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THE SITUATION ROOM
NPR Commentator Fired for Muslim Remark; Californians Consider Legalizing Marijuana; Popular Costumes Ripped from Headlines
Aired October 21, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meanwhile, Snyder is sticking to his strategy and projecting confidence.
RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Let's be proud of what we accomplish. Let's learn our lessons. Let's move the talent we have and take it into this new era with a positive attitude.
SNOW: What helped Snyder in Michigan, the state has an open primary. He beat four conservatives because he had the backing of Democrats and independents. It is those voters, analysts say, that are still with him in the general election -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Mary Snow, thank you.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Rand Paul defends his Christian faith. In a CNN interview, the Kentucky Republican slams his Democratic rival over that Aqua Buddha attack ad.
NPR fires longtime analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims on FOX News. Did he really say anything wrong?
And did President Bill Clinton really lose the top-secret nuclear attack codes for months? A former Joint Chiefs chairman calls it a really big deal.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul is strongly defending his Christian faith and slamming his Democratic rival, Jack Conway. It is all about that Aqua Buddha attack ad that has gone viral -- you know the one -- accusing Paul of once belonging to a student group that mocked Christianity.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JACK CONWAY CAMPAIGN AD)
JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Jack Conway. I approve this image. NARRATOR: Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a hoax, that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ?
Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol, and say his god was Aqua Buddha?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Today, CNN's Jim Acosta caught up with Rand Paul and asked him about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said inside your press conference that the allegations in that Aqua Buddha ad as it is being called are untrue. Are you considering taking legal action against Mr. Conway or are you thinking about asking the stations in Kentucky to stop running the ad?
RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the thing is, is in our country, candidates can say anything they want. There are no limitations on what a candidate can say.
I think there is some social decorum that people should adhere who want to have good public discourse, and it makes it really kind of crummy to attack a man's religion. And in my entire life, I have written and said a lot of things, but I have never written or said anything un-Christian in my life.
And for him to accuse me of that I think is just inappropriate. And he really ought to be ashamed of himself. But I think people do want to hear about the issues, though. People are concerned about the federal takeover of health care. They're concerned about the debt. They're concerned about taxes, jobs, the economy.
But I don't think they are really so concerned about or want to talk about one man's accusations of another man's religion.
ACOSTA: And to set the record straight once and for all, you are saying that what was said in that ad is untrue?
ACOSTA: All of it?
And let me ask you just a couple other things about some of the issues that are out there, because there are a lot of issues. You know, you have a lot of independents, a lot of undecideds who may be trying to make up their mind here at the last minute in this campaign who may look back at some of the statements that you have made about the Civil Rights Act and Americans With Disabilities Act and... PAUL: Well, I think what they will look at is what I have been running on for a year-and-a-half.
And I talk about we need to have a balanced budget amendment, we need to have term limits. We need to have them read the bills before we vote on them. That is what I am running on. If you have watched my speeches -- I have given thousands of speeches -- the people who have tried to characterize me as something else are the ones talking about those issues.
PAUL: No one else is talking about those issues. We are talking about the economy, that we have 10 percent unemployment, that the way you create jobs is keeping money in Kentucky and not sending it to Washington.
ACOSTA: Have your views evolved on those issues?
PAUL: They have been misrepresented on those issues, but...
ACOSTA: How about the FairTax? Because that has been talked about in the last couple of weeks a little bit. Can I just ask you about that?
PAUL: We can do one more on that.
Basically, what I would say is that I have always been talking about that it's spending is the problem, not revenue. We spend more than we take in. The deficit is a big problem. It's the number-one problem we face in our country and we have to rein in spending.
As far as what type of tax reform we have, I really haven't gone into the details of what tax reform I am for. I would...
ACOSTA: You once said that you supported that kind of tax, correct?
PAUL: Well, I have always said that I support any tax reform that lowers taxes on everyone -- and so that is sort of the rule of thumb that would have to be -- and that simplifies the tax code. There are various ways to do that. That might be one of the alternatives. So would a flatter income tax.
ACOSTA: And so a national sales tax is on the table, as far as you're concerned?
PAUL: We need to just talk about tax simplification.
But our real problem is, we need to talk about reducing spending as the first thing we have to do. Thanks.
ACOSTA: OK. All right. All right. Thanks. Thanks for your time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And Jim Acosta is joining us now from Louisville, Kentucky.
This ad, is it having a big effect on the race based on what you are seeing there in Kentucky, Jim?
Dr. Paul had a press conference today. He tried to talk about taxes. The entire press conference was about the Aqua Buddha ad essentially and what Paul said at that press conference is that he is so fired up over the controversy he may drop out of this debate that is scheduled between he and Jack Conway coming up on Monday. And Paul says he will have a definitive answer on that tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: Is the Conway campaign standing by this ad?
ACOSTA: It is standing by the ad.
I had a chance to talk to Jack Conway yesterday about this and he says he is standing by the ad. He defends it. He says he personally approved the ad before it went on the air. But he says he is going to let it run its course. He's going to retire the ad as soon as it is finished running in its slots across the state and then he's going to move on to other issues.
One of the issues that he wants to move on to is this issue of a national sales tax or as conservatives call it a FairTax. And you heard Dr. Paul talk about that at the end of that interview, and we will have more on that in our piece tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent work. Good work catching up with Rand Paul.
We have invited him repeatedly to come on THE SITUATION ROOM. You caught up with him in Kentucky. We appreciate it, Jim Acosta.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get to the breaking news out of the Pentagon right now, the Pentagon issuing new rules on the issues of gays serving openly in the United States military.
Now, any discharges under the so-called don't ask, don't tell policy will have to be dealt with a very limited number of top officials.
Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. Tell our viewers what is going on, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Bottom line, Wolf, out of the 1.3 million members of the U.S. military, now only three men have the power to kick someone out for being gay.
This memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the heads of the services basically says the secretary of the Army, the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of the Air Force are the only ones who can process someone out under don't ask, don't tell and before they do so, they have got to consult not only with an undersecretary of defense, but the Pentagon's top lawyer as well.
Now, the Pentagon -- the senior officials here have been very outspoken about saying that they want don't ask, don't tell repealed, but they want that to happen through an act of Congress. But senior officials are now hinting that the Pentagon is preparing at least for the possibility that change could come through the U.S. courts.
One senior Defense Department attorney said, we are now planning for multiple scenarios. Now, what this memo doesn't cover are those service members who were discharged under don't ask, don't tell, but during that one-week window when the law went away, they came back and started the process to try to reenlist.
I spoke with one former sailor who says he is furious with President Obama, because it is his Justice Department that keeps going back to court again and again to try to keep don't ask, don't tell on the books.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAR LOPEZ, DISCHARGED UNDER DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL: I am truly disappointed because when he was running and campaigning, I was pro- Obama and everything like that. Now this is not a Bill Clinton administration law. Now it has turned into his law, because he is pushing against it of lifting it and taking his sweet time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: Now, the voice that you don't hear -- knowing that the top brass wants don't ask, don't tell repealed, you are not going to hear a lot of troops getting out on national TV waving their hands and saying, look, I support it don't ask, don't tell, I don't want the law repealed.
But I can tell you from firsthand experience I have talked to a lot of them. A lot of them say they resent being called bigots because they support the policy and they genuinely believe that repealing don't ask, don't tell will lower some of the camaraderie inside the units -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sensitive story that keeps changing almost on a daily basis. We will stay on top of it with you, Chris. Thanks very much.
Could we have been a step closer to doomsday a decade ago without even knowing it or maybe a mishap by the Clinton White House made a nuclear doomsday a more remote possibility?
A retired top U.S. general says the Clinton administration once lost, lost the top-secret nuclear attack codes.
Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM looking into this for us.
Tell our viewers what we have discovered?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's all in this book by General Hugh Shelton, Wolf. You know him, a former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is a legendary component of U.S. national security, as you well know, Wolf, the so-called nuclear codes, widely reported as a card with numbers on it that allows the president to get into a reinforced briefcase called the football.
An aide to the president is always with him, always carries that briefcase. Inside that are instructions for launching a nuclear attack, so that card with the nuclear codes on it is also supposed to be with the president at all times.
Now, General Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just out with this new memoir. In this book, he says during the Clinton administration around the year 2000, an aide to President Clinton lost the nuclear codes -- quote -- "The codes were actually missing for months. This is a big deal, a gargantuan deal. And we dodged a silver bullet."
General Shelton says, nothing happened, but it was very unsettling, Wolf, and they were -- well, you can imagine the internal discussions that went on in that White House.
BLITZER: He goes into detail on how the so-called protocol broke down.
TODD: That's right.
He writes that a Defense Department official is supposed to go to the White House once a month and look at the codes to make sure they are correct. They change the codes every four months. Well, Shelton says around the year 200, when the Pentagon official went to the White House to view the codes, he was told President Clinton was in an urgent meeting and couldn't be disturbed, but he was assured everything is OK with the codes.
The following month, according to Shelton, another Pentagon code checker went to the White House and was told the same thing. Sorry, the president is in a meeting, but everything is great with the codes. Shelton writes that it was not until the time came to replace that set of codes with a new one that they were told that the White House aide responsible for them had no idea where the old ones were because they had been missing for months.
Shelton does not name that aide. He also writes that all this happened very likely without President Clinton's knowledge. We have called and e-mailed a spokesman for President Clinton for response. We have not heard back yet, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just want to be precise, though. If someone had found those nuclear codes, it does not mean that someone could have launched a nuclear missile.
TODD: No, it is not like you can come upon it on the street and say, hey, look at this and let's get into this.
I talked to Fran Townsend about this. She is our national security contributor who was President Bush's chief of homeland security. She obviously could not give any classified details on how all of this works. But she said it is a multilayered system to get into that suitcase and execute a launch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Even if you just had a piece that was required, it would be very difficult for one person to execute the command-and-control of this thing. And that is why I just don't -- I don't think that we need to be -- I mean, there are plenty of things to be concerned about.
I just find it difficult to imagine somebody could execute this thing if they found a piece to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: General Shelton writes that after that incident with the Clinton aide, they changed the protocol. When a Pentagon official goes to the White House to check the codes each month, they have to physically be able to see those codes, whether the president is in a meeting or not. Get him out of that meeting. I have got to see those codes.
BLITZER: I don't think there is a whole lot of stuff more important than those nuclear codes. PAUL: No. Right.
BLITZER: All right, thanks, Brian. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Neck-and-neck and getting nastier by the minute. We are taking a close look at the Senate race in Nevada right now.
And the NPR -- NPR, I should say, fires liberal analyst Juan Williams over remarks about Muslims. Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett, they are standing by for that.
And Halloween costumes inspired by headlines, Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual."
BLITZER: It is one of the most closely watched political races of this season. In Nevada, the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate is running neck-and-neck with a Tea Party candidate who shuns the media.
The latest political ads are getting very, very nasty.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is checking out the ads for us.
When I use the word nasty, I really mean it.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It really is, Wolf, probably the nastiest race in the country, and it's getting even meaner.
First, let's look at Sharron Angle's ad. That's the Tea Party Republican resurrecting a line of attack she used in her debate, where she called out Harry Reid. He called this a low-blow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: How did Harry Reid get so wealthy on a public servant's income?
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I did a good job of investing.
NARRATOR: Really? Like the shady deal where Reid made an astronomical $1 million doing nothing? The truth is, Reid is now worth up to $6 million and lives in a $1 million Washington Ritz- Carlton condo. But what is he telling struggling Nevada families?
REID: I have been on a fixed income since I went to Washington.
NARRATOR: Harry Reid, another multimillionaire just trying to make ends meet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: OK, the fact-check on that one, Reid earned his money as a lawyer. The way he lives in Nevada is not fancy. He is the only non-trailer in a town called Searchlight, Nevada.
Now, he does live at a condo in the Ritz-Carlton condos here. That happen to be a very popular building in town. California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has a place at the Ritz, too.
Now, the shady deal, that seems to refer to an instance of bad paperwork, where it looked like Reid made money off of a piece of property he did not own. It turns out he did own it, but the paperwork was very confusing. He fixed that, went through the Ethics Committee. They said all cool.
The Reid campaign told us in a statement -- quote -- "The claims made here are particularly egregious, even for her. Their claim that Reid made money on land he didn't own is complete and total rubbish" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the Reid supporters are also on the offensive going after Sharron Angle.
YELLIN: Yes. Mean isn't held over to one side or the other. Both sides are going at it.
This one is an ad by the SEIU, a union that supports Harry Reid. This is not paid for by the Reid campaign. Now, this one targets women voters who Democrats believe are the key to winning in November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Sharron Angle's dangerous ideas will make her life worse at every stage. If she was raped and got pregnant, Angle would force her to have the baby, her college loans ended. If she is looking for work, it's tough luck with Sharron Angle. At retirement, her Social Security phased out.
At every stage, it would be worse for her, worse for all of us. Sharron Angle, too dangerous to have real power over real people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: All right. That was an ad by the SEIU. We should be clear about that.
The fact-check, they say force her to have a baby, well, that's because Angle opposes abortion in all instances. They claim no college loans. Well, Angle has said she would like to defund the Department of Education. If that happened, it would eliminate hundreds of millions in college loans. But electing her to the Senate won't, on its own, end the Department of Education.
She wants to move education to a local level. She does oppose unemployment benefits and she used to say she would phase out Social Security, but she now says she sees that differently.
And Angle's campaign responded to this ad saying: "Thanks to Harry Reid, Nevada's public schools are ranked among the worst. And recent college graduates cannot find work because the state faces the highest unemployment rate in the country."
They end by saying, "Harry Reid's power is already devastating Nevadans of all ages, which is why he is losing to Sharron Angle."
You know, Wolf, it is really pretty nasty there, but I think that is the nastiest race, until I visit another state. It is all pretty mean this season.
BLITZER: Go to Kentucky. That Aqua Buddha ad is pretty tough, too.
BLITZER: But you saw Jim Acosta. He caught up with Rand Paul. So, maybe we can get a little contest. Which is the nastiest race?
YELLIN: (SPEAKING SPANISH) nasty? (LAUGHTER)
BLITZER: Nastiness, right. All right. Thanks very much.
Protests turned violent in France. The government there wants to raise the retirement age. We are going to give you the details.
And voters in California will soon decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, but, according to some people, guess what? It is all but legal already.
BLITZER: While so many Americans wonder if they will ever be able to retire, French citizens are out on the streets protesting their government's plan to raise retirement -- get this -- from age 60 to age 62.
Strikes and protests have led to fuel shortages, transportation delays and sometimes violence.
CNN's Phil Black is in Paris.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are standing at what is essentially the end result of the latest very public, very display of anger on the streets of Paris.
Just behind me here is a row of plainclothes police officers and behind them several rows deep lines of riot police. They all effectively came into action towards the end of this march, which was largely peaceful, 4,000 people marching through Paris.
But at the end, some of the protesters began to confront police. Some destroyed some of the property, broke a few windows. Then the police came into action. The plainclothes police came out of hiding, made arrests, start using pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
This is, as I say, just the latest of these protests here in Paris. They have become something of a regular sight over the last few days, both in the city, the suburbs, and beyond as well, the cities and towns across France, where rallies, protests, strikes, blockades of key pieces of infrastructure have gone on in an unpredictable, rolling campaign against the government's pension reforms to increase the retirement age here by two years.
The French people are broadly very angry and against the idea. And the people who have been leading the campaign, the union leaders and so forth, they say that even if the Senate does vote this into law effectively in the coming days, these sorts of protests across the country are going to continue -- back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Black in Paris. We will stay on top of this story.
He made some ill-advised comments about Muslims and terrorism. Did he, though? NPR has fired the analyst Juan Williams for the words that he uttered. Did he really go too far, though?
BLITZER: Veteran Washington journalist Juan Williams has been fired by National Public Radio after comments he made on a FOX News show about Muslims and terrorism.
Williams, who is also a FOX News analyst, spoke to Bill O'Reilly on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Monday. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR")
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: But I think you are right.
I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralyses, where you don't address reality.
I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I have written about the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb, and I think they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.
Now, I remember also that, when the Times Square bomber was at court -- I think this was just last week -- he said, the war with Muslims, America's war with Muslims is just beginning, the first drop of blood. I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts.
But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all, as President Bush did after 9/11, it is not a war against Islam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, quickly raised objections following what Juan Williams said.
They issued this statement. I will read it: "NPR should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats. Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic, or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR."
NPR followed that by firing Williams. It issued a statement saying -- and I'm quoting now from that statement from NPR -- "Williams' remarks "were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
Juan Williams was back on FOX today, giving his side of the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Wednesday afternoon, I got a message on my cell phone from Ellen Weiss, who's the head of news at NPR, asking me to call. When I called back she said: "What did you say? What did you mean to say?"
And I said, "I said what I meant to say," which is that it's an honest experience that, when I'm in an airport and I see people who are in Muslim garb, who identify themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I do a double-take. I have a moment of anxiety or fear, given what happened on 9/11.
That's just the reality. And she went on to say, "Well, that crosses the line."
And I said, "What line is that?"
And she went on to somehow suggest that I had made a bigoted statement.
And I said, "That's not a bigoted statement." In fact, in the course of this conversation with Bill O'Reilly said that we have, as Americans, an obligation to be careful to protect constitutional rights of everyone in the country and to make sure we don't have any outbreak of bigotry, but that there's a reality that you cannot ignore what happened on 9/11, and you cannot ignore the connection to Islamic radicalism, and you can't ignore the fact that what has recently been said in court with regard to this is the first drop of blood in the Muslim war on America.
And then she said, you know, "This has been decided up the chain."
I said, "You mean, I don't even get the chance to come in and we do this eyeball to eyeball, person to person, have a conversation? I've been here for more than ten years. We don't have that chance to have a conversation about this?"
And she said, "There's nothing you can say that will change my mind. This has been decided above me, and we're terminating your contract."
BLITZER: This firing has caused a huge uproar. Some conservative politicians and pundits are accusing NPR of censorship and demanding an investigation into NPR's federal funding.
All right. Let's get right to the discussion. Joining us are two CNN contributors: the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the national radio talk show host Bill Bennett.
Was NPR, Bill, justified in firing Juan Williams? BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so. And by the way, it's more than conservatives who are objecting to this. I heard from a lot of liberals today on my radio show about this. What's the standard at NPR? What exactly is the standard for firing? That's what I'd like to know.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They, as someone who has worked with NPR as a contributor, they have very strict standards for all of their commentators and their contributors. And just recently, they issued a statement saying that, if you're an NPR employee, you should not attend the Jon Stewart rally as an NPR employee. So, look, this is a firing...
BLITZER: But what of the speech standards? Let me play -- what are the speech standards?
BRAZILE: I don't know if this is a firing offense, Wolf, but maybe there is something -- there is something else at play here that we don't know about.
BLITZER: That's what NPR is now suggesting. Here's Vivian Schiller. She was in Atlanta today, speaking at a press club there in Atlanta. She's the CEO of NPR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVIAN SCHILLER, CEO, NPR: There have been several incidents over the years where Juan has strayed from that line, and we have had discussions with him. We have asked him not to do it again. This is -- it's not the first time, quite honestly.
But we made a decision that really, quite honestly, at this point, after several cases of -- of him veering from those journalistic ethics that, in this case, we decided that we should -- that he could no longer, that is that his integrity as a news analyst has been undermined by the fact that he has expressed these very divisive views, and those two things are not compatible.
Juan feels the way he feels. That is not for me to judge -- to pass judgment on. That is really his feelings that he expressed on FOX News are really between him and his, you know, psychiatrist or his publicist or take your pick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRAZILE: Juan Williams is no bigot. Juan -- Juan Williams is one of the most sensitive people I know about race, discussions of racism, bigotry and everything else in this country. He's written a wonderful book that has educated this country on these issues over the years.
I'm sorry to see this happen to Juan. And I would -- I would have hoped that NPR would have allowed Juan to face the public, face the music, face his listeners, because there are a lot of people out there who listen to Juan Williams. BLITZER: I think a lot of us who have watched the Juan Williams' NPR/FOX News relationship over the years can't help but come to the conclusion that NPR hated the idea that he was working for FOX News.
BENNETT: I think it's absolutely true. I mean, I think they hate the fact that he's there. I think they hate the fact that Marle Ise (ph) is there. I doubt if they object to you being on CNN, but I think they hate the fact that Juan is on FOX. And I think this may be behind it.
But I mean, for him to report his psychological state of mind, which is not a horribly unusual state of mind -- this goes through the minds of a lot of people because of 9/11 and the impact -- doesn't suggest that anybody should get off the plane, doesn't suggest anybody should be searched, just you say, "Oh, my goodness, I have a little anxiety." A lot of people feel that.
But what is the standard that NPR is using? I mean, there are a lot of cases in the past. You remember the Nina Totenberg case, where she said, remember, if there were justice in the world, Jesse Helm's grandchildren would get AIDS. You talk about offensive. That's offensive.
I think he's on the wrong side politically.
BRAZILE: NPR has a lot of members of the far right, conservatives on the show. I've been on the show with a number of individuals. I don't think that's the issue. I really do believe that -- that Juan Williams should have been allowed an opportunity to explain his views and what he was trying to say.
BLITZER: So you disagree with NPR, given that you've worked for NPR over the years?
BRAZILE: I don't believe...
BLITZER: And she does. I made the point, Donna, you still work for NPR. You occasionally go on there, and you get paid for that.
BLITZER: But the point is you think NPR made a mistake or not?
BRAZILE: I think NPR should have allowed Juan to go on one "Morning Edition" or one of the shows, "All Things Considered," and if -- if they felt his remarks were offensive or bigoted, I don't -- I felt Juan tried to put it in the right context. But I wish that Juan would have had an opportunity to explain it, and we might hear more about what was really behind the firing.
BENNETT: But you see, I think he explained it in the context of the interview. That set up, by the way, was very good. I think you all did very fair and then that spun it to our comments. He was on there with O'Reilly, saying, "Bill, you've got to tamp down your rhetoric. You know, you can't just think every, you know, Muslim is a terrorist" and so on, which I think is a misrepresentation of O'Reilly's view, but he was trying to be a moderating influence. The context of a person's remarks obviously matter.
BRAZILE: But he should also be sensitive, because for many years, people when they saw blacks, they got nervous, and they said, "Is that black person going to rob me?" So I think there's a sensitivity, and it should not be wrapped in political correctness. We should have these conversations. We should be able to discuss this.
BENNETT: And not shut off the conversation.
BLITZER: Are you part of that group that now thinks the small percentage of funds that NPR gets indirectly through grants from the federal government should be cut off?
BENNETT: Oh, I've always thought so. I think this is a very dangerous precedent. I mean, it's a very dangerous situation. You've got a radio and TV on public dole, and then something like this happens. They say it's just 2 percent, so they can easily do without it, and maybe the Republican Congress will look at that.
BRAZILE: They apply for grants. They apply for grants. But once again...
BENNETT: Of course they do. But what's the standard?
BRAZILE: ... when the far right is outraged by something that happens on the left, they get all carried away and want to cut off funding and then, you know, denounce. Look, I think Juan Williams, who is a moderating influence on FOX, he should be allowed an opportunity to explain what he was saying. And I know Juan will do that in time, and he will let us know what happened.
BENNETT: I don't -- I think the connection between government, radio and government funding is a very bad idea. I don't think the government should be involved.
BRAZILE: They are applying for grants. It's a public radio.
BENNETT: Yes, but it's your tax dollars -- your tax dollars at work. What is the standard? What is the standard?
BRAZILE: They're even telling people not to give money. They have strict ethical guidelines, and CNN has the same thing, by the way, Wolf.
O'REILLY: If you're worried about Juan Williams, by the way, FOX News just announced that they've given him an extension to his contract today, so he's going to be on FOX News for quite a while.
BENNETT: It's going to help Juan. It's going to help FOX. It's going to hurt NPR's reputation. BRAZILE: I hope NPR's reputation is not harmed by this.
BENNETT: It is definitely harmed.
BRAZILE: It's a great, great radio show.
BENNETT: Well, you work for NPR.
BRAZILE: I don't work for them.
BENNETT: Yes, you do. Yes, you do.
BRAZILE: I also -- no, I work with...
BENNETT: This is not appropriate. It is not appropriate.
BRAZILE: I have worked with Juan Williams on NPR. I'm no longer paid when I appear.
BLITZER: I think all of us -- all of us -- all of us know Juan, and all of us agree...
BLITZER: ... he's a very, very decent guy, and well known journalist.
BENNETT: But you get paid extra when you're on...
BRAZILE: Well, I get to go home and see my psychiatrist.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.
BENNETT: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's less than two weeks from election day, and former President Bush is back in the spotlight with a brand-new book. Is this good news or bad news for Republican candidates? Stand by. John King will join us.
BLITZER: We have not seen or heard much from former president George W. Bush since he left office, but he's recently released a new video in which he talks about his new book entitled "Decision Points."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The book ends with an account of the financial crisis of 2008 and my decision to set ideology aside to prevent an economic collapse. Along the way, I write about the options I considered, the advice I received, and the principles that guided my actions. I reflect on what I got right and what I got wrong. And what I'd do differently if I had the chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: CNN's John King is here. He hosts "JOHN KING USA," which comes up at the top of the hour. We're less than two weeks away. We're 12 days from the election. Is it good for the Democrats, for the Republicans that all of a sudden, once again, after a long lapse, we're hearing from the former president?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think some Democrats might say, "A ha! There he is. Remember, if Republicans win, we're going to go back to that guy."
What I found most fascinating about that clip is there are a lot of Republicans who wish six months ago they could have had George Bush's help, either maybe with a public statement or with an op-ed piece many Republicans had urged him, explaining what he was just talking about, TARP, the Toxic Asset Relief Program, which became so toxic for many. You know, Bob Bennett, the senator from Utah, lost. Other Republicans have lost. Some Democrats have been criticized. TARP has become a toxic -- the bailouts, as voters see it out there.
And a lot of people wanted the president to engage and explain. Remember, he brought Barack Obama and John McCain off the campaign trail. They passed that big bailout program. We've heard the president saying abandon ideology. Government intervention in the markets is what the president means. It will be a fascinating part of the book, but it is a hugely important part of the current campaign, and the former president has been almost completely silent, to the chagrin of some Republicans.
BLITZER: Because, as you point out, it wasn't President Obama. It was President Bush who first came out with the bailout plan for Wall Street.
KING: And a lot of voters out there blame Obama for it. A lot of Republicans have blamed Obama for it. The second installment did come in the Obama administration. Remember, it was about $700 billion, and they appropriated half. And then they kept half. They called it the tranche, all those funny Washington words. Then they spent some of it in the Obama administration. They changed the rules a little bit and authorized more.
But Wolf, it is so -- it is hard to overestimate when you travel how much voters say Wall Street bailouts. That's how they view that. They don't view it as the bailout that both President Bush and President Obama would make the case, that it stabilized, that we could have had a financial disaster, a global financial crisis, if not a collapse without that. Try selling that to voters in most of small- town America. They view it as bailout money, their tax dollars that went to Wall Street. And they look around at high unemployment and say, what did we get?
BLITZER: Good stuff. His book is supposed to come out right after the election. We'll see if it leaks earlier.
BLITZER: We'll read it. We'll wait, and we'll see. If you get a copy, let me know.
KING: I will.
BLITZER: And as Californians weigh whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, many say the state's medical marijuana laws have already led to a pot free-for-all.
BLITZER: Voters in California are deciding whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Proposition 19 would allow anyone over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and would permit local governments to authorize and tax marijuana.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is joining us now.
Ted, California already allows marijuana for medical purposes, but this would go one step further.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but, Wolf a lot of people argue we don't need 19, because marijuana is basically already legal in the state. Starting in January, the penalty for possession is the same as a traffic ticket, and as you're about to see, getting a medical marijuana card is pretty simple.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Twenty-one-year-old Justin and his buddy, 19-year-old John, are using their marijuana prescriptions to buy some hash and a bag of pot at a dispensary in Oakland. It's John's first time getting medical marijuana. He claims he suffers from insomnia. Justin says he has anxiety and trouble focusing.
(on camera) Do you really need weed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's much safer. You don't have to deal with anybody that's going to rob you, that's out to get you, out to get your money.
ROWLANDS: Some people at the clinic seem legit, like Chris Ellis, who says cannabis helps him with the pain of being shot seven times, but a lot of other people here seem to fall into Jane Klein's category.
JANE KLEIN, MEDICAL MARIJUANA USER: I use it for emotional balance. In our society, we tend to use external substances to help us to celebrate, help us recover from a shock. And I've used cannabis that way probably since -- since the "Sergeant Pepper" album was released.
ROWLANDS: California voted yes to medical marijuana in 1996. Many people assumed at the time it was for cancer and AIDS patients. Fourteen years later, many argue, it's a free-for-all.
BOB WEINER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DRUG POLICY SPOKESMAN: What we have found is that law enforcement is saying that between 90 and 95 percent of the people that go to the medical, quote, unquote, "clinics" in California are going there just to get marijuana and aren't really sick. So that's a fraud to begin with. It's a front, a fraud and a red herring.
ROWLANDS: Getting a card is simple. It took me about 20 minutes and cost $80. I told a doctor that I was suffering from back pain and that I had some trouble sleeping. I did not have to undergo a physical exam and didn't have to provide any medical records.
I found my doctor on the Internet, but there are some doctors here in L.A. that actually advertise on billboards. One of them is Dr. Sona Patel, who in Los Angeles is known as Doc 420.
DR. SONA PATEL, PRESCRIBES MEDICAL MARIJUANA: I'm not doing anything wrong. I strictly follow all the laws and, since I really believe in what I'm doing, I see nothing wrong with aggressively marketing.
ROWLANDS: Dr. Patel says she screens all her patients vigorously. Reading the law, there's a list of very serious illnesses that qualify patients to use medical marijuana, but at the end of that list, it adds "any other illness," which opens the door to hard-to- prove complaints like insomnia and back pain.
(on camera) It's pretty easy to get a medical marijuana card.
PATEL: Well, the law is worded loosely. There's a lot of loopholes in there, and a lot of people are capitalizing on that.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): And a lot of people are legally getting high.
ROWLANDS: And Wolf, a lot of people look at what's happened in California and see it as a warning for other states that are thinking about medical marijuana, but pro medical marijuana people say it's an example and positive one, because there haven't been any problems with all of these people getting medical marijuana legally in California.
BLITZER: It's a source of tremendous tax revenues, potentially, for the state, as well. Thanks very much for that, Ted. Good report.
Extraordinary pictures of the courageous and dangerous rescue. You've got to see this. We'll share it with you when we come back.
BLITZER: Another major recall to tell you about. Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring that and the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what's going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, Wolf and everyone. Well, Honda is about to issue a recall due to braking problems. The recall will include some 2005 through 2007 model year Acura RLs and Honda Odysseys. They say the problem is the brake master cylinder is due to using non-Honda brake fluid. Toyota just issued a recall for the same problem for more than 700,000 vehicles.
And there weren't any ball gowns or red carpets, but it was a blockbuster day for America's film at the Library of Congress. Digitally restored copies of 10 silent films that previously had been thought lost were presented to the library by the Russian state film archive. The films date from 1919 to 1925.
An amazing video of a dangerous rescue on the Washington metro system. Take a look. First the man on the left in white falls down onto the train tracks, as you see there. As the rail car approaches, frantic passengers wave their arms and try to point the man to a crawlspace under the tracks. And then you see right there, the man in blue jumping down onto the tracks and crawling over the electrified third rail to help rescue the fallen passenger.
While this story does have a happy ending, officials say you should never climb onto the tracks. The third rail carries enough electricity to kill you -- Wolf. Harrowing moments. I know the guy in white was very happy to be rescued, but don't try that.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right at the top of the hour, but first, the year's most talked about news stories often lead to the year's most popular Halloween costumes. Jeanne Moos is next.
BLITZER: Jeanne Moos joins us with a look at some of this year's most unusual Halloween costumes.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heads up. It's time to think Halloween.
(on camera) What's the weirdest thing people have asked you for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bed bug costume.
MOOS (voice-over): But despite all those reports of bed bug infestations, you can be a roach, you can be a fly, but no bed bugs.
What is popular?
(on camera) So you have a whole Gaga section?
(voice-over) A section featuring Lady Gaga wigs and licensed outfits, like the one she wore in "Poker Face."
But if you're wondering where's the beef? Forget it. Gaga wore her famous meat dress just last month, which didn't leave enough time for manufacturers to whip up a meat costume.
Here at Halloween Adventures, it's a twist on the usual politician and celebrity masks. They're zombies. Zombie Obama, zombie Palin, zombie Tiger Woods.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's even got a bruise. Someone hit him with a golf club.
MOOS: Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is too new to the national stage to have her own mask, but she joked on "Good Morning America" about her plans for Halloween.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I certainly am not going to be a witch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not, OK.
O'DONNELL: So I was thinking about just going as Dorothy.
MARGARET HAMILTON, ACTRESS: I'm melting!
O'DONNELL: Kill the witch.
MOOS: Can't kill the Jersey Shore. Snooki and the Situation are big this Halloween.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Situation right here.
MOOS: Though this Situation T-shirt with abs drawn onto it is beyond lame.
(on camera) Yes.
(voice-over) Don't even think of shoplifting your outfit. The 18-year-old wearing this costume got caught swiping some fangs at Halloween Express in Virginia. As punishment, he had to spend six hours as Bert from "Sesame Street."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that is actually a good deal.
MOOS: You could be the Burger King or someone from "Avatar" or even a Chilean miner, but if you really want something offbeat ripped out of the headlines...
ANTOINE DODSON, RESCUED SISTER FROM INTRUDER: Most wanted costume of 2010. Oh, yes.
MOOS: Antoine Dodson made the news in Alabama after he scared off an intruder who climbed in a window and attacked his sister while she slept.
DODSON: He's climbing in your window. He's snatching your people up. Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband.
MOOS: His passionate rant on the local news ended up autotuned. Now, Antoine is selling the "Bed Intruder" costume for $24.99. DODSON: When you knock on that door, they're going to be like, "Who is it?"
You say, "Hide your kids and hide your wife."
MOOS: At least it's a bed intruder and not a bed bug.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.