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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bin Laden "Still in the Game;" President: Rahm is One of a Kind; Can Democrats Close the Gap in the Florida Senate Race?; U.S. Apologizes for Shocking Experiment; Convict Seeks New Trial in Brutal Child Killings; Can President Obama Energize Young Base?; Sharron Angle Asks Wolf for Money; News Corporation's $1 Million Donation
Aired October 1, 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: Thanks very much, Brooke.
Happening now, we're learning more about America's history of conducting shocking medical experiments on people without them knowing. This hour, a brand new apology from the United States government and why it's taken decades to uncover the truth.
Also, fuel for NATO troops torched in Pakistan -- there's new violence and political chaos and it may put U.S. forces and NATO troops in danger and threaten the war on terror.
And President Obama embraces a huge change in his inner circle.
Now that Rahm Emanuel is officially out, can a new White House chief of staff help the president get his mojo back?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But up first this hour, brand new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about Osama bin Laden's contacts and his long-term plan of attack.
Let's go straight to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve -- Jean, what are we learning?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a new audiotape believed to be from Osama bin Laden does not contain a call for terrorism, but U.S. officials say he has been urging Al Qaeda affiliates to act. One official tells CNN that bin Laden has been in communication with Al Qaeda affiliates within Pakistan and elsewhere, but would not say what form those communications took. Another source cautions against linking bin Laden to recent reports of a Mumbai-style attack against targets in Britain, France and Germany. Officials say there are other intelligence threats out there -- multiple plots at different stages of development. Right now, they do not have specific information about targets, modes of attack or timing. But they do believe this plotting is beyond aspirational, though not to the level of something definitive. As one official said, don't think of this as one threat -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jeanne, is this the first time, at least recently, we've heard from bin Laden about some sort of plot?
MESERVE: It is. And one law enforcement source says if the intelligence is credible, it would appear to indicate that bin Laden is, quote, "still in the game," for lack of a better term -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jeanne Meserve, thank very much.
We'll stay on top of this.
Over at the White House today, lots of hugs, emotion, turnover right at the top. President Obama officially saying so long to his White House chief of staff, and friend, Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is going back to Chicago to run for mayor. He'll be replaced, at least for now, by his deputy, Pete Rouse. Rouse stayed in the background for what turned out to be an Obama-Emanuel love fest and joke fest.
Listen to some of the best moments from the event earlier in the day in the White House East Room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the last 20 months, Rahm has exceeded all of my expectations. It's fair to say we could not have accomplished what we have accomplished without Rahm's leadership.
I am very fortunate to be able to hand the baton to my wise, skillful and long time counselor Pete Rouse.
Obviously, these two gentlemen have slightly different styles. I --
OBAMA: I mentioned, for example, I -- I -- this was a couple of years ago. I pointed out that Rahm, when he was a kid, had lost part of his finger in an accident. And he was middle finger, so it rendered him mute for a while.
OBAMA: Pete has never seen a microphone or a TV camera that he likes.
RAHM EMANUEL, DEPARTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm energized by the prospect of new challenges and eager to see what I can do to make our hometown even greater. These are unprecedented and great times in Chicago, Mr. President. The Chicago Bears are 3-0.
(APPLAUSE) EMANUEL: And I want to thank you for the opportunity to repay, in a small portion for the blessings this country has given my family. I give you my word that even as I leave the White House, I will never leave that spirit of service behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Emotional there.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst and veteran presidential adviser, David Gergen.
You worked for four presidents. You're familiar with what's going on in the West Wing of the White House. A lot of people say Pete Rouse is the anti-Rahm Emanuel.
Is that good or bad for this president?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I do think it's very much a change of style, Wolf. There's no question about that. And it's an extraordinarily important appointment, as you well know. The chief of staff is often the second or third most powerful person in Washington, DC. And that's certainly been true with Rahm Emanuel here over the last couple of years.
Pete Rouse is a consummate professional. He is a gentleman. He is an extremely good administrator. And he's one heck of a nice guy. I think all of that makes him a very popular choice within the White House.
But, Wolf, at the same time, this president, through this appointment, as well as others, and a lot of other signals he's gone -- he's given out here in the last few days and the last few weeks has sent a clear message that he's rejecting the calls for fundamental change in his White House and in his operations.
On the left, many would like to see him appoint someone heavyweight from the left. There are many in the business community who would like to see him appoint a CEO who enjoys the respect and can be a -- a voice at the table, especially for the financial community.
He is not listening to any of that with these appointments.
BLITZER: So what's going to change, do you think, in the short- term?
GERGEN: Well, what's going to change is the political power in the country is going -- the center of gravity is going to shift over toward the Republicans after November. And then we're going to have to see whether the president, at that point -- likely to be wounded -- is going to change the way he's going to do business. And there -- I -- I happen to be among those who believe that he needs to change.
I think he does need, as he fills out the rest of his team, I think he needs to bring in a couple of users. And I think it's extremely important he move to the center. There are many to his left who totally disagree with that and want to see him go farther over to the left.
But I think unless he -- if he moves -- unless he moves to the center, his chances of governing with a much larger number of Republicans in town over the next two years, especially in facing the deficits, I think, is going to be very problematic indeed. I'm extremely worried about excessive gridlock.
BLITZER: Which is possible, there's no doubt about -- no doubt about that.
Listen to this, David, because I e-mailed several former White House chiefs of staff earlier in the day and I asked them to send me their best specific advice for Pete Rouse, who's the incoming White House chief of staff.
I got this from Ken Duberstein, who worked in the Reagan White House.
Let me read it to you: "Remember, you are staff, not chief. The president is elected and you are not. Every time you speak, the voice people hear is not yours, but the president's. And finally, you have a constituency of one-and-a-half and do not tell the first lady who is the half." That from Ken Duberstein, former Clinton chief of staff.
John Podesta says preventive clothing would come in handy. He sent me a word one piece of advice for -- for Pete Rouse. He said, "Kevlar."
The former Bush 43 chief of staff, Andy Card, says Rouse should remember -- and he sent me a little bit longer e-mail. He said: "Rouse should remember that ethics is number one." He advises that protecting the executive branch powers in Article Two of the Constitution for future presidents, because, he says, "chiefs of staff serve the president."
And Andy Card also says: "Bring good peripheral vision to the White House debate, as the president is counseled by experts with tunnel vision." Finally, I -- I e-mailed Rahm Emanuel and I asked him for some parting advice for his successor. Rahm's parting advice was: "Keep your sense of humor."
All pretty good advice, David, don't you think?
GERGEN: They are. I'm really glad you reached out to them like that. It's extremely interesting.
All right, let -- let me go to Ken Duberstein. It was a highly successful end of the era for -- for Reagan's chief of staff and a friend. And I -- his -- his advice about always remember your staff, you're not -- you're not the president, that is true. But one question that I think Pete Rouse is going to have to -- to answer over time is he is extremely good at managing down.
How good is he going to be in managing up, not only with the president, but with the barons of Capitol Hill? Increasingly the chief of staff, as you know, Wolf, one of his roles is -- is to not just -- not only be a mediator with the barons on Capitol Hill, but to get things done up there. That's what Rahm did.
And the White House needs somebody like that. The White House needs somebody to be an SOB. Every president needs an SOB. I don't know whether that's going to be in Pete Rouse's -- that's just not part of his DNA. He's such a nice guy. He's a wonderful guy.
The -- the White House is going to need someone to be out occasionally speaking, as David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel have done -- and Valerie Jarrett has done -- supplementing what the press secretary has done.
Is Pete Rouse going to want to do that?
I don't know that. I think the president has clearly put in place somebody he really trusts. And the president is entitled to do that and should do that. He needs somebody he's comfortable with. But in thinking about the entire roster --
BLITZER: All right --
GERGEN: -- he still has some holes to fill.
BLITZER: He certainly does. And Pete Rouse, he -- he does like him a lot. He was his chief of staff when he was a senator, as well.
David, good advice from you, as well.
Thanks very, very much.
GERGEN: OK. Thank you.
BLITZER: Three boys murdered, allegedly, in a Satanic ritual two decades ago. Now one of the men convicted of the killings is trying to prove he's innocent -- and it may all come down to a single hair.
And there's a new timetable for those Chilean miners to finally be freed. We have new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
And he's the Democratic candidate in one of the hottest Senate races in the nation -- Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida. He's here to talk about his uphill fight against his two fierce rivals. He's walking into THE SITUATION ROOM.
Congressman, we'll talk in a minute.
REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: OK.
BLITZER: It's one of the hottest Senate races in the country and for the Democratic challenger, Congressman Kendrick Meek, the Florida battle is getting tougher and tougher. A new CNN/"Time" magazine Opinion Research poll show he has just 23 percent voter support, that's nearly 20 percentage points behind his Republican opponent, Marco Rubio, and 8 percentage points behind the independent challenger, the current governor, Charlie Crist.
In a Quinnipiac University poll also out this week, voter support for Rubio has more than doubled what it is for Kendrick Meek.
Kendrick Meek is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Glad to be on the show again.
BLITZER: Walk us through your strategy, how you can overcome this huge deficit over these next four weeks?
MEEK: Well, first of all, there was a Mason-Dixon poll released on Sunday that saying we're four to five points behind the governor and we're going to -- you know, gain more strength as we move through this process.
BLITZER: The governor, but how many points behind the -- Marco Rubio -- ?
MEEK: Well, we're going to pass -- we're going to pass the governor because the governor is really sad at this particular time. I mean, just today at the "Palm Beach Post" editorial board he said if he was 20 points up in the Republican Primary, he still would have left the Republican Party.
I mean it's gotten to the point that it's sad. Even here, on this show, was the first time he said he was against --
BLITZER: So you see -- you're fighting -- because most of the time, you're spending fighting Crist as opposed to Rubio.
MEEK: Well here's --
BLITZER: Cause you're sort of dividing that Democratic vote.
MEEK: Well here's the story, I mean, there's been a lot of falsehoods told to Democratic voters in the state of Florida that the governor will stand up for them. I am the only candidate that will be able to defeat Marco Rubio. This race has turned into who can defeat a very extreme candidate.
This man got his birth from the club for large corporations -- I'm sorry, the Club for Growth that have been behind --
BLITZER: Which is a conservative organization.
MEEK: -- his campaign, the Tea Party behind his campaign. So what has to happen in the days forward is making sure that we share with Floridians the extreme views of Marco Rubio.
BLITZER: And some of those ads that you've been putting out paint him as a real conservative.
But your former colleague, Robert Wexler, a Democratic congressman from Florida, he just came out the other day and endorsed Charlie Crist saying, "Charlie Crist has repeatedly demonstrated the integrity and independence Washington needs right now to help Florida's working families through these times -- I am proud to endorse Charlie Crist for the United States Senate."
How big of a problem is when these Democrats like Robert Wexler endorse Charlie Crist?
MEEK: Not a big problem when you have the endorsement, like I have, of Ted Deutsch, who's the sitting Congressman now in that direct, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and you know -- Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor up on I-4 corridor, Alan Grayson.
When you look at the overwhelming endorsements that I have -- let's look at it. Robert Wexler went to Charlie Crist's wedding, his inauguration, said that George LeMieux was a good pick when they needed a Democrat to say that George LeMieux, who was the campaign manager of the Charlie Crist.
But here's the real issue here, Wolf, we're going to get down to the nitty-gritty on who Marco Rubio is. Marco Rubio got his birth from a very extreme group of individuals that want to privatize Social Security, that want to rollback --
BLITZER: Why is he doing so well in Florida right now in all of these polls? He's way ahead of Charlie Crist and you.
MEEK: Because Charlie Crist, he allowed him to take over the Republican Primary. He was able to go out there and raise a lot of money, he was able to get high up in the polls. Charlie Crist decided to fight me in this race for democratic votes versus fighting for the votes of Florida.
Charlie Crist has been a lifelong Republican. Marco Rubio has been a lifelong Republican. These are not backed (ph) ventures. These --
BLITZER: Have any of these Democrats asked you to drop out of this race --
MEEK: Oh, absolutely not.
BLITZER: -- and give Charlie Crist -- ? Nobody has come to you and said --
MEEK: I'm the only -- I'm the person that's nominated by hundreds of thousands of Floridians. Charlie Crist, all he did was walk down to the supervisor of elections office, became an independent out of convenience versus conviction.
What it's going to take, Wolf, to beat Marco Rubio is conviction. A, health care is a good thing. Thirty-five hundred Floridians lose their health care every week. That's a fact, that's not fiction.
When you look at the issue of offshore oil drilling, Charlie Crist will change in the wind on that issue. Marco Rubio, the oil companies are happy to have him as --
BLITZER: So in this to fight. You're fighting all the way until the end?
MEEK: Oh, let me tell you something, my faith drives me to never give up and the bottom line, I have no reason to give up. People are going to start to focus on the race, they're looking for a true fighter, someone who's going to stand up for the middle class, someone who's going to stand up to protect the state of Florida and that's me.
BLITZER: Showing some excitement and some passion. Kendrick Meek, thanks for coming in. Good luck.
MEEK: Absolutely. Thank you.
BLITZER: We have invited Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist to come in as well. We're inviting a lot of the candidates over the next four weeks to come into THE SITUATION ROOM and explain their stance. Appreciate it very much.
MEEK: I'll look forward to being back.
BLITZER: Thank you.
New hope for those 33 miners trapped thousands of feet underground. Will -- why they could be rescued even sooner than originally expected.
Plus, they just won their first division title in 15 years, now the Cincinnati Reds could be in trouble for celebrating.
BLITZER: The United States government is now publicly apologizing for research practices described as abhorrent and reprehensible. It's shocking confirmation that U.S. scientists back in the 1940s deliberately infected hundreds of people in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases. Guatemalan officials say they have accepted the apology, but still a lot of questions and outrage about what occurred.
Out senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now to explain what we know. What happened in the '40s, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is just so horrible.
In the mid-1940s, doctors were wondering about how best to use penicillin, what doses, et cetera, to treat syphilis. So what they did was that a Public Health Service -- so a doctor from the U.S. government, went down to call Guatemala and found prostitutes that were already infected with syphilis. They then arranged to have those prostitutes have sex with prisoners who were in a jail and also with patients who were in a mental institution.
When that didn't give them syphilis, what they did was that they made abrasions on the patients arms and for the men on their penises and they poured the syphilis bacteria into those abrasions.
When that didn't work, what they did is on a few patients they actually gave them spinal punctures to try to get the bacteria in that way. And then, once the patients were infected they would treat them with the penicillin.
You know, this is obviously a horrible, horrible action, completely unethical. And today, the U.S. apologized for it. Here's the statement that was from Kathleen Sebelius and Hillary Clinton. And the statement is, "We deeply regret that it happened and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices," -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elizabeth, why did it take 60 years for us to learn about this?
COHEN: You know, it's interesting. Earlier in the year, this kind of came out, nobody had really heard about it. And a woman named Susan Reverby, whose a professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she found this while doing other research, she saw some documents related to it. And it took a couple of months or it took more than a couple of months, since like January or so, the government's been reviewing it and now they've come out with this apology.
BLITZER: It's sort of sounds very similar to the so-called Tuskegee experiments that took occurred a long time ago in the South?
COHEN: There are many similarities. And in fact, the doctor that was involved in these actions in Guatemala, Dr. John Cutler, he then went on to work in Tuskegee.
One difference is that in Tuskegee, and you see the pictures here from the National Archives, they took men who were already infected with syphilis, just naturally infected, but what they did is they did not give them penicillin. They knew penicillin worked, but they chose not to give it to them so they could watch the natural course of the disease.
Now you see these pictures, they documented this whole thing at the time the Public Health Service and other doctors didn't see anything wrong with what they were doing.
BLITZER: What happens next to the victims?
COHEN: In a conference call today, members of the government who talked to us, of the U.S. government, they said that they're going to try to see if any of these folks are still alive and then move on from there about what to do.
BLITZER: A shocking, shocking story. Thanks very much, Elizabeth Cohen.
Elizabeth has a special, by the way, tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern that you're going to want to see on what you can do to become an empowered patient, 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Fredericka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf. Hello, everyone.
Well good news for those trapped Chilean miners. Officials say they may be rescued as early as mid-October. It was previously said the rescue wouldn't happen until November. The miners have been spending their time watching news and movies and exercising. The 33 men have been trapped since the mine collapsed August 5th.
And in North Carolina, some 175 people have been rescued from rising floodwaters since last night. Officials in Bertie County are describing the situation as dire. They say that the Hashi (ph) River is 16 to 17 feet above flood stage and they're evacuating people who ask for help. Quote, building after building, business after business is under water, end quote, say some officials there.
And a celebration that could be a violation. The it? Reds smoked cigars while celebrating their first division title in 15 years Tuesday night. Many players could be seen on television like right there, smoking cigars and the reds owner was seen passing them out. The problem? This violates Ohio's ban on indoor smoking. The it the health inspector has to see someone smoking, video doesn't usually affect their probe.
BLITZER: It could all come down to a single hair. A convicted child killer tries to prove he's innocent two decades later. New information coming in.
And a new discovery reveals the path drug smugglers are taking across the southern border. The power and versatility
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, deadly chaos in Pakistan as NATO supply trucks headed for Afghanistan from Pakistan come under explosive attack.
Plus, it's been almost two years since a massive terror siege in Mumbai, India killed more than 100 people. Now there are serious fears it could happen right here in the United States. We're going to show you what New York City is doing to prepare.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, let's go to Arkansas where right now a man convicted two decades ago of a brutal child murder is waiting for a new verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court reviewing whether he and two other men should get a new trial.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more on this gut-wrenching case.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With tales of brutal satanic rituals, the murders of three boys have haunted West Memphis for 17 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We the jury find Damian Echols guilty of capital murder.
FEYERICK: Now the story continues, possibly turning on a hair like this found at the grisly crime scene.
(on camera): What is it that you hope that you get from the Arkansas Supreme Court?
DAMIAN ECHOLS, ON DEATH ROW: What I want is a new trial. I want to go back in front of a jury and in front of the state of Arkansas and present all of the evidence that we have now and show where the mistakes were made during the original trial. I want to be vindicated in front of everyone.
FEYERICK (voice-over): We meet Damian Echols at the supermax prison about an hour's drive south of Little Rock, Arkansas. He's almost 36 and has spent half his life on death row. Two friends also convicted of the murders are serving life sentences.
(on camera): You were asked at the trial did you kill Christopher Buyers and your was then?
FEYERICK: And your answer is now?
ECHOLS: No, absolutely not.
FEYERICK: Michael Moore?
ECHOLS: No, absolutely not. Even though it's been 20 years, you never get used to being asked that. It's the kind of thing that screws with your head for the rest of your life, to have people that constantly ask you that question, it's like being kicked in the stomach over and over and over again.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Chris, Michael, Stevie, best friends found naked in the woods where they played, their hands and feet hog- tied with their own shoelaces.
(on camera): Those sterile images of those little boys down by the creek, how did those images affect you?
ECHOLS: I didn't see those all the up until -- it was during the trial. So it was still sort of abstract to me. They were just names. That's when it really hit me and it does something to you when you see something like that, it cracks you inside.
FEYERICK (voice-over): After the boys were discovered here, police searched the area, and yet they found no physical evidence linking Damian Echols and his two friends to the crime scene. There was no DNA, no fingerprints, nothing even suggesting a satanic ritual which prosecutors allege was the motive for the murder.
Since being convicted, all three have maintained their innocence. Police and prosecutors stand by their case saying the convictions speak for themselves. Echols' defense team claims it has new information pointing to someone else. That has in many this small Midwestern town questioning whether the verdict may have been wrong.
ECHOLS: We have come up with a lot of evidence now that wasn't available at the time I went to trial.
FEYERICK: For Damian Echols, life or death now could come down to a single hair found in the shoelaces used to tie up one of the boys. DNA testing suggests the hair could belong to the stepfather of another victim Stevie Branch. The stepfather Terry Hobbs has denied involvement. Police have closed the case and did not consider him a suspect.
(on camera): Why would police come to you? What was your alibi?
ECHOLS: I didn't fit in the town where I lived. I only dressed in black. I had, you know, pretty outrageous hairstyles.
At the time that the police say the murders took place, I was actually on the phone with three different people. The problem was the attorneys I had at the time, the public defenders never even called them to the witness stand. Never even ask them about this kind of stuff.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The Arkansas attorney general now on the case now tells us, "We take the utmost care in handling the appeals of death sentences handed down by Arkansas jurors. We're committed to fairness and justice." The family of one of the victims is among those who believe justice was done.
(on camera): Is it just enough for you to be found innocent or do you need for somebody to be found guilty?
ECHOLS: I guess I don't absolutely need it, I'll survive without them finally putting someone else on trial for this. But it would be a tremendous sense of closure for me. If they don't, then you're always going to have people looking at you, wondering.
FEYERICK: It's a loose end.
ECHOLS: Yes, it is. FEYERICK (voice-over): A loose end, possibly tied up Echols hopes if he is granted a new trial.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, West Memphis, Arkansas.
BLITZER: What a story. The future of hundreds of NASA workers now up in the air after what happened to them today.
And a disturbing discovery in the deadly fight against drugs on the border with Mexico.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is back, she's monitoring some of the top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Welcome back, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Hello, again, Wolf. Hello, everyone.
More than 1,200 NASA workers were laid off today and there are more layoffs to come. Almost 9,000 NASA employees in total will lose their jobs as the shuttle program comes to an end. It's expected to be a difficult transition for many of them since they have such specialized skills. One expert describes these NASA employees looking for work like, quote, deer in the headlights.
Officials have discovered a new suspected drug tunnel along the Arizona border. The tunnel measures two feet by two feet. It runs 50 feet into Mexico. The discovery was made the same day another tunnel was sealed with concrete. According to the government six tunnels were found near Tucson so far this year. In 2009, 20 tunnels were found.
And get a load of this, ATMs that dispense gold instead of cash will debut in the U.S. next month. The company, Gold to Go, says the first two machines will be located in a Las Vegas casino and a Florida resort town. There are already 20 of these gold ATMs worldwide. They have become popular amid worries about global currencies. Gold now costs a record of more than $1,300 an ounce -- Wolf.
BLITZER: When people are worried they buy gold and a lot of people are buying gold right now, as a result the price keeps going up and up. We'll see if that's a good investment.
WHITFIELD: I'm laughing at that big clunking sound as that ounce of gold is dispensed from the machine. Then what do you do with it? Do you put it in your handbag?
BLITZER: You put it in your safety deposit box.
President Obama tears a page from his 2008 campaign playbook, can he once again rely on younger voters to get Democrats elected?
Plus is Pakistan shutting down a vital supply route for U.S. troops into Afghanistan? I'll ask the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. He's standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Obama is feeling the pressure to deliver votes for Democrats as he party struggles to hold onto power this November. Now he's turning to his 2008 campaign play book and the group that fueled his victory to try to do it.
Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is here in THE SITUATION ROOM getting some new details. What's going on Dan? What are you learning?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The group we're talking about is these younger voters that played such a crucial role in getting President Obama elected. That's why you saw this week the White House pushing hard to get young people energized believing they can again make a difference in the midterm elections. Well, what a difference a couple of years can make.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): This hip, energy filled loud music craving crowd is once again feeling the love from President Obama.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Wisconsin!
LOTHIAN: This week, a massive rally at the University of Wisconsin. a conference call with college journalists, and a 40 and under DNC event to pump them up for the midterm elections.
OBAMA: The biggest mistake we could make is to let impatience or frustration lead to apathy and indifference. Because that guarantees the other side wins.
LOTHIAN: But some of those frustrated young voters wondered why it took a midterm election to get the president's undivided attention again.
HEATHER SMITH, PRES., ROCK THE VOTE: It's like you go out on a really great first date, right, and it was awesome. And you sat there and waited for the text message back and two years later, it comes and you think to yourself, where have you been? And you still go out with him the second time, and maybe this time there's a little more skepticism, it's a little less sexy.
LOTHIAN: The sales job was much easier during the presidential campaign when young people like then college student Matt Miller were flushed with hope and enthusiasm.
MATT MILLER, YOUNG VOTER: He seemed very passionate and energetic. LOTHIAN: During an Obama rally at his University of Maryland campus in 2008, Miller who was studying to enter the medical profession thought the future looked bright. But two years later, he's working a part-time job outside of his field in a still struggling economy. And so many promises, he says, are stuck on Capitol Hill.
MILLER: I personally voted for Obama hoping that he would help alleviate some of those situations, but it almost seems that the partisanship battles are increasing in intensity within Congress and a lot of progress is being halted because of that.
LOTHIAN: Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, says while some people might be cynical, most are optimistic. Matt Miller isn't ready to throw out the Democrats despite the frustration.
MILLER: I'm not feeling as strong as I was before about the current administration, but on the other side of the aisle, it's only getting more extreme, away from the direction that I want to go as a voter.
LOTHIAN: The Gallup poll out today shows that Democrats have made some gains among those young voters 18 to 29, it's up nine points from last august.
But, Wolf, it's down from what we saw higher numbers early in the summer. The bottom line here is that Democrats want to get young people excited and they're hoping that they'll go out to the polls on Election Day.
BLITZER: It's a big hope, because if they don't they're going to be in even more trouble. Thanks very much for that.
A surprising flash back to the era of slavery. We're going to tell you why President Obama went there and the message he was hoping to send. Paul Begala and Ed Rollins are both standing by live for our strategy session.
And fuel, fire and chaos, what's going on in Pakistan right now? And what will it mean for U.S. troops and the war on terror?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now is not the time to give up. We have been through worse as a nation, we have come out stronger from war to aggression, to the great struggles for equal rights and civil rights. It took time to free the slaves, it took time for women to get the vote, it took time for workers to get the right to organize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, that's a new line coming from the president. Let's talk about it in our strategy session with our two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Ed Rollins.
What do you make of this, Paul, the president talking about union workers life and slavery?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's Barack Obama at his best. These are tough times. They're terrible times but a leader has to be hopeful, very difficult to do. And this is an important shift, he's not saying we did a great job, give us a gold star, America, things are really great. Instead, he's saying these are very difficult times but we can do this because we have come through other difficult times in our history.
And finally, our president, the Democrats have found the perfect pitch and this is Barack Obama at his best. I was happy to hear it.
BLITZER: He did it with young people at the University of Wisconsin the other night. Last night here in Washington in this group for young people.
What do you think about this new strategy?
ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's an irrelevant message. I think slavery was a great scar on our constitution 150 years ago, as was civil rights and as what not letting women vote but right now it's all jobs and the economy and he's not talking about that and I think to a certain extent it's a message that's not going to be well heard.
I don't think it's going to energize young people and it's certainly not going to energize African-Americans. I think the bottom line today is this president needs to basically say electing Democrats will help us get the economy better and he's not giving us any reason to do that.
BLITZER: What I heard from one strategist this week, Paul, tell me if this is good advice for the president or bad advice, don't waste your time energizing the young people because they're not going to vote in midterm elections anyhow. You need to waste time energize the old people and the middle aged people because they're the ones who show up in midterm elections, not the youth.
BEGALA: Well, you cannot leave anybody behind. Although the way I think to motivate them, this is very different from '08 particularly young people. You saw that piece that Dan did. It was a good piece of reporting by the way.
It's exactly what I'm hearing across the country. Young people were so inspired by all that hope and change in '08, and they are not now. Well in the art of war, 6th century B.C. said, if we want to inspire our troops to kill the enemy, we must arouse in them the feeling of anger. Right? He didn't say hope and change, he said anger.
Guess what, everybody's angry. Young people are angry, middle aged people are angry, old people are angry and he needs to direct that anger to those Republicans and that's what will unite the base and the swing voters and fire them up. This is not a hope and change election, Mr. President, but it is fear and loathing election so go attack those Republicans.
BLITZER: Speaking of Republicans, Ed, I got this letter at home the other day and I'll share some of it with you and our viewers. It's a letter from Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for Senate from Nevada and it is addressed to me personally and says official Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against Harry Reid as the official Republican nominee running against Harry Reid, I need your help.
I was surprised she was writing to me. And I opened up the letter, but not only a letter, but a little post it Wolf Blitzer, I need your help to defeat Harry Reid. Dear Wolf Blitzer, if you are the Republican that I have been told you are, then I need to find your checkbook right now. And she goes on the say, why.
She is the official Republican nominee to defeat Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and little envelope, and is this smart to send out mass mailings to folks outside of Nevada?
ROLLINS: It is smart if you put in a $1,000 check and send it off to them but I'm sure you won't.
BLITZER: Well, she said I could send $25 or $35 or if I wanted to, I could send her $2,400, and she would be grateful for that as well.
ROLLINS: Well, we are happy with any amount as Paul will attest to. Direct mail if you have given and I assume being the nonpartisan you are, you are not a contributor to either party and they buy your name from some list from somewhere and mail it to you.
And we are happy to have you come join us and contribute to Mrs. Angle, but at the end of the day please don't think it is a personal letter to you, but hundreds of thousands of people across the country who are going to fund a campaign against Harry Reid, and make it a tough race which it is.
BLITZER: Although Paul she did have a little yellow post-it note which says Wolf Blitzer, I need your help to defeat Harry Reid.
BEGALA: Well, she should have sent that to FOX News, because they are in the business of giving money to Republicans but I know you're not. My guess is she bought it from a list that you donated to a charity that is nonpartisan, but this is wise for her.
She needs to go outside of Nevada to defeat him, because frankly she is taking positions in Nevada that are just against her state's interests. Setting partisanship aside, she has said she wants Nevada to be America's nuclear waste depository in Yucca Mountain.
Republicans and Democrats for a generation have opposed that. She has a very anti-Nevada view on that. And then she famously said when Harry Reid stepped in to save all those jobs in the city center, she said it is not my job to save jobs here in Nevada. Well that's pretty anti-Nevada. So she has to go to the rich precincts like where you live to raise money, because she has a terrible record in her own state.
BLITZER: We've invited Sharron Angle. Go ahead.
ROLLINS: Well, we will take your money or Paul's money to get rid of Harry Reid. I will take the money I will win off of Paul, and Paul and I have a bet on Texas and Oklahoma tomorrow, and not that they are both red states and we bet a dinner and $100 contribution that he can send to Sharron Angle if he loses.
BEGALA: I cannot do that. I cannot wait to eat the steak that Rollins is going to buy me, because Texas will redeem themselves. And beat Oklahoma. Hook 'em horns.
BLITZER: We have to go. I've invited Sharron Angle and Harry Reid to come on the show. So far we have received two nos, but maybe they will change their mind. Thank you, both.
The heated race for New York governor gets uglier if you can imagine. You're going to hear how the Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo is now responding to claims he had an extramarital affair.
And could the deadly 2008 terrorist attack that happened in Mumbai, India happen right here in the United States? We will show you what one U.S. city is now doing to prepare.
BLITZER: For the second time, a big political donation has raised some questions about journalistic objectivity of the parent company of FOX News. Politico.com reporting that the News Corporation contributed $1 million over the summer to the U.S. chamber of commerce which heavily supports Republican efforts to retake Congress in November.
It is not unusual for a media company to donate to political parties or campaigns, but what is unusual is the lump sum, the lump sum amount that News Corporation donated.
Time Warner, by the way, our parent company of CNN has donated smaller amounts to both Democratic and Republican organizations.
But we will talk about this with Howard Kurtz. He's the media writer for the "Washington Post," the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." What do you make of this, Howie?
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, Wolf, you gave a caveat which is that major media corporations do this and it does not necessarily cast dispersions amongst journalists, but Rupert Murdoch is a savvy guy. They had to know that by putting out the seven figure donations to the Republican governors and now the chamber of commerce, they would reinforce the criticism out there that FOX News is somehow alive or in the pocket of the GOP. BLITZER: But there is other, Time Warner and General Electric, which is the parent company of NBC, they give a lot of money as well, but what you are saying is that not necessarily as a lump sum, is that what you are seeing and hearing?
KURTZ: Nothing approaching a $1 million lump sum. Although, New Corp. has contributed to some Democratic groups and candidates in the past, this is so unbalanced for the fair and balanced network to give $2 million to in one case Republican Party. And in another case a business lobby that works closely with the Republican Party at a time when President Obama, as you know just the other day, criticized FOX News for having a destructive point of view, this does create the perception problem, even though it is the parent company and not the journalists, and not the news executives creating the perception problem that FOX is somehow pro-Republican.
BLITZER: At the same time Rupert Murdoch testified this week before Congress and in effect supported amnesty for some illegal immigrants which goes against a lot of the Republican-conservative base.
KURTZ: And he was not as funny as Stephen Colbert testifying before the state House committee on the same subject the other day. But it is interesting because Rupert who grew up in Australia feels strongly about immigration, but he was hammer by some of the Democratic members of the committee of what they see as anti-immigrant views that are promoted or featured on FOX News.
And Murdoch said, we are open to all points of view and at FOX News, we are not delivering one point of view, and he wanted to deliver a message on Capitol Hill, but it was undermined by the news organization he owns.
BLITZER: Howard Kurtz, thanks very much for that. This programming note to our viewers, you can join Howie every Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. eastern where he hosts CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."