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THE SITUATION ROOM
Could Fort Hood Massacre Have Been Prevented?; Health Care Land Mines
Aired November 19, 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 ANCHOR: Happening now: the best political team on television on these stories, new investigations into one of the most disturbing questions in the Fort Hood massacre. Could it have been prevented? This hour, I will speak live with a Republican congressman who calls some of the misread flags -- quote -- "frightening."
Senate Democrats pat themselves on the backs for finally unveiling a health care reform bill, but there are land mines in the bill threatening to tear the party apart.
And the Obama administration's big claims about the economic stimulus. How did they get so many facts and figures wrong? We're digging for answers on how many jobs really were created.
We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The deadliest attack ever on a United States military base is now the subject of several federal investigations, the Pentagon and the Congress launching their reviews today, in addition to a criminal probe that is under way.
There is a lot to look at, including the alleged gunman's reported links to Muslim extremists and whether the rampage could have been prevented.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The shootings at Fort Hood raise a number of troubling questions that demand complete but prompt answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Pentagon's review will last 45 days. It will zero in on whether the military is falling short in these areas: personal screening, base security, and its emergency response.
The Army will conduct its own, more detailed review.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where lawmakers say they're determined to find out if authorities failed to connect the dots that might have led to the alleged gunman before the Fort Hood massacre and the 13 people who were killed and some 40 others who were injured.
Brian Todd is up on Capitol Hill covering the investigation for us.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one senator says there were -- quote -- "warning signs and red flags galore" on Nidal Hasan before the Fort Hood shootings. Today, Congress took its first public step toward finding accountability.
TODD (voice-over): More indications that potential safety nets may have either broken down or were never in place to prevent Nidal Hasan from allegedly murdering 13 people at Fort Hood.
At the first congressional hearing into the shootings, discussions on what may have been the failure of law enforcement, military and counterterror officials to communicate with each other, even though it was discovered last year that Hasan had corresponded with a radical Muslim cleric.
Former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend, a CNN contributor, indicated some restrictions on the agency's cooperation are just too unwieldy.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: But the rules become so cumbersome that they're discouraging, and so people don't do it.
General John Keane was commanding general at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during the trial of two white soldiers for the murder of a black couple. Keane said, after that incident, the military took steps to flag racial extremism, but never came up with anything like that on radical religious behavior. Keane was asked another key question on why Hasan kept getting promoted, even when his superiors reportedly had information on his extremist views and incompetence.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Do you think that political correctness may have played some role in the fact that these dots were not connected?
GEN. JOHN KEANE (RET.), FORMER ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, absolutely. And also I think a factor here is Hasan's position as an officer and also his position as a psychiatrist contributed to that.
TODD: Most of these security and terrorism experts agree that Nidal Hasan is likely someone who became self-radicalized, a lone wolf influenced by militant extremists, but not directing by anyone to kill.
But connecting those dots before this tragedy, one expert said, may have been important.
BRIAN JENKINS, SENIOR ADVISER, RAND CORPORATION: We're just not very good at predicting human violence. We don't have an X-ray for a man's soul.
TODD: But Brian Jenkins said, looking back, it does appear that Hasan had what he called obvious personality problems that he channeled into a deadly fanaticism -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Why were there no current investigators, Brian, at this hearing today?
TODD: Well, Senator Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee that has held this hearing, said he wanted them to appear. He had tried to work with Attorney General Holder and Bob Gates, the defense secretary, and others to make that happen.
Now, Gates and Holder, he said, expressed a willingness to cooperate, but they didn't want to compromise the investigation. So, Lieberman is hopeful that investigators will show up later. And he says he has had access to some key documents in this case.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian is up on Capitol Hill.
Let's go to Congressman Peter Hoekstra right now.
He is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
I know you're getting ready to catch a flight.
Are you satisfied with the answers you're getting so far from the executive branch of the U.S. government, whether the Pentagon or -- or the administration, the Army, as far as this investigation is concerned?
REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: No, Wolf, I'm really not. And I think I probably share some of the same frustrations that Senator Lieberman has. I applaud the Senate for holding public hearings. I hold them -- I applaud them for doing the hearings. There's no indication at all that that's going to take place on the House side. And I think they really do have to take place.
You know, we had a briefing today, but way too often with the questions that we ask, the answers were, sorry, congressman, we don't have an answer for that today. And you're kind of thinking, well, this is two weeks after the incident, you would think that this would be Investigation 101.
I think the administration has to be more forthcoming. They have to -- you know, they have to give us partial information, even if they haven't got the whole -- even if they haven't connected all of the pieces themselves. We're used to getting partial information. They need to be more open.
BLITZER: We're -- we're hearing from our producer, Carol Cratty, among others -- and let me begin precise, because this is very sensitive information suggesting, perhaps, that the left hand of the U.S. government doesn't know what the right hand of the U.S. government is -- is doing or what they know. That when Major Hasan first came to the attention of investigators due to his communications with this radical cleric in Yemen, officials looked at his personnel file, but they said there was nothing suspicious included in it -- none of the warning signs that we all know about.
How could this be, Congressman?
HOEKSTRA: Well, you know, Wolf, you know, if we go back to 2001, after the 9/11 attack, the big issue was that the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. They -- they weren't communicating. Now that -- you know, now we look and we say, sure, we've got an organization called the Director of National Intelligence.
At the macro level, these people are now working together better. But I think that at the lower levels of these organizations, I can unequivocally say we still have problems, whether it's on this case or other cases. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that these problems still exist and they are persistent.
BLITZER: We know he was in touch with this one radical cleric in Yemen.
Is there any evidence he was in touch with others?
HOEKSTRA: Again, that's one of the answers that we would like to have and we're -- I'm willing to get it.
I think the other thing that you're seeing here, Wolf, is that a lot of the information we're getting is actually coming from the press. They're digging into this quicker and, in some cases, more thoroughly. And they're providing information that, you know, we haven't had access from the -- the intelligence community or from the Department of Defense or the FBI. The -- the media -- the press is actually going out and doing a very good job in keeping Congress informed and keeping the American people informed.
I can't tell you how frustrating that is on our part. But at the same time, I appreciate the work that they're doing.
BLITZER: Is it your sense, at least based on what you know right now -- and there's obviously a lot you don't know and a lot that none of us really knows -- that he was this one individual, perhaps inspired by jihad, but he wasn't part of a formal al Qaeda or Islamic terrorist plot?
HOEKSTRA: Well, Wolf, we need to understand that he may not be part of the formal al Qaeda organization, but he clearly fits in with their model of how to terrorize the world. I have been studying this phenomenon of lone wolf individuals radicalized through the Internet for the last four or five years in depth. they have been -- they understand this concept in Europe. Only in America have we been unable -- unwilling to recognize this phenomena. It is real. It is -- you know, it is prevalent in Europe. We now need to understand how extensive it is here in the United States.
BLITZER: Have you heard anything about Major Hasan wiring money to so-called charities in Pakistan?
HOEKSTRA: Well, there were press reports out today indicating that he sent $20,000 to $30,000 to the Islamic Relief charities. These organizations frequently are front organizations for terrorist organizations in these other countries. If that report is accurate, I don't think it's at all unlikely that some of this money would have made it back into the Middle East, might have made it back to Pakistan or Afghanistan.
But we don't have, you know, the reporting from the intel community that will either verify that or debunk that story. But, again, this was a guy that was living frugally, making a good salary. You know, we really do want to know where he went with his money -- who did he give it to and what front organizations may have received it and where would he have sent it.
BLITZER: Congressman Hoekstra, we'll stay in close touch.
Thanks very much for your help.
HOEKSTRA: Hey, great.
Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us right now with "The Cafferty File."
Jack, so many questions, yet, at this point, so few answers.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I like that guy you just talked to, though, very straightforward, very articulate.
BLITZER: Yes, he's a very smart guy.
CAFFERTY: He's obviously studying all of this. I enjoyed listening to him.
All right, here we are, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia now officially the longest serving member of Congress ever. You ready? The Democrat from West Virginia, he will be 92 tomorrow, served for almost 57 years, including six years in the House, 51 in the Senate. That translates to a record 20,774 days.
He served under 11 presidents, coming to Washington during the Eisenhower administration, 1953. Senator Byrd tops all other senators in the number of votes cast -- that would be more than 18,000 -- and the number of leadership positions held, including two stints as majority leader. And he has never, ever lost an election. Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1940s, later calling that the most egregious mistake he had ever made. He voted against the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, but later followed a more traditional Democratic path, blasting President Bush's policies after 9/11 and during the Iraq war.
Byrd is thanking the people of West Virginia for their ongoing confidence in him. He says it's been the quality and dedication of service that has guided him and that he looks forward to serving them for another 56 years and 320 days.
Fine. But this is not what our forefathers intended. They did not envision career politicians, rather, people who would give a few years of their life to public service and then go back to the farm or the bank or wherever it is they came to Washington from.
But, without term limits, in a lot of cases, we wind up with politicians who spend their entire adult lives in Congress. And, in many cases, the results aren't good.
So, here's the question: Is it a good thing that a senator has set a record for serving nearly 57 years in Congress? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
That's almost as long as you have worked for CNN, isn't it?
BLITZER: Yes, yes, almost.
BLITZER: A few more.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
Congress is a house divided right now. Democrats celebrate the prospect of providing millions more Americans with health insurance, but how will they ever get it passed, when Democrats can't even agree with other Democrats about all the details? We're laying out the sticking points.
And the Obama administration has a major job on its hands regarding how many jobs have been created by the stimulus plan. A watchdog group essentially says the numbers can't be trusted.
BLITZER: The Democrats injecting new adrenaline into their push for health care reform, now that a Senate bill is finally on the table. But there could be a new crisis just around the corner, the bill containing provisions likely to divide House and Senate Democrats, big-time.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, it's by no means a done deal.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
There's going to be a vote on Saturday night to start debate. It's not entirely clear whether the Senate Democratic leaders have a vote -- the votes for that, much less to actually pass their health care bill.
Still, watching them today, you could sense that they are just relieved that they finally, after weeks and weeks, actually have a health care bill, never mind the long and rough road ahead.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH (voice-over): Senate Democrats just unveiled their health care bill and they're already celebrating. Yes, that's a V. for victory sign.
But this feel-good rally masked huge challenges that lie ahead, flash points that divide Democrats in the House and the Senate, like taxes to pay for health reform. The House-passed bill taxes all Americans making $500,000 or more. That's a nonstarter with many Senate Democrats, so their plan taxes high-cost insurance plans. But many House Democrats oppose that.
REP. JOE COURTNEY (D), CONNECTICUT: It's a huge problem.
BASH: Democrat Joe Courtney says a tax on so-called Cadillac health plans would really hit working-class Americans, especially union members.
COURTNEY: Certainly, the impact on households will be Chevy drivers, not Cadillac drivers.
BASH: Then there's immigration. House Democrats prohibit illegal immigrants from using taxpayer money for health care. The Senate Democrats' bill goes further, banning illegal immigrants from buying any insurance, even with their own money.
Angry Hispanic Caucus members vow to block that from a final bill.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: That seems to me to be mean- spirited, to be a dehumanizing point of view. If they have their own money and not a taxpayer dollar is going to be used, why don't we allow them to provide it?
BASH: And there's abortion. The House Democrats' measure bans abortion coverage in a government-run plan and in private insurance accepting taxpayer money. The Senate bill is less restrictive, allowing the HHS secretary to decide whether abortion would be covered in a public plan and permitting abortion coverage in private plans, as long as taxpayer money is separated out.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is a health care bill. It's not an abortion bill. It's in keeping with what the tradition has been in our country for more than 30 years.
BASH: Anti-abortion Democrats in the House disagree.
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO: I think it will make it much more difficult for the bill to ultimately be passed.
BASH: Now, abortion restrictions similar to what's in the Senate bill now were originally considered in the House, until anti-abortion Democrats there said that they would vote no, after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, they said that they wanted more constraints on abortion coverage in the health care bill.
And, Wolf, a spokesman for the powerful Catholic bishops says that they will release a letter tomorrow explaining their position on the Senate health care bill -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's going to be a sensitive subject.
But did I hear you right, Dana, when you said that Harry Reid is not 100 percent sure he has the 60 votes he needs Saturday night to at least begin the debate on the floor of the Senate?
BASH: That's right. He's cautiously optimistic. That's the term he uses.
At this point, it looks like they're holding out for one Democrat, Blanche Lincoln from Arkansas. She is somebody in a very tough reelection race next year. She has really not said whether she will vote yes.
I will tell you, one of the reasons why this vote is at 8:00 on Saturday night is because she demanded 72 hours to read the 2,000-page bill.
BLITZER: But the other sort of waffling Democrats, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat, Mary Landrieu, are they on board?
BASH: They are not officially on board, at least in the case of Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, but they are going to giving indications that at least to start the debate they will probably be there. Could change their minds by the time the vote comes Saturday night, but they're giving indications that they're ready to at least start debate.
BLITZER: Dana is working the story on the Hill. Dana, thanks very much. We're all going to be working, I guess. That comes with the story.
There's a slight bit of positive news regarding unemployed Americans. The number of people who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week holding steady at its lowest level since January -- 505,000 jobless claims were filed, according to a government report, but that number is still very high. One expert says the jobless claims number is -- quote -- "heading in the right direction."
If you have ever read your credit card contract, you will know that even the most important details can simply be impossible to find. Could Congress soon act to get rid of all the small print?
And a merchant ship captain who was rescued from pirates by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy SEALs, gets another chance to say thanks.
BLITZER: Watch dogs are asking a multibillion-dollar question: How did the economic stimulus package create jobs in congressional districts that don't exist? We're digging deeper, asking for some accountability.
And what are credit card companies hiding in the pages and pages of information that you can barely see or read? Jessica Yellin on a plan to get rid of what some consumers view as gobbledygook.
BLITZER: Big news on Oprah Winfrey.
Let's go right back to Deborah Feyerick. She's got the details.
What's going on, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it appears there's a change in the air for Oprah Winfrey. A spokesperson for her company, Harpo Productions, says that, yes, Oprah will be ending her talk show and that she will be speaking about it on tomorrow's live show.
She is scheduled to debut her own network sometime in 2010. But right now, we're being told that she is scheduled to end her talk show -- Wolf.
BLITZER: After all these years. All right. We will stick around and see what she has to say tomorrow -- Oprah Winfrey getting ready to announce she's ending her talk show. We will stand by for that.
How many jobs have been saved or created from President Obama's economic stimulus plan? In a shocking slam against the administration's numbers, one watchdog group essentially says the administration's numbers simply cannot be trusted. Kate Bolduan is working the story for us. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM for us.
What's going on, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very interesting, Wolf.
Well, the government's stimulus watchdog and chief auditor agree the latest stimulus data is a solid first step toward better government-wide transparency and accountability, but they also say there are significant concerns over the numbers.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Vice President Biden confidently counting stimulus success down to the single job.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it is posted today, it will show that we have created or saved 640,239 jobs directly as a consequence of contracting authority of the federal government.
BOLDUAN: That was October 30. Fast-forward three weeks.
EARL DEVANEY, CHAIRMAN, RECOVERY ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY BOARD: I think there's enough inaccuracies in here to question the 640,000 number. It might go down.
BOLDUAN: Earl Devaney, head of the government watchdog for the $787 billion stimulus program, which runs Recovery.gov, acknowledges stimulus data is riddled with errors and inaccuracies, including reports of stimulus jobs in Congressional Districts that don't exist.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: There was some $1.2 million that went to the 4th Congressional District of Utah. We only have three Congressional districts.
BOLDUAN: A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds more troubling figures. More than 58,000 jobs created or saved from projects where no money has yet been spent; $965 million spent on projects reporting zero jobs created or saved; and an estimated 10 percent of stimulus recipients have failed to report back.
Republicans seized the opportunity in a House hearing to call the Obama administration's claims nothing but propaganda.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The whole jobs created/saved metrics is not only troubled, it is entirely deceitful. No government agency, private sector group or research economics has any idea what the reliable calculation track for these numbers would be.
(on camera): Why the problems?
One reason cited by government auditors is confusing reporting guidelines. Right here on Recovery.gov, the Head Start program was awarded $61,000 and reported 26 jobs. We checked it out. The director said that went to pay cost of living raises for 26 people. It didn't create jobs.
(voice-over): Both Republicans and Democrats praised the unprecedented attempt at transparency with the Recovery Web site. The no-nonsense Earl Devaney suggests that with the good comes the bad.
DEVANEY: I believe that the principal downside of transparency is embarrassment. And there is enough of that here to go all around.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BOLDUAN: Now, the White House is firing back on its critics this evening, trying to do a bit of damage control. Just a short time ago, Ed Deseves (ph), the special adviser to the president for the Recovery Act held a conference call with reporters on this exact issue. He acknowledged the jobs count could change, but called the "data debate" frustrating and a sideshow. He says the focus should be on the success in creating jobs, not the precision in counting them -- Wolf, it seems everyone is trying to get the last word on this this evening.
BLITZER: This is pretty embarrassing. There's a lot of so- called fuzzy math.
BOLDUAN: Fuzzy math is not what they need.
BLITZER: Yes. Right -- not -- not now, for credibility's sake.
Thanks very much.
They've got to recheck the math.
We want you to read this. It's not an eye exam to test your eyesight, but it's probably something that could strain your eyes.
And does something that could completely tie up your finances have to look so incredibly small?
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, explains.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Americans swipe their credit cards 58 million times a day.
But how many cardholders actually understand what they've signed up for?
Some in Congress are trying to get rid of the fine print in contracts like this one...
(on camera): Can you tell me what the annual percentage rate is -- what -- what the interest is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't a clue. It doesn't say. You'd have to give me about an hour. But at the end of the hour, I would say no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's too much gobbledygook.
YELLIN (voice-over): To test the point, we sat down to read one.
(on camera): "For the account and the person to whom we address billing statements..."
(voice-over): So how long did it take?
Alan Siegel says it doesn't have to be this way. His company specializes in contract simplification. They've done it for the Internal Revenue Service, major banks and insurance companies.
ALAN SIEGEL, SIEGEL & GALE STRATEGIC BONDING COMPANY: It's designed to be -- to be readable. And it's totally plain English. And we use personal pronouns instead of "the party of the first part."
YELLIN: He says government regulators and credit card companies have both resisted simple contracts.
(on camera): Is it possible to have a credit card contract that anyone can understand?
YELLIN: How long does it have to be?
SIEGEL: I believe it could be on one side of one piece of paper.
YELLIN (voice-over): In fact, he's created a sample -- one page. Here's the interest rate. Here are the penalty fees. His testing shows a tenth grader could understand it.
(on camera): Have you shown this to any credit card companies?
YELLIN: And what do they say?
YELLIN (voice-over): Some in Congress think card companies have a stake in keeping their products and their contracts confusing and have proposed a new consumer protection agency that would work to make these agreements less complicated.
The American Bankers Association is fighting it. NESSA FEDDIS, AMERICAN BANKERS ASSOCIATION: There are other ways to address it than rather than having to create an expensive, big bureaucracy.
YELLIN: Speaking for the credit card companies, she says government regulators are already working on streamlined new rules that will make credit card agreements clearer. But she insists credit card contracts can never be just one page. Blame the lawyers.
FEDDIS: Those contracts are based on lawsuits that have compelled them to use certain terms, certain words and to include certain information in order to have an enforceable contract. It's the nature of law.
YELLIN: Back to the current, complicated contract.
(on camera): "Authorization for us to collect the amount of the check electronically or..."
(voice-over): It took 10 minutes to read one page -- an hour for the whole thing. No wonder so few of us know what we've agreed to.
YELLIN: Now, those drafting the proposed legislation say that this new agency could help make contracts simpler by requiring plain English, getting rid of some of those mandatory disclosure.
But here's the controversial part. It would also push companies to offer simpler credit cards that have fewer tricks and traps. Well, the industry is fighting that. Wolf, they say that those new simple credit cards will fight innovation and limit consumer choice.
BLITZER: When I get those -- those long documents, those...
YELLIN: You don't even bother reading it, do you?
BLITZER: Rip it up.
YELLIN: In the trash.
BLITZER: Throw it away.
Jessica, don't go away.
So what's in your wallet?
If you're like millions of Americans, probably credit cards are putting you further in debt. According to the Pew Nielsen Report, the average credit card holder has about $2,900 in outstanding balance.
How many credit card holders are out there here in the United States?
It's been growing, from 159 million in 2000 to a projected 181 million next year. A religious broadcaster slams another religion. After the Fort Hood shootings, Pat Robertson called Islam -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a violent political system, not a religion." That's now causing major political fallout in his home state of Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MEDIA MATTERS/CBN)
PAT ROBERTSON, RELIGIOUS BROADCASTER: I stood with them. And I wasn't afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MEDIA MATTERS/CBN)
ROBERTSON: It is a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination. That is the ultimate aim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: I think people are entitled under the First Amendment to express whatever opinions they may -- may -- you know, they may have. But I -- I can only say that as -- as governor of Virginia, I tend to have an inclusive administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's the religious broadcaster first, Pat Robertson, speaking after the shootings at Fort Hood and the reaction, more recently, from the incoming Virginia governor, Republican Bob McDonnell.
Robertson's stunning remarks about Islam have sparked a huge controversy.
Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin; David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, now with NewMajority.com; and our CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin.
I'll start, David, with you. It's a huge problem, potentially, for the incoming governor of Virginia when one of his mentors, if you will -- somebody who's been close to him for many years, going back to college -- says that Islam is not really a religion, it's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of governments of the world.
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, I -- I don't know how close a mentor Pat Robertson was to Bob McConnell. And I don't know whether this is specifically Bob McDonnell's problem.
But we keep falling between two stools on this. We spend half the time with this kind of inflammatory talk, which is destructive and wrong. And then, at the other -- on the other side of the extreme, we cannot persuade the Army that while it's not true that Islam is inherently violent, that people who are Muslim who show violent tendencies need to be bear -- need to bear extra watching if they're in a position where they can do harm.
So how we -- how we can find our way to a little bit more common sense on this...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well...
ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Has Robertson giving thousands of dollars to McDonnell's campaign?
YELLIN: At least $25,000.
MARTIN: Didn't McDonnell also go to Robertson's university?
BORGER: He's a benefactor.
MARTIN: You have an interrelationship. And, also, Governor- Elect McDonnell, you said the First Amendment. Well, guess what, the same First Amendment, you can also denounce those ridiculous comments.
BORGER: You know, and...
MARTIN: As a Christian, I'm offended when somebody slams Christianity because of one nut out there. And I'm not going to pin the same thing on folks who are Muslim.
BORGER: You know, here -- here's what's disingenuous about what the governor did.
BLITZER: The governor-elect.
BORGER: ...the governor-elect did. He said I can't defend or support every comment that a donor might make -- making Robertson into just another donor when, in fact, as Jessica points out, he's giving him $25,000. He's a -- he's a clear bene...
MARTIN: In this race. More when he was in the previous race.
BORGER: He's a big benefactor.
BORGER: And -- and, you know, why not just come out and say, I disagree with those remarks, you know?
YELLIN: Well, look, even the Bush administration, which was seen as very tough on the Islamic world, in many ways, had -- drew a clear line, saying, we're not taking on Islam and the religion. Even Fran Townsend, testifying today, the head of Homeland Security for him, said, this is a religion that supports peace in many ways. There are radical fringe elements.
YELLIN: There is no reason he can't denounce this.
FRUM: But the Bush administration was an example of leaning too far the other way. It is not the position of a governor to either endorse a religion or criticize it. He shouldn't say it's a good religion, he shouldn't say it's a bad religion.
YELLIN: Except if he has a sizable...
BORGER: But if it's Pat Robertson that was called into question here...
FRUM: (INAUDIBLE) with the Bush -- in the Bush administration, we went into pretzels. We went way too far. And -- and what happened -- we see at Fort Hood that -- that the desire not to blame people who don't deserve the blame, not to make over general statements -- and those are laudable, can lead...
BORGER: I agree with that.
FRUM: ...can lead authorities to ignore information they need to have.
MARTIN: OK. OK. But let's be real clear. This is Pat Robertson making a stupid and ridiculous comment slamming an entire religion. This is not a question of what's happening with Fort Hood. The governor-elect could have simply said, I disagree with those comments. But when you have the copout of, oh, it's the First Amendment, because you don't want do criticize your God.
BORGER: Well, the...
MARTIN: You don't want to say anything...
FRUM: What is Pat Robertson going to say tomorrow?
FRUM: Are you responsible every time he says something crazy?
BORGER: No. But when there is a direct question about it -- and, by the way, you know, to get a...
BLITZER: He did...
BORGER: ...to give...
BLITZER: He did say...
BORGER: ...to give a number like...
BLITZER: ...he did say he disagrees...
BLITZER: He did say he disagrees with the comments, although he didn't disavow...
BORGER: Well, he didn't...
BLITZER: ...his friendship...
BORGER: He said...
BLITZER: ...with Pat Robertson.
BORGER: He said finally, later on in this Q&A, he said people ought to be judged by their acts, OK, and that -- so ought to judge Hasan on his acts. We ought not to judge...
MARTIN: And let's judge other American Muslims by their acts.
BORGER: Right. But, you know, it was a simple question...
MARTIN: I mean, come on.
BORGER: ...he could have answered it.
YELLIN: But this leads to a larger problem right now in the Republican Party, which is that many leading Republicans who are centrists, who try to at least act as though they're centrists, are very anxious about criticizing the more conservative elements of the community.
I interviewed Mitt Romney. He didn't want to take on some very, very inflammatory comments by Rush Limbaugh because they're terrified of being blasted by the Limbaugh community. There is an anxiety about upsetting the base.
FRUM: But -- that's -- that's generally true. But it's not true in this case. I think what this case is, Republicans and conservatives look at Fort Hood and say people are dead because of oversensitivity. And...
BLITZER: But nobody...
BLITZER: ...nobody said Christianity wasn't a religion because Timothy McVeigh went and blew up the federal...
FRUM: We do not have a national global national security problem presented by Christian extremism. And if we did, then we should certainly take care of that. But it is our (INAUDIBLE)... (LAUGHTER)
FRUM: But we have -- but we have -- we have people dead because of what looks like oversensitivity...
FRUM: Yes, but oversensitivity...
MARTIN: OK, David...
FRUM: ...an Army that did not take action when it got warnings.
MARTIN: OK, David, I'm going to is you outright, is Islam, a religion -- a violent religion?
FRUM: Islam is no more violent a religion than any other religion is a violent religion. There is potential in any religion...
MARTIN: So there are violent people who are...
FRUM: But let me put think it way. But members of -- the adherents of this creed do, in this moment, not in other centuries, have a special propensity to commit acts of terrorism.
MARTIN: So there are
MARTIN: ...there are individuals and not the religion?
FRUM: You -- you need, but you also can't -- you cannot (INAUDIBLE)...
MARTIN: Hold it, David.
So it's individuals or the religion?
Which one is it?
FRUM: The individuals, of course. But they -- but you have to not ignore the fact that it is a risk factor. And when you see somebody on, for example, jihadist sites, you have to pay special attention to that. And that is not...
MARTIN: And I'm...
(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: ...and I'm going to pay special attention to a...
MARTIN: ...Christian preacher who calls for the death of the president of the United States. And you know what, he is -- I'm not going to slam Christianity because of his ignorant comments.
FRUM: But you don't -- but the -- the difference there is you -- you do not have...
MARTIN: David, you're wrong.
FRUM: You do not have the long list of bloody footprints. And we do -- you do not have the recent experience...
MARTIN: There's a long list of bloody footprints in Christianity.
FRUM: People dead...
MARTIN: Let's just -- let's just be honest about that.
FRUM: American service members dead because warnings were ignored, because people overreacted to accusations of insensitivity.
MARTIN: People that...
BORGER: Right. But that doesn't mean Pat Robertson should say that Islam is not a religion, right?
MARTIN: People have killed in the name of every religion, including Christianity and Islam. It's the individuals, it's not the religion itself.
BLITZER: Stand by, guys, because we're not going to resolve this debate, obviously, right now, but maybe during the commercial break.
MARTIN: We'll bring it up.
BLITZER: We will.
Let's check in with John Roberts to see what's coming up at the top of the hour -- John, what are you working on?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, thanks, Wolf.
Coming up in just a few minutes time, the government botching the job -- unemployment checks to more than a million Americans may stop coming as of January because of a slip-up by Congress.
Can lawmakers get their act together in time?
And the Obama stimulus plan -- just how many jobs has all that money really created?
The administration's numbers have been all over the map, even faulty.
Why is there so much confusion?
Please join us for all of that and a lot more, coming your way at the top of the hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John Roberts, one the hardest working -- let me repeat -- the hardest working man at CNN right now, doing an excellent job.
BLITZER: He does an excellent job in the morning. He's doing an excellent job at 7:00 p.m., coming up in a few minutes.
John, we'll be watching.
Thanks very much.
I'm a loyal viewer of "AMERICAN MORNING" every morning.
He was once known as "America's Mayor," but is former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, now setting his sights on the governor's mansion?
That's coming up in our Political Ticker.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.
The question this hour, is it a good thing that a senator -- we're talking about Robert Byrd of West Virginia -- has set a record, serving nearly 57 years in Congress?
Dave in New York says: "Congress is the grayest it's ever been -- Senators, on average, older than ever, House members the oldest in more than a century. Look where that's gotten us. The old geezers are best at working the old system, not reforming it. So as long as the best and brightest are led by the oldest and most lethargic, we cannot hope for change." Vivian in Largo, Maryland: "No. Record or no record, 57 years is long past time of diminishing returns. The problem is with the American people. What is wrong with us that we keep electing the same representatives to Congress for 20, 30, 40, 57 years? Don't we realize that our vote is the term limit? Yet we continue to vote for incompetent, time worn, time exhausted representatives who don't know how to do any more than yield the floor to my distinguished colleague."
Sheila writes: "I'm a 56-year-old grandmother. I raised my kids in West Virginia. I had the honor of conversing with Senator Byrd on more than one occasion. He's lasted as long as he has because he's a rare bird -- no pun intended. He truly loves the people of West Virginia and they know it. He has done whatever he can to help his people and most of them would do whatever they could to help him."
Dave in Pennsylvania says: "At first blush, Jack, I would say absolutely not. But then again, he hasn't sold out the people of his state or country by quitting his office and becoming a hired gun for some lobbying firm for an obscene and totally unearned amount of money. Also, if the people of the state are satisfied with the job he's doing and they vote him back into office, that's their business regardless of what I think."
Greg in New York writes: "There isn't a job on this planet that allows you to do so little for so long."
And Harry in Millersburg, Kentucky: "No. But don't you think that complaining about someone's age and length of service might be sending the wrong signals to your bosses at CNN?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and read some more of them there -- Mr. Blitzer.
BLITZER: There's no term limits here, is that what you're saying, Jack?
CAFFERTY: Perhaps there are. I don't know. But not until we're 91...
BLITZER: Yes, that is a good...
CAFFERTY: ...or however old he is.
BLITZER: ...term limit for us.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
CAFFERTY: See you tomorrow.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jessica Yellin.
She's got our Political Ticker.
What's going on -- Jessica?
YELLIN: Hi, Wolf.
Rudi Giuliani is keeping New York voters guessing again. His spokeswoman says the former mayor has not decided whether or not to run for governor next year, but "The New York Times" is reporting today that Giuliani has nixed plans to speak -- seek the state's top job. This may be one reason why. Recent polls do show Giuliani holding a wide lead over fellow Republicans in the race, but losing to likely Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.
He could -- another option -- decide to challenge Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand next year because a new Marist poll shows Giuliani is leading Gillibrand by 14 percent.
I guess he's keeping his options open. And he still has plenty of them.
Moving on now, a little outreach across the aisle by the Obama administration may have its rewards if you're former Bush secretary, Dana Perino. President Obama has nominated Perino -- you'll remember her -- to a bipartisan board that oversees government-sponsored international broadcasting. Keep in mind that since leaving the Bush administration, Perino has blasted the Democratic White House for its handling of the swine flu epidemic and its feud with Fox News, among other things. We'll have to wait and see if she keeps up that criticism now.
Well, our famously fit president is doing something with that fitness -- teaming up with the National Football League to fight childhood obesity. White House sources confirm that he's going to appear in a public service announcement with several NFL players encouraging kids to stay active. Great.
But here's the rub. This spot is going to start running during one of the most notorious times for overeating -- Thanksgiving. So as football fans, we'll get to watch the president's pitch while we're propped in front of the TV eating our leftover turkey sandwiches and chips -- Wolf, is there any PSA that would make you stay away from second and third helpings?
BLITZER: No. But you know what, they need more than a PSA...
BLITZER: Seriously. They need money so that kids can have gym, extracurricular activities.
BLITZER: They can get some exercise. Because the way that the economy is right now, these school districts are cutting back on -- and the stuff...
YELLIN: And healthier foods at lunch. Yes.
BLITZER: Yes. That's very important.
YELLIN: They need the money.
BLITZER: I'm going to go get some healthy food right now.
YELLIN: Good move.
BLITZER: Very healthy.
Thanks very much.
Last night, the comedians are paying -- they were paying very careful attention to Sarah Palin and her book tour. CNN's Jeanne Moos is paying close attention, as well.
BLITZER: Perhaps you've heard that the former vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, has a brand new book. And it's getting Moost Unusual -- a Moost Unusual amount of attention.
CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at Sarah Palin's book.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It's as if the world revolves around me -- me being Sarah Palin's autobiography. Her supporters clutch me. TV hosts display me. She autographs me. Sure, they're cheering her, but she defers to me.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can read my words, unfiltered.
MOOS (on camera): 413 pages.
(voice-over): Enough to help folks kill time as they wait in line to get me signed. My name is "Going Rogue," but in a case of mistaken identity, it's her Fox News actually showed "Going Rouge," a title meant to mock me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of a graphics error, we accidentally showed the wrong book cover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Much has been made of the fact that Sarah Palin's autobiography has no index.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington is all about the index. People don't read the book, they look for their name.
MOOS: Since I have no index, other publications, like "The New Republic," created their own. You betcha. Actually, the index shows you'll find "you betcha" on page 309, while dang shows up six times. So does Tina Fey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY SNL/BROADWAY VIDEO)
TINA FEY, ACTRESS/COMEDIAN: I'm going rogue right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: But this guy appears 48 times. Sure, those liberal comedy shows try to make me look bad, reading me to kids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART," COURTESY COMEDY CENTRAL)
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Everyone here thinks that's boring.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I'll read it here.
JON STEWART, HOST: What's that?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Kill myself than read that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Even more insulting, a store called Bookshop Santa Cruz in California is handing out free packages of nuts with every copy of me.
Back in 1993, they weighed Rush Limbaugh's book and sold it for the price of baloney. But at least everybody's talking about me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON," COURTESY NBC)
JIMMY FALLON, HOST: Where's the book?
Where's "Going Rogue?"
You're back. You're back. It's "Going Rogue".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: On Jimmy Fallon's show, I went rogue and became a murderer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON," COURTESY NBC)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Killing liberal host Rachel Maddow. The next thing you know, I'm having a romantic rendezvous with another best-seller. Undressing and then, well, making out like a couple of romance novels. You betcha.
And after that, I could use a moment of Zen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART," COURTESY COMEDY CENTRAL)
STEWART: Here it is, your moment of Zen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to go home and crawl inside my bed with my lucky blanket turned high and lay there and read until I'm done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Hey, lady, read your own copy of me.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."