or three payrolls. I think where it might hurt though is in American's support for continuing this war and for osculating it. So I think it's a problem for President Obama domestically.

BLITZER: It looks like there's a war of leaks going on now between proponents of General McChrystal's plan, opponents of his plan and the Washington media obviously playing a significant role in trying to help one side or the other. Do you see that?

RICKS: I do. And I think there's another player in there which is the Obama white house leaking selectively to show how careful they're being that they're not dithering, that they're deliberating, that they're trying to pass through all the issues here.

BLITZER: The president made the visit to Dover to the air base in Delaware where con coffins were coming back and we saw the emotional pictures of a number of Americans killed in Afghanistan. How does this play on a commander-in-chief to actually see the coffins and meet with the family, the surviving family members?

RICKS: I think it's important that it brings home the cost of what you're doing. Unfortunately, I think it's also a rather sterile sanitary way of looking at the cost of war. The real cost of war, the broken hearts, the broken minds, the shattered families, the mothers who lose their children, that's the real cost. It's not just seeing a quick ceremony. But that said, it's better for President Obama to see it and go to it than to not see it at all.

BLITZER: We're told he's now in the final stages of his decision on whether to accept in whole or part, General McChrystal's recommendations based on what you're hearing, you're reporting, Tom, what do you think he's going to do?

RICKS: I think he will go with essentially the McChrystal plan. I think they'll try to sell it as a compromise between the Biden proposals for counter terror, the Petraeus counterinsurgency approach but I think that actually really is the McChrystal plan. Counterinsurgency with the population centers, counter terror, the selected rating out in the rural area is in the routes in from Pakistan.

BLITZER: Based on what you know, is that a wise decision?

RICKS: I think it is. I think it's about the only chance we have. I think the problem might be in Afghanistan, especially if the runoff goes badly or doesn't happen at all if Dr. Abdullah decides to drops out and you don't have a runoff and you're stuck with Karzai and he's looking like a corrupt, weak and incompetent leader that they were stock with.

BLITZER: I take it with you there for disagree for Thomas Friedman who wrote in "The New York Times" this week, it's time to start pulling out of Afghanistan.

RICKS: I think Thomas Friedman knows a lot about a lot of things but he doesn't know a lot about war.

BLITZER: Can you explain, I don't know what you mean by that.

RICKS: I read that column and I said, this is nice if you have security, but in order for Afghanistan to move forward you better get some security. And if American troops aren't providing it where's it going to come from? There were two enemies. We have to face this war in Iraq. One is the known one. The Taliban and the Islamic extremists. The other is the abuses of the Afghan government. Corruption and brutality. American troops in a counterinsurgency role can handle both those problems. I don't see anything else that can.

BLITZER: That's make the turn to Iraq right now. It looks like there's an uptick in terrorism going there and I assume it will be going more aggressive as we get closer to some sort of election in Iraq. Does the security situation in Iraq seem to you perilous right now?

RICKS: It does in a slow deteriorating way. It's not catastrophically collapsing. It's coming apart slowly at the scenes. And the only thing changing in Iraq that's changing is the American influence is declining. So, all the basic problems that were there for years before the surge are sill there. All of them have led to violence. Questions like how do you share oil revenue? Will Iraq have a strong central government or be a loose confederation? All of those could lead to violence again, in fact, the former philosopher (ph) up in the northwest has a good piece in today's "New York Times" op-ed page basically laying out the reasons that all the elements for a civil war are still there and could come back very quickly.

BLITZER: So if U.S. influence is declining does that automatically mean Iranian influence in Iraq is increasing?

RICKS: I don't know if it can increase any more than it is already. Either the Iranians are the biggest single winners in this war. More than in Baghdad, I think down in Basrah. Baghdad is a big political problem. Basrah is where the oil goes out, that's where the money is. And I think Iran long has had its eyes on Basrah as the prize more than Baghdad.

BLITZER: Tom Ricks, thanks very much for coming in.

RICKS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: A new spurt of economic growth won't last. I'll ask the president's top economic adviser Christina Romer to predict what will happen in the months a head.

Plus, what if airlines put cameras in the cockpit? We're taking a closer look at the benefits and crash investigations and why a lot of pilots simply don't like the idea.

And I'll ask the senate's top republican how he responded to a scolding by the first African-American elected to the chamber decades ago. Stay with us. You're in the situation room.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This is obviously welcome news and affirmation of this recession is abating in the steps we take and had made a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama applauding some of the strongest evidence yet that America's long economic nightmare is easing up. But experts are warning it's not over yet. A new report out this week shows the gross domestic product grew at annual rate of 3.5% in the third quarter of this year. It's the first increase in over a year and the biggest spurt in two years. And as you heard, the president's claiming a good chunk of credit for the rebound. We're joined now by the Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisor Christina Romer. Thanks very much for coming in.

CHRISTINA ROMER, CHAIR COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS: It's great to be here.

BLITZER: How long is this going last 3.5% growth for the third quarter? What will happen in the fourth quarter and next year?

ROMER: I think it's important to start by realizing that this is a milestone, so after what we've been through, having a quarter of 3.5 percent, real GDP growth is an important step forward. You know, I think most of the consensus forecasts are having this kind of growth continuing. Sort of in the 2 to 3% range. And it's a very common consensus forecast. I think that's completely reasonable and absolutely ...

BLITZER: For all of next year, you think?

ROMER: Yes. I mean, I think we have turned the corner and I think we are on the right track so, yes, I do anticipate that we will keep growing at a steady pace. I think the real question is going to be, how fast? And, obviously, the faster we can grow the more we bring down the unemployment rate and the more we create jobs.

BLITZER: Because you, yourself testified the other day before congress that the economic stimulus package, the $787 billion package that most of the economic growth part of it, probably has already been used up and is going to have limited affect down the road.

ROMER: No. What I said is that we had the biggest impact on growth when the stimulus was first ramping up. But it doesn't mean it doesn't continue to have an effect on growth. And absolutely our numbers are that it does continue to raise the growth rate. Just a little bit less than, you know, what we're estimating for this quarter which was somewhere between 3 and 4 percentage points.

BLITZER: How much of this growth that we saw in the third quarter was the result of the "Cash for Clunkers" program. The tax credits for first-time homeowners, the economic stimulus package? I ask the question because a lot of these programs are being phased out?

ROMER: All right. Of course, let's keep in mind why we did all those programs. And precisely, because the private-sector demand wasn't there. You know, our estimates are that, certainly the recovery act in its broad form was accounting as I said for some 3 to 4 percentage points of real GDP growth so that kind of tells you that the absence of it, we could easily have been at zero or even negative. You mentioned the "Cash for Clunkers" for the first-time home buyers.

You know, they both were probably factors. I think "Cash for Clunkers," we know, had a very big kind of impact on auto sales. Our estimates are, you know, we did a report, the CIA did a report that said maybe 4/10th of a point was coming just from the "Cash for Clunkers" program that gives you a little bit of a cent. But the other things continue. The tax cuts. The state fiscal relief. The unemployment compensation. All of those things help to hold off consumer spending.

BLITZER: One of the problems though is that jobs. Jobs are not yet coming back. And there's great fear this could be a jobless recovery. Let me read to you what John Boehner, the top republican in the House of Representatives issued a statement saying this.

"President Obama and his economic team said that trillion-dollar "stimulus" would create jobs immediately and keep the unemployment rate below eight percent. Since then, roughly three million jobs have been lost and unemployment has risen to near 10 percent."

Is he right?

HOMER: No, of course not. What is true is that the fiscal stimulus is absolutely working. It is helping to get us GDP growth. The council of economic advisors did a report back in September that said we thought employment as of the end of August was a million higher than it otherwise would have been. And that puts us right on track to hit what the president's target had been which is 3.5 million jobs relative to the baseline by the end of next year. BLITZER: But you suggested the other day, correct me if I'm wrong, that the unemployment number would probably stay roughly where it is right now, 9.5%, let's say, throughout all of next year?

HOMER: So what is going to matter is how fast GDP grows and you also have to think about, you know, what is being missed here is, of course, the baseline. What did happen is this thing turned out to be more severe than almost anyone had anticipated. We got a lot of news of just how much the economy crashed and how unemployment had risen exceptionally much even for the behavior of GDP, and so we certainly, you know, are fighting against that kind of a downward trajectory. But we absolutely think that it will have an important effect on jobs. We're going to get that direct reporting data tomorrow morning, coming in from the recovery.gov website, which is from the people directly getting some of the government spending and asking them how many jobs have you saved or created and that will give us another read.

BLITZER: Whether you call it a second economic stimulus package or not, do you believe something along those lines is necessary right now to A, keep the economy going? And B, to start creating new jobs?

ROMER: So, let's be clear, right? One of the steps on the way to creating jobs is obviously to get GDP growing again, right? So, we've passed that milestone. A normal kind of sequel pattern is one or two quarters after that we start to see positive job growth and unemployment starting to come down. That's still what we anticipate.

So, I think that's important. And then in terms of whether we need to do more, whether we need to tweak the existing fiscal stimulus like we did with the "Cash for Clunkers" program. Rearrange some things? Whether we need to do more? That's something that certainly congress is thinking about as good public policy, we're thinking about that, too, and various items that one might do.

The other things that I'm really been pushing is we are already seeing moves to extend some programs that are expiring. I think it's important that we put everything on the table so that we make the best choices possible in a world of big budget deficits, you want to spend every dollar as well as you can and get as many jobs as you can.

BLITZER: Christina Romer is the Chair of President Council of Economic Advisors. Thanks very much for coming in.

HOMER: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: And that's our interview with Christina Romer. The white house is now said the economic stimulus package so far, has either saved or created 640,000 jobs.

Airline mishaps conflicting accounts of why they happen. What if there were cameras in the cockpit? That could answer some many questions but critics say they are too invasive. And behind the scenes of the Obama campaign. The road to victory from a perspective you've never seen. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The fallout still being felt after the stunning mistake made by two northwest pilots who flew right past their destination later explaining they were distracted working on their laptops. That incident has added new fuel to a very heated debate. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the over flight of that northwest airlines flight recently has, again, fueled an important debate in the aviation industry. What if there were cameras in the cockpit? It's been talked about for at least ten years now when the NTSB first started pushing forward it the FAA has ruled that cameras are not necessary in cock pits because flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders suffice in safety investigations.

Now, we're joined by Peter Goelz, a Former NTSB Managing Director who has investigated several of the major crashes in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

Peter I want to start with one thing I'm going to use a little bit of a prop here. We have a dome camera that we often see in our workplace that's fastened to a ceiling and it can record images, not quite 360, but it could be adjusted to record a lot of images. That could be install in a cockpit. You've got a lipstick camera here that can fasten to either in a ceiling or something in a cockpit to record images. What are these going to be able to tell us about a pilot's movements in the cockpit that those recorders don't tell us?

Peter Goelz, a Former NTSB Managing Director: Well, there have been a number of accidents in the past decade in which there were questions raised and never fully answered about what was happening inside when the critical moment occurred. And this goes back, Egypt air was certainly one in which the NTSB found that the pilot, the co- pilot had deliberately flown the plane into the ocean of Nantucket. If we had a video recorder, it would have confirmed that finding.

TODD: OK. I'm going to put an image of the cockpit up here again and what the airline pilot's association, the pilot union says is that these cameras are subjective. If they show an image of a pilot pressing a pedal or pulling on a lever, it just shows that person kind of reaching for it. It doesn't actually tell you that, what that person actually did with it or whether the person actually pulled that lever. Isn't that a valid argument?

GOELZ: It is. It is a valid argument but one that does not disqualify the technology. Because today's modern cockpits, like this one, which is an airbus, the data recorder records hundreds of parameters. I mean and the -- what the cockpit camera does, it would confirm that. It would give views of how the pilots were reaching for the various controls. It shows the -- what pedals were being pushed and why the -- and perhaps how much pressure was being pushed on it.

TODD: It also helps, maybe detect some weather ... GOELZ: It can see things externally to the cockpit as well. So, it is not a stand-alone safety tool. But it is a tool that needs -- it compliments the voice recorder and the data recorder.

TODD: I want to read part of airline's pilot association statement, they've come out with a long kind of argument against doing this. A valid one, they raise is the privacy argument. This is from the airline's pilot association, quote -- "Once out in the open, a video recording can be made available in the web from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, forever". As one pilot bluntly stated, "I don't want my spouse and children and grandchildren and a million strangers to be able to watch me die." It's clearly a valid point.

GOELZ: There is no question that privacy rights, particularly in these tragic accidents, are critical. And the voice recorder had been protected over the years. It hadn't been complete. Some courts have released the actual recordings but the voice recorder has been protected to a very high degree. I believe you could pass regulations and put penalties in place that would protect the distribution of any video that was ever taken in the cockpit.

TODD: You think we're going to see cameras in the cockpit any time soon?

GOELZ: I believe with the advances in technology. With the digital cameras that we have now, that it is a tool that's going to be in the cockpit in the near future.

TODD: All right. Peter Goelz, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Wolf, coming possibly soon to an airliner that you may use that I may use, maybe one of these. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch closely to see what happen. He was the first African-American elected to the senate. We'll hear to the former senator Edward Brooks' words of wisdom about today's battle over health care reform. And I'll go one-on-one with the senator to whom he spoke those words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The first African-American elected to the US Senate is urging lawmakers to stop fighting and start working together. Ninety- year-old former Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress gives to civilians. Amid the bitter debate over health care reform, the Massachusetts Republican turned to look at Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

EDWARD BROOKE (R), FORMERUS SENATOR: We can't worry that you all can't get together. We've got to get together. We have no alternative. There's nothing left. It's time for politics to be put aside on the back burner. (END VIDEOCLIP)

BLITZER: Let's bring in the top Republican in the Senate, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Glad to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: What did you think when you heard Former Senator Brooke say that?

MCCONNELL: He's in great shape. Ninety years old and articulate speaker. I agreed with him. I was hoping that health care was actually going to go forward in a bipartisan basis, but unfortunately that seems to have broken down.

BLITZER: What was the main reason it broke down?

MCCONNELL: Well, I think the problem here is the core of the bill. It's a half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, $400,000 billion in new taxes on individuals and businesses, higher insurance premiums for the 85 percent of American who have health insurance and now they may put in a government-run insurance company on top of it.

Wolf, that is not the kind of approach to this problem that is designed to generate bipartisan support. In fact, so far, the only thing bipartisan is the opposition to it. In fact, my counterpart, Senator Reed, is having a hard time convincing his 60 Democrats to even vote to bring the bill up.

BLITZER: Well, here's the question. Do you believe - given the lopsided majorities that the Democrats have in the Senate and the House - do you believe that there's any way you can prevent the president from getting some sort of health care reform legislation signed into law?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's a big majority they have in the House, and the 60 votes, which is what you need to control the Senate they have in the Senate, they ought to be able to do anything they want to, Wolf. The problem they're having is selling it to their own members. You know, in the Senate, you have to vote to go to a bill, and I'm reminded of that famous quote from John Kerry during the 2004 election where he said he voted for it before he said he voted against it.

Senator Reed is trying to convince a number of moderate Democrats to vote to get on the bill, knowing full well that they'll later have to explain why they first voted for it and then voted against it.

BLITZER: Well, you're definitely going to filibuster. In - in other words, that would up require 60 votes to break a filibuster, but what I hear you saying is that you as a Republican leader, you will definitely filibuster this?

MCCONNELL: Well, every - every measure in the Senate of any degree of controversy, whether my side has been on the majority or the minorities, is always subject to 60 votes. That is routine in the Senate (ph).

BLITZER: That's the filibuster law (ph).

MCCONNELL: That's routine in the Senate.

BLITZER: So - so you're definitely going to filibuster.

MCCONNELL: That was routine in the Senate, Wolf. That is the way we've operated for many, many years in the Senate. No matter who was in the majority, it's taken 60 votes, in other words, a supermajority to do virtually everything.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) as you know, some Democrats are saying if - if push comes to shove, they can go into this legislative procedure known as "reconciliation" which would require 51 votes to get it approved?

MCCONNELL: Yes, and the good thing about that is we - we'd get to start all over and that's really what ought to be done here. This matter is so controversial that we really ought to step back and start over with a truly bipartisan process that has an approach to this such as - that includes at least some of the things we've been recommending that, you know, it could get the kind of broad, bipartisan support that Ed Brooke and others would like to see.

BLITZER: How worried are you that the democrats were trying to paint Republicans as the "Party of No" - no to this, no to that. How worried are you that that could stick?

MCCONNELL: I'm not worried about it at all. They have a majority - a supermajority in the Senate. They can do anything they want to. Their problem is not with my side. Their problems is with their own side.

BLITZER: We - we did some checking your home state of Kentucky, according to the Census bureau approximately 575, 000 people who live in Kentucky don't have any health insurance at all right now. What - what do you - what do you - do you - do you want to help them get health insurance?

MCCONNELL: I sure do, and, you know, there's a better way to get at this, and one of the things we could do to be - would be to equalize the tax code. Right now if you're working at a company that provides health insurance, that company can deduct the cost of insurance on its corporate tax return. But if you're an individual purchaser of insurance out on the open market, it's not deductible to you.

There are number of things that we can reduce the number - to do to reduce the number of uninsured. There are 11 million Americans who are eligible for Medicaid, the program for the poor, they just aren't signed up. I mean, everybody would like to - to diminish the number of uninsured Americans. The question, Wolf, is is the - is the approach that the majority has taken the best way to do it? I think the answer is "no."

BLITZER: Do you support Senator Leahy's proposal to remove the antitrust exception for the health insurance industry?

MCCONNELL: I - I may well end up supporting that. I don't think it'll have much to do with the problem. What we really need is interstate insurance competition, which is another idea Republicans have been promoting. You know, why shouldn't an uninsured person in Kentucky be able to buy insurance from a company in New York, for example? Why don't we have interstate insurance competition?

That would probably be the best thing we could do and I'm open to discussing the other, but I don't think it'll have much of an impact on the problem that we're talking about.

BLITZER: Let me pick your brain for a moment on Afghanistan, right now the president gearing up for a huge decision about potentially sending thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. Thomas Friedman, the columnist for "The New York Times," writes this today and I'll quote a line from it, "We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interest to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan." Is he right?

MCCONNELL: Well, I'm convinced that a counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to - to get the loyalty of the Afghan people is the only way we can possibly succeed. It worked in Iraq. It was difficult, but it worked in Iraq. I think it can work in Afghanistan. I think the best way forward, with all due respect to Tom Friedman, is to follow the advice of our military leaders as opposed to, you know, everybody else who's got a - got an opinion here.

And we need to remember that the 9/11 attacks were launched from Afghanistan. They were launched when the Taliban was in charge of the government, and do we really want to take a chance of going back to a time when a regime like the Taliban, which terrorized women and girls, was in charge in Afghanistan? And, by the way, the Taliban over in Pakistan is a threat to that government, too, and it has nuclear weapons.

I - I'm not sure we've got a good alternative but to deal with this problem at its source so we don't have to deal with it again here in the United States in years to come.

BLITZER: Senator McConnell, thanks for coming in.

MCCONNELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Capturing war, grief and the natural disasters, all in pictures - remarkable pictures. You'll see some moving images of crises and heart-felt humanitarian response.

The book is "A Thousand Words." I'll talk to the head of the group putting it out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Children in need, innocent civilians slaughtered and devastated masses. We've all seen the crises, but not quite like this. A new book just out is entitled "A Thousand Words: Photos from the Field." It chronicles crises in pictures but also human compassion and innovative responses.

Joining us now is Nancy Aossey. She's the president and CEO of the International Medical Corps, the group putting out this group (ph). Nancy, thanks very much for coming in, thanks for the work you do and for this book.

Tell our viewers briefly, what is the International Medical Corps?

NANCY AOSSEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS: The International Medical Corps is a humanitarian relief and development organization. We're headquartered right here in Los Angeles - founded in Los Angeles in 1984. And what we do is we focus in conflict areas and in natural disasters. We try to reach the people that are hardest to reach in the most underserved areas and we provide health care training and health services to populations who would otherwise have no access to such humanitarian services.

BLITZER: And what was the purpose of putting together this book?

AOSSEY: The purpose of the book was to fundamentally celebrate the 25 years of work by the International Medical Corps and to show the images that we've experienced, that we've witnessed around the world in the various countries that we've worked in.

You know, pictures tell a thousand words, and, as we know, many of these crises, we read about them in the papers, we - we hear about them all the time, but sometimes there's no better way to capture it than to capture the - the face of a child or - or the - the face of an Afghan woman in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: I want you to describe why these are such powerful images. This first one shows in Afghanistan and Pakistan, some surgery going on. What's going on here?

AOSSEY: Well, this is our founder, Dr. Bob Simon, who when actually - he was the first American doctor to go into Afghanistan after the Soviet Union had invaded it in '79, and this is one of the reasons why I joined the organization myself shortly after Bob founding it.

He's - he's doing a training lab there and, as you can see, he's training advanced Afghan medics so that they can return to their villages and treat people themselves, and it captures for me the most important part of our work, which is the training and the teaching. And if you look at the intensity of the Afghan faces, you will see why that's so important.

BLITZER: I can see the intensity. There's a picture also in Rwanda, a very moving picture of a little boy with his leg in a cast. Tell us about this photo.

AOSSEY: Everyone - the genocide and the brutality in Rwanda is well known. When International Medical Corps entered Rwanda, we actually went into the country, not just on the border, and started humanitarian assistance at a hospital at Kibungo. It was brutal, it was terrible, there were lots of gruesome images, and the reason why we like this mage is that despite all the brutality and the terrible things that were happening in Rwanda during the genocide, you see the resilience of this little boy's face as he had an opportunity to get help at our hospital in Kibungo.

BLITZER: And take a look of this picture of a little boy and his grandfather, shocking image in Somalia. You can see the starvation so evident.

AOSSEY: Yes. This - this was in Baidoa in 1992. I was there at the time - it was called "The City of Death" and the starvation - adults and children were dying. The International Medical Corps set up a therapeutic feeding program in Baidoa. You can see there those little beds are crates. We used those for medical supplies, and we were treating - this is a little boy and his grandfather. We were treating both adults and - and children at the same time.

You know, if I could add one thing about the collection of the photos in this book, Wolf, one of our volunteers, a woman by the name of Stacy Twilley who put this book together, went through 10,000 photographs, photographs like the one you've just seen, and with a group of photographers picked some of the most which she thought compelling photos to kind of illustrate that was happening at the time, and that photo, for me - it's actually hanging on my wall in my office - really, really captured the massive devastation of the starvation in Somalia at that time.

BLITZER: Nancy Aossey of the International Medical Corps. Nancy, thanks for doing this. Thanks for the book. It's really a powerful book, indeed. We appreciate your joining us.

AOSSEY: Thank you, Wolf, for having us.

BLITZER: A star-stud affair in Washington to honor one of America's kings of comedy. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Celebrities turned out in Los Angeles this week for the premier of Michael Jackson's "This Is It." The documentary offers a behind the scenes look at the pop star's final days as he prepared for a series of concerts in London. CNN Entertainment Correspondent Kareen Wynter was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDET: From aerialists dangling in crystal chandeliers to some of Hollywood's brightest A- list stars, the world premiere of Michael Jackson's "This Is It" had just about everyone racing to grab a good seat. It seemed as if declining an invite to this exclusive event would have been a crime.

Jackson's militant attention to detail is not missed in the film, which also features the making of several special-effects and computer-generated moments.

Going beyond the limitations of a traditional concert performance, the documentary captures an artist at work, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

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BLITZER: What a talent! I'm going to see this film in the coming days, no doubt about that.

All right, some of the biggest names in comedy were here in Washington, DC this week to honor Bill Cosby. Cosby received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Here are some of the evening's highlights.

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CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: ... supposedly funny.

JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN: People are going to say, boy, I thought those two guys would be funny together. But we're not.

ROCK: No, we're not. Not compared to Bill Cosby.

SEINFELD: No. Not compared to Dr. Bill Cosby.

PHYLICIA RASHAD, ACTRESS: We really did come to that place where we didn't have to finish the sentences. We could complete each other's sentences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill Cosby is three things: he's a funny man, he's a funny person, and he's a funny guy.

CARK REINER, DIRECTOR: Sheldon and I went back to the office and Sheldon said to me - I never forgot this - he said, "Can he act?" And I said, "Can he act? He just did Noah talking to God!"

MALCOLM-JAMAL WARNER, ACTOR: Mr. Cosby is a champion in the advice-giving department. Whether you want to hear it or not.

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: And I turned the radio on and there's Ray Charles singing, "The nighttime is the right time" and I'd get what my wife says is - I get beamed. That's what she thinks - about my ideas. She thinks that space ships beam me. Tonight is a great, great night for - for me. It's for my family. But, also, I - I think that it's for - for you people and the people who couldn't get in tonight who purchased all those albums, who enjoyed all those performances. And I just want you to know that each and every time I'd plant my feet, if it is to perform for you, you're going to get everything I have.

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BLITZER: It was a great night. I was at the Kennedy Center for the tribute. Past recipients of the award include George Carlin, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg. Congratulations to Bill Cosby. A great talent indeed. Almost a year after Barack Obama won the White House, we're getting a remarkable behind the scenes look at his campaign. Just ahead, clips from a documentary showing the future president as you haven't seen him before.

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BLITZER: Check your calendar and you'll notice it's been almost exactly one year since the election of the first African-American president of the United States. To mark the upcoming anniversary, a unique documentary looks back. HBO's "We the People" offers never before seen footage inside the Obama campaign, like this revealing moment of the soon-to-be First Lady worried about what a campaign might do to her family.

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MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Malia (INAUDIBLE). I had, you know, a lot of practical questions that I needed answers to before I could say definitively that this is something that I could handle. How is this going to work? What would be the schedule? How often would Barack be on the road? What would be expected of me as - as a campaigner and spokesperson?

Now I'm really not tired. Ice cream boost. You want to hold on to this?

MALIA OBAMA, FIRST DAUGHTER OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a list to do (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, finish it.

MICHELLE OBAMA: And how would we structure our - our time to ensure that our girls would not be pulled out of their lives. How much would it cost us as a family? How are financially going to handle me reducing my hours at work to be able to participate? What would the campaign do, if anything, about security?

We obviously, got all the - those questions answered to my satisfaction, and, as a result, we are now running for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. Is this Barbara. My name is (INAUDIBLE). I'm 9 years old. I'm a volunteer with the Obama campaign. How are you. Where is Diana? Where is Diana?

Obama is a candidate running for president. (INAUDIBLE) not Diana or Barbara (ph).

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I was practicing the speech for the first time and I came to the end where I talked about King speaking in the Lincoln Memorial, and - and I choked up and I had to stop. Dr. King's speech happened when I was 2 years old, so, you know, anybody who's 60 or over remembers it vividly, and the majority of African-Americans at that time couldn't vote, much less run for president. And it is that promise that 45 years ago today brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a mall in Washington before Lincoln's Memorial and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We won!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Way to go!

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BLITZER: What a documentary from our sister network, HBO.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 PM Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 PM Eastern right here on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.

The news continues next on CNN.