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THE SITUATION ROOM

Toyota President Apologizes; American Missionaries Charged With Kidnapping; When the U.S. Kills Its Own; Insiders Slam "Mickey Mouse" Security; Tea Party At Sea; Trapped in Her Own Body

Aired February 5, 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: Happening now: Toyota's president breaks the silence as his company reels from a global recall crisis. We are going to take you inside his news conference. It is unlike any he has ever experienced before. Stand by.

What has changed since the latest attempted terror attack on a U.S. airliner? Not much. That is the shocking answer from some federal air marshals. They are critical of their way their program is being run, and they are speaking out to CNN's Special Investigations Unit.

Extraordinary technology with extraordinary implications changing the lives of people betrayed by their own bodies.

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

It is an international incident now threatening to overshadow earthquake efforts relief in Haiti. We are talking about the case of those 10 American missionaries charged with kidnapping for trying to take 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic. All 10 could face life in prison if convicted and their case is getting attention at the highest levels.

Listen to what the former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who is now a special United Nations envoy to Haiti, just told CNN's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Haitians are determined that Haiti won't become a ground where children can be trafficked or sold or anything like that. That is a noble goal.

It may be that the Idaho missionaries, that their explanation is absolutely accurate and they are 100 percent innocent. And I think what is important now is for the government of Haiti and the government of the United States to get together and work through this, because the government of Haiti understands that they are not looking for some big fight here . They just want to protect their children, and they also want to make sure they have a good inventory so they don't send children away that maybe have an aunt and uncle that have an income that want to keep them or something like that. So, and they are used to dealing with this. Keep in mind this country had 380,000 orphans in a country of only 9.5 million people before the earthquake. So, that is why they have worked through very strong laws that they are very insistent on being honored. But I think they will find a way to diffuse the crisis and work through this. It is not my area of responsibility.

And I don't know enough about it to make any more comments But the only thing I ask is that both sides try to work through it as quickly as possible. I think they are.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: What is your role? You got new powers this week. Could you give us a little idea.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: People want to know if you are going to be the governor of Haiti?

CLINTON: The answer to that is no. And I don't know how much new power I got. What I was asked to do was to extend my mandate as the U.N. special envoy through the reconstruction phase and the rebuilding phase. And that makes sense if the government of Haiti intends, as I believe they do, once the damage assessment is done here, to fold in what they are doing here with a development plan they were pursuing with me and the U.N. before this happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And coming up in our next hour, we will take a closer look at the woman leading those missionaries now jailed in Haiti. We will hear from people who know her. And guess what? not everything they have to say about her is flattering.

Other important news we are following right now, including Toyota, more than eight million vehicles under recall, new and growing concerns right now about its iconic hybrid. Toyota facing a corporate nightmare.

Today the company's president, the grandson of the founder, broke weeks of silence with an apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AKIO TOYODA, PRESIDENT & CEO, TOYOTA (through translator): Quality is our lifeline. We are making the utmost effort with everyone involved. I do not leave my responsibilities to others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get some more on what Toyota's president is now saying.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from Tokyo, CNN's Kyung Lah. Let's go inside that room. You were at the news conference. Give us a little sense of how this leader of Toyota is taking personal responsibility for this crisis.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is taking some, but what I want to first touch about is the sense in the room. What we saw in that particular room was very different than what we normally see in these types of situations.

We saw a frustrated press corps and it is something that you don't normally get in these types of situations when you have the president of the company come out in front of the Japanese press, usually, the Japanese press very deferential to the president of a company.

What we heard now is frustration on the part of the media, because Akio Toyoda has largely been absent for the past two weeks, while all of this has been swirling around his company worldwide, millions of vehicles recalled. So, certainly, that is a different feel that we got.

But also as far as how this is being perceived, you really just have to listen to what Mr. Toyoda said to compare him to how perhaps corporate America might view this. When we asked, why are you having a thrown-together news conference Friday night, 9:00 p.m., notifying the media two hours in advance for us to travel two hours to get to you? And he said, because I am concerned about the customers, I am making myself available to you at this time.

Certainly, a perception difference. If this were to happen in the United States and the corporate head of an American company did this, certainly the reaction of the press corps would not be very, very positive, Wolf.

BLITZER: It is a huge story here in the United States. How is it playing generally in Japan, where so much of the exports obviously involves car exports?

LAH: It is playing as a big economy story here in part because when you think about products that are made in Japan, the big company that comes to mind is Toyota.

Toyota is largely aligned with Japan's image as an export-driven economy. It is the marquee company. So, when people hear about this -- and anybody in Japan has heard about this story -- they really do worry about the spillover effect that this may have on all made-in- Japan products, not just on Toyota's image, but on the image of the companies that we know, Honda, Nissan, Panasonic Sony, just to name a few, that it may have a spillover effect on that, and then on the larger Japan economy, so there is some concern about that.

There is also on the blogosphere some discussion about whether or not this may be a little bit of Japan-bashing, because, you know, this is the world's largest automaker now. Toyota overtook the American companies, so there is this concern that maybe this is a little bit of the Americans rubbing their hands, saying, ooh, Toyota is now going down, making way for the U.S. automakers again.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah in Tokyo watching the story, we will stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much.

We have got some remarkable raw video that has just surfaced of a disaster that shocked the U.S. and the world almost a quarter-century ago, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger that killed seven astronauts. It was taped by a man named Jack Moss in his Florida front yard, then sat in a box for 24 years before being found after his death in December.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just now took off. We should be seeing it in just a second. There's George.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I know. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where does she come up, George?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just took off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but where does it come up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that you need to come down this way.

There it goes. I see it in between the trees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there it goes. It is coming right up over the top of the trees, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-huh. It will be right over the top of those trees. I saw it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes a little while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There she goes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I saw it. There it goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is brighter than usual.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, that is it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right over those trees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw it when it went through that hole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't remember it being that bright and that big.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that part? That must have been one of the boosters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, look, there's two. It's going to off into two...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, is that trouble or not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not having trouble, are they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I ain't never seen anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's trouble of some kind, George.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is trouble of some kind, isn't it, or not?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That video, by the way, is believed to be the only amateur footage of the Challenger disaster in the world.

America assassinating its own citizens? How far should the United States go in trying to prevent terror? We are watching this story.

Also, stinging criticism from of the federal air marshal program from air marshals themselves. A troubling new report from CNN's Special Investigations Unit, that is coming up.

And we are also tracking the massive snowstorm threatening to paralyze much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast this weekend. You are looking at these live pictures coming in from here in Washington, D.C. -- 18 inches, 20 inches, maybe as much as 30 inches expected here in Washington. We have got the forecast on what is going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, socialism may be tossed around like a dirty word these days, but it turns out more than one-third of Americans have a positive image of socialism.

A new Gallup poll shows 36 percent of those surveyed have a positive view, 58 percent a negative opinion. No surprise, there is a big partisan gap here. Most Democrats and liberals have a positive view of socialism, compared to the negative image held by most Republicans and conservatives.

The poll also shows Americans are very positive in reactions to these terms, small business, free enterprise and entrepreneurs, while they are divided on the terms federal government and big business.

As for capitalism, Americans respond more positively than negatively by almost 2-1, 61 to 33 percent. But out of all the items in this poll, socialism has the lowest positive rating, the highest negative rating, but, like we said, the positive view still tops a third of the population, and that is significant.

In recent months, some of the president's critics have taken to calling him a socialist. They point to some of Mr. Obama's policies, including what they call a government takeover of health care, as proof.

Here is the question then this hour. What does it mean if more than one-third of Americans have a positive view of socialism? Go to my blog and post a comment.

BLITZER: It's a high -- that is a pretty high number. I was surprised to hear that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We are going to check the weather in a second over here. Flights already have been canceled. Government offices have been closed early. Many people are being told to simply stay inside, stay off of the roads, as a significant snowstorm blows into the Washington, D.C., area, indeed the entire Mid-Atlantic region.

Take a look at the traffic in the Washington area right now, care of our friends over at TrafficLand.com.

CNN severe weather expert and meteorologist Chad Myers is watching the storm for us over from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Sarah Lee is out there on the nation's Mall right now.

Here in the nation's capital, snow is coming down, just really starting right now, Sarah Lee. It is going to get a lot worse, not only tonight, but throughout the day tomorrow.

SARAH LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. And this snow is kind of a wet snow that is sticking to the ground. Let me show you down here. This is really the packable stuff that kids can make snowmen with and you can throw it as a snowball. But when the roads freeze over tonight, that is just going to make driving a lot more treacherous.

Let me show you over here, the Capitol Dome, we are within just a couple hundreds yards of the dome, totally obscured. You can just barely make it out where the lights are coming out. And then take a look, 6:15 in the nation's capital on a Friday evening. Wolf, you know what that is like. It is usually packed with traffic. A complete ghost town out here, again, because rush hour today was about 1:00 this afternoon.

BLITZER: Yes, and you are absolutely right.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BLITZER: Go ahead, Sarah Lee.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

LEE: Well, I was just going to say, with Chad talking about that blizzard and all the scooping up and the cleanup that was necessary afterward, you also have to keep in mind, Wolf, we know, across the country, all of these budget shortfalls for all the local and state jurisdictions. It is no different here.

Everyone has reached their snow removal budget. They are going to have to come up with that money somewhere, some saying they are dipping into emergency funds. But, then, if it goes beyond that, they will have to go into road repair maintenance funds.

BLITZER: They have to find the money, because this is a crisis.

All right, guys, thanks very much. We are going to watch this snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic region very closely.

An American citizen held in North Korea since December. We are now learning new details of his release.

Also, a piece of a jumbo jet falls off and plummets to the ground on approach to a major U.S. airport. What is going on?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: A source tells CNN the Christmas airline bombing suspect is giving investigators leads about a U.S.-born cleric in Yemen who may be a top al Qaeda figure. But in going after American terror suspects, how far should the U.S. go?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: The lawyer for a group of Americans facing child kidnapping charges in Haiti fights for their release in court today. He argues that their leader, Laura Silsby, is to blame for their legal troubles. Stand by. We are going to Port-au-Prince.

The government screening and storing your baby's DNA without your consent -- our medical team is investigating. Stand by for that as well.

And why is a single senator blocking dozens of Obama administration nominees from confirmation?

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

A law enforce source tells CNN the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is giving investigators leads about a U.S.-born cleric in Yemen regarded as a top al Qaeda recruiter. But how far should authorities go in hunting down American terror suspects abroad?

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as one U.S. official said, U.S. citizenship doesn't give you safe harbor in an enemy port.

(voice-over): The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki tied to the Fort Hood shooter, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and al Qaeda, he's hiding in Yemen, but he's an American. Could the Obama administration target him for assassination because of his alleged terrorist activities? In an extraordinary public admission, the nation's top spy said the Obama administration may kill American citizens abroad involved in terrorism.

DENNIS BLAIR, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We take direct action against terrorists in the intelligence community. If that direct action -- we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.

STARR: Blair said the government takes potential assassinations seriously. But with al Qaeda now trying to recruit Americans, it is something the U.S. must confront.

The senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee says he is not so sure there are clear rules.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: The one thing that is consistent, there is no clarity as to how they operate.

STARR: After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush signed an order allowing the killing of terrorists around the world. But American citizens, even those tied to al Qaeda, are a special case.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Those sorts of thresholds criteria are all laid out in classified either executive orders or internal documents to the intelligence communities.

STARR: Blair made clear the line is crossed when radical Americans take actions against the U.S.

DENNIS BLAIR, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: And whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to -- trying to attack us, whether that -- whether that American has -- is a threat to other -- other Americans, those are the -- those are the factors involved, Mr. Chairman. But we don't -- we don't target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.

STARR: And CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, says that is the unpleasant reality.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: If the intelligence agencies believe that someone is on the ground in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Yemen threatening American lives, they are going to have the right to kill them right then and there.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: The father of the Al Qaeda suspect, Anwar al-Awlaki, wrote to President Obama, asking him to reconsider an alleged order to capture or kill his son. The U.S. government has never acknowledged there is such an order -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara.

Thanks very much.

Direct action, as Admiral Blair referred to it, that's code words -- spy words for assassination or killing of that individual.

The latest attempted terror attack on U.S. -- on a U.S. plane is raising new questions about security and the role of federal air marshals.

CNN's Drew Griffin talked to some of them about what's changed since that thwarted bombing. And, shockingly, they say not much.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Christmas Day of last year, Umar Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a US-bound flight from Amsterdam with a bomb hidden in his underwear. There were no air marshals on board.

After this attack was foiled by passengers, the president called for...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More air marshals on flights.

GRIFFIN: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before Congress.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We will strengthen -- strengthen the capacity of aviation law enforcement, including the Federal Air Marshal Service.

GRIFFIN: Has it happened?

Not according to the Federal Air Marshals, or FAMS, as they call themselves, who are supposed to be making those flights.

Several spoke to CNN on condition we protect their identities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since Christmas, most of my domestic flights, a few of them have -- have involved what we considered RJs or Embraer 71s, the smaller aircraft. There's plenty of international trips they could be covering, aircraft -- you know, inbound flights from the foreign countries and they aren't doing it. There's really no excuse for it.

GRIFFIN: But there is a reason for it, these air marshals claim. Lots of short-haul flights make the Marshal Service look more productive on paper, even though many of those flights are considered low security risks.

As CNN has reported for three years, the odds of you having an air marshal on your flight is so low, that air marshals tell us managers use creative accounting to pad the numbers given to Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way they do it is Mickey Mouse. I mean they -- they even go to the extent that when you're flying personally, they count that as a mission, if you're flying armed. If you're going on vacation with your family -- that's how they help keep the numbers up.

GRIFFIN: Though the actual number is classified, it's been widely reported that the number of air marshals covering 28,000 flights a day is fewer than 4,000. Do the math, like we did; consider that any trip requires at least two marshals, large international flights require even more, and, at best, without sick days, without vacations, the air marshals can cover only 5 percent of flights.

The Air Marshal Service tells CNN additionally high trained officers are being deployed aboard an increasing number of flights worldwide, they say, to keep air travel safe.

JOHN MUELLER, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: It's mostly money down the drain, as far as I can see.

GRIFFIN: Professor John Mueller has just completed a detailed cost-benefit assessment of aviation security in the U.S. He found of the 20 layers of security used by the TSA to protect air travel, the air marshals have been worthless since 9/11.

MUELLER: We've seen with the Underwear Bomber, the other passengers are not going to sit around waiting for somebody else to do something. Their lives are at stake and they're going to jump in.

GRIFFIN: What should be done with the air marshals?

Republican Congressman John Duncan of Tennessee says, get rid of them.

GRIFFIN (on camera): The solution seems to be we need to double. We need to triple -- we need to triple down on this, get many, many, many thousands more air marshals.

REP. JOHN J. DUNCAN, JR. (R), TENNESSEE: Well, we may do that. But I sure would hate to see it because it's a -- it's just a total waste of money. I know that any time you create a federal bureaucracy, it just grows and grows and the appropriations just go up and up and up.

But as I said, look at the record. They haven't done anything.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Last week, President Obama asked for an additional $85 million to beef up the Federal Air Marshal Service.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ellen DeGeneres, the situation and THE SITUATION ROOM -- we're going to show you how she's bringing it all together. Stand by.

Plus, turning thoughts into speech -- amazing new technology that promises to change lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right -- Fred, what's going on?

WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.

Well, at least 40 people are dead and more than 150 wounded after twin car bombs exploded in the midst of a Shiite pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala. This is the third deadly attack this week targeting Shiite pilgrims.

A Mercedes that actor Charlie Sheen reported stolen has been found hundreds of feet down a cliff near his California home. An investigation is underway. Sheen is schedule to be arraigned Monday on domestic violence issues involving a December incident with his wife.

And who's the favorite guess on -- guest show on Ellen DeGeneres' show?

Well, Wolf Blitzer, of course, where today, he was also the topic of conservative, as the talk show host played an unusual trivia game with the cast of reality show "Jersey Shore." If the person answers incorrectly, the floor opens up and then they simply fall through.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW," COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS)

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST: Mike, your nickname is The Situation.

Who hosts THE SITUATION ROOM on CNN?

MIKE "THE SITUATION" SORRENTINO, ACTOR: I know I should know this.

DEGENERES: Yes, you should.

SORRENTINO: Um -- do I have a time limit on this, Ellen?

DEGENERES: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SORRENTINO: OK, can I get a hint?

(LAUGHTER)

SORRENTINO: A little one?

Like a tiny one?

Whoa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Ouch. OK, so the taping was today, but it will actually air on Monday. So, perhaps, Wolf, the best hint might have been who is the best guest dancer on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" most recently?

BLITZER: I was...

WHITFIELD: Them I'm sure he would have gotten it right.

BLITZER: I would say it was...

WHITFIELD: Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: It was definitely Barack Obama, the president of the United States, a much better dancer than I was.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I don't know. You -- you had it. You had it hands down.

BLITZER: No, no, no. Not true.

WHITFIELD: Let's replo -- replay the tape.

BLITZER: No, no, no. We've had enough.

All right. This is THE SITUATION ROOM, not the situation.

WHITFIELD: All right. BLITZER: All right, Fred.

Thanks very much.

Very cute.

Tea Party at sea -- the movement against big government charts some new waters with former presidential candidate Alan Keyes at the helm. Stand by.

And an invention that can help severely paralyzed people communicate with their caregivers.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Tea Party movement's first National Convention is underway right now in Nashville. This is a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. It finds that despite high profile events, four in 10 haven't heard of it or don't know much about it. We're talking about a national poll.

Tea Party activists generally oppose big government and big spending.

Democrats are unfavorable toward Tea Partiers -- look at this -- by a two to one margin.

Republicans are favorable by three to one margins.

Among Independents, 35 percent are favorable, 24 percent are unfavorable.

As for Sarah Palin, the speaker at the sold-out convention, 46 percent -- mostly Democrats -- have an unfavorable view of her, versus 43 percent favorable. That's mostly among Republicans.

Those numbers should not be that much of a surprise.

Tea Party activists, meanwhile, found a new way to organize at sea.

As CNN's Jim Acosta reports, there's no love on this boat for President Obama and his policies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On board this cruise ship easing into the U.S. Virgin Islands, among the thousands of passengers ready for some fun in the sun...

KEVIN COLLINS, STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK TEA PARTY MEMBER: People are just not ready for this mad charge to the left. ACOSTA: Members of a rising American political movement are having a meeting of the minds. Led by former Republican presidential candidate, Alan Keyes, more than 100 conservative and Tea Party activists and their families rented out space on this ship for what was billed as the Cruise for Liberty.

MICHAEL O'FALLON, SOVEREIGN CRUISE PRESIDENT: We believe in free enterprise.

ACOSTA: Cruise organizer, Michael O'Fallon, markets the seven day voyage as a chance to talk politics in paradise.

O'FALLON: Right now, people are wanting to be with other conservatives. They -- maybe they feel like they're a little bit out on the -- on an island someplace by themselves. And, you know, they're...

ACOSTA (on camera): So to speak.

O'FALLON: Yes, so to speak. Right, exactly.

ALAN KEYES, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, they're going to give everybody access to health care. And if you don't want it, we'll shove it down your throat.

ACOSTA (voice-over): At the pre-cruise kickoff at this Miami hotel, Keyes explained why he believes the Tea Party is gaining steam.

KEYES: I think it's quite obvious that this isn't about Republicans and Democrats. It may be about the failure of both parties and the whole party system.

ACOSTA: Conservative activist Alan Gottlieb sees a golden opportunity.

ALAN GOTTLIEB, 2ND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION: People -- a lot of people have never involved in politics before. They know nothing about politics. They're extremely naive. They're angry and they're upset. And they're venting their frustration by attending these rallies.

ACOSTA (on camera): And so your job is to...

GOTTLIEB: Jump on it.

ACOSTA: ...somehow get them involved.

GOTTLIEB: Capitalize them, mobilizing them.

FLOYD BROWN, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: We could easily slip back into slavery.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Cruise for Liberty speakers Floyd and Mary Beth Brown have a Web site calling for President Obama's impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY SOVEREIGN CRUISE) MARY BETH BROWN, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: I know all of us need some encouragement in fighting this battle and -- against Obama, who's trying to destroy America. And I know all of you love America and are fellow patriots.

ACOSTA (on camera): When it comes to President Obama, this is no love boat. Liberal critics of these conservative expeditions through the Caribbean say they're another picture-perfect example of how the Tea Party movement can sometimes go overboard.

(voice-over): Democratic strategist, Jamal Simmons, worries the tone at some Tea Party events onshore and off is getting out of hand.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Are we just talking about voting differently or are we talking about something a little bit more edgy than that?

ACOSTA: Want edgy?

Keyes refers to the president as "the present occupant of the Oval Office." He still questions Mr. Obama's citizenship, even though the White House and the Republican governor of Hawaii, where the president was born, have produced evidence refuting the charge.

KEYES: I don't see how you impeach somebody who may not be president in the first place. So -- because if...

ACOSTA (on camera): And that's your position?

KEYES: ...if, according to the Constitution, you are not eligible for the presidency and that does turn out to be the case, then Barack Obama was never president. You don't impeach somebody...

ACOSTA: Oh, come on.

KEYES: ...who never was...

ACOSTA: How can that be?

How can he not be?

KEYES: No, I'm sorry. You don't understand what constitutional government is all about.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Later this year, there will be more Tea Partiers in the Caribbean aboard the Liberty ship and the News Max cruise, sponsored by the popular conservative Web site.

But the founders of one leading Tea Party group wonder whether this is the best use of the movement's time during an election year.

(on camera): Would you go on a Tea Party cruise?

JENNY BETH MARTIN, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS FOUNDER: I -- you know, right now we're working about 20 hours a day. I can't even imagine any cruise, much less a Tea Party cruise. MARK MECKLER, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS FOUNDER: No. We have no time for cruising.

J. MARTIN: We're working.

ACOSTA: But other Tea Partiers on these trips argue hitting the high seas is just a new way of cruising for the cause.

Jim Acosta, CNN, St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Nice weather there. Very different weather in this part of the country -- lots of snow and possibly a blizzard conditions bearing down on the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast right now. You're looking at live pictures over at the White House.

Also, Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is what does it mean if 36 percent of Americans have a positive view of socialism?

The latest Gallup Poll turned up that little factoid.

Eimerd in California, who originally is from Holland, I guess: "I come from a family where my grandfather was an early socialist and my father was a very popular politician for the Dutch Labor Party. Although I don't consider myself a socialist per se, I do support the social democratic policies upheld by most of the Northern European countries. The standard of living in the Scandinavian countries and Holland are the best in the world. And for most of the decades after World War II, these countries have been ruled by Social Democratic parties."

Bob in Arizona writes: "It means the number of lazy people who want handouts is growing. That's scary."

Ralph in Illinois says: "It means at least one third of our population has actually looked up the definition of socialism in some sort of reference material and found that it's not the definition the right-wing wackos use."

Charisse in Toledo writes: "It means socialism is no longer the dirty word that conservatives can fling at liberals McCarthy-style and the very idea of equality is becoming much more appealing as the corporate cat -- fat cats mismanage America's economy."

Jean-Bernard in Canada: "Canada is often seen as a socialist country by Republicans. Strangely, my house didn't lose value in the last decade. We weren't as creative to come up with subprime mortgages. No banks went belly up and we have universal, although imperfect health care. I guess socialism isn't that bad after all."

Overby writes: "That 36 percent that like socialism and the 33 percent that don't like capitalism sound like the same group -- people that don't worry, won't try to get ahead and become successful. They just want as much of a free ride as they can get off people that Obama wants to tax to death for doing well."

And Harold writes from Alaska: "It sounds like we're still in the minority, but time is on our side."

If you want to read more on the subject of socialism and American attitudes toward it, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack.

Jack Cafferty will be back.

Trapped inside a body that's betrayed her, one woman regains the ability to communicate thanks to some life-changing technology.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's extraordinary technology with equally extraordinary implications for people debilitated by disease.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin shows us.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I met a woman who can't move and can't speak, yet she writes poetry, she uses Facebook, she even sent me an e-mail.

How did she do it?

She used her brain and some cutting edge technology.

You don't believe me?

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN (voice-over): Cathy Wolf was an active mom, a successful psychologist who loved to run. That was before she received a shattering diagnosis.

JOEL WOLF, HUSBAND: By about February of '97, we had the diagnosis.

BALDWIN: ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease, a slow, excruciating death sentence. Over the past 10 years, Cathy's muscles have stopped working, but her mind remains as sharp as ever. She cannot move, breathe or even speak on her own. She is trapped in her own body. It's difficult for her and her husband of 41 years.

(on camera): And just how has this been for you, this journey? J. WOLF: I wouldn't recommend it, but we still hang in there.

BALDWIN: Cathy can communicate on a special computer system powered by her eyebrows. This is all Cathy can still move and it's how she agreed to communicate with us.

(on camera): How do you feel today?

CATHY WOLF, ALS PATIENT: Nervous, but OK.

BALDWIN (voice-over): It is a slow, painstaking process. We agreed to give Cathy the questions for our interview ahead of time so she could prepare the answers.

(on camera): Can you just describe what life is like with ALS?

C. WOLF: I have no movement except my face and slight head movement. I can't speak.

BALDWIN (voice-over): But just like every other muscle in her body, this will soon stop working, as well.

C. WOLF: I think it will be the next thing I lose, because my eyebrows are getting weak.

BALDWIN: But when that happens, Cathy will be ready and will still be able to communicate with cutting edge technology that uses brain power alone. Cathy typed this e-mail to me one letter at a time using only her thoughts. The process is slow and the results imperfect. It's called the brain-computer interface.

A nurse helps her into a cap filled with electrodes that pick up certain brain signals. Cathy then selects letters on the screen simply by focusing on them. The BCI then turns her thoughts into words and her words into speech.

C. WOLF: (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: Cathy is one of four patients in the U.S. currently using the BCI as part of research for New York State's Wadsworth Center. Neuroscientist Jonathan Wolpaw has led a team that's been working on the system for more than 20 years.

JONATHAN WOLPAW, NEW YORK WADSWORTH CENTER: A brain-computer interface used for communication and control is a device that detects brain signals -- signals produced by the -- by the brain, not by the nerves, not by the muscles -- and uses those signals as a communication channel.

BALDWIN: To understand how the BCI really works, Dr. Wolpaw's colleague, Teresa (ph), had me test it out. She put the same conductive gel inside the cap's electrodes to my scalp.

(on camera): And then, again, what do the electrodes do?

TERESA: They record the electrical signals. BALDWIN (voice-over): Then, after running a few tests that allow the BCI to get to know my brain, Teresa asked me to think of a simple three letter word. I immediately thought of my dog, a pug, but didn't tell anyone the word I was thinking. Several minutes later, the BCI worked -- no mistakes.

(on camera): That is too cool.

WOLPAW: Each flash causes a response in your brain. So your brain responds to that particular flash. And the response depends on whether one of the letters that flashed in that group was the one you wanted.

BALDWIN: Dr. Wolpaw believes this technology will get faster and improve enough to one day allow someone to control a wheelchair or even move a prosthetic arm with their mind alone. And it's up to people like Cathy to use the BCI and provide feedback.

C. WOLF: The thing that makes or breaks my days, whether I am in a good position to type.

BALDWIN: But type she does -- daily. Cathy sends e-mails, writes articles for "Neurology Now" and updates her status on Facebook. In fact, Cathy has more than 185 friends, at least 60 of whom have ALS.

(on camera): Why is it so important for you to help others?

C. WOLF: Even if I die before BCI is a product, one of the most important things I can spend my time on is making BCI usable.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BALDWIN: Now keep in mind, the BCI is still in the research phase. Not just anyone can go out, buy it and use it. Dr. Wolpaw told me he's hoping to use it as part of a program with Veterans Affairs. He's also hoping for FDA approval.

The other key issue here is funding. That is what Dr. Wolpaw says, really, bottom line, is necessary to make the BCI go from simply research to using it in a clinical setting -- Wolf.