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THE SITUATION ROOM
'Indescribable' and Deadly Assault; 'There is A River of Blood'; Clashes Erupt Across Eastern Libya; Fuel Prices Soar on Libya Unrest; War of Words Over No-fly zone; Talk Heating up Over Imposing No-Fly Zone Over Libya; 'Strategy Session'; Royal Wedding 'Security Nightmare'
Aired March 4, 2011 - 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, "a river of blood" -- that's how one doctor describes the deadly scene in a Libyan town that sees another day of violence after pro-Gadhafi forces allegedly opened fire with machine guns on peaceful protesters.
Also, the escalating Libya crisis hitting hard at the gas pumps right here in the United States.
Is it time for the federal government to tap into its emergency oil reserve for relief?
And a rare look inside the largest weapons expo in the Middle East, where some of the technology for sale could help prevent future turmoil in the region -- or not.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: This is new video of fighting in the town of Zawiya. We want emphasize that CNN could not yet confirm when it was shot. But today, reports of what one witness calls "an indescribable and deadly assault" are emerging.
Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, has more.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We do know from talking to a doctor in the nearby hospital, that he said 15 people have been killed, 200 wounded, in an attack by government forces using heavy machine guns and mortars -- small -- small artillery fired into that area.
However, what we're hearing from the government is that they now say that they have now taken control of Zawiya, that they have killed what they describe as a terrorist leader there, captured a number of tanks, anti-aircraft guns and other such devices. So -- so the picture from -- from what is actually happening in Zawiya is not entirely clear at this time.
On the one hand, our sources there say that the rebels still control it. On the other hand, the government says they now control it.
But what we do know is when we were there last weekend, many of the protesters there were armed with heavy machine guns. They had rocket-propelled grenades. They had at least a couple of tanks and some -- some anti-aircraft guns as part of their anti-government protest.
Of course, a week ago, they were very afraid of an incident like this, where the government would attack them.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us.
Meanwhile, in the nearby capital city of Tripoli, more brutal fighting. The clashes reportedly occurred after weekly prayers. Witnesses say flatbed trucks full of gunmen drove through the streets firing tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds.
The United States is stepping up its humanitarian relief efforts in Libya -- outside of Libya, I should say -- as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the bloodshed. A C-130 cargo plane has touched down in neighboring Tunisia, carrying supplies, including 2,000 blankets and more than 9,000 water cannons. It's one of two -- it's one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's ideas -- one of two planes headed to the region that she has already announced.
All of these dramatic developments are raising new fears about the capabilities of the Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.
Joining us now, "The New York Times" columnist, Nicholas Kristof.
Nick, thanks very much.
Let me get the exact quote from this doctor in Zawiya: "There is a river of blood here in hospital. The situation is very bad. I know you're in close touch with people in Libya right now.
What are you hearing?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Well, there seems to have been a major counterattack on Zawiya. There are accounts -- different versions of who is controlling it right now. But there is no doubt that there was a very strong, very forceful counterattack.
And I think -- I mean I guess what I fear is that it's emblematic of a pretty strong effort by Colonel Gadhafi to reassert control in a pretty broad area, from Zawiya and on also into the -- the mountains and southwest of Tripoli.
BLITZER: He's certainly making a show of it. You Tweeted this. Let me read it to you, from Twitter. You said: "I'm afraid that Gadhafi may have more staying power than many people expect. I hope I'm wrong."
That's your Tweet, Nick Kristof.
Give us a little bit more detail why you think this is happening now.
KRISTOF: Sure. Well, just talking to people in Tripoli, especially people who have some connection with the military, their view seems to be that within Tripoli and surrounding areas, like Djerba, that the opposition has been, to some extent, terrorized into submission, that Gadhafi has essentially reasserted a measure of control there, that he's systematically going through to the west and southwest, as far away as the Algerian border, and establishing control there; then likewise, you know, attempting -- and we're not sure how successful that will be -- but to move -- to move east, as well.
And, you know, whether or not he succeeds there -- by one account I heard, he still controls 89 percent of Libya's oil refining capacity. And from the point of view of the rebels, you know, who are way out in the east, it's an awful long haul to mount an attack all the way on Tripoli. And to do that, they would have to bypass Sirt, the hometown of Gadhafi. And that's a pretty tall order for, you know, a bunch of people who are not a regular army.
So I guess I -- I fear that Gadhafi may have, you know, he unfortunately be able to hold on a little bit longer in Tripoli than we might have thought a few days ago that -- and maybe some of our forecasts were a little bit too tinctured with, you know, with hope than with reality.
BLITZER: Yes, people don't realize, it's 500 miles from Benghazi, along the Mediterranean coast, if you're heading west toward Tripoli.
BLITZER: That's a long way to go.
KRISTOF: That's right. And, you know, for armor, for example, if you want to transport tanks -- if you want to get tanks from Benghazi all the way to Tripoli, then you've got to have tank carriers. And it's not clear that the rebels have them, at least in sufficient numbers. It's not clear to what extent they can operate the -- you know, some of these -- these things, whether it's the tanks or anti-aircraft weapons. And, you know, the one thing that Colonel Gadhafi does have is control of a bunch air strips and control, still, of the air force. And that can be -- if there's no good way of counterattacking that, he can use that to pretty good effect.
BLITZER: Why does he have this ability to stay in power yet the leaders of Tunisia, and later, Egypt, they collapsed within a matter of days? KRISTOF: It all comes -- essentially, in this kind of a situation, it all comes down to the willingness of the army to shoot people.
And in Egypt, in Tunisia, the army was not willing to mow people down. In Libya, it was. And that's partly because you had key commands in the Libyan military controlled by Gadhafi's sons.
BLITZER: The president of the United States says now on television -- he said it in a written statement earlier, Gadhafi must go.
But he's not really explaining what the United States is going to do to make him go.
Does he need to get into specific details?
Instead of just saying, Gadhafi must go, does he need to do something to back up those tough words?
KRISTOF: Well, I think it is helpful simply to say that Gadhafi must go. And that, I think, will help peel away some of the Libyan military from Gadhafi.
But I do think that, at the end of the day, he probably will have to do more. And, you know, there are no good options for us. But too often, because we don't have any good options, we just sit on our hands and do nothing. And there are things we can do.
A no fly option -- you know, a no-fly zone is not great, but we could protect places like Benghazi relatively easily.
I think that Secretary Gates kind of exaggerated the difficulty of it, if it were done, you know, more toward Eastern Libya. We can jam the Libyan broadcasting facilities and we can support the rebels in broadcasting to Tripoli. All those things would help at the margin. And I don't see any major reason why we shouldn't do them.
BLITZER: Do you sense there's a split in the Obama administration on how tough to get toward Gadhafi?
KRISTOF: I think there's been a split in the Obama administration kind of from day one. And you have, I think, a -- you know, a sort of a -- a foreign policy establishment, and especially from the Pentagon, that is really reluctant to get involved. They feel they've got their hands full and that it's very easy for these idealists to commit themselves into things and that it's hard to get out.
On the other hand, you've got these -- you know, some people who I think are quite close to the president. I think it's the president's own instinct that here we have a movement that reflects our values, where everything is at a turning point, and the we want to make sure we're on the right side of history.
And you've had Obama kind of go back and forth between these two camps and, from my point of view, maybe not doing as much as we could have at some -- at some moments. And I would say that right now is one of them in the case of Libya.
BLITZER: Nick Kristof, thanks very much.
I just want to remind our viewers, you can follow Nick on Twitter, @nickkristof -- all one word -- and, of course, read his columns in "The New York Times."
Thanks very much.
KRISTOF: Sure. Thank you.
BLITZER: New clashes as rebel forces move closer to the Libyan capital. We'll have a live report from our own Ben Wedeman. He's in Eastern Libya.
And the escalating crisis triggering new pain at gas pumps here in the United States.
Is it time to tap into the emergency oil reserve?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Rebel forces are moving closer to the capital of Libya, Tripoli.
Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is in Eastern Libya.
He's joining us now with more -- what's the latest on the ground, because I take it, Ben, the fighting is really intensifying?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly it's moved forward. What we saw today, Wolf, was an intense battle to take the town of Ras Lanuf, which is a very important oil refinery town further on the road in the direction of Tripoli. There, basically this ragtag army from Eastern Libya, they sort of gathered on the outskirts of the town. More than 500 men, more than 100 pickup trucks, cars, even bikes, bringing these soldiers, these volunteer fighters to the front.
And when they went in, we heard, you know, incredible thuds of artillery. And there were rockets coming out of town.
But eventually, by sort of just before midnight, they had essentially taken over the city, its airport, as well as that refinery.
So this is a major victory for the anti-Gadhafi forces, despite the fact that they don't seem to have any apparent command and control structure. Basically, people drive to the town and try to fight their way in as individuals or as small groups.
Obviously, this clears the way for another offensive in the direction of the town of Sirt. That's one of his strong commands and those areas of Moammar Gadhafi. That's his hometown. And, of course, if the rebels are able to take that, it's not too far before they actually get to the capital, Tripoli -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did you see evidence, Ben, that the Libyans, of Gadhafi's Libya, that they were using their air power, whether fighter planes or helicopters, going after the opposition?
WEDEMAN: According to eyewitnesses, there was a jet, a Libyan Air Force jet, flying over the area. But it was a very, very intense sandstorm going on. So apparently they didn't have the visibility they needed to start dropping bombs.
However, other eyewitnesses told me that there were helicopters in action. The helicopters staffed the ground around where these fighters were. They also, apparently, fired rockets at them, but the rockets didn't explode.
Really, the weather today was such that it would have been very difficult to really maximize air power under those circumstances -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know, Ben, you're with the rebels, the opposition, right now.
What's been the reaction to President Obama's strong words yesterday?
WEDEMAN: Well, people are very encouraged by those words. But at the same time, I'm also picking up an undercurrent of unease about the possible foreign military intervention in Libya. People are in favor of the no-fly zone. They want that because this is their Achilles heel, the fact that the Libyan Air Force has just free reign over the skies of Libya.
However, one man I spoke to among these fighters said that if the United States actually sends troops to Libya, they'll make -- kiss and make up with Moammar Gadhafi and fight the Americans to the last man.
So it's a very touchy topic, the whole idea of foreign military involvement in what is essentially a local revolt against Moammar Gadhafi.
BLITZER: And finally, Ben, the forces who are fighting Gadhafi -- Gadhafi's troops -- are these former Libyan soldiers who have basically gone to the other side or are they totally inexperienced in these kinds of military-related matters?
WEDEMAN: Well, there -- there's a fair number of soldiers who have come over to the side of the opposition. But, really, the majority are these guys who have no experience whatsoever in military affairs. They don't really know how to use the weapons. There's a lot of fumbling and trying to make them work. And I've been watching some of these professional soldiers, officers from Gadhafi's Army who have now gone over to the other side, really just tearing their hair out, trying to get these guys organized, trying to -- trying to explain to them what it means, you know, the tactics and strategy and how to properly use their weapons, because the tendency of a lot of these sort of hot-headed young men is to take their AK-47s or their anti-aircraft guns and just blast their way into the sky, just as a way to express their enthusiasm. But in terms of military units, that's not really the way you're supposed to do things -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Two months, almost, for Ben now.
First, he was in Tunisia, then in Egypt, now Libya.
Ben, thanks very much.
Ben Wedeman from the scene for us, reporting.
In Egypt right now, signs a new government beginning to take shape. The country's new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, is telling a crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square that he is, quote, "of the people" and will resign if he fails to meet their demands. Sharaf, originally the country's transportation minister, was sworn in today. The former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, was thrown from power, as you all know, last month.
Think the unrest in Libya doesn't impact you?
Think again. Gas prices are soaring right now, up 28 cents in just the past 10 days.
So will the U.S. take drastic measures to try to ease the financial pain?
And tens of thousands of people have fled the turmoil to Libya's border with Tunisia.
But as government troops mass, is there any way for them to get out?
BLITZER: The turmoil in Libya is pushing oil higher and higher by the day. Crude oil prices are at their highest level since September 2008, nearing $105 a barrel. And that's already hurting all of us at the pump.
But the Obama administration has been resisting calls to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester is joining us now with more on this part of this story.
It's almost like a hidden tax. The higher a gallon of gas costs, the more people have to shell out of their pockets. LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. And believe it that people are really focusing on this issue, when it comes to this pocketbook issue of gasoline prices.
But the Obama administration says we're not in emergency right now and that is what the Strategic Reserve was set up for.
But gas prices are up 68 cents from a year ago. The average price of gas is now $3.38. And some parts of the country have already topped $4.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Four dollars a gallon for gasoline?
Some gas stations in California hit that mark for premium gas, as the political turmoil in Libya continues to edge gas prices upwards.
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: Two of them.
SYLVESTER: Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro says the gas spikes are hurting middle class families.
DELAURO: We're trying to recover economically in the United States. And if we see gas prices rise the way they are doing now, because of the high price of -- of oil per barrel, then we're going to look at more money being spent to put oil in the tank, more money for those of us in the Northeast with home heating oil. We need to investigate other areas.
SYLVESTER: DeLauro and two of her House colleagues sent a letter to President Obama asking the administration to tap into the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a stockpile of 727 million barrels of oil in Texas and Louisiana set up after the 1973 oil crisis in case of emergencies.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner downplayed the urgency, saying the reserve is there for the U.S., if necessary, but the administration has no immediate intention of tapping into it.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: There is still considerable spare oil production capacity globally. And the United States and the other major economic economies possess substantial strategic reserves of oil. And those reserves could be mobilized to help mitigate the impact of a major supply disruption.
SYLVESTER: Saudi Arabia has said it could step up oil production to make up for any losses from Libya. Libya, an OPEC country, produces 2 percent of the world's oil.
(on camera): Do you think this is an emergency?
DELAURO: Well -- well, what I would do is say, we do not have a -- a -- a problem with supply. No one is suggesting that. What we are doing is just saying, let's get a step ahead. Let's try, before the -- the prices of -- of oil continue to rise -- and they are rising quickly.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Both Democratic and Republican presidents have tapped into the Reserve -- President Clinton to ease tight supplies in 2000 and President George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SYLVESTER: Both political parties are using the high gas prices to argue for changes in policies, Republicans wanting to reopen the debate over new offshore drilling. Democrats are pushing for more federal investment in alternative fuels -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's going to cost people a lot more money to fill up their tanks and to heat their homes. There's no doubt about that.
Thanks very much, Lisa, for that story.
Surface to air rockets, shoulder-fired missiles -- just some of the leftover weapons in Libyan falling into the hands -- perhaps the wrong hands.
Should the U.S. be concerned?.
And does John McCain have the better idea?
We're going to tell you how the U.S. should handle Gadhafi. Not necessarily everyone agrees.
BLITZER: We're watching the situation in Libya closely right now. Lots going on. We just got a Tweet from our own Nic Robertson. He just Tweeted this. Let me share it with our viewers: "Libya government official claims they have 90 percent defeated rebels in Zawiya, just mopping up operations left."
That's what Nic just Tweeted.
We know he's heading back. We're going to be speak with -- speaking with him soon. He's just spoken with a senior Libyan official. I believe he's just spoken with Saif Al Islam Gadhafi, the son of Moammar Gadhafi.
We'll check in with Nic Robertson in Tripoli. Stand by for that.
As witnesses describe Gadhafi's security forces gunning down helpless protesters, talk is heating up over imposing a no-fly zone over Libya to keep Gadhafi from attacking his own people.
Senator John McCain is one of the most vocal supporters of a no- fly zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Logic dictates that if the secretary of State and the president of the United States say Gadhafi must go, one of the measures that would hasten his departure would be a no-fly zone, which would inhibit his ability to prevail militarily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a different approach.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Of course, we are concerned with the ongoing violence and the actions that are initiated and perpetrated by Gadhafi and his regime against his own people. We are considering a number of ways that we can be of assistance with respect to that. But we are now focused on the humanitarian situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Secretary also said Washington is consulting with NATO, its Arab partners and the United Nations about the most productive and constructive ways to deal with the crisis.
Let's dig deeper right now with our CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen.
So it looks like a serious disagreement emerging between, for example, Senator McCain on one side, and the -- and the Defense secretary, Robert Gates, on the other side, who is making it clear he has no appetite, the Pentagon has no appetite to engage in a no-fly zone over Libya.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: The disagreement is deepening, Wolf, as this -- as this standoff continues. And Gadhafi may actually be making some gains, as we just learned. And the rebels increasingly are asking for help from the international community, including a no-fly zone and more weapons.
There are strong arguments on behalf of Secretary Gates' position. It does get us entangled potentially on the ground. It sets precedents that we may have trouble with down the road in other nations as rebels are hit hard by allied governments of ours.
The Arab League is, at best, lukewarm about us coming in. There's a lot of resistance in the Arab League. And also, you know, we don't have any money.
So there are a lot of arguments, but I must say, on balance, and perhaps because Harvard has just announced that ROTC is coming back today, and we're feeling more muscular on this campus today, I actually think John McCain has got the better part of this argument. And, by the way, he is joined in that by Senator John Kerry.
So it's not just McCain out there. Both of them are arguing -- and by Joe Lieberman -- that a no-fly zone, if you're going to be in favor of getting rid of Gadhafi, a no-fly zone is not that hard.
We spend a terrific amount of money on just this kind of thing, and it's a limited part of Libya, so it's not the whole part of Libya. And it would make a difference in getting -- otherwise, we're in a situation where we're ineffectual.
We said we want the guy out of there, but nothing happens. And, you know, that's not where you want to be, nor do you want to be in a position that they're in now at the administration sending out conflicting signals.
The president is saying all options ought to be on the table, I want to hear more about the option of the no-fly zone, and yet others in the administration are saying oh, no, no, no. We don't want to do the no-fly zone.
So, I happen to think on this one, Wolf, as much as I respect Secretary Gates -- and I do -- I think that Senator McCain, Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman have the better part of the argument.
BLITZER: When you say no money, McCain says, look, they have a $600 billion annual Defense Department budget. They have got a lot of money over there.
Isn't this precisely the reason they have so much money, to use military power in a situation like this to save lives?
GERGEN: Well, Wolf, before these rebellions started in the Middle East, Secretary Gates was saying no future president can afford, given the budgetary situation in the United States, another Iraq, no future president will want to put money into another Afghanistan. And both he and Admiral Mullen, the head of the Joint Chiefs, have said the most important threat to our national security is our deficits.
And if we do undertake operations -- and those are not budgeted operations, they would have to be fresh money. So that's an argument against it. I don't think it's a compelling argument, but that argument -- one has to respect the fact that there is a strong argument on the side of Secretary Gates.
BLITZER: Yes. My own sense is that you should keep Gadhafi, and especially his air force, his pilots, guessing. And it's a mistake to advertise to the whole world that we really don't want to do this, we don't want to do a no-fly zone.
I appreciate all the difficulties. You've got to go in there and attack anti-aircraft missile batteries. You've got to go in there and take out the radar. It's all difficult. It's not easy, and it's going to be expensive, and the U.S. may not do it. But you don't necessarily want to tell Gadhafi and his troops, hey, don't worry about, go ahead and start bombing. GERGEN: Well, that's an excellent point, Wolf. We have semi taken no-fly zone off the table. It would better to have it really back on the table.
The best strategy of all, of course, is that the people around Gadhafi realize or feel they can't win, ultimately they're going to go down, and they defect. And maybe they take him out themselves, you know?
GERGEN: One bullet could make all the difference here.
BLITZER: That's a good point, David. Thanks very, very much.
GERGEN: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to continue our coverage in this, including the smoke -- the smoke grenades, the guided missiles, the armored vehicles, just some of the high-tech weapons being offered to a very hungry market out there.
We're going to tell you about that. Stand by.
And they are setting their political differences aside. Why is President Obama sharing the stage with the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush?
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, more charges against Jared Loughner today. What happened?
SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
A federal grand jury indicted the Tucson shooting suspect on 49 counts in a superceding indictment. The new indictment adds additional charges against him, including murder in the death of federal Judge John Roll. Loughner is accused of shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others at a Tucson grocery store in January. Six people were killed.
President Obama shared the stage today with former Florida governor Jeb Bush. The two appeared together last hour at a Miami high school touting the results of a strong turnaround program there. President Obama encouraged the students to focus on getting an education after high school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The single most important things companies are looking for are highly-skilled, highly- educated workers.
That's what they are looking for. More than ever before, companies hire where the talent is. I want all the young people here to listen, because over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs are going to require a level of education that goes beyond a high school degree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Good advice there.
Well, Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are ramping up efforts to eliminate funds for public broadcasting. Today, they introduced legislation that would defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That is the group that funds NPR and PBS.
The push comes as Congress debates this year's budget plan. The CPB received $420 million from the federal government last year.
And now a heartbreaking story out of Michigan. A 16-year-old high school basketball player had just made the winning shot of the game Thursday when he suddenly collapsed on the court. Wes Leonard had stopping breathing and his heart had stopped beating.
After failed attempts to revive him, an ambulance transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy found that he died of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.
A very, very sad story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Such a sad story, 16 years old. It's a tragedy.
All right. Thanks.
More political heat for potential Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee. Ahead, what he says he finds troubling about one popular Hollywood actress.
And Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, now weighing in on the worsening crisis in Libya. Why he says the United States is blowing this situation out of proportion.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us now, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, James Carville, and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
I'm going to play a little clip. It's a little long, but it's Mike Huckabee once again. He's causing yet another stir.
The other day he spoke about President Obama being raised amidst madrassas, as opposed to a Boy Scout or a Rotary Club, if you will. But listen to what he told Michael Medved on his radio show. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FMR. ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: One of the things that's troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, hey look, you know, we're having children. We're not married, but we're having these children and they are doing just fine.
But there aren't really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a move, and I think it gives a distorted image that, yes, not everybody hires nannies and caretakers and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can't get a job. And if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think, James? Is that an issue? Is this a problem for Mike Huckabee right now, what he just suggested about Natalie Portman?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, for Republicans, his biggest problem is going to be that he correctly acknowledged the fact that it wouldn't be for the government, these children would have nothing to eat and no health care. So I'll give him some credit there.
Natalie Portman is doing exactly what people say someone should do. She's actually having the baby, not an abortion, and she's marrying the father of the baby.
I've always had kind of a soft spot for Governor Huckabee, but he's apparently concluded that the only way to get the Republican nomination is to make a fool of yourself. I mean, this whole thing about the president and Kenya and everything else, I don't know what's wrong here.
Something is wrong with the governor. He usually makes sense, as he made sense at the conclusion of those remarks I just heard.
BLITZER: Michael, what do you think?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I think that the governor is a little bit off base here in terms of making points and connecting points that really don't go to the heart of what I think he was trying to say, which was a focus on that individual, that single mom, and the needs and the cares and the concerns that we all should have about their welfare, the welfare of that child. I think he's really stepped off a little bit more of a ledge than he needs to on this issue.
I don't think he needs to personalize it to Natalie Portman. I think -- I agree with Jim. She's doing the right thing, as that's defined by society. She's keeping the child. She's going to marry the father of the child.
So, you know, there are a lot of other examples out there as well of people who are doing the right thing. And I think that we need to focus more on the positive to make the point to those who do struggle that there are support networks and there are ways which we can help people. I don't think we need to demonize and demagogue on these issues, and I think that's what the American people are sick and tired of to begin with.
BLITZER: One writer in "The Washington Post" today, James, had a different interpretation about Huckabee's motive. Let me read it to you.
She wrote this: "So why did Huckabee take aim at Portman? He may have been taking a veiled shot at Sarah Palin, whose daughter had a child out of wedlock, who has participated in a glitzy 'Harper's Bazaar' photo shoot and the television show 'Dancing With the Stars.' He might be trying to reassert himself as the true social conservative in the Republican Party, holding a hard line on abstinence."
What do you think about that interpretation?
CARVILLE: You know, I think that's a complicated, vague (ph) shot. And, I mean, look, people will say that. I'm just not -- I don't think that's the case. It may be.
I think he was just -- couldn't -- Hollywood is sort of low- hanging fruit to these people, and I think he thought he'd go ahead and pick it. It turned out to be not very ripe fruit. And I go back to my point, his acknowledgement -- of course, correct acknowledgement -- that the only thing standing between utter abyss and some of these children that are born like this is the fact that they get some sort of government assistance.
Look, I've written in my book and I do think there's a real case to be made that children do better in two-parent families. And while it's preferable, it's not always possible, and we have to deal with this. But I think Natalie Portman, in addition -- I saw that move, "The Black Swan" -- an amazing actress. But she's actually doing what people say you should do in a situation like this.
BLITZER: Let me switch gears briefly, Michael, because yesterday I had Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the Republican Party, on this show. And he took a little veiled -- not so veiled swipe at you, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
I'm going to play the exchange and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You've inherited a real financial mess at the Republican National Committee. How much in debt is the RNC right now?
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, Wolf, it is a mess. We have a $15 million line of credit that is hocked up to the maximum it can go. We have $8 million approximately -- (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That obviously got distorted. What he said is, "We have $8 million approximately of unpaid vendors right now from the last election, so we have approximately $23 million in the hole. We're trying to rebuild trust with our donors, rebuilding our party, and that's a big job."
Are his numbers accurate, Michael?
STEELE: Oh, yes. His numbers are probably accurate. I don't know about the $8 million. I mean, there's probably additional bills that have come in, you know, in just the normal course in January and February.
So I know there was about $5 million at the end of December of vendor debt that was held over from November. But, you know, in some sense it's really kind of ironic, rather funny, that, you know, the chairman is sounding a little bit like President Obama whining about George Bush.
But the difference is that unlike President Obama, Reince Priebus was at the table with me. He was my general counsel. He counseled me to take out that line, that $15 million line of credit that's hocked up to the gills, and, you know, supported that effort.
He voted for it as a member. I didn't vote for it. I'm on the record. In fact, at the budget committee hearings saying I did not want to take out this line of credit, not to $15 million.
I thought the $5 million was sufficient. But it is what it is. We took the money, we spent the money, and we won elections.
Gee, imagine that. We actually spent the money to win.
Prior chairmen have spent $10 million of debt, created tens of millions of debt, and lost. So I think the money was well invested. The party wanted the money invested. And we now move forward. And I suspect the chairman will do as he said he's going to do, pay off the debt.
BLITZER: Let's see how he does.
All right. Michael Steele, James Carville.
Guys, thanks very, very much.
STEELE: All right.
BLITZER: The uprising in Libya is using Gadhafi's supporters, soldiers, and his weapon, and now new concerns those weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
And later, is the fresh chaos in Libya creating a fresh opportunity for al Qaeda?
BLITZER: There's two months remaining until the royal wedding.
CNN's Dan Rivers in London with what security experts are keeping an eye on right now.
DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 29th of April, the world's eyes will be on London for the royal wedding, but it will present some acute security challenges. Buckingham Palace is here. This is the (INAUDIBLE) part of the route.
Security Specialist Will Geddes is with me.
Will, this is going to be a bit of a nightmare, isn't it, for the authorities here?
WILL GEDDES, SECURITY EXPERT: It's going to be a considerable nightmare, because when we bear in mind how many people, A, are going to be watching this event around the world, but secondly, the number of people that will be coming into London to actually be part of the whole celebration, it makes for an incredibly complex policing operation.
RIVERS: This will be lined with people. What are the risks here, for example?
GEDDES: Well, the biggest risk will be firstly, trying to contain the number of attendees who are coming along and the number of visitors. But it will also be ensuring that not only the royal family members, but all the dignitaries that will be coming in from around the world, are also safe and can move securely and quickly, to a certain extent, from one location to the other.
RIVERS: Obviously the risk of Islamic terrorism has got to be in the forefront of everyone's minds.
GEDDES: Absolutely. We're at the second highest level where a terrorist attack is highly likely. Certainly, the royal wedding would be seen as the most ideal type of event to target by these extremist groups.
RIVERS: Can they search everyone that comes in here? There will be tens of thousands of people along here. Is that possible?
GEDDES: Well, it's virtually impossible to search every person. But the complexity of the policing operation is going to be on many, many different levels, from not only an overt police presence, right through to covert officers, and various other strands, including special forces, who will be intermingling within the visitors to hopefully identify any threats.
RIVERS: This is Westminster Abbey, Will, where the wedding will take place. What are the other security concerns? GEDDES: One of the other very, very important concerns will be the anarchist element. And we already are aware of various anarchist groups coming together to try and consolidate their agenda from the anti-monarchist (INAUDIBLE) action into what they're terming their project as a (INAUDIBLE). Now, this is looking to create disruption at various points along the route.
RIVERS: So they are already planning their disruption, these anarchists. We already know they're online recruiting people, coming up with ideas?
GEDDES: Absolutely. And they've even put a map out because the route, obviously, for the procession is already out there in the public domain.
RIVERS: Profound challenges for the authorities here in London. Already, we've seen Prince Charles and Camilla having been attacked -- their convoy, anyway, being attacked during student protests here. Everyone is hoping there won't be any kind of repeat when Katherine and Prince William head off to get married here at Westminster Abbey on April the 29th.
Dan Rivers, CNN, London.
BLITZER: CNN's Nic Robertson has just returned from an interview with one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. Nic is going to be joining us live.
Stand by for that. You're going to want to hear what the son is now saying.
Plus, the fighting in the Middle East is fueling the market for weapons. Who's buying and who's selling?
BLITZER: With unrest rocking the Arab world, governments may be arming themselves with deadly new weapons to try to stop the protesters in their tracks.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, was at an eye-opening arms bazaar in the Persian Gulf. She's joining us now live with more.
Barbara, what's going on?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I traveled to the Persian Gulf for a look at the international arms market as the region is reeling from uprisings. But, of course, Libya, now a pariah state, was nowhere to be seen.
STARR (voice-over): Counterterrorism forces for the United Arab Emirates touring an arms show. They are ready to talk tough about terrorism.
(on camera): Are you all tougher than the terrorists?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because we are preparing very well, and we are able to beat them and control them very well.
STARR: But ask about the political unrest these days --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, this is a question not in our section.
STARR: Here, at the largest weapons exhibit in the Middle East and Africa, not talking about the current violence in the region is the rule. But these displays speak volumes about the current unrest shaking the region, new equipment that contractors are marketing to Middle Eastern and African governments.
A flashy display offering a computer system to monitor potential uprisings.
THOMAS BETRO, ATS: What we've done is combined traditional sensors, cameras that see what's going on in the city. But it also taps into the Web and the social networks. And so it monitors what people are thinking and what's on their minds.
STARR: The company says it monitors sites like Facebook and Twitter, mapping where troubling messages are coming from.
BETRO: We literally can program into this system the types of keywords and concepts and issues that are of interest to leadership authorities. And it trolls those Webs and sites on a continuous basis.
STARR (on camera): Some people would say that you're going to wind up selling a tool for a government to spy on its citizens.
BETRO: Yes, that's right. And, of course, this doesn't hack. It doesn't have any capability to hack if something is protected by passwords. It's merely another tool.
STARR (voice-over): This Jordanian armored vehicle is used by police to quell violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This version of the vehicle is for anti- terrorism.
STARR (on camera): So this is to fight, in your country, bad guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any terrorist operations that might happen, yes.
STARR: Al Qaeda, anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any terrorist operations or any people that need to be apprehended. STARR (voice-over): And in a new partnership with another troubled neighbor, the Jordanians are selling this vehicle to Yemen. Nearly 50,000 people, military troops for around the world, toured this arms bazaar over four days, one window into the multi-billion dollar arms trade.
STARR: Now make no mistake, no public talk in front of our cameras, but behind the scenes everyone was talking about the current situation in the region. Even those young troops telling us they are very aware of the power of social media -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thank you.