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THE SITUATION ROOM
Gilbert Arenas Gets 2 Years Probation; Family Physicians on Decline?; Palin Blasts Ginned Up Threats; Threats to Congress Gets Political, White Powder at Weiner's Office; Talk Show Host Accused of Witchcraft
Aired March 26, 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: T.J. Thank you.
Happening now, much more on this story -- John McCain and Sarah Palin appearing together on stage for the first time since their failed 2008 presidential race.
This hour, can she help him avoid a new and embarrassing defeat in his home state of Arizona?
Also, a possible -- possible health care emergency now that health care reform is the law of the land. There may not be enough primary care doctors to go around. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is investigating.
And the pro-basketball star, the All Star, Gilbert Arenas, is sentenced for bringing guns into the locker room.
What went on?
What was going on?
We'll tell you right here.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Take a look at this picture. It says a lot about how high Sarah Palin's star has risen and how much political trouble John McCain is in right now. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee is facing a very stiff re-election challenge in Arizona. So he's accepting help from his former running mate, despite their occasionally a little bit of rocky relationship during the campaign.
Palin was in classic form during her remarks about an hour or so ago.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of things have changed since the last time we were together. One of those things is that John, nobody gave us a teleprompter this go around, so um...
PALIN: -- so it's time to kick it old school again, resort to the old poor man's version of the teleprompter, write my notes on my hand again.
You know, many, many years ago, I competed in a pageant and...
PALIN: You know what?
Coming then from an expert, I can tell you, he could win the talent and the debate portion of any pageant. But nobody's ever going to dub him Miss Congeniality, not out of the Washington elite. And we should be thankful for that. He's never been a company man. He's never been one to just go with the flow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's go with the flow right now.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in Tucson. She watched all of it.
She was on fire and so was he -- Jessica, if you -- if you watched his speech.
That's right. They were both very lively. And a very excited crowd, Wolf.
I'll tell you, John McCain's opponent in the Republican primary here, J.D. Hayworth, told CNN he thinks Sarah Palin came to endorse John McCain simply to show her gratitude to him. And, boy, did she return the favor. She called him a maverick who will stand up to the Obama/Palin -- Pelosi/Reid agenda. She downplayed his many years in Washington, but insisted that he will fight the fight that this very Tea Party oriented crowd wants to fight against -- big spending and taxes.
And John McCain hit a message that resonated very well in this crowd, that the Obama administration has not kept true to its promises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It was the Chicago-style, sleazy deal making, sausage making that went on behind closed doors in the speaker's office and Harry Reid's office and in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Now he was talking about health care. And he referred to the fact that President Obama promised to put it on C-SPAN and didn't.
The bottom line, Wolf, Sarah Palin was trying to confer her good standing with the Tea Party voters onto John McCain. That was the goal here today. We'll have to see if it works -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, will it work?
How much help will she -- she give him in a Republican primary?
I assume it's a -- a huge amount of help.
YELLIN: Yes. It -- in -- on one sense, it should be, because these are the voters that John McCain needs to win back -- very conservative members of the Republican Party. But I'll tell you, I talked to many people in this audience who were here because they were excited to see Sarah Palin. But when they left, they said this does not change their mind. Either they're still undecided about John McCain or voting against him.
There were some who said they were voting for McCain. But the undecided people here said Sarah Palin did not change their minds. So it will still be a tough fight ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it very, very closely.
Jessica Yellin with that report.
She's going to have another report in our next hour, as well.
And now the icing on the cake for the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on this, her 70th birthday. She signed off on the Democrats' fixes to the health care reform law a day after final approval by both the House and the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Can you imagine a more important birthday privilege than to be signing health care for all Americans?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The fixes head to the president's desk for his signature next week. Members of Congress are heading home for their spring recess. But no one expects them to walk away from the fight over health care reform.
Let's bring in our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana, first, tell us what -- what you expect the Democrats will be hearing when they go back to their districts?
They're going to be home for the next two weeks.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to be hearing a lot. But the most interesting thing, I think, is what they're going to be trying to say. This is the political moment Democrats have been waiting for, to actually have a law that they can sell.
And each House Democrat is being sent home with one of these. This actually, Wolf, is Nancy Pelosi's. Her office let us have it. She doesn't need it. I think all this information is right here in her head.
But it just shows you that not only are there -- is there information inside here -- general talking points about facts and figures about the health care bill. In here -- and I think we have it up here on the wall -- it -- it's very specific data for each Congressional District. This is Nancy Pelosi's 8th Congressional District of California.
If we could show, for example -- I'll just give you one example of a data point. It guarantees, in her district, that 9,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage. Now, of course, this is a Democratic talking point. But it just shows you how they want to be very specific, Democrats, with the information that they're trying to give their constituents in (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: So they're going to study -- these Democrats, they're going to study this book...
BLITZER: -- on their flights back to their states and their districts.
BASH: And just in case they can't study, they have cards like this they can put in their breast pockets and...
BASH: -- and things like that.
So this is the official word from the Democratic Party. But they also have help from outside groups -- air cover. Ads are being -- beginning to run in the districts of some of the most vulnerable Democrats, like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY HEALTHCARE FOR AMERICA NOW)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And $86 million was spent on misleading ads to try and kill reform, all because they want to keep jacking up premiums and denying us coverage. But the insurance companies didn't win, because Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy said no to big insurance and yes to standing up for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So what about the Republicans?
They've got some -- they've got some work to do, as well.
BASH: They have a glossy packet, also. They sent this home. The Republican Conference in the House sent this with all of their Republican members. Not as -- not as elaborate, but I think that their message is probably a lot more simple and we've heard it before. You see it on the wall here. This is the main page in here -- repeal of the government takeover of health care, repeal what they call job killing mandates and start over.
In fact, most of the memo that the House Republican leaders sent out was really specifically, Wolf, about -- about jobs, because they believe that's the most politically potent issue.
But they, too, have help from outside groups, most specifically, what you were just talking about with Jessica -- the Tea Party and The Tea Party Express.
We have a map there. If you follow that blue line, that is where the Tea Party Express is going to head for the next two-and-a-half weeks, across the country, hitting a lot of the most vulnerable Democrats specifically. In fact, their communications director told us they're going to hit 40 cities in the next few weeks, in the words of the Tea Party, calling on lawmakers to remove -- calling on citizens to remove lawmakers who've, quote, "betrayed their constituents."
BLITZER: Well, I think it's great that they're going to have a serious debate on all these issues. The Americans public deserves to have that kind of debate. Let's hope that the threats and the violence and some of the ugly things go away.
And I want you to clarify, because yesterday, Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House, he said this.
I'll play a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week and I've received threatening e-mails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That was yesterday. Today, there's clarification.
What are we learning?
BASH: That's right. The Richmond police said today that Cantor was not specifically targeted, that it was random gunfire.
Now, a Cantor aide insisted to me that going into this press conference yesterday, Cantor knew that there was a preliminary investigation going on, but said that he admitted he didn't know anything more.
Now that police have determined the gunfire was random, his office is clarifying. And his spokesman, John Murray, released a statement and -- and I'll read it. He said: "Given a recent spike in threats against Congressman Cantor and his family and his security, we're concerned the bullet found in his campaign office was related to a number of violent e-mails and phone messages, many of them anti- Semitic and some of them threatening gun violence." And he went on to say Cantor was very happy to find out that police attributed this particular incident to random gunfire.
And as his statement made clear yesterday, that we need to move on.
Now, Cantor's aides are making no apologies for having him talk about this bullet going through his window before he had all the facts. They insist that what's relevant is the context, that he has been getting a lot of threatening e-mails.
Our colleague, Brianna Keilar, went to his office, saw some of them. They don't want to release them. They've read some of -- some of them to me over the phone. They're pretty intense. And a lot of them are geared toward his family and his religion.
BLITZER: I don't understand what does random gunfire means?
What does that mean?
Is he in a bad neighborhood over there where people have...
BASH: It seems...
BLITZER: -- gun wars?
BASH: Well, it seems that way. It seems as though the neighborhood isn't that great in Richmond. It happened late -- late at night or really early in the morning on Monday night/Tuesday morning. And it seems as though a bullet was fired into the air and it ended up going through the window and did end up -- the bullet was found inside an office building where Congressman Cantor has some campaign offices.
BLITZER: Yes, but it's still pretty frightening when you think of the history of the e-mails and the anti-Semitic literature he's been getting...
BASH: And he doesn't -- exactly.
BLITZER: -- and the threats.
BLITZER: It would still be very frightening.
BASH: Well, that's what his office is saying.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Dana Bash.
Turning now to the economy, new help on the way for many Americans who are drowning in mortgage debt. The Obama administration is responding to pressure to do more to help stop some of the foreclosure crisis.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- and, Dan, a major announcement from the White House today.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And I should point out that we're not talking here about any sweeping changes, but rather tweaks to an existing program to help ailing homeowners that will impact up to four million people.
I should point out, here are some key elements to this plan.
First of all, if you are unemployed and if your home is underwater -- in other words, you owe more on the home than it's worth -- well, you could see your mortgage payments reduced by about 35 -- 1 percent or less of your income. And this is temporary. It would last anywhere from three to six months.
Secondly, banks and other lending institutions will be given an incentive to cut the debt -- the amount that people owe on their mortgages if their homes are underwater. Banks, as you know, have been reticent to do this. They have resisted, so the administration hoping that this will provide some incentive for them to do it.
And, finally, if you're current on your mortgage, but it's still underwater, well, you could still be able to refinance using an FHA loan.
And, again, these are just measures that the administration is hoping will cut down on the amount of foreclosures that we've been seeing -- one in four homes out there in foreclosures. And they're tapping existing TARP funds -- about $14 billion of TARP funds -- to do that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The biggest rewards, though, the biggest help goes to those who aren't making their payments, is that right?
LOTHIAN: That's right. And, you know, you hear that time and time again, here I am, a responsible home own -- homeowner making my monthly payments and I don't get any help. It's the person who stops making the payments that gets this assistance.
And the thinking behind this is, obviously, the people who are not making those monthly payments will eventually lose their homes. They go into foreclosure and that brings down the value of all the other homes in the neighborhood.
So if you're making your payments, you might not be getting direct assistance -- a lot of assistance, but you'll be getting that help indirectly, because the value in the neighborhood will stay up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dan.
Thanks very much.
Help on the way if you have trouble with your mortgages.
We're getting inside information right now about a new nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.
Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is working his sources. He's standing by.
And a popular TV talk show host sentenced to die for practicing witchcraft. We're going to tell you how it happened, where it happened. Stand by for that, as well.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: It's got to be a sign of pure desperation. The Fox News commentator and soon to be Alaska tour guide, Sarah Palin, is reuniting with Senator John McCain in Arizona.
History might suggest that John McCain had a pretty good chance of becoming the next president of the United States once upon a time. Then he heard about mayor of Wasilla, was smitten, suffered a total lapse of judgment and asked Caribou Barbie if she'd like to be the vice president.
Well, she jumped at the chance and that was the beginning of the end of McCain's chances.
Palin did a couple of interviews on the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" and presto, Obama was in.
But apparently McCain has some reason to worry about his re- election chances in Arizona. He's being challenged in the primary. And with a general disdain for all members of Congress this cycle, it's not inconceivable he could get knocked off.
But if you're in danger of drowning, why would you ask someone to throw you an anchor?
Sarah Palin, in addition to being virtually without qualification to hold elected office, is also one of the reasons for the deep divisions in this country. She inflamed the conservative base of the Republican Party with irresponsible comments about things like government death panels -- the government wants to kill your grandmother. She's a lightning rod for criticism and controversy.
Who needs this?
Here's the question -- what can Sarah Palin do for John McCain that she hasn't already done?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Get ready, Jack. You're going to get -- you're going to get a lot of comments right now.
CAFFERTY: I'm sure.
BLITZER: Thank you.
President Obama is calling it the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades. He and his national security team announced the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia today. The 10-year pact reduces by one third the nuclear weapons that the U.S. and Russia will deploy. The president finalized the deal with the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, over the phone today. The two leaders will sign the agreement on April 8th in Prague.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With this agreement, the United States and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers in the world, also send a clear signal that we intend to lead. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this with our senior political analyst, David Gergen.
It's the first time in 20 years an important deal like this has been worked out.
Give us a little bit of the bigger picture how the president is doing on the international stage right now.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think that most foreign policy experts and the American public at large think he's doing better on foreign policy than he is on domestic policy. He continually gets higher marks, as you know.
BLITZER: He's got more bipartisan support...
GERGEN: He's got more bipartisan...
BLITZER: -- on Iraq and Afghanistan, for example.
GERGEN: That's right. But I think, Wolf, this was a particularly important week for the administration, not only on health care, but their plate was very full with international issues. First, with the Israelis, which did not go well. But then the...
BLITZER: And it went very badly.
GERGEN: That went badly.
BLITZER: How badly did it go?
GERGEN: Very strained relations right now. The administration is waiting to see what Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to do next. He's been back meeting with his -- his top people. They basically told me today he's trying to be all things to all people. He's got to make some decisions here pretty soon. And we don't know quite which way he's going to come down. So they're waiting, too (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Yes. Yesterday when I spoke to Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, he said there was progress.
BLITZER: That was the word he used. I spoke to another administration official who basically said -- like that.
GERGEN: That's sort of a little...
GERGEN: -- below the line, in this case.
BLITZER: Doing very little progress.
BLITZER: I mean there's a tense relationship.
GERGEN: Absolutely. But -- but, Wolf, there are two other relationships that the did go very much in -- in a very good direction for the administration this week. In fact, one of the president's top advisers said he had never seen, in his long lifetime in international affairs, such a turnaround in relation to the United States as we've seen in the last year-and-a-half, with two countries -- Pakistan and the Russians.
And with Pakistan, as you know, you just had a major interview...
BLITZER: We had the foreign minister of Pakistan on yesterday.
BLITZER: And this relationship, if you remember, it was awful. Certainly before 9/11 it was awful, but it's improved steadily. And in the last few months, it's improved dramatically.
I was told if the U.S. is going to capture bin Laden any time soon -- and they believe that they're getting closer and closer -- it will be precisely because of this cooperation with the Pakistanis.
GERGEN: That's right. Well, they -- they certainly seemed, they -- a few weeks ago, they said we're starting to see traction now. Remember, the Pakistanis began to cooperate in going after the Taliban, not only who has threatened them, but who threatened in Afghanistan. And Pakistan is seen by many as the key to Afghanistan... BLITZER: Critical.
GERGEN: Yes, sure. So that's a big plus. But...
BLITZER: And Russia is a huge plus, too.
GERGEN: But the other big plus is -- is Russia. And this is one in which the United States came in -- you know, the president's -- President Obama said we need to hit the reset button on our relationship with the Russians. And they've been working hard on that.
They've got critics here in the United States -- some conservatives who think they're caving in too much. But he's been -- been engaged in confidence measures about missile defense and about Iran. And now today they've got this -- this understanding and breakthrough on the nuclear arms reduction.
As you say, it's -- it's a big reduction, but it's part of the bigger plan. And it's interesting.
I asked a major adviser to the president today, how did this get done?
Who deserves a lot of the credit?
And they said, well, we have really good teams working on both sides, but in this case, another woman came through for President Obama.
BLITZER: Who is that?
GERGEN: And this is a woman named Ellen Tauscher. She is a former Congresswoman from California. And before that, she was one of the only women on the New York -- to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She came into the State Department working for Hillary Clinton, has been the under secretary and, apparently, really helped to bring these -- treaty -- this treaty to a conclusion.
BLITZER: Good for Ellen Tauscher.
BLITZER: She's been a frequent guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM over the years.
Thanks very much, David.
GERGEN: Thank you.
Have a good night.
BLITZER: Thanks for that.
They've got their work cut out with Iran, North Korea. Not everything is working out great. GERGEN: Absolutely. But (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: But they've got...
BLITZER: They've got issues.
GERGEN: They've got a big agenda ahead on the nuclear side...
GERGEN: -- to try to make it move toward a nuclear-free world.
BLITZER: Because this arms agreement with Russia is important.
Thanks very much.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Forty prisoners vanish from a Mexican jail and authorities are trying to round them up. There's a good reason the search could still spill over the border into the United States.
And a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for "Easy Rider," Dennis Hopper -- why today's celebration may be especially poignant.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa, what's going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, the results are in from a crucial election that will decide Iraq's future. And it's a blow to current prime minister, Nuri Al- Maliki. former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's coalition edged out the current prime minister to become Iraq's next prime minister by just two parliamentary seats. That gives Allawi the chance to try to build a ruling coalition. Al-Maliki is calling for a recount, but U.S. officials say there's no evidence of widespread or serious fraud.
And police in Mexico are searching for 40 inmates who escaped from a prison just minutes from the Texas border. It's unclear exactly how they escaped, but the Mexican attorney general's office says it's looking for two guards who are also missing. Authorities say most of the prisoners were being held at the state-run jail for federal crimes.
And actor Dennis Hopper has the newest star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, surrounded there by friends and family. The visibly frail actor attended the unveiling ceremony at the recommendation of his doctor. He's undergoing treatment for advanced prostate cancer. Documents filed this week in his divorce case say that he's dying and that he's too weak and ill to be questioned by lawyers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A sad story, indeed.
All right. Thanks very much, Lisa.
We'll get back to you.
The Washington Wizards basketball star, Gilbert Arenas, faces a judge and his punishment for bringing guns into the locker room. If you haven't heard the sentence, it may surprise you.
Plus, there are fewer primary care doctors than ever. And that could turn into a very dangerous shortage under the new health care reform law. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is investigating.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, two allies at odds ever since a very public dispute over construction in Jerusalem.
What's really behind the suddenly unraveling relationship between the U.S. and Israel?
We have new information.
President Obama calls him, quote, "one of the best majority leaders the Senate has ever had," singling him out for his role in passing landmark health care reform.
So why could Harry Reid be in danger of losing his job come November?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It was a highly anticipated decision -- the sentencing of a major NBA All Star on a controversial gun charge.
Our Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us. And today we got the word -- Brian, tell our viewers what happened.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Gilbert Arenas will not spend any time in jail on that weapons charge. Prosecutors asked for three months. They didn't get it. What he got was two years supervised probation. 30 days in a halfway house, 400 hours community service, that cannot be a basketball clinic. It has to involve discussions with kids about the dangers of guns. He's got to contribute $5,000 to a fund for victims of violence. He pleaded guilty to illegally bringing four guns into the locker room during a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The prosecutors pushed hard for jail time releasing documents which they said that it showed that Arenas tried to cover up the incident. They claim that he fabricated a story that Crittenton wasn't even if the locker room at the time then kept changing the story. They provided text messages from Arenas to another teammate. Here's one of them. Quote, your new story. You were in the training room when you got out there were three guns on your chair with a note that said pick one. Send that to Javaris. I'll take all the blame. He didn't have a gun. He didn't do anything. I'll come up with the story. But that's all he needs to say if we have to talk to the NBA office. A very surprising text message that the prosecutors presented to the court a couple of days ago. Arenas' lawyers countered that he never menaced Crittenton, that the guns were not loaded and he suffered enough with the public scorn and the loss of income. Wolf, you are a ticket holder. You knew the general manager. What do you make of this? I was surprised by no jail time.
BLITZER: I wasn't all that surprised. Because the prosecution was asking for three months. Look, he obviously made a huge, huge blunder. It was idiotic for anyone to bring guns into the locker room. It's co-them already about $7 million. He had just signed a six-year $111 million deal. So the $5,000 he's going to pay for some community service or whatever is nothing compared to the $7 million that it's already cost him in lost income. So he's suffered. Let's hope he's learned his lesson. The judge showed some compassion to this guy. And he's got a second chance. Let's hope he gets rid of all those guns because we know he collects guns. Obviously he should avoid that kind of a situation.
TODD: Well, now, of course, we turn to the question. What does the franchise do with him? People in this town thought if he got jail time, they could void his contract and get rid of him. What's your take?
BLITZER: It will be up to the new owner, Ted Leonsis. He bought the franchise. He'll be the owner of the Wizards. I know him as well. He's a very smart guy, a decent guy. I think he'll make the right decision. I don't speak objectively on this. Because I've been a longtime Washington Wizards fan. And I'd like to see Gilbert Arenas become an all-star again whether he plays for the Wizards or other time. If David Stern will let him play --
TODD: He clearly doesn't have much room to slip up now.
BLITZER: He's got a second chance. Let's hope he takes advantage of it. This was a very compassionate judge. Thanks very much.
It was history in the making. President Obama signing health care reform into law this week. But what if, what if there aren't enough primary care physicians to treat the 32 million people who will be getting health insurance in the years to come? Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're part of American lore, the country family doctor, primary physician, making house calls, fixing whatever's broken. That version of the primary care doctor has long since faded away. And the thing is the modern-day version may also be close behind. Which makes the woman you're about to meet an even more rare breed.
DR. NAKATO KIBUYAGA, MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Hi. Nice to meet you.
GUPTA: Nice to meet you. Part of the reason why I wanted to come meet you was because you're in primary care. There's fewer and fewer of you. Why aren't more of your colleagues choosing this as a profession?
KIBUYAGA: There are several reasons. One of the main reasons is that the prestige, the spotlight is just not on family medicine physicians. We don't have the same reputation like some of the other doctors do in the subspecialties.
GUPTA: Which is going to make finding doctors to fill rooms like this even harder. It's been 17 years since I finished medical school. Over that time the number of students choosing primary care has slipped by more than 50%. If you want more of a scale of reference, at the University of Illinois, they graduated 314 medical students last year, only 20 chose primary care. Last year the American Academy of Family Physicians predicted a shortfall of 40,000 primary care doctors. And that was before the signing of the health care bill. So what will health care reform look like without enough primary care doctors?
LORI HEIM, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS: We have nowhere near the number of primary care or family physicians that we need to take care of the public. Simply having an insurance card may not guarantee that there is a physician whose practice will be open to new patients.
GUPTA: So why is that happening? One reason is plain and simple. It's money. The average primary care doctor makes $173,000 a year. Compare that to $419,000 for cardiologists or 335,000 for oncologists treating cancer. How much is about money, about compensation?
KIBUYAGA: I think that's a major reason why a lot of medical students aren't choosing family medicine. The potential for financial gain is just not the same as those other fields.
GUPTA: The health care bill does try to fix that. There's a 10% pay bump to family physicians through Medicare. And the add-on bill which is now being considered in the Senate has an even bigger increase for doctors taking Medicaid, low income patients. The bill that passed has other incentives, it expands the program to forgive loans for medical student who go into primary care. Even before all of that goes into effect, there have been some signs of change. When medical students around the country picked their specialties, the number picking primary care was up for the first time in 13 years.
HEIM: We've had a huge debate about health care reform. What do we need to do to get this country on a healthy track? Well, the foundation of that is primary care and family medicine. Students took notice of that. They became excited thinking about that primary care was once again a viable career choice for them. GUPTA: A viable career choice because it may be attitude more than money, and that's the real hope for fulfilling the promise of health care reform.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
BLITZER: Sarah Palin calls reports of violence against Democrats in her words, ginned up controversy aimed at conservatives. Is she right or is she trivializing a very serious matter? I'll ask the Congressman whose office received an envelope of white powder for his take.
Somebody call a trainer. We'll talk about a dog who needs some help with anger management.
BLITZER: Check back with Lisa. She's monitoring the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, ten people traveling on interstate 65 died this morning when their church van collided with a tractor trailer. The truck driver was also killed. Authorities say the truck crossed the median and hit the van head on. The ten killed were traveling to a wedding. Two children in child safety seats survived the crash. The interstate's northbound lanes remained closed for several hours this afternoon.
The Los Angeles coroner's office wants to see the medical records of 20 doctors as part of its investigation into the death of actor Corey Haim. Officials say the 1980s teen movie actor obtained drugs within the past year with prescriptions written under the names of those physicians. The coroner is waiting for toxicology results before deciding if drugs were involved in his death this month.
Take a look at this. This is one bad dog. Check this out here. Chattanooga police dash cam captured Winston. You see him there. He's a boxer/bull mix, ripping the bumper off of an officer's car. The officer is trying to drive away from him. After almost two weeks in confinement, the dog is back with his owners. He had to pay fees of more than $200. And they had to get that approved by the court so that he would be released back to his owner. Something's got that dog quite upset.
BLITZER: That's more than $200 worth of damage to that car. Replacing a bumper like that costs some money. All right, that dog needs some help. Thanks Lisa.
SYLVESTER: A little therapy.
BLITZER: Thank you.
He could be the victim of angry backlash after voting in favor of health care reform. I'll ask the Democratic Congressman Anthony Wiener, how dangerous that white powder mailed to his office actually was.
BLITZER: Back to our lead story this hour. Sarah Palin on the campaign trail trying to help Senator John McCain keep his job. The former Alaska governor also denying that she encouraged any threats against Democrats who voted for health care reform. Listen to Palin downplaying the controversy and blaming the news media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Hearing the news reports lately kind of this ginned up controversy about us, commonsense conservatives inciting violence because we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration. We know violence isn't the answer. When we take up our arms we're talking about our vote. This BS coming from the lame stream media lately about this -- about us inciting violence, don't let -- don't let the conversation be diverted. Don't let a distraction like that get you off track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Thanks very much for coming in.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It's my pleasure.
BLITZER: And the reason we invited you is because you've gotten some angry hate mail, some voice mail. You also had some mysterious white powder sent to your office in New York. Have the local authorities discovered what that powder was?
WEINER: Well, they responded very well. And they decontaminated the office. It turns out it was nothing biologic. It was cause for some alarm because it was attached to a letter that was hateful and threatening. But you know, what Sarah Palin doesn't seem to understand that while it's pretty clear to most people that the language about targeting someone and being in the cross hairs was a metaphor to her, to a twisted mind it really might be the sign that they should go ahead and do something violent. I'm not quite sure she understands that the debate is whether or not the lines have been crossed. Because when you have people shouting anti-Semitic and racist and homophobic things on the steps of the capitol, when you have threats going to members of Congress, that someone has to take responsibility for this incitement. And I think that at least some of it has to go to her responsibility.
BLITZER: Because there has been some angry stuff hurled at Republicans as well. Eric Cantor, for example, the number two Republican in the House, he's gotten some very hateful anti-Semitic literature thrown at him. It is not just Democrats.
WEINER: Yes, it pretty much is. I mean, frankly, the venom of the people who are against the health care reform has been directed at people who have been voting for it. I mean, I don't know if there's purity on either side, but I definitely believe that we have a situation we had angry protesters get into the United States capitol, members of the Republican caucus clap for them. You had people shouting angry racist things outside the capitol. You had Republicans standing up holding up signs on the balcony. You had Republicans shouting "baby killer" on the floor of the United States Congress. Then you have Sarah Palin using the language of guns and targets. I really do think that it is the Republican leaders that have to understand the message has to be these threats are illegal and they should be prosecuted.
BLITZER: It is appropriate for Democrats to be using this as a fund-raising tool?
WEINER: We all have to be careful not to glorify it, not to overly dramatize it but to take it seriously. I don't think that when you have a situation where people are putting the home addresses of members of Congress and encouraging them to go there and send them a message, that's problematic. Each member of Congress has to make a decision for themselves how to run the campaign for re-election. They have to realize that the overwhelming amount of this debate has been civil and informed. Even though it's been tense, it's been patriotic.
BLITZER: I ask the question because Governor Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic Party issued a fundraising appeal that said, "Shameful, negative ads have already hit the airwaves. Democratic offices have been vandalized. Republicans are promising to repeal reform and smearing those who support it. Please chip in $5 or more to defend those in Congress who fought to make health care reform possible." Some are saying, you know what? This is a serious subject, a potentially dangerous subject. It shouldn't be exploited for political fund-raising and that kind of stuff. What do you say?
WEINER: As part of a litany that Kaine used to talk about the challenge being faced by those who supported this in the face of some controversy that people should support them. I don't have a problem with that. I do share the concern, though, that we do need to try to turn town some of the volume on this. And I think that's going to start to happen. Now that the bill is a law, now that people want to know what's in it. You know, there is always after -- after legislation like this passes, I think there's a certain level of acceptance that all Americans have. And I think that everyone needs to understand. You hear the shouting radio shows and you see some of my colleagues in Congress who seem to be encouraging this. I think what we're really seeing is the embodiment of the split in the Republican Party between the tea baggers and the more rational member of the Republican Party.
BLITZER: We'll leave it there. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck.
WEINER: My pleasure. Thank you.
BLITZER: The results are finally in from the crucial election in Iraq. We'll tell you why some are now disputing the outcome and how it could affect the withdrawal.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is what can Sarah Palin do for John McCain that she hasn't already done? I love this question.
Van in California: "I find this unbelievable. Actually it to be funny, if his job wasn't so important. He has truly lost his mind, or what was left of it. Just makes me that much happier he never made it to the White House."
Tim in Toledo writes: "McCain's obviously a slow learner. She will give him exactly what she gave him during the presidential election, an increased chance of losing. Maybe that's what he wants."
A.J. writes: "Palin wasn't the beginning of the end of McCain's chances. She was the only reason McCain ever came close. The beginning of the end of McCain's chances was McCain."
Bruce in Oregon said: "Give the old chameleon the coup de grace? She is one toxic specimen."
Raffi in Montreal: "Ask not what Sarah Palin can do for John McCain, ask what John McCain is suffering from."
Ada writes: "She can help him lose. McCain needs to stay home, it seems he has a learning disability. The woman lost for him before, and he's calling on her before. She is only in it for herself, she even abandoned the Alaskan people before her term was over. With Sarah, it's all about the money."
Tom in Ohio writes: "Put a Democrat in the seat, she's got some experience in this area."
Mike writes: "I qualify this as an assisted suicide."
And Sandy writes: "I'm sorry, CNN, I had to turn you off when you covered the Palin speech, she makes me ears bleed and causes melting of the brain. Poor McCain, I used to have so much respect for him."
If you want to read more on the subject, you'll find lots of it on my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty will be back, shortly. Thank you.
We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage after this.
BLITZER: He's a popular talk show host, and he's sitting in a jail cell in Saudi Arabia right now, sentenced to die. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is working the story for us. He's got the details. It's unbelievable story. Mohammed, tell our viewers what is going on.
MOHAMMED JAMJOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a case almost too incredible to imagine, in this day and age, a man charged with sorcery and sentenced to die.
JAMJOON (voice-over): This little girl's father went to the birthplace of Islam in an effort to cleanse his soul. He ended up in a struggle to save his life. Two years ago, Ali Hussein Sibat was arrested while on a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the charge, sorcery. He was put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Why?
MAY EL KHANSA, SIBAT'S LAWYER: Because the -- what he was doing is something against the religion.
JAMJOON: Sibat was hosting a popular TV call-in show in his native Lebanon. He gave advice to his viewers and occasionally predicted their futures. Some thought he was a psychic, but the Saudi police thought he was a heretic, someone who used black magic and cast spells, an infidel, and in Saudi Arabia with Wahhabism, any perceived insult to god is a crime punishable by execution. After Sibat's death sentence, his case was taken up by an appeals court who found the initial verdict premature, the case went back to the original court for reconsideration. But two weeks ago the original court upheld their verdict. Sibat is once again sentenced to die. His wife finds the whole experience brutal.
SAMIRA RAHMOON, SIBAT'S WIFE (through translator): Death is more merciful than what we're going through.
JAMJOON: Rights groups are condemning the verdict and calling on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to pardon Sibat. One confession from Sibat aired on Saudi television. His lawyer recorded it and provided a copy of the tape to CNN. His family was shocked to see Sibat in prison, looking frail with cuffs on both his hands and feet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For how many years have you been using magic?
SIBAT: About eight years.
JAMJOON: Sibat's lawyer thinks the confession could have been coerced and his family is preparing another appeal.
RAHMOON (through translator): I hope they let him go. We haven't done anything. I hope that they have mercy in their hearts. They have destroyed our family.
JAMJOON: For now, though, they'll have to continue to pray for clemency from a king and mercy from their god.
JAMJOON: What's even more shocking is Ali Sibat is not the only person in jail in Saudi Arabia for sorcery. In the past two years alone, we've seen an increase in the number of cases. The Saudi media has reported on several others who have been jailed. The most recent case involves a man who was painting graffiti on a wall and what he painted on the wall was considered an affront to Islam - Wolf. BLITZER: Mohammed, stand by. There's another huge story you're working on and stay on top of this story as well.