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THE SITUATION ROOM
What Lawmakers Missed in the Law; Huckabee Weighs Same Sex Marriage; Foreign Adoptions Declining
Aired April 13, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I don't have a timetable, but -- but it is my hope that China will make a decision that ultimately will be in their best interests.
Bob Burns of A.P.
BOB BURNS, ASSOCIATED PRESS: You said a few minutes ago, when you were explaining the purpose of sanctions against Iran, you said the point is to change Iranian government calculations leading toward altered behavior.
Why hasn't that happened in the case of North Korea which, unlike Iran, actually does have nuclear weapons?
OBAMA: Well, I'm not going to give you a -- a full dissertation on North Korean behavior. I think it's fair to say that North Korea has chosen a path of severe isolation that has been extraordinarily damaging to its people and that it is our hope that as pressure builds for North Korea to improve its economic performance, for example, to break out of that isolation, that we'll see a return to the six party talks and that we will see and see a change of behavior.
As I said, I -- sanctions are not a magic wand. Unfortunately, nothing in international relations is. But I do think that the approach that we've taken with respect to North Korea makes it more likely for them to alter their behavior than had there been no consequences whatsoever to them testing a nuclear weapon.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President.
Given the goals of this conference and the goals of your administration on nuclear policy, why does it appear as if Pakistan is playing by a different set of rules?
I know they have not signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it appears they're expanding their nuclear program and the proximity to the Al Qaeda.
And should -- should there be more pressure internationally on Pakistan, not just coming from the United States, but the world?
OBAMA: I don't think Pakistan is playing by a different set of rules. I think we've been very clear to Pakistan, as we have been to every country, that we think they should join the NPT. I have actually seen progress over the last several years with respect to Pakistan's nuclear security issues. I want to lower tensions throughout South Asia when it comes to nuclear programs.
And I think that the fact that President Gilani came here and signed onto our communique and made a range of commitments that will make it more likely that we don't see proliferation activities or trafficking occurring out of Pakistan is a positive thing.
Do we have a lot of more work to do?
Absolutely. But I think that president -- Prime Minister Gilani's presence here was an important step in assuring that we do not see a nuclear crisis anywhere in South Asia.
JEFF MASON, REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President.
A follow-up question on two on that have been asked.
First, how realistic do you believe it is that countries will agree on sanctions in the coming weeks, which is the deadline that you're looking for?
And a second follow-up on Pakistan, is the United States confident that Pakistan's nuclear materials are protected and will not be vulnerable to terrorists like Al Qaeda?
OBAMA: To take the second question first, just as a part of a follow-up on Chuck's question, I feel confident about Pakistan's security around its nuclear weapons programs. But that doesn't mean that there isn't an improvement to make in all of our security programs.
I mean you'll recall that we had a little incident a while back where we had nuclear-tipped missiles on a bomber flying across the United States and nobody knew about it. And Secretary Gates took exactly the right step, which was to hold those in charge accountable and to significantly alter our practices to make sure something like that didn't happen again.
So I think it's important to note that every nuclear power and every country that has a civilian nuclear energy program has to take better steps to secure these materials. And Pakistan is not exempt from that, but we aren't either. And that's, I think, the goal of this summit. And that was the goal of the -- the communique and the work plan that we put forward.
With respect to sanctions, I think that we have a strong number of countries on the Security Council who believe this is the right thing to do. But I think these negotiations can be difficult. And I am going to push as hard as I can to make sure that we get strong sanctions that have consequences for Iran as it's making calculations about its nuclear program and that those are done on a timely basis. I'm not going to speculate beyond that in terms of where we are.
Last question, Ed Chen of Bloomberg.
ED CHEN, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Thank you, Mr. President.
Given the progress you have cited in recent days on your foreign policy agenda, to what extent do you feel like you have gained political capital with which to take further to the international stage, for the rest of this year, to perhaps rejuvenate some initiatives in trouble spots, such as the Middle East and elsewhere?
OBAMA: Well, I think the work that we've done in recent days around nuclear security and nuclear disarmament are intrinsically good. They're good just in and of themselves. And so we're very pleased with the progress that we've made. And we could not have done this without extraordinary cooperation, first from President Medvedev when it came to the START Treaty, and then from my colleagues who are here today, when it came to this Nuclear Security Summit.
What I think it signifies is the fact that so many of the challenges that we face internationally can't be solved by one nation alone. But I do think that America's leadership is important in order to get issues on the international agenda and to move in concert with other countries to have an effective response.
There are a host of other issues, obviously, that have to be addressed. And one of the points that was made, actually, during the communique is, you know, we're talking here about the instruments of potential war or terrorism. But, obviously, there are also the reasons, the rationales, the excuses for conflict that have to be addressed, as well.
And I remain committed to being a partner with countries around the world and, in particular, hot spots around the world, to see if we can reduce those tensions and, ultimately, resolve those conflicts.
And the Middle East would be a prime example. I think that the need for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and the Arab states remains as critical as ever. It is a very hard thing to do. And I know that even if we are applying all of our political capital to that issue, the Israeli people, through their government, and the Palestinian people, through the Palestinian Authority, as well as other Arab states, may say to themselves, we are not prepared to resolve this -- these issues, no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear.
And -- and the truth is, in some of these conflicts, the United States can't impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism.
You know, I think it was former secretary of State Jim Baker who said, in the context of Middle East peace, we can't want it more than they do. But what we can make sure of is, is that we are constantly present, constantly engaged and setting out very clearly to both sides our belief that not only is it in the interests of each party to resolve these conflicts, but it's also in the interests of the United States. It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts, because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower. And when conflicts break -- break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly, in terms of both blood and treasure.
So but I'm going to keep on at it. But, you know, I think, you know, on all these issues -- nuclear disarmament, nuclear proliferation, Middle East peace -- you know, progress is going to be measured not in days, not in weeks. It's going to take time and progress will be halting. And sometimes we'll take one step forward and two steps back. And there will be frustration.
And so it's not going to run on the typical, you know, cable news 24/7 news cycle. But if we're persistent and we've got the right -- the right approach, then, over time, I think that we can make progress.
Thank you very much, everybody.
And there he is, the president of the United States, wrapping up this 47 nation nuclear summit. The president making several points, insisting the world is a little bit more secure right now as a result of this agreement.
He said over the next four years, the goal is to get all nuclear material secure. Easier said than done, but that is the goal.
He also says he wants strong sanctions as quickly as possible against Iran to deal with Iran's nuclear program. He's confident that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, he says, is secure, although more could be done to secure nuclear arsenals, he says, all over the world.
Let's talk about what we just heard from the president.
Queen Noor of Jordan is with us.
She's the co-founder of the group Global Zero, which is working to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Also joining us, our senior political analysts, Gloria Borger and David Gergen -- David, let me just start with you.
What did you think of this accomplishment or lack of accomplishment by this summit?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: This was -- these were important steps forward, Wolf. President Obama deserves significant personal credit for his leadership on this issue. He's the first president who's really picked it up and moved it in this way. And it's one of the most important issues facing the world, as Queen Noor will under -- underscore.
I would say, at the same time, caution is required here, because if -- if Iran gets nuclear weapons, a lot of this will fall apart. We still have the tensions in the Middle East, with nations like Israel and this sort -- its neighbors, including Jordan, over nuclear weapons. And, of course, there's, then, the issue of Pakistan and India.
And the president is going to have to tackle all of those if he's really going to help get, you know, breakthroughs.
But give him credit for how far he's come.
BLITZER: Queen Noor, you've been working on this issue for a long time.
What do you think?
QUEEN NOOR, JORDAN: Well, I absolutely agree with what David just said. And I believe that it's not just the president, but it's the international community that's going to have to address all of these problems simultaneously. It's not just -- this president is showing good leadership and a great deal has been achieved since Prague last year and with the START Treaty signing just now and with this nuclear security summit.
We still have to work on -- on non-proliferation issues and lead toward the elimination of nuclear weapons altogether.
But in terms of addressing those key problem area, like Iran, like Pakistan, like Israel, Pakistan and India, we're going to need the international community to be working with him on this area.
BLITZER: It -- it's one thing, though, Queen Noor, to get states to make commitments. It's another thing for terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, which is apparently attempting to get nuclear material, to make a commitment.
NOOR: I don't think he's talking about that. I think he's -- what -- what we're talking about and what's absolutely vital to the achievement of Global Zero eventually is that we secure nuclear materials today. And there is probably enough out there to make, perhaps, another 200,000 bombs on top of the 23,000 or so that we already have today in the hands of about nine states.
And those -- I was at the U.N. Security Council meeting last fall that President Obama chaired. At that, Mohamed ElBaradei said that in the last year alone, there had been 200 cases of missing materials. This is what they were focusing on at this conference.
BLITZER: He's the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
NOOR: Absolutely. BLITZER: Gloria, this is a challenge that the president has put forward. In the next four years, he wants all -- and these other nations that signed this document -- all nuclear material secure so that terrorists couldn't get their hands on it.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and this -- he's not the first president to try this and to propose this and to try and deal with China on it -- on issues like this, as George W. Bush did, particularly regarding sanctions against Iran, which is the big political issue that I'm hearing about from -- from Republicans, who come out of this and say. How much closer are we to actually getting the sanctions out of the U.N. That we need to get against Iran?
And we all watched very closely this week for signals from China in particular, of course, and signals from Russia.
And the read that I'm getting from -- from people in the administration, is that we're -- we're a lot closer, but we're -- we're not there yet.
BLITZER: How worried should the world be about Iran's nuclear program, Queen Noor?
NOOR: I believe that Iran's nuclear program needs to be looked at in the con -- the larger context of the Middle East and -- and certainly Pakistan and India. There are those who -- who would say, look, is there a set of double standards being applied here when you look at Pakistan and India and Israel, that have not signed the NPT and have not opened up their installations and where there is no transparency and they actually have nuclear arsenals and you have a country that I pray -- and Global Zero believes -- there should be no more proliferation, which means no nuclear weapons in Iran, but also there must be elimination of those nuclear arsenals like Israel's and Pakistan's and India's, if we want to diminish the tension in -- in that larger region and sap a great deal of the threat that is presented by these...
BLITZER: But the difference...
NOOR: -- extremist groups we were talking about.
BLITZER: But the difference is that Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...
BLITZER: So they're obligated...
NOOR: Isn't is ironic, though?
BLITZER: They're obligated...
NOOR: They're -- they're being held accountable...
BLITZER: -- to cooperate. NOOR: -- for having signed the treaty, they're being held accountable for its requirements, which is just, which is correct. But these other states have not signed the treaty. And there are other...
BLITZER: But in and of itself...
NOOR: -- outliers...
BLITZER: Do you worry about Iran?
NOOR: I worry about the dynamic as a whole in the region, because I see these different situations playing off against each other. I see Iran, Israel, Pakistan, India -- I see all of those countries as absolutely critical to focus on. Focus on their insecurities that have driven them to these programs and help to reduce that and we'll move along.
BLITZER: Gloria, you know, the -- the -- a lot of critics of the president say three rounds, four rounds of sanctions against Iran really have not slowed down their nuclear program...
BLITZER: -- at all. And another round, if -- if it happens, if the U.N. Security Council passes another resolution, even if you get support from Russia, maybe even China...
BLITZER: -- might not make much of a difference either.
BORGER: You know, it was interesting just to hear the president a moment ago say we can't impose solutions.
But, in fact, that's what a lot of people want the president to do, right?
they want him to impose these kinds of solutions that -- that he really can't do.
And even if you were to get these sanctions, Wolf, we don't know what the final result of those -- of those sanctions would be.
I mean, would the sanctions have teeth?
NOOR: Who are they going to affect?
BORGER: Who are they going to affect?
BORGER: Who are they going to affect?
So, you know, there's a...
BLITZER: Because even the Russians made the point, they don't want people to starve in Iran if -- if the oil, for example, the -- the refined oil...
BLITZER: -- gasoline products are not allowed to go into Iran. That could cause huge ramifications.
NOOR: And you don't want to make a martyr of political leaders and push -- pushing them to the wall and making a martyr of them...
NOOR: -- in front of their nations' populations that -- that are concerned by...
BORGER: And in...
NOOR: -- pride and sovereignty.
BORGER: And inflame anti-U.S. Sentiment.
BLITZER: But we're going to have a lot to digest.
Queen Noor, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks for coming in.
NOOR: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Gloria will be back later.
It's her first solo trip abroad as first lady of the United States -- Michelle Obama catches everyone by surprise with an unannounced visit to Haiti. She calls the devastation she saw "powerful." She's also speaking one-on-one with CNN. Her interview with CNN will air here first THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for that.
Also, another accident for a troubled airline. This time, a plane ripped apart in a dramatic crash landing. We have details of what went wrong.
Plus, what Mike Huckabee is saying about gay marriage -- some find it so controversial. We'll hear his own remarks. We'll talk about it in our Strategy Session.
KING: It's highly unusual for Catholic clergy to criticize the pope. But one American priest is making the extraordinary move, suggesting the pontiff should either take firm action in the sex abuse scandal or resign. CNN's Mary Snow spoke with him today -- Mary, what is he telling you?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Father James Scahill told us that he believes people need to hear the truth about the Catholic Church, however harsh that may be. And on Sunday, as he celebrated mass in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, he felt it was time to take a stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JAMES SCAHILL, ST. MICHAEL'S CHURCH: Yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.
SNOW: (voice-over): As he offers prayers, Father James Scahill is also calling for punishment over the handling of sex abuse cases involving priests. He calls church leaders who covered up abuse "felons" and takes direct aim at Pope Benedict.
SCAHILL: He should stand for the truth. There...
SNOW: (on camera): Does that mean stepping down?
SCAHILL: If he can't do it, if he can't take the consequences of being truthful on this matter, his integrity should lead him, for the good of the church, to step down and to have the conclave of cardinals elect a pope, with the understanding that that elected pope would be willing to take on this issue transparently, not just in promise, but in fact.
SNOW: (voice-over): Scahill says he doesn't understand why so few of his fellow priests haven't spoken out about the abuse scandals. His anger was reignited this past Easter, when Italian Cardinal Sodano dismissed criticism of the pope's handling of the crisis as, quote, "petty gossip."
I have met with countless victims of abuse. I have lives that I can relate this to. And I grieved for them, to be so insultingly dismissed, as this whole case, as "petty gossip." You know, anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows the media has not created this scandal.
SNOW: Sex abuse scandals have haunted this Massachusetts community. In 2004, the bishop of the Springfield Diocese resigned and was later indicted on molestation charges, but he was never prosecuted.
(on camera): You are one priest in one parish.
How much influence can you have?
SCAHILL: One voice listened to can accomplish more than people might realize.
SNOW: (voice-over): Scahill has been pastor of the church for eight years and is known for standing his ground.
When a former priest pled guilty to abusing two boys, Scahill withheld church donations to the diocese until the priest was defrocked in 2003.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Patty (ph) at St. Michael's.
Do you have messages?
SNOW: The phones have kept ring at St. Michael's since Sunday's mass, when Father Scahill delivered his sharp words. He says a majority of the messages have been supportive, but not all. And the bishop of Springfield issued statement saying: "There is a sad irony in that Father Scahill's remarks were delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday, a day on which the church throughout the world reaffirms Christ's forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy toward all his followers."
The bishop goes on to say: "We are vigilant in the efforts undertaken to ensure such tragedies can never happen again."
Last month, a senior Vatican official said the pope had displayed wisdom and courage when he was a cardinal with responsibility for reviewing sex abuse cases.
Father Scahill agrees the Vatican has made some progress, but only after scandals were exposed in the media.
SCAHILL: The church is trying to do the right thing. But any healthy institution has to have a healthy, strong, secure foundation. And I believe all of these efforts are being built on a garbage heap of denials and cover-ups. Get rid of the garbage. Confess to the garbage. Build a healthy foundation from the ground up. You can't be healthy if you're untruthful.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: I asked Father Scahill about whether he worries about losing his job for being so outspoken.
He does worry about that. And even though he's been an outspoken critic for years, he says it's been very stressful for him to take this stand and he says he doesn't see himself as a rebel -- Wolf.
KING: Interesting stuff.
And we're going to stay on top of this story.
Mary, thank you.
Outrage in Russia right now at the American mother who returned her adopted son. We're going to Moscow, where the case is making headlines.
KING: Brianna Keilar is monitoring some of the other top stories THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Brianna, what's going on?
KEILAR: Wolf, 78 people have been injured after their plane overshot an Indonesian runway and broke apart in a canal. One hundred three passengers were aboard the Merpati airliner when it crashed. And bad weather is believed to be a factor here. But the cash- strapped airline suffered two crashes last year, one of which killed 16 people. There are no reports of fatalities in this crash.
And investigators are trying to find out what triggered fumes inside an American Airlines jet. This was a flight from Paris to Dallas that made an emergency landing in Iceland today after people reported a chemical smell in the cabin. Several crew members became ill, but none required treatment. Mechanics are examining the plane now and a fire official says the fumes might have originated in an area containing plane parts with oil and other liquids.
President Obama is seeking advice from both parties on the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. He has invited Republican as well as Democratic leaders in the Senate to the White House next Wednesday to discuss the opening. The Democratic chair and the ranking Republican of the Senate judiciary committee will also be there. Last week, Justice John Paul Stevens announced plans to retire this summer and Republicans are warning they will fight any nominee they consider too liberal.
A major tweak on twitter to tell you about. The online messaging service is introducing paid tweets from advertisers who want their messages to show up first in twitter searches. This is the company's first attempt to turn its popular service into a substantial moneymaker. The company says it wants to focus on its product before concentrating on profits and twitter advertisers will include Best Buy, Sony Pictures, as well as Starbucks. So if you thought there was a Starbucks on every corner, Wolf, well, through may be one on every computer as well.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Every tweet. Sort of defeats the purpose though to start inserting paid advertising and pretend those are just some random tweets. I think that goes beyond what twitter is supposed to be all about, isn't it?
KEILAR: Yes, it seems maybe a little less organic and it's going to be really interesting to see what some of those tweeters out there think about this whole thing, Wolf.
BLITZER: I don't think they will be happy that.
KEILAR: I don't think so either.
BLITZER: I'd like to see how long that lasts but they got to make some money. They are groping for a way to use all those twitter followers out there and make some cash. All right, Brianna, thanks very much.
The devil is in the details. That could be all too true for members of Congress. Now, asking serious questions about their own health care coverage, all because of the way the reform bill which is now law was worded. We will have a live report from Capitol Hill.
And Mike Huckabee compares gay marriage to the legalization of incest, polygamy, drug use. His comments and the heated reaction just ahead in today's strategy session.
BLITZER: You are THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the former house speaker Newt Gingrich is issuing a new challenge to Republicans. In a clear split with the GOP heavyweight, Sarah Palin, Gingrich says the party needs a positive agenda that does more than just say no to Democrats.
And the outlook for President Obama and the party this fall could be improving. A new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that if elections for Congress were held today, 50 percent of Americans would back the Democratic candidate, 46 percent would support the Republican candidate.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.
Many Americans don't know exactly what the new health care reform law means for them and apparently, that includes some members of Congress. There are questions about what the law they wrote does to their own health coverage and whether they even know the answer. Our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill. What are you hearing up there?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The members of Congress' own health coverage could be in limbo, Wolf. Here is the issue. We have heard what great health insurance coverage members of Congress and their aides have lots of options through the federal employee benefits health program. During the health care debate, Republicans switched Democrats to switch from that to what many Americans would now have which is health insurance through a new state-run exchanges, but the problem is that those wouldn't be set up until the year 2014, that's 3 1/2 years from now and a Congressional report says the way that Congress wrote this law it is not clear whether or not they can keep the coverage this they now have in Congress until they can get the new coverage in 2014 and I asked the Senate majority leader about that today and whether or not this says anything to Americans out there who are also struggling to figure out what this health care plan means for them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: There are many, many issues here that people are so happy about that kick in right now. There's going to have to be some oversight in this bill as we do with every major piece of legislation. And if there is a problem with this we will take care of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, our Congressional producer, Ted Barrett, and I were walking through the halls today, talking to a lot of senators, asking about this. Most had no idea there was even a potential hole in their coverage that they would have to take care of. They are trying to figure out a way inside the Democratic leadership to clarify it they say it might have to be done you there the administration or might have to do a fix legislatively to make sure that they do, in fact, have health insurance coverage, members of Congress and their aides, until it switches in 2014.
BLITZER: What about the thousands of Congressional staffers, the aides up there on the hill, what about them?
BASH: There is a little bit of a loophole it seems with regard to those aides. As we have been talking about, it seems everybody is supposed to switch from the current plan, the coverage that they have, to getting coverage through the new exchanges. However, Wolf, in this new law, it was written that some of the aides to the most senior members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, leadership aides and aides on committees, would be exempted from switching the coverage, the coverage that many of them really, really like. And we talked to Charles Grassley, the Republican from Iowa about this today. He said that he actually saw this loophole coming, tried to get it fixed, no luck. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Is it purposeful or just sloppy? And secondly --.
BASH: What do you think?
GRASSLEY: Well, I don't know I wish I knew. I know what I intended to do I intended to cover everybody on capitol hill and I don't think any sort of cute moves should have been made in the secrecy of Reid's office of exempting leadership staff, I mean his own staff, exempting committee staff. What's special about committee staff or leadership staff?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Democratic leadership sources that we talked to and senators themselves deny that they purposely tried to protect some aides here in Congress from having to switch from the coverage that they really liked but they also say that just like the other issue, that this is something that we are going to likely have to deal with, probably another legislative fix because even the chairman of the finance committee, Max Baucus, said today that he understand there is a fairness issue here and if members of Congress, some aides are going to have to switch their health care coverage, all of them will have to.
BLITZER: I'm sure it's a sensitive issue up there Dana, thanks for that report.
He could be a major presidential contender once again in 2012. Republican Mike Huckabee, though is feeling serious political heat right now for what he said to a group of college journalists. We will hear those controversial comments on same-sex marriage, coming up in our strategy session.
And Israeli citizens are told to get out of a popular tourist area of Egypt. We will tell you why.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us now our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and Republican strategist John Feehery. He's also a former spokesman for house speaker Dennis Hastert. Thanks to both of you for coming in. As you know, a little uproar going on because the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's comments to some college students, stories appearing that he was basically equating same-sex marriage, which he opposes, with polygamy, incest, drug use, you want to start authorizing that as well? He issued a statement saying, the young college student, hopefully the one who quoted him, will find a career other than journalism, I would ask that he release the unedited tape of our conversation. I believe that what people do as individuals in their private lives in their business, but I do not believe we should change the traditional definition of marriage. They did release the unedited tape of that conversation that the former governor had with these college students. I will play it for you right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don't go ahead and accommodate every behavioral pattern that is against the ideal. That would be like saying, well, there's a lot of people who like to use drugs so let's go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest so we should accommodate them there are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Accommodating gays and lesbians is equivalent to accommodating those who are incestuous?
HUCKABEE: What I'm saying is that once you accommodate someone's desires for a lifestyle who gets to choose where it starts and where it stops? I mean, only when you get to say, look, I get make that choice. I have always found it disingenuous once again when people say, well it is OK for this to be change bud not -- not polygamy, for example. Why not? What's different?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let me go to Donna first. What do you think, because the argument is he was equating same sex marriage with polygamy, incest, drug use. He said, read -- listen to the whole thing, which we just did.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, these kinds of statements have no place, I think in our political dialogue. We can disagree on marriage equality. I support marriage equality. Five states and the District of Columbia now allows gay marriage. There are more than 1100 federal benefits associated with marriage and there's a reason why many gays and lesbians are out there fighting today for marriage equality and next week, Wolf, you will be talking about California. That important decision that might come down. But I think the governor should really distance himself from these statement. He should be a man of love. He is a preacher, after all. And I'm very disturbed by some of the things he said.
BLITZER: Are you disturbed?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, obviously, Mike Huckabee can write off the gay vote. He is not going to get that anymore. The fact of the matter is when it comes to a position of gay marriage, his view is not necessarily out of the mainstream. Barack Obama, had Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, they all have the same position during the campaign. Now, you know, for -- evangelical --
BRAZILE: Man and a woman, because Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton never compared gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia, I just want to make sure we clarify that.
BLITZER: And Mike Huckabee wasn't doing that either. He was comparing it to incest, polygamy and drug use.
BRAZILE: It will only get worse.
BLITZER: He didn't compare to bestiality or pedophile.
BRAZILE: Thank god, because he has made ridiculous comments before.
FEEHERY: The fact of the matter is that Mike Huckabee is an evangelical Christian. Orthodox Judaism, orthodox Catholicism, they have some of the similar view of homosexuality. They are not for homosexuality. What he is saying is really consistent with his religious beliefs. Now you can disagree with those religious beliefs and that's all fine but he has a right to state them as he believes them to be true.
BLITZER: The reason this is a little bit more interesting today than it might have been yesterday because of the new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll we did among Republicans. We asked them very early, right now, things change always, who their choices were for the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. And look at this. Huckabee gets 24 percent, Mitt Romney 20 percent, Sarah Palin 15 percent, Gingrich 14, Ron Paul 8 percent. In this field, he is on the top right now.
BRAZILE: He is also on another network. He has a broad name recognition. He won the Iowa caucuses and then he flamed out. Right now that is an early indication that he might be on top but I don't believe he will -- he will make to number one in 2012.
FEEHERY: Mike Huckabee has a huge following, he has had a huge following. The problem with running in the campaign, he has some problems with pardons, that's going to affect him.
BLITZER: He was governor of Arkansas, he pardoned someone who went on to kill someone. FEEHERY: He has got some problems with taxes, hurt some of the base's viable contender, very well in the last election. It's really between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, I think. Sarah Palin is always going to be in the mix. He has a big following and with that following, these comments are not necessarily going to hurt him.
BRAZILE: The log cabin Republican, back in 2008 --
BLITZER: That's a group of gay Republicans.
BRAZILE: That's right. They reached out to Mike Huckabee to try to get him to you know, at least understand their positions on many of these issues and he said at the time, Wolf, I will never forget, they said, I look forward to having that support. I think he needs to open a dialogue with the log cabin Republicans and other like-minded individuals so he can be enlightened a little bit more on these issues.
FEEHERY: You disagree with that I think if Mike Huckabee wants to be a viable candidate, he has to expand his base, not just talk to people that enjoy this. He has expand it and be more understanding if he wants to be a serious presidential contender.
BLITZER: Do you think at a minimum, what he said, making this comparison to polygamy, incest and drug use was inarticulate, shall we say?
FEEHERY: If you look at religious doctrine and if you talk to the pope for example, or an orthodox Jewish rabbi, they are going to say something that is not going to be that sensitive either. It is a religious belief, strongly held religious belief. Someone from a political commentary probably not politically astute but from a religious commentary, not that inconsistent.
BRAZILE: The bible was used also to justify slavery.
FEEHERY: I understand.
BRAZILE: Use the bible to justify intolerance, bigotry of any kind is down right distasteful.
BLITZER: All right, guys, we will leave it there. Thanks very much.
We have got a lot more coming up, including our latest headlines coming out of the summit here in Washington. The issue is very, very serious right now the president of the United States saying there will be, he hopes, an agreement over the next four years to secure all, all of the world's nuclear materials. We will see if that happens.
Also other news we are following, including that adoption story. Stand by for that
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar's monitoring some other top stories going on in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Brianna what else is going on?
KEILAR: Wolf, an Oregon jury is holding the Boy Scouts of America responsible for the abuse of a former Portland man back in the 1980s. Jurors are awarding the plaintiff, Kerry Lewis, $1.4 million and they'll also determine punitive damages against the boy scouts in a separate trial. Lewis' attorneys called the organization reckless for allowing a former scoutmaster to associate with his troops after admitting to molesting other boys.
In the wake of the political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan, defense secretary Robert Gates' is emphasizing the importance of the U.S. base there to efforts in Afghanistan. Gates said the U.S. has other ways of getting troops and supplies into Afghanistan, but that base is ideal, it's the best. The U.S. military said troop transports to and from Afghanistan at the base were suspended last week, but refueling flights continue.
And the first lady made an unannounced trip to Haiti today. She took a helicopter tour of the quake-damaged capital. She was there with Jill Biden, the wife of vice president, Joe Biden. And the White House said today's visit underscores the U.S. commitment to the recovery effort there. After leaving Haiti, Mrs. Obama traveled to Mexico for a three-day visit, her first official solo trip as first lady, and, of course, we'll get a chance to talk to her and hear from her, Wolf, on her visit.
BLITZER: Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN Espanola is going to have a sit-down with the first lady. I thought it would be today, but now I'm told it will be tomorrow. The interview with the first lady in Mexico will happen tomorrow. We'll have it here in THE SITUATION ROOM for our viewers. Thanks very much, Brianna.
Outrage in Russia at the American mother who returned her adopted son. We're going to Moscow. Stay with us.
BLITZER: International adoptions are under scrutiny right now after a 7-year-old boy was returned to Russia alone. By the American family who adopted him. In recent years the number of adoptions from Russia and other countries has declined as a result of tighter rules. International adoptions in the United States peaked at almost 23,000 in 2004. Last year there were almost 13,000. 1,600 of those were Russian children. Overall, China's the most popular country for Americans adopting internationally. Ethiopia, second. Russia is third.
In the streets of Moscow there's outrage at the adoptive mother who sent that boy back to Russia alone. CNN's Ivan Watson is there.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is turning eight years old this week. His birthday will be anything but normal.
PAVEL ASTAKHOV, RUSSIAN CHILDREN'S RIGHTS COMM.: He's very confused about all this.
WATSON: Pavel Astakhov is Russia's top children's welfare official. He said Artyem's adoptive American family lied to the boy last week, before shipping him off on a solo, transatlantic flight to Moscow. He shows us a copy of the signed letter from Artyem's adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, which the boy was carrying when he arrived in Russia. "I'm sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child," she wrote. "As he is a Russian national, I'm returning him to your guardianship." The American family says the boy had serious behavioral problems, and they were deceived before the adoption by Russian officials, who said he was healthy.
ASTAKHOV: How can you imagine that 7 years old boy can be a menace, a danger for the family, for the adult people?
WATSON: Russian television broadcast footage of Astakhov meeting with little Artyem at a children's hospital. At one point Artyem calls his adoptive mother bad and said she used to pull his hair.
WATSON: The abandonment of Artyem has left many Russians furious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would forbid sending our children to America. I believe that there are enough people who can adopt children in this country.
WATSON: Russia has no shortage of orphans. In 2008, more than 700,000 children were living without their parents in state institutions. In the last 16 years, American families adopted some 50,000 Russian children. But now, after several high-profile cases of abuse of adopted Russian children in the U.S., officials in Moscow are calling for a temporary freeze in new American adoptions.
ASTAKHOV: This situation, we have to freeze our connections (INAUDIBLE) until we will build up a new agreement, a new bilateral treaty between Russia and the United States of America.
WATSON: Both Russian and American officials say a new agreement regulating adoption could be signed within a matter of months.
JOHN BEYRLE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I would say to American families that are in the process of adoption not to worry too much. We're working on this. And we really don't think that this will have any long-term effect on the ability of American families to adopt here.
WATSON: But that's little consolation to Artyem Saveliev, who has now lost two families before reaching the age of 8.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Moscow.