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THE SITUATION ROOM

Suicide Bombings in Baghdad; Message From bin Laden

Aired January 25, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: from Haiti, an extraordinary story of survival, a young man pulled from the rubble against all odds. Hundreds of thousands of homeless, though, seeking shelter wherever they can find it, perhaps a golf course now turned into a refugee camp.

Suicide bombers hit three hotels in the span of only a few minutes. Dozens are dead in Baghdad. Is Iraq at risk of coming apart at the seams?

And an audiotape apparently from Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the Christmas Day airline bombing plot. Are there hidden messages about new attacks?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But, first, some sobering new numbers from Haiti's disaster zone. The government there now says at least, at least 150,000 people died in the January 12 earthquake. And the U.S. State Department says 59 of those victims are Americans. Another 37 U.S. citizens are missing and now, unfortunately, presumed dead. Almost two weeks after the tragedy, efforts to restore the infrastructure in Port-au-Prince are picking up, but the task ahead is certainly monumental.

CNN's Ivan Watson is there. He's joining us now.

Ivan, on this day, nearly two weeks after the quake, what are you seeing?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question we were asking. What now? And we went out to look at some of the infrastructure that has been so badly damaged, in this case the electric power grid, which has been down since the earthquake really, no electricity in this city. And the generators that people often rely on, people don't have enough fuel. They have difficulties finding fuel for that.

What we found were members of the power company, teams were out trying to fix up the power lines, many of them that had been brought down. And at one of the power substations, we found a crew that had already been at work, Wolf, believe it or not, for a week, some of these people whose own homes have been destroyed out there trying to restore power to this city. They told us that perhaps in as few as eight days, they could start pumping out power into Port-au-Prince. But one thing to keep in mind, the electric power system in the city was terrible to begin with. We went to one electric power station, a diesel power station. And there they were only working at perhaps half-capacity before this catastrophe hit Port-au-Prince.

And they told us that many of their diesel generators were broken down before the earthquake hit, and that just shows that they could only get out about eight hours of power every 24 hours to different neighborhoods of this city.

And apologies. There's some very loud equipment moving behind us. We have also seen efforts to try to dig up some of the rain gutters, to try to remove some of the obstacles, to try to get this city back on its feet again. It's very encouraging to see public municipal workers once again back out on the streets doing their jobs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a good noise we are hearing. All that equipment moving means things are getting done.

Ivan, you have also been looking at some of the psychological challenges millions of Haitians are now about to go through. What are you discovering?

WATSON: Well, we have heard one estimate that maybe one million Haitians are now homeless. That's about one out of nine Haitians. And we came across one man, a middle-class man, used to have a real estate company. He had built a house. He was leasing out the bottom floor for a shop. And he was just picking through the rubble of his house.

Now, thankfully, miraculously, all seven members of his family survived when this three-story construction came down. It's still tottering there. But now what? And we followed him back to his now home where his family is living. He was struggling to put his kids through college. And now they are living in a makeshift tent.

It's so difficult to imagine how far his family has fallen, the fact that they now have to beg for food, stand in line for food distributions, this family, kids who were in college now, sleeping in a tent that he described as disgusting, the indignity of how far they have fallen.

And just he didn't -- when I asked him, what are you telling your kids now for what you're going to do now, he says, there are no words to describe what comes next, simply overwhelmed at seeing their whole livelihood destroyed in a matter of seconds and don't know what to do next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Yes. Well, at least they're alive. I mean, that's -- given the fact that they now say at least 150,000 people are dead, but, as you point out, millions are about to go through an enormous, enormous psychological and physical challenge. Ivan Watson is on the scene for us, as he has been almost every day since this earthquake nearly two weeks ago.

A 24-year-old man is recovering after spending 11 days trapped in the rubble of the hotel where he worked. The building wasn't even being searched, but his relatives said they could hear him screaming out. An international rescue crew eventually responded and after several hours of work, a path was cleared and he was finally able to crawl to freedom. Watch this.

Look at that smile. Look at that smile. That French crew, that search-and-rescue team, they got him out. Oh, my God. What a lucky, lucky guy he was.

Here's a question. How did he manage to survive all those days under the rubble? It turns out he was trapped in an air pocket near the hotel store. And he had access to soda, beer and some food during his ordeal. But he's alive, and we will stay on top of his situation. Thank God that that French crew was there to save this young man's life.

Meanwhile, a new phase of the disaster is unfolding, as hundreds of thousands of homeless quake victims seek whatever shelter they can wherever they can.

CNN's Brian Todd is just outside Port-au-Prince with more on this part of the story -- Brian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're here at the Petionville Club just outside of Port-au-Prince where Haiti's upper crust used to come to play some relaxing rounds of golf.

This is the first tee right here. We are told that the first hole is down in the clearing a couple hundred yards down there. But as you can see now by what's between the two, this is no longer being used for golf.

(voice-over): No sign of VIPs on this lush terrace. By the swimming pool, members of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division now take some shade.

And the fairways and greens of the Petionville Golf Club are unrecognizable, swarmed over with desperate, hungry and homeless earthquake survivors.

MERILIA SAMEDI, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR (through translator): The only thing I have is what I have got on right now. I have got a couple of kids over there. I don't even know how I'm going to feed them. The situation in the camp is not good.

TODD: The steep hills where Haiti's political and business elite once tweaked their handicaps are now teaming with about 150,000 homeless people by day and relief officials say the numbers swells to up to twice that at night.

(on camera): This place seems to evolving from a camp into something of a small city with a full-fledged marketplace. You have got vegetables for sale over here, on this side, people selling fruit, meat, fish, toiletries, candy, strong indication that these people may not be leaving any time soon.

TODD (voice-over): Four dollars for a few oranges, this woman yells, prices out of reach for many here. With more people setting up each day, Lain Hartill of Catholic Relief Services worries about how his group will distribute food.

LAIN HARTILL, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: But, logistically, you can see that the number, the sheer number of people in this camp makes things complicated.

TODD: Hartill says his staff clears out of the camp at night because of security concerns. The 82nd Airborne doesn't go in at night either. These troops stay at the hilltop post.

(on camera): Why not send your guys down at night now just to make sure?

CAPTAIN JON HARTSOCK, U.S. ARMY: Right -- right now, we are focused with the security of the NGOs and our elements that are elsewhere. If it does prove to be a larger problem, we could possibly go down in there, but right now the Haitian people seem to be taking care of themselves.

TODD (voice-over): But that's relative. I asked this man why he's packing a machete. "When I sleep here at night, I hear people screaming," he says. "I just don't want to have anything happen to my family."

This man told us he's raking garbage because he doesn't want the filth to build up, an effort that's clearly been given up elsewhere.

(on camera): Looking around, you can see one of the other chief concerns that relief officials have. These structures are made mostly out of bedsheets and sticks. They are all on very steep slopes. They say it hasn't rained much, if at all, since the earthquake. But, if it does, this could be awash in mud and the overall health and safety of these people could be in danger -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us in Port-au-Prince. What a story.

We have also just received word that Catholic Relief Services has begun large-scale food distribution at that golf course -- 100-pound bags of oil, beans and grain are being given out. That's enough to feed a family of five for three weeks. The U.S. Army is assisting in what's described as an orderly handout.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, Jack Cafferty is standing by.

Also, we will assess this latest bin Laden audiotape. Is he sending a message to terrorists out there to do something? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it's almost a year now since President Obama signed the massive $787 billion economic stimulus package into law. It turns out the public's not so crazy about it.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows almost three- quarters of Americans say at least half the money spent has been wasted. The poll shows 63 percent say the projects in the plan were included for purely political reasons, while only 36 percent say the projects will help the economy.

Overall, 56 percent oppose the stimulus plan. Last year, a majority supported it. There's even disagreement among the president's top lieutenants on how effective the stimulus package has been. How did they let this happen? Three top White House officials gave three different answers yesterday on the Sunday talk shows about how many jobs could be credited to the president's Recovery Act.

Valerie Jarrett said the plan -- quote -- "saved thousands and thousands of jobs" -- unquote. David Axelrod says it -- quote -- "created more or saved more than two million jobs" -- unquote. And Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it -- quote -- "saved or created 1.5 million jobs" -- unquote.

Wouldn't they all get on the same page before they go out and do the Sunday talk shows? The so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was meant to stimulate the economy by increasing federal spending and cutting taxes. The White House promised the stimulus package would keep the unemployment rate from going above 8 percent.

It's 10 percent.

Here's the question. Do you believe the stimulus package is creating jobs? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

One White House person says thousands of jobs. One White House person says two million jobs. One White House person says something in the middle. What up with that, Wolf?

BLITZER: I think they're trying to figure it out. They're looking around.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: An al Qaeda audio message apparently from Osama bin Laden himself takes responsibility for the Christmas Day airliner bomb plot. But does it also signal more attacks against the United States?

Joining us now, our CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser to President Bush.

Usually, when these audiotapes comes out, it takes the CIA a lot of time to authenticate that they are real, but, almost always, they are real, right?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, Wolf.

They look not only at the voice, but they look at the syntax, the words he uses and the order he uses them. This has actually taken longer than I would have expected. They almost always do authenticate it.

BLITZER: All right. So, let's assume for argument's sake, for this discussion, it's authentic. There is one Web site now that says, you know what, there may be some hidden messages in these words that he utters, for example, the specific phrase peace be upon those who follow guidance.

A similar phrase was used before some other international terror attacks in Madrid or London. Is he sending, based on everything you know, some sort of a hidden message to his supporters out there to launch another strike?

TOWNSEND: Wolf, of course, it's possible. And every time that there is an audiotape or message from bin Laden released, the intelligence community looks at that to see whether or not there is some hidden message in it.

I don't really buy it. We have seen so many audiotapes. The odds are, just by the sheer probabilities of it, that some of them would come near an attack. I'm not convinced and I haven't seen any of the intelligence that would suggest that this would be a hidden message.

BLITZER: In all the years you were actually in the government, whether at the Justice Department or later at the White House, did you ever see evidence that there were hidden messages in his or others' audio messages?

TOWNSEND: You know, it's funny, Wolf. In 2003, that Christmas, when we were canceling flights, we thought there were hidden messages in some tapes. We didn't find any evidence of that then either. And I have never known of an instance where we did find hidden messages in tapes.

BLITZER: One thing that sort of jumped out at me, I was surprised, why would he take credit for such a failed attack? It didn't exactly work out the way they had planned.

TOWNSEND: That's right, but more because they were bad, not that we were so good to detect it. And, frankly, Wolf, because there hasn't been a big attack, he has got to show that he's relevant. And bin Laden himself is used to recruit, to inspire, to raise money. And so he wants to be associated with at least the attempt.

BLITZER: All right, Fran Townsend, thanks very much for that. We will continue to study this audiotape. I'm sure the authorities in the government are right now.

We will take a quick break. When we come back, much more on what's going on in Haiti. We are going to go back to Port-au-Prince.

Also, what's going on in Iraq right now? A horrible series of explosions in Baghdad. We will update you on that and more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Communication in Haiti's disaster zone is getting a boost from the U.S. military and a flying radio station.

CNN's Ed Lavandera shows us how it works -- Ed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, so far, there have been no signs that Haitians are making attempts to escape devastation in their homeland, but the U.S. government is going to great heights to make sure that doesn't happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, four, three, two, one. Music on.

LAVANDERA: They're high in the sky. Commando Solo is 60 miles from Port-au-Prince.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are a flying radio and TV station.

LAVANDERA: The Commando Solo aircraft and its crew is a unit of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. These service members started flying just days after the January 12 earthquake. In the skies over Haiti, they are relaying live radio broadcasts of Voice of America in Creole, the Haitians' native language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just like if a radio station locally, if you think to radio before digital, analog radio stations, you would see the tower, if they just picked up a signal and rebroadcast it locally. That's all we are doing.

LAVANDERA: On the ground, the Defense Department has thousands of windup and solar-powered radio. The crew on the aircraft doesn't speak Creole, but as they listen to the broadcast, they can sense the anguish caused by the earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you can hear in the people's voices a lot of emotions, sometimes a little bit of frustration, sometimes really anxiety. So, even though don't understand the language, the message really does come true.

LAVANDERA: The flight is also broadcasting public service announcements, like what a to do when encountering human remains and even a warning from the Haitian government not to try a risky boat ride to Florida.

The voice is telling those below, don't rush on boats to leave the country. If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be opened to you, that's not the case at all. They will send you back home where you came from.

So far, the U.S. Coast Guard says there are no signs of a mass migration. The aircraft broadcasts on four FM radio stations and one AM station using the help of a 300-foot wire antenna it reels out from the belly of the plane. Commando Solo flights now last 14 hours, so long the flying radio station needs to refuel midway through the mission. But, at the end of a long day, the pilot says he's glad to have the chance to help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm proud to be here. I'm honored to be here, actually. I mean, anything we can do to help these people, I'm glad to do.

LAVANDERA (on camera): It's not clear how long these radio missions will continue to fly over Haiti, as more and more radio stations continue to rebuild and get back on the air Wolf,

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

All right, let's get to Lisa Sylvester. She's got another story that is just developing.

What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a Virginia man is in custody in New Jersey, arrested today on multiple weapons charges.

Somerset County, New Jersey, prosecutors say 43-year-old Lloyd Woodson captured while running from officers responding to a suspicious person report. He was armed and wearing a bulletproof vest. And they say the officers searching the motel room where he was found staying, they found more weapons, including a grenade launcher, a night-vision scope, police scanner, and a map of a military installation.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: We are going to take a quick break.

Tom Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, he has got some thoughts about what is happening in Iraq right now. And guess what? That situation is not, he says, very promising.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: the symbol of Haiti's sovereignty now a symbol of its desperation, the presidential palace lying in ruins, as the homeless and hungry form massive lines outside, hoping, hoping for help. We're going there.

Also, six days and counting until the term of the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, expires, and lingering doubt about whether he can muster enough Senate votes for a second term, his prospects fluctuating day by day. We're going to show you where they are right now

Plus, the Reverend Al Sharpton, his advice to President Obama and his efforts to travel to Haiti. We will talk about that and much more.

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

But, first, Iraq, is it again at risk of coming apart at the seams? Devastating bombings today, one right after the other -- in the span of only 15 minutes, suicide bombers targeting three Baghdad hotels favored by Westerners, especially journalists. The Associated Press reports at least 37 people are dead, more than 100 wounded.

And joining us now, Thomas Ricks.

He's the author of the book, "The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq." It's now out in paperback. His other book, "Fiasco," a huge, huge best-seller, a Pulitzer Prize winner himself.

Thanks very much for coming in.

THOMAS RICKS, BLOGGER, FOREIGNPOLICY.COM, AUTHOR, "THE GAMBLE": You're welcome.

BLITZER: These latest bombings today -- a series in Baghdad, lots of people killed, going after hotels that accommodate Western journalists.

What's going on here?

RICKS: I think this is more of Al Qaeda's attempt to spread panic in Baghdad. But it's also a real signal that the war is not over and, in fact, that all the basic problems that we had before the surge are still there. In other words, the surge failed.

BLITZER: The surge failed, because this is what you told me when -- when you were here in THE SITUATION ROOM last September 30th.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SEPTEMBER 30, 2009)

RICKS: My view on Iraq is not that it's been going well, but that it's been very slowly, quietly unraveling, partly because the surge never solved the basic problems. All the basic issues facing Iraq that led to a civil war there are still there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That's what you said then. And now you agree that it's even getting worse, is that what you're saying?

RICKS: Yes, I do agree with myself.

BLITZER: Yes.

RICKS: What's happened is that all those problems are still there. The only thing that's changing in the equation in Iraq is that American influence is declining. American troops are pulling out and the American government has less influence. Look at how, right now, they're getting rid of Baathists who want to run for election. And we're telling them that's a bad idea and they're saying we don't care what you think.

BLITZER: Because some have said, since you said that last September 30th, the situation was slowly but surely getting better in Iraq and eventually would be pretty successful. But you -- you totally disagree with that.

RICKS: We'll see. I think 2010 is going to be a real pivotal year in Iraq, kind of like '03-'04 was and '05-'06 was. And I think it's going to be pivotal because we're not going to have influence. The thing that kept the lid on the violence when the civil war happened there last time isn't going to be there.

So I think the 90 days after the election, now scheduled for March, is going to be a crucial period to see whether things really do fall apart quickly.

BLITZER: What -- what's your worst case scenario?

RICKS: The worst case scenario is a three or four way civil war ignites and then pulls in other parties from the region -- Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and you get a regional war that we're blamed for.

BLITZER: How likely is that worst case scenario?

RICKS: My guess, 10, 15 percent, of a regional war. Of a civil war, I'd say maybe 50/50.

BLITZER: Fifty-fifty?

RICKS: Yes.

BLITZER: The execution of "Chemical Ali" for killing 5,000 Kurds in Halabja back in the late 1908s, how is that going to affect all of this in Iraq right now?

RICKS: It does send another signal that the -- the old regime is gone, that the Baathists are no longer in power. In some ways, that's reassuring to Shias -- hey, we really do run this place now. So that might actually ease up a little of the pressure to be kicking the Baathists -- the former Baathists -- out of the upcoming election.

BLITZER: Will there be elections, do you think, in the next few months in Iraq?

RICKS: I think there will be. The problem is, they've been pushed back so far already, that now they're going to start right when American troops are coming out quickly. The American plan is 10,000 troops a month for six months leaving just as the Iraqi elections are held. That's worrisome because in Iraq, the troublesome time has not been the period before the election, it's been after the election when they have to form a government.

BLITZER: Because all combat troops are supposed to be out, what, by this summer?

RICKS: By the end -- by the end of the summer.

BLITZER: And then all troops not far behind.

RICKS: Yes. But we're going to have advisory forces, trainers. We're in Iraq for a long time, best case scenario.

BLITZER: Let me switch gears to Afghanistan for a moment and -- and tell you what General Stanley McChrystal, the overall U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said about the possibility of bringing the Taliban into some sort of government. This is what he told the "Financial Times": "It would be the Afghan people's decision to choose, but I personally believe that the Afghan people will want to represent themselves from the entire Afghan population" -- which clearly means including the Taliban, which has influence in Afghanistan.

What does that say to you?

RICKS: It says -- it tells me he's opening a door and he's saying, look, we're not going to object to Taliban involvement in a future Afghan government. But it's clear we object to a Taliban- dominated government. So what he's saying is find some space between Taliban involvement, which is good, but not Taliban domination. You guys figure it out.

I'm actually more optimistic about Afghanistan than I am about Iraq. I think the Afghans might figure it out. Remember, our ace in the hole there is the Afghans have experienced Islamic extremism. They know what it is. They don't like it.

BLITZER: Tom Ricks, the author of "The Gamble."

Thanks very much for coming in.

RICKS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: We're going back to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Our own Gary Tuchman inside the presidential palace, which was badly, badly battered in that earthquake. We're going to have the first pictures from inside the -- the presidential palace.

Also, Dr. Sanjay Gupta with what's happening on the ground as far as the millions of people who need help.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Every day this week, CNN is your stimulus watchdog. And many Americans want to know, where did that $787 billion of their money go?

We're trying to fact check right now.

Take a look at this breakdown. According to the government's own stimulus Web site, Recovery.gov, $224 billion are designated for entitlements. Just over $100 million have been spent so far.

$288 billion for earmarked for tax benefits. Less than $93 billion have been spent.

And $275 billion are set aside for loans and grants. Of that, just $71 billion spent so far.

So is the stimulus plan turning into jobs for you?

Most of the reporting on the stimulus plan has just scratched the surface -- a few facts, mostly lots of opinion. This week, we're going beyond what's been done before and trying to really examine the facts.

Last month, two Republican senators challenged the stimulus, unveiling a list of 100 questionable projects.

CNN's Kate Bolduan looked into their claims and found their report didn't tell the whole story.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LT. BOB DAY, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WASHINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: There's a lot of different movements going on today.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patrolling the waterways of picturesque Bainbridge Island, Washington, ready to respond to everything from search and rescue missions to a terrorist attack -- a job Bainbridge Island police say is getting a little easier thanks to $190,000 in stimulus funds for their boat.

DAY: There's some technology that we're going to be getting with this grant that is going to be able to help us better protect the port and to share information with port security partners. BOLDUAN: But wait -- this grant is one of top 10 that Republican senators John McCain and Tom Coburn list as "silly and short-sighted" -- stimulus funding, they argue, is being wasted or mismanaged.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The point is, is priorities.

Where is the number one priority where we ought to be spending money that creates jobs?

Where's number two, where's number three, where's number four?

We didn't do that. We took a tennis racket and shot it out of the park and said here's all this money.

BOLDUAN (on camera): But we took a closer look at the senators' top 10 examples of so-called waste. We found nine of the 10 did not tell the whole story, and, in some cases, were inaccurate.

(voice-over): For example, Senators McCain and Coburn called the upgrade to this boat unnecessary in a small town they call "a tranquil hamlet." But more than six million passengers travel each year on the ferry between Bainbridge Island and Seattle. City officials say the ferry system is a high-risk security target and the stimulus money a valid investment.

The Department of Homeland Security agrees.

DAY: Unless Senators Coburn and McCain think homeland defense and port security is something that really isn't important and isn't a priority, I would take exception with their estimate on that.

BOLDUAN: Senator Coburn also argues the Bainbridge project did not create any jobs. He's right. But Lieutenant Day says it will help American companies.

DAY: The vendors we're working with, it's keeping their people employed.

BOLDUAN: That's not the only stimulus project targeted in the McCain-Coburn report.

(on camera): This is number one on the list -- Oakridge City Center in Eastern Tennessee -- a $5 million grant for a geothermal heating and cooling system in what will eventually be an open-air shopping center.

What are we in?

What is this space?

DAVE THRASH, CORE PROPERTIES: We are in between two of our anchors right now. This is Belks (ph) here. This is Sears down the corridor there.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The McCain-Coburn record ridiculed the project, calling it, "an experiment in an almost empty mall." But Dave Thrash says his mall will be anything but empty, adding he already has three department stores in place.

(on camera): Basically, they're saying that this project is a waste.

THRASH: We're not going to heat an empty mall. We're redeveloping the property into a modern open-air center. And the goal is to deploy this -- this technology into the commercial space.

BOLDUAN: But looking far out, when you're looking at the energy efficiency, what's the goal?

What's the draw for tenants?

THRASH: That lowers the tenants' operating costs. If I can flatten that out, they'll make the same profit at a lower sales level.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The Department of Energy also stands by the Oakridge project, saying it is directly in line with the administration's stimulus priorities.

MATT ROGERS, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: Jobs, cost and innovation. What made us excited were the ability to create more than 200 jobs for just the construction of this project. And then the particular technology that they're using here is an innovative approach to ground source heat pumps that actually makes the capital costs lower.

BOLDUAN (on camera): So hearing from the people that have received these funds, their defense does not satisfy you?

COBURN: We're just saying this -- these are poor choices in terms of if you really want to stimulate the economy and you really want to create jobs and you really want to get something of value when you're finished.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now, we also checked with Senator John McCain's office. And they stand by this report, as well, his spokeswoman telling me, the question here with this report was, are these projects creating jobs?

This report, she says, highlights some projects are not doing that.

And with billions of stimulus dollars heading to communities nationwide right now, Wolf, it really seems that one person's worthy stimulus project is another's example -- glaring example of government waste.

So there is a bit of a value judgment in some of these.

BLITZER: Yes. So, in other words, a judgment...

BOLDUAN: Yes. BLITZER: ...if you will.

All right, Kate.

Thanks very much.

A good report.

Only CNN could and would do this kind of work. The network assigned hundreds of anchor, correspondents, producers, editors, photojournalists to track down what happened to the stimulus money. At the hub of it all, our Stimulus Desk is checking the facts.

Where is $787 billion in taxpayer money going?

Ali Velshi is digging deep.

He's going to tell us what he is learning. Stand by for that.

Also, we're not going away from Haiti. Other news organizations may be losing interest in what's happening in Port-au-Prince, elsewhere in Haiti. We are not. We'll have the latest developments for you. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This week -- every day this week, I should say, CNN is your watchdog. Since President Obama took office, the government approved $787 billion in taxed -- tax dollars for thousands of projects.

CNN is telling you this week exactly where your money is going.

So is the stimulus plan turning into jobs for you?

Our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll suggests that Americans have their doubts. Nearly a year after it was passed, 42 percent favor the economic stimulus bill, but 56 percent oppose it.

Joining us now is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Why has the stimulus package not been more popular with the American public?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Americans simply don't think it worked. I mean, a 14-point gap between approving of it and disapproving is huge. They don't think it created jobs. They think -- they still see this administration, at this point -- and we see this from polling dating for a couple of months -- they still think Wall Street looks like they profited from something and Main Street did not.

And they think it cost too much money.

Besides that, what we're also learning from the polling is they think it's political. They think those jobs went out for political purposes, not really to stimulate jobs.

So bottom line, they just didn't think it worked.

BLITZER: So will the Democrats suffer as a result of this come November, in the mid-term elections?

CROWLEY: They are suffering now. And, as you know, that's about as much as we can say when an election is so far away as November is. But they are suffering. But they won't be the only ones who suffer.

Were the election to happen today, take a look at another one of these poll numbers that we have, when we asked, who are you angry at, basically?

Both parties -- 48 percent.

The bottom line here, if you're an incumbent, somebody who has a seat that they're going to defend, these are -- 48 percent of Americans angry at you is not a great number to be going into an election with, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat.

But as we know, the Democrats are more vulnerable simply because there's more of them. They're a bigger target.

BLITZER: But all incumbents should be looking closely at their respective opponents.

CROWLEY: They should. And I think that's why you're seeing some of this foot-dragging on Capitol Hill about raising the debt ceiling or, you know, what are we going to do about health care?

Let's drop back and -- and reconnoiter here.

So I think you are seeing a lot of positioning now that really has to do with some of these numbers.

BLITZER: Good work, Candy.

Thanks very much.

Candy Crowley is back on the scene.

And welcome back.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Because I know you just took a little time off, but we missed you.

CROWLEY: I did. It was great. And I missed you, too...

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: ...sort of.

BLITZER: She was in New Zealand visiting her kids, one of her kids being a doctor.

CROWLEY: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: A very impressive doctor. You should be very proud.

CROWLEY: I am...

BLITZER: Good luck.

CROWLEY: All of them -- of all of them.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks.

Is -- what's going on in Haiti?

We're going to go back to Haiti in just a few moments to see what's going on. Gary Tuchman had some exclusive access to the presidential palace.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, do you believe the stimulus package is creating jobs?

Chandler writes from New Jersey: "Obama's economic team consists of theoreticians who believe that jobs magically spring up behind their charts and graphs of the abstract economy. In reality, a job is a miniature economic engine that has to generate more money for the employer than it costs to hire the employee. Between globalization, free communication, legal and illegal foreign workers and computerization, American businesses have learned that they can make money without hiring American workers. Wall Street parties while Main Street withers, waiting for jobs that will never come back. My solution -- kill all the economists. Sorry Krugman."

Doug writes: "I live in the Hollywood hills above West Hollywood. Our streets are in a disgusting state, haven't been repaved since 1927, as are most streets in Los Angeles, one of America's gateway cities. I see billions going to fix streets in areas where hardly anyone lives in other states, but our great city gets nothing. President Obama, we have an estimated $6 billion of street repairs here in Los Angeles. That's a lot of jobs. And the project has been shovel ready since 1927."

Elizabeth in Los Angeles: "It may be creating jobs someplace, but not for me -- 65, female, Caucasian, probably assumed to be not in need of work. I'm not exactly the right fit for a shovel ready job, but my unemployment has run out and things aren't looking too good for us seniors anytime soon."

Beverly in Mystic, Iowa: "I know for a fact that it is. I travel the U.S. for a living. I've come across many new jobs being created, not only in Iowa, but all across the country. Right now, I'm in Oklahoma. In a local paper, I read about Tulsa's 244 project. It praised the progress being made on Oklahoma highways funded by $465 million in federal stimulus money." And Jerry writes: "I think the varying responses by Obama's lieutenants on the Sunday talk shows were a misdirection play. It was to change the debate to these imaginary save jobs, away from an economy that's bleeding jobs. While many of us wanted to go to work, Congress and the White House were focused on health care reform."

If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Jack will be back shortly.

There's another way you -- for you to follow what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my Tweets at Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn. Wolfblitzercnn all one word.

Jeanne Moos and a Moost Unusual report is coming up.

And then we're going back to Haiti at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Is the stimulus plan turning into jobs for you?

Every day this week, I want to remind you, THE SITUATION ROOM will be digging deeper and deeper. Tomorrow, on "AMERICAN MORNING," by the way, we'll show you some of the good news from the stimulus money. One family has food on their table because of it.

And later, on Campbell Brown over at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, you can find out why some residents of Montana think their state has made a double fault with their tax dollars.

Then, "A.C. 360" investigates why stimulus money is going to so many companies that have a history of law breaking. The stimulus project all this week only here on CNN and at CNN.com/stimulus.

Trashing your own product -- it's a Moost Unusual way to sell pizza. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the day she put this...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be the weirdest ad campaign ever -- Domino's bashes itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The worst excuse for pizza I've ever had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: It's either the worst or the best excuse for an ad campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Domino's Pizza crust, to me, is like cardboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sauce tastes like ketchup.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Domino's is dissing their old pizza -- the one they've been selling us for nearly 50 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There comes a time when you know you've got to make a change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Now Domino's has a new pizza. And they say the only thing that's the same...

RUSSELL WEINER, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER: It's still round.

MOOS: All that stuff about their old pizza tasting like cardboard...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean that hits you right in the heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...which prompted one critic to post: "What kills me is why does the guy who is the head chef in the Domino's commercial still have a job?"

Stephen Colbert reviewed the new pizza...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE COLBERT REPORT," COURTESY COMEDY CENTRAL)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST: Is that pizza or did an angel just give birth in my mouth?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...while noting the honesty of the ad campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE COLBERT REPORT," COURTESY COMEDY CENTRAL)

COLBERT: Domino's old pizza's cheese did taste good, had no aroma, was not cheese.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But now, they say...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got shredded cheese. Cheese. It's cheese.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Imagine saying this about the pizza you've been selling forever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally void of flavor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: So how is the new stuff?

(on camera): It doesn't taste like cardboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not gourmet pizza, but it's -- it's good pizza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the old one better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of like we suck, but now we're a little bit better.

MOOS: Um-hmm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you still suck, I think. Sorry, but you do suck.

MOOS (voice-over): Hey, don't tell Honey that. Yo quiero Domino's Pizza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy, cowboy.

MOOS: But then Honey likes cardboard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

MOOS (on camera): Wait, where are you going with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a friend inside. She's hungry.

MOOS: You don't want the rest of it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

MOOS: One more bit. You've got to have another bite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm kosher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will go to hell because of a piece of pizza.

MOOS (voice-over): Domino's marketing director says the new ad campaign shows...

WEINER: How much America embraces the truth.

MOOS: Yes. Remember what they said about the old pizza before calling it cardboard?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taste the new buttery crust. Smell the garlic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And now the totally new and improved pie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Buttery crust with some garlic.

MOOS: It sure had New Yorkers flocking to try it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We improved everything -- 40 percent more herbs in the sauce.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY DOMINO'S PIZZA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want everybody to try it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And happening now, dramatic pictures from the new front line for Haiti relief. This hour, we're taking you behind the fences of the presidential palace for the first time since the earthquake.

Plus, it's the most widely produced aircraft in the world and it was involved in a deadly crash today -- we're going to tell you what we're learning about your airline safety.

And President Obama's new plan to stop what he calls the assault on the middle class -- we're investigating his record on the economy and whether billions of stimulus dollars actually helped Americans get jobs.