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Senate Jobs Bill; White House Proposal; Toyota Profits; Broken Government; Air Strike Gone Wrong; Toyota Camry Investigation

Aired February 22, 2010 - 19:00   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, the newest Republican senator from Massachusetts helps Democrats, Scott Brown votes yes to advance a jobs bill Democrats desperately want and they desperately needed Republican support.

Also, as Iranian leaders call for Israel's destruction might they think twice now? Israel shows off its newest weapon that can reach the Persian Gulf and stay there for hours.

And danger, derailments, even deaths. Are computer -- excuse me -- commuter systems in your area riddled with problems like one of the biggest subway systems in the country? Who is watching their safety record?

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

All this week, CNN is tracking signs of "Broken Government". Moments ago, Democrats and Republicans came together for an important goal, helping more people find jobs. In the Senate, a bill intended to create jobs passed a critical test -- the vote, 62-30. Republicans joined Democrats in support, and get this, as our own Dana Bash first reported here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the newest Republican senator, Scott Brown, voted yes. He went along with the Democrats.

Let's go straight to Dana Bash. She's working the story for us. All right Dana, tell our viewers what happened.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well look, in a Democratic-led Senate that has gotten a well deserved reputation for deadlock; this is pretty rare that there were Republicans who crossed party lines. Republicans and Democrats effectively joined together. It was a procedural motion, but it was the one that effectively paves the way for this $15 billion jobs bill.

In fact, it is so rare -- I just got an e-mail from a Democratic leadership source who said they're a tad bit shell shocked that this even happened. But there were five Republican senators who decided to go along with what is a relatively modest jobs package. It gives some tax breaks to small businesses for hiring new workers and it also puts money into the highway trust fund for projects on roads and bridges and things like that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But the House passed, I take it, a very, very different jobs bill, and so now they have -- assuming the Senate passes this modest $15 billion jobs bill, they then have to come up with a joint version, right?

BASH: They are, and that is -- we have seen this in the past especially with health care. That is not always easy. But the new reality here in the Senate, Democrats know, is that they are going to have to take things bit by bit and piece by piece. And this is, as I said, very modest. Much smaller than the $100 plus billion bill that they passed in the House, but it is from the perspective of Democrats, a good first step.

But I'll tell you from the perspective of a lot of Republicans who supported a lot of the ideas in this bill, they were not happy with the process. That's why you saw the majority of Republicans voting no. There was a bipartisan effort -- a broad bipartisan effort on a much larger bill in the Senate, but many Republicans said that this particular smaller bill didn't have enough tax cuts, for example, and they were not happy that the way this process worked, Wolf.

And that is that this particular bill would not allow to be amended or changed by Republicans. They weren't happy about that, so they took the political risk to vote against even a procedural measure on such a politically important issue like jobs.

BLITZER: We just got a statement from the president welcoming this vote, this procedural vote in the Senate. He's saying he's happy that Democrats and some Republican senators voted to support this jobs bill. All right thanks, Dana, very much.

Mark your calendar Thursday; you'll see the health care stare down among President Obama, Democrats, and Republicans. Today, though the White House essentially tells Republicans here is our plan, where is yours? The Obama administration posts its health care blueprint on WhiteHouse.gov. It's an attempt at compromise between the bills passed in the House and the Senate, although it's largely the Senate version. The estimate almost $1 trillion over 10 years -- one major item, a proposal for a government board that would help the government block excessive rate hikes by insurance companies.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. Dan, is this a take it or leave it proposal that the White House now for the first time has actually put forward?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. From the White House perspective, they're saying that this is a starting point, this is an opening bid said one aide. The president has picked what he believes are the strongest parts of that House and Senate bills, in particular the Senate bills, laid out this proposal, and now asking for Republicans to come to the table with their own proposal. Now I asked Robert Gibbs based on the signals they're getting, will Republicans be coming to work on the plan or to fight it? Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I saw the statement that Congressman Boehner put out. Again, I think that the product that comes out of Thursday is dependent upon the Republican willingness to come and discuss health care solutions and be open to ideas and insuring that those ideas are passed on to the people in the form of a change in health care reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Many Republicans, though, are still not happy. They would rather see this start from scratch, not to sit down at the table and first start off with the president's plan. Mitch McConnell, who is the minority leader in the Senate said that he's disappointed -- that either the administration is not listening to Americans or simply ignoring them because they don't want quote, "another partisan-backed -- back room bill" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If the White House were to get its way, that's a huge if, would this board have the final say?

LOTHIAN: They would have the final say, Wolf, if state regulators, rather, don't want to or can't step in and try to you know cut off these increases. But you know this board would be made up of seven members. It would be a panel made up of doctors, economists, consumers and insurance industry officials essentially reviewing any time there's -- what they're calling -- excessive rate increases. And this, the administration says, is to make sure that consumers are protected.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thank you. Thanks very much.

Trouble just seems to be mounting for Toyota. Now there are questions about how long the company has known about sudden acceleration problems in some of its vehicles and even allegations the carmaker engaged in a cover-up. Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff has new details -- Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Toyota is now facing civil and criminal investigations and the anger of Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Years of riding on a reputation of quality seem to be catching up to Toyota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF (voice-over): The sudden acceleration danger that led Toyota to halt production sales and recall vehicles only last month is an issue that Toyota has confronted for years. Auto insurer State Farm says beginning in 2004, it reported Toyota accident claims resulting from sudden acceleration to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration known as NHTSA, and an analysis of sudden acceleration incidents by consultant Safety Research and Strategies reveals over 2,200 complaints about Toyotas since 1999. Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says Toyota has been trying to hide the problem.

CLARENCE DITLOW, CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY: But that rate mushroomed in 2002 when they introduced the more complex electronic throttle. So you have a company that has known about electronic controls and sudden acceleration for really at least 10 years. CHERNOFF: Yet Toyota fought against expensive recalls say consumer advocates. This internal Toyota document reveals Yoshi Inaba, the company's top man in the U.S., boasting of limiting a recall of the Camry and Lexus ES in 2007 to just floor mats. Wins for Toyota, the document states, negotiated equipment recall on Camry/ES, in reference to sudden acceleration, SA, saved more than $100 million.

NHTSA responded with anger to the revelation saying it's the responsibility of automakers to come forward when there's a problem. Unfortunately, this document is very telling. Product liability attorney Jeffrey Embry has battled Toyota in court.

JEFFREY EMBRY, ATTORNEY, HOSSLEY AND EMBRY: Toyota was counting the dollars that they would save by narrowing the scope of the recall and by delaying the recall, and meanwhile, Americans were out there on the roadway exposing themselves to risk and many of them have experienced serious injury or death. So I think unfortunately it is another case of profits over safety.

CHERNOFF: And just today, Toyota revealed it is the focus of federal, civil, and criminal investigations, a grand jury in New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission have subpoenaed Toyota for documents related to unintended acceleration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF: Congress is looking for a good explanation for the company. For now, Toyota is saying the following: Our first priority is the safety of our customers and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong. Our values have always been to pus the customer first and insure the highest levels of safety and quality -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff reporting on Toyota. We'll have more on Toyota later this hour.

A school district facing a lawsuit for allegedly spying on students at home via laptop Web cams, now there's a new develop.

And the latest, a NATO air strike gone wrong, very wrong, 27 Afghan civilians are killed in a convoy attack. Now top U.S. commanders are offering regrets and they have an explanation.

And a warning to Iran, Israel unveils a giant, high-flying, high- tech drone that can reach the Persian Gulf and stay up in the skies for hours.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Here is another sign of our "Broken Government". Three quarters of Americans think our federal government officials are dishonest. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows just 22 percent of those surveyed say federal officials are honest. Seventy-five percent say they're dishonest.

These figures have remained virtually the same since 1994, and what's more, people think the problem of dishonesty in government goes back much farther than that. This poll is out on the 278th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, and it shows that 74 percent of the people surveyed think the Father of the Country lied to the public while he was president. That would be the very same George Washington who is known for never telling a lie.

Also, "Honest Abe", as in Abe Lincoln, doesn't fair much better in this survey, 71 percent say that Abraham Lincoln lied to the public while he was president. All this goes to show the idea of "Broken Government" has been around for a very, very long time, probably for good reason. Americans are always a little cynical about people seeking elected office.

They don't believe that politicians always tell the truth, because they don't. Also experts suggest that people might sense that the president sometimes has to keep things from the public. Whatever the reason, we keep sending these politicians to Washington. We hope they will represent the people's interest, and we think they're dishonest at the same time.

Doesn't make a lot of sense, the voters are their own worst enemy. Here's the question. How honest are federal government officials? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile; post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Here is a question I have for you, Jack. We did a lot of "Broken Government", as you remember, during the Bush administration. Now in the Obama administration, more than a year after he took office, we're devoting this week. We're doing a lot on "Broken Government". What does it say that we're still in the same predicament that we were then now?

CAFFERTY: Nothing has changed, I guess. Things just continue to get worse and they're continuing to get worse.

BLITZER: Friday night, you're going to have a one-hour special on this at 7:00 p.m. Eastern this time. Jack Cafferty will host it. We'll be looking forward to that, Jack. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: It's the latest NATO air strike gone wrong. An attack on a convoy in southern Afghanistan killed more than two dozen Afghan civilians. A senior U.S. official says it was ordered because there was intelligence that Taliban insurgents were in those vehicles. When ground troops arrived, they found women and children in those cars. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with us. Barbara how serious are Pentagon officials taking all of this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, another strike gone wrong, very sad business. In fact, General McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, a short time ago taping a video message of apology to the people of Afghanistan speaking through an -- through a translator in the native language of both Dari and Pashtun, making that video available to the people of Afghanistan or at least those who have television who can see it. Earlier today at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made very clear how concerned they are about these types of incidents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think it's just a very difficult environment. It's tough terrain. It's tough to know. And these are split-second decisions that commanders in combat on the ground have to make.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The thing to remember is that we're at war. We are doing everything possible -- General McChrystal is doing everything humanly possible to avoid civilian casualties. But it is also a fact that the Taliban mingle with civilians, they use them for cover, which obviously complicates any decision process by a commander on the ground in knowing whether he's dealing with the Taliban or innocent civilians or a combination of the two. I'm not defending it at all. I'm just saying that these kinds of things, in many respects, are inherent in a war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: But, Wolf, for the people of Afghanistan, a very grim reality in the last two weeks, more than 50 Afghan civilians may have been killed in a number of these civilian casualty military strikes. Half a dozen incidents or so and certainly General McChrystal is well aware this cannot go on. It is going to reduce Afghan public support, which is needed very badly for the war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they're really afraid it poisons the atmosphere for U.S. and NATO troops. Is there any indication, Barbara that there's progress being made in this military offensive?

STARR: Well you know they're still at it in Marjah there and in fact Admiral Mullen said today that it is going slower than expected, that IED snipers and all the usual Taliban threats are perhaps out there, a little more vigorous a challenge to NATO forces than they originally anticipated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thanks very much. A surprising guilty plea in that New York terror plot. A former airport shuttle driver admits he was after all recruited by al Qaeda. And a frightening car crash all caught on tape as China cracks down on drunk drivers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Wolf. Well the Pennsylvania School District has agreed not to remove potential Web cam evidence from student laptops. The district faces a lawsuit alleging officials spied on students at home. School officials say they activated the Web cams without telling students, but only to find missing laptops. A student says the school photographed him at home even though he never reported a missing laptop. He says he learned of the photo when an assistant principal commented about his behavior at home.

And Najibullah Zazi has pleaded guilty to a bomb plot aimed at New York subway system. The Afghan native admitted he conspired in 2008 with others to join the Taliban, but he told the court he was recruited by al Qaeda instead, sentencing is in June. He faces a maximum of life in prison.

And some dramatic video captured by a camera crew riding along with Chinese cops. You can see the car there swerve, then it crashes into a barricade. The suspected drunk driver left such a mess of debris in the road, but he was eventually found asleep but unharmed inside his car. China recently launched a crackdown on drunk driving because of a sharp rise in crashes and (INAUDIBLE) fatalities.

And she endorsed him for president, now pop star Shakira gets to meet him. Shakira is seen here in her video "For Hips Don't Lie" paid an unscheduled visit to President Obama today just apparently to say hello after talking about early childhood development at a White House meeting. Shakira is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and advocate for children living in poverty. And I know Wolf, you are quite the fan of Shakira and particularly that song, aren't you, Wolf.

BLITZER: "Her Hips Don't Lie", but you know her new album, "She- Wolf", you remember she was here in THE SITUATION ROOM a few months ago and she was really, really good. She's doing a lot of good work in addition to some good entertaining.

SYLVESTER: Yes and when you can move your hips like that, you know that's entertainment --

BLITZER: Her hips don't lie --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's absolutely true. All right --

SYLVESTER: All right, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

A man slams into another car at high speed, killing three people and ends up in prison for vehicular homicide. Now four years later, attorneys and the victims' families are going to bat for him. He was driving a Toyota. They want the case to get another look.

And hearings into last year's deadly metro crash in Washington, they're opening tomorrow. We're going to tell you why a local subway crash is part of our look at "Broken Government".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More now on Toyota -- a Minnesota man is in prison for a fatal high-speed crash that he now blames on a faulty accelerator in his Toyota Camry. After recalls involving millions and millions of vehicles, should his case now get a fresh look? Brian Todd has been digging into the story for us. Brian, it's pretty amazing. What is going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, his attorney is pressing for a fresh look. In fact, pressing for a new trial even though the car in question was made long before those current Toyota recall cars, the defendant's attorney says there are enough similarities to prove his client is innocent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Koua Fong Lee in prison more than two years for vehicular homicide. In June 2006, Lee's Toyota Camry going between 70 and 90 miles an hour slammed into another vehicle that was stopped at a light at a highway off ramp near Minneapolis. In the other car, Javis Adams and his young son Javis Jr. were killed. A niece, Devyn Bolton, fought her injuries for several months then died. At the time of Lee's trial, the jury didn't know some 1996 Toyota Camry's made the same year as Lee's had been the subject of an earlier recall.

A document from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says of some 1996 Camry's, cruise control systems fail to hold the speed set by the driver and can accelerate above the intended set speed. It says the consequence unintended acceleration can increase the potential for a vehicle accident. Now Lee's current attorney wants a new trial.

BRENT SCHAFER, KOUA FONG LEE'S ATTORNEY: Accident is now explainable I think by looking at the Toyota that Mr. Lee was driving. And based upon that one would conclude there's a high likelihood there's an innocent man in prison.

TODD: Brent Schafer wants Lee's Camry re-examined for accelerator problems. The victims' family is on board now siding with Lee. The prosecutor tells CNN he supports having all parties look at the car. Lee's attorney tells us he's found several complaints from drivers of the same model Camry of sudden acceleration. But proving Lee's innocence isn't a slam-dunk. It's not clear if his Camry was covered in that 1996 recall.

NHTSA documents we found mentioned only about 5,000 vehicles sold in Georgia and Florida. Lee never told investigators that his car accelerated out of control. He did say he tried to hit the brakes, which he said didn't work. Investigators found the brakes were functional, but Lee's attorney covers that, citing drivers' accounts of Toyota problems from 1996 to now.

SCHAFER: Everybody who reported rapid acceleration stepped on the brakes and the car would not stop. Is that a brake failure or is it simply the rapid acceleration taking over the ability of the brakes to stop the car? (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Those are all questions that Brent Schafer wants to look at if and when this case is reopened. We're told by the prosecutor that Toyota wants to be part of that re-inspection as well. Contacted by CNN, a Toyota official would not comment on that or on any other aspect of this case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is anyone planning on suing Toyota right now?

TODD: The victim's family is planning on suing. They're involved in this. They're saying publicly they now side with Mr. Lee, that they believe he's innocent, but in fact they are planning on suing Toyota when this re-inspection happens.

BLITZER: The car at the time of the accident, were there any investigators that looked at it?

TODD: After the fact, his insurance company brought in a mechanical engineer to look at the car. That engineer didn't write any report. The prosecutor says that usually means they didn't find anything. Also, a mechanic hired by the city did do an inspection of that throttle area. He found that the throttle was partially stuck, but he believed that that was a result of the accident, not a cause of it. The lawyer disputes that. We'll see how it all plays out, if this case is reopened.

BLITZER: And this case, Mr. Lee, he is serving time in jail right now --

TODD: That's right, he's serving --

BLITZER: -- vehicular homicide. He's been there for a few years.

TODD: He's been there for a little over two years. He's serving a total of eight years and he's got a lot of probation on top of that if he has to serve --

BLITZER: There was never any evidence of drugs or alcohol, right?

TODD: Never any evidence of that. That never came into play at all at the trial --

BLITZER: And there was evidence that he and his pregnant wife and others in the car were coming home from church. They were driving home from church --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All of a sudden they exit this ramp and they go 90 miles an hour and he says he can't stop the car.

TODD: They were driving home from church. His attorney says that when he got onto the ramp, he was driving at the speed limit and then it just took off on him.

BLITZER: That's what happened --

TODD: But again, Mr. Lee never said that at all during the trial, so you know you got to weigh all this when you're considering whether he's got a case or not --

BLITZER: Yes. All right, we'll watch it together. When you get some updates let us know if the prosecution is ready to formally reopen the case. Brian, thank you.

For an in depth look at the Toyota recall, go to CNN.com/toyota. There you can find out if your car has been recalled as well as what to do about it.

In our series on broken government, we turn now to three days of the National Transportation Safety Board hearings beginning tomorrow. The panel will look at last year's deadly metro train collision right here in Washington. One day of testimony will focus not on the cause of the accident but rather on the people who were supposed to keep the system safe. Here's CNN's Sarah Lee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASMINE GARSD, METRO CRASH SURVIVOR: It was like we hit a brick wall. I mean, I just didn't even know what happened. I kind of was jerked out of my seat. Somebody flew onto one of the walls. The lights cut out, and smoke started coming out. Later we found out that the conductor of the train died.

SARAH LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And so did a sense of safety for Jasmine Garsd of Washington, D.C. June 22nd, 2009, turned deadly in the nation's capital when two metro rail subway trains collided, killing nine people and injuring at least 50. Investigators are focusing on a faulty signal system. The problem has already been the subject of Congressional hearings.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: This wasn't a terrorist bomb on the tracks. This wasn't a drunk driver cutting in front of the train. This was metro equipment that failed the people who were riding it and failed the people who were working on it.

LEE: In the past five years, D.C.'s metro system has been plagued by a series of crashes, derailments and the deaths of eight rail workers.

Before the crash, did you know who regulated the safety of metro?

GARSD: No, I had no idea.

LEE: If I told you the name Tristate Oversight Committee, would you know what I was talking about?

GARSD: No, no.

LEE: The Tristate Oversight Committee is the governing body that oversees metro safety. Don't try to find them. They don't have an office. Don't try to call them. They don't have a phone number. They don't even have a meeting room.

JACK CORBETT, METRORIDERS.ORG: No one knows except the spouses.

LEE: Jack Corbett heads an advocacy group.

CORBETT: They're supposed to be monitoring the safety of the second-largest trail transit system in the U.S.

LEE: It's a similar story all over the country, most local rail systems operating with little oversight. That's because of a 45-year- old law that says the federal government can't oversea the safety of subway and light rail.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Rail transit is currently the only mode within the department that operates without comprehensive federal safety regulations.

LEE: And the Obama administration wants to change that and have the U.S. Department of Transportation do what it already does for airlines and Amtrak.

CORBETT: It needs a uniform federal hand to make sure we have minimum safety standards at all 27 major transit systems.

LEE: But rail safety experts say federal oversight doesn't necessarily guarantee effective oversight.

FRED MILLAR, CONSULTANT: We don't have adequate regulation of the banks, of the insurance companies, of food safety.

LEE: As for Jasmine Garsd...

GARSD: I think people have a false sense of security. That's, you know, somebody is taking care of us. But clearly not -- that's not the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: We contacted the head of the Tristate Oversight Committee to ask for an interview. Over the phone, he said he supports any changes that improve safety. We also tried to attend a committee meeting but were told those are closed to the public.

BLITZER: Sarah Lee reporting for us, thank you, Sarah.

We're getting word than the former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, has been admitted into George Washington University Hospital here complaining of some chest pains. Lisa Sylvester is working the story for us. Lisa, we know he has a long history of heart problems. What's the latest information we're getting?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to read for you first the statement. It's very brief, that we received. It's from the office of the former vice president. It says, "Former Vice President Cheney is at GW Hospital after experiencing chest pains. His doctors are evaluating the situation and he's resting comfortably." You see the statement there. And former Vice President Cheney, as you know, he has had actually four heart attacks since 1978. And even when he was in office as vice president, he had a number of medical issues related to his heart. In 2001, he had a pacemaker plus put in. He was also hospitalized in June of 2006 complaining of shortness of breath. He's been to GW hospital several times over the years. Similar things where he's complaining of shortness of breath. He's usually in the hospital for a day or two, he recovers, and he's out. We'll have to see what the situation is in this case. He's even had, for instance, March of 2007, a blood clot in his leg. The doctors there are familiar with Vice President Cheney, but we'll monitor that.

BLITZER: He had the implanted heart defibrillator. He's had a lot of heart related problems. We don't know how serious this one. The only thing we know as you say in the statement is that he was experiencing chest pains. On Friday, he was at the CPAC conference, the Conservative Political Action Conference, here in the Washington, D.C. area. He gave a pretty robust speech. I remember watching it. He looked very strong. He was there with his daughter, Liz Cheney. And got a rousing reception. Predicted the Obama administration -- President Obama would be a one-term president. He didn't seem at all ill. And now we know he's at George Washington University Hospital where he's been going for several years, dealing with this issue.

Elizabeth Cohen is joining us on the phone right now, our medical correspondent. Elizabeth, I guess we shouldn't we all that surprised given the long history of heart disease that the president has.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Given his history, this is what sometimes happens, that people suffer from chest pain. It doesn't mean he's having a heart attack or even any heart problems, but of course, they're going to check him out very thoroughly because of his history. They will likely do blood tests to check for enzymes to indicate if he's had a heart attack or not. I would imagine they would do an EKG as well to see what's going on with the heart. Those are just some of the different tests they do to see what is going on.

BLITZER: The former President Bill Clinton has problems with heart. He was rushed to the hospital in New York complaining of chest pains and had stents put in and he's now back out. I assume that's the advice that the former vice president gets as well.

COHEN: It's interesting, the whole notion that heart attack patients need to take it easy is a little bit outdated. That's what they used to tell people in the '50s. Today, as you see with Bill Clinton, people have heart attacks and remain quite active. They obviously keep a very close eye on them. There are so many great medications that they can do things. But when something like this happens, you can bet they're doing everything test in the book to see if he's had another heart attack.

BLITZER: Before me, a list of all the heart-related issues he's had to deal with. A pacemaker inserted in 2001. And had the implanted heart defibrillator inserted in 2007. In 2009, he had to undergo elective back surgery with pain caused from a case of lumbar spinal issues as well. He's had his problems.

COHEN: He certainly has. He had his first heart attack in 1978. He had a second one in '84. He had a third one in '88, when is when he had his quadruple bypass surgery after they do blood tests and those tests, those lead to what they did with Bill Clinton, which is they'll do a catheterization where they look at the arteries and see what is going on.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the former vice president. Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger is here. You know him, you have covered him a long time. Unlike his boss, he has been very visible over the past year in criticizing the current administration.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he has. In fact, there are some conservatives who say, gee, we wish Dick Cheney really wanted to run for president again because he's become a very vocal spokesman for a wing of the Republican Party. Very strong on defense, and so I think that there are a lot of folks who were sort of looking at the health issues which had helped him in the past from saying he really wanted to be president. Looking at him and saying maybe he's well enough and maybe there's a possibility he would entertain running again. He's always said no.

BLITZER: Especially if he has serious heart issues. That's a great ordeal, running for a nomination and then running for president.

BORGER: And in fact, when he accepted the vice presidency with George W. Bush, he made a pledge that he did not want to be president and would not run for president. That's what he felt the relationship worked so well between them.

BLITZER: Let's hope it's only a minor issue experiencing some chest pains. His doctors say he's resting comfortably. We'll stay on top of the story. We wish the former vice president well. We hope he gets out of there soon and he's in good shape.

Other news we're following. Israel unveiled a high-tech flying drone raising the stakes on the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

And a majority of Americans say the government is broken. Could term limits be the answer? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Want to update you on the breaking news we're following in THE SITUATION ROOM. The former Vice President Dick Cheney has been admitted to George Washington University Hospital here in Washington, D.C. He was experiencing what his office says were chest pains. His doctors are evaluating the situation. He's resting comfortably, according to a statement. We'll get more information for you as it comes in but that's all we know right now. He's in the hospital. We wish him only the best.

All this week, CNN is exploring broken government. Take a look at the latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll. 86 percent of those asked say the federal government is broken. Almost as many say it can be fixed, 81 percent. Only 5 percent say the government is broken beyond repair.

Joining me now is Jane Newton-Small of Time Magazine, our sister publication. You have a new article coming out on tomorrow on the whole issue of term limits because a lot of folks believe that term limits would be the answer to all the broken government stuff. If people couldn't stay for 20 or 30 or 50 years, there would be a different situation. What have you discovered in your reporting?

JANE NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: At the national tea party convention and at CPAC, that was the call of the day. All the conservatives say term limits, term limits, but Jim DeMint has legislation out on term limits right now saying we should be limited to no more than two terms in the Senate. There is problems with that. Look, we have 36 governors who are subject to term limits in the United States. We also have 15 state legislatures that have term limits as well. They're not that successful because people use them, their offices as stepping stones to other jobs, jobs in the private sector. They don't invest in the institution, they don't actually want to see - spend their lives there and see it become a successful institution.

BLITZER: If there were term limits, wouldn't the candidates, the politicians not have to start collecting the money? Couldn't they focus for six years, 12 years, focus on their job and not have to worry about campaign fund-raising and all of that?

NEWTON-SMALL: Sure, that's one upside to term limits is that you can get the politicians who are there that don't have to worry about the next election, the next time you have to run. But at the same time, incumbency becomes its own power. The more you're an incumbent the less you have to worry about running and the less you have to worry about raising money and that kind of thing, and the tougher it is. You're always looking for your next job. If you're limiting to 6 years or 12 years in the Senate, you're always going to be wondering, what am I going to do after this? How am I going to make money after this? Am I going to run for president? Am I going to run for governor? Am I going to do something else?

BLITZER: So it's not necessarily the answer to all these problems. This is the cover of "Time" magazine, our sister publication, "Why Washington is Frozen" and a whole bunch of articles. We're going to be focusing in on this on this all week. Jane, thank you very much for coming in.

We're going to continue our coverage. Breaking news, we'll see what is happening with Dick Cheney at George Washington University Hospital. He's been complaining of chest pains. He's resting comfortably. We're getting new information. We'll update you on that.

Also, mid-east tensions remain high over Iran's nuclear program. Israel is upping the ante. We'll tell you what's going on. It's unveiled a high-tech drone that can reach the Persian Gulf. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In a war over Iran's nuclear program, Israel shows off its newest strategic asset, a pilotless aircraft with a wing span like an airliner. It can fly nearly eight miles high and stay over a target area for many hours. And the Israelis say Iran is within range. Our pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been looking into all of this for us. Potentially very significant development, what are you learning?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right because you know Iran is within range. I know it, everybody knows it, but the Israelis won't say the word Iran. When you think of this new pilotless airplane, don't think of a model plane. This is the size of a 737 passenger jet. It can fly at an altitude of over 40,000 feet, and it can stay in the air for more than a day. That's more than the time to fly to the Persian gulf and conduct extensive surveillance communications or even to provide connection between, say, ground control and actual Israeli air force pilots. Iran has come out publicly, some of its leaders have come out publicly calling for Israel's destruction, but in talking about the capabilities of this new drone, the Israelis won't actually say the word "Iran."

CAPTAIN "OMER", DRONE OPERATOR: I won't be specific on any destination. I can just tell you that they will be able to fly farther than any other plane in the Israeli air force.

LAWRENCE: Iran obviously well within range. The Israelis say it's versatile and can adapt to many missions.

BLITZER: It can fly from Israel over the Arab world if you will, whether it's Saudi Arabia toward Iran without refueling. Is that what you are saying?

LAWRENCE: It can fly for more than a day. It can allow surveillance constantly.

BLITZER: They could have missiles or bombs or whatever. It's not a surveillance drone, is that right?

LAWRENCE: It's a platform. A few hours ago the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said no strike against Iran, no matter how effective, could be decisive. That doesn't mean he doesn't share some of Israel's concerns about Iran. Let's take a listen.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I maintain my conviction that Iran remains on a path to achieve nuclear weaponization, and even this very pursuit further destabilizing the region. It isn't just a nuclear-capable Iranian military our friends worry about. It's an Iran with ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors.

LAWRENCE: The problem is a lot of these unmanned drones have been very effective in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where there's nothing to shoot them down. Much less effect over nations like Iran that have anti-aircraft capabilities. BLITZER: If it's flying at 8 miles high, you need a good surface-to-air missile. Do they have that capability?

LAWRENCE: Not sure if they do or not. If you look at the drones used over Serbia, Serbia took out a lot of drones right off the bat because they had the capability to use anti-aircraft weapon.

BLITZER: These Israeli drones are flying that high. It's not going to be that easy. Chris, thanks very much.

I want to get back to the breaking news. The former Vice President Dick Cheney admitted a little while ago to George Washington University Hospital here in Washington, D.C. A statement his office put out said he was experiencing chest pains. His doctors are evaluating the situation, and he's said to be resting comfortably right now. The former vice president, as all our viewers know, has a history of heart disease. Let's bring back to Lisa Sylvester.

It's a serious issue, the various heart related issues he's gone through over these past many years.

SYLVESTER: Absolutely, Wolf. You have to put this in perspective. This is a man who has had four heart attacks since 1978, and in addition he's had other procedures. We have a graphic that we want to share with you, and I can talk you through each one of these. It was back in June 1978 when he had his first heart attack. It was six years later, he has a second heart attack. 1988 he has a third heart attack, and at that time he undergoes quadruple bypass surgery. You know at this time in the timeframe here 1988 he was in Congress and was a Congressional member. Now it's November of 2000. He checks himself into the hospital with chest pains and doctors actually said he had a mild heart attack. So what they do is they then go in to insert a stent to try to open up this artery. It's just a few months later, March 5, 2001, Cheney checks himself into the hospital with chest pains, and he undergoes an angioplasty to try to re-open the artery, that same artery that was just treated. They say at this time he does not suffer a heart attack. Back in 2001 they inserted a pacemaker. So obviously a lengthy health history here, Wolf.

BLITZER: On January 30th he turned 69 years old. We wish him a speedy recovery from this. We'll stay on top of the story, Lisa.

Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail. Also, "Obama the Book" we have details of a new biography of the president coming out soon.

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BLITZER: On our political ticker, look for a new biography of President Obama this spring called "The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama." The publisher says it will include interviews with the president himself and controversial figures from his past including the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and former radical Bill Ayres. The author is New Yorker Magazine's editor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Remnick.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is how honest are federal government officials? A recent CNN poll 75 percent of you think our government officials are dishonest. Imagine that.

Scott in Panama City, Florida says, "The administration is rife with radicals, socialists and czars of a hundred descriptions who never went through any vetting process or Congressional scrutiny appointed at the whim of the biggest radical of them all. We know nothing of this president. Of course, the elected officials under his administration are not honest. All they have to do is look to the president, and they can be as dishonest as they want."

Nancy writes, "We have a government of liars and thieves. They're in this to line their own pockets, not for the benefit of the people."

Cameron in San Francisco, "I almost spit out my coffee when I read this question. Isn't it obvious? It's hard to be respectful and law-abiding when I think many government officials are not held to the same standard."

Angela writes, "What's happened to our country where lies and cover-ups seem the norm? Whatever happened to honesty, good morals and respectability and good values? Why did putting yourself become the norm? Whatever happened to the golden rule? What has happened to our country?"

James in Florida, "They're not very honest at all, and one is the vast majority are lawyers. Two, we don't elect people that tell the absolute truth but what we want to hear."

Don says, "One indicator most politicians are not honest is their incredible individual and family wealth. Another damning point is all they always manage to find extremely lucrative employment after their political careers end. I'm also suspicious whenever it's revealed that a spouse or a child of a politician is somehow on the payroll."

And finally Jen says, "Honest government officials? Sounds like an oxymoron to me."

If you want to read more on this find it at my blog at CNN do CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: I'm thinking about the new biography of President Obama. That will be probably a strong book, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Imagine there will be a lot of interest in it.

BLITZER: He's a good writer, very strong editor, good writer. All right, Jack. We'll see you tomorrow. Remember, you can always follow what's going on behind the scenes here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on twitter, gets my tweets at twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, Campbell Brown.