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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama's Afghanistan Decision; Tiger Woods Apologizes for 'Transgressions'; Interview With Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold

Aired December 2, 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: anger and second- guessing about the president's new exit strategy in Afghanistan. His planned end date may be getting a bit squishier, as Congress grills members of his war council.

New accounts that the White House party-crashers had a history of half-truths -- we're digging deeper on their claims, their e-mails, and their bold breach of security.

And the future of the Tiger Woods brand, now that the golfing icon admits to -- quote -- "transgressions." Is his apology enough to protect his corporate image?

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.

Right now, the president's new battle plan in Afghanistan is being ripped apart by his political rivals and some of his allies as well. While Mr. Obama is feeling the heat behind closed doors at the White House, top members of his war council have been taking direct fire on Capitol Hill.

They are responding with dire warnings about the consequences if al Qaeda terrorists defeat the sole remaining superpower in Afghanistan.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Some lively hearings today on this, the day after the president's big speech.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

And we did hear from some skeptical Democrats who asked about whether or not they can really trust Hamid Karzai and his government in Afghanistan, whether or not this new policy is a -- quote -- "clunker."

But most of the concern that we have been hearing in the hallways from Democrats, it was overshadowed by some deep concern and questions about the president's desire to bring troops home starting in July of 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH (voice-over): Tough questions for the president's national security team, most not about 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but confusion over whether the July 2011 date to start withdrawing is a hard deadline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is that date conditions-based or not?

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, sir.

BASH: That sounded definitive, but the date certain became less certain, when pressed by GOP senators who call a deadline a dangerous signal to the enemy.

GATES: We will be in a position in particularly uncontested areas where we will be able to begin that transition.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Let's suppose you're not.

GATES: I think we will be in a position then to evaluate whether or not we can begin that transition in July.

MCCAIN: The president -- which is it? It's got to be one or the other.

GATES: We will have a thorough review in December 2010. If it appears that the strategy is not working and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011, then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself.

BASH: Later, Secretary Gates admitted, after that December 2010 assessment:

GATES: The president always has the -- the freedom to adjust his -- his decisions.

BASH: Secretary Clinton signaled flexibility, too.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Have we locked ourselves into leaving, Secretary Clinton, in July 2011?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving. But what we have done is to signal very clearly to all audiences that the United States is not interested in occupying Afghanistan.

BASH: With Democratic coaxing, the Joint Chiefs chairman insisted July 2011 was well-thought-out, not arbitrary.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We think, with the additional forces, we will have very strong indicators about how this is going, and -- and in our ability to transfer and transition at that point.

BASH: But the defense secretary conceded, the exit date is aimed at part at politics at home. GATES: I think the other audience, frankly, is the American people, who are weary of eight years -- after eight years of war, and to let them know this isn't going to go on for another 10 years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, later, Secretary Gates insisted that July 2011 is -- quote -- "not a cliff." He said it would be the beginning of withdrawal.

And, Wolf, one Republican senator told the president's team he expects that the political left will -- quote -- "rise up in protest" over their testimony that this date to start withdrawing from Afghanistan is actually flexible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We are going to be speaking with Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, who is one of the critics of the president's strategy -- strategy, normally a close ally. He's a Democrat, but, on this issue, they disagree, and they disagree pretty strongly. That interview, Dana, is coming up.

Thanks very much for that.

Clearly, a lot of unanswered questions about the president's exit strategy and the firmness of an end date.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's got more on what's going on.

What's the strategy that the White House is trying to advance right now, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the strategy, and, again, it's focused on that date, July 2011.

And the White House saying that the big test will be whether or not the Afghan forces will be able to take charge of their own security. And, certainly, the White House and the Pentagon believe that that goal is achievable.

However, they are also making it clear that this is not an open- ended strategy, and that there needs to be some real changes, that the Afghan government not only needs to change, but to take charge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Part of that is to build in an incentivizing for the Afghans to do what they need to do. We can't and we won't be there forever.

The role of providing security for the Afghans will have to rest primarily with Afghan national security forces. That's what this new dedication of resources will do, is accelerate that training.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LOTHIAN: Of course, the key question is, what if the Afghan forces are not able to handle their own security at the time, Robert Gibbs saying that he doesn't want to deal in hypotheticals?

But he does believe that they can start that drawdown beginning in July 2011. However, the pace of that drawdown will be impacted by the conditions on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president threw out a $30 billion number last night. How is the White House going to pay -- what are they saying about how they are going to pay for all of this?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, Wolf, they are not giving specifics about how exactly they will pay for that $30 billion, $35 billion for this strategy in Afghanistan.

Let me just roll it back a little bit now. The 2009 budget for Afghanistan is $46.6 billion. For 2010, it's $65 billion. That's an increase of about 39.4 percent. Now, the Office of Management and Budget, an official there telling me that they will assess to see if there's anything there from the money that's already been budgeted that can be used towards this.

And then if not, then they will go to Congress to figure out a way to come up with the funds. But, Wolf, as we have been reporting, this is going to be a difficult sell, because many Democrats already believe the money is just not there to take on this war and also all the other pressing issues, like health care.

BLITZER: We have an conclusive interview coming up today here in our SITUATION ROOM, Dan, with the president's top national security adviser, General Jim Jones. Lots of questions for him. That interview, that's coming up later today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's -- he's here.

Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, for that.

Another note, we want to just alert our viewers that Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, will be speaking with our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. That interview will air Sunday on Christiane Amanpour's show, 2:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

When it comes to Afghanistan, President Obama better be right. After months of meetings and criticisms that he was dithering and weak on Afghanistan, he finally made what will turn out to be probably the most important decision of his presidency.

The announcement to deploy 30,000 additional troops, though, is cloaked in contradiction. We're going to rush more troops in, so we can begin to rush them out in 18 months. The Taliban and al Qaeda will probably make a note of this timetable. You don't suppose the decision to withdraw in July of 2011 would have anything to do with the president's 2012 reelection campaign, do you? There was no mention of how we're going to pay for this. The 30,000 additional troops will cost $30 billion, $35 billion more in the first year. Where is that money coming from?

Some Democrats want a so-called war surtax. But, with a fragile U.S. economy, an unemployment rate north of 10 percent, and a very costly health care reform plan on the table, well, there's not a lot of appetite for that, as you might expect.

Meanwhile, a new "USA Today"/Gallup poll suggests the American public has just about gotten its bully full of Afghanistan. Just 35 percent approve of what President Obama is doing there. That's down from 49 percent in September, 56 percent in July. Fifty-five percent disapprove, not the kind of numbers that are likely to lead to a second term. Can you spell Vietnam?

Here's the question. How optimistic are you about success in Afghanistan? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You are going to be interested in my exclusive interview with General Jim Jones. He's the former commandant of the Marine Corps, former NATO supreme allied commander, now the president's top national security adviser, was involved in all of these efforts. And we ask him some of the questions you just raised there -- there, Jack, so that's coming up today in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CAFFERTY: I will look forward to it.

BLITZER: He doesn't do a lot of TV, but we have an exclusive with him today.

The charges...

CAFFERTY: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What did you say?

CAFFERTY: Go ahead. No, that's fine. I will talk to you later.

BLITZER: OK.

CAFFERTY: I'm done.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: The charges are piling up for the alleged gunman in the Fort Hood massacre. We are going to tell you what he's now facing.

Plus, CNN has just obtained new police diagrams of Tiger Woods' car crash. Does it help to clear up the confusion about what happened that night? And e-mails shedding some new light on the Pentagon -- on a Pentagon liaison's exchanges with the White House party-crashers. We're taking a closer look at her role and why the Obama administration may be playing in trying to protect her from Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: (AUDIO GAP) ... is likening the new troop surge in Afghanistan to a -- quote -- "shack on fire near a dynamite factory."

Quite a few of the president's fellow Democrats are rather skeptical right now. Some are even downright opposed to his new war plan.

Let's talk about this with Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He's a key member of both the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee.

Did I get that right, Senator?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: That's right, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, a key word there being key, is that...

FEINGOLD: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: OK.

Let's talk a little bit about why you oppose what the president is doing. What's wrong with his logic?

FEINGOLD: Well, it just doesn't add up for me.

The president says, we're doing this. We're adding 30,000, 35,000 troops to finish the job. And I ask the question, "What job?" because the president has been so eloquent in pointing out our issue is fighting al Qaeda.

The argument falls apart when you realize that al Qaeda does not have its headquarters in Afghanistan anymore. It is headquartered in Pakistan. It is active in Somalia, and Yemen, North Africa, affiliates of it in Southeast Asia.

Why does it make sense to have a huge ground presence in Afghanistan to deal with a small al Qaeda contingent, when we don't do that in so many other countries where we're actually having some success without invading the country and attacking those that are part of al Qaeda? It doesn't make sense.

BLITZER: Well, here's how the president responds to that. I will play this clip from his speech last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I guess the main point he's trying to make is, if -- if the U.S. were to lose, let's say, in Afghanistan, just walk away, all those al Qaeda operatives who have crossed the border into Pakistan would simply go back to a pre-9/11 situation that the Taliban would control and give them that safe haven in Afghanistan.

FEINGOLD: That's an incredibly unlikely scenario, in my view, that al Qaeda would find that to be the ideal place to return to. The notion that the Taliban would automatically welcome them with open arms is questionable, in light of the fact that in the first place they came into Afghanistan with the Taliban's blessing because they had a lot of money to pass around.

Now they are hiding in caves in Pakistan. And I'm wondering why the president thinks he shouldn't have ground forces and troops in countries all over the world that are not only potential, but current safe havens for al Qaeda. Why aren't we doing that approach of a huge land presence in those places, as in Northern Africa, in Yemen and Somalia? It doesn't make sense. Why this one place, where it's not the place that al Qaeda actually is headquartered in?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Have you spoken to the president about your concerns?

FEINGOLD: I have not had the opportunity, but I would enjoy it.

BLITZER: Because he obviously has given a great deal of thought to all of this. He's had many meetings in his own Situation Room. He's met with his intelligence and national security advisers. And he says the U.S. needs 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. But then they -- they can start withdrawing in July of 2011, in other words, a temporary surge and then the beginning of the, I guess, exodus. Is that -- is that something unacceptable to you?

FEINGOLD: Well, yes, because all you have got here are people are calling it a timeline. My -- timelines I have seen involve several points along a line. It doesn't involve one point in the future that could involve just withdrawing one American troop.

There's no sense at all of how long we will stay there. The withdrawal doesn't even begin for a year-and-a-half, and then there's absolutely no commitment to finishing the withdrawal. It simply says we will begin a withdrawal.

So, you know, it's nice to hear the word that -- the notion that we might not be staying there forever, but there's no meat on the bones. And so that troubles me a great deal. You have this huge surge of troop buildup, without any clear exit strategy, and my question is, what are we going to accomplish, with all the human sacrifice and economic sacrifice in the next three years, that is going to be much better than what we have now?

I'm extremely skeptical. And it will not help us in any significant way in the worldwide struggle against al Qaeda, which is my priority, is the president's priority, and is our national security priority.

BLITZER: Will you vote against funding for this new escalation in Afghanistan? The president says it's going to cost an extra $30 billion.

FEINGOLD: Absolutely.

You know, I started to raise this question in "The Christian Science Monitor" before we even knew who the new president was going to be. I didn't like the idea of the buildup that started late last year and that put us up to 60,000 or 70,000 troops.

I have been warning that this doesn't make sense and in fact that it may destabilize Pakistan, which many people agree with. And yet they are moving forward with it, without any, I think, serious regard for the regional consequences of this huge troop buildup.

BLITZER: The president is rejecting suggestions from some of his critics that this could be another quagmire, like Vietnam. I will play this little clip of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you see parallels with Vietnam?

FEINGOLD: I'm not interested in Vietnam analogies.

You know, our top priority is to protect our country, the people of our country, and to deal with the fact that we have enormous domestic problems. Taking all these resources, hundreds of billions of dollars, and sacrificing so much of our military in Afghanistan, when we have other international priorities and enormous priorities economically in our country, seems to be a very odd choice in a time of great crisis.

That's the problem, not whether it's similar to Vietnam. And that's not my interest at this point. I want to get it right right now. And this really seems to move in the wrong direction in almost every respect.

BLITZER: As normally a close ally and supporter of the president, how frustrated were you last night in listening to his speech?

FEINGOLD: Well, I knew it was coming. I felt it's been coming for a long time.

I was somewhat hopeful when the president indicated that he wasn't even given an option for a long time that involved any kind of exit or any kind of withdrawal. I was disappointed when he went with the troop increase, but at least he showed some rhetorical connection to the idea that we ought to not have this be open-ended.

And I'm hopeful that that thought will -- will grow in his mind and that of his advisers, that this really is a potential situation that is extremely draining for the United States, and I think counterproductive in our fight against al Qaeda.

So, I wasn't happy, but I respect the president. I think he was thoughtful. I think he cares about getting this right. I think he is sincere about it. I just don't agree with him. And it's my job, as an elected official, to express that, just as it is his job to exercise his judgment.

BLITZER: Senator Feingold, thanks very much for coming in.

FEINGOLD: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: After a dark episode, you can see the relief. Five British sailors detained by Iran sail out of their ordeal.

And the weapons, fists and furniture -- look at this. Lawmakers throw blows, throw chairs in a scene reminiscent of a fight night. We will tell you where this has taken place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Fred, what's going on?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.

Hello, everyone.

The suspect in the Fort Hood shooting spree is facing a long list of new charges today. This afternoon, the Army charged Major Nidal Hasan with 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the 30 soldiers and two civilian police officers he allegedly shot and wounded. That's in addition to the 13 counts of murder he's facing for the November 5 attack.

Amid the darkness, bright rays of happiness and relief -- those five British sailors recently detained by Iran sail ashore in Dubai after being released. According to Iranian media reports, an investigation found the men accidentally drifted into Iranian waters. The sailors were on a racing yacht traveling from Bahrain to Dubai for a competition. They say they ran into mechanical problems that made it hard to steer.

And Baltimore's popular first African-American female mayor is now disgraced, convicted of a crime, but Sheila Dixon vows, she won't go, this after a jury found her guilty of a misdemeanor, using gift cards intended for needy children to buy electronics and knickknacks.

There is no set date for a sentence. Only a sentence could actually force suspension, and the mayor could be forced out only after she exhausted all appeals.

And you think it's rough in the U.S. Congress? Yes, take a look right there. Check out this chair-raising scene in Argentina. Lawmakers are furious, so the furniture and the fists went flying, as you see right there. They threw punches and chairs at a session to choose the leader of a lower house in northern Argentina.

Officials from the governing party tried to stop their opponents from getting into a legislative session. At least 10 people were hurt, yes, at least, because that looks like a pretty filled room there.

BLITZER: Yes.

WHITFIELD: I would imagine not one person walked out of there, Wolf, unscathed, without a bruise or something.

BLITZER: They take their politics pretty seriously over there.

WHITFIELD: Very seriously.

BLITZER: Because that is not the House of Lords, I would say, not exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: Yes. We haven't seen that there yet.

BLITZER: No.

WHITFIELD: It could always happen, I guess.

BLITZER: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right.

BLITZER: Tiger Woods is now formally apologizing for -- quote -- "transgressions" in his personal life, but there are still many unanswered questions about the car crash that turned his world upside- down. We have obtained a police report that sketches out what happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the president's top national security adviser, General James Jones, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, exclusively. He explains the logic behind the president's 30,000-troop increase. How many enemy fighters might there be actually in Afghanistan? Blunt criticism from Senator John McCain and others about withdrawal dates. Stand by.

They caused women anger and confusion. How did a government panel create new guidelines on mammograms? The people who created them are now being grilled on Capitol Hill.

And on glob -- global warming, I should say, some say critics want to distort the truth, but when critics maintain the real truth is not coming out, what should happen? After some revealing e-mails are emerging, the fallout could altogether change the debate right at a critical time.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Cuba right now is flexing its military muscle, staging some major war games this week, aimed at trying to repel a potential U.S. military invasion. Why is Cuba so worried about a U.S. offensive, right when relations with Washington are starting to thaw, at least a little bit?

Reporting from Havana, CNN's Shasta Darlington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Camouflaged troops fired from trenches, and tanks rolled across Cuba, an ambitious display of the country's aging weaponry.

It was the biggest military exercise in five years. Cuba says it wants to be prepared in the event of a U.S. invasion.

General Leonardo Andollo called the maneuvers a necessity of the first order.

"The political and military situation between our country and the empire," he said, "can go from relatively normal to a much more urgent, confrontational one in a month, a week or even a night." He said the best way to win a war was to prevent it with a show of might.

President Raul Castro urged the armed forces on. "Fight and fight until you wear the enemy down and defeat them," he said.

There is an historic precedent to these war games. Time for National Defense Day.

In 1961, the United States backed an invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Fidel Castro led the army that expelled the invaders. And ever since, Washington has maintained a trade embargo on Cuba.

This last year brought an initial thaw in relations. Billboards comparing President Bush to Hitler disappeared, and President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances.

So why now for these exercises?

(on camera): Some analysts say this latest show of force is less about a foreign invasion and more about sending a message to people who might want to destabilize the country from within.

(voice-over): Cuba has stepped up pressure on some high-profile critics of the government. Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez (ph) said security agents briefly detained her and beat her in November. When her husband denounced the alleged attackers in public, he was mobbed by government supporters.

Raul Castro said these maneuvers were also about maintaining order and discipline, a message intended perhaps for consumption abroad and at home.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Obama White House wants some answers about the State Dinner that was crashed. So why would the administration want to protect a potentially valuable witness from being questioned by Congress?

Dick Armey and Hilary Rosen, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The crash heard around the world leaves behind skid marks of scandal. For the first time we're seeing the actual police diagram of Tiger Woods' car crash. This is what they've released. Take a look at it.

It shows he crashed not once, but over and over. Police say Woods drove from his driveway into bushes, then hit a grassy wall, kept on going, crashed into that fire hydrant that we heard about. Even then, kept on going, finally crashing into a tree. The diagram comes amid some fresh revelations from Tiger Woods himself.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has been covering this story in Orlando. She's joining us now with the latest.

A dramatic day today, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is sure has been, Wolf. Safe to say Tiger Woods is in the throes of a PR nightmare that students of the craft will probably be studying for years, and today he faced allegations of an affair.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Tiger's tangle with a fire hydrant may be over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Florida Highway Patrol has completed its investigation into this matter.

CANDIOTTI: But no sooner did Woods pay his $164 fine that the PR fiasco blasted into the stratosphere with new allegations of an affair. Cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs, seen in this TV reality show, tells "US Weekly" she and Tiger were an item starting in 2007.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, it's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor.

Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off that and, what do you call it? Just have it as a number on the voicemail. Just have it as your telephone number.

OK? You've got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right. Bye.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: CNN could not independently authenticate the voicemail.

Within hours, Woods responded, but only on his Web site, where no one could ask questions, and he never directly admitted to an affair. "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves."

"I am not without fault and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family."

Woods said he's a private man. "Personal sins should not require press releases," he said, "and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."

But will sticking to his statement be enough to salvage a dent in his carefully-crafted, squeaky-clean image? Some PR experts are not impressed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pitfalls are the story still continue, and you don't want the story to continue. You want to start ending the story. And by leaving those holes there, he continues the story.

CANDIOTTI: On the Tiger Woods Web site, fans weighed in on their hero's PR mess. "He failed at the only thing that matters in life, being true to your word on your wedding day." And another, "I am still and will always be a fan."

Less clear is whether all his sponsors will stick with him. Some offered no comment.

Nike said, "Our relationship remains unchanged." Gatorade's reaction: "Tiger and his family have our support as they work through this private matter."

Can Tiger Woods put this behind him without answering some hard questions? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to have some tough questions asked of you, and you have the ability to answer them. Own the situation 110 percent.

CANDIOTTI: If so, Paul says, the public may forgive and forget. Perhaps depending on his play on the golf course.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: Now, on his Web site, Woods promised to be a better person, a father and a husband, and he offered an apology to his supporters.

But the question, Wolf, is can he climb out of this PR mess?

Back to you.

BLITZER: And he's still holed up in his home, as far as we know in Orlando? Is that right?

CANDIOTTI: That's what we think.

BLITZER: Susan, thanks very much.

Tiger Woods was Sport's Illustrated's top earning athlete in 2009. The golfing great has brought in more than $90 million in endorsements alone this year.

Let's talk about this and more with CNN sports business analyst Rick Horrow.

Rick, thanks very much for coming in. How does this affect his marketability, shall we say?

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Well, it's a perfect storm. This may be the biggest story in the history of the world. I'm not trying to be over-dramatic.

This is the most recognizable man this side of maybe Osama bin Laden and the pope. Combined with the blogosphere, Internet, immediate access to information, it is an incredible perfect storm. This issues goes around the world in seconds.

Ninety-two million dollars of endorsements, you talked about them. Susan is right. Most have publicly said they'll stick by him. All will, at least for the time being.

BLITZER: How does he handle this kind of damage? Because there clearly has been some damage to his reputation and his image.

HORROW: Well, remember his statement that Susan read part of and you did. He also said, "I'm not without personal faults. I'm far short of perfect."

Yes, maybe so, but American Express and Accenture and all of those companies are paying for somebody who looks more like being perfect than the other way around. So, what he needs to do is hit the golf ball straight and continue to be repentant.

And frankly, look, he's 33 years old. Most of his golf career might still be ahead of him. He's made a billion dollars. That will probably be only his first billion if he stays on the right track.

BLITZER: So you think he can come out of this crisis right now, get back, head back into the game, focus and be the great golfer that he was?

HORROW: Wow. That's a pretty tall order, Wolf, but I do think that there is a prescription for success in this. And the corporate sponsors, by the way, will stand behind him.

Nike has 800 million reasons annually to stand behind him. When they started the golf division, there was nothing. Tiger brought that money in, so there is incentive.

The only problem, by the way, is his foundation right now. There are a hundred charities that serve 10 million kids. That may take a short-term hit.

BLITZER: Because people are not going to want to give him money? Is that what you're saying?

HORROW: Well, what I'm saying is it's going to take a little while for people to kind of get off the fence a little bit on his image because of all of these issues. So, we hope he gets back on the right track not only for the golf industry, but for the kids as well.

BLITZER: Take us into these big companies like Gatorade or Gillette or American Express. Nike, obviously. How do they deal with a crisis like this?

HORROW: Well, let's remember that this is not the O.J. Hertz stuff or the Kobe Bryant McDonald's stuff. And the Michael Phelps thing with Kellogg's kind of blew over. These are corporations that had big issues and kind of stepped away.

So, high-paid crisis management officials weigh every word on how to react to all of this. The bottom line is you've got to make sure you stay the course.

But after all of these incidents, corporations spend, Wolf, $12 billion across the world on athlete endorsers. They are not perfect. They get into these kinds of situations.

They get injured. They get concussions. They don't play.

Contracts today, by the way, are shorter and smaller and easier to terminate because of this kind of situation.

BLITZER: Because Kobe Bryant certainly came out of his scandal, and he's a very, very marketable athlete right now.

HORROW: Well, that's a very good point. So the issue is not how big the box is. The issue is how quickly you act with resolve to get out of that box and stay out of that box.

BLITZER: Rick Horrow, thanks very much for coming in.

HORROW: Talk to you soon.

BLITZER: All right.

I just want to remind our viewers, we have an exclusive interview with the president's national security adviser, General Jim Jones. He'll be talking at length about the president's new strategy in Afghanistan and a lot more.

Stand by for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker" right now, why talk war when you can talk about a wedding? Senator Evan Bayh took some time out today from questioning Hillary Clinton about the administration's new Afghanistan strategy. Apparently had the secretary of state's daughter and a recent engagement on his mind.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I am gratified that all of you, along with the president, took the time to think this through to maximize our chances of getting it right. So it's good to see you again.

On a somewhat lighter note, I haven't had a chance to see you since the news about your daughter was announced. Congratulations.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congratulations from us, too.

Remember, for all the latest political news any time, you can always check out CNNPolitics.com.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us are CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen -- and she's a Democratic strategist -- and former Republican House majority leader Dick Armey. He's the chairman of FreedomWorks. I guess we could call him a Republican strategist.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

I want to talk about this so-called litmus test that Republicans, conservatives are being asked to take.

I'll get to that in a moment, but quickly, on this White House crasher, the story, testimony tomorrow before the House Homeland Security Committee. We spoke to the chairman yesterday, Bennie Thompson. There's some desire from Republican members that Desiree Rogers, the social secretary, come up and testify about her role or lack of a role in this whole episode.

Here's what Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's an ongoing assessment and investigation by the Secret Service into what happened I guess a little more than a week ago. We are working with and are ready to work with anybody that has questions on that. I think you know that based on separation of powers, staff here don't go to testify in front of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, the head of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, will testify before that panel.

Is this smart for the White House, to keep Desiree Rogers from appearing and explaining what the Office of the Social Secretary did?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. You know, this whole thing started because people were camera hungry. You know, these two folks who wanted to go to this party. And I think we've got some camera-hungry members of Congress going on now, and I think they just need to sit back, chill, let the White House, the Secret Service do their review.

They are doing a review. They are taking it seriously. People have repeatedly said that the president nor the guests were under any security jeopardy. And it would be inappropriate to have one White House staffer go in and, you know, be made a scapegoat for this.

BLITZER: The House Homeland Security Committee oversees the Secret Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Should they be allowed to have this witness come forward...

(CROSSTALK)

DICK ARMEY, CHAIRMAN, FREEDOMWORKS: I think the White House is being very prudent here. They understand that if they set a precedent of letting their folks go talk about who comes and goes from the White House, it will be much more difficult for them to keep secret meetings on health care and many of the other secret meetings that they are having with the insurance industry secret. So that precedent will be broken. I think they are protecting their turf and they're right to keep their business to themselves.

BLITZER: So they are doing what the Bush White House did on the energy meetings...

(CROSSTALK) ARMEY: They're doing what they accused the Bush White House of doing. It's just -- of course, it's saintly when they do it.

ROSEN: This is not about business deals or legislation. This is about a party, and they are trying to get the facts.

And they are not trying to withhold anything from Congress. They will be talking to Congress and they are doing their review. They'll likely, I'm hearing, be talking about some new measures that they are going to be taking within the Social Office to make sure there's guest lists...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But there are plenty of examples, plenty of precedents where White House officials have gone to testify before Congress. They have waived that executive branch privilege, if you will.

ARMEY: Well, it's always their option to waive it, but it's also, I think, a good sense of prudence. If you're going to have secret meetings on serious matters of public policy, to preserve your right against precedent, to withhold testimony in front of Congress, I think it is quite prudent on their part given the nature of the meetings they are having, especially with the insurance industry.

ROSEN: With all due respect to the former leader, this snarky garbage is exactly the reason why you don't put a White House staffer at a congressional hearing before all the facts are out.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be covering that hearing tomorrow. We'll see what the facts are as they come forward. We'll see if the Salahis appear and they actually testify before this committee, guys.

Let me move on quickly to this Republican proposal that some conservatives want but some are calling a litmus test -- ten points. They want Republicans, conservatives to endorse them, at least, what, seven or eight of them, otherwise they might not be worthy of getting support.

Is this a good idea?

ARMEY: Well, actually, what you have is the Republican Party searching for a sense of national identity, national policy identity. They realize that in the Reagan years, in the contract years, when we were in fact conservative, that we were endearing to the public.

Some members of the party are saying let's set forth some principles, much like we did with the contract, and simply put candidates on notice that you have to conform with at least seven out of the 10. This is not beside it. It's not a policy.

And by the way, let me just say, when MoveOn.org and the liberal bloggers took on poor old Senator Lieberman, the sitting senator and former running mate to their candidate, nobody saw that as the Democrat Party coming apart at the seams or imposing litmus tests. But the fact is, the party's got a right to try to identify a national policy vision. This is one effort that's out there.

BLITZER: Because there are some on the Democratic side, the liberal side, who want purists only in their party, just as there are purists on the conservative or Republican side.

ROSEN: Look, I disagreed with almost everything in the "Contract with America" that the leader is referring to back in 1993, but the fact is that those were at least proactive policies. This list that people are talking about is literally a list of what should not be done.

We don't want energy independence. We don't want health care reform. We don't want investment in education. We don't want this, we don't want that.

The definition of this is going to end up being the Republican Party definition of no.

BLITZER: In fairness, that's not exactly what they say.

ARMEY: I might add, we don't want distortion of what it is we don't want either. I mean, we all want energy independence. That's why we would like to explore more resources.

ROSEN: It's not a list of what you do want to happen. It's not a list of suggestions. It's a list of what shouldn't happen.

BLITZER: Well, there's one, number five, that jumped out at me, because they make a big deal about Ronald Reagan. "We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants."

Ronald Reagan supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, as you'll recall.

ARMEY: I understand that, and it's one of the most controversial issues out there. If you take a look at the list though, the primary component, parts of the list, the majority are fiscal issues. And the fiscal conservative center of American politics is what they are trying to reach out to.

So, I know they have to have issues like amnesty, and they have some other issues that I would prefer.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, because, unfortunately, we're out of time. But good discussion. We'll continue.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: How optimistic are you about success in Afghanistan in the wake of President Obama's long-awaited speech last night?

Joe writes from Chatham, Virginia, "I recently read a Taliban leader said that Afghanistan is their home and they'll be there long after we have given up and gone home. Nation-building there will be hard. They have few resources upon which to build a stable government, and the area has always been and still is governed by tribal thiefdoms. A strong central government is an alien concept."

"Also, the region has historically been the graveyard of empires. I don't understand how we can be an exception."

Karla writes, "This better be good, because this is exactly what I did not vote for last November. Otherwise, I would have asked McCain to finish the job."

Amiri, an Afghan here in New York City, "It depends, Jack. If my people in Afghanistan get help to rise up from the poverty and have a loaf of bread for their families, of course everyone will succeed in Afghanistan, including the international community. It's the Afghan people who are suffering from poverty, and they have nothing else but to join the insurgent groups in order to earn that loaf of bread."

Anita writes, "I could be optimistic if only I knew what success would be and how to recognize it."

Rob in North Carolina, "There is no optimism. There's no way to win. The Russians figured this out 10 years ago after trying to fix this country. We need to get out of all the countries we're in and try to fix our own problems."

Matt writes, "Jack, you aren't the first one to compare a recent war to Vietnam. I think you and your friends were already using that reference when I was standing in the Iraqi dessert in late 2003. The difference is no one really cared about Afghanistan back then."

"Let's finish the job and bring our troops home. Not tomorrow, not 10 years from now. Give the plan a chance. Something tells me you people won't be happy with any proposal. Go put on a uniform."

I actually did once, Matt.

Stewart writes, "As a Vietnam veteran, why do I get that old feeling?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can check my blog. You'll find it at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I do that every day, Jack. Thank you very much.

Many women are more confused than ever about when to get mammograms. Members of the task force behind some controversial new recommendations are being called on the carpet by Congress.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On their way to crashing President Obama's first State Dinner, this couple left behind a trail of e-mails, and they let down quite a few people who say the Salahis weren't what they seemed to be.

Our Brian Todd has been checking into all of these developments.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, finding out new information not only about those e-mails that Tareq and Michaele Salahi exchanged with a Pentagon official about the White House dinner, but also about a charity event the couple organized that attracted some very high-end sponsors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): It seems Tareq and Michaele Salahi have organized an annual polo match that doesn't live up to its billing. On its Web site promoting next year's match, it's called the Land Rover America's Polo Cup, but a Land Rover official tells CNN the company has pulled out, so has Cartier and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, who are also listed as sponsors.

Vivian Deuschl, spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton, told us they pulled out after the 2007 event, when the hotel sponsored the British polo team in its match against the U.S.

(on camera): What was promised, what was implied to Ritz- Carlton? And what really happened?

VIVIAN DEUSCHL, RITZ-CARLTON SPOKESWOMAN: Well, what was implied was, since it was the British team and Prince Charles plays on the British team, the term "royals" was thrown around quite liberally. And everybody interpreted that to mean Prince Charles, and none of the organizers discouraged us from thinking that it wouldn't be. We found out at the very last minute that Prince Charles was going to be a no- show, and obviously people were disappointed.

TODD (voice-over): Deuschl says she also heard from others involved in that 2007 event that vendors, clients and others who attended complained of poor organization, that food and other concessions ran out.

We've tried to get response from representatives for the couple, but we have not heard back.

CNN has also confirmed that for at least four days, the Salahis tried to get access to the White House State Dinner. That's according to e-mails the couple exchanged with Michele Jones, the Pentagon's liaison to the White House, who they appeared to know.

On Friday, November 20th, Jones e-mails Tareq Salahi, "Hopefully I can get tickets for the arrival ceremony. The State Dinner is completely closed and has been for a while."

It doesn't deter Tareq Salahi, who mails Jones the following Monday, "Do you know what time we need to be there and which entrance we should go through?" Jones later e-mails back, "It doesn't seem likely" that she'd get tickets for the arrival ceremony. She e-mails the next day that the arrival ceremony has been cancelled and "I am still working on tickets for tonight's dinner."