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THE SITUATION ROOM

Big Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia in the Works; Shourd's Release From Iran Waits for $500K Bail; Palin Backing O'Donnell in Delaware Senate Primary; Hurricane Igor Making Tracks; Michael Moore's Idea for the NY Islamic Center

Aired September 13, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, America's largest arms deal ever, a proposed sale of hundreds of warplanes, helicopters, smart bombs to Saudi Arabia, and that may just be the beginning. What it might mean to the U.S. economy and jobs. Stand by.

Does he really want to move a planned Islamic center from near Ground Zero to on Ground Zero? I'll speak with the outspoken filmmaker and author Michael Moore.

And she's one of three hikers held in Iran for more than a year now. This ailing American, though, may be freed if her family can come up with half a million dollars. Is this bail or is it ransom?

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

The United States may be on the verge of its largest arms sale ever. The proposed deal would provide $60 billion worth of warplanes and high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia. That could boost the major U.S. ally against Iran and could boost the U.S. economy at the same time.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Sixty billion dollars, Barbara. What's involved here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is enormous, Wolf. If it all goes through, defense contractors say it could mean 77,000 jobs in the very flagging aerospace and defense sector in the economy. It has to all be approved by Congress. It's not entirely clear how much the Saudis will actually buy, but here are the details that are going to Capitol Hill.

Just look at some of the numbers here, Wolf. -- 84 new F-15 fighters, they'll upgrade and refurbish another 70 of these F-15 fighters, 70 Apache helicopters. 72 Blackhawks, utility helicopters and another 36 helicopters of various types, a number of bombs and missiles. All of this going to the Saudis, and of course, the world is watching very carefully. That's a very tough neighborhood they're in, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the Saudis -- what are they going to be able to do with all this stuff?

STARR: Well, you know, it is the neighborhood out there, isn't it. Defense officials, Pentagon officials say all of this is aimed at helping the Saudis have a better, more modern deterrent and defensive capability against Iran. And very interestingly, the Pentagon doesn't expect much opposition from Israel. Israel's qualitative edge will be maintained, the Pentagon says, and right now, they don't expect the Israelis to squawk much about this because the Israelis, of course, are also concerned about Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

An ailing American hiker, one of three held in Iran now for more than a year, could be released as soon as a half a million dollars in so- called bail is submitted to Iranian authorities.

Mary Snow is working this story for us. Mary, what are you learning?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as far as that $500,000 bail, it's becoming clear it won't be coming from the U.S. government. The State Department is saying the U.S. does not fund prisoner bail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Half a million dollars bail now stands between Sarah Shourd and freedom from the Iranian jail where she's been held since July of 2009, along with her fiance, Shane Bauer, and friend Josh Fattal. That demand came after an abrupt cancellation of her surprising announced release set for this past weekend. Gary Sick, a former National Security Council Iran analyst, says it's no coincidence this latest news comes just as Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is about to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

(on camera): All the back and forth about Sarah Shourd's release, what does it say?

GARY SICK, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, first of all, I think that President Ahmadinejad really wanted to use this as a way of building up a store of good will just before he came to New York. It didn't work that way. And I think he was -- his plans were really screwed up by the fact that all of these hard-liners in Iran, the conservatives who are supposed to be his friends, are all attacking him left and right and they're opposing him on everything he does. So they wanted to embarrass him a little bit, and I think they succeeded.

SNOW: Sick is hopeful Shourd will be released and says it's not uncommon for Iran to demand bail, as was in the case of "Newsweek" journalist Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian. Bahari was jailed for four months in 2009 in Evin prison, where the three Americans are being held. Like them, he was accused of spying. He tells us he was released on $300,000 bail and had to hand over the deed to his family's home in Iran. He says he was warned by those in Iran not to talk about what happened to him while in jail, and he says Shourd will likely face similar conditions.

MAZIAR BAHARI, "NEWSWEEK": They are going to definitely ask her not to talk about what she saw in prison, maybe not even the circumstances of her arrest. And she will be in a very difficult situation because she will have two of her best friends, her husband -- her fiance right now and one of her best friends in prison in Iran in the hands of the Iranian government. So she has to be very careful when she comes out.

SNOW: Shourd, Bauer and Fattal were detained when they were hiking in Iraq and allegedly crossed an unmarked border. Their families maintain they're innocent, saying if they did so, it was by accident. Shourd's medical condition has been a concern. Her mother has said she has precancerous cervical cells and that her daughter found a lump in her breast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And the families of the three Americans are not commenting, Wolf, on these latest developments. And since the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran, it relies on the Swiss government. The State Department says it's working through the Swiss and others to gain the release of all three Americans being held -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thanks very much. Let's go deeper now with our national security contributor Fran Townsend. Fran is an external board adviser to both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department here in Washington. How extraordinary, unusual is this so-called bail?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, I want to be careful because, of course, all three are still in Iranian custody. But it's very odd to me that they want -- they're asking for cash in exchange for the release. I mean, what you'd expect is if the Iranian government really wants the credit for humanitarian release, especially given the one hiker's, you know, health, they would simply release her on humanitarian grounds and not ask for money.

You have to wonder what this dialogue is. We've seen so many sort of conflicting statements out of Iran in the last 48 hours, there's clearly a struggle internal to the Iranian government over this.

BLITZER: Because nobody believes that if she put up the $500,000 bail, or her family did, and they allowed her to leave, she would ever go back, to go before a court in Tehran.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right. So let's call it what it is. It certainly feels like a shakedown by the Iranian government for the $500,000. And you know, there's so many things at play, you've got to wonder what about the other two? What's to happen to them if the one woman is released on medical grounds?

BLITZER: Because she would probably feel very guilty that she's out, her two friends are still there. She would do whatever she could to get them out. And I assume the Iranians would watch her behavior, and that could impact the fate of the other two.

TOWNSEND: That's right. It would be very stressful and very difficult for her. She couldn't really make any public statement at all about this without putting those left behind at risk. And so it would be a very difficult circumstance for her, especially given one of these who would be left behind is her fiance. BLITZER: The Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, he's getting ready, I assume, to come to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly later this month once again. This would be an important time, if he wants to send a positive signal, to let these three Americans go.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right. Timing is actually on the side of the families and those who are -- those three hikers being held. One hopes that as he's getting -- preparing to come here, he will look on this as an opportunity to release them and get the credit for having done so.

BLITZER: He should do that.

TOWNSEND: That's right.

BLITZER: And we hope he does and we hope all three of them are OK.

TOWNSEND: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

TOWNSEND: Sure.

BROWN: Jack Cafferty will have "The Cafferty File" in just a moment. And then: Should the planned mosque and Islamic community center be moved from near Ground Zero to right on top of Ground Zero? That's what the filmmaker and author Michael Moore believes. We'll talk about his controversial suggestion. That's coming up.

And Sarah Palin jumps into another Republican primary fight. Can she tip the scales in favor of the so-called tea party candidate?

And a monster storm right now in the middle of the Atlantic, Hurricane Igor, now blowing at 150 miles an hour. That's a Category 4, close to a Category 5. We'll get the latest forecast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN: Wolf, as long as we keep reelecting the same vermin election after election after election, this is the kind of garbage we get that passes for government. "The Hill" newspaper reports watchdog groups expect the ethics trials for Democratic congressman Charlie Rangel and Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters to be delayed until, you guessed it, after the mid-term election in November.

One group suggests that holding ethics hearings right before the mid- terms overly politicizes the ethics process. What about the voters? Don't they have a right to know whether or not their lawmakers are guilty of ethics violations before voting for or against them?

The way it works is that the Ethics Committee must provide the member charged with all the evidence it plans to present in the trial at least 15 days before the trial begins, so even if the committee gave Rangel and Waters their evidence this week, the trials couldn't start under the rules until the beginning of October. And of course, that's right around the time when Congress is likely to leave town again anyway so they can all go home and campaign and tell the voters what wonderful folks they are.

Meanwhile, the ethics panel investigated Charlie Rangel for almost two years before accusing him of several violations, including not paying taxes on a Dominican Republican villa and improperly using his office to raise millions of dollars for an education center named after him -- two years! Waters is accused of using her position to help a bank where her husband owns stock to win millions of dollars in federal bail-out funds.

Now, both lawmakers insist they're innocent and say they'll fight the charges in a public trial. Waters has already won her primary in California, and she doesn't face a serious challenge in the general election. And Rangel -- he still needs to win tomorrow's primary here in New York. Don't bet against him.

So here's the question. Should the ethics trials of Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters be postponed until after the November elections? Of course they shouldn't, but they're going to be, it looks like. Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If Charlie Rangel wins the Democratic nomination tomorrow, he's going to win in November, isn't that right?

CAFFERTY: Of course.

BLITZER: Yes. OK.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes, he's -- yes, absolutely. He's been elected in that district up there in Harlem for, I don't know, since they invented electricity, I think. He's 81 years old, something like that.

BLITZER: He's been a very popular guy.

CAFFERTY: If he wins the primary, he's a shoo-in.

BLITZER: Yes. OK. Just wanted to make sure. All right, thanks very much.

On the eve of a key primary in Delaware, Sarah Palin is jumping into what is already a nasty Republican fight for the Senate nomination. She's helping the tea party movement's candidate, the conservative candidate, Christine O'Donnell, against the nine-term Republican congressman Mike Castle. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: I can relate to the vicious personal attacks on Christine and can tell you it's sad to see the establishment's desperation in this. (END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is tracking this race for us, as well. She's in Delaware. Is this a huge help, Sarah Palin's help for Christine O'Donnell? Is it a huge factor, based on what you can tell, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, O'Donnell thinks it is, Wolf. Palin's robocall comes the same day that Freedom Works, the Dick Armey group that has been supporting many tea party candidates across the country, says they're not going to support Christine O'Donnell, suggesting they think she's unelectable.

And she has been the target of much criticism not just from Democrats but also from Republicans, which is why she says Sarah Palin's endorsement is all the more invigorating and helpful to her campaign. I interviewed her a short time ago. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R-DE), SENATE CANDIDATE: Governor Palin can relate to the politics of personal destruction, and she survived them and they didn't get her down. And I think that when people have seen that in the midst of this mud slinging, she had the courage to come out and say, Hey, you know, keep it about the issues, it gave my supporters an extra boost of encouragement.

YELLIN: And you, too.

O'DONNELL: And me, too, because, you know, it can get you down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, many Democrats and some Republicans think that if Christine O'Donnell wins the primary tomorrow, then the Democrats will win in the general election. And even Democrats are hoping she wins tomorrow. But O'Donnell says it's not going to happen. She's confident she can win in the end, Wolf.

BLITZER: She does say she's also interested in some support from an unexpected source. What is that referring to?

YELLIN: Yes, this is surprising. Twice during our interview, she brought up Hillary Clinton in context with Sarah Palin as a strong woman who inspires her. So I asked, Would you like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's endorsement, even though her policy positions are so different from yours? Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And you've brought her up twice now. Would you like Hillary Clinton's endorsement?

O'DONNELL: I admire Hillary Clinton. And yes, I would love Hillary Clinton's endorsement! You know, when I saw her presidential ads, I said, You go, girl. (INAUDIBLE) not a Republican, I probably won't vote for her, but I do admire her.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: "You go, girl." I doubt that endorsement will be forthcoming, but she does say she has some former Hillary Clinton supporters who are now supporting her campaign. So she's wooed some Hillary Democrats, I guess, over to her team, she says.

BLITZER: We'll see if there's an upset in Delaware, as there was in Alaska, in Utah, in Kentucky and some of these other states where the tea party-backed candidate -- Republican candidate has surprised the so-called establishment candidate. All right, thanks very much. Jessica will cover the story for us tomorrow.

It's already a monster in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with winds of 150 -- yes, 150 -- miles an hour. Could Hurricane Igor grow even more powerful? Will it threaten the East Coast of the United States? Our meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the storm for us. Wow, this is a big one. This is a real monster. But fortunately, it's in the middle of the Atlantic right now.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's not in the middle of nowhere, but you can see nowhere from there. The islands here, there, and then here's San Juan, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, so still way out in the Atlantic, thousands of miles away from hitting anything.

Now, there still will be big waves along the East Coast, whether this dies out, turns right or whatever. That's not going to go away. Those waves will still be out there. But the forecast again, Wolf, just like the last storm, is to make that big right-hand turn into the middle of the Atlantic, very close to Bermuda this time, by the way, but that turn hasn't happened.

Does this sound like a broken record? Absolutely. The same idea that we've been talking about the last time. Oh, let's turn here, no, it's going to turn here, no, it's going to turn here. This one hasn't been doing this just yet, but it's still not turning. We wait and wait and wait for these turns, and sometimes we almost have to wait too long, like with Earl. We will see whether this one continues to move closer and closer.

So far, 150, 150, 140, 125, and still very close to Bermuda at 120 miles per hour. Just because right now it's not forecast to make a run at the East Coast of the U.S., you cannot let your guard down. Sometimes these things refuse to turn. We'll be here all week.

BLITZER: We're going to watch it together with you. It's a Category 4 now, 150 miles an hour. What is it -- how fast does it need to get to be a Category 5?

MYERS: One fifty-six.

BLITZER: Wow.

MYERS: So can you tell the difference between 150 and 156... BLITZER: No.

MYERS: ... if I put you in a wind tunnel? No. Same kind of damage.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Let's hope it stays offshore, please, please. We don't need it. All right, thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: He's accused of trying to blow up a plane bound for Detroit. Now a young Nigerian man has decided to fire his legal team and replace it with a new defender, himself.

And the filmmaker Michael Moore isn't one to hold his tongue. Wait until you hear what he has to say about the controversial Islamic center in New York City.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Kate, what's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf. Well, at least 14 people are dead, but officials say there are survivors in this morning's plane crash in southeastern Venezuela. The twin turboprop plane crashed 12 minutes after takeoff from Guiana (ph) airport into an industrial junkyard. Officials say there were at least 47 passengers and crew on board. They also say 33 people are undergoing treatment at area hospitals. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane last Christmas has told a federal judge in Detroit he wants to represent himself. The judge at the pretrial hearing for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab advised him against it, but he stuck to his demand. He's accused of trying to set off a bomb in his underwear while on a plane bound from Amsterdam to Detroit. Who can forget that.

And the newly -- a newly published research suggests that a simple baseline blood test is all a man needs to determine his risk of prostate cancer and whether or not he might benefit from future screening and treatment. The study, which followed 85,000 men, found men with low PSA levels in the baseline test were less likely to get cancer than those whose PSA levels were high. The findings are published today in the journal "Cancer."

And we have some dramatic new video to show you of customers at Leonardi's (ph) Market in San Bruno, California. Just look at this, all scurrying for safety after a deadly gas explosion there. The blast and subsequent fire killed at least four people, demolished 37 homes. Pacific Gas & Electric has established a $100 million fund to cover residents' living expenses, compensate the city and help rebuild parts of the community ruined by the disaster.

The images are startling, Wolf. They've got a long time before that community is going to be back.

BLITZER: Yes, these people are running for their lives...

BOLDUAN: Oh, my gosh.

BLITZER: ... literally. They're scared.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kate.

We're going to hear from the filmmaker Michael Moore on the mosque controversy in New York City. He has his own provocative suggestion regarding the Islamic community center planned for lower Manhattan -- build it right on, not near but right on Ground Zero.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Michael Moore is no stranger to controversy and he doesn't hold back. How he feels about the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City is no exception. The filmmaker has taken an uncompromising position on how that project should be handled.

Joining us now from Miami, the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. Michael, thanks very much for coming in.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Thanks for having me, Blitz. I appreciate it. I can call you Blitz, right?

BLITZER: You can call me Blitz, you can call me Wolf, whatever you want. That's fine.

MOORE: All right. Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's talk -- let's talk a little bit about this latest -- this latest article or blog that you wrote because it sort of jumped out at me. You said you don't want the Islamic cultural center to be built near Ground Zero, you want it to be built on Ground Zero. Tell us why.

MOORE: Well, I'm just so offended by the bullying that's been taking place, picking on people who make up a very small percentage of our population and treating them as if they're not Americans. And they have every right to be in, near, around, at Ground Zero as anyone else.

And I think -- I just got to thinking that, you know, the America that I believe in is an America that is generous of spirit and not one that wants to attack people because of their religious faith. And I personally feel very bad that these 19 murderers of 9/11 who killed 3,000 people were able to hijack a religion, did something what they said was in the name of Islam, and have made life very difficult for everybody else who is a member of this faith.

And I thought what better way could we, those of us who are not of the Islamic faith, do to show our fellow Muslim Americans that we so understand that these murderers hijacked their religion from them, than to help restore the good name of their faith right there, right there at Ground Zero. I mean, I frankly...

BLITZER: Let me just...

MOORE: I believe that there -- yes.

BLITZER: I was just going to say, let me -- let me interrupt for a moment because, as you know, a lot of Americans think that they have every right to build the cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, but they don't think it's necessarily appropriate. A brand-new Quinnipiac University poll, for example, asked, "Is it appropriate to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero?" And 28 percent said yes, 63 percent said no. Why do Americans -- why are they so opposed to this idea of building this mosque and cultural center near, not on Ground Zero, but even near Ground Zero?

MOORE: Yes, even near it. Yes, I think it's because we're -- we're a little slow on the uptake sometimes. Those are pretty much the exact numbers of the people at the beginning of the Iraq war of 28 percent, 30 percent opposed it, and about 70 percent were in favor of it.

We always seem to get it wrong at first. Whether that was with slavery, killing Indians, women not voting. We're not very good at the beginning of these things. We're really great, though, as we move along.

We live in a nation where, sadly, people listen to things; they get afraid very easily. We have 40 million adult Americans who are functional illiterates, which means they can't read and write above the fourth grade level. So that's the America we live in, and sometimes we have to put up with that.

But everybody, regardless of their level of ignorance, I believe at their core is good and has a good heart and, if presented with the truth, and the truth is, is that -- that Muslim Americans are Americans the same as every other American.

BLITZER: And what do you say, Michael -- what do you say, Michael, to a family member of someone who was killed at Ground Zero who says, "You know, I don't really think this is appropriate"? Look in the camera and tell us what you would say to that family member.

MOORE: I would say that I completely understand how you feel. If a member of my family was murdered, I live in a nation where they would not allow me to sit on the jury. Yet common sense KIND OF says to me, but who better to judge those who took my family member's life than the family itself to get retribution? But we don't have a system like that, do we? The reason we don't is because -- is because we have to separate the emotion from it, because sometimes, if we just let emotion take over and run things, the wrong decisions get made.

I went to mass yesterday, Wolf. Do you think I'm a pedophile sympathizer? Should I be judged because some priests committed a crime against children? Do you think less of me because of that, or because Timothy McVeigh was a Catholic and blew up the Oklahoma City building? Should a Catholic Church not be allowed anywhere near the Oklahoma City building, because he was Catholic?

I've got to tell you, I remember the very first presidential election I remember -- I was 6 years old -- John Kennedy versus Richard Nixon. And I remember, 6 years old, hearing all this stuff about, if Kennedy was elected, the pope was going to run the country. And I remember feeling like there was something wrong, there was something bad about -- why was I bad because I was Catholic?

And -- and this is our history, and we have got to stop this. And -- and those of us who are part of the majority have to always stand up for the minority when they're being bullied by people who are using this issue for their own political gain.

BLITZER: What did you think of the way the president, the commanding general in Afghanistan, General Petraeus, the news media, for that matter, handled the whole issue of that -- of that pastor in Florida who said he was going to burn a couple hundred copies of the Koran?

MOORE: Well, it's never good to have our general saying that we're afraid of anything. I mean, I just -- I got a whole other thing about that. That could -- we could take another show on that.

I just think when you're talking about burning the Koran, let me just point out again to my fellow Americans, 80 percent of whom don't have a passport and never leave the country, never see the rest of the world, don't know anything about what's going on -- you know, I've had had the good fortune to be able to get out of here and see a bit of this planet we live on. The Koran has 25 different mentions of Jesus in that holy book, 25. They consider Jesus a messenger of God. Why would you burn a book that beautifully mentions Jesus at least two dozen times? I mean, how many Americans even know -- even know that?

It really is just -- I just -- it just seems so crazy to me. I'm just -- I fed up with it. And I just felt like I had to take a stand and say something about this. You know, Arabs and Muslims, you know, they're 0.6 percent of our population. Whenever the angry mob turns on a small group, it's best to know that when they're done with that group, they're of to the next small group.

So everybody should think about that, because we all belong to our own ethnic groups that either came to this country by choice or whose ancestors were brought here by force as slaves or who were here originally as Native Americans. That's the melting pot of who we are. And we should always stand up against the angry mob when they're trying to take away a basic inherent right of anybody in this country.

BLITZER: Michael Moore, there's so many other issues that I want to get into, but that will have to wait for another day. Thanks, as usual, for coming in, really appreciate it.

MOORE: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it here. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: A wrestling match over taxes. Is the House Republican leader about to cry "uncle"?

And Barbara Starr took you on the journey home with wounded troops. Now she shows you how they're recovering together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Democratic candidate for governor of California is now formally publicly apologizing to former president, Bill Clinton, for going after him as a result of an ad that Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate, putting out, citing a 1992 debate between Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton. They were both running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Now Jerry Brown is saying, "Bill Clinton was an excellent president. It was wrong for me to joke about an incident from many years ago, and I'm sorry."

Let's talk about it with John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING USA" that comes up at the top of the hour.

You and I remember that '92 campaign. It was -- it was pretty bitter between Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton, but now Meg Whitman took advantage of that and is running a powerful ad.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: She did in part because Bill Clinton is still very, very popular in the state of California. Do you remember how many times during the Clinton presidency he went out to California? He spent some time out there vacationing. He spent a lot of time out there, you know, keeping his -- standing up and doing politics and political business.

And Meg Whitman was smartly trying to take advantage. Wolf, you'll remember that campaign. Jerry Brown was the last Democrat standing against Bill Clinton, and he stayed in much longer. Governor Clinton at the time used to complain to his aides all the time: "He knows I'm going to win. He's hurting the Democratic Party. Why is he doing this?"

And at one of the debates it got really nasty when Governor Brown essentially said Governor Clinton was routing state business to Hillary Clinton's law firm. And the two of them got visibly -- they turned to each other visibly angry, and then-Governor Clinton essentially said, "Look, say anything you want about me. Do not bring my wife into this campaign." And a lot of bad blood. They are still not friends.

But Governor -- Attorney General Brown, now running, realizes the last thing he needs is not only to be fighting Meg Whitman but to be fighting Bill Clinton, as well.

BLITZER: Yes. He could use Bill Clinton's help...

KING: Very much.

BLITZER: ... if he wants to be the next governor of California. Let's talk about John Boehner right now. He says if necessary he doesn't want -- doesn't want a tax increase on anyone, but in order to save the tax cuts for the middle class, he may have to hold his nose and vote for that without allowing -- without allowing the tax cuts for the rich, those making more than $250,000 a year, to go forward, as well. Who blinked in this battle?

KING: Well, I don't know if anybody blinked. What John Boehner did was he stated what the founders would say, is we hold these truths to be self-evident. If in the end, the House Democrats have the votes, and the proposal before the House of Representatives in the end is only tax cuts for the middle class, well, almost all, if not all of the Republicans are going to vote for tax cuts for the middle class and give a speech saying they wish they could vote to extend all the Bush tax cuts.

But what has a lot of his fellow Republicans angry is that you shouldn't negotiate in advance. You shouldn't put your position out in public. It's kind of like my saying, "I love that tie. Can I have -- can I buy it for you for $25, and you say no, I'll give you 50." I'm not going to have much leverage in that negotiation, am I? So that's what Republicans are mad about.

In the end, no Republican is going to vote against the Democratic plan if that's all it is, is tax cuts for the middle class. But right now the Republicans had the Democrats on the defensive. Mr. Boehner gave them a good day.

BLITZER: So how is this going to play out?

KING: Well, there's the House and the Senate. On the House side, Boehner again was just acknowledging reality. That if the Democrats keep most of the Democrats together, the final package that comes to the House floor is likely to be only those middle class tax cuts or $250,000 and below. That's still likely to be what happens in the House.

But the Senate is back today. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader there, made crystal clear he's not having that vote. He's not having that vote. And there are enough centrists and conservative Democrats who agree with Mitch McConnell. So the Democrats don't have the votes in the Senate, as we speak. This issue is going to be debated between now and the election. It probably won't be settled, Wolf, until a post-election lame-duck session of Congress.

BLITZER: I know you'll have much more coming up on this and a lot of other big political stuff at the top of the hour.

KING: You bet.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, John.

They fought together, were wounded together, and they journeyed home together. We're going to show you how these soldiers are now recovering together. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just weeks after 9/11, the U.S. launched the invasion of Afghanistan. Nine years later, the casualty toll is rising. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been following a group of American soldiers who fought together, were wounded together and traveled home together. Now this band of brothers is recovering together. Barbara takes us behind the scenes to see how they're doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I don't know if you remember meeting me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do, ma'am. I do.

STARR: Can I say hi? How are you? I don't want to hug too tight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're fine. I'm good, ma'am.

STARR (voice-over): I first met Private First Class Miguel Garcia, Specialist Aaron Nuckolls and Staff Sergeant Benjamin McGuire on stretchers. Wounded in a massive IED blast in Afghanistan, they were making the journey home.

Now up and around back at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne Division. We checked in to see how their recovery was going. McGuire (ph) was the most seriously hurt: a shattered jaw.

STAFF SERGEANT BENJAMIN MCGUIRE, U.S. ARMY: I was completely unconscious, ma'am. The first memory I have of that whole event was I came -- started to come around as they were pulling me out of the truck the rest of the way.

SPECIALIST AARON NUCKOLLS, U.S. ARMY: I saw him. They pulled him out of the truck and it looked like someone had just slit his throat because he was -- from that cut underneath his jaw. He was just -- it was a nightmare.

STARR: The men initially thought they had been separated by the blast.

NUCKOLLS: It was horrible. I didn't know -- I didn't know where Garcia was. The worst thing about it was no one would tell me what was going on. I was like "How's McGuire? How's McGuire?" That's all I was yelling. No one would actually tell me he was OK.

STARR: But still a bit of humor when they look at their trip home, when they were all still on heavy doses of pain medication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Morphine talking right there.

STARR: Now we learn more about what the men had been through. Garcia was the gunner. Nuckolls then joined the team.

MCGUIRE: The very first time he was with us on patrol, when he joined our crew on our truck, we actually got ambushed that day on a route heading north in our sector. And our truck was hit by an RPG on that day. So I joked with him and I said, "You're not allowed to be my driver any more."

STARR: Nuckolls was driving on July 12 when they were hit by the IED that made them brothers in arms forever.

NUCKOLLS: All I was worried about was rolling off the cliff we were on, because where we were at was not a good spot to get hit. I think what they really planned to do was blow us off the side of the mountain. Because if they could have rolled us over, like two feet further, we would have rolled down about 3,000 -- 2,000 or 3,000 foot drop off.

STARR: On that mountain, no Washington policy or politics, a friendship under fire that these men say will last forever.

(on camera) Day-to-day is really not about what Washington says. It's about your buddies.

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS MIGUEL GARCIA, U.S. ARMY: I don't care about the politics, ma'am. They tell me where to go, and I just try to take care of them as much as I can. That's what I do.

STARR: Do you feel the same way?

NUCKOLLS: Yes. I know without a doubt these guys would die for me just like I'd die for them.

STARR (voice-over): All three soldiers will tell you they're doing well, but they will tell you, yes, they are still having nightmares about the attack. Still, they all hope to return to Afghanistan.

Barbara Starr, CNN, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: This footnote: just think of PFC. Miguel Garcia, who you saw in the piece. He's 21 years old. On the morning of 9/11, he was a 12-year-old boy. A new generation of troops now fighting this war.

Thanks to Barbara for that report.

Should the ethics trials of Congressmen Charlie Rangel and Congresswoman Maxine Waters be put off until after the November elections? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail. That's coming up.

And later, Lady Gaga made more than a fashion statement with her latest ensemble. So what is that most unusual fabric?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So you're pretty sure that hat is flank steak?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like it.

MOOS: Uh-huh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now to check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour is "Should the ethic trials of representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters be postponed until after the November elections?" It looks like now that's what's going to happen.

Randy in St. Louis writes, "And why would we do this, delay the proceedings? So these two can win re-election? So they can hope that not many people read the news? This sickens me, and I know it's just the tip of an iceberg."

Overby writes, "I don't know if they're innocent or guilty, and I don't care one way or the other. But you'd think if they were innocent, they'd be calling for an immediate trial to clear their names, wouldn't you?"

Sherry says, "These ethics trials are used for harassment by both parties, but mostly by Republicans. It doesn't matter when they're held."

Greg in Pennsylvania says, "Justice delayed is justice denied. If they're guilty, let them hang. But if they're acquitted, then let's get on with the real issues facing the country."

Bill writes, "No, absolutely not. They must be held before the elections so that voters have as much as information as possible when they go into the voting booth."

Coralie says, "Should have already been done, although the next Congress might be more willing to hold them accountable."

Kevin in Atlanta says, "Ethics trials are just a show, to reassure us that Congress is capable of policing itself. They mean nothing."

And Jafsie says, "Frankly, what scares me more than more of the same is the wackos who are running to 'take back the government,' many of whom have no experience, no ideas, no brains. You think government's garbage now? Just wait and see what you get when the government fills up with a bunch of morons who view people who are able to earn a four- year college degree in less than six years as elitists."

And Paul says, "I love you, man, but, sorry, I like Congressman Rangel, too."

If you want to read more on this, you can find it on my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people love you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Well, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you. See you tomorrow. Thank you.

Lady Gaga says, "I am not a piece of meat." Why, then, is she wearing this most unusual gown? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Some of you watching last night's Video Music Awards might have found Lady Gaga's gown -- shall we say -- mouth watering. CNN's Jeanne Moos went looking for the singer's most unusual message behind the meat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOOS (voice-over): Who on earth would shop for a dress in a butcher shop?

CHER, SINGER: Lady Gaga!

MOOS: There she was, head to toe in not-so-prime cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't look like the highest quality meat, so I don't know -- I don't see a lot of marbling.

MOOS: But you've got to give Lady Gaga credit for mounting the stairs, wearing raw steak wedges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like the shoes, actually.

MOOS: Lady Gaga left Cher holding the bag -- her bag made of meat.

LADY GAGA, SINGER: I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse.

MOOS: At New York's Fashion Week...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Raw meat! Oh, my gosh, it's amazing!

MOOS: Gaga's meat outfit met with raised eyebrows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. That's pretty rare.

MOOS: but even some of the rare birds at fashion week didn't find Lady Gaga's look well done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was revolting.

MOOS (on camera): Revolting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find it disturbing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did it smell, is what I want to know. MOOS (voice-over): Sure didn't seem to hurt his appetite, though. The animal rights folks at PETA gagged on Gaga's latest stunt, calling meat "the decomposing flesh of an abused animal."

"MTV Style" first reported that designer Frank Fernandez created the outfit and posted photos of it on his blog, saying the meat came from his family butcher.

Unlike Cher's full-on body hug, Ellen DeGeneres kept her distance. Ellen's a vegan and presented Gaga with a veggie bikini and skirt.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: How's that?

MOOS: In the past, the bacon bra has had a moment of fame on Flickr.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Looks like we lost a little bit of Jeanne -- Jeanne's report right there. We apologize for that. We'll try to fix it. If you want to see the rest, I'm sure we'll have a chance maybe tomorrow.

Thanks very much. Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN.

You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom to become a fan.

Two important guests tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The former British prime minister, Tony Blair, will be among my guests tomorrow. He has a brand-new book, as you know. And Ayad Allawi. He won the most votes in the most recent Iraqi election, some six months ago. Still no new government. We'll speak with Ayad Allawi about what's going on in Iraq right now.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.