Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Why Voters are so Angry; Restarting on Health Care
Aired January 20, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thanks very much. This January 20th, a day of monumental change for President Obama and for American politics. Exactly one year after he took office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: 365 days later, Democrats are picking themselves up and facing their devastating loss in Massachusetts. Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's long-time Senate seat last night and cost Democrats their critical 60-seat super majority in the Senate.
Now the president's party is forced to re-think health care reform, its entire agenda and its strategy for the 2010 elections.
We're also following all the latest developments out of Haiti on this day including a miraculous 5-year-old boy pulled from the rubble today over a week after the quake.
We've got a lot of important stuff coming up. We've got the best political team on television, working all these stories for us. Our correspondents are here, they are and around the globe. We're not going neglect Haiti, we're not going to neglect politics on this important day.
Let's bring in John King right now.
You're just back from Boston. What a night in Boston. I guess we shouldn't have been all that surprise given the polls in the final few days showing that Scott Brown was ahead.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a remarkable story and Scott brown will come to Washington tomorrow, his first trip, to meet with the Massachusetts delegation. He'll also spend some time with Senator John McCain who was one of his earliest supporters, but it's a fascinating story and after his event, his news conference in Boston, we were retracing key steps from the campaign with some of his aides.
And it's interesting. They understand that it has fundamentally changed the health care debate in Washington, but what they say the fundamental issue in the election in Massachusetts was disaffection, the very same factors that contributed to the president's big victory in 2008, frustration, anxiety about the economy, high unemployment, bailouts on Wall Street, high spending.
And Wolf, a couple of key quick points. They say a JFK-ette. Scott Brown, the Republican, used John Kennedy, an ad where John Kennedy is talking about cutting taxes in the 1960s. It started with black and white John Kennedy, then it came to Scott Brown in color finishing the quote, essentially saying, that's what I want to do, restore the Kennedy conservative Democratic economic philosophy.
They also don't underestimate the Christmas day attempted bombing of that U.S. jetliner. They say after that, Scott Brown -- he's a National Guard attorney. After that, his assessment of Martha Coakley, his opponent, as too lawyerly, too liberal when it comes to fighting terrorism made a big difference in the race.
Watch and see Republicans pick that one up as we go forward.
BLITZER: He never really advertised the fact that he's a Republican.
KING: He -- no, he ran as an independent voice for Massachusetts without a doubt and he -- because more than 50 percent of the registered voters in Massachusetts are independent or un-enrolled as they call in Massachusetts. So he says he will now caucus with the Republicans.
This is fascinating to watch. We will watch how this impacts the Democratic Party the most because of the warning shot, but remember he has to be on the ballot in two years. This is just to finish Ted Kennedy's term.
And so he still has to represent Massachusetts. Yes, Massachusetts sent a message yesterday. But he can't go too far right and he knows that because he has to be back on the ballot in two years in Massachusetts.
BLITZER: Is this a wake-up call after Virginia?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes!
BLITZER: After New Jersey, now Massachusetts.
BORGER: I think so.
BLITZER: Do they really appreciate that?
BORGER: Oh yes.
BLITZER: You've been speaking to a lot of Democrats.
BORGER: Oh yes, I have and I've been speaking to people at the White House. You know, they clearly understand that they've got a real problem on their hands. And one of the things I want to add to John. What's interesting to me, in talking to some Republicans also, is it wasn't necessarily health care, per se.
It was the backroom deals and the kind of business as usual antics, giving this to labor, giving that to a couple of senators, just to get their votes behind closed doors that got voters angry in Massachusetts because their candidate was talking about it.
It's -- you know, so voters voted for change, but this isn't the kind of change they voted for. It seemed like more business as usual...
BLITZER: It looks like...
BORGER: ... and that played right into his hand.
BLITZER: The kind of old politics that a lot of voters out there hate.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And you look at the problem and the first thing you say to yourself if you're a voter is OK, we've got Democrats in Washington controlling everything. What's the solution?
Well, maybe they shouldn't be controlling everything. Now we return to this notion of divided government which is a notion we've seen so many times in Washington where the voters have said maybe it's not a good idea to have one party calling all the shots because this is what we get.
KING: And the distrust of all big institutions carries over to political parties. More and more people across the country are becoming un-enrolled, they're independents, call it what you will in different states. Call it different things.
This means our politics are increasingly unpredictable. People swing back and forth between elections and this is what Democrats are most worried about because in Virginia, in New Jersey and now in Massachusetts, independents said we were with you, Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Now we're not so sure and they have voted Republican.
Watch this going forward.
BLITZER: Yes, in all three of these states, the independents overwhelmingly voted Republican this time.
Joe Johns, John King, Gloria Borger, don't go away. We've got a lot more to discuss.
I want to go to Boston right now, our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is there on the scene for us.
What are they saying in Massachusetts on this historic day-after?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I've heard a lot of the same points John, Joe and Gloria had mentioned. I talked to a couple of independents who said yes, they voted for Obama, then they voted for Brown, and they'd consider voting for a Democrat again, but they just didn't like the messages they've been getting out of Washington for the last few months, and they want a change.
They like this idea of divided government. Also they're worried Democrats have been in power for too long here in Massachusetts. They're worried there's a parallel in Washington and they'd like to change it up.
But I want to go back to something that John King mentioned at the very beginning which is this idea of national security. It was one of the more surprising things we heard out of the Brown campaign today, which was as much as health care has been a major theme in his campaign, they told us that after jobs, the biggest issue that resonated for voters and to energize independents was this question of national security.
Not so much is the president keeping you safe. People feel OK about that, it's the question should detainees get rights in American courts or should they be held in military tribunals?
This is how Scott Brown characterized it last night. Let's listen to him for a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BROWN (R), MARTHA COAKLEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR-ELECT: The message we need to send in dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them and not lawyers to defend them!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: And, Wolf, even a CNN poll recent -- taken just a week and a half ago shows that Americans by 15 points think that detainees should be tried in military courts, not civilian courts. So this seems to be an issue that's picking up traction and could resonate in the coming months and certainly in the midterm elections to come -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure -- I'm sure it will. All right, stand by. Jessica is on the scene in Boston for us.
We have a lot more coming up on this election in Massachusetts. What it means. What it means for health care reform and a lot of other items on the president's agenda.
We're also later going to be speaking with the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
But let's get to Haiti right now and update you on what is happening on this day. A 5-year-old boy's remarkable will to live. He was pulled alive from his collapsed home just a little while ago. He survived almost eight days trapped in the rubble. We're told he suffers from severe dehydration, but he doesn't have any broken bones. Other developments in Haiti. A senior administration official tells CNN that seven rescue teams still are searching the ruins of the Hotel Montana, piece by piece. Some Americans are believed trapped inside. We're told so far they haven't found anyone on this day.
People cried, prayed and screamed when a strong 5.9 aftershock struck Haiti early this morning.
A U.N. official said some buildings collapsed in a small town closest to the epicenter of the aftershock. We're going to have much more from Haiti. That's coming up this hour.
We'll be speaking with our reporters on the scene. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper, stand by. Full reports coming out of Haiti.
But we're also not going far away from the political bombshell, the election in Massachusetts last night. What it means. We're going to be speaking with the chairman of the Democratic Party, Tim Kaine. Also speak with the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor and our best political team on television, all standing by.
BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty. He's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What a difference a year makes. It was a year ago to the day that President Obama rode into Washington high on his campaign's mantra of change and hope.
He delivered his inauguration speech to adoring masses, embarked on an ambitious agenda. He's going to tackle the economy, health care, the environment, a couple of wars, all in the first year.
Fast forward 12 months. The president and his party have been handed a stunning defeat in Massachusetts of all places. What's more, the same angry, independent voters disgusted with politics as usual, who had vaulted President Obama into the White House, that delivered big time for Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, the president's comment that we can't win them all -- that's a quote -- well, that's like putting lipstick on a pig. This loss is huge for him and the Democratic Party. After all, President Obama campaigned personally for the loser in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, as he did for the loser in the governor's race in Virginia, and the loser in the governor's race in New Jersey.
Seems like the Obama magic may be gone. No doubt, Republicans rejoicing here. Presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, all smiles weighing in on what it all means, but Sarah Palin might want to think twice before she gives up her day job over there at the "F" word network.
A new CBS News poll shows a whopping 71 percent of Americans including 56 percent of Republicans don't want Sarah Palin to run for president in 2012.
Anyway, here's the question: What does a Republican victory in the bluest of blue states mean for the rest of President Obama's first and perhaps only term?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: He still has three years to regroup, though, so...
CAFFERTY: We'll see.
BLITZER: It's happened.
CAFFERTY: We'll see.
BLITZER: Stand by, Jack. We're going to discuss this and a lot more. We've got the chairman of the Democratic Party. He's going to be joining us in a moment.
The Democrats very likely will have to start over on health care reform after their debacle in Massachusetts. President Obama appears to be ruling out any action before Scott Brown is sworn in as the U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
The president spoke to ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country. The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they're frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: And what is the strategy on health care going forward?
OBAMA: Here's one thing I know. And I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. The people of Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go right to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, what are they saying on the hill?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Democrat Claire McCaskill said today, Wolf, that if anybody in this building tells you that they're not more worried today about their election, then you should, quote, "slap them." Now, not everybody was that colorful, but in terms of the -- how Democrats are feeling I talked to dozens of lawmakers and the emotions range from shock to disbelief to "I told you so," in some cases.
It's really confusion and especially about the whole of health care and where to go from here. It seems as though sweeping health care legislation that they have worked on for months and months here seems to be close to impossible to dealing with.
One idea that the president actually mentioned today we told you about last night from rank and file Democrats is perhaps a smaller scaled back health care reform bill.
In fact, the number two Democrat, Steny Hoyer just told our Deidre Walsh that he thinks that is a reasonable alternative and he said that after a day of meetings with a -- range of Democrats, a broad spectrum of Democrats in the House.
The problem is that scale back, that will also have to pass the Senate and they still need, if they go through regular order, 60 votes and that is very hard to do.
BLITZER: When they only have 59 that's going to be very hard. And some of those 59, who knows how reliable they might be after seeing what happened in Massachusetts.
Dana, don't go far away. I want to bring in now the chairman of the Democratic Party, the now former governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
TIM KAINE, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Glad to, Wolf.
BLITZER: Who's responsible for the failure in Massachusetts?
KAINE: Well, you know, rather than apportioning blame and that's kind of an inside-the-beltway game, you know, we just need to acknowledge voters have a lot of anxieties, and legitimate anxieties, and we've got to get better. We've got to learn from it.
I think the president was right. Some of the same sense that we needed to create change and solve the economic woes that have been building for the last decade that swept him into office helped Scott Brown out.
This president has had an ambitious agenda to save our economy, to get jobs, you know, from 800,000 a month losing down to now less than 100,000. GDP growing again, but we've got more work to do and the president is going to remain very diligent about that.
BLITZER: Here was some criticism directed at you on huffingtonpost.com written by a well-known blogger, Cenk Uygur. Let me read it to you. It says this.
"Tim Kaine seems to be running the reverse 50-state strategy. We can lose anywhere in the country. So what's he doing wrong? He's gone back to the old days at the DNC where all you do is raise money and hope that you can win without a message."
Pretty tough words and he's on the left side.
KAINE: Well, I don't know Jack knows what we're doing here. We have more money out into all 50 states and more staff than ever before through Organizing for America and we're not going back to the old ways in terms of fundraising. We don't take money from lobbyists, federal lobbyists or PACs.
We've won all five special elections in Congress this year, but look, make no mistake about it. We really wanted to win last night and we didn't. That gives us a glimpse of things that we can change and fine-tune so that we can be strong in 2010.
The president understands that voters have significant anxieties. I'm proud of what this president has accomplished walking into the toughest situation since FDR in March of 1933.
BLITZER: All right.
KAINE: But he made plain it's not going to happen overnight. I do know this, Wolf, voters do not want to go backward to the Republican policies of the Bush/Cheney era that put the economy into the tank. We've got to go forward and that's what we'll do.
BLITZER: Although the last three state-wide elections in Virginia, your state, New Jersey and Massachusetts, the Democrats lost, the Republicans won.
Governor, Gloria Borger is here. She has a question for you.
BORGER: Governor, specifically, let's talk about exactly the president needs to do to fix this. You're in the room with him, say, you're advising him, he's your good friend, what does he need to do?
KAINE: I think what we all need to do, Gloria is this. The president has been about jobs from day one. The Recovery Act was about jobs and I've seen it work in my own state as it has definitely saved jobs and now putting people back to work.
I think we all have the obligation to communicate everything we do in crisper sound bites and connect it with sustained economic growth.
BORGER: Well, was this about communication or was it about the fact that people didn't like health care?
KAINE: Well, I think it's largely about communication.
KAINE: I don't look at the Massachusetts vote as a referendum on health care. That's a state that has a health care plan, and I think it was not a referendum on the federal health care legislation. I think it was an expression of significant anxieties of the electorate in a very tough economy.
Some of the same anxieties that helped President Obama win a year ago and we can tell you this, that the efforts that the president and Congress has made have stopped an economy in freefall.
GDP is growing again, but we're not yet seeing the job growth that we want to see. So we've got to keep on the path to do that.
BLITZER: Joe Johns has a quick question. Go ahead, Joe.
JOHNS: One question I have is talking to Democrats around Washington, many say that there may have been a problem of misreading the electorate, specifically when it comes to questions of expanding government, increasing the amount of taxes and spending, and that Democrats basically take the blame for that.
Do you think Democrats have misread the electorate as we go into the rest of the midterms this year?
KAINE: Well, I think you've got to, you know, kind of separate two issues. I mean, first, economists of all political spectrums, left to right, all said that something had to be done to stimulate an economy that was in freefall.
I mean remember just a year ago we were losing 800,000 jobs a month and $10 trillion of wealth of the American public was lost during 2008. We couldn't stand by and watch it collapse. So there needed to be recovery spending to get the economy going again and that's what has happened.
However, there does have to be a recognition and I think the president has taken steps and he'll take more to start to deal with the size of the federal base budget and rein it in.
BLITZER: All right.
KAINE: Earlier in '09 he did some things by cutting and reducing a set of spending priorities in the billions of dollars. He fought with Secretary Gates to shelf some obsolete weapons systems that were moving forward this year because of his concerns about their effect on the deficit, and I think in the last couple of months you've seen the White House really start to lay out a series of steps dealing with long-term control of the federal budget and I think you will continue to see that.
BLITZER: Governor, we've got to leave it right there. Governor Kaine, he's got his work cut out for him. Thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
KAINE: You bet, Wolf. BLITZER: All right, let's go to another Virginian right now. From the Republicans side, Congressman Eric Cantor, he's the number two Republican in the House of Representatives. He's got a lot of smiles on his face.
Who is more responsible for these dramatic wins that the Republicans have had in state-wide elections in recent months in Virginia, in New Jersey, now in Massachusetts? Would you say it's the Republican establishment or the tea party movement?
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP: You know, Wolf, I think where the electorate is, is they are extremely frustrated that Washington is not listening. So it involves everybody.
I mean who would have thought even a week ago that we would have seen the type of election victory that Scott Brown had in Massachusetts last night?
I know that we in Virginia several months ago would never have dreamed that Bob McDonnell would win as big as he did that night. And I don't think anybody would have thought New Jersey wasn't even going to be close.
This is a result of the people standing up and telling Washington to cut it out. Stop the arrogance and start listening to us. And I think this is the theme that we're going to see continuing to play out unless this administration and the majority in Congress begin to respond to the people.
BLITZER: Does this mean, you believe, that you can win the House of Representatives, the majority, come November?
CANTOR: It is so extraordinary to even imagine that we are here where we are today. There's a lot of work yet still to be done, but yes, Wolf, I do think that we can take back the majority in the U.S. House in November.
BLITZER: Michael Steele, the chairman of your party, he was doubtful of that only a couple of weeks ago, but you disagree with him.
CANTOR: You know, Wolf, I saw Michael Steele at our inaugural of Bob McDonnell as governor on Saturday, and I told the chairman there, I just disagree with him on that point.
CANTOR: I disagree with Chairman Steele on that point because I believe that the American people at this point want to see a check and balance on the one-party rule in Washington that has not produced the kind of hope and change that was promised a year ago.
BLITZER: So you -- do you have confidence in Michael Steele? CANTOR: Michael Steele is hard at work doing the things that he does as chairman of the RNC. Yes. But I disagree with him on the notion that the -- about the prospects of taking back the House.
I believe that we can take back the majority. We obviously have the wind behind us right now, but the people are looking to us to see what we're about, what our solutions are, how it differs as far as a vision for how we take this country, and in fact, to see whether it is we can provide the type of leadership that the voters decided that Senator-Elect Brown can provide and Governor McDonnell as well as Christie.
BLITZER: All right. Here's Gloria Borger. She has a question for you, Congressman.
BORGER: Hi, Congressman. I have a question about health care, which is if the people didn't like what's going on in Washington -- they see the bickering, they see Republicans opposed to the president all of the time on everything -- does this work both ways?
Are you willing to cut some deal with the president and the American people and say we'll do a scaled back version of health care reform that everybody can buy into and work in a bipartisan way?
CANTOR: Well, first of all, Gloria, I want to say it's not just health care last night. It was health care, but it was also...
CANTOR: ... the spending, it was the cap and trade bill.
CANTOR: It was the stimulus bill. It was all combined the fact that the people feel that Washington is not listening. Now look...
BORGER: Right. So what about health care?
CANTOR: Gloria, I met with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer several months ago and I offered our plan. The House Republicans have a plan. And the plan is still there. But you know what? As late as today we see the Democrats in the House just talking to one another.
They're not interested in reaching out to us. And in fact, Gloria, as recently as a month or so ago, Leader Hoyer said to me it's not worth our time as a majority to even speak to Republicans because you're not interested in a public option or some type of plan that would result in...
BORGER: But what if they were to come to you now because clearly the situation has changed, the political dynamic is different? The public has spoken in Massachusetts. What if they came to you now and said let's get together in front of the American people and do what we can do?
CANTOR: Again, the plan that we have offered to them to accomplish positive health care reform, bringing down costs, is on the table. It's been there. And you know, we keep hearing from the president and others saying that we've got to do something about special interest in Washington.
Well, you know what? The public has demanded that we do something to get rid of the frivolous lawsuits and get the lawyers out of the examining room. That is something that is a no-brainer to most people but yet there is no movement or embracing that whatsoever on the part of the majority.
We've got to realize that people expect us to listen to them and affect the reform in the way that they want, not the way that some ideologically extreme agenda dictates the way that the health care bill has proceeded thus far.
BLITZER: Congressman, we've got to leave it right there. Thanks very much for coming in.
Things have changed dramatically over the past year, but you know, and you're an experienced politician, things can change very rapidly over the next year. So you've got to watch it and be very, very careful. I assume you agree with me on that.
CANTOR: There is no question. It is all about listening to the people and they have spoken up now and we better meet the expectations that the people have for leadership at the federal government and to start to insist that this federal government worked for the people again and not the other way around.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman Eric Cantor is the number two congressman in the House of Representatives.
You heard him say here in THE SITUATION ROOM, he thinks they can be the majority come November. We'll see what happens over the course of this election year.
Thanks very much.
We'll take a quick break. There's a lot of dramatic developments happening in Haiti right now. Our Anderson Cooper is standing by. Another dramatic rescue of a little kid. We're going to go to Haiti. Sanjay Gupta has more information.
Stay with us. We're watching two important stories. The bombshell out of Massachusetts and the continuing crisis in Haiti.
BLITZER: Let's assess what we just heard from these two politicians. We've got Joe Johns, Gloria Borger here, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist.
Do the Republicans have a problem they could get overly cocky right now?
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Anytime you get overly cocky, you basically don't do well.
BLITZER: Were the Democrats overly cocky?
ROLLINS: This White House has been overly cocky for a year. I mean ever since their tears of glory a year ago at the inaugural, you know, they have basically done what they promised not to do which is make Washington a more partisan place and the amazing thing of this election yesterday that nobody's really talked to, this was the biggest turnout outside of a presidential election. This was a special election.
BLITZER: More than two million people voted.
ROLLINS: And the Republican candidate got more votes than any Republican in history in that state, Romney, anybody.
BLITZER: And usually, a special election, it's not even a mid term election.
ROLLINS: Is 10 percent or 15 percent. This was bigger and every presidential election, the only one that beat the presidential elections.
BLITZER: What you're saying is the Republicans and the conservatives and the independents who voted for Scott Brown were much more energized than the Democrats.
ROLLINS: Absolutely and the Democrats turned out. It's not like they all stayed home and this is what made it a close election. The reality is that independent vote which 51 percent of the state is now an independent and this is a trend going across this country. More and more young people are becoming independents, unaffiliated and they turned out and the Obama and the Democrats have lost the independents.
BLITZER: The independents, Joe, in Virginia, got the Republican elected, in New Jersey, got the Republicans elected and now in Massachusetts got the Republican elected. Who would have thought?
JOE: The funny thing about it is you heard from the reporting and we heard last night and I heard from telephone calls that there were Democrats expressing shock and surprise about what happened in Massachusetts when we've known for a long time now that there was a lot of dissatisfaction and a lot of concern about the size of government and a lot of concern about spending and there were deep divisions in the electorate all along and it also empowers people and makes people angry. All of those things coming together with two candidates in the position they were in, Massachusetts, you get this result. Not a surprise.
BLITZER: A lot of circular firing squads going on among the Democrat right now. There are a lot of people aiming at each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bus is not big enough to throw people under because there are so many people, you've got Selinda Lake who ran, who was the pollster.
BLITZER: For Martha Coakley.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Martha Coakley saying the White House did not see this coming at them and you have the White House saying she didn't do enough polling and she didn't do the ads properly and the Republicans knew what was going on and they decided to keep it quiet and not tell anybody and sort of keep it under the radar, so yes, you do have the circular firing squads going on and it's quite unpleasant.
BLITZER: It underscores the point I've been trying to make all day that things change fast in American politics and as good as it is for Republicans and conservatives it can change once again and everybody has to watch closely.
ROLLINS: They want to be like Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan got his legislative agenda through the first year. He got clobbered in the mid-term election but all of his stuff was done in the first year. We are now through the first year and we don't have anything but cash for clunkers. We've spent an entire year basically dealing with things that the American public doesn't think are relevant.
BLITZER: They got some other stuff done but we won't go through the whole list right now.
ROLLINS: You want to run on.
BLITZER: Don't go away. We'll continue our coverage from the political bombshell that has emerged from Massachusetts.
When we come back we'll shift gears and we're going Haiti. Anderson Cooper has witnessed something dramatic. Today, eight days into this crisis in Haiti, Sanjay Gupta is on the scene for us. Stand by. Our coverage from Haiti will continue after this.
BLITZER: Situation in Haiti is desperate right now, but things maybe turning a corner. Let's get the latest developments on this day. You can see here a powerful 5.9 magnitude tremor shaking Haiti early this morning. Experts don't know if these aftershocks will stop or go on, they could go on possibly for weeks according to experts.
Right now off the coast of Haiti, a U.S. floating hospital. The "USS Comfort" arrived today with almost 550 medical professionals who will pair with medical staff already there. It has six operating rooms and can house up to 1,000 patients. Meanwhile, officials say relief workers are starting to turn the corner improving their efforts in getting out aid. Let's go to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent right now. He's on the scene for us.
Sanjay, are things getting any better right now?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think in some ways they are. It's the same issues that we've been talking about for some time, Wolf, the idea of trying to get some of these supplies to some of these critically injured hospitals and patients. I will say that for a long time we've been focusing on what is the international aid, how quick is it coming? I had a question about how much are the Haitians themselves and the Haitian medical community able to do and did they stay open? I found a couple of doctors who are brothers, in fact. They told me a remarkable story. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was the end of the world.
GUPTA: Yes thought it was the end of the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GUPTA: They are Haitian surgeons, Jerry and Marlo Button, yes, they're twins. And in this community they're also heroes. When the earthquake hit they stayed open for business.
These are two of the most renowned general surgeons in Port-au- Prince and trying to do everything they can obviously for patients, but the problem is what happens even if they provide the best health care they can, with the resources they have, there is no plan after that. The international communities say look, we're providing a lot of aid to Haiti and we're providing a lot of money and we're providing a lot of resources. What do you say to that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't feel it. Today it's six days after six or seven, one awake. Honestly, I honestly they don't send, but I personally don't see it.
GUPTA: Today they have far more pressing matters than worrying about when international aid will come. Hardly any food, minimal water and not enough pain medications. Patients are literally screaming for help.
The sounds that you hear are sounds that you never want to hear again. Hearing children screaming, knowing that they are going to have so much pain as they try to dress these wounds and not much they can do for them and not much in the way of pain medication they can do for them and all of the patients are waiting knowing that they're next and knowing they'll endure that same sort of pain is almost impossible to watch. Oh, wow. It's obviously a young boy who has significant injuries. You can see his legs. This is a severe scar. This has a lot of crush injury here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
GUPTA: This leg you decided to save, though.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We saved that. This, we can't save it.
GUPTA: So what do you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of patients waiting here. They finish operating, but doctor, I cannot go to the street because I don't have home. And I think to help I ask everybody who help to think about how to put -- thinking about house -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't have houses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't live without a house. They're on the street and people will give health care, they cannot go on the street. It's impossible.
GUPTA: And even near the end of the day, this is basically what continues to happen. Trucks coming in with patient after patient after patient. This hospital is already full to capacity, but these two doctors are going to continue to take care of as many as they can.
GUPTA: And even yesterday, Wolf, they're still bringing patients they found in the rubble. Certainly good stories there and people still being found alive. What that illustrates is part of the problem. These patients come into the hospital and get some treatment even by Haitian doctors who stayed behind and then the question becomes now what after that? Their homes are gone and they go to the streets and it's very hard to get any follow-up care and you're starting to see the next sort of stage of problems start to declare themselves, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sanjay, as you know, today we saw that little boy, eight days after that earthquake survive and dragged out of the rubble. How long can people survive you under these conditions in rubble like that? Look at this video of this little boy.
GUPTA: It's an extraordinary story no matter how you look at it. I'll preface by saying kids are certainly more resilient than adults when it comes to surviving something like this. What we may be seeing, here, Wolf is are cases that survival that are not documented. Typically someone that goes without water can typically die after five or six days. The longest documented case of someone without any water surviving was a marathon runner who got lost in the Sahara desert. He was lost for eight days before they found him. During that period of time he lost 3 pounds and need 16 liters of fluid because he was so dehydrated and that gives you an idea of what happens in a week's time and this is an extraordinary story of survival no matter how you look at it Wolf.
BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta doing incredible work. We'll check back with you. Thank you very, very much for everything that you're doing. We'll continue our coverage with what's happening in Haiti and we're going back to Port-au-Prince to speak with someone deeply involved with the humanitarian relief effort.
Also, we won't be going far away from the political story here in the United States. What happened in Massachusetts and its ramifications? Much more on our coverage on both of these big stories after this.
BLITZER: We're hearing chilling warnings from doctors in Haiti, if they don't get medicine and surgical is up plays and they don't get it very soon many more earthquake victims will die. We are joined by Steve Hollingworth; he's the chief operating officer for Care USA.
Steve, thanks very much for doing what you're doing. How desperate is the situation rate now?
STEVE HOLLINGWORTH, CARE USA'S COO: Wolf, I'm personally getting more and more concerned by the day, to tell you the truth. This has been a major body blow to Haiti, and, you know, we're in now the second week of the response and the international community really is mobilizing very quickly, but the devastation has been so profound here, and it's hit in such critical areas for the country that I'm getting worried.
BLITZER: What's your -- what are your immediate fears?
HOLLINGWORTH: Well, you know, the major fear is, of course, we're in the second week and the resilience period is coming to an end. Local communities are able to cope for some time, a week, ten days with their own resources, with the support of neighbors who may have more resources than they do, but we really -- humanitarian effort begins to stick on the wall here and have a big effect, and there was a huge effort going on. There's big success in getting things into the port. The real challenge now is following through and having a series of successful distributions going on all over the country and that's a challenge for a lot of reasons.
BLITZER: Because so many people are worried that those who survived this earthquake might still die because of a lack of medical equipment or medicines or food or water for that matter, is that your immediate need right now to keep these people alive?
HOLLINGWORTH: It is. We're focused absolutely on maintaining the health of the population. The first critical intervention is with water and making sure diarrheal diseases are under control. You know, the issue with that is basically there's so much infection in the air with all of the dead bodies and with the open defecation of nearly 1 million people in refugee camps here that, you know, we have to take emergency steps such as small sashays for water purification and taking steps to distribute very quickly bottled water and that's not a good solution for anybody, and then making sure we're following through and setting up small-scale water infrastructure in 116 camps that people are in.
We have a very major activity with care going on in the area of Liogang and where we're establishing water bladders and filling them so the communities can begin to take water, but that's the first area. The second big concern we have, of course, is getting out emergency supplies of food and blankets and shelter, tarp polling and we're carrying out major distributions in four areas, including two here in Port-au-Prince with care and we're also very concerned about the medical condition that women are facing. The health infrastructure here is really absolutely overwhelmed. Six hospitals are gone, right? And trauma, obstetrics care and in particular tetanus really are becoming big worries for us.
BLITZER: Well, we want to wish you good luck. We know you're doing critically important work, Care USA and all of these humanitarian relief organizations are on the scene. Thank you so much, Steve Hollingworth, good luck to you. We know you've got a huge mission.
And those are our viewers and they want to help. You can impact your world. Go to CNN.com/impact and excellent organization all of whom have been vetted and you can make a contribution. I think it's a good idea.
We're staying on top of the story in Haiti and we're also watching the political fallout from the political bombshell in Massachusetts. Much more of our coverage after this.
BLITZER: We have a new member of THE SITUATION ROOM team, Lisa Sylvester is joining us now, and we want to welcome Lisa to THE SITUATION ROOM. She is going to be doing some excellent work for us, and I know you have other top stories that you are ready to report right now, Lisa. What is going be on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, thank you for that very warm welcome, Wolf. In the news, FBI director Robert Mueller was in the hot seat on Capitol Hill as he was grilled by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as to how the FBI responded to the terror attack on a U.S. airliner on Christmas. Mueller defended the FBI's decision to arrest and interrogate suspect Umar Faroud Abdulmutallab rather than turn him over to military authority as an enemy combatant.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Without getting too much into the details, on this particular case, the agency interviewed him for a period of time for any information with relation to ongoing and other threats.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Before or after Miranda warning?
MUELLER: Before Miranda warnings were given.
SESSIONS: Well, that is dangerous, because any thing he said in that time is not ad m admissible in a civilian court is it?
MUELLER: Well, I take it back; it is an exception for an emergency situation.
SYLVESTER: A Senate panel is worried about a possible terror threat in Yemen involving American ex-cons. A report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says as many as three dozen Americans who converted to Islam in prison have traveled to Yemen possibly for the al Qaeda training possibly. U.S. law enforcement officials say there is no public evidence that the individuals have engaged in terrorist activities, but they say that some have quote dropped off of the radar for several weeks.
Heavy rain and strong winds are hitting parts of California. Already flooded from the torrential rainstorms this week, law enforcement officials are going door-to-door in low-lying neighborhoods and urging the residents to evacuate, and they say that flooding and mud slides are a real threat, and that is classic El Nino for you. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Lisa. Don't go far away, because we have more work for you, Lisa Sylvester, the newest member of THE SITUATION ROOM team.
When we come back, Jack Cafferty is standing by and also much more on the political bombshell out of Massachusetts and what is going on in Haiti. Dramatic developments after this.
BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack and "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, what does a Republican victory in the bluest of blue states mean for the rest of President Obama's first and perhaps only term in office?
Mary writes: "It should show the president that people vote for candidates who listen to them and address their needs and issues just like he did when he ran for president. Now it is business as usual, and every vote in Congress sold to the highest bidder. Will Mr. Brown be the exception? No, it is one quota that our president is powerless to change."
Judy in North Carolina writes: "Obama will remain a failed president until he and the Democrats in Congress understand if ever that if Americans are working at good jobs, most of the rest of the problems go away. Bill Clinton is the last Democrat who understood that."
A Democrat in Missouri writes: "It is absolutely ridiculous. This is one race in Massachusetts. The Democrats still have 59 votes in the Senate although it is a wake up call for the Democrats. Health care needs to be finished, the rest will follow. Obama will win re- election by a landslide."
Thomas disagrees: "Health care is dead. President Obama's agenda is dead. He will be a one-term president, then we will have eight years of Palin."
Rick in Illinois writes, "This election was not a notice to the Democratic party or the a vote against health care, but a notice to all that have been elected to work for the people, do your job, stop playing politics. If I were an incumbent I would be very nervous come election time Republican or Democrat."
And Rick writes, "The president will run to the center if he has any hope of saving the presidency much less gaining a second term, but it is not too late, because he is a charismatic leader and if he can put the parties together, his girls can still grow up in the White House."
If you want to read more about this, we have a ton of mail on this and this is a big story for political nuts. You can go to my blog CNN.com/CaffertyFile and lots of stuff in there to read.
BLITZER: And stuff for normal people as well.
ROLLINS: Well, if you do it as long as I do it, you are a nut.
BLITZER: Don't go too far away, guys. Thank you.
On this the anniversary of President Obama's first year in office, we are looking at items from the term by the numbers, with his signature the president signed 124 bills into law. He also issued 39 executive orders and the president has held three prime time presidential addresses and five White House news conferences and racked up plenty of miles on Air Force One. He has visited 20 countries from Canada to China to Trinidad and Turkey, and visited 27 states, and 7 he lost in the election and 21 others that he won.
We will take a quick break and continue our coverage of what is going on in the world of politics after the Massachusetts' bombshell. Also, we are going back to Haiti, Port-au-Prince, dramatic developments unfolding.