Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

President Campaigns for Democrats; NPR Fires Williams; New Iraq War Bombshells?

Aired October 22, 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: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now, President Obama is out West right now. He's preparing to roll the dice for the Senate majority leader in Las Vegas. Harry Reid's job may be in jeopardy right now, but he's declaring that he doesn't have to prove his manhood to anyone.

Also, a new call to end taxpayer funding for National Public Radio. The firing of a journalist over his remarks about Muslims now is exploding as a political issue. We'll have the latest.

And what if -- what if losing your house also cost you your job?

It's a very real risk for some federal employees right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, President Obama is in California trying to prevent the ground from shifting under the feet of Democrats 11 days from now. He's appearing in a party rally over at the University of Southern California. And he's standing with Democrats in two high profile races -- Senator Barbara Boxer and California gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Brown.

Well, the president certainly is heading to Nevada later tonight to fight for embattled Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. Reid is now firing back at his Republican opponent's demand that he man up. He said in a TV interview -- and I'm quoting now -- "I have never had to prove my manhood to anyone."

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is in Las Vegas.

Reid's race against Sharron Angle is getting uglier and uglier -- Ed.

But stand by for a moment. I just want to show our viewers a picture right now over at the event on the University of Southern California. Barbara Boxer, she is now speaking. She will then introduce the president of the United States. She's not embarrassed at all to be seen in California with President Obama, unlike some other Democrats, who don't necessarily want the president coming to their states, she -- she wants the president there and she's proud to be associated with this president.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, effort. And California, obviously, one of those pretty solidly Democratic states. But all of a sudden, she's in a dead heat. Jerry Brown in a close race, as you mentioned, as well. The president trying to make sure and get the vote out. But it's getting particularly ugly here, where he's coming next after that rally in California. He's coming here to Vegas, helping out Harry Reid. Organizers say they hope to have about 10,000 people here in Las Vegas. You talked about the back and forth. Sharron Angle had Newt Gingrich here. Both sides rolling out the big guns. Newt Gingrich here last night making light of this whole Angle charge that Harry Reid needs to man up. Harry Reid shooting back, you know, I don't need anyone to question my manhood.

Now Sharron Angle, on her Web site, has this -- this picture of the president of the United States with his teleprompter. And the teleprompter says, "goodbye, Harry. It's been fun." And she's urging her supporters to raise some money to counter some of the free media that Harry Reid is going to get from the president here today.

I think the bottom line, when you peel back the ugliness on each side, is that Harry Reid is in deep trouble here. You'll remember in 2004, the Democrats lost their Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, back in South Dakota. They're in danger of that happening again six years later.

And just look who they're rolling out. The president today. Vice President Biden was here for Reid a couple days ago. And we've just learned that on November 1st, one day before election day, First Lady Michelle Obama is going to be here for Harry Reid, as well.

They are rolling out the big guns. They know he's in deep trouble -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment, Ed.

As the president tries to help these Democratic candidates, his own approval rating still is hovering just below 50 percent. Our new poll of polls shows an average 47 percent of Americans approve of the way the president is doing his job. Forty-eight percent disapprove. The poll of polls is an average of three national surveys taken between last Wednesday and this Monday.

As Ed stands by, I want to bring in, also, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here.

These poll of polls, in a state like California, the president could be very helpful to the Democratic candidate.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He can. First, of all, he can raise enthusiasm, as Ed was talking about, particularly among women, who are more anxious to vote for Democrats, if you will, and particularly someone like Barbara Boxer. And he can also raise a lot of money. And he can also, a White House adviser told me, he can help shape the debate. And that's what the president is doing out there. He's trying to make this a choice election, Wolf, between going forward and going backward. And there's nobody better on the stump in the Democratic Party -- unless it's Bill Clinton -- at shaping the debate.

And in California, where he's still popular, Barbara Boxer actually wants to stand next to him. That isn't the case in a lot of places in the country.

BLITZER: As we take a closer look at where he's been, Ed, where he's going over the next few days -- and only 11 days to go until the election, that speaks volumes, as well.

HENRY: It really does. We've gotten those new details that next weekend, the final weekend of this long mid-term campaign, the president is going to be hitting Pennsylvania and Connecticut -- two states he won pretty easily in 2008. Democrats thought they would have locked up those Senate races. Instead, there's pretty much dead heats there.

But the most interesting one of all, perhaps, next Saturday evening. The president going home to Chicago.

The Illinois Senate race -- his old Senate seat, even there the Democrats have not locked this up. It shows how much the Democrats are on the defensive. And the president is going here with Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, now next weekend, as well, places where Democrats should be ahead. They haven't, you know, completed the sale yet. It speaks volumes about where they are right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president has just been introduced over at the University of Southern California. You see him shaking hands with a lot of the folks -- a lot of enthusiastic supporters there. He's going to be speaking momentarily, probably thanking about 50 people, before he actually starts speaking about this campaign.

But he's enthused. He's excited -- Gloria, what do you -- what do White House officials see as their biggest problem right now?

BORGER: I spoke with one which adviser who said to me, you know, you people in the press, you're obsessed with disheartened liberals, OK?

And he said, it's not the disheartened liberals. It's those Independent voters who really loved Barack Obama in 2008 and who are not coming out to vote this time around. You know, they've lost a lot of the support among Independents. That could be the margin of -- of difference all across this country.

But he said, you know, what the president has to do -- and Ed knows this standing there -- is that he's got to bring out the people who loved him and tell them that this is very important to Barack Obama's agenda as we go forward.

But you can't do everything in a couple of years. BLITZER: Do they think, in these 11 days, Ed, over at the White House, based on everything you're hearing, they can real -- some of these races have been tightened -- have been narrowed dramatically.

But do they think they can emerge on November 2nd and November 3rd and still be in the majority in the Senate and House?

HENRY: Absolutely. Just yesterday, Vice President Biden was at a fundraiser in Maryland where he -- he basically said, we're going to keep the majorities. He even looked at the Democratic donors and said I know some of you are looking at me funny, you -- you may have lost some confidence, we're still going to pull it out.

I think the bottom line is, to pick up on Gloria's point, they do feel like they're -- they're closing that so-called enthusiasm gap, that Republicans are certainly motivated to vote for change this time, the way the Democrats did in 2008.

But they feel that the president getting out here, having these pretty large rallies, is motivating female voters, as Gloria said, but also young voters -- people in 2008 who may have voted for the first time for Barack Obama, who may think, look, there's nothing at stake for me in 2010. The president is trying to say, there's a lot at stake. Control of Congress will determine the whole agenda of the next two years. And that's why a lot -- this rally at USC in California; yesterday, the University of Washington; Ohio State last weekend, 35,000 people. He's trying to rally women and young people in particular -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Gloria, there's no doubt, if he's looking ahead to 2012, as, no doubt, he is and he wants to carry these important, large Electoral College states...

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: -- Ohio...

BORGER: Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: -- Florida, California, Pennsylvania.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: He's got to hope that these Democrats win, not the Republicans, because that will send a better message.

BORGER: You know, it's -- it's very important to him. But when you talk to folks in the White House, they always reminds you, remember, the president himself is more popular than the Republican Party; that -- that that is his advantage heading into 2012. They also say, by the way, who is he going to be running against?

Wolf, we don't know the answer to that question yet.

BLITZER: We're going to check back with both of you.

Gloria, thanks very much.

Ed Henry on the road for us in Vegas.

A somewhat surprising show of support today for the fired national radio -- public radio analyst, Juan Williams. He was let go this week after revealing on Fox News that people in Muslim garb at an airport make him nervous. Now the man who led New York during the 9/11 attacks, the former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is siding with Juan Williams. Giuliani took a verbal shot at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. And he turned it into a rift against NPR.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: I'm going to sit tonight -- maybe she can take Juan -- Juan Williams' place on NPR.

(APPLAUSE)

GIULIANI: The left-wing doesn't censor?

Give me a break. All the poor guy did was explain his feelings. I mean he -- he -- he explained his feelings and the guy gets fired because it doesn't fit the left-wing dogma that you have to follow. And we put taxpayer money into that censorship program. Imagine -- imagine if somebody -- if somebody were -- were -- were fired on the -- on the left for saying something that they regarded as contro -- controversial. I mean, come on. They'd go crazy. They would go crazy.

Well, Juan Williams just expressed something that a lot of people feel. He went on to explain, my goodness, you know, I -- I don't want to see Muslim-Americans treated unfairly. The night of September 11th, one of the first things that I said was that New Yorkers shouldn't single out Arabs or Muslim-Americans. It's not all of them that are attacking us, it's a group. But it also is dangerous not to be able to stand up to your enemies. And that's the last point that I want to make. This administration has weakened our response to Islamic extremism.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Giuliani was speaking at a event for the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey. Will have much more on the Williams' NPR controversy later here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including questions about how National Public Radio is spending taxpayer money. Stand by for that.

And stay with CNN this weekend for live campaign -- campaign coverage of both President Obama and the former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin. Join the best political team on television for CNN's Ballot Bowl, this Saturday, tomorrow, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Let's get to some breaking news right now. Thousands more Iraq War documents are being posted online by the group WikiLeaks.

Let's go straight to London.

CNN's Atika Shubert is stand by.

They -- they've already been published in "The Guardian" newspaper there.

What are we learning -- Atika?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, basically told us today that there will be 400,000 classified U.S. military war records released from the front lines on the Iraq War. These are very similar to the Afghan war documents that came out in the summer. This is basically day by day accounts by soldiers in the field about what they're seeing. And this is everything from IED attacks to civilian casualties.

They partnered with this group, Iraq Body Count. That's a group that was keeping a civilian death toll. And one of the headlines to come out of this document is the fact that the death toll, they understand from going through these documents and comparing their databases -- the civilian death toll, I should point out, is 122,000. That's between the years of 2004 to the end of 2009.

There's a number of other revelations that are expected to come out of this. In the words of Julian Assange in his interview that he had with us today, he said, quote, "compelling evidence of war crimes" included detainee abuse, not only by U.S. forces, but also by Iraqi forces and that was failed to be investigated by U.S. forces. Also, gunning down of militants attempting to surrender and, also, gruesome details on the level of Iraqi infighting, including an allegation that Prime Minister Al-Maliki has his own political assassination squads.

So these are some really amazing allegations to come out of these documents. We're waiting for WikiLeaks to actually reveal them on their Web site and see just what's in these 400,000 war re--- war records.

BLITZER: And we know they've given the documents, also, to "The New York Times," which is getting ready to release its report on its review.

All right, thanks very much, Atika.

We'll check back with you.

We have new numbers on the enormous amount of cash being spent on campaign ads during this election season. We're going to tell you which side is spending more.

And it's an open secret among governors like Haley Barbour. We'll talk about the power they hold over Congressional races.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The president of the United States, he's at a political rally out in California, the University of Southern California, giving a stump speech for Democrats right now, trying to energize that Democratic base, including Barbara Boxer, who introduced the president. She's in a very, very tough race to try to get reelected. Carly Fiorina is her Republican challenger. It's really close out there and he's doing everything he can to help her and Jerry Brown, the -- the gubernatorial candidate, against Meg Whitman.

We'll monitor what the president is saying and we'll share some highlights with you.

But let's bring in our senior -- our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

You wrote a column on CNN.com that asks the simple question that people are asking you,

does the president of the United States get it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, an awful lot of people would like him to succeed still. They -- they -- they like him. They think -- they're worried about the country. But they do have questions about whether he understands them -- does he get what's going on, does he share their values, does he understand their values?

And I have to tell you, there's been a lot of reason to question that here. Just -- just here in the last couple of days, I mean the president basically went out in Oregon and said, I didn't get -- we didn't get health care right because I can't sell it enough.

Excuse me?

He had, what, 50 speeches about health care. He advertised it one heck of a lot. What people think is that the health care bill is deeply flawed.

He's -- he told Peter Baker in this "New York Times" package that was in on Sunday -- it' was a really interesting magazine piece in "The New York Times" Sunday magazine -- that he thought he made some tactical mistakes in the first two years.

That's not what the country thinks. The country thinks he's gotten off in the wrong direction.

Here's what's interesting, Wolf. On most surveys over the years, about 20 percent of Americans said they're liberal. About 40 percent say they're conservative. Forty percent say they're moderate. So about 20 percent, that's the liberal base.

Sixty-six percent in a recent Pew poll said Obama is a liberal.

What that means is 20 percent of the 66 thinks that's fine, he's one of me. Forty-six percent -- the rest -- almost half the country -- think he's to the left of them. He needs to get repositioned back to the center.

BLITZER: So how does he -- how does he do that?

GERGEN: I think he does it through people and I think he does it through policies. I still think he needs heavyweights from the business community. I was in New York this week and there is some talk in the business community of replacing Larry Summers with someone like Roger Altman, who was a major figure in the Clinton administration at Treasury and is a big deal on Wall Street and understands Democratic politics -- a Hillary (ph) person.

But someone like that would help. I think he's also got to break with his base in this next year -- he can't do it between now and the election -- but on Medicare, Medicaid, entitlement reforms, he's got to be willing to pivot toward the center and say yes, we need to do some of those.

It's hard out here in the closing days, but he's -- he's not -- he's not connecting still.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, he needs to do now what Bill Clinton did after the debacle the Democrats suffered in '94.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I'll just tell you something. Look, you remember when Bill Clinton called me about six months in and he said can you come help me?

You've worked for three presidents, come help me.

BLITZER: Right.

GERGEN: One of the...

BLITZER: And we ran that story...

GERGEN: Yes.

BLITZER: -- that you were joining the Clinton White House.

GERGEN: I know. It was

(INAUDIBLE) who broke it.

BLITZER: Maybe you were in Philadelphia at the time.

GERGEN: Well, I know, but she was covering me.

BLITZER: Yes.

GERGEN: So one of the things he said to me, he said, I've gotten out of position. I'm -- I am seen as too far to the left. You've got to help me get back to the center. That's where you get things done in American politics.

The center-left, yes, as a Democrat, but still the center.

BLITZER: If he moves to the center too much, though, that liberal base of his is going to be pretty upset.

GERGEN: Well, they will. I mean he could potentially have a challenge in the primaries. But, you know, he's got to -- he's not going to be able to govern unless he gets to the center. He's got to find a way, in the last days of this campaign, if he really wants to energize -- he can get the crowds out here, but is he connecting?

It's not clear to me he's connecting.

BLITZER: David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're monitoring other top stories, including a major security incident over at the office of an Arizona Congressman. We're getting new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now about a suspicious powder that turned up in the mail.

Plus, the controversial Florida pastor who threatened to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11 gets an unusual reward for not going through with it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Suspicious powder and swastikas threaten one U.S. Congressman.

Fredericka Whitfield is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Fred?

FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.

And hello, everyone.

Well, the FBI says suspicious powder sent to the office of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is non-toxic. Staffers checking the mail in Tucson found a white, powdery substance, along with drawings of two swastikas inside an envelope. This was the third security incident at the congressman's offices this year. He earlier received threats regarding his position on immigration legislation.

And the controversial Florida pastor who wanted to burn the Koran on September 11th has gotten a free car for not doing that. The free Hyundai comes courtesy of New Jersey car dealer, Brad Benson, who used to play for the Giants. At the time, Benson offered Jones a free car if he backed down on his threat.

The pastor has said that he will donate the car to a Muslim charity.

And it's not often that you see basketball great Shaquille O'Neal sitting still. But that's exactly what the Boston Celtics star did when he spent more than an hour posing for photographs like a statue at Harvard Square. Onlookers say that he didn't talk, but he did smile at fans. That's something that he just can't not do. He smiles all the time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He's a happy guy, Shaquille.

WHITFIELD: I know. He is.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Over a billion dollars -- billion with a B -- and counting -- we're tracking ad spending and where record amounts of cash are going during this campaign season.

And losing your home is certainly bad enough, but what if -- what if foreclosure also cost you your job?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: If you think you've been seeing a lot of campaign ads on your TV, just wait. It could get a whole lot worse as we close in on the final week before the midterm election. The amount of money being spent on ads this campaign season is truly mind-boggling.

Mary Snow has been going over the numbers for us.

What are you finding out -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really, mind-boggling, Wolf. This year's spending on campaign ads will smash previous records.

When all is said and done, it's expected that -- get this -- $3 billion will be spent overall on campaign ads this year.

Now, tallies from the Campaign Media Analysis Group shows that that number beats 2008, the presidential election year, when $2.7 billion was spent. In 2006, the number was $2.4 billion.

Now, a couple of factors are adding to the spending. There's the high number of competitive races. We're seeing incumbents spending more money than they've had to in the past. And there's a change with the Citizens United ruling. That's a Supreme Court ruling lifting limits on how much corporations, unions and individuals can spend on political ads.

Now the ruling changed timing rules. Now, these ads can run up to election day. In the past, there was a cutoff 60 days prior to the general election day.

Here's how the breakdown is looking. As of today, $525 million has been sent -- spent on Democratic candidates, $743 million on Republicans. These include spending from candidates, parties, issue groups on Senate, House and gubernatorial races. And the biggest spender, Meg Whitman, the Republican running to be governor of California. So far, the former CEO of eBay has spent $100 million on ads alone. And that includes -- that doesn't include millions more she spent on the campaign overall.

And, Wolf, just to put it in perspective, the record amount of $3 billion spent on campaign ads this year amounts to about $10 per person in the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Huge, huge numbers, indeed.

All right, Mary.

Thanks very much for that.

Republicans appear, appear to be strengthening their advantage over Democrats heading into Election Day. Our new poll of polls shows 50 percent of likely voters nationwide would choose a Republican candidate for Congress if the election were held today. 42 percent say a Democrat. The poll of poll averages three national surveys taken between last Wednesday and this Monday.

Now to the battle for the governor's races. Some of the most popular Republican governors in the nation are hitting the campaign trail next week to support GOP candidates for the top state jobs. They'll hit over a dozen states between Tuesday and Saturday. Those governor contests, by the way, are important to both parties for many reasons. Tom Foreman is joining us now to map it out for us. Talk about how the role of the governors play in Congressional redistricting, which will be so important.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know something, Wolf, the simple truth is as much as people are going to watch the breakdown of the teams on election night, Democrat and Republican and Congressional and Senate seats, that sort of thing, this may be one of the most important things. If you're in Texas, maybe you don't care that much about California or South Dakota or Maine. But you better with the governor's races. This is in effect talking about the refereeing of the whole big game and the impact can be enormous, because the census has just been completed. That means you get to redraw Congressional lines all over this country to redefine what the districts are, and that can be tricky. It doesn't look like it.

Look at Florida's first district. This looks simple enough. It's up in the panhandle. It's pretty simple. It's all right there. You draw a line along the county edges. Not much to it. But then look at Florida's eighth district. Look at this. This is the district here. Lines around from Conway to Orlando, and all in this is this big shape here. Look at this one over here, Florida's third district. This is all about the old game of gerrymandering, which is an old term, and the reason it works is this -- if you're a governor in a state and you get to have the veto power over the legislative plan for how you draw your districts, what that means is the districts can be drawn to favor your party and you have some influence over that. How would they favor it? If you have a cluster of Democrats here, if you're a Republican governor and you have a cluster of Democrats here and here and a cluster of Democrats here and they're all pretty powerful, you can split them into different districts so they get reduced. Maybe they have 60 percent power here. You split that three different ways, they have 30 percent power and they can't win. Another way you can do it, let's say a Democrat ahead 70 percent power here. You take an extra 30 percent and pack them into that saying they're going to win that district, but we can steal them away from other districts so that we win all the other ones. That's what a Republican governor can say about that. And the last way is by reaching out and saying if you're a Democratic governor, I've got a strong bunch of Democrats here, here and here, let me just link them all together.

This interestingly enough, is not illegal. It can be illegal, and people get confused over this, it can be illegal if you use it to manipulate basically race, for example. If you use it to ostracize some group. You couldn't take one district down in the keys and draw a tiny little line all the way up to Tallahassee and connect them and say that's our district. The simple truth is, Wolf, when you have the governors out there, and they decide who's in charge of these states, they're going to have a lot of sway over this process and whether or not that affects this election, it could affect elections for the next ten years until you get the next census.

How can you solve it? Simple enough. You can do what Iowa does, which is unusual and a few states do something kind of like it. They basically have a nonpartisan commission to divide their districts to make sure they're all the right size and look what they come up with. Pretty normal shapes, nothing really unusual. That's how it works in states like that. But most of them, Wolf, are not that way and that's why on election night, watch the governor's races as much or more than you watch anything else.

BLITZER: And watch the governor races also to see how the states shape up for or against the Democrats, President Obama in terms of his getting re-elected in 2012, Ohio, Florida, California, a lot of these states, Pennsylvania, he needs them desperately if he wants to get re- elected. And who the governor is can have a huge impact, as well. Thank you very much.

Health care reform won't solve a growing problem in the medical system right now. We have brand new information about the overuse, even abuse of emergency rooms that's costing all of us money.

And a new vote in France could lead to more massive protests, and chaos in the streets of Paris and other cities.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: France made an announcement today about that controversial retirement age. Fredricka Whitfield is back with that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What happened, Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People are fuming in France. The Senate has just approved its version of a controversial measure to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. The final package could be ready for President Nicholas Sarkozy to sign late next week. More than a million people, including union members and students, have protested the pension reform measure. The government says it is necessary to save money.

And to Haiti where a cholera outbreak has killed at least 138 people and sickened another 1,500. The scene is chaotic and many hospitals with patients and their families fighting to get care. Some are waiting more than 24 hours on stretchers for medical attention. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the intestines. People can get it from contaminated food or water.

Some shocking health news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the number of diabetes cases in the U.S. could triple by the year 2050. That would translate to one in three Americans living with the disease. Diabetes is the top cause of blindness, lower limb amputations, heart attacks, stroke, dementia and cancer. And being overweight is the most common risk factor in getting diabetes. Right now, the number is one in ten Americans. They're talking about one in three. That's an extraordinary number.

BLITZER: The experts say watch your weight and exercise, two important steps that can reduce the chance of coming down with diabetes.

WHITFIELD: That's right.

BLITZER: Fred, thank you very much.

The country's massive foreclosure crisis is already costing millions their homes. Get this. There is now fear it could cost some of them their jobs, as well.

And the former President Bill Clinton's latest message to Democrats across the country. Treat the campaign like sports. We'll explain what's going on coming up in our strategy session.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a potential new stumbling block in the country's massive foreclosure crisis, raising new concerns about our national security at the same time. Let's bring in Brian Todd to tie up the story for. National security, foreclosures, what's the connection?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn't necessarily tie them together Wolf but we all know that foreclosure is a nightmare that millions of Americans are going through right now, but for some government employees, it could get still worse. If losing a house isn't bad enough, what if it also cost you your job?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Attorney John Mahoney has a client that is scared her property will be foreclosed on, scared because she's also scared that her top secret security clearance at the defense department will be revoked because of the foreclosure proceedings. JOHN MAHONEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: If she loses her security clearance, which is a condition of her continued federal employment, she will be fired after 23 years of dedicated service to the government. It's an extremely emotional situation for her and many of my other clients who are in similar situations.

TODD: Mahoney says several of his clients were not intentionally financially reckless, but with the real estate bust, they're now on the wrong end of the foreclosure crisis. In many cases though, the government could be justified in taking clearances from people who are in foreclosures. I spoke about that with former FBI operative Eric O'Neill. He helped catch Russia's FBI mole Robert Hanson who O'Neill says was compromised partly because he got into debt. Ryan Phillipe played O'Neill in the Hollywood film "Breach,"

ERIC O'NEILL, THE GEORGETOWN GROUP: Life can turn an honest person dishonest, the pressures, especially financial pressures, can I provide for my family, can I keep a roof over my head, am I going to be thrown out and moving my family into a motel.

TODD: And foreign agents are looking for that.

O'NEILL: Foreign agents are looking for that. If you come out of a major government facility, if you come out of a major government contractor and you have access to information and you're wearing your little government badge, foreign intelligence officers might be looking for that and they might see you go to the bar and get a couple drinks and wonder what's really going on in his head and find out.

TODD: Why should someone in Middle America care if a D.C. insider gets fired? I asked attorney Sheldon Cohen, who has a client laid off because of debt problems, what's being lost. Is it a security situation because whoever might replace her might not be as good or might need time to be trained?

SHELDON COHEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: She's a highly trained person. She's desired by a number of government agencies and she would be difficult to replace. Not only are people losing their jobs, the government is losing the services of good people they need.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We got response to this from the government's office of personnel management. An official there in a statement said "In looking at whether someone's security clearance should be taken away, agencies use the whole person concept, considering the issue with factors that may mitigate that conduct." In financial matters, the official says those officials could -- excuse me, those factors could include divorce or medical emergencies or if the spouse loses a job, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can people appeal this if they get themselves into this kind of a situation?

TODD: They can. There's a special board at the defense department that handles that department and other agencies. You can go there, but you don't have much success usually. Sheldon Cohen says of the people who have gone to the final appeals process of that board, more than 70 of them, more than 60 have lost. You don't stand much of a chance.

BLITZER: What a double whammy. You lose your house, then your job. You don't have any income or house. You probably got a family and you don't know what to do.

TODD: And you're in the same situation millions of others are. You didn't do this intentionally. You thought you were doing something sound financially and it turned on you.

BLITZER: And a lot of time national security is at risk too because these are probably qualified people with a lot of experience.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks Brian. Thank you very much.

We're poring over U.S. military documents just leaked online, including information about American hikers arrested by Iran. And the firing of a liberal analyst gets some conservatives riled up about funding to National Public Radio. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala and the former House speaker Dennis Hastert, he's a Republican and a senior adviser at a law firm. Thank you very much for coming in. Let's talk about your former boss, Bill Clinton. He now is going out, raising money, helping Democrats across the country and saying you know what? We got to treat this election as if it were a sporting event. What's he talking about?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I can't wait to hear what the former wrestling coach and house speaker who used to wrestle with President Clinton says about that. But look, he's saying if you -- if you inherit a terrible team and you go from winning two games to winning seven games, do you want to fire the coach? We're moving in the right direction. He's a great gift. As smart as he is, a Rhodes scholar and he is good at talking to walking around folks.

BLITZER: He is a unique politician, but he's also telling voters out there, study these candidates, look at their records as if you were studying players on a Super Bowl team or a World Series team, and look at the earned run averages and then make a decision instead of just feeling something.

J. DENNIS HASTERT, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: He is about picking your team, but President Clinton has a great opportunity, and has always had the ability to go around and kind of take the air out of the room. He can get that mission across, but Republicans are doing a great job, too, such as Haley Barbour, raised $50 million for candidates and he has a team of Pawlenty, and a few others who are going out and they are getting the job done. BLITZER: And Chris Christie, and not only Tim Pawlenty.

BEGALA: Bobby Jindal.

BLITZER: Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is going out. And Haley Barbour is interesting. He is going to be in 13 states over five days and including states important for a presidential candidate or wannabe, and do you think that he is interested in that?

BEGALA: Well, I think that they all are. It was Maurice Udall, the late congressman from Arizona, who said that the only cure for presidential ambition is formaldehyde. And I hope he runs, as a cable pundit, because he is unbelievably entertaining, and terribly witty and charming as anybody I have met, so in that sense, it would be great, but the problem is that he the wrong image for Republicans, because he is a lobbyist. Now he's the governor but before then he was the lobbyist in Washington. And now would I want to go have 10 or 20 beers for him, sure I would love it but do I want him to run the country?

BLITZER: And he was chairman as well.

HASTERT: He was chairman. He did a great job as governor. He went through the whole issue of hurricane Katrina and did a great job in Mississippi. So, he has a record. You know, I don't know if he is going to be a candidate for president or not, but I think anybody who is a governor or senator has that in the back of his mind.

BLITZER: It is always a mistake for Democrats to wish a certain Republican would get the nomination. They were hoping back in 1980 they hoped that Ronald Reagan would win, because we can beat an actor and all that.

BEGALA: Absolutely. Only two ways, the speaker will agree, I believe, a politician will run is unopposed or scared. This president has an enormous amount of talent. I think he's a good bet to win reelection in a couple years but believe he he's going to be running scared.

BLITZER: But what do you think will happen honestly in your home state of Illinois right now, because there are critical races, first to the Senate.

HASTERT: Well, the Senate, I think Kirk was ahead by a point or a point and a half, and who knows, but it is within the margin of error. It's a very, very close race.

BLITZER: But both of these candidates are flawed. They have both made mistakes.

HASTERT: Well, we've all made mistakes but the bright lights make a mistake. First of all, Kirk has said that he owned up, and expanded the --

BLITZER: When he embellished the resume a little bit. HASTERT: But he was in the military and did serve in the military for 20 years and that is a record of itself, and he has done a good job.

BLITZER: And the president and the Democrats cannot hold Illinois looking ahead to 2012, his home state, Barack Obama, that is a deep source of concern.

BEGALA: Yes, it is a danger sign in the speaker's home state, but it is the president's home state, and Alexi Giannoulias did a very smart thing or he got very lucky, put it this way. The first lady went out to campaign for him. She doesn't campaign a lot. She is widely popular and greatly admired and she attested to his character as well as ability to serve. When somebody who is unassailable as Michelle Obama comes up to say, I know this man and his character. That's the best favor he could of had.

BLITZER: Paul Begala, Dennis Hastert, thank you, both.

A powerful typhoon traps hundreds of people in a wall of water and sliding rocks. We will show you more pictures of what is going on.

And a surprising reason why so many Americans choose to go to an emergency room instead of a doctor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now to President Obama's landmark health care legislation and the increasing number of Americans who would be insured because of it. Many hospital emergency rooms are already feeling a burden of patients and what if the supply of doctors simply can't keep up with the demand? New information coming in. Let's check back with Mary Snow. What are you learning?

SNOW: Well, Wolf, a recent study found that more and more people are headed to the emergency room instead of a general practitioner, and those crowded ERs say some doctors will feel more strain because of health care reform.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a blood pressure issue.

SNOW: It is a Monday morning at Emory University Hospital's emergency room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you will see that.

SNOW: But most cases are not an emergency. Physician assistant Christiane French handles one-third of the patients on the shift.

CHRISTIANE FRENCH, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I would say at least half if not closer to 75 percent of the people could be cared for in an outside facility.

SNOW: Case in point, this woman who has a rash.

FRENCH: Most rashes are not medical emergencies.

SNOW: Why do they come here?

FRENCH: It is convenient, and you don't have an appointment, and you don't need an appointment.

SNOW: And you don't need insurance. But these days even many with insurance opt for the E.R.

FRENCH: Hello Ms. Green, I'm Christiane. How do you do?

SNOW: Straining the overwhelmed system, CDC numbers show that 124 million people visited E.R.s in 2008, up from nearly 117 million from 2007. Dr. Stephen Pitts expects those numbers to grow. His study was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

DR. STEPHEN PITTS, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Our studies showed that when somebody in America gets sick or injured over half of the time, they do not see - they bypass the primary care doctor and go to the E.R. or to a specialist.

SNOW: While the number of non-urgent medical visits have actually gone down, the American college of E.R. physicians sees a potential problem with an increased demand for doctors. Health care reform means more Americans will be insured and Dr. Nicholas Vasquez says there's no quick fix to meet the expected need.

DR. NICHOLAS VASQUEZ, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS: There is enough demand out there that you can try to throw a lot of doctors at it, but it takes somewhere around 10 to 15 years to educate a new doc.

SNOW: What does it mean for the future of emergency rooms like this one?

PITTS: In 2014, the Medicaid expansion takes place and that means a lot more people will be insured, but those people will find that there is an insufficient number of primary care doctors to see them, and think will wind up here with their problems.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Wolf, health care reform has provisions to help meet the demand of more patients, they are seen as long-term solutions. Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks, very much.

You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, breaking news. Thousands of secret Iraq war documents are being revealed online. Wikileaks posts graphic and shocking accounts of civilian casualties; some, some supposedly at the hands of American troops. And NPR under fire right now for the firing of the analyst, the journalist Juan Williams. Critics accuse National Public Radio of bias, but Williams takes new heat for the comments about Muslims and terrorism. We have a debate this hour.