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President Obama Meets With Chinese President; Catholic Church's Ultimatum to D.C. Lawmakers; New Breast Cancer Guidelines Stir Controversy
Aired November 17, 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: President Obama's economic policy is made in China. Will he leave Beijing with anything to help hard-hit Americans back here at home? This hour, the bottom line on his talks with communist leaders. Lots at stake.
The Catholic Church is giving the nation's capital an ultimatum, in effect, over same-sex marriage, and that could hurt tens of thousands of people badly in need of Catholic Charities.
And a heated debate over controversial new guidelines on breast cancer screening -- are women in their 40s being put at risk in part to save money? I will ask a member of the panel behind these new recommendations and a congresswoman who is a breast cancer survivor.
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.
President Obama playing tourist in China's Forbidden City. If he bought any souvenirs, then he experienced one of America's biggest problems with the Beijing government firsthand. Right now, one Chinese yuan is worth about 15 cents in U.S. currency. It's been that way for over a year, after China allowed the exchange rate to soar in previous years.
That makes Chinese exports to this country relatively cheap and U.S. exports to China relatively expensive. Some economists say that's costing Americans lots of jobs. Those were just some of the tough issues on the table today in Mr. Obama's first full-blown summit with the Chinese president.
Let's turn to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She is working this story for us.
Jill, what do we know? How much real progress, if any, was there?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, on some issues, there was. On some, there were not. But, when it comes to economics, you know, Wolf, gone are the days when an American president could get on a plane, fly to Beijing, and try to dictate to China what it should do.
More and more, this is a dialogue of equals. And, on this trip, when it comes to economics and trade, neither side budged. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): In Beijing's Great Hall of the People, tightly scripted statements, no journalist questions allowed. President Obama lays out a mutual pledge for balanced economic growth.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: a strategy where America saves more, spends less, reduces our long-term debt, and where China makes adjustments across a broad range of policies to rebalance its economy and spur domestic demand.
DOUGHERTY: But behind that careful phrasing, real differences lurk. China holds $800 billion in U.S. debt. That limits Mr. Obama's ability to pressure China. But he thinks Beijing is holding the value of its currency, the yuan, artificially low. That hurts U.S. exporters, and the president wants China to let the value of the yuan rise.
OBAMA: And I was pleased to note the Chinese commitment, made in past statements, to move toward a more market-oriented exchange rate over time.
DOUGHERTY: The Chinese think the U.S. is moving towards protectionism, slapping duties on Chinese-made tires and steel.
HU JINTAO, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): I stressed to President Obama that under the current circumstances, our two countries need to oppose and reject protectionism in all its manifestations in an even stronger stand.
DOUGHERTY: But China is doing some things right, as President Obama sees it, carrying out a massive economic stimulus program that's helping the world economy to revive.
Now, if only Chinese consumers would start buying more -- his day in Beijing, a state banquet and a quick tour of the Forbidden City, next stop, the Great Wall of China.
OBAMA: Oh, it's beautiful, and what a magnificent place to visit.
DOUGHERTY: But this relationship now goes way beyond economics. The U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, says, it's gone global, and he says that there are certain issues right now in the world that only these two countries can solve -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He's probably right, the ambassador. Thanks very much for that, Jill.
Let's get to another critical issue right now, Afghanistan, the president critically important decision in the works right now, no decision yet on whether to deploy thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. But one mother in uniform is versing -- is fighting the U.S. military right now. She's in trouble for failing to deploy to Afghanistan because, she says, she had no one to take care of her baby.
Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's covering this story.
We hear about thousands and thousands of troops, 68,000...
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: ... already in Afghanistan, maybe 30,000 or 40,000 more on the way. This is a story of one troop who is in deep trouble right now.
TODD: That's right, one among thousands of single parents who do deploy and who are able to find care for their children. However, this young mother said she tried to arrange everything that she could for her son, that everything had fallen through, and that she had no one to turn to for his care. Army officials say, she committed misconduct, and they are investigating.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say hi.
TODD (voice-over): Kamani Hutchinson, less than a year old and caught up in a high-profile dispute between his mom and the U.S. Army. Kamani's mom, Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, is restricted to her post at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
A single mother, she is under investigation by the Army after missing her deployment to Afghanistan earlier this month. An official at Fort Stewart tells CNN, Specialist Hutchinson showed up practically on the eve of her deployment and said her family care plan had fallen through, that she couldn't find anyone to care for Kamani.
The official wouldn't discuss possible charges she could face, but her civilian lawyer did with CNN affiliate KGO.
RAI SUE SUSSMAN, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIALIST ALEXIS HUTCHINSON: AWOL, missing movement, desertion, failure to have a family care plan, and disobeying an officer.
TODD: The attorney told CNN, the Army threatened to court- martial Hutchinson if she didn't deploy after reneging on a promise to give her more time to find care for her son. A spokesman at Fort Stewart emphatically denies both claims.
KEVIN LARSON, SPOKESMAN FOR FORT STEWART: There were some reports over the weekend that alleged that she told her command that her family care plan had fallen apart and that she was going to be deployed regardless of that family care plan falling apart. What I can tell you is, all those statements are essentially misleading and not true.
TODD: Kevin Larson said that her unit knew for months that it would deploy to Afghanistan, that she was given an extension back in August and September to try to arrange care, and that it wasn't until the last moment, practically on the eve of deployment, as we reported, that she showed up and said that she had no one to care for her son.
Now, as for Army regulations, right here in black and white, there is a form called form DA-5305, the family care plan that each soldier has to agree to when they sign up. It says -- quote -- "Failure to maintain a family care plan could subject the soldier to separation, administrative action or disciplinary action."
Then, in a checkoff space for soldiers, it says -- quote -- "If arrangements for the care of my family members fail to work, I am not automatically excused from prescribed duties, unit deployment or reassignment."
Wolf, it does say it on the regulations when you sign up. She had to at least have taken a look at that at some point. But everything that she tried did fall through, according to her.
BLITZER: What kind of strategy is her lawyer pursuing?
TODD: Well, we spoke to her lawyer about that. The lawyer said that she is going to try to get an administrative discharge under a military statute called Chapter 5-A. That code states that you cannot perform your duties because of parenting responsibilities. It does seem to be a potential out here. You know, legal experts can tell us more about that. But the former JAG officer we spoke with, Michelle McClure (ph), says that's probably going to be how this case resolves itself.
BLITZER: Would that be an honorable discharge, a general discharge, a dishonorable discharge?
TODD: Her lawyer says it's going to be an honorable discharge -- an administrative discharge, but essentially would be honorable. That's according to her attorney.
BLITZER: Good story, Brian Todd. Thanks very much, a heartbreaking story, because a lot of families are going through that right now.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The Obama administration is bragging about jobs saved or created in more than 400 congressional districts that do not exist.
ABC News broke this incredible story, finding examples on the government's recovery Web site, including hundreds of millions of dollars spent and jobs created in nonexistent or misidentified districts.
For example, Recovery.gov says 30 jobs were created or saved in Arizona's 15th Congressional District, using just under $800,000 in stimulus spending.
There is no 15th Congressional District in Arizona. The entire state only has eight. Garbage like this turned up in Oklahoma, Iowa, Connecticut, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and many, many other places.
The Recovery Board, which was created to track the $787 billion in stimulus money and provide an unprecedented level of transparency, is chalking all of this up to human error. They say they report what recipients like state governments or federal agencies submit to them, and that some of those recipients don't know what district they live in.
Shouldn't someone at the Recovery Board know how many congressional districts there are in Arizona? We're being treated like mushrooms here, people, being kept in the dark, fed a diet of -- well, you know.
ABC News also reports, the White House deleted 60,000 jobs from the count of those saved or created in a recent report because the numbers were based on unrealistic data. Democratic Congressman David Obey, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, calls the inaccuracies outrageous, and says, the administration "owes every American a commitment to work night and day to correct the ludicrous mistakes" -- unquote.
So, here's the question. How much faith do you have in stimulus spending, if the administration is reporting job creation in places that don't even exist?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and let us know how that sits with you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's pretty embarrassing, those statistics, Jack.
CAFFERTY: I mean, come on. I -- I...
CAFFERTY: You -- I mean, you can't -- there's no way to even respond to it. You have just got to (INAUDIBLE)
BLITZER: That was good. Can you do that again for me?
BLITZER: Thank you.
Jack Cafferty will be back.
The Catholic Church is threatening to end charitable programs here in the nation's capital. Is the church crossing the line in its efforts to influence a proposed same-sex marriage law? I will ask the president of the Catholic University of America, Father David O'Connell. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And Dick Cheney vs. Sarah Palin? Are they on opposite sides of a hot Republican campaign? And, if they are, which one is likely to have more pull?
And if you're in the market for a new car, an American model is getting top honors today, beating out some Japanese rivals.
BLITZER: In the United States Senate right now, members are waiting for the next shoe to drop in the debate over health care reform.
Our new poll shows Americans are closely divided over the issue. Take a look at this. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 30 percent of Americans want the Senate to pass the House version of reform with few changes. Twenty-two percent want major changes. Twenty-eight percent say the Senate should simply start from scratch. Seventeen percent say stop working on health care reform altogether.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She is up on Capitol Hill working her sources for us.
Where do things stand right now, Dana, because I thought the Senate was supposed to take up the issue in these days?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Everybody did. And that's why the air is really electric right now.
There's -- it seems as though everybody is holding their breath -- breath, Wolf, trying to figure out what is going to happen, and specifically waiting for the Democratic leadership to hear from the Congressional Budget Office on how much their Senate bill will cost.
Until that happens we won't see what actually is in the Senate health care bill.
We expected the CBO to give that information to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today. I just got word from a Democratic source that is not going to happen. It's more likely tomorrow. But, again, the issue is, until they get that information, the Senate majority leader won't tell us what is in his bill, and he's in an awkward position of still trying to get buzz for it.
Listen to what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Of all the bills we have seen, it will be the best, saves more money, is more protective of Medicare, is a bill that's good for the American people. I'm not going to get into the numbers today, but it will -- I think, if you're not impressed, you should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, whether Senator Reid can impress enough Democrats, especially -- that's really what matters here -- is an open question because, again, nobody has seen what's in this bill yet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, does he know for sure that he has 60 votes, which will be necessary to even start a debate if the Republicans want to filibuster?
BASH: He said today -- I asked him that question -- he said he was cautiously optimistic. But you just said really what is key here.
And that is that Democrats need 60 votes even to start debate. They can't rely on any Republicans, so they need all 60 senators who -- who break with Democrats to vote yes. And let me put a couple of pictures on the screen to show you some potential problems for the Democratic leadership.
First, two moderate Democrats from conservative states, Blanche Lincoln, who is up for reelection next year -- she will have a tough reelection battle -- and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, they are getting a lot of pressure back home to vote no, even to start debate.
And, so, they are saying they are not going to be able to decide until they see this bill. They are big question marks. Another potential problem, maybe even a bigger problem for the Democratic leadership, is Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Wolf. She told me today she is actually leaning no, leaning no on voting to start debate.
That could be a big problem, because, if she does go ahead with that, that could sink this Democrats' health care bill in the Senate even before it starts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And correct me if I'm wrong, Dana. Didn't Joe Lieberman say flatly that if there is the so-called public option, he will vote against allowing this thing to go forward?
BASH: He will actually -- this is where the Senate process becomes a little bit tricky. What he was -- was clear about is, he actually said he will vote yes to begin debate. He will -- he will give the Democratic leadership that vote.
But what he did make clear -- and he is standing by this -- is, once this bill is on the Senate floor, if the Senate -- if the bill has a public option, any form of a public option in it, he won't vote yes to pass it, ultimately, in the Senate. That's what he's saying.
BLITZER: Yes. I thought he had backtracked, even saying that he would support a filibuster, but I will take your word for it.
BLITZER: Let's just triple-check and make sure we're all on the same page, Dana. BASH: Yes, the process is very -- is very intricate and interesting.
BLITZER: Let's just -- I know he's traveling abroad right now, but we will check with his office to see precisely where he stands on a filibuster, because the Democrats need 60 votes. Fifty-nine will be failure. Sixty would be success, at least in this -- in this particular level at this stage of the health care reform process.
Dana, thanks very much.
Sarah Palin vs. Dick Cheney -- the former vice presidential hopeful is not necessarily seeing eye to eye with the former vice president. At issue, who should be the next governor of Texas? Although Palin supports the current governor, Rick Perry, we have learned that Dick Cheney is set to endorse Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. This could touch off a Republican family feud.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Why is Cheney supporting Kay Bailey Hutchison?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is kind of a fight, mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most conservative of them all? And Dick Cheney is there because he wants to shore up Senator Hutchison's conservative credentials.
I was told today by a Republican source very involved in Texas politics that don't forget that Cheney and the senator go back -- go back a long ways, to when he was living in Dallas when he was CEO of Halliburton.
And there's a real sense in the Hutchison campaign, which has been down in the polls, that Cheney can be very helpful with undecided voters. I never thought I would hear myself say that, but it's undecided Republican voters. And those are the ones that are going to be very, very crucial in this Republican contest.
BLITZER: All right, in the Republican context, who is more important for a candidate? Would it be Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin among Republicans and others who might vote in this Republican primary?
Well, first of all, Wolf, I'm not trying to duck the question, but you would have to say that they are both very, very popular with Republicans. Let's take a look at our polls, which show that, among Republicans, a favorable opinion of Dick Cheney, 66 percent, Sarah Palin, 80 percent, so, you would have to say, overall, both very popular.
But inside the state of Texas, I was told by Republican today, the two most popular people in Texas are former President Bush and Laura Bush, and that Dick Cheney is probably in the top five inside the state. And, of course, as you know, Wolf, that's what matters in -- in primaries. And, so, folks are saying Dick Cheney has a bigger footprint in Texas than Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: Well, he lived in Texas for several years...
BORGER: That's right.
BLITZER: ... after the first Bush administration.
BORGER: That's right.
BLITZER: So, he has got a little base there himself.
BORGER: He's the hometown guy, kind of.
BLITZER: Yes, OK.
BLITZER: Don't go away. We're -- you're coming back.
A prominent Catholic leader is talking about his family's nightmare. Father David O'Connell, he's president of the Catholic University of America here in Washington, D.C. He's here discussing his brother's swine flu and how the faithful can avoid swine flu at church. We're talking to him about that and a lot more.
And, in many countries, you have the right to protest, but, in Iran, you could be put to death. Wait until you hear what's happened now, after so many people demonstrated against Iran's presidential election.
BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Betty, what's going on?
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, Chicago police say the investigation will continue into the death of Michael Scott, the chairman of the city's board of education, this despite a ruling by the medical examiner that the death was a suicide. Scott had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury which was looking into admissions at elite public schools. Scott had denied any wrongdoing.
In Iran, five more death sentences have been handed down in a mass trial of more than 100 people. They were arrested during street demonstrations like that one right there which was against as they saw was the fraudulent reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to Iranian state television, the five were members of terrorist or armed opposition groups. A total of eight people have been sentenced to death so far. In the Czech capital, Prague, former President Vaclav Havel spoke, and American folk singer Joan Baez sang.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: All right. Well, thousands marched in the street to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, their peaceful transition from communism to democracy. The Czech Republic, once part of Soviet nation of Czechoslovakia, is an independent member of the European Union today.
And listen to this. The Ford Fusion -- yes, Ford Fusion -- named the "Motor Trend" car of the year, beating out both the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, two of the bestselling cars in the midsized category.
"Motor Trend"'s praises the Fusion for its engineering excellence and Ford's attention to detail.
All right. So, Wolf, you going to get one of those?
BLITZER: Good for Ford. I don't know if I'm going to get one.
BLITZER: But it's impressive that Ford...
NGUYEN: It is.
BLITZER: Ford is doing really well, never needed any government bailout money.
BLITZER: We should be proud of Ford for...
NGUYEN: Good for them.
BLITZER: ... dealing with their own problems on their own and doing rather well in the process.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
The Catholic Church is making a bold threat: If the city of Washington passes a bill that allows same-sex marriage to go forward, the church will have something to do, something that might dramatically impact thousands of needy people right here in the nation's capital. You will hear the details. And I will be speaking with the president of the Catholic University here in Washington, Father David O'Connell.
And who made the decision to update the guidelines for women getting mammograms? It's causing a huge controversy. A group not involved is raising some eyebrows.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Should women in their 40s continue to get mammograms or not? A new government guideline is creating disagreement among experts and lots of confusion among patients. We're going to talk to a congresswoman, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's a breast cancer survivor, has very strong views on this new government study that has just come out.
Also, 49 million people here in the United States have had trouble getting enough food over the course of the last year, 17 million children. This is not a developing country. Men, women and children are facing hunger right here in the United States. It's pretty shocking when you hear the numbers.
The agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, he's coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about what's behind his department's shocking new report.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, here in Washington, D.C., there's a tense political standoff. On one side, the charity for the Catholic Church. On the other side, gay rights supporters and the D.C. City Council. If the council passes legislation the Catholic Church is against, it could have a dramatic impact on thousands and thousands of needy people here in Washington, D.C.
Let's go to CNN's Brooke Baldwin. She's got some background on a developing story here in Washington.
Brooke, what's going on?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wow. What a story, indeed, Wolf.
Really, it's a battle that boils down to church morals, human rights and legislative language. It's heated, as you can imagine, and so far it seems neither side it backing down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we met a little bit more than three years ago at a friend's birthday party.
BALDWIN (voice-over): Michael and Steve want to get married, and if same-sex marriage legislation passes next month in Washington, D.C., they can. And one day they would like to adopt. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, some day we might want to start a family, and we want to be able to be married to have all of the rights and protections available to every couple, especially if we are to parent children, because they need those protections as well.
BALDWIN: But adoption in D.C. may become more difficult, because if this marriage bill passes, the Catholic Church says it will be forced to sever social service contracts with the city that provide help to over 68,000 people every year.
ED ORZECHOWSKI, CEO, CATHOLIC CHARITIES: All we're asking for is to allow us to stay faithful to our teaching.
BALDWIN: Ed Orzechowski knows. As CEO of Catholic Charities, the church's social service arm, under the current bill his group would be prohibited from refusing to facilitate adoption services to same-sex couples and forced to provide benefits to same-sex spouses it employs. But the church won't do that. It says it violates their basic teachings. So Catholic Charities says it would is over its partnership with the city, a move that would cost the church $25 million a year, half of the Catholic Charities' annual budget.
The proposed law provides exemption to churches and clergy that don't want to perform same-sex marriages, but the church is asking for a broader exemption.
ORZECHOWSKI: Fundamentally, we would like to see the religious exemption broadened, which would allow Catholic Charities to continue the partnership that we've had with the district government for decades, and providing the quality, effective social services that we do day in and day out.
BALDWIN: In 2006, Boston's Catholic Charities did de-list itself as an adopting agency because they couldn't get an exemption to state anti-discrimination laws. But under D.C.'s current legislative language, City Councilwoman Mary Cheh says Catholic Charities would have to help everybody.
MARY CHEH, WASHINGTON CITY COUNCIL: It would appear as though under current law that we would pass it, and if those services involve adoptions, then it would be discriminatory for them to pick and choose couples whom they would serve.
BALDWIN: Including this couple and this practicing Catholic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, my hope is just that the church will continue to support and find ways to support families like ours.
BALDWIN: So, I'm told by both the church and the D.C. City Council here that the conversations continue. Both groups don't want to have to sever this partnership which serves a third of the city's homeless population, but if Catholic Charities pull out, Wolf, the city will have to find another group to replace them. And, you know, when we asked Mary Cheh who that might be, she couldn't immediately think of anyone -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brooke. Thanks very much.
Amid this controversy, there's one glaring question that many people, especially needy people, want to know from the Catholic Church.
BLITZER: And joining us now, the president of the Catholic University of America here in Washington, D.C., Father David O'Connell.
Father O'Connell, thanks very much for coming in.
FATHER DAVID O'CONNELL, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to get through a lot of issues, sensitive issues right now, and you can help explain the Catholic Church's perspective on this.
First of all, if the District of Columbia, like several other states, goes ahead and approves same-sex marriages, will Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., stop helping the district with homeless shelters and other charitable needs?
O'CONNELL: The Archbishop of Washington and the staff of the office of the Archdiocese of Washington has indicated as late as yesterday that it has no intention to stop serving the needs of the people of the Archdiocese of Washington, especially the poorest of the poor.
BLITZER: Working together with the government of the District of Columbia?
O'CONNELL: It wants to work together with the government of the District of Columbia, but the problem is legislation introduced that contravenes or compromises the religious freedom that we enjoy here as part of the Catholic Church.
BLITZER: How does it do that?
O'CONNELL: Well, it will force us or put us into a situation where we may be at legal risk because of our own teachings and the beliefs that we experience and express that do not allow us to engage some of the activities that are supported or promoted in the legislation.
BLITZER: So, the bottom line is if Washington, D.C., like Connecticut and some other states, they go ahead and have same-sex marriage, Catholic Charities will continue business as usual or make changes?
O'CONNELL: We will do its best to continue as usual, but, again, the legislation puts our relationship with the District of Columbia at risk, and that's the issue. It's not that we want to do this, that we need to do this, that we have to do this, but we can't stand for -- we can't represent something that goes against our core beliefs, and this is an issue that is part of our core beliefs.
BLITZER: Because several states, as you know, have same-sex marriage, and one D.C. Council member at large said this -- he said "They" -- referring to Catholic Charities -- "They provide these services in other states where same-sex marriages are permitted. I do not understand why they would not be able to provide them here."
O'CONNELL: Well, again, the issue is to put at risk. It's a legal risk. It's not saying what is going to happen. It's just putting us in a situation where it may happen, and that's the fear.
BLITZER: So what I hear you cautioning the D.C. government -- don't do this.
O'CONNELL: Think before you do this. Think of the consequences and think of the real-life people who may be hurt because of the actions that are taken.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let's move on and talk about abortion right now, with the health care reform legislation.
The House passed new language going beyond what's called the Hyde Amendment that abortion rights advocates say would really undermine a woman's opportunity to have an abortion. If that new language that was inserted in the House is removed, will the Catholic Church go along and accept what the president says is a neutral piece of legislation, the status quo?
O'CONNELL: Well, as you know, the Church sees the right to life, it sees abortion, not simply as a church teaching or a church issue, but as a human issue. There's a human life at stake here. And the Church would have a very difficult time supporting health care reform and health care legislation that does not include protection for life from cradle to grave.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is the Stupak Amendment, as it's called, that passed the House has to be in the final version for the Catholic Church to support it?
O'CONNELL: There has to be protection of life at all its stages in whatever legislation is put forward.
BLITZER: So if it's diminished in any way, you're saying you won't support it?
O'CONNELL: It will cause problems. It will cause problems for the Catholic Church.
BLITZER: Once again, there's another stipulation in this letter that the Catholic bishops wrote to members of Congress saying that health care reform has to also provide insurance, medical insurance, for immigrants in the United States. But it's sort of vague in saying if it's just legal immigrants or legal and illegal immigrants. Explain your understanding of that line in that letter from the Catholic bishops.
O'CONNELL: Well, you have to understand the fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church and the fundamental belief of the Catholic Church in all of these issues -- the issue of same-sex marriage, the issue of the right to life, and the issue of immigration. The Church's teaching is one of fundamental support for the dignity of every human being at all stages of life. That includes the legal as well as the illegal.
There are some bishops among the bishops of the United States who may be more sensitive to illegal aliens, the presence of illegal aliens, because there's a predominance of them in their diocese. But in general, the Church is not supporting things that go against the law. The Church is trying to see the law and to use the law in support of the dignity of every human being, and that's what the effort is here, especially with immigrants.
BLITZER: Well, let me just -- should illegal immigrants get access to health insurance under the proposed legislation?
O'CONNELL: Well, I think the Church wants everybody's needs to be met to the extent that it's possible under the law.
BLITZER: So I'll take that as a yes.
O'CONNELL: That's a good answer, yes.
O'CONNELL: And again, I'm not speaking for the Catholic Church, but I'm speaking -- it's my understanding.
BLITZER: It's your understanding of what at least a lot of bishops would like, legal and illegal immigrants would have access to some of these new provisions that are being discussed right now?
O'CONNELL: To health care.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We're going to have more with Father O'Connell, especially on a story that hits him very, very close to home -- the swine flu epidemic. How it's affecting the Church and his own family.
Stand by for that.
African-American and Latino activists are coming together to put pressure on the president. Bill Bennett and Jamal Simmons, they are ready to talk jobs, jobs and jobs.
BLITZER: Now part two of my interview with Father David O'Connell. He's the president of the Catholic University of America here in Washington, D.C. He's revealing the nightmare swine flu is causing his family.
BLITZER: It's very painful for you. Your younger brother came down with swine flu. Tell us about what has happened, because millions of people come down with swine flu, but this is a special case.
O'CONNELL: Yes. I was watching on your program the other day, 22 million Americans have contracted swine flu.
BLITZER: Mostly very mild.
O'CONNELL: Yes. He's a teacher in Nazareth Academy in Philadelphia, a girls' school in Philadelphia, a high school. And he came down with a urinary tract infection, took him to the hospital. They indicated that he had a mild of pneumonia, and before you knew it, they were diagnosing him as having swine flu and pneumonia in both lungs.
He was in an induced coma. He's been in the hospital for three weeks. And just today had a tracheotomy operation performed to enable him to breathe with ease.
But it's amazing. You know, at Catholic University, I have been working on this issue since May to prepare ourselves for it, and you just don't expect it to happen so close to home, and it did. And it really was -- it's been a nightmare.
BLITZER: How is that -- how is it working outs? I mean, what's the prognosis for your brother?
O'CONNELL: I talked to the doctor late last night, and the his doctor said the prognosis is good. They are going to take him off the ventilator.
He went into respiratory arrest shortly after the diagnosis, so he had to be put on a ventilator. He's going to be taken off the ventilator. The tracheotomy will be able to move with him, but he's going to have to learn how to walk again. His muscles have become so weak.
It's just unbelievable. He's going to be laid up for months.
BLITZER: What a sad, sad story. We wish him obviously a speedy recovery, and we hope he's going to be fine, but this is obviously very, very painful for you.
Quickly, with all the fear of germs and swine flu, the Catholic Church, Sunday's communion, shaking hands, drinking from a common cup, are you making changes as a result of that concern right now? I'm sure it's come up.
O'CONNELL: Many of the dioceses have decided not to extend the chalice at mass on Sundays with the precious blood, with the sacred wine, in order to prevent any kind of transmission of germs, and even what we call the kiss of peace, the handshake during the mass. Many dioceses have asked people not to do that. I know at Catholic University, we've decided to do the same thing as well.
BLITZER: Which sounds smart.
O'CONNELL: Yes, I think it is smart.
We wish your brother the best. And good luck.
O'CONNELL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Father David O'Connell is the president of Catholic University of America.
Full disclosure, I received an honorary degree from Catholic University a few years ago and gave the commencement address. It was a great day in my life. Thanks very much.
O'CONNELL: It was a great day for us, too.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: A decision to update the guidelines for women getting mammograms is causing a huge, huge uproar. I'll speak with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. She's a breast cancer survivor and says self-examination saved her life.
And some of President Obama's biggest boosters holding his feet to the fire. They want him to do more to create more jobs.
BLITZER: Jobs, jobs, jobs, a critically important issue, even while the president is in China right now. Let's talk about what's going on. There are developments.
In our "Strategy Session," joining us right now, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons of New Future Communications, and our CNN political contributor, Bill Bennett, a national radio talk show host.
A joint statement from the NAACP, La Raza, AFL-CIO, among others: "Despite an effective and bold recovery package, we are still facing a prolonged period of unemployment. We, the undersigned, representing a broad cross-section of Americans, urgently call on President Obama and members of Congress to take action to address this severe job crisis."
The president getting heat from his base really, saying you're not doing enough right now to help create jobs -- 10.2 percent unemployment nationally, but what, 15 percent in the African-American community? JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Fifteen percent in the African-American community. And also, I'm with the Raven (ph) Group now, not New Future Communications.
SIMMONS: So, just so the audience knows.
So, yes, 15 percent unemployment in the African-American community. In a state like Michigan, you've got over 20 percent -- where I'm from -- over 20 percent unemployment, where there's a high concentration of African-Americans.
I think there's going to have to be something to focus on jobs. Americans across the country are really focused on it.
When health care is done, I think the president is going to have two big things to talk about -- how do spur job growth and how to cut spending. Those two things obviously work against each other, so they're going to have to figure out to calibrate that right, but Americans are very interested in both of them.
BLITZER: Just before he left for China, he announced that he's going to have a jobs summit or jobs forum at the White House once he gets back.
But is that enough?
BILL BENNETT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, that's a theory of jobs. What we need is jobs. There's a difference between a real $100 and an imaginary $100.
We could spend a lot of time talking about theories of how you create jobs, and I expect Jamal and I might disagree. But the politics of this here are interesting. What is it that they want him to do, another stimulus package?
BENNETT: More spending?
BENNETT: Because as Jamal just said, you have...
BLITZER: I think that's what they want. That's what they want.
BENNETT: ... to cut spending. It seems to me Barack Obama is about as far to the left as you can be in American politics and still be mainstream. And I'm not even sure he's still mainstream.
Are they pushing him to the left? I mean, I'm asking it as a question.
BLITZER: I think they do want another stimulus package to create more jobs, don't they? SIMMONS: Yes. Well, first of all, Barack Obama is the most mainstream president we've had since Bill Clinton, because George W. Bush certainly was not mainstream by any sense.
BENNETT: OK. I'll respond.
SIMMONS: They do want him to do more spending, and I think what they would argue -- what the NAACP and La Raza would argue is that they are out there pushing him because the conservatives are telling him to just cut taxes, don't worry about spending. They want to add some pressure to him from the other side, saying people are hurting and you need to focus on that and get more job growth in America.
BLITZER: Because if it stays above 10 percent all of next year, you know, forget about the political problems. The enormous pain...
BLITZER: ... across the country is going to have all sorts of ramifications.
BENNETT: Right. We think there are ways to create jobs, but it's not this way. It's not stimulus package. It's other ways. It's cutting taxes, cut Social Security taxes, do a number of other things.
I think that Barack Obama might lurch back to the mainstream of American politics if he has the same corrective experience...
BLITZER: By doing what?
BENNETT: ... if he has the same corrective experience Bill Clinton had, which was the election of '94.
BLITZER: When all of a sudden, he became much more interested in the budget deficit.
BLITZER: And he worked towards having a balanced budget.
SIMMONS: Well, that's not really true. Bill Clinton passed a bill in 1993, a budget bill, that had tax cuts and had some small tax increases, but it was more tax cuts than tax increases, and that took us on the trajectory that got us to a balanced budget.
BENNETT: I think he saw the light in...
SIMMONS: And no Republicans were there for that.
BENNETT: I think he saw the light in 1994, and I think the history will tell that. But it is interesting that he's being pushed in this direction when all the evidence seems to suggest that the things he's done such as the large expenditures have not improved this situation, but have worsened it. BLITZER: Let me make the turn to politics, real politics, and Florida politics in particular.
Charlie Crist, he's a very popular governor of Florida. He wants to be the next United States senator from Florida. But he's got some problems with conservatives in Florida who don't think he's necessarily conservative enough. And some are now using this picture -- let's put it up and show the picture of Charlie Crist hugging President Obama. I'm not exactly sure that's the picture, but -- oh, there, they are getting a little closer right there.
BENNETT: Like a time delay.
BLITZER: In Politico, there was an article saying one thing -- saying this: "Charlie Crist, who until recently maintained untouchable approval ratings, is now getting a taste of what a string of politicians over the past decade have learned the hard way. You've got to watch whom you hug."
There's a conservative -- real conservative challenger already thinking of challenging him. In fact, more than thinking -- going against him for that Republican nomination.
BENNETT: I ask you as one of the best journalists in the country, with all the important issues, have you ever seen so much attention to hugs and bows and body language and things? But no, it does matter, of course. The embrace of Obama to a lot of conservatives is not something that warms their heart. Plus, Rubio...
BLITZER: Marco Rubio.
BENNETT: ... who is challenging him in Florida is a very attractive candidate.
BLITZER: Can he beat him?
BENNETT: Charlie Crist -- I mean, the hug aside, the comments about the stimulus and welcoming the stimulus I think are very problematic. Can Rubio beat Crist? Yes, he can beat Crist.
BLITZER: In a Republican primary.
BENNETT: Will he? I don't know. We'll see.
BLITZER: Who would the Democrats fear more in a General election in Florida? Would it be Marco Rubio, more to the conservative side, or Charlie Crist, who's more moderate?
SIMMONS: Six months ago, Democrats would have said Charlie Crist. Today, what you've got is a real food fight taking place down there in Florida.
And we all know what happened to Joe Lieberman when he had the picture of the hug with George Bush in that Democratic primary in Connecticut. He lost that primary in Connecticut. That is the danger for Charlie Crist, who would be a very strong candidate because he's been more centrist. And that moderation of centrism is really hurting him down.
And you've got Kendrick Meek, who's a former state trooper, a current member of Congress, who has a pretty open field. He's running for that Senate seat, and he is going after Independents and Republicans. I think right now Kendrick Meek is looking a lot stronger than he did six months ago.
BLITZER: We're going to watch this race closely. Well, we've got a lot of time. No rush.
Guys, thanks very much.
BENNETT: We'll be back.
BLITZER: When the clock strikes midnight, one U.S. senator will go where no member of Congress has ever gone before.
Plus, a congressman who survived cancer on some controversial new guidelines for getting mammograms. Many women in their 40s now worried that they could be put at risk.
And later, a cruise ship trapped on ice.
BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," Senator Robert Byrd is only hours away from becoming the longest-serving member of Congress ever. The 91-year-old West Virginia Democrat already is the longest serving member of the Senate, but as of midnight, Byrd will have served a combined 56 years and 320 days in both the House and the Senate. He'll beat the record set by another congressman-turned-senator, Carl Hayden of Arizona.
Congratulations to Senator Byrd.
Remember, for all the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.
Wow. That's pretty cool, Jack
CAFFERTY: Is it? I don't know. Is that good that somebody spends 56 years in the Senate?
BLITZER: You know what? When you're 91 you'll be doing "The Cafferty File" also here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me.
CAFFERTY: Don't bet your 401(k) on that, partner.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How much faith do you have in stimulus spending if the administration reports job creation in places that don't even exist? Beyond bizarre.
Steve in Las Vegas, "Why does it seem to get worse by the day? Complete ineptitude, bureaucratic bungling. I feel like the misinformation is completely out of control."
"The lies and BS just keep piling up, not to mention the cost of this. I sure hope Obama-care isn't run the same way. If it is, God help us."
Chandler in New Jersey says, "It's pretty stupid to make mistakes like that, but when the media -- that is you -- holds up trivial mistakes for ridicule, it takes attention away from the main point. The stimulus was never designed primarily to create jobs."
Peggy in Spokane, "As usual, Jack, the best job the government provides is a good old snow job."
Joe in Toledo, Ohio, writes, "This confirms what many of us have been thinking: the administration has no credibility when it comes to stimulus spending. The stimulus spending, as we find out more about it, has been, in many cases, ill-conceived and not stimulating in any way. It dramatically calls into question some of the other endeavors as well, not the least of which is the government's plan for health care reform."
Mario writes, "Let's move to one of those fictional districts so we can take advantage of that stimulus money. This presidency is turning into a joke."
Jean in Houston says, "he's doing a heck of a job, Caffe! He's created not only jobs, but towns full of people to do them. Why so cranky? Try the decaf."
And Grady writes, "Now, Jack, you're looking at this all wrong. If President Obama can save or create thousands of jobs in places that don't exist, think how well he must be doing in places that do exist."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.