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Interview With House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; Charlie Rangel Found Guilty of Ethics Violations

Aired November 18, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: A once powerful congressman, Charlie Rangel, pleads for mercy after being found guilty of ethics violations. I will discuss that case, the Bush tax cuts, bipartisan bitterness with the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer. Stand by.

After a stunning write-in campaign, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is claiming victory in the race. I will ask her about taking on the Tea Party movement and her own rivalry with Sarah Palin. My interview with her is coming up.

And from bankruptcy to bailout to hot new cars and a hot new stock, GM is back. But will that bring new jobs? And will taxpayers get all their money back?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

After four decades in Congress, Representative Charlie Rangel is now being censured. Let's listen in as the chairwoman of the Ethics Committee is reading the decision on punishment.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: ... Mr. Rangel for being here, as well.

And unless there are further comments to be made at this time, then I would recognize Mr. Rangel.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Madam Chair and Ranking Member, I -- I know how much discussion went into this decision, but as I started out earlier, I hope that you can see a way clear for the record to make it abundantly clear, as the record would indicate, that any action taken by me was not with the intention to bring any disgrace on the House or to enrich myself personally or to -- or considered by counsel to be corrupt. That would be of great help to my family and my community.

LOFGREN: Thank you, Mr. Rangel. And I would note that our report will be on the committee Web site later this evening. And with that -- there are no further comments -- the committee is adjourned with thanks to all who participated.

BLITZER: All right.

The punishment, we're told it was a 9-1 vote for censure of Charlie Rangel and to pay restitution for taxes that were not paid earlier in connection with some of the properties, 9-1, and he will be censured, he has been censured now by the committee. The vote will go to the full House of Representatives.

Let's talk about this and more with the House majority leader, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Joining me in the questioning, our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, the host of the CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

What do you think, Mr. Leader? Was Charlie Rangel fairly treated?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think the important thing is that the ethics process worked.

Charlie Rangel obviously a popular member of the House, but -- and a powerful member of the House. Certain facts were elicited. The committee considered them, and, obviously, has come out with a -- with a judgment., first, that he was involved in the allegations that were alleged, and, secondly, with a recommendation for action by the full House.

So, the Ethics Committee process worked. I think that is -- I would think the American public is pleased with that. I think it is a sad day for Mr. Rangel, who has served very honorably in the House of Representatives, was a hero in Korea, has fought for his country in battle.

But this is a sad day for him. But it was an appropriate action by the Ethics Committee, in the sense that they found violations, and they took the action they deemed to be appropriate. The House will now consider it.

BLITZER: Well, some of the other punishments could have been a reprimand, the censure, which is what he got, or expulsion from the House of Representatives, which he is obviously not going to get. When we hear that he has been censured, what does that mean?

HOYER: Well, essentially, it means that the House of Representatives has found that he has violated the rules of the House, and he has brought the House, by his actions, into disrepute, and that he needs to come to the floor and apologize on the floor, and take responsibility for those acts.

It is not expulsion. I did not expect expulsion. Obviously, with an overwhelming vote, the committee believed that this was the appropriate disposition. And the House will now consider that.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about some of the other issues that you are dealing with right now, but I want you to elaborate. Earlier in the day, you really slapped the Republican leadership for postponing what was supposed to be happening right now, a meeting and a dinner with the president of the United States at the White House. It has been postponed until November 30, after the Thanksgiving holiday and recess.

Tell us why you are upset about that Republican decision.

HOYER: Well, I was very surprised at that decision.

As I said the other day, I cannot remember an instance when either Ronald Reagan or George Bush I, as I call him, or George Bush II, three Republicans, invited me to come to the White House with other members that I didn't accommodate my schedule to the president's schedule.

I think that shows respect. It also shows a willingness to work together with the individual elected president of all the people and the representatives of the people in Congress. I was very surprised that they did not respond to that.

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: As you know, he did meet with the Democrats this afternoon. I think it would have been helpful to have the Republican leadership there as well to discuss how we go forward.

While the leadership of the Congress has changed, at least in the House of Representatives, in terms of the relative positions that we have, the challenges confronting our country have not changed. And the American people want us to find common ground on which we can meet those challenges and make this economy better, create jobs and, very frankly, meet the fiscal challenge that confronts us as well.

So, I was disappointed.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Congressman, it is Gloria Borger.

HOYER: Hi, Gloria.

BORGER: Do you think, then, to put it bluntly, that they were snubbing the president?

HOYER: I certainly think that is the way it looks. And I think that is unfortunate.

President Bush invited Speaker Pelosi and I down to -- she was not speaker then, nor was I the leader -- two days after the election, he invited us down to lunch in '06, November of '06. And we went down. And we had a very cordial lunch.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Why would they snub President Obama?

HOYER: Well, I think you need to ask them that.

But when Senator McConnell says that his principal objective over the next two years is to ensure that President Obama not have a second term, if that is his focus, if that is the focus of the Republican Party, I think the American people are going to be very disappointed.

What they want our focus to be is on creating jobs, growing the economy, and getting fiscal balance back to our country. They don't want the politics as usual to go on, the sniping and the fighting and the confrontation back and forth. They want to us seek common ground and solutions to their problems.

(CROSSTALK)

HOYER: And I think that this seems to indicate in fact that we are focused on politics at the very beginning, rather than on solving problems, which I think the American people want us to do.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Congressman, it is Candy Crowley.

Let me talk to you...

HOYER: Hi, Candy.

CROWLEY: How are you?

Let me talk to you about one of those problems. And that is these Bush tax cuts that are going to expire on December 31. We have talked to a number of Republicans who have indicated that they would be willing to go along with perhaps a two-year extension for tax cuts for everyone across the board.

Is that a deal?

HOYER: Candy, it is our position, as you well know, that we believe the middle class, there should be no increase in their taxes at all. We think that would be bad for them and bad for the economy.

But fiscal balance is another one of our objectives. And the best-off in America, the well-off in America, frankly, giving them an additional tax cut will not in any way, in our opinion, enhance the economy, nor will having the...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: So, where is the bipartisanship in that position, since the Republicans that want them extended permanently say, OK, we could maybe take a two-year extension? But you are sticking with your same position and at the same time calling for sort of a different atmosphere.

HOYER: Candy, I am. Frankly, before I -- before we get anyplace, we are going to have to have discussions. The president invited the Republicans, the Senate and House, down to the White House to discuss how can we go forward, and they did not come. What I am saying is, our position clearly has been that we are going to ensure that the middle class, working Americans, families, don't get a tax increase next year. Republicans are saying they don't want the wealthiest to get a tax increase, but they want to balance the budget.

We understand that position. Certainly, the president has indicated a willingness to discuss that. But if they don't come to the table, if they don't come to a meeting that the president invites them to, then we are not going to get anywhere.

BLITZER: It sounds, Congressman, like that is your opening bargaining position. We have heard the Republicans' opening bargaining position. All of you will meet at the White House on November 30, and we will see what emerges from there as far as a compromise between your position and their position.

And I can understand you don't want to negotiate that position here in THE SITUATION ROOM, but we...

HOYER: Thank you, Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But we appreciate -- we appreciate your -- we appreciate your coming in, though.

BORGER: Go right ahead.

BLITZER: We did our best to try, but we understand what -- certainly understand what is going on.

HOYER: Wolf, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: Steny Hoyer, and congratulations on getting reelected in the new Congress, even though it will be the minority, as opposed to the majority.

HOYER: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Steny Hoyer joining us.

There is a major study out today on marriage.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: People don't say "I do" like they used to.

A new poll shows almost four in 10 Americans say that marriage is becoming obsolete. And that's a sharp increase from the 1970s.

The study was done by the Pew Research folks, along with CNN's sister publication "TIME" magazine. It shows only about half of adults are married, which is down sharply from more than 70 percent 50 years ago. This decline in marriage has happened along class lines. College graduates are much more likely to still get married these days than those with a high school diploma or less, which makes a certain amount of sense given the state of the economy.

And as the marriage rate has declined, cohabitation is on the rise, almost doubling since 1990. Nearly half of all adults say they have lived with a partner out of wedlock at some point in their lives and most of them consider it a step toward marriage.

The poll also shows rapidly changing ideas of what makes up an American family. Today, nearly 30 percent of our children live with a parent or parents who are divorced or not married. And that's five times as many as in 1960.

Most people agree a married couple with or without kids constitutes a family, but majorities now also say that unmarried couples, single parents or same-sex couples with children also fit the definition of family.

Those most likely to accept changing definitions of family include young adults, liberals, secular and unmarried people, and blacks. But don't count traditional marriage out just yet.

For example, Americans are still more optimistic about the future of marriage and family than they are about the nation's educational system, its economy or its morals and ethics. And far more married adults say that love and companionship trump money as reasons to do the "I do" thing.

Here's the question. Is marriage becoming obsolete? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

It is a verdict that left one leading lawmaker -- quote -- "disgusted." And the fallout is only just beginning from the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo detainee. From the prison camp all the way to the White House, the implications right now are enormous.

And a candid assessment of the war in Afghanistan from the American commander in charge. An exclusive CNN interview with General David Petraeus, that is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right. Let's pursue the breaking news, the story we are following, the House Ethics Committee recommending censure for the 20-term Congressman from New York Charlie Rangel after he was found guilty on a series of rules violations.

Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is up on Capitol Hill.

You watched what was going on. Explain what happens now, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a very significant development in this two-year ethics investigation of Charles Rangel. What does this mean that he has been sentenced to a censure?

Nine-to-one, the Ethics Committee decided. This means basically that he is going to be going through a sort of process of public humiliation, if you will. He will have to stand in the well of the House of Representatives. He will receive a verbal rebuke.

And the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is longtime friends with Rangel, will have to read that censure resolution. This is going to be sort of the footnote in his very long career. He is 80 years old. He has just been elected to his 21st term of Congress and here he is going to be facing the music at some point very soon for a number of ethics violations for one of the things that he was in trouble for, not paying rental -- or not paying income for a rental property that he received from a house that he owns in the -- or a villa in the Dominican Republic, that happening, of course, while he was the very powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the tax writing committee.

So this is a very tough day, of course, for Charlie Rangel, and this is a sentence, censure, that has been handed down by the Ethics Committee.

BLITZER: Yes, he could have been reprimanded, which is a lesser, a lesser punishment, or he could have been expelled from the Congress, which obviously is a much more serious punishment.

But censure, I think it this is the first time in about 30 years someone has been formally censured, a stiff, a stiff penalty he will have to pay for being convicted, found guilty of these charges.

Thanks, Brianna.

The full House is going to have to vote on it first. We assume it will follow the similar situation of the House Ethics Committee, which passed it 9-1.

He was the first Guantanamo detainee to get a civilian trial and faced a vast array of charges tied to the bloody bombings of the U.S. embassies, but a civilian jury cleared Ahmed Ghailani of all but a single count. Now the Obama administration is facing fallout.

Let's bring in Brian Todd.

Yesterday, it happened. Today, people are reacting, and a lot of folks are very unhappy with the Obama administration handling of Ghailani's case.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. You picked the right word for this, huge fallout today in this town over all of this. Whether it is a disaster, as some say, or an affirmation of justice, as others say, the verdict for Ahmed Ghailani is at the very least politically charged.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The likely incoming Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says he is disgusted that Ahmed Ghailani was only convicted on one of more than 280 counts in the 1998 embassy bombings. Peter King says it shows the -- quote -- "insanity" of the Obama team's decision to try Ghailani in a civilian court, rather than a military tribunal.

(on camera): Pretty strong words from you. Why are you using words like that?

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: I feel very strongly about this, because to me, I -- to me, this administration is just driven by ideology when it comes to these cases.

TODD (voice-over): Despite our calls and e-mail, no one from the White House responded directly to King's salvos. But the Justice Department is declaring victory, a spokesman saying, "This is another in a long line of successful verdicts in civilian court trials."

And Congresswoman Jane Harman, on the same committee as King, says the administration should push back harder.

(on camera): To those who say this is a disaster, that it shows why they should never try these terror suspects in civilian courts, what do you say?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, let's understand what just happened. This person was convicted of conspiracy. He will serve 20 years to life in a federal maximum security prison.

TODD (voice-over): But also fueling conservative fire, their recall of Attorney General Eric Holder's predictions of the Ghailani trial.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won. I don't expect that we will have a contrary result.

TODD: Now the pressure mounts to successfully handle the case of the most notorious terror suspect in U.S. custody, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Obama team had said it wanted to try him in a civilian court, but is now being more vague about that.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it just adds to that ammunition he's going to get from the right. On the other hand, if he reverses himself now and says, well, let's go back to military courts, he is going to catch hell from the left.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: David Gergen says this verdict and all its political fallout will provoke broader questions on whether the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress can work together on other issues, like the endgames in Iraq and Afghanistan, on Iran, key foreign policy questions where many observers thought there was common ground between the two sides, but now they are just not so sure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, what about Eric Holder, because I know that a lot of Republicans are pretty angry at him right now for the decision to try Ghailani in a civilian court?

TODD: That's right. One Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Trent Franks of Arizona, is calling on Eric Holder to either repudiate the Obama administration's position on terror trials completely or to resign. Right now, he appears to be the only one doing that. Most administration officials say Holder is not going anywhere.

And analysts we talk to expect that he will ride this out. But a verdict like this, it tends to develop critical mass in this town, so maybe Eric Holder might be under some pressure later on.

BLITZER: Yes, civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not necessarily happening any time soon.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: I suspect now it's not going to happen, at least in the foreseeable future.

TODD: So much for that, right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Major new developments in the search for a missing family. Officials have just announced a break in the case -- details coming up.

And the president leaves in just a few hours for a major summit on Afghanistan. We will have an exclusive interview with the general in charge of that war, General David Petraeus. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama will join his NATO counterparts tomorrow at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal. They will discuss the future of the alliance and the current reality in Afghanistan. They will also hear from the commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, who tells CNN the allies are gaining ground there.

Let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

As you know a lot of folks don't necessarily agree with General Petraeus on his assessment.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people don't, Wolf. I sat down with him in Afghanistan a few days ago. You know him. You know he is very cautious about making any conclusions about the war. What General Petraeus knows right now is everybody wants to hear one thing. When is this war going to wrap up?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): In an exclusive interview with CNN, General David Petraeus made clear he is ready to tell President Obama and other leaders at this week's NATO summit there is progress against the Taliban.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE: My assessment is that the momentum that the Taliban enjoyed up until probably late summer has broadly been arrested in the country.

STARR: And he thinks he will be able to send some U.S. troops home beginning in July of next year.

PETRAEUS: I think that we will be able to conduct transition of various tasks to various Afghan forces. The fact is, we are already doing that in certain areas.

STARR: The ultimate goal, get President Hamid Karzai's government to take over security by 2014. Senior U.S. officials say among the first provinces to be turned, Parwan, Bamiyan, Panjshir. The violence has been minimal in those areas. Taliban strongholds like Kandahar in the south may take longer. Another stronghold, Helmand Province, Petraeus is ready to tell NATO leaders there is already some progress there.

PETRAEUS: The ISAF and Afghan forces have achieved momentum in some very important areas, have literally and reversed the momentum of the Taliban in places like Central Helmand Province.

STARR: But there are critics.

Bruce Riedel helped device the current Afghan strategy. He questions if all of this adds up to enduring progress across Afghanistan.

BRUCE RIEDEL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: We're not going to know how significantly we have really degraded the Taliban until next spring and summer, when we see the replacement parts for those 300 or 400 killed or wounded in the last year come on to the battlefield.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And, you know, Wolf, that is really going to be the question for General Petraeus. He says he sees progress, but is it for real? Is it longstanding?

And of course the other question on the table, troops coming home. General Petraeus is already saying, while he will be able to send some home next year, some for now just might be reassigned to other areas where combat is still ongoing. BLITZER: And we know the president has got a major reassessment that is due in December on this whole Afghan strategy. We will see what he comes up with.

Thanks very much, Barbara Starr. Welcome back from Afghanistan.

She took on the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, and now she claims victory after an extraordinary write-in campaign. I will speak with the Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.

And a huge new stock offering. General Motors is back, but will the jobs follow?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a move by a number of Republicans to delay a Senate vote on the nuclear arms treaty with Russia until the next Congress convenes in January.

But, backed by former secretaries of state and defense from both parties, President Obama today called on the Senate to ratify the so- called START treaty right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot afford to gamble on our ability to verify Russia's strategic nuclear arms. And we can't jeopardize the progress that we've made in securing vulnerable nuclear materials, or in maintaining a strong sanctions regime against Iran. These are all national interests of the highest order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She's claimed a reelection victory after a dramatic write-in campaign against the Tea Party challenger, the Republican nominee Joe Miller.

Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, is here for the questioning, as well.

Senator, let me get your quick reaction. Are you going to vote to ratify the START treaty during this lame-duck session?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Well, I think I share the same concerns as many that the time schedule that we have in front of us in this lame duck is going to be very, very limited. I would like to speak to not only Jon Kyl, but also Senator Lugar about where we are with the -- with the negotiations and the discussions and rally make sure that we're ready to go.

BLITZER: So, does that mean you're undecided or you've decided to vote against it right now?

MURKOWSKI: I -- no, I have not decided to vote against it. I have -- I have been a little bit preoccupied in these last two months, and we just finished that up last night. So now I'll be able to focus full-time on my responsibilities in the Senate. I'm looking forward to doing that. And part of that will be figuring out exactly where we are with the new START treaty.

BLITZER: Gloria has got a question.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Senator, let's talk about the national implications of the race for a moment, because as you know, Sarah Palin, I don't have to tell you, did not support you in your race for re-election. And when you were asked about your win earlier today on "The Today Show" you said, quote, "We don't want governance based on anger or fear."

Is that the way you believe that former governor Sarah Palin governs or campaigned?

MURKOWSKI: No, my comments were not directed towards Sarah Palin. My comments were really directed towards what I think we saw in this Senate race here in Alaska. Alaskans are really focused on what is -- what will the future of our state be? How -- how does the intersection of what's going on in Washington, D.C., impact us here in our state. What kind of leadership do we want?

And the campaign that was run by my opponent, my primary opponent Joe Miller, was one that really kind of focused on that fear and that anger, and that was not the direction I took my campaign. I think that's one of the reasons, a very strong reason why the numbers have polled in my favor from -- from the day one when we started counting and -- and when we finalized this yesterday, why the outcome was so favorable.

BLITZER: Would you support Sarah Palin if she were the Republican presidential nominee?

MURKOWSKI: I have been asked the question on numerous networks, and I have indicated that -- that Sarah Palin is not the person that I'm looking to right now for my presidential nominee. We are still very early into this. I think it's way too premature to suggest that Sarah Palin will be the Republican nominee, so we'll see how things unfolds.

BORGER: You've also said that you don't believe that she has the intellectual curiosity that allows for building good policies? What did you mean by that?

MURKOWSKI: She was the governor here in the state for almost two years. I had the opportunity, working at the federal level, to work with her at the state level. And I don't -- I said this -- I don't believe that she actually enjoyed governing. She is very good at the campaigning. She's very good with her people skills and the relationships that -- that she builds in a campaign.

But I don't see that her focus is on the policy-ed side of it, the governing side of it, and I think that that's important. BLITZER: What advice do you have for other Republicans who are up for re-election in 2012? Republicans, specifically Orrin Hatch of Utah, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, who potentially -- we don't know if they will -- could be targeted by the Tea Party movement as you were?

MURKOWSKI: Well, the advice that I would give not only those colleagues, but -- but any of my colleagues, Republicans or Democrats: make sure that you are listening to all of your constituents. To just listen to one group for purposes of getting through the primary, it's going to be problematic.

Now I obviously took the far more difficult path to return to the United States Senate. But here in the state of Alaska, I think Alaskans were looking at the options that they had before them and decided that they wanted to send back to the United States Senate someone who is a consensus builder, someone who is going to work across party lines and somebody that was going to represent all Alaskans, not just those who in one segment of the party.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Senator, but quickly, if you could give me a yes or a no, I'd be curious to know where you stand. Will you vote to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for the U.S. military?

MURKOWSKI: I don't know how that's going to be presented in this upcoming lame duck in terms of that defense authorization bill, and whether or not we will get to that. It is indeterminate at this point in time.

BLITZER: Will you vote to repeal the Obama health-care law?

MURKOWSKI: I've already voted to repeal the Obama health-care law. I think we will probably have other opportunities in this upcoming Congress to do just that.

BLITZER: But you are going to fight for continuation of earmarks for Alaska?

MURKOWSKI: I'm going to do what I need to take to represent my state when it comes to federal revenues and federal dollars to make sure that the interests not only of Alaskans, but of the entire nation are served. Whether it's through insuring our military installations sound, whether we're taking care of the veterans whether we're taking care of Alaska natives or our first Americans. The responsibility is there, and I'm going to be working very, very hard to ensure just that.

BORGER: Senator, how awkward is it going to be for you to go back into that Republican caucus with the same senators who kind of shunned you when you decided that you were going to do a write-in ballot? Will you caucus with them or will you form an independent caucus?

MURKOWSKI: Absolutely.

BORGER: So is it going to be a little strange for you?

MURKOWSKI: No, I am -- I am a Republican, always have been, and I have been welcomed back by my colleagues just this week when we were back on Tuesday. I don't expect that the welcome is going to be any different.

We all recognize that we come from different perspectives. Sometimes I vote more with this group than that group, but at the end of the day, it's incumbent upon all of us to figure out how we get along. We've got a job to do and that's governing our country. That's what I'm going to be doing representing Alaska.

BLITZER: Senator Murkowski, good luck.

MURKOWSKI: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: I think everybody in Alaska knows how to spell your last name now, without a doubt. All right. Thanks very much.

MURKOWSKI: They sure do.

BLITZER: Airport security on the defensive over those controversial pat-downs. Now some are blaming a public relations blunder by the TSA.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More and more travelers are protesting those security pat-downs of sensitive areas, but some say a bit more sensitivity on the part of the authorities could have diffused the situation. Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve, who's working this story. What are you hearing, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, viral videos and Internet opt-out campaigns have dominated discussion of the new enhanced pat-down procedures. So did the Transportation Security Administration blow it by failing to get its message out first?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): No doubt about it: TSA's touching of groins and breasts has touched a nerve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She sexually assaulted me. She needs to lose her job. I'm sorry, you know. She didn't do her job correctly.

MESERVE: Controversy may have been inevitable, but did it have to grow into a traveler rebellion? Some experts say no.

RANDY LARSEN, INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: When you're going to do something that has the potential, that has the potential to be controversial, get out in front of the story. You say what you want first, instead of letting a bunch of other people come in, and then you're responding. That's just basic public affairs.

MESERVE: But the head of TSA says he was concerned about security.

JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: I made a decision early on not to advertise this, if you will, until we were fully implemented, because frankly, I did not want to provide a blueprint to the terrorists to say, "We are doing pilots in Boston and Las Vegas and yet, we now have 450 airports around the country where we're not doing this thorough screening.

MESERVE: The TSA says that security concerns also prevented from posting on its Web site important passenger information like where screeners are permitted to touch and where they cannot.

As a result, travelers cannot know when a pat-down has gone beyond protocol.

Online, on Capitol Hill, on the air, the TSA is trying to quell the public uproar, stressing that old pat-downs weren't effective, that the underwear bomb and current intelligence require more stringent security and urging public cooperation.

PISTOLE: Security is everyone's business, and let's work together to make this the best possible Thanksgiving travel it can be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: But some experts say its the new procedures that TSA risked turning the public into an adversary rather than a partner, and recent declarations that it won't change pat-down protocols aren't doing anything to diffuse the situation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne, thanks very much. We're going to have more on this story. Jeanne Moos will take a very different look about the griping and the groping at the airports. I promise you it is "Most Unusual."

Plus, GM bounces back from the brink. Will the jobs come back, and will taxpayers get their bailout money back?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Today, one of the toughest tales of the recession took another big step toward becoming a success story. General Motors relaunched itself as a public company, cutting the government's stake in the company by nearly half. What's more, American taxpayers are now positioned to recover more than my administration invested in GM.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama speaking at the White House this afternoon about General Motors's very successful return to the stock market. Today's initial public offering was the largest ever.

Poppy Harlow of CNNmoney.com is joining us now with the details. It was pretty impressive, Poppy, I must say. POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: An incredibly impressive open for General Motors considering 17 months ago this was a company on its knees in bankruptcy that almost no one in this country thought would rise again. Shares up six percent today.

Let's show you the numbers here for this IPO, the biggest in U.S. history. General Motors closing at $34.90, up 6 percent today alone. Four hundred fifty-two million shares of GM were issued today alone, Wolf.

And also, let's take a look at where the jobs are. This is a big focus. It's also what we asked the CEO of General Motors: will they hire again? Take a look at these numbers, because today, around the world, General Motors employs 209,000 people. Not long ago they employed in 2009, 244,000 people. They had to make a lot of cuts going into bankruptcy.

But I asked the CEO of GM, the new CEO, the fourth man to run this company in less than two years. The first day he spoke publicly was today. I asked him, will you hire more? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Will you hire more employees?

DAN AKERSON, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: We've hired 70 -- 300 employees alone this year in North America alone, simply because demand for our vehicles has increased. And as demand increases, and hopefully, there will be some sort of macro recovery within the United States, sure, we're going to be hiring more people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And Wolf, he said we need a macro recovery in the United States.

I want you to just look at globally how this company is doing, because it is a truly a global story here. The sales up in the U.S. over the last year, up in China, up in India, but they're hurting in Europe. They need to fix that problem, Wolf, in order to hire in a meaningful way. We'll see if they can do that, but a very good day for the new GM, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think they sell more cars in China than they do in the United States.

HARLOW: They do.

BLITZER: But what about the $50 billion in taxpayer money that was loaned to GM? Will the taxpayers get that -- all that money back?

HARLOW: That is a dominating question. It's the first question we asked the CEO this morning. And what's interesting is he said, "I can't guarantee that. I can't make a bold statement, but I am hopeful." So far the taxpayers have gotten back $22 billion of the $50 billion that we spent to bail out this company; $28 billion remains. Why this is newsworthy, Wolf, is because less than a year ago at the Detroit Auto Show, I asked the current CEO's predecessor if they would pay back taxpayers. He said yes definitely. The new CEO is saying, "I can't guarantee that." We'll keep a close eye on it, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will, Poppy. Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is up next.

Plus, those airport pat-downs are now inspiring songs, cartoons, and even new products.

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BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question is, "Is marriage becoming obsolete?" A lot fewer people are getting married these days in this country than even just a few years ago.

Art writes, "No. America is becoming obsolete. As our values continue to break down, the country will continue to decline. Without a family nucleus, things become ambiguous. Everybody just does whatever they want, and everyone is the worse off for it."

Carter writes, "Marriage at my age, 59, is as much a financial decision as a romantic one. Sorry to say, do I share my retirement funds with the love of my life only to have them disappear with the economy and her? Or do we both travel the twilight years together, but unmarried, splitting the cost, should the bloom suddenly fall off the rose? You tell me."

O. writes, "I guess I don't know. I'm from the '60s, an aging Boomer who lived through the 'free love' and 'pot forever' era and all the stuff that was going around back then. We were going to change the world. But I'm sure glad that lady I wake up with every morning is my wife and not my girlfriend. A good marriage is a good thing."

Joy says, "Who cares? Marriage isn't available for everybody in this country. So perhaps it should become obsolete."

Brett writes, "Marriage is a religious issue. The church should be working to combat the situation. As far as government is concerned, it shouldn't care if people who live together are married or not. The tax codes ought to reflect unions, not marriages."

Lavon in California: "Jack, where I live, the infidelity rate is probably higher than the unemployment rate. This town is full of 'MINOs' (Married in Name Only)."

Brian says, "Maybe they ought to create a new program where a marriage is a three- to five-year contract with the option to renew it or extend." Keith in California: "No, I swear your questions are increasingly lazy and silly."

I'm old. What do you want?

Michael in Virginia: "If I weren't married, I'd spend the rest of my life believing I had no faults at all. I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was 'Always'."

You want to read more on this, go to the blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Critics call it groping, and a lot of them are griping loudly about those airport security pat-downs. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's the controversy that has people complaining but also singing. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not since Monica Lewinsky has there been such sexy talk in public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having people feel in their underwear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feels up my wife in front of everyone.

MOOS: All this feeling up has left some feeling down.

JONATHAN MANN, SINGER (singing): I don't like the TSA.

MOOS: Jonathan Mann is known for creating a song a day.

MANN (SINGING): They scan me with their x-ray, or they grope me, which is not OK.

MOOS (on camera): The thing is, one man's pat-down is another man's grope.

PISTOLE: This pat-down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grope-down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been patted down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Groping your junk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advanced pat-down.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I have had my love pats. JOHN GIBSON, HOST, RADIO TALK SHOW: When they grope me, I'm going to say, "Do I get a lap dance with this?"

MOOS (voice-over): Only on "Saturday Night Live", this old skit feels brand new.

AMY POEHLER, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I'm just checking the back pockets, checking it with the back of the hand, and now I'm going to use the front of my hand.

Security procedures, sir. And for the last thing, what I need to do is I'm going to search the inside of your mouth with my mouth.

MOOS: Taiwanese animators have given the screening controversy their special twist, noting for instance, that passengers who refuse a scan can get a private pat-down.

And concluding that no one knows how far security measures will eventually go. But look where they've already gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The product is called flying pasties.

MOOS: Rubber shields you insert under your clothes, made with materials that deflect the scanners, to hide your private parts for women and men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which one does your man wear?

MOOS: They come emblazoned with one liners like "Objects are larger than they appear," "Just hidin' my junk" and even the Fourth Amendment, protecting against unreasonable searches.

In a Skype interview from Thailand, Flying Pasties spokesman Mike Francis said he thinks TSA agents can read the one-liners on their scanners through your clothes.

(on camera) They pull you out for special attention, because that would look like you're the underwear bomber to have these pasties on.

MIKE FRANCIS, SPOKESMAN, FLYING PASTIES: Our advice all along is to say, "I am wearing something called a Flying Pasty, and this covers my private parts and I just want to maintain my dignity."

MOOS: Oh, yes, dignity.

"I was groped by the TSA and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." We have entered the age of the audacity of grope.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

MANN (singing): G-g-g-groping me.

MOOS: ... New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.