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THE SITUATION ROOM

President's Super Bowl Surprise; Congressman Murtha Dies

Aired February 8, 2010 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, breaking news, a shocker from Haiti -- a new rescue almost -- get this -- four weeks after the earthquake.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper have returned to Haiti and they'll tell us how this could have happened.

Plus, there's growing speculation that Toyota will formally recall the Prius hybrid, even as the already troubled carmaker desperately tries to repair its reputation.

And we'll look beyond the talking points on Sarah Palin's hand. We'll explore why she was such a hit over at the Tea Party Convention and what it says about her presidential challenges in 2012.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But up first this hour, save the date for a one of a kind political event. Right now, the Obama agenda is scrambling to finalize plans for a health care summit on February 25th. We know the president plans to invite members of Congress from both parties and we now know it will be televised.

We're digging for more details. So are some skeptical lawmakers, who wonder if this is a new beginning for actual health care reform or is it just a political stunt?

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is standing by.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us, as well.

Let's go to Dan Lothian first -- Dan, what are you learning about this health care summit?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, top aides here at the White House say that they will be sending out invitations to bipartisan leadership in the House and the Senate for this half day summit that will take place not here at the White House, but likely at the Reid House (ph), right across the street from the White House. What is clear, according to two senior administration officials, is that the president will not be coming to the table to throw out the House and Senate bill and to start this process all over again.

I'm told by a senior administration official that that would not be productive, to start this process over from scratch.

So what we will see the president doing is coming to the table with what I'm told are principles of that House and Senate bill. Essentially, behind-the-scenes, both lawmakers and this White House have been working to find and bridge together those two bills. And so the president will be sitting down with those principles. And that's -- that is what I'm told will drive that summit -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How's the GOP, reacting to all this?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republican leadership sources tell me, Wolf that they got a heads up yesterday before that interview the president did that this would be coming, but they have not yet received a formal invitation nor any of the details of the format. In fact, I'm told by one source that they didn't find out it would be televised until they heard it from reporters.

But to be sure, Republican leaders are saying that they are open to having a bipartisan health care discussion. In fact, I just got -- on my BlackBerry -- a letter that is about to go out from the House Republican leaders to Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, saying just that, but also asking a lot of questions -- unanswered questions about the format and the substance.

But let's just look at the format in particular. Privately, Republican sources are saying that they are concerned, that they understand the president is trying to call their bluff and they're worried about, as one source put it, walking into a potential trap.

And the format is one problem, potentially. They're looking back to last month, when House Republicans had the president in an open Q&A session. And fix -- physically, the president was up here and House Republicans were down here. And they thought that that did not give a good visual for how Republicans were perceived.

Just take a look at what I'm talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I am willing to have a serious conversation on the line item vito -- veto issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I'd like to walk you through that, because we have a version that we think is Constitutional, bipartisan...

OBAMA: Let me take a look at it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would simply say that automatic stabilizer spending is mandatory spending. The discretionary spending -- the bills that Congress has signed that you signed into law, that has increased 84 percent.

OBAMA: All right. We'll...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So...

OBAMA: We'll have a -- we'll have a longer debate on -- on the budget numbers then, all right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So you see there, the president actually physically dominating. But on the substance, Wolf, which is the thing that they are concerned about, according to this letter, is if the White House, as Dana is reporting, is saying they're not going to throw out the Democratic bill, then why come and sit down at -- at the table, if the president doesn't seem to be really interested in GOP ideas?

BLITZER: What about the Democrats, Dana?

How are they reacting?

BASH: You know, it's interesting. It's an open secret that part of what is taking so long on health care these days is that there is a very deep divide among Democrats, in particular House and Senate Democrats. In fact, the relationship between those two chambers in terms of Democrats is about as low as it has been. And I'm told from Democratic sources here they think another part of the reason the White House wants to do this is to force these Democrats up here to come together on some of their policy differences, because the last thing they know that they want is to have those spill out into the open on live television at the White House.

BLITZER: Automatic your reporting, Dan. What -- what do you think the White House hopes to get out of all of this?

LOTHIAN: Well, Wolf, the bottom line is that the White House really wants to get bipartisan support for health care reform. And as Dana was -- pointed out, they like that format. The president, they believe, did very well at that Republican retreat, so they believe that he can do well in this format again.

And -- and, ultimately, they want to put to rest any criticism from Republicans. They have been saying up there on the Hill that the president has gone about this the wrong way, that he needs to throw it out. He wants to hear the best ideas -- come to the table with the best ideas.

But it also gives the White House a chance to say, listen, if this fails, we have given Republicans a chance to sit at the table -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Dan Lothian at the White House.

Dana Bash on Capitol Hill. We'll continue to watch this story.

February 25th, mark your calendars now. We'll have live coverage right here on CNN -- the bipartisan health care summit at the White House.

Let's get to the death now of Congressman Jack Murtha. The Pennsylvania Democrat died today after complications from gallbladder surgery. He was 77 years old.

Murtha had a lot of power over the Pentagon's budget over the years as the long time chairman of the subcommittee that oversees military spending.

He was revered among many Democrats as a deal maker and a political king maker. Critics, however, blasted him as a master of pork barrel politics, often citing, among other things, an airport that bears him name.

Many Americans came to know him when this Vietnam War veteran changed his mind about the war in Iraq and became a vocal opponent.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, and the new anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- that speech back in November of 2005, Candy, it really shocked a lot of people because he was Mr. Gung Ho, pro-war all of the years. And then all of a sudden, he came out with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM NOVEMBER 17, 2005)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of the members of Congress. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it's time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That was quite a stunning moment, as a lot of us recall. He became one of the most outspoken opponents of the war in Iraq.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the first and one of the most outspoken, at least in terms of where he was to begin with, which was very supportive. And a couple of things about that moment. It really changed the temperature in Washington as far as heating up the anti-war -- outspoken anti-war people on Capitol Hill.

But there was also the feeling that Jack Murtha, because he was so close to the Pentagon and so many higher-ups in the Pentagon, that he was doing this for the Pentagon, that he had not just channeled, but had spoken to them about it and that, in some way, that was their opinion that they couldn't say publicly. That was always the thought about that particular speech.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he was known sort of around Capitol Hill as Captain Jack, right, because he was -- he was so close to the -- to the generals. He was so close to the boots on the ground.

After a -- after Abu Ghraib, he was very concerned about the strains on the military -- feeling that this was just taking too much of a toll. And so when he came out, it was very clear, as -- as Candy said, that it was not just some sort of knee jerk anti-war person, but really somebody who was representing more than himself in this decision. And it really -- it really created a huge stir.

CROWLEY: It was a turning a corner.

BORGER: Oh...

CROWLEY: It was.

BORGER: Oh, absolutely. And I remember him as a younger guy, when he used to give Tip O'Neill all kinds of problems. You know, this was an independent thinker who came to Congress as a Watergate baby and was going to speak his mind.

BLITZER: Yes. I remember even when I was a Pentagon correspondent...

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: ...in the early 1990s, you mentioned his name over at the Pentagon, they would be fear...

BORGER: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: ...he was in charge of appropriations we need...

CROWLEY: That's right.

BLITZER: ...Murtha. But they thought he was their biggest ally.

CROWLEY: Yes. And I -- I love the word revered on Capitol Hill, because he was revered, but he was also feared at -- at some level, precisely for what Gloria was talking about, was that he was a very conservative Democrat and he knew how to wield power. And he could wield power in either direction, for you or against you, regardless of power.

So up on -- they respected him at the Pentagon. They -- they thought that they had a voice in him. And they knew on Capitol Hill that he understand the system and could wiled power.

BORGER: And after he came out against the war, he became a very big Republican target, you know?

BLITZER: Oh, yes.

BORGER: You know, it's not clear that he would have won reelection...

CROWLEY: No.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE).

CROWLEY: And he also had, as we know, some ethical problems...

BORGER: Yes.

CROWLEY: -- people were looking into. So it was a rough road ahead for him. I mean he ran into trouble...

BLITZER: And it was -- it was shocking, though, that -- you know, he went in for routine gallbladder surgery -- only 77 years old...

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: ...in relatively -- everybody thought he was in good shape. The gallbladder surgery got complicated, for whatever reason. He was rushed from one hospital to another hospital and -- and he died.

We're going to look into the complications from routine surgery -- what happens, you go in for routine surgery and all of a sudden you're dead.

BORGER: And we should...

BLITZER: You know...

BORGER: ...we should also say, one of his closest friends is the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi...

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: ...who will really suffer his loss.

BLITZER: Right. A lot of people will. Our deepest condolences to his family, as well.

All right, guys, thanks.

We're following breaking news from Haiti -- a new rescue -- yes, a rescue from the rubble almost four weeks after the earthquake.

How did this person survive?

Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper -- they're both back in the earthquake zone. We're going to be speaking live to both of them right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by.

And the super celebration in New Orleans -- the city just didn't win the biggest football game of the year, it got a lot of its own spirit back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, Sarah Palin is making it clear that she's not going anywhere and she may just have her sights trained on the White House.

The former Alaska governor says she would consider a run for president in 2012 if the situation is right for the nation and her family.

That's swell.

Palin, who was woefully unprepared to be John McCain's running mate, acknowledges that she, quote, "sure as heck better be more astute on these national issues," unquote, than she was two years ago.

Seriously.

And maybe that's why Palin says she's started receiving daily political and economic briefings over e-mail from various Washington experts.

That ought to do it, right?

Palin -- I wonder if she ever reads a newspaper.

Palin delivered the keynote speech to the Tea Party Convention in Nashville over the weekend. She used a lot of the speech to go after President Obama on his national security and spending policies, describing Obama as a, quote, "law professor at a lectern" and criticizing him for apologizing for America, and asking the Tea Partiers, quote, "How is that hopey changey stuff working out for you?," unquote.

She even has her own language.

Meanwhile, it appears that Palin had written crib notes on the palm of her hand, including the words "energy," "tax" and "lift Americans' spirits."

Think we're kidding?

Watch this.

Now, this is the very same speech -- take a look here. Now watch the left hand.

Oops. Energy...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: ...lift Americans' -- you've got to be kidding me.

This is the same speech where Palin criticized President Obama for relying too much on a teleprompter.

So here's the question -- what would you advise Sarah Palin to do next?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, Jack.

You know, do you see these papers I have in front of me?

These are all notes and stuff I'm supposed to say, but I don't write it on my hand.

CAFFERTY: Well, you don't have room for all of that stuff...

BLITZER: No.

CAFFERTY: ...to write it on your hand.

BLITZER: Well, there's nothing wrong. She could have taken a little three by five card up and held some notes in front of her. There's nothing wrong with that.

CAFFERTY: Well, I -- I suppose. But you're -- if you have aspirations of being president...

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: ...shouldn't you be able to...

BLITZER: You shouldn't write...

CAFFERTY: ...talk about energy...

BLITZER: Right. Write it...

CAFFERTY: ...without writing energy on your hand?

BLITZER: I agree with you.

CAFFERTY: I mean come on.

BLITZER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty.

Get ready for a ton -- a ton of e-mail.

CAFFERTY: Oh, we've all -- we've already got it. It's a -- it's a mess. I love when she does anything, because the -- the e-mail just floods in.

BLITZER: Oh my god. All right, let's move on to a celebration that's going on right now. The party has started in New Orleans. The city is rocking and rolling with pride, as it should, now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from New Orleans right now.

Lots of happy folks and we're all thrilled for the people of not only New Orleans, but the entire Louisiana Gulf Coast.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: you know, Wolf, the New Orleans Saints clearly the sentimental favorites in this Super Bowl game yesterday. And it was clear that so many people, instead of going to Miami, where the festivities have been held, tens of thousands of people descended on New Orleans -- people from across the country who had adopted the Saints as their own.

And, of course, for the people who have been here in New Orleans for so long, especially in the years here after Hurricane Katrina, this team really symbolizes the rebirth and the despair and -- and the -- the coming of age for this team. And they -- many of the people here in New Orleans feel it kind of represents what they've been through here, as well, in -- in the last few years.

The music is blaring again here on Bourbon Street. I doubt we'll see what we saw last night.

But the New Orleans Saints are back home in town. They arrived just a few hours ago. Here at the airport, thousands of people out at the airport to welcome the team home.

And, of course, everything gearing up tomorrow, Wolf, for the big parade through downtown New Orleans. And they will be honoring -- the parade will -- the parade will take off from the Superdome and end at the convention center with speeches from the players.

So it will end up being a -- quite another day. And as we get into the midst of Mardi Gras season here, as well, Wolf, the partying is going to last another week.

And before I let you go, Wolf, we've been talking to a couple of the bookies here in New Orleans. And word on the street is you had picked the Saints and did pretty well on your bet yesterday.

BLITZER: I picked the Saints 30-28. But they won 31, so they -- they got close to what I thought they would do. You know, they -- they did a lot better than I thought the New England Patriots -- the Boston Steel -- excuse me -- the Pittsburgh Steelers, I thought, would take the whole thing back a long time ago in September. So I wasn't very good about the Steelers; a bit better picking the Saints to win the Super Bowl.

Thanks very much, Ed Lavandera.

By the way, a lot of big name sports fans here in the nation's capital got their Super Bowl predictions wrong. President Obama not only declared that the Colts had to be favored, he did it in a CBS interview during the pre-game buildup.

The former Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson; the former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan; they crunched the numbers. They also went with the Colts.

Armchair quarterbacks online now are second-guessing some of their economic forecasts, I suppose, as well.

And the former FEMA director, Michael Brown -- remember "heck of a Brown -- Brownie job?"

Remember that one?

He went with the Colts, too. That didn't surprise a lot of Katrina survivors in New Orleans, who aren't big fans of the former FEMA head.

Let's talk a little bit more about the Super Bowl win, what it means.

Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is joining us -- David, it -- it's a powerful, powerful symbolic gesture for the people of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast. And God knows, they deserve it.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Absolutely, Wolf. And I -- I must say, I'm among those who got this wrong. I was -- I thought the Patriots might, you know, revive and go all the way. That's my team. So there are a lot of us in that category.

But, Wolf, that's what -- partly what makes this so special. You know, when Drew Brees said after the game, he -- the team felt -- the Saints felt that the entire nation was pulling for them, that's largely true. A lot of America felt very -- has felt very emotionally about New Orleans.

And I think this was a -- a very special game. Not only was it a terrific game -- they -- both teams played exceptionally well and with a gutsy coach on the New Orleans side -- but it was one of those special moments when the -- I think this is the best feel good moment for this country in -- in well over a year.

We've had a lot of pretty bleak news recently. Here's a team in a city that's -- that has come back from just a terrible place. And they overcame these enormous obstacles. Drew Brees, nobody thought he would ever be much of a quarterback -- six foot tall, he's below the height.

You know, when he had an injured -- a terrible injury four years ago, about the same time as Katrina, people thought he was out. No team wanted him.

The Saints wanted him. And he devoted himself to the Saints and -- and the team devoted themselves to New Orleans. And here they won this special victory. I think it's an inspirational story not only for New Orleans and the region, it's really an inspirational story for the country, because when -- when people have got their backs to the wall and they come together and rally and work as they have, if New Orleans can do this, the Saints can do this, why can't America do this?

BLITZER: Yes. I mean, it's one of these stories that transcends sports and...

GERGEN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ...and makes all of us feel a little bit better about what's going on, as you correctly point out, at a time when we only seem to be getting bad news and even worse news.

GERGEN: Absolutely. And I -- you know, and we'll hear, I'm sure, more from -- from James and Mary -- Matalin and James Carville, as -- because they're so closely involved in New Orleans. I'm sure we'll hear more on CNN about them.

But, well, you know, in New Orleans, there -- there are real sparks of a revival there. A ton of kids have -- have swept into New Orleans to work block by block, house by house, to improve them. The -- they've got a new -- new charter schools that are flowering. They've got a terrific new superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas has come there.

They've just elected -- black and white voters together -- elected Mitch Landrieu to be -- be the mayor. He's a wonderfully strong, inspirational leader. Everybody thinks he may be northeast of the best mayors in decades. And now along comes this victory. And it -- you can just sense this is something that can bring a town and a region back. And it's the kind of spirit of -- it's the spirit of America re -- revisited. And I think it will give -- I think it will give fresh hope to a lot of Americans around the country.

BLITZER: I think you're right.

And -- and Mary Matalin and James Carville, they're going to be joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM live later, so we'll get their thoughts. Obviously, they're thrilled. They recently moved back to New Orleans. And I guess this is about as good as it gets for them.

All right. Thanks very much, David Gergen.

GERGEN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

Right now, many people are saying, say it ain't so, after Washington, D.C. and other Mid-Atlantic areas get pounded with more than two feet of snow.

Guess what?

Forecasters now saying that's only just the beginning. How much more can the people here take?

And buy or wait -- given all the problems with Toyotas, should customers keep buying the cars or should they wait?

I'll ask the CEO of Edmunds.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a disturbing -- a disturbing story developing right now.

Let's go to Lisa Sylvester.

It's just coming in. We're getting some live pictures -- Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have pictures coming into THE SITUATION ROOM out of Houston from our affiliate, KTRK. You see live pictures there where a city bus has collided with a city light rail train. People are being put on stretchers, although we have no definitive word right now on injuries. The train has apparently derailed, although it is upright. There you see a picture of it right there, of the city bus. And we will continue to monitor this story and bring you developments as they come in.

In other news, Michael Jackson's physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, is pleading not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the pop star. Murray turned himself in just about an hour ago. Members of the Jackson family, they were on hand at the Los Angeles courthouse shortly after the charges were announced. A preliminary hearing is set for April 5th in Los Angeles.

And the United States and the European Union are urging Iran to end abuses against its own people. In a joint statement issued today, they called on Iran to, "live up to its international human rights obligations." The statement comes amidst growing fears of violence expected this week around the anniversary of the Islamic Republic. Iranian leaders deny accusations of abusing citizens.

And the test flight for Boeing's largest plane ever is now underway. The Jumbo is a 747-8 freighter. It took off from Seattle today. It measures at 250 feet in length and that's almost 20 feet longer than existing 747s. Boeing plans to develop a passenger version of the plane that's more fuel-efficient than current models -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lisa.

Thanks very much.

Toyota -- it's launching a new ad, trying to reclaim the public's confidence. But another big recall may be looming.

Will the Prius be next?

I'll ask a well-respected car industry analyst what he knows.

And our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's now back in Haiti, making sure we continue to cover the story of the earthquake and recovery. And now he's following breaking news -- word of another rescue almost four weeks after the earthquake.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, keeping track of how much progress there is in Haiti or if relief efforts are just too slow. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back in Haiti right now. We'll be joining him live. That's coming up.

Also, Sarah Palin and Tea Party activists -- is it a marriage made in political heaven? Why do some conservative independents roar to their feet for the former vice presidential candidate?

And might Toyota do something that will add to its problems? It's anyone's guess if another recall will come. Given all the headaches though, should consumers buy a Toyota right now? Or should they wait? I'll ask the CEO of Edmunds.com.

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

All that coming up but what's next for Sarah Palin? Based on what she said, you might say she's inched a little bit closer to deciding to run for president of the United States. Certainly many tea party activists would like that, they'd like it very much, but what about her real appeal to them? What's going on here? We asked our Brian Todd to take a closer look.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Sarah Palin seemed to hit on several messages that would appeal to the tea party crowd. She slammed the Obama white house on its national security record, wall street bailouts, deficit spending, it all results in more buzz generated over Sarah Palin from speculation on her future to scrutiny over a very minute gesture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Her referral to a scribbled note on her happened was a blip during her star turn at the tea party convention.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to start reigning in the spending. We have got to jump-start these energy projects.

TODD: But it's what's on Sarah Palin's mind, not her hand that's all the buzz, specifically over her future. Some among the mostly independent Republicans at the tea party event chanted "run Sarah run" feeding off her salvos against the Obama administration over the deficit, wall street bailouts and national security. PALIN: On Christmas day the only thing that stopped this terrorist was blind luck and brave passengers. It's a Christmas miracle. That's not the way the system is supposed to work.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, a Palin aide downplayed analyst comments that she's become the de facto leader of the tea party movement, but Melinda Hennenberger of PoliticsDaily.com believes that Palin is exactly that.

What is the message that Sarah Palin has that's so appealing to the tea party crowd?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: I'm not sure it's so much the message as the messenger. She is herself is so appealing to that crowd and to a huge percentage of Republican voters, she's the outsider with so much charisma.

TODD: CNN's senior political editor Mark Preston says the tea party movement could be responding to a void at the top.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: The Republican party is without a leader right now and it's a recipe for success for Sarah Palin to be throwing out these one-liners that will invigorate a Republican base that for the most part had been depressed over the last year.

TODD: Preston says Palin is still a polarizing figure and polls bare that out. A recent CNN survey showing a 43 percent favorable rating for Palin, 46 percent unfavorable. Hennenberger believes that among those who favor her there is something that goes beyond her charisma.

HENNENBERGER: In groups I've seen her speak on the pro-life message, that really resonates. I know when she was governor of Alaska, they were pretty surprised to hear that her national message was on social issues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: A Palin aide says it's her messages of limited government, strong national security and reduced spending that's hitting home at the moment. That certainly resonated over the weekend. The aide would not comment on questions about a presidential run in 2012, only repeating Palin's own remarks that she's not closing the door. Wolf?

BLITZER: Some say she's already assembling a staff, if you will, a team of advisers that would give the appearance of a campaign. Is that what you're seeing?

TODD: Her aide essentially admitted that. Her aide said she does get regular foreign policy advice from Randy Shoeneman who was a foreign policy adviser for the McCain campaign. She's getting domestic policy advice from others, and a political action committee in place. Analysts say all clear indications that she's positioning herself, and right now she's got a great position, she can sit pretty and have this electronic bully pulpit with her media deals, her book deals and speaking engagements. She doesn't have to commit just yet. She's in a very good position to just make money and get that message out there.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Let's move on to Toyota. We're seeing unconfirmed reports that Toyota is on the verge of announcing another recall, this time of the Prius Hybrid. Complaints about the Prius braking system are adding to the carmaker's nightmare of the big recall for gas pedal problems, the sudden acceleration problem as it's been called. Joining us is Jeremy Anwyl, the CEO of the car buying guide Edmunds.com.

Jeremy, thanks very much for coming in.

JEREMY ANWYL, CEO, EDMUNDS.COM: My pleasure.

BLITZER: I've been teasing this question for our viewers. If you want to buy a Toyota now, is this a good time to buy or should you wait?

ANWYL: Well, it's an interesting question. I think American car buyers love a bargain, so I think some of them are actually deciding if there's negative press out there for Toyota that this actually might be the time to buy, the idea being there's fewer people in the showroom and the deals might be better.

BLITZER: Today I heard a report that the resale value of a Toyota has already dropped off maybe as much as 10 percent?

ANWYL: What we're seeing is some of the resale guidebooks making forecasts. In terms of the actual data in the marketplace, it's a little less certain. We're certainly seeing that trade-in values have dropped, that dealers are willing to offer a little bit less for Toyota but on the retail side, if you're looking to buy a Toyota, prices are actually surprisingly firm.

BLITZER: What do you think they should do about this Prius braking problem that a lot of speculation they could call a recall for a few hundred thousand cars?

ANWYL: I think they're going to have to, whether it's called a recall or technical service bulletin, which is something less severe, but basically there is an issue it seems with the older Priuses, Priuses sold before January of this year, and they know the fix. So they need to get it out in front of the consumers.

BLITZER: Do you still recommend buying a Toyota?

ANWYL: I met with our editors a week ago, and I asked that question. They were pretty clear in our answer. We have a list of Toyotas that are recommended. Those are still recommended vehicles. I think if you're in the market today and you're looking to buy a vehicle, the vehicle you'll find at the dealer that is had all the fixes that Toyota has recommended, and you should feel reasonably comfortable that it's a good, safe car.

BLITZER: Jeremy Amwyl, the CEO of Edmunds.com, thank you very much.

ANWYL: Sure, anytime.

BLITZER: More than 8.1 million vehicles have been recalled by Toyota so far for that gas pedal acceleration. It ranks as one of the biggest recalls of all time. Check out some of the others last year. Ford completed a recall effecting 16 million vehicles over a 10 year period, the problem a faulty cruise control switch that caused some vehicles to catch fire. Ford also was behind a 1996 recall of more than 8 million vehicles, the car maker replaced defective ignition switches that could also lead to fire. A 1971 recall by General Motors affected 6.7 million vehicles. The GM recall involved engine mounts that separated from the vehicle.

Here in Washington we're cleaning up from a record snowfall. Guess what? More snow is now on the way. Stand by to hear some of the weather horror stories out there in the nation's capital.

You can find out how all this could affect your travel plans. There are ripple effects going on.

Also ahead, how the failed Christmas bombing suspect is becoming a weapon in the political wars under way here in Washington. The president's top counterterrorism official is coming forward to say stop it.

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BLITZER: Right now breaking news development out of Haiti that has a lot of people asking, how is it possible this could happen? A man is pulled from the rubble alive. Apparently he says he had been trapped for almost four weeks. Let's go straight to our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, back in Port-au-Prince for us.

How is this possible? What do we know?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We got a tip that he was rescued today. That was the tip we heard. Like you Wolf, we weren't sure what to believe, so we came to the play where we know he is, in this hospital tent sort of behind me. We know that when he came in his vital signs were relatively stable, according to a doctor that treated him. I spoke at length to the doctor. They say he had some laboratory work, bloodwork that showed he had been extremely dehydrated, very malnourished, but the doctors are believes the veracity of this story. There's been some comments that maybe he received some water during the time that he was pinned essentially, and the patient described it to his family as somebody in a white coat came and brought him water from time to time. It's very hard to piece together. We're not sure if that's true or he was hallucinating. He is in the tent behind me, four weeks, 27 days essentially pinned and finally rescued today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Obviously if you have water, you can survive, you don't need more than just water to survive four weeks, but without water there's no way you can survive four weeks. GUPTA: I think that's fair to say, Wolf. There's never been a study that purposely withheld water from people to see how long they would survive. That would obviously be unethical. But I think four weeks everyone would agree it's simply too long. What I'm describing simply would not be possible unless he had access to water. He was pinned, at least according to the people who brought him to the hospital so it would have been very hard for him to drink himself, but again he said at several points during all this, he said he simply wanted to die, he described hearing bulldozers around him literally excavating buildings around him. Imagine that. He was thinking his building might be excavated as well with him inside alive. Incredible to think about just mentally. But he must have had some water. I think that's safe to say.

Wolf let me just say, part of the reason we're not showing him to you right now, he is still very confused. You may have some pictures that the family authorized to show you, but he's very confused. He still thinks he's underneath the building. He hasn't come to terms that he's being rescued, but is being resuscitated in this hospital right behind me. I saw him.

BLITZER: It's an amazing story and I know you'll be working it, Sanjay. You're back in Haiti. You just got back. You had been there together with our initial team, including Anderson Cooper for about two weeks, then you left, now you're back. Give me an initial thought, as you see what's happened in the week you were gone.

GUPTA: Things have definitely improved in all the sorts of ways, Wolf. I mean the coordination is in a place like this is so much better, certainly better than two weeks ago. The longer-term problems are becoming more apparent. While the acute care has improved, what people are really coming to the realization is after patients get some, frankly life-saving treatment, where do they go next? A lot of these patients have no resources, some are being placed in tents, in areas that are at risk of being underneath a lot of rainfall in the next several weeks, so they are starting to come to terms with that and trying to figure out what to do next, but overall in terms of life-saving therapies, coordination, supplies that we talked about, those things have improved, now need more plans going forward.

BLITZER: We'll be in close touch with you, Sanjay. Good to know you're back on the scene. He'll be coming back later in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Anderson Cooper is also back in Haiti. He'll be here. He's going to tell us what he's seeing right now, why he made the decision, together with Sanjay and others to go back to Haiti this week. We'll be talking with Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta throughout this -- these hours of THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for that.

Is Iran trying to inch one step closer to building a nuclear weapon? Wait until you hear what Iran defiantly announces it will do now.

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BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what else is going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. A devastated war zone, that's how one official is describing parts of southern California after a torrential weekend rainstorm triggered a series of heavy mudslides. More than three dozen homes in just one area are packed in mud, and a few have been declared uninhabitable. Reports are calling for even more rain this week.

While on the west coast they're contending with rain, residents along the east coast are contending with the crippling aftermath of a record-breaking snowstorm over the weekend. The major airports in the D.C. area are open but with limited runways. Officials are asking travelers to check with the airlines before venturing to the airport. Amtrak is offering service along the northeast corridor but there are some cancellations. You know as if all of this, over two feet of snow isn't enough for the mid-Atlantic well get ready because there's even more on the way. The National Weather Service has issued a new winter storm warning for the region. Ay-yi-yi. Residents from the Washington D.C. area through Philadelphia should brace for up to 20 inches of even more snow. New York City can expect anywhere from 2 to 4 inches.

I don't know about you Wolf but I'm so sick and tired of the snow. I know there are a number of people who still don't have power from the last weekend storm we just got through.

BLITZER: We lost power. We got it back last night, but hundreds of thousands at one point didn't have power, and they're working feverishly in the greater D.C. area. Another 10 to 20 inches, that's a lot of snow we're getting. Lisa you've been living here for a while.

SYLVESTER: The thing about it, there are streets, people are talking about the street right in front of our building, that still has not been cleared the last time I checked. A lot of the side streets, you know, in our neighborhood in fact what they did, we just had a group of neighbors started working together to get the snow out.

BLITZER: Good neighborhood cooperation. Lisa grew up in Guam and Hawaii. She's not used to this.

SYLVESTER: Exactly.

BLITZER: I grew up in Buffalo.

SYLVESTER: Did we figure out who's driving?

BLITZER: I'll drive. Not a problem.

What's the situation in Haiti versus when the earthquake first hit. Anderson Cooper is back in Haiti today. He was there within hours of the disaster. He'll tell us how much progress he's seeing. Stand by.

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BLITZER: Getting right back to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is what would you advise Sarah Palin to do next?

John in Eugene, Oregon says, "I would not presume to advise Ms. Palin. She should continue to be herself and let the electorate decide whether they want leadership or slogans. I cannot imagine seeing any substance here but I remember saying that in 1980, 1984, 2000 and 2004 as well. That's all I have to offer now. I just washed my hands and all my talking points are gone."

Geri in West Virginia says, "She ought not plan another run for any public office now that the country has had a chance to see exactly how little she knows about just about everything and how little she knows about how little she knows."

Rick in Ohio, "She should make a large pot of moose stew and serve it at a soup kitchen. While there, she should refrain from speaking, as there are people trying to eat."

Donna writes, "Sarah Palin's palm pilot is about as antiquated as the tea party."

Jarin writes, "Hopey, changey? Go away, Sarah. The adults have work to do."

J.G. writes, "Crib sheets. So what's your point? Keep on bashing, Palin. The more you do the more support she gains. Is that really your goal here? Change we can't wait to undo."

Alan writes, "Mittens, Jack. Mittens. Maybe if she can't read notes off her hand she won't run in 2012. Mittens."

James in Michigan, "Get a bigger left hand for the hard questions like, where is England and what's the difference between the debt and the deficit?"

To read more, we got literally thousands of e-mails on the question. Go to CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Wolf?

BLITZER: Good question. Lots of good answers. I recommend people go there, Jack. Thank you very much. Don't go far away. The failed Christmas bombing suspect in the middle of a political fight now. A top white house official is telling Republican critics to lay off. I have a good idea.

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BLITZER: We're getting word that Toyota is getting ready to announce a recall of all of its 2010 Priuses here in the United States and around the world. We're going to Tokyo in a few minutes to get the latest information. Stand by for that. But a Prius recall, as expected, now about to be announced formally. Stand by. This is an important story for so many viewers.

Let's get to the strategy session right now. Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen and former speech writer for George W. Bush, David Frum, a CNN columnist also with the American Enterprise Institute. Is that correct? Here are some clips we put together from Sarah Palin's speech Saturday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: They know we're at war and to win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern. How's that a hopey, changey stuff working for you? This is about people and it's bigger than any king or queen of a tea party and it's a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, David. The personal attacks against the president of the United States, appropriate or not?

DAVID FRUM, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: They're fine, theoretically, but on Ronald Reagan's birthday the test is to say something tough with a smile. Reagan was a master of that. Palin throws the elbow, but everybody sees the throw. I'm not sure people want it in a future president.

BLITZER: He's right about Reagan. He could be tough, but he was likable. A lot of people say she was tough but not necessarily likable in that address.

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is so unfair. My Republican counterpart is supposed to be defending Sarah Palin. But what happens is nobody in the Republican Party will defend Sarah Palin. She's completely out of the mainstream and yet nobody will dismiss her either. That's the biggest challenge for Republicans going forward. The more people like me attack her, the more popular she is. Really the big fight here is the is so-called -- this tea party movement and Sarah Palin's leadership of it, whether she wants it or not.

BLITZER: She's very popular with the movement.

FRUM: She made clear she wants to be leader of a factional movement within the Republican Party, not the party. She's not popular within the party as a whole.

BLITZER: The tea party movement.

FRUM: We don't know how big a movement it is. When you ask Republicans if she's ready to be president we learned from a CNN poll half of Republican women say she's not ready to be president. Republican men like her more but there are doubts about her. That was a factional speech, not a party speech.

ROSEN: I bet we will see every single Republican come this mid- term election, if Sarah Palin's willing to go campaign for them, willing to go raise money, they would take her in a heartbeat.

BLITZER: Certainly in the primaries.

FRUM: Maybe. I don't know whether she helps Rob Portman in Ohio, I don't whether she helps Tom Campbell in California. The Republicans have a chance to make some pick-ups with candidates who represent the mainstream of Republicanism.

BLITZER: We're not sure she's interested in running for president of the United States. Since leaving as governor of Alaska she's made a ton of must be -- money. She's made millions with her book, speaking fees and signing on with Fox News. You can't worry about that.

ROSEN: She doesn't put herself in a venue where she can be asked the tough questions. We know that, too.

BLITZER: Stand by. We'll continue our coverage.