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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  September 9, 2009 4:00pm-7:00pm EDT

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here. that is an armored personnel carrier where as many as, you know, man, we don't know, five, seven suspects are being taken away now. all right. we're going to turn things over to wolf blitzer. i'll stand by here if wolf needs me to help him take you through this. "the situation room" now and wolf blitzer. wolf, take it away. >> thanks very much. we'll definitely be needing you so stand by. we're following the breaking news out of mexico right now. a plane has been hijacked. aero mexico flight 576. details are still emerging. passengers are exiting after the hijackers reportedly said if they didn't get their way they'd blow the plane up. it looks now like all the passengers have been released from this aircraft, boeing 737 en route from cancun to mexico city. the crew was supposedly still being held, but now mexican television is saying the crew has been released as well, and it looks like several suspects
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have been detained. you're looking at these pictures coming in from tv azteca as well as televisa as well as mexico city. we're watching all of this unfold. we're hoping this dangerous situation has ended by now, but it's not yet 100% clear. rick sanchez has been covering this for us over the past half hour or so much. rick, since the news broke, go ahead and update our viewers on the latest, because i know you were listening in spanish to mexican television, getting the latest information. what is the information that we're getting? is it all over with, or are there still details yet to be resolved? >> it sounds like they have actually got all the suspects in custody now. i'm listening on my left while i listen to you on my right ear. i'm listening to mexican television reports coming in on my left ear. it sounds like they have taken the suspects, in fact, away. you saw them taking them on to that military vehicle that they had brought on the airport. wolf, i've got to tell you.
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as long as i've been covering news, i'm not quite sure i've ever seen an emergency of this magnitude handled with so much brevity. we literally got the information just a little bit after 3:00 that a plane had been hijacked, and in the course of those last hour or so we have learned that the plane was forced down, that the plane did have 104 passengers on board, that there were as many as three suspects on the plane, and that apparently after they still got to the ground they were making threats but somehow they were able to break the impasse. we saw security forces. we don't know how much resistance they got, but they were able to make their way on to the plane and started to pull the passengers off the plane. we know that just a few of them were hurt. the rest looked no worse for the wear, but then they also immediately began apprehending, and there you see some of the pictures now of some of these suspects, some of these alleged hijackers who were then removed from the plane, walked across the field and put on to this armored carrier. what's still very curious is why
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it is we started with a number of three hijackers, and they ended up taking as many as five, seven people away. i was talking to our law enforcement analyst mike brooks moments ago who was telling me there's a very good chance that somebody else may have been involved. that doesn't mean they were, but nonetheless they suspect them, so they will be taking some of these folks in for questioning. that's the first suspect we saw right there. you're seeing that man right there in the yellow shirt. he was alleged to have been one of the suspects, one of the alleged hijackers in this case who may have had something to do with it. in the meantime, i've been listening to the latest reports that have been coming in from these folks there in mexico. we've been relying on tv azteca as i take you through this, and it sounds, let me listen in one more time just to see if i can hear what they are saying now. earlier we were reporting these suspected hijackers, rick, were either from bolivia or colombia, but it was unclear where they were from. do we have any more information?
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are they saying yet where these suspected hijackers were from? >> it sounds like they have nailed it down. unofficially to bolivia. that's at least according to several sources i've heard in the reporting, that they came -- that the suspects are bolivians. now as you well know from doing many interviews on this area in the past, wolf, that could mean that there is some kind of cartel connections, that there have been in the past in bolivia and in colombia as well. at least, that has been the recognized foreign of resistance in that area. obviously not anything that we can confirm at this point, but it certainly is something that i'm sure the state department is going to be check on right quickly. >> i want you to hold on for a minute, rick, if you can listen in the spanish to what they are reporting on mexican television. we're going to come back to you in a moment but tom fuentes is joining us, a contributor formerly of the fbi who is watching al of this unfold. tom, when you see this, what
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goes through your mind, especially what, two days before the anniversary of 9/11? >> well, wolf, i didn't look at it in the context of nis because it looks like it's probably more of a mexican domestic issue. what went through my mind watching the broadcast of the hijacking is that of the hijackers probably for some reason surrendered because we don't have the mexican authorities doing what would be referred to as a dynamic assault trying to swarm that plane from every entrance all at once. so somehow either through negotiation or another reason it appears that the situation came to an end peacefully by the choice of the hijackers, and that they decided to give up, and the fact that they did so also is an indicator, because the people around that plane don't seem to be too concerned about it possibly exploding, so you have hundreds of soldiers, law enforcement authorities, other people that are around
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that plane and stayed very close to the plane, and as the passengers left, you didn't sao them coming down the ramps running for their lives. you saw them at a deliberate pace but not at an urgent pace coming down the ladders and people being taken into custody, the suspects at this point, the pilots coming off the plane, so it appeared to me that the situation resolved -- was resolved non-violently prior to the authorities boarding that plane. >> because we've been reporting, tom, that the suspected hijackers aboard the boeing 737, this aeromexico jet, they said they had a cardboard box containing a bomb and they threatened to blow up the plane if their demand to speak to the president felipe calderon was not met. that threat in and of itself, whether or not they had a bomb or not, and clearly given the heightened state of security in cancun where this plane originated, it's unclear whether there was in fact some sort of bomb, but what does that say to
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you as a trained fbi agent at least in your form er fbi agent? >> my experience in many of those situations people threaten that they have a bomb when they actually don't, and it appears that they must have determined very quickly that there was in fact no bomb because, as i mentioned, when you look at videos of people exiting that aircraft, there's not any great urgency about it, and you would think that even after they have exited and they are down on the tarmac talking to the authorities, if there was any possibility that there was a live bomb or explosive device still on that plane, they would have been moving the people as far away as fast as possible from that aircraft. >> i want you to hold on for a moment. rick sanchez is still with us. rick, have you been picking up more information from mexico television? >> yeah. i'm listening now. they have just asked one of the correspondents there on the ground, they have asked him if in fact did he see any shots fired? were any shots fired on the ground? was there any kind of threat?
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he said, no. it was a peaceful rescue in that the folks were asked to walk off the plane, and they were. they did so, again, without shooting a single shot. then he was asked if any explosives experts or if that box that was referred to earlier as a square brown box was seen or if any of these detonation officials have been asked to go on the plane and deal with that, and he said no, absolutely not, that no one went on the plane at any time to deal with any explosives, and that no explosives experts were seen on the ground or seen anywhere near the scene. that's what i just heard this reporter explain, as curious as it may sound, wolf. >> rick. hold on for a moment. tom furnt entes as well. byron sage joins us as well,
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spent quite a bit of time working for the fbi and knows a lot about these kinds of situations. it's been a while that we've seen or reported on a hijacking, especially here in north america, byron. this is extraordinary. byron, can you hear me? >> yes, sir. can you hear me? >> i was going to say, this is pretty extraordinary that there's actually been a hijacking, albeit short lived apparently. >> that's absolutely true, and i think the reason for there not having been hijackings is the -- the fact that the security procedures have been so greatly height en heightened. like tom was saying, this was probably a hoax from the beginning, but you have to take it very seer carouse >> when you say a hoax, that there was really no bomb inside the so-called cardboard box that they threatened to blow up if they didn't get their opportunity to speak with the president of mexico? >> exactly, and it would be speculation at this point, but
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we would all hope that that in fact is the case and people's lives were not truly at risk. >> because if it was a hoax, if they really didn't have a bomb, it would seem that they had some sort of political agenda that they wanted to try to advance, at least at this point, is that right? >> clearly, yeah. >> and instead of an actual hijacking. tom fuentes, go ahead and finish your thought on this specific area, because i interrupted you are before. >> okay. i'd like to say one other thing, wolf. last year i flew 240,000 miles, most of it international, and i can tell you there's a big difference in the screening that goes on for an international flight, especially if it's bound for the united states as opposed to a domestic flight within a country. not within our country, of course, but within other countries, so in this case you have a domestic cancun-to-mexico city flight, and so, number one, you might not have the same diligence of security preparing for the passengers on that
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flight that you might on an international u.s.-bound flight. and secondly, domestic flights don't require the display of a passport, so the reporting at this point that the three suspects or the three main suspects are bolivian could be speculation based on an address provided when they bought the tickets or some other factor and not production of an actual bolivian passport as they boarded the plane, which would have been the case if it was, again, an international flights. normally domestic, you just need some government i.d. it can be your driver's license or something else to board the flight. >> all right. hold on for a moment, tom, because jeanne meserve is joining us as well, our homeland security correspondent. you've been checking with your sources. what are you hearing? >> reporter: well, the transportation security administration says it is monitoring the situation, but because this is not a u.s. carrier and it's an international incident, they don't have the lead in this instance. it's the state department that has the lead for the u.s. government, and as we've heard from jill dougherty, they are trying to establish whether or
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not there were any u.s. citizens on this flight. one of the remarkable things here is there has not been a hijacking in the united states since 9/11. that was the end of it for a number of reasons. they reinforced the cockpit doors. some of the pilots have been trained to carry weapons, and passengers have been empowered, and we've seen a number of incidents, including with shoe bomber richard reid, where passengers have jumped up, and they have taken control of that situation. now there are additional steps that pilots and others have advocated that haven't been taken. for instance, they would like to see a secondary cockpit door that would provide even more protection, but the u.s. airlines have opposed that because of expense and because of weight, so the situation here very different than it would be in mexico as tom furntes has noted. that was a domestic internal mexican flight. the security standards for that would have been significantly different than for standards of a flight coming to the u.s., but here in the u.s. it's been quite a remarkable history since 9/11,
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not one successful hijacking. >> yeah. that's a good point. stand by. jill dougherty is our state department foreign affairs correspondent. jill, have you got any more information? 104 passengers, we're told at least mexican television net cork, tv azteca says 104 passengers on board from this tligt from cancun to mexico city. we know a lot of americans visit cancun and mexico city for that matter. do we know if any americans were on board? >> at this point we don't, wolf. the state department is checking precisely that, but they have to have the manifest, and then they have to go through that to find out whether there are americans, so that's what we're told. they are checking that right now. if there were americans, they would certainly want to know how many there were. they are also talking here at the state department about possible reasons. it's unclear at this point. this is a different looking hijacking as we've been reporting, so the reason why it happened, and then finally they want to know what u.s. agencies, if any, might be able to help
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out and aid in this. you, of course, have to think about the fbi perhaps, but at this point they are just ascertaining, and because it happened so quickly, luckily, and it appears that people are out safely, there's not that certainly this sense of urgency that people's lives might be at risk, wolf. >> and aeromexico has some sort of cooperative arrangement with u.s. law enforcement. explain that, jill. >> reporter: that, wolf, i am not sure exactly. the state department hasn't been explaining precisely how that works, so i can't really give you any specifics on that. >> all right. we're going to check into that. i think they have a cooperative arrangement in terms of security matters with other u.s. airlines, so we're going to get more information on aeromexico specifically, this flight from cancun to mexico city. rick sanchez is still with us. rick, what else are you picking up? >> the spokesman for the president has just briefed reporters. >> the president of mexico,
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felipe calderon. >> that's correct. the spokesman, i'm listening now, just came out and gave a -- what amounted to like a two-minute briefing with reporters. he says he's coming out soon to give more information, but he seemed to confirm, wolf, what -- what had been reported so far. he said that the police and the mexican officials, security officials are to be commended for a swift maneuver. he doesn't seem to dissway what we have been reporting, wolf, and what was reported early on, that this was in fact a hijacking of some form, and he says he's going to be making some more comments briefly. he says that it's true and the government can now confirm that everyone has been taken off the plane safely, that is to say all the passengers and crew have been taken off the plane safely. that's the latest information. we're getting that from one of
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the spokes persons, the communications spokespersons for president calderon, wolf. >> and it's in line with what we're getting now from the associated press, rick, the transportation and communications secretary in mexico juan molinar says that all the passengers and crews are now safe. he said that there was no bomb on the airplane, even though that threat had been made. at least five of the suspected hijackers were arrested and seen with their hands handcuffed. it looks, at least according to the transportation and communications secretary juan molinar quoted in the a.p. story, that this has been resolved, this hijacking rather quickly, but obviously we're getting all the details of what exactly happened, why apparently these five suspects, and they are believed, rick, tock bolivian citizens. i don't know what, if any, that says. colombia would suggest drugs perhaps being some sort of involvement, but bolivia is a different -- a different sort of
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issue, isn't it? >> yeah. you know, it's interesting. i'm listening to juan molinar now. he's doing his very first interview with reporters. i'm monitoring what he's saying. he seems -- he seems to be saying that they knew immediately that there was a problem, and that's why there was an exjens, if you will, to bring this plane down, that they were able to do so, and that's what made it work. >> yeah. it looks like whatever strategy they had clearly worked because the passengers, more than 100, are freed. the crew members are freed. at least five, maybe more suspects have been arrested. hold on for a minute, rick. tom fuentes is with us as well. there's a dramatic picture of the pilot sticking his head out of the cockpit trying to communicate. there it is right there. tell us what might be going on
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here? >> okay. i'm sorry. is that a current picture or from earlier? >> no. this is from earlier. this was taped earlier, but you see that pilot. he's really sticking his head out, and he's saying something to ground personnel there. unclear if he's saying get away or whatever, but he's obviously in communication with them, and he's gesturing rather dramatically. >> well, he could be telling them that the hijackers have already said that they are going to surrender and, you know, telling with them that it's going to be peacefully resolved to reduce the possibility of the authorities swarming the plane and possibly firing shots, so that's a possibility. if this has already been revolved through negotiation, he may want to make sure that the people on the ground around that plane are aware of it. that's just speculation on my part and that's a possibility. again, you don't see -- even then, you don't see the urgency on the part of the authorities running towards the plane or away from the plane at all. >> aeromexico -- >> this could already have been resolved at this point, and they
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are just trying to figure out how to get everybody peacefully off the plane. >> aeromexico does fly into the united states and it does have cooperative agreements with u.s. airliners as well. i assume the security surrounding the cockpit, the crew members, other aspects of this aeromexico flight are very similar to u.s. commercial airliners, is that right, tom? >> yes, but the cooperative relationship with the u.s. is in fact and also with tsa is the fact this ter going to use more stringent methods to screen passengers before a flight bound for the united states, and so the airlines, regardless of what carrier it is or what the nationality of the carrier is, if it's coming to the united states, they follow united states standards for security screening of passengers and cargo. so that's -- that's generally the cooperative agreement as well as the sharing of passenger manifest information and all of that. as jeanne meserve mentioned, and i mentioned earlier, this was a domestic mexican flight, and -- and it's an aeromexico carrier
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so you don't have the same requirements of them sending the information to the u.s. or sharing it with tsa or other u.s. authorities that you would have if it was an international u.s.-bound flight. >> well, in terms of u.s. airliners, tom, wouldn't if domestic u.s. flights have a little bit less security than international u.s. commercial flights? >> no. within the united states, any flight originating or destined for the united states is going to have the same stringent security, so if it was a domestic united states flight, it's going to be under the same security requirements as an international flight from the united states, but what i'm saying in this case is this is a flight originating in cancun bound for mexico city, so the fact that it was not an intendeds flight means that the mexican rules and their normal screening procedures would be in play as opposed to u.s. requirements. >> understood. all right. let me bring in abbi tatton, our internet reporter. abbi, show us where this flight was taking off from and where it
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was heading. >> wolf, the flight trackers online show that this plane, this flight had been operating quite normally up until this extraordinary event leaving from the resort city of cancun on the caribbean there at 11:40 a.m. this morning local time. 104 passengers on board. then, starting this routine flight aeromexico operates about a half dozen of them each day, domestically to mexico city, starting this routine flight of just about two hours there to the capital of mexico, arriving there at the airport, the airport about eight miles east from the center of mexico city in the outer suburbs. when the hijacking was under way, this plane then moved to a remote area in the airport away from the runways where planes were still landing. tv azteca had been reporting that president felipe calderon was at the airport at this time in a presidential hangar. the plane moved to a remote area of the airport for the 45 minutes or so that the
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passengers say that they were being held before they were being allowed to leave this aircraft, but until then, this is a very standard flight. aeromexico operating many each day between these two domestic airports. wolf >> thank you very much, abbi. let me go back to rick sanchez who is continuing to monitor what mexican television is reporting. what else are you picking up, rick? >> a few people were injured when they got them off the plane, but most of them were dealt with there. the spokesperson for the government, the communications director as he's described, is now saying that it was not a bomb, that it was not a bomb, that it was a theat. he did not amplify that word threat after he used it. i was hoping he would. he just said that there was a threat on the plane that was felt by the personnel of the plane. we don't know if he was referring to flight attendants or the pilots at any given time but it was a result that have threat that they decided that the plane had to be brought
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down. they certainly -- he seemed to be saying that they felt that they needed to treat this as a hostage -- as a hijacking situation, and that's why they did it as they did. now, obviously the element that's missing in all of that is exactly what was this threat and was the security of the cockpit itself ever breached? i tried to listen carefully, wolf, to see if he had -- if he would amplify on that, but he didn't. i'm not sure at this point after listening to the explanation from both the airport officials there and the president, the president's office or the spokesperson, the communications director, whether indeed the cockpit door had been breached at any time, and obviously that's something we're all very interested in because all of us who fly know that the security measures have been to reinforce to make sure that doesn't happen. if it did, there would certainly be a lot of questions as to how something like that could happen, wolf. >> and we've now independently confirmed, according to mexican
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authorities here at cnn, rick, that the hijacking has ended peacefully. all the passengers and crew members are accounted for, and we believe at least five, maybe six suspects suspected hijackers have been arrested by mexican authorities, and as you've been reporting it looks like that bomb threat was just that, a hoax. there really wasn't a bomb in some sort of cardboard box. they wanted to speak with the president of mexico, felipe calderon. they said they would blow up the plane if they didn't get that phone conversation. clearly that threat was simply that, a threat, and it didn't materialize fortunately for everyone concerned. but you're right, you and i have been covering this kind of stuff for a long time. this is a pretty unusual event. >> it's unusual in that it's been so fast in its development. i mean, i don't know exactly what provisions the mexican security forces had made for this type of situation.
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i'm certainly while i've been a cop beat reporter most of my life in this business and i know how these guys work, it seemed to me from everything that i saw here that there was a very tactical and a very organized approach that was taken by these security forces, and it certainly seems, i know it's obvious -- it's easy to say they did a good job when in the end result no one is hurt and everyone is captured who is considered a suspect, but it certainly looks as we look at this that they were able to be hands off until they needed to go in. they went in, and they got everybody out, and it seems like they were very, very reactive to what was going on in the beginning, so, you know, you look at something like this, and all the times that we do stories about police officials and security forces and what they need to do or don't need to do, it looks like in this case these guys had been trained appropriately and did what they needed to do. get on the plane and get them out. >> and -- >> and do so quick. >> and the end result is good. we're going to stay on top of this story. rick sanchez, thanks very much for your excellent reporting, rick sanchez, obviously fluent
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in spanish which was really, really useful for all of us here at cnn on this day. once again, mexican airliner, the aeromexico flight 576 from cancun to mexico city was briefly hijacked by five or six suspects. everyone is now safe. the crew members, more than 100 passengers, will stay on top of this story and we'll get more information for you as it comes up. when we come back though, we're going to make the turn, the most dramatic potential speech of the president coming up in only a few hours. david axelrod is there at the white house and we'll get a preview of what to expect later tonight. stay with us. you're in "the situation room."
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here in the united states there's arguably no bigger issue, no bigger stakes, no bigger pressure cooker than what president obama will confront head on later tonight, about three and a half hours from now. he will give perhaps the most important speech of his very young presidency. the issue, health insurance for millions and millions of americans. the audience, the very people who will decide whether or not he gets it. it's a rare speech before a joint session of the united states congress.
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let's talk more about the president's speech. joining us in our strategy session is the senior presidential adviser david axelrod. david, thanks very much for coming in. >> hey, wolf, good to be with you. >> is the president, because we're getting a lot of conflicting information, going to say absolutely that the so-called public health insurance option, a government-run health insurance company that would compete with the private health insurance companies, is he going to say that that's absolutely essential? >> look, wolf, what he's going to do is deliver a plan that will bring security and stability to people who have insurance, that will help people who don't have insurance get it at a price they can afford and bring down the costs to the whole system. he believes the public choice, within that pool that we're going to create for uninsured americans and small businesses would be helpful in terms of bringing competition and choice. he thinks that could be good for consumers, and he's going to make the case for that, but he's also going to make the point that this is not -- this is an ends to a means. it's not the essence of this
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debate. it's a part of -- it's one of the tools, and there are other ideas out there that-to-bring competition and choice that are -- that are worthy as well. >> including what they call the cooperative option, a series of health insurance cooperatives that wouldn't be the public option but would be some -- something in between? is he going to get into detail like that and say he likes that idea? >> he will acknowledge the fact that there is that idea. there's the idea of putting trigger on the public option so it goes into effect at some date when it's clear that a market is uncompetitive. there are a number of ideas, but what is very important is that we have the kind of competition and choice that will help consumers in many states in this country, there's one insurer that dominates the entire market. in alabama one insurer dominates 87% and in north dakota there's -- >> so why not break down the state barriers and let all of these insurance companies compete nationally without having to simply focus in on a
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state-by-state basis? >> because we are trying to do this in a way that advances the interest of consumers without creating such disruption that it makes it difficult -- >> why would that be disruptive if blue cross and blue shild and united health care and all of these big insurance companies, don't have to worry about just working in a state, they could just have the opportunity to compete in all 50 states? >> but insurance is regulated at this time -- >> but you could change that. the president could propose. >> state by state. >> the president could propose a law changing that. >> that is not endemic to the kind of reforms that we're proposing or that -- >> why not? why not? >> we're proposing a package that we believe will bring that stability to people, help people get insurance. it will lower the costs and that can pass the congress, and that has to be the test. we're not into symbolic expedition here. we're trying to bring real relief to hard working and
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middle class people in this country. we believe the plan that we've outlined will do that. >> if the president wanted great competition, greater competition, he could say let's change the lawyer and let these health insurance companies compete nationally. >> i'm not sure, wolf, that that would -- that that would end the debate that you asked me about in the first place, and, you know, i think that the idea that he's proposed will promote that. others will have other ideas but they are not what's central. what's central is we get fundamental insurance reforms that will protect people, put a cap on their out-of-pocket expenses if they have pre-existing conditions, make sure they get insurance, if they get sick, make sure they don't get dropped off insurance and creates a pool where people who can't get insurance today. if you don't have insurance through your employer it costs you three times as much to get you insurance today. most people can't afford t.most small businesses can't afford to insure their employees. a lot of people won't start a small business because they can't leave their insurance. our plan would help cope with that. >> what will the president say
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tonight about what's called tort reform or caps on medical malpractice lawsuits in the democrats, as you know, they get a lot of money from trial lawyers. the republicans say the democrats, including the president, they don't have the guts to impose a cap on medical malpractice lawsuits. what specifically will the president say about that tonight? >> well, this isn't a matter of guts or not guts. this is a matter of trying to deal with the problems facing our health care system. the president has acknowledged many times that there is some validity to the medical malpractice issue and that he has heard a concern from doctors about having to practice defensively, and so tonight he's going to address that issue and he'll have some proposals that relate to it. >> will the trial lawyers be upset? >> i don't know. we'll see, but the point is though that everyone is going to have to give a little here to -- to deal with what ails our system, to bring the costs down, to help people get security and stability. if they have insurance and to help people get affordable insurance if they don't. >> there are what, 40 to 50
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million people in the united states who have no health insurance right now. the president gets his way all of them will have access to health insurance. are there going to be enough doctors and nurses around to deal with that influx of additional people who need health insurance, who need care? where are all these doctors and nurses going to be coming from? >> well, first of all, understand that a lot of these people are getting health care. they are getting them in emergency rooms around the country. it's -- it's created a real emergency, health care emergency in a lot of these communities and all of us pay a premium, extra premium for that in our health insurance today, but let me just correct one thing you said. there are among the uninsured, there are some 35 million americans or so who don't have health insurance, american citizens. there are another 10 million people who are in this country illegally who don't have insurance. our focus is on the 35 million. 5 million of them are people who qualify today for medicaid and
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other public programs and simply haven't taken advantage of it, and then there's the other 30 million and that's where our focus is. >> does the president believe it should be essential for all americans to buy health insurance if they can afford it, and if they don't they should pay a fine or potentially go to jail, just as everybody who drives a car has to have car insurance? >> well, i think that the president believes that we all have a responsibility in this health care system. large employers have a responsibility to provide insurance or help kick in to -- to give their employees the ability to get insurance, and, yes, every american has a responsibility to -- to get covered because if they don't, they then we end up paying for their health care. >> and should they be penalize federal they don't buy the health insurance? >> well, there has to be some remedy for that, and we'll -- we'll address that, but we believe that most americans want
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insurance, and they will get it. now there has to be a hardship exemption so if people -- if people have to pay beyond a certain percentage of their income into the plan, they ought to have the ability to opt out of it. >> but if a young person in his or her 20s can afford to buy health insurance but decides, you know what, i don't want to spend a couple hundred or $400 a month, you're going to force that person to buy health insurance, am i hearing you right? >> well, fun that young person walks out in the street and gets hit by a bus and you and i ends up paying for their care because they will go to an emergency room, they will be put in a hospital, and that's one of the reasons why we each pay an extra $1,000 a year, so even young people have responsibilities, too. i have young kids in their 20s, and i know they feel invulnerable but they are not so we all have a responsibility in this. >> over the next ten years, correct me if i'm wrong, you think you can save, what, $500 billion from medicare, is that right? >> well, it's not just from medicare but from public health programs. we believe there's a great deal
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of waste and fraud in these programs. we believe there are unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies, all of which can be removed without affecting care and certainly not benefits and will strengthen these programs for the long run. our reforms will extend the life of medicare in the solvency of medicare, something we all have an investment in that. >> a lot of seniors are nervous if you take $500 billion out of medicare, $50 billion a year over the next ten years, they are going to have less opportunity to use that money, and it's going to in the end turn out to be rationing for the elderly. how worried should they be about that? >> they should not be worried and the president will address that tonight. the fact is that this program -- every senior who has experienced the medicare system agrees there's a great deal of money wasted within the system that we can save. that has nothing to do with their patient care. the president is not going to divert money from the medicare trust fund to pay for this, and
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ultimately it will extend the life of medicare. the only people who are talking about changing medicare in a radical way are some of our opponents on the other side who have suggested that we voucherize the whole process and give seniors vouchers and let them go out and fend for themselves. that would be a dereliction of our responsibility to our seniors, and it would break faith with them. they have worked for this. we ought to make sure that they get it. >> we're out of time, about one final question on van jones, the former energy or green jobs czar that just quit, resigned over the weekend. a lot of people now are reviewing statements that he's made over the years and asking how could the white house have allowed him to come in given some of those stamtsz including signing a petition suggesting that president bush himself might have been complicit in the 9/11 attacks? >> well, look, first of all, understand van jones has an international reputation in this area of green jobs, and that's the basis on which he was retained. i didn't know about these
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statements, and perhaps i should have, and i -- i'll take some responsibility for that, but i think that he's to be commended. i think he's so fundamentally committed to the success of this program. he understands green jobs and energy are so much part of our economic future that he wanted to remove himself as an issue, and i commend him for that. >> and so the most important lesson that you and your colleagues at the white house have learned from the whole van jones experience is what? >> well, look, i think that as i acknowledged i -- i wish i had known -- i would have talked to him about it. we would have made a judgment. i think he wanted to do what was best for the president and more importantly for the country, and that was reflected in the decision that he made. >> we'll leave it at that, on that note. david axelrod, thanks very much for coming in. >> good to see you, wolf. >> we'll, of course, be watching the president's speech tonight here on cnn. health care reform with or without republican support, that's the vow from a powerful senator who says he'll unveil
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his own bill next week. is bipartisanship dead. also, a movie about hillary clinton leads to a supreme court case that could radically impact next year's election. plus, former president bill clinton emotional as he recalls an act of kindness by walter cronkite at one of the lowest points of his presidency and his life. [ moos ] [ man announcing ] if you think about it, this is what makes theladders different from other job search sites. we only want the big jobs. welcome to theladders. a premium job site for only $100k+ jobs and only $100k+ talent.
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the leader of the so-called gang of six senators is out with
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a major statement. let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent dana bash. dana, what's going on? >> reporter: what's going on is that the bipartisan negotiations are going on as we speak behind me, wolf, but today the chairman of the finance committee made a dramatic move that could jeopardize any chance at a bipartisan deal. after hundreds of hours of negotiations with republicans, this key democrat says it's time to move on with or without them. >> irrespective of whether or not any republicans, and i do think that will be, i'm going to move forward anyway. >> reporter: senate finance chairman max baucus announced he'll formally introduce health care legislation next week and begin committee votes the following week. he went out of his way to emphasize the bill will incorporate gop ideas and bipartisan compromises, the so-called gang of six have worked on for months. >> we've all invested so much time and effort in this. i know that some of my
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republican colleagues very much want to be part of this. they want to be, and they know, and i know, there's still time. >> reporter: baucus has been under intense pressure from the white house and democratic leaders frustrated that he has repeatedly missed deadlines. this democratic colleague was stunningly candid about his frustration, especially with baucus' efforts towards bipartisanship. are you saying that that's been a fool's errand? >> not the way i would have gone at it. >> reporter: democratic senator jay rockefeller said baucus is giving up too many government principles, especially a government-run health care option replacing it with non-profit cooperatives. >> it works for farms. it works for electricity. it works for, you know, whatever else, but it doesn't work for health care, and nobody is focused on that. >> reporter: baucus insists his plan reflects reality. >> i think frankly with increasing conviction that a public option cannot pass the
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senate. >> reporter: now despite the democratic chairman's announcement that he's willing to go forward without republicans, two of the three republicans in that room said that they still think it is possible to get a bipartisan deal. one of those republicans olympia snowe is, as you know, wolf, the white house -- they consider her the best chance at any bipartisan deal ultimately. i caught up with her today, and she said something very interesting. she said that she urged the president to make very clear tonight a public option, a government-run health care option, is off the table. here's what she said. >> people are rightly skeptical of a government-run health care system and government interfering in medical decisions, and so i would hope that we can take it off the table. i understand that it's very important on his side, but it is another way of achieving that consensus sooner. it might accelerate the process and build momentum and refine the debate and moving it in a different direction than reinventing the wheel on the public option where there's no support among republicans and even, you know, there's not
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support for it among democrats in the house and in the senate. >> reporter: and senator snowe confirmed for the first time what cnn reported last week, and that is that the white house has stepped up their conversations with her, an idea that she's had out there for six months, and that is to have a so-called trigger mechanism, a backup for a public option but only if the insurance companies don't police themselves and they don't reform their ways and make things more competitive and make costs lower. she said that that is a way that the white house thinks that they can ultimately bridge the gap, and she says ultimately it might be her idea that the white house takes on. >> we just heard david axelrod, the president's senior adviser, saying in the speech tonight the president will express his preference for public option but also likes that idea of maybe a trigger, also likes the idea of cooperatives and other compromise proposals out there so he'll be open to all of those ideas. i don't think he's going to necessarily give a hard and fast preference or at least a sign
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quo n ho n. we're a little more than three hours away from the presidential address. many rallies raucous leading up to it, cnn's brian todd is watching what's going on. what are you seeing on the hill, brian? >> reporter: well, wolf, with health care reform such a heated issue throughout the united states this summer, some groups you would have thought would have wanted to take that debate right here to the nation's capital, but on the biggest day of the national health care reform debate so far, it looks like some of the passion that was on the streets might have gotten lost on the way to washington. the very public political theater of health care reform. rallies, protests, town halls got downright rowdy over the summer. >> wait a minute. >> reporter: but on the day president obama makes his sales pitch to congress and the nation, the fuse didn't light at
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the foot of the capital. a staged event included a petition delivery in an ambulance. stacked rolled up to congress although offices on stretchers, but at the rally it self the largest groups were members of the media and republican congressional staffers dutifully litning to their bosses. >> we don't want our health care hijacked. 85% of the people in this country like their health care. >> reporter: elsewhere on capitol hill a street theater protest drew only media and a few police. i spoke with randal terry, leader of an anti-abortion group staging this. they are also lobbying against health care reform. >> even if we swing 5% or 7%, then we prevail, bus the numbers on this bill have been steadily dropping. >> reporter: support for the president's plan has decreased over the summer. approval of his handling of health care has slipped, according to the latest cnn opinion research corporation polls, but the same polls also show public events like these, even the boisterous ones, are
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not tilting opinions. 62% of respondents in a recent poll saying town hall meetings have had no effect on their views of the president's health care plan. >> essentially there is kind of a silent center, and they haven't been swayed by this because on the one and there's a lot of missing information on this and a lot of misinformation, and one of the things that obviously needs to happen in this debate is more information, more details. >> reporter: and, of course, that's what all of us are going to be watching for tonight, more detail from the president, but conservative groups are not waiting around for that. they are planning on holding a big rally this weekend in washington hoping to pick up the debate where it left off, hoping probably to have a little bit more juice than what we saw today on the streets of washington, wolf. >> brian, thanks very much. many americans very worried over the cost of extending health insurance to an estimated 46 million people in the united states, u.s. citizens and non-citizens, but the president says people should also worry about the cost of not reforming
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the health care system. let's bring in our national political correspondent jessica i willin for more on this part of the story. jessica? >> reporter: wolf, talk about running through money. get this, in 2007 the u.s. spent $2.2 trillion on health care costs. now we broke that down. it comes out to $7,421 per person in the united states, or put that in another perspective it's four times the amount of money the u.s. spends on education every year, and guess what? that number is only getting worse with costs skyrocketing. our spending as a nation on health care as a portion of our total economy, it's doubled since 1970, and the dollars that we're spending, they will double again in the next ten years. we've got all the figures here, so, you know, president obama has made the case that reforming the health care system will actually help bring down costs. he says it will be financially wise in the long run. this was how the president kicked off the push for reform in march, you'll remember.
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>> health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it's a fiscal imperative. if we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy and get our federal budget under control, then we have to address the crushing costs of health care this year in this administration. >> reporter: but it's been a tough sell for two reasons. one, it is impossible to prove how much any of these reforms could save the u.s., and in any case the government has to spend money up front to reform the system down the line, so you've got up-front costs with the promise of eventual savings, a very hard case to make to americans who are struggling with financial problems of their own today. we'll see how he takes on this issue tonight, wolf. >> and we'll see what kind of specifics he gets into tonight, jessica. thank you. what the president will say tonight will impact every american, so americans will be watching, and you'll see that presidential address live right here on cnn. our coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern. the speech set to begin moments
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there after. all the passengers appear to be safe, but only after their plane was hijacked and the hijackers threatened to blow the plane up. we have new details on this nightmare. we now know there were, yes, there were americans on board. and bill clinton like you're rarely ever seen him. he uses a sad occasion to open up about a rather dark affair that's personal to him that is historic to the country.
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this country definitely needs to focus on other ways to get energy. we should be looking closer to home. there are places off the continental shelf. natural gas can be a part of the solution.
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i think we need to work on wind resources. they ought to be carefully mapping every conceivable alternative. there is an endless opportunity right here.
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there's a full house today at new york's lincoln center for longtime cbs news anchor walter cronkite. president obama paid tribute to him calling cronkite a voice of certainty in a world that was
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growing more uncertain around former president bill clinton remembered a gesture of kindness from cronkite right at the height of the monica lewinsky scandal. >> i fourth he was an astone fishing man. i liked his inquiring mind and caring heart, and he did something for my family that was so simple and even now it's hard for me to talk about, but in a very tumultuous summer in our personal lives, 1998, we were up on martha's vineyard and walter cronkite picked up the phone and said betsy and i want you to go sailing with us, you and hillary and chelsea, we'll just go out and sail around. he said somebody might take a
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picture of it, but so what. i'll never forget that. at the time i could have done with a picture with walter cronkite. i say this because that wasn't something he had to do. he was 81 years old. he was a good man. yes, he was a great journalist, and he lived a fascinating life which made him long to know and to understand and to share his knowledge and understanding. he was almost painfully honest. one of the most interesting things to me about his
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autobiography and some personal conversations we had later about his role in trying to advance public discourse was what he thought about the limitations of television news, what he spent his whole life doing. he said i did the best i could, but really i think people should read more newspapers. can you imagine anybody else fessing up to that? so i'm here to say thanks to his family and to his wonderful late wife for a man who was important in all our lives, a great citizen and a profoundly good human being. that's just the way it was. thank you. >> walt other cronkite anchored the "cbs evening news" from 1962
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to 1981 and died in july at age of 93. and to our viewers here in "the situation room" happening now. rising u.s. casualties, charges of election fraud and a growing taliban threat. the stakes never have been higher in afghanistan. cnn right now is in the war zone. we'll take you live to afghanistan. your family's health may hang in the balance. president obama goes before congress just three hours from now to make an urgent pitch for action on health care reform. two u.s. senators who will be standing there are standing by for us. democrat sharrod brown and republican john thune. they are getting ready to debate. and one of the world's most powerful nations may be zapping america's strength with a spying campaign s.china potentially setting up the united states for a knockout blow? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
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all that coming up, but let's begin with the breaking news out of mexico city right now where the hijacking of a commercial airliner has ended peacefully. more than 100 passengers have been taken off the aeromexico jet and eight people have been taken into custody after threatening to blow up the airliner. there were u.s. citizens on the plane, and police may be wary of a lingering threat out there. they have been checking for explosives on the runway. cnn's rick sanchez has been tracking this story for us from the very start. he's joining us now live with more. rick, you're monitoring what's happening in mexico city. it looks like it's been resolved, but there are still -- there are still questions out there. >> it's an amazing story from beginning to end. certainly the way it developed during the course of the last oh, two hours here, wolf. the pictures really told the story. it's one of the few events that we've actually seen develop live from the international airport there in mexico city. the flight was said to be coming in from the yucatan peninsula
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when suddenly there were reports that someone on the plane will supposedly made a threat of having a bomb on board. they immediately forced the plane down, and after the plane landed there were 40 minutes of anxiety with passengers still on the ground but there you see finally 45 minutes after the plane came to land there were passengers who were evacuated from the plane. there were about 104 of them, according to reports. the passengers say for the most part they didn't know exactly what was going on in the air, but they sensed there was something on the ground as soon as they landed and they saw all the mexican security forces there on the ground. the interesting thing we're learning now is that at least three people, all said to be bolivians, have been arrested by mexican authorities. we don't know exactly what has been said about them in terms of what actual threats they had made, but, you know, as we watch
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this, the pictures were really amazing how this security detail was able to come in and get some of those folks off the plane. there you see the pictures, and then soon after that we started seeing, wolf, some pictures of some of the suspects themselves, these alleged hijackers getting taken off the plane. >> i'm going to interrupt you for a moment because i want to show our viewers this picture as well. watch your monitor right now. they -- the hijackers said they had a bomb in a cardboard box. that cardboard box, take a look at this, authorities detonated it. we're going to show you what we saw. all right. you saw that, rick. they do that always. i don't think there was a bomb inside, but they -- they don't want to take any chances whatsoever in these kinds of situations. >> it was obviously a precautionary measure that they took there, wolf, because we had
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heard from juan molinaro who was one of the president's spokes persons there and one of the directors of the communications office, saying that it seemed to him that there was a threat on board the plane, but there was never actual sighting of any explosive device. that's what they are saying from the official sources there. the long and the short of it is that it looks like the good news in this case is that thing played out and it's really anxious moments for a long time for security officials, for mexican officials and for folks on the plane there that there was something really horrible that could be happening, but in the ends, in the end, the good news is, wolf, that they were able to get everybody off the plane. >> and very good news indeed. thanks very much. rick sanchez doing some excellent reporting. jeanne meserve is standing by in our washington bureau. what are you hearing about u.s. citizens on board that plane? >> reporter: we only have preliminary information from u.s. law enforcement sources, but they say there were 112 people on this flight. it's their understanding that they were american. they were mexican and they were
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french. we don't have any breakdown on numbers yet and how many were americans just isn't clear. the transportation security administration has been monitoring events in mexico and is not directly involved and this is an international incident and this is not an american carrier, but it's worth noting, of course, that hijackings have become a real rarity, particularly in the united states. there has not been a successful hijacking since 9/11 of 2001. that is almost eight years ago, and the reasons are better screening at the airports. reinforced cockpit doors. some pilots are armed, and passengers who seem empowered and ready to take things into their own hands, but they will be looking at what happened to mexico to try to see if there are any security lessons which should be learned from that happened there. >> and we're only two days away from the eighth anniversary of 9/11 this friday. jeanne, thanks very much. the stakes have never been higher in afghanistan where the situation looks increasingly shaking. the government is accused of
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outright election fraud. american casualties right now are on the rise, and taliban insurgents are making a bloody comeback. cnn has deployed its full resources to the war zone. our michael ware has been to kandahar, a strategic city which remains right on the edge of taliban territory. it's a city mickal used to know very, very well. here's his report. >> reporter: how does that make people feel here in kandahar? i wanted to see what had happened to this place since i had left. kandahar, the birthplace of the taliban and the capital of the south, the fiercest combat zone. i once lived here before iraq and after the fall of the taliban. so much has changed here in kandahar. there's new buildings. there's new roads. there's new tree lines, but there's also a new taliban. there's a taliban here that wasn't here just a few years ago, and this city now lives in the shadow of the taliban.
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the taliban control neighborhoods here. in fact, this is a taliban neighborhood. these police are from a police station right in the midst of a taliban stronghold. they are very much on the front line guarding the gates to kandahar. in fact, here in this marketplace the mood among shopkeepers is anxious. everyone in kandahar is saying the city is surrounded, this businessman says. there's something like 200 men standing here. go, ask them. is there taliban or not? here the sense of a city under siege goes much deeper than just hurting business. even here in the city you cannot speak out against the taliban. those who do speak up face a terrible conclusion, this shopkeeper says. i found for many these fears are growing even though a major u.s. and canadian base is located at kandahar's airfield just outside
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the city limits. their vehicles are in the city streets. >> michael ware is joining us live now from kabul. amazing stuff you've been working on, michael, over there, but tell us once again why kandahar, what happens in kandahar could be a barometer for what happens in all of afghanistan. >> reporter: well, it's certainly going to tell us what's happening with the taliban itself. the foremost enemy of coalition troops here. let's not forget. kandahar is the second largest city in the country. it's the capital of the south. it's the old imperial capital, and it's the birthplace of the taliban, so what goes down on the streets of kandahar will tell you so much about which way goes the south of the country. obviously there's different issues to the north and to the east -- to the west as you
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approach iran, but kandahar gives you a very good measure of how president obama's war against the taliban is faring, and quite frankly, wolf, that measure right now is not a good one. it's something to worry about, wolf. >> it seems to a lot of experts out there, and you're one of them, michael, that all the options before the u.s. right now, and there are several different options including sending thousands of additional troops, all the options are pretty bad right now. are there any good options? >> reporter: well, there is -- there is one element that's been missing from the mix, according to a lot of the major players i've spoken to in kandahar. many of them have been telling me, you know, when i first arrived here eight years ago. you're never ever going to have enough international troops, american or otherwise, to get the job done here, and you probably won't get enough afghan army troops either, certainly not in the time frame that the
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american public is allowing president obama. so you've got to start looking for other solutions. now apart from negotiations and political solutions that could lead to an end to the conflict by dealing with the taliban, there's something else as well. it's learning from the lessons of iraq and transporting them here. it's engaging the tribes to attack the taliban and keep them out of their area, to arm militias. in many ways turning pack to the old warlords who won the soviet war here in afghanistan in the '80s, some of whom have returned to the taliban not because they believe in the taliban cause but because they are so disenchanted with the afghan government and the american mission, and i can tell you the -- the karzai family is calling for a return to tribal militias, and there is some interest within the u.s. military to look at this option because of the successes we saw in iraq. that could be the missing element, wolf. >> and general david petraeus who is the u.s. military
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commander for the central command which overseas iraq and afghanistan, he certainly understands this situation well. michael ware, be careful over there. tonight an "ac 360" special report. afghanistan elections, taliban resurgence and mounting american casualties. it's a critical moment for the region and for the u.s. anderson cooper takes you inside afghanistan live from the battle zone all this week at 10:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn, the worldwide leader in news. bring in jack cafferty right now with "the cafferty file." i've been watching the special reports on "ac 360.." >> great stuff. >> all of this week. these guys, as i said, they are risking their lives to get the news to all of us. >> and doing a job that is head and shoulders above anything else that's been done over there and that includes all the lads down the street at the old gray lady and elsewhere. we've got the best journalism coming out of that war zone i think right now of anybody. >> without a doubt. >> right. we'll stop patting ourselves on the back now at the risk of
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bruising ourselves. president obama's speech to congress tonight is seen as a turning point. have you ever heard this before? one way or the other when it comes to health care reform, the month of august didn't go according to the democrats' plan, and now divisions within the president's own party threatening to stop his signature domestic issue from going forward. camille paglia who supports the president rights on, and she does terrific columns there, she says it's still possible for the president to turn things around with a strong speech tonight. what's he going to say that hasn't been said, but she acknowledges that after a summer, quote, of grisly hemorrhaging, too much damage has been done, unquote. paglia asks how a white house who couldn't even smooth of an innocuous back-to-school pep talk will revamp health care and criticizes the democratic party for becoming arrogantly detached from ordinary americans and for not realizing that talk radio and the web is where the debate is at. maureen dowd goes after the
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president in today's "the new york times" for not being tough enough and she's probably right. dowd suggests the president needs to be, i love this line, less spocky and more rocky, but despite all the nashing of teeth it's critical a point out that the players are still at the table and it's worth remembering the political cost to bill clinton when reform didn't happen on this subject during his first term. here's the question. is it too late for president obama to change people's minds on health care reform? go to to post a comment on my blog. my big question going into this speech what is he going to say that we haven't heard 100 times already? >> we'll watch at 8:00 and find out. >> and the answer is nothing. >> he's going to try to convince the american public that what he wants to do is going to help them with their safety and their
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security and their health care. >> but they have been trying to do that for months. it's not working. >> we'll see if he can do it tonight. he's a good speaker. >> he's a great speaker. he needs to be a good president and get some of his programs passed. >> more spocky -- more rocky, less spocky. maureen dowd, a great writer. >> got camille paglia and maureen dowd slapping the president around, not a good sign for him. >> not good at all. jack, thank you. one of the world's most powerful nations targeting america's top secrets. >> the sad joke in the pentagon is if somebody can't find a document someone else says, well, call the chinese. >> china accused of a spying operation in the united states. what's behin the accusation? and after a serious health issues, apple ceo steve jobs now back in the spotlight with a brand new line of high-tech gadgets and sarah palin making new charges about so-called death panels. how should the white house handle her latest attacks?
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even as president obama prepares to go before congress later tonight and the american people in a make or-or-break push for health care reform, the former alaska governor sarah palin is back with a fresh accusation about so-called death panels. let's talk about that and more with a pair of cnn political couldn't bursters. the democratic strategist paul begala and republican strategist ed rollins. guys, thanks very much for coming in. she writes this in the "wall street journal" today on the op-ed page. is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are
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concerned that the democrats' proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by dare i say it death panels? establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many americans. certainly did ring true for a lot of americans out there who were concerned when they heard her raise it weeks ago and now she's reiterating. >> how humiliating for her. it rang true. truth is an absolute. truth is not relative. things don't ring true for some people. so many people are lied to. those people were lied to. they were lied to by mrs. palin. she should be ashamed of herself for lying to my mother and yours and now she writes this, geez, no wonder some people it rang true for them. she should say mea culpa, maxima culpa, i flied your mother. i'm very sorry. >> instead of saying that she's saying exactly the opposite and saying to the "wall street journal" i was telling the truth and i'm still telling the truth. >> i've defended sarah palin many times in the past. i'm not about to defend her on this issue.
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there are legitimate issues and people on medicare have to have real concerns about what's going to happen to them and those are things you have to be talking about. you don't have to scare them. can you have a serious discussion about basically altering our system or we're going to be broke nationally and to a certain extent when you get into the fringe things you diminish arguments for things that are serious. >> one of my sayings in the health care debateg as the republicans are talking about death panels and not the deficit i'm happy because that's the real arguments. that's the legitimate criticism is can we afford this? that's where the debate ought to be. >> and particularly among the young people who will bear so much of this burden. >> when you take a look at the republican decision, they will have a response. it's always very difficult after a president delivers an address before a joint session of congress, whether it's a state of the union or special address as he is tonight, for some republican to get up there and speak for five or six months and representative buostani of louisiana will give the republican response. i guess he was selected because
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of his earlier life as a doctor. >> the audience is tuned off. you can't follow a president, don't care who you are. i've had worked with a president and you worked with a president. trying to be the rebuttal role is the worst of all and the next day is to have a press conference the next day but to try to hold an audience competing with people like you and us it just doesn't work. >> after state of the union another politician from louisiana bobby jindal gave the republican response and it didn't work ought well for him. >> he's a gifted and bright guy. sed right but it's sort of a tradition. the doctor was a co-sponsor of legislation that would sort of fund that late in life counseling that governor palin is attacking so you have a bit of cross-pressures here but the progressive and democrats will pick apart, for example, how much money does this doctor get from health insurance companies? turns out from the information i've gotten from liberal groups, that 20% of all the money he's
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raised in his congressional career has come from insurance companies, hmos, the people i suspect president obama will cite as some of the villains. >> if you want to go down the road, look at how much money the blue dogs got. >> it permeates the whole thing. >> how much money is being spent, commercials, television commercials proand against the president's long-term health care. >> you're talking trillions of dollars that will shift from one pocket to another and a lot at stake for americans and they need to pay ait's. they need to pay attention to the president and pay attention to other people with counterpoints. >> it seems like the specifics he was going to get into tonight got aof word he's really going to give us all the specific, clarify everything. now we're hearing maybe not. >> i don't believe a president should negotiate with himself. now if he gets inthere tonight as we're hearing and say well i want to limit patient's rights to sue doctors who maime them or kill them or hurt them, well, okay, i'm not for that but i could be for it if i got
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something, if you got four or five or ten votes from the other party, but i wouldn't give away anything. >> to limit medical malpractice lawsuits. >> that's the thing that should be a part of this. a lot of republicans would be very supportive of tort reform. it's not even in the game. if he stood up and said the truth and the truth, is listen, you're going to pay more for your health care and it's not going to be as good, that's not a compelling speech but it would be very truthful. >> but at the same time millions of your fellow citizens who don't have it right now they will get it as well. are you willing to make that trade-off? >> i'm willing to do whatever we can could to help those people but people ought to have choices here and what i don't like is the mandates. i don't like as an american someone mandating to an employer or mandating to an individual that you have to have health insurance. i think it ought to be desirable and we ought to make it available but not mandated. >> that's a more honest debate. i believe that the government, for example, mandates that we pay for auto insurance because when you don't have insurance, in this case health insurance, we all pay. we don't leave you to die in the
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gutter. god forbid you're young and think you're bulletproof and god forbid you get in a car wreck ed is paying, i'm paying >> you have the option of driving or not driving. you don't have the option of hiding in the woods. >> you don't have the option of not getting sick. that's the real debate. >> you'll both be with us as we cover the president's address before congress later tonight. ed and paul, stand by. and you're going to see the presidential address live right here on cnn. it all begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern. president obama's big health care speech to congress, as you know, only a few hours away. the debate on capitol hill is intensifying as lawmakers wait to see specifically what the president will say. two u.s. senators have their own debate on several sticking points. that's coming up right here in swoom swoomg.
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two days before the 9/11 anniversary, this friday, we're getting new pictures of the mastermind khalid shaikh mohammed. jeanne meserve, tell us what's going on >> reporter: last photograph we saw of khalid shaikh mohammed was snapped on the night he was captured. there it is, dishevelled, disoriented with stubble on his chin. well, that was taken several years ago. that's the image we've all lived with. well, take a look at him now. we have some photographs taken down at guantanamo bay. in this photograph khalid shaikh mohammed is wearing what appears to be a turban on his head. he appears to have fashioned a
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sheet into some sort of prayer cloak. he is even holding in his hands prayer beads. there are photographs also of his 32-year-old nephew who is alleged to have moved the money around to the 9/11 hijackers. his name amr al balluci vrmt these two have been in guantanamo bay since 2006. journalists have not been allowed to take their pictures, though they have seen them occasionally during legal proceedings. the red cross, however, was allowed to take pictures and some people close to the legal proceedings at guantanamo bay believe the pictures were sent to the families and the families then linked them to jihady websites so the two appear to be healthy and appear to have slight smiles on their faces and we see these two days before the anniversary of the 9/11 hijackings. >> interesting stuff. jeanne meserve, thank you. the president is going to be delivering the big health care speech about two and a half hours from now.
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we're getting new details on what he will be saying. our senior political analyst gloria boringer is here and senior political correspondent candy crowley. gloria, first to you. what are you learning? >> reporter: i'm learning from one white house source close to the process that the president is going to propose another kind of trigger this evening, something called a fiscal trigger, and that would come into effect when it's clear that some cost savings in some areas, say waste, fraud and abuse are not being achieved by a certain percentage, then the trigger would kick in to scale back spending on certain expansions in health care, so that's very important way because part of his goal is to let people know that he's also trying to keep the deficit under control. >> and you want -- are also hearing he'll get into sensitive issues like medical malpractice lawsuits? >> medical malpractice also known as tort reform have not been a part of this debate because democrats are generally opposed to that. >> could irritate some trial lawyers and some associations.
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>> a lot of money to the democratic party. >> sensitive issues. david axelrod told us earlier the president is going to step up and deal with some of these issues. how much detail we don't know. >> and what -- what we do know is that some of this is going to be, again, an explanation of what he wants and what some things are and are not, the death panels, that kind of thing, and he's going to be speaking to those consumers who already have health insurance and try to explain why this is in their best interest because that's where they have had a lot of their -- the most difficulty while trying to kind of push this plan, and i will say it sounds like the president works has promised that this would not add to the deficit, is now beginning to come up with some sort of ingenious mathematical ways. the problem that i think he's going to hear from critics is it's really hard for the government to dial back, for congress to dial back what they have already promised. >> i was going to say ed henry our senior white house
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correspondent has been reporting he'll try to reach out to republicans in his address tonight though i suspect he'll reach out to senior citizens a lot more than republicans. >> right. >> with the exception of olympia snowe and maybe susan collins of maine. >> right. >> two moderate republican senators. is there any real prospect that republicans will come on board? >> no. i think they understand that there really isn't, but a lot of the speech i believe is not going to be folks inside the chamber but the people candy was talking about outside in the real world who still have to be convinced that this is something we really ought to be doing, and he's also going to i think address the differences between the house and the senate versions, and he's going to say to republicans, okay, step up with your ideas, because we haven't heard a lot of those, so if you've got a better idea than this, would i like to hair it because i'll be open to it. >> go ahead, cannedy. >> in the end the white house has maids the political calculation that there's one thing that trumps the bipartisanship that the president promised, and that is getting something done, and that has been their message to some
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of these reluctant democrats. the real danger is doing nothing. end of this year, beginning of next year we don't have anything we'll pay for it at the polls so while bipartisanship is something that he has talked about, it is not their top priority, and we began to see that a whale back when he said, well, i want a bipartisan bill, but i'd much rather have americans -- cover americans with health care. >> and i think a week ago the speech i'm told looked a lot more specific than it does right now, as i think ed henry has been reporting, this when you're talking to the american people you don't want to talk about a trigger and this, so you want to lay down some general principles but there are a lot of people who want to know what president obama supports. one source at the white house said to me we will tell you what it is tonight. you will know what it is that obama supports >> and we're going to get some specifics because he's going to be speaking for about 40 minutes and that doesn't take into effect applause. allots of democrats will be
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giving him standing ovations. no doubt, republicans, many of them, will probably be sitting on their hands during a lot of those interruptions. guys, thanks very much. both sides have been digging in their heels on health care reform. will the president be able to create a new momentum when he speaks before congress tonight? joining us now from capitol hill two u.s. senators. democratic senator sharrod brown of ohio and republican john thune of south dakota. senators, thanks very much for coming in. is it okay with you, senator brown, if the president says tonight, you know what, it's time for medical malpractice lawsuits to be capped, tort reform as it's called, despite the support that democrats have received from trial lawyers over the years? >> i don't think he's going to say it that way. i don't think caps work because you have patients that are injured badly occasionally by an incompetent doctor and i want to see better licensing on the state level of doctors that have a history of malpractice. i want to see -- i think we can
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do some kinds of reforms there, but i don't think you start off with caps. where they have tried that before, places like texas, places like ohio, it hasn't -- it saved doctors a little bit of money in malpractice premiums but it hasn't saved the health care system money and in texas medicare costs have gone up significantly higher than the national average so i really think it's a bit of a bogus argument. i'm always open to new ideas. i hope the republicans bring some forward. >> i suspect senator thune sharply disagrees with you on that, don't you, senator thune? >> you would expect that, wouldn't you, wolf. i hope the president does come out and make an argument for tort reform. i don't expect -- he may i think make some statements about it this evening, but i'd be very surprised to see if there's a serious effort here on capitol hill to include that, but it is, if you're going to meaningfully reform health care in this country, you've got to get the issue of the practice of defensive medicine which costs
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the estimates are $100 billion to $200 billion a year. >> tell senator brown -- senator thune, tell senator brown -- he says it hasn't worked in texas, for example, where they have caps why he's wrong. >> well, i think that the people if you talk to the people in texas, you'd probably get a different argument. there are lots of states that have implemented caps. in fact, i was in texas here a couple of weeks ago, and they tell me that physicians are moving to texas because of the changes that they have made in tort laws down there, so i think medical malpractice reform, the issue of defensive medicine is something that's got to be address federal you're going to meaningfully get after the issue of health care reform and cost containment which everybody says they are for. >> as you know, senator brown, so many doctors out there, they order all sorts of tests. they themselves think a lot of the tests are useless, but they are expensive to protect themselves preemptively from medical malpractice lawsuits. >> if i don't deny that's a problem but i also would assert that those -- there are studies
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that show, including in the book by andrew wile who is one of the best known doctors and most prolific writers in the country, has said that image of doctors who own their own mris, own imaging machines actually order three times the number of tests than those who don't. that's not defensive medicine. unfortunately we've built this system, built all kinds of incentives into this system that distort the system and don't provide the best health care. we've got to deal with some of those issues, absolutely. >> senator thune, anything the president can say tonight that would convince you personally to support him? >> well, i think there are things he can say, and i think primarily his message tonight, wolf, will be directed at wavering democrats. he's going to try to shore up his own party in the congress and probably to the american people to try and get them back on board. he's got to get on offense. he had a terrible month in august. >> if he indicates he's going to give up on the so-called public option which you oppose strongly, a lot of democrats
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love that public option of creating a government-run health insurance company to compete with the private insurance companies to create greater competition, if you will, if he says, you know what, let's just have a trigger, we'll try five years and if it -- if did doesn't work without the public option, we'll trigger it then. is that something you'd be open to? >> i think the trigger is still problematic because it would be a hair trigger. i think that they would use that as a way of getting to a gate -- a gateway of getting to a public option, a government plan eventually, so i think he can try and repackage it and try to relabel it but it sort of ends up in the same place. if he were to come this evening and talk about tort reform and talk about interstate competition and talk about small business health plans and talk about covering people who have pre-existing conditions and portability and issues like that, there are a lot of things that i think republicans are anxious to hear from him about and hopefully things we can find some common ground on. >> i think he'll speak about those things later on tonight but getting back to the issue of
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a public option versus a trigger for a public option versus cooperative health insurance programs out there, where do you stand? >> senator whitehouse and i wrote the public option language. it's fair and brings in competition. in john's state of south dakota, there's one insurance companies writes more than 60% of the plans in the state and southwest ohio in the cincinnati ohio two insurance companies write 85% of the plans. they need competition. it's like private universities and public universities. the fact that they both exist make both better, and the public option is only an option that will help to drive down costs. it will help provide more choice, and it will -- it will give people the kind of choice that in my mind, particularly in those places that don't have the competition, it will make both the private insurance companies better and proust insurance will make -- >> he makes a fair point. there isn't a whole lot of competition in south dakota. >> and if this plan were implemented, wolf, there
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wouldn't be any. there would be one plan, the government plan, and that's the thing that concerns most people is that the government with a government plan is going to be more involved in the decisions that are traditionally made between doctors and patients. we need to have a robust private insurance market in this country. i think most americans agree with that, and the other thing that i think is most troubling to a lot of americans about this is the dramatic expansion at the federal level and the costs of this. i mean, even the most recent proposal that came out of the senate finance committee over a ten-year period about it's fully implement it had going to cost $1.8 trillion. that's a lot of new government spending at a time we're running trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. >> we're out of time. if you want greater competition, why not let the insurance companies compete nationally as opposed to only within a state? >> i don't have a problem with that, but insurance companies have had since world war ii, since they have been writing major -- since they have been writing a lot of health insurance, they have had 60 years to do this right. they -- you can talk about competition, but they -- they
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continue their pre- -- they continue denial of care for pre-existing condition and discriminate against people with disabilities and discriminate based on geography and gender and put lifetime or annual caps on care so that if you really get sick and it's expensive and you really need the insurance company, they do something called recision. they cut you off. the public option will bring competition. i didn't write it. when sheldon whitehouse and i wrote it we didn't write it to game the system. we want it to compete. we know if we'll drive costs down insurance companies need more competition. erasing the state lines might help a little bit but it's not going to make that much difference because insurance go where they can make the most money. >> thanks to both of you. we'll be watching you both in the senate tonight. senator whitehouse is the democratic senator from rhode island for those of our viewers not familiar with him. guys, thanks very much. you'll see the presidential address live right here on cnn. it begins at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a little bit more than two hours from now.
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apple ceo steve jobs is back on the job and back in the spotlight. >> so i now have the liver of a mid-20s person who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate their organs. >> after a long break for a very serious medical condition, we're going to bring you what else he said, steve jobs here. and the spies among us. the defense department says china is the most aggressive. wait until you hear the tactics beijing is accused of using right here in the united states. stay with us. you're in "the situation room."
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mary snow is monitoring some other important stories incoming to "the situation room" right now. mary, what's going on. >> reporter: hi, wolf. eight members of an iraqi family were killed today in a bombing in the northern city of kirkuk. police say the bomb was planted outside the home of a local anti-al qaeda leader.
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he was killed along with seven of his relatives which included women and children. the only survive was a 2-year-old child who was also wounded. a "the new york times" reporter who was kidnapped by the taliban is a free man. british officials say nato forces rescued stich farrell during a pre-dawn raid in northern afghanistan. they say five people were killed in the operation, including an afghan journalist who was working with farrell. a british commando and two civilians. millions of dollars in merchandise stolen during brazen heists at j.c. penneys in several states, but now louisiana police say the mastermind is in custody. hector castillo was arrested yesterday in texas. police say he admits taking part in five j.c. penney burglaries. they stay stolen property of $3.35 million has been recovered, much from the man's home. investigators are still searching for suspected accomplices. wolf? >> all right, mary, thank you. one of the world's most powerful nations may be sapping america's strength with a very aggressive spying campaign. is this rival a potential enemy,
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and is it already setting up the united states for a knockout blow? our homeland security correspondent jeanne meserve has been digging and digging. jeanne, what are you learning? >> reporter: well, wolf, you know, the cold war is over, but spying is not. experts say along with russia one country runs a particularly comprehensive and successful espionage operation against the united states, and that country is china. >> and liftoff of the space shuttle do havery. >> reporter: the space shuttle, the international space station, the delta four rocket and the f-15 fighter, some of the most sensitive and valuable technologies developed by the united states, and information about all of them was given to china by this man. don fang chung was an aerospace engineer with a secret clearance. a search turned up 300,000 sensitive documents hidden under his house, letters with marching orders from his chinese
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handlers, even a medal from the chinese government. he was convicted in july. he had been spying for china for more than three decades. experts say chung is just one player in a complex and comprehensive chinese espionage operation. what kind of information are they getting from us? >> they are getting pretty much everything. >> reporter: the chinese government says such charges reflects an old cold war mentality. >> they want to put out stories to demonize china for -- for their benefit. it's not good. >> reporter: so the allegations about espionage are not true? >> not true, no. >> reporter: but there is ample evidence that chinese are siphoning secrets to aid their military and economic development. since 2006 the u.s. government has prosecuted 60 people for stealing secrets for china. >> we've stopped some things from happening that if we had not stopped them then would have resulted in very grievous losses. of course, you don't know what you don't know. >> reporter: chinese cyber
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capabilities are sophisticated and though difficult to prove the government and its surrogates are believed to have infiltrated computers at most u.s. government agencies. >> the sad joke in the pentagon is if somebody can't find a document somebody else says, well, call the chinese. >> reporter: computer experts say hackers may have left behind code that could be triggered to shut down or destroy critical infrastructure, even weapons systems. the pentagon recently told congress of all the foreign intelligence organizations attempting to penetrate u.s. agencies chinese are the most aggressive. >> it is a damaging thing, and it is unprecedented. >> reporter: and it's continuing? >> and it's continuing, and we're not mounting a proportionate response at all. >> reporter: u.s. wants to stay on good terms with the chinese, and some experts say that has made it more difficult for the u.s. to deal effectively and forcefully with chinese espionage, espionage that some believe is already jeopardizing the economic and military
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strength of the united states. wolf? >> all right, jeanne, thank you. jeanne meserve reporting. a deafening round of applause at an apple event in san francisco, and here's why. >> so i'm vertical. i'm back at apple loving every day of it. >> apple ceo steve jobs is back on the job five months after getting a liver transplant. and president obama pays tribute to walter cronkite during a memorial ceremony in new york. he says there was a reason why the legendary journalist was called the most trusted man in america. stay with us. you're in "the situation room."
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apple ceo steve jobs is now back in the spotlight delivering the keynote speech at an apple event today. five months after receiving a liver transplant, he walked on to the stage to a standing ovation. let's go to our internet reporter abby at the. >> you'll see from the pictures, steve jobs still looked gaunt, but he told the crowd for the first time in almost a year, i'm vertical and i'm back at work. >> about five months ago i had a
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liver transplant. so i now have the liver of a mid 20s person. who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate their organs. >> jobs thanked the staff at apple who had filled in for him during his absence, urged everyone in the crowd to become an organ donor and then moved on to the news of the day. updates of ipods and ipod nanoand other announcements that went on during this event. before this there had been rumors that one of the announcements today would be that the beatles music catalog would finally be added to i-tunes. a legal dispute has prevented that from happening. as you see from all the pictures and the buzz from when steve jobs entered the stage, that was the real headline for this
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event. wolf? >> he is a genius, we're just happy to see him back on that stage. abby, thank you. let's go to jack cafferty, he's here in "the situation room." >> one of the great stories of american capitalism steve jobs and apple. the question this hour is it too late for president obama to change people's minds on health care reform?
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>> if you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at
5:55 pm look for your email among hundreds of others. >> a lot of people would love to have dinner. a frightening scene over at the mexico city airport, a commercial airliner is hijacked with more than 100 passengers on board. the standoff has now ended and we're going to tell you how. and president obama pays tribute to one of the most trusted men in america, walter cronkite. stay with us, you're in "the situation room". ♪ ♪ which one's me - for a cool convertible or an suv? ♪ ♪ too bad i didn't know my credit was whack ♪ ♪ 'cause now i'm driving off the lot in a used sub-compact. ♪ ♪ f-r-e-e, that spells free credit report dot com, baby. ♪ ♪ saw their ads on my tv ♪ thought about going but was too lazy ♪
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♪ now instead of looking fly and rollin' phat ♪ ♪ my legs are sticking to the vinyl ♪ ♪ and my posse's getting laughed at. ♪ ♪ f-r-e-e, that spells free- credit report dot com, baby. ♪
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he was known as the most trusted man in america, the legendary cbs anchor man walter
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cronkite died at the age of 92. president obama called cronkite a voice of certainty in a world that was growing more and more uncertain. listen to this. >> through all the events that came to define the 20th century, through all our moments of deepest hurt and brightest hope, walter cronkite was there, telling the story of the american age, this is how we remember him today. but we also remember and celebrate the journalism that walter practiced. a standard of honesty and integrity and responsibility to which so many of you have committed your careers. our american story continues. it needs to be told. and if we choose to live up to walter's example, if we realize that the kind of journalism he
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embodied will not simply rekindle itself as part of a natural cycle, but will come alive only if we stand up and demand it and resolve the value it once again, then i'm convinced that the choice between profit and progress is a false one and that the golden days of journalism still lie ahead. >> walter cronkite anchored the cbs evening news from 1962 until 1981. happening now, breaking news, it's a make or break night for health care reform. we're counting down president obama's address to congress and we have just received excerpts from the speech, americans lives could depend on it. stand by. this is the place to get the straight talk on reform and what it could mean for you. the best political team on television is on the case, we're trying to separate the facts from the fiction. and a commercial airliner hijacked in mexico, dozens of passengers and the crew are
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released. but in this era of high security, how could this even happen? i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room". two hours from now, president obama will try to push the reset butt tocon on health reform. cnn will bring you every word live, stand by for that. the breaking news this hour, we have just received some excerpts from the speech. here is some of what we know, the president is expected to push for a government-run health care option, as the preferred way to achieve reform. but he won't draw any lines in the sand on what must be in the reform bill or threaten to veto any specific proposals. we're told mr. obama will address support for medical malpractice reform, something republicans and doctors have been urging and they'll push lawmakers to pass legislation by
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the end of the year. let's go straight to our senior white house correspondent ed henry. tell us what we're going to hear, the white house having released some excerpts from this 40-minute or so address. >> we just got those excerpts, one thing that is significant, the president will use the phrase "the plan." he's putting a plan on the table for the first time in this debate. but he's also going to be reaching out to republicans, while at the same time getting aggressive with them, sort of challenging them, saying it's time to step up, time to meet him halfway. quote, if you come to me with a serious set of proposals i will be there to listen. my door is always open. i will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they r if you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out and i will not accept the status quo as a
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solution. not this time, not now. and the president will in this speech sort of refer to the august town halls, talk about what he says was a blizzard of charges, counter charges and confusion, doing a little bit of scolding here saying the time for games has passed, now is the time for action. there is going to be the major theme tonight in this speech. >> stand by, white house officials are confirming that the president will try and keep the momentum going after his speech tonight by attending a health care rally in minneapolis on saturday. and no matter what president obama says to republicans tonight, there's new evidence that democrats may try to pass health care reform alone. that word from a key senate democrat who's been scrambling to try and craft a bipartisan compromise. let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent dana bash. dana, senator max baucus, he explained what his next strategy, what his next moves
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are? >> reporter: that's right and those moves are pretty dramatic, he formally announced today that he is going to have legislation on the table next week and he will have votes starting the week after, with or without republicans. this is a direct result of what we have been reporting for a couple of weeks now and that is that the white house and democratic leaders are basically done and they're ready to move on and they have been putting intense pressure on senator baucus to do the same thing, because they don't think, even after they have had months and months of discussion between three democrats and three republicans, they don't think republicans will sign on. that's why max baucus has decided to go ahead and do that because of that pressure in the white house. >> olympia snow, a moderate republican, she's been involved in those negotiations and you had a chance to speak with her today. >> reporter: she and some other republicans said that even though max baucus made this move, she doesn't think it's the end to bipartisanship, she actually thinks that the
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critical senate committee can come up with a bipartisan plan. but she is the white house's best hope for a republican to sign on to any health care proposal. and that's why what she said was very important. she said she wanted the white house and actually urged the white house for the president to make very clear that the public option is not going to happen because that will reflect the reality in congress. here's what she told me. >> i would hope they would take it off the table, that's one of the things that i have urged, frankly, with the white house so that we can move the debate forward. i think it would lessen the concerns when the american people about a government takeover, government-run medical system, which is what we're hearing, so prominently today. understand he is very important on his side, but it is another way of achieving that consensus sooner, it might accelerate the process and build momentum and define the debate and move it in a different direction rather
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than reinventing the wheel on the public option even though there's not support for it among democrats in the house and in the senate. >> reporter: senator snow also acknowledged for the first time what cnn reported last week and that's that the white house has reached out to her on her idea to hold off on a public option, but to have a trigger, that if reforms to reduce health care costs don't work in the next few years. >> this is what the president ordered -- a show of support from the american medical association. today the nation's biggest group of physicians sent an open letter to the president and to the congress urging them to reach a deal on overhauling the health care system. a doctor turned congressman is urging the president to get more republican input on fixing the medical system. representative charles bustani of louisiana gives the gop
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response to president obama later tonight. >> there's not been much discussion between the white house and house republicans. that's of some concern to me, i'm quite frustrated to be frank with y with you because we do have a number of ideas of substantive support. >> he says a government-run option isn't one of those ideas. a nod to the late senator ted kennedy on capitol hill tonight. his widow vicki kennedy will be a guest of the first lady michelle obama. kennedy's three children and two of his grandchildren will watch the speech from the house speaker's box. ca kara kennedy and her two children will be among nancy pelosi's guests. stay with cnn for complete coverage of the president's speech, the republican response by senator charles boustany.
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i will be here at 7:05 eastern, before the speech is set to begin at 8:00 p.m. eastern. >> if times are a little tough economically speaking, but if you have a few extra dollars in your pocket, here's an idea, how about paying to have dinner with alaska's former governor sarah palin. it will cost you, though, bids start at $25,000, proceeds go to a veteran's charity called ride to recovery. it gives bicycles to wounded vets and organizes rides for them as a way to help them in their recovery. there are some restrictions. the winner has to pass a background check, palin gets to choose the time of the dinner and the place of the dinner. it will last no longer than four hours, it could be less at the sole discretion of naacp and she gets to bring up to three guests and you have to pick up the tab. some things never change do they? the dinner is described by the
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charity as a chance of a lifetime, saying that sarah palin is one of the most talked about people in the u.s. so far they have got about a dozen bids, the highest one $37,000. if dinner with palin is out of your price range, there's also a chance you could have lunch with karl rove. bids for that start at $7,500. the lunch for three with the man george w. bush affectionately called terd blossom will take place in washington. here's the question, whauld you give to have dinner with sarah palin or karl rove. go to and post your answer. it's a terror nightmare not seen in decades, men hijack a plane and if their demands are not met, they threaten to blow up the plane. we'll have the latest on how it
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all ended. government death panels and bureaucrats coming between you and your doctor. how do you know what's real and what's a fear tactic? rain leads to floods and that leads to dozens of deaths, you're going to find out where and just how bad things are.
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played out at the airport in mexico city just a couple of hours ago, with american passengers among those briefly held. brian todd is joining us now with more on what's going on, including some breaking news. brian what are we learning? >> well, wolf, mexico's secretary for public security has just briefed reporters on this situation, what he has said is that a 44-year-old can bolivian drug addict and alcoholic was responsible for this hijacking, the suspect told authorities that he did this, because this date, september 9 of 2009 had some kind of significance for him. that is all the details we have got. we hope to get more a little bit later. here's a look at how the situation played out earlier as many of us watched it unfold in real time. >> a hostage drama unfolding on live television around the world. this chilling image confirming the worst. hijackers have seized control of
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aeromexico flight 536, a 737 bound from cancun to mexico city. somewhere en route they display a cardboard box claiming there's a bomb inside and threatening to blow up the plane unless mexican president felipe calderon speaks to them. calderon was at the airport when the incident began. the tarmac is surrounded by police and soldiers as helicopters buzz overhead. then a hopeful sign, passengers begin leaving the plane, walking slowly down the stairway, some clutching their carry on luggage. mexican authorities decide now is the time to act. troops storm the jet and moments later, eight suspects are marched out at gunpoint, the or deal over in just about one hour. some passengers, especially those farther from the cockpit say they didn't even know who was going on and described the entire incident as peaceful. others say they were frightened.
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no one was hurt in the entire incident, we now have some video to show you of the cardboard box being detonated by mexican authorities, we take a look at that now, this package did not contain explosives, they're just detonating that as a precaution. >> what about the hijackers. >> the mexican secretary for public security saying that at least one of these hijackers was a 44 bolivian drug addict and chock and said this day had some significance to him. earlier reports were that there were bolivians and colombians. we have got these new details from the mexican secretary for public security. a total of eight people were arrested, but we're waiting for more details on all of that.
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happening now around the world, over at the united nations, security councilmembers are now looking forward to a milestone in their relationship to the united states. president obama will serve as the chairman of the council on september 24. the u.s. has the rotating presidency of the security council this month. it happens to coincide with the annual meeting of the united nations general assembly when world leaders come to new york city. in europe, new evidence that president obama is repairing america's image across the atlantic. a new poll shows 77% of europeans support mr. obama's handling of foreign policy. back in 2008, only 19% of europeans approved of president bush's handling of international affairs. the director of the trans-atlantic trend survey said the obama bounce in europe, he says it's huge, more than 13,000 people from a dozen european countries were polled.
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iran has given the united nations a new package of proposals on it's nuclear program. this as the united states warns it has serious concerns that iran already can't produce a bomb or is close to it. united nations nuclear watch dogs are studying iran's proposals, they're meeting in vienna to discuss iran's nuclear program. in northwestern turkey, flash floods triggered by two days of torrential rains. at least 31 people are dead. homes and businesses are under water. cars have been swept into the see. the region has gotten more rain in two days than normally falls over a six-month period. as the 9/11 anniversary approaches, cnn deploys it's resources to the afghanistan war zone. our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta goes on an emergency mission with u.s. combat flight medics. and bernard madoff's beach
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front condo goes on the auction block. plus teenaged tennis sensation, melanie oudin finds her fame only takes her so far. why she had to leave a new york hotel. back playing in the afternoon. excedrin back and body has two ingredients to block and relieve the pain. doesn't your whole body deserve excedrin strength relief? excedrin. what ache? when you're sick, you go to the doctor for answers. and when you hear scary rumors about health insurance reform being a big government takeover... doctors have the answer again. according to the american medical association, "the health reform plans being debated in congress ensure
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that health care decisions will be made by you and your doctor--no one else." you choose your own doctor, make your own decisions and you can't be dropped if you get sick, or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. that's a long way from a government takeover. and what about the claims that health reform will cut medicare benefits? "false" says the non-partisan health reform maintains and even expands benefits for seniors and focuses on preventing illness before it strikes. our health care is too important for scare tactics, you deserve the truth. learn more at the we're shopping for car insurance, and our friends said we should start here. good friends -- we compare our progressive direct rates, apples to apples, against other top companies, to help you get the best price. how do you do that? with a touch of this button. can i try that?
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mary snow's monitoring some other important stories incoming the situation room right now. mary, what's going on? >> there are allegations of massive voter registration fraud. all workers for a.c.o.r.n., a community organization group that came under fire during the last presidential election.
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out of 1,400 registration cards turned in by the workers, 900 were fraudulent. it's your money and you'll never get it back. that word from a new report from a congressional oversight panel about some of the bailout money given to u.s. automakers. quote, although taxpayers may recover some of their investment in chrysler and gm, it's unlikely they will recover the entire amount. the government gave or pledged more than 62 billion to prevent automakers from collapsing. the pictures are courtesy of the u.s. government. preparing the homes for sale. madoff's manhattan penthouse has lots of space, awesome views, but experts say for the most part, it's pretty modest. the same is said for a beach front property in the hamptons. sale of the homes will benefit madoff's financial victims.
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teen tennis phenom melanie oudin's reservation at the times square marriott marquee ran out. marriott workers say the reservation wasn't in her name, had they known, they would have worked something out. i'm sure they would. >> i'm sure they would have. i saw her play on monday at the u.s. open, i went out there and she is amazing. i wish her a lot of success. >> she's playing in less than an hour. >> she's playing tonight and we'll be watching. watching the president as well. democrats got a lot of money from trial lawyers, some people wonder if the president will have the guts to stand up to them tonight. >> reporter: well, this isn't a matter of guts or not guts, this is a matter of trying to deal with the problems facing our health care system. >> just ahead, i'll press the top obama advisor david axelrod about the prospects for malpractice insurance reform.
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stand by for more excerpts from the president's speech coming up as well. and he was one of the most moving if not the most moving speakers over at ted kennedy's funeral. now his son, teddy jr. is talking about his own future and whether he might actually run for office. ge. a smidge? y'know, there's really no need to weigh packages under 70 pounds. with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service, if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. cool. you know this scale is off by a good 7, 8 pounds. maybe five. priority mail flat rate boxes only from the postal service. a simpler way to ship.
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to our viewers, you're in the situation room, happening now, president obama's health care speech to congress just an hour and a half away. many americans will be listening, they'll be looking for clarity after being deluged for months with misinformation and disinformation about the proposed plan. we'll cut through the noise and try to bring you the facts on what's being proposed. and a critical element to the democratic led reform plan, the republican insurance option, exactly where does the president stand? and our own dr. sanjay gupta, with an incredible story, we're going to take you to the front lines of the war in afghanistan, where lives are on
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the line every day, many of them saved by medical heros. all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television. i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room." one of president obama's biggest challenges tonight is to clear up a lot of misconceptions about health care reform. as we get closer to his address before a joint session of congress, let's bring in our national political correspondent jessica yellin. jessica, you have been looking at some of the myths about reform and the realities? >> yeah, wolf, there have been so many controversial accusations during the health care debate and not all of them true. so we took a look at the three we have been hearing the most. claim one, illegal immigrants will be covered. >> why are we inviting 50 million illegal invaders into our health care system? >> that was from a town hall in florida, the truth, wolf, the bills that have come out of the committee and congress do not provide coverage for illegal
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immigrants. in fact the house bill explicitly says there will be no coverage for illegals. illegal aliens would still be able to get treatment only in emergency rooms, just as they can today, no change. the next accusation is that there will be death panels in any health reform bill. >> what it says is, as a 74-year-old man, if you develop cancer, we're pretty much going to write you off. because you're no longer a working citizen who will be paying taxes. >> that was a town hall in pennsylvania. wolf, there are no death panels. no government entity will decide who gets life saving care in any of the bills we have seen. some critics say even without an actual death panel, they're worried where will all the promised medicare savings come from. one fear critics is that medicaid will cut costs by
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cutting services to the elderly. they say medicare savings will come from other changes like more efficient systems and preventative care. that leads us to the next claim, the last one we'll talk about tonight, health care reform will not add to the deficit, that's president obama's claim. >> number one, it's got to be deficit neutral. this has to be paid for because in the past, some of the health care plans that we put forward have not been paid for. >> okay, this one is a big unknown. the congressional budget office, the nonpartisan bill price tag evaluator has found that most of the bills actually do add to the deficit, but that some of the proposed savings for medicare could lead to huge savings, so they just can't say for sure. fiscal conservatives are pushing for the bill to cost less. and expect president obama to hit the savings theme hard tonight. >> thanks for that. setting straight myths and realities are surely on the
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president's mind. so how many clear up questions about some of the biggest issues in this debate? joining us in our strategy session is the senior president advisor david axelrod. we're getting a lot of confli conflicting information, going say that the so-called public health insurance option, a government-run health insurance company to compete with the private health insurance companies, is he going to say that that's absolutely essential? >> what he's going to do is deliver a plan that will bring security and stability to people who have insurance and will help people who don't have insurance get it and bring down the cost of the whole system. and he believes in that pool that we're going to create for uninsured americans and small businesses would be helpful in bringing competition and choice, he thinks it's going to be good for consumers and he's going to
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make the case for that. he's also going to make the case that this is not the essence of this debate, it's one of the tools and there are other ideas out there to bring competition and choice that are worthy as well. >> including what they call the cooperative option, a series of health insurance cooperatives that wouldn't be the public option, but be something in between. is he going to get into a detail like that and say he likes that idea? >> he will acknowledge the fact that there's that idea, there's the idea of putting a trigger on the public option so that it goes into effect at some date when it's clear that a market is uncompetitive. there are a number of ideas, but what is very important is that we have the kind of competition and choice that will help consumers in many states in this country, there's one insurer that dominates the entire market and in alabama, one insured dominates 87%. in north dakota there's one insurer that dominates the market almost completely. >> why not break down the state
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barriers and let all of these insurance companies compete nationally without having to focus in on a state by state basis? >> because we're trying to do this in a way that advances the interests of consumers without creating such disruption that it makes it difficult to move forward. >> why would that be disruptive if blue cross and blue shield and all of these insurance companies would have the opportunity to compete in all 50 states. >> but insurance is regulated at this time wolf. >> but you could change that, the president could propose a law changing that. >> that is not endemic to the kind of reforms that we're proposing or that -- >> why not. >> we're proposing a package that we believe will bring that stability and security to people, it will help people get insurance, it will lower the cost, and that can pass the congress. and that has to be the test. we're not into a symbolic
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expedition here, we're trying to bring real relief to hard working middle class people in this country, we believe the plan that we have outlined will do that. >> if the president wanted greater competition, he could say let's change the law and let these health insurance companies compete nationally. >> i'm not sure, wolf, that that would end the debate that you asked me about in the first place. and, you know, i think that the idea that this proposal will promote that. others have other ideas, but they are not central, what's central here is that we get fundamental insurance reforms, that will help people put a cap on their insurance costs if they have preexisting conditions, make sure they don't get dropped off insurance if they get sick. and create a pool where can get insurance. most people can't afford it, most small businesses can't afford to insure their employees. a lot of people won't start a small business because they
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can't leave their insurance. our plan would help cope with that. >> what will the president say tonight about what's called tort reform, or caps on medical malpractice lawsuits? the democrats get a lot of money from trial lawyers t republicans say the democrats, including the president, they don't have the guts to impose a cap on medical malpractice lawsuits, what specifically will the president say about that tonight. >> this isn't a matter of guts or not guts, this is a matter of trying to deal with the matters facing our health care system. the president has acknowledged many times that there is some validity to the medical malpractice issue and that he has heard from doctors who have to practice defensivelily. . >> will the trial lawyers will upset? >> i don't know, we'll see, but the point is, though, that everyone's going to have to give a little here to deal with what ailes our system, to bring the costs down to help people get security and stability, if they
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have insurance and to help people get affordable insurance if they don't. >> david axelrod, the president's senior advisor. a farewell tribute to the most trusted man in america. former president bill clinton chokes up and tells him how walter cronkite showed him some kindness during his impeachment. and cnn in the war zone, our own dr. sanjay gupta takes off on an emergency flight with combat medics in afghanistan.
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more breaksing news this hour. the obama's health care address before congress tonight. let's talk about it with our senior political analyst gloria borger and david gergen. he says the time for bickering is over. over. what does that mean? >> it startses again at about 11:00 tonight. it's going to last for about an hour. this is a critical speech for the presidency, a critical speech for health care. the important test tonight is whether he can reverse the tide of public opinion. not whether he can win people in the hall, but whether he can reverse the tide of public opinion. because whatever happens in negotiation, i think most of us
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would feel that when they come to a final vote, if the public is against it, it's unlikely to pass. >> tens of millions of americans will be watching and if he didn't achieve that goal, it could influence the elective debate. >> i agree. this is an outside game, he's really not playing with those in the chamber. he's talking to a couple of groups here, senior citizens v important for him to get them back, convince them that he's not going to cut their medicare. also people who have access to health insurance and who believe their medical care is good, he's got to convince them that this is the right thing to do both for them and the country. and for them he's going to say, we can't sustain this economic course and it's going to in the end lower your health insurance bills. >> he makes a great point because the seniors are so worried about their health care, much more than a young person. if you're a young person and your grandmother or grandfather
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says i'm worried about this, you're going to be worried about it as well. >> there's $700 million taken out of medicare over time. as well as these new people coming into hospital care. and they're worried it's going to crowd them out. but what's so hard and why this is so challenging for him is, it's not like he hasn't spoken on this issue. he's been here in prime time twice, he ee's given over two dn speeches. so tonight it's got to be a big speech, it's a long shot, the three-pointer at 30, 40 feet. i think it's very hard to turn opinion around. >> listen to what he said on "good morning america" this morning and what he said earlier in the week, compare and contrast. >> look, it is frustrating. it doesn't completely surprise me. i certainly think that i have tried to maintain a tone and my white house has tried to
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maintain a tone that is not sharply partisan. >> you have heard all the lies what are you going to do? >> what's your answer? what's your solution? and you know what? they don't have one. their answer is to do nothing. their answer is to do nothing. and we know what that future looks like. >> very different tone in those two comments only two days apart. >> the second clip you showed is candidate obama and that's exactly what he's doing, he's now campaigning for health care reform. you're going to hear him tonight saying, listen, if you republicans have some better ideas, put them on the table, because i'm willing to listen to
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them. but there is a sense both from the president and his staff that they did let this get away from him because they have been too ambiguous in what it is they supported and that's what they need to clear up tonight. and i was told by a senior white house advisor, you're going to know what the it is tonight, we're going to tell you exactly what it is we support. and it's not as specific as lots of people expect, it could be a problem. >> we have had about 600 words of excerpts and what we have so far is very familiar. i would assume that what we're still to get is going to have some surprises in it. but i do think he's got to break new ground, i do not think this is a -- >> stay with us. let's get to our political ticker right now. former bush white house chief of staff andrew card is said to be seriously considering running for ted kennedy's vacant senate seat in massachusetts. veteran gop strategist ron
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kaufman says that the republicans pushing andy card to run, but he hasn't made up his mind yet. card is a massachusetts native. teddy jr. says he's thought about running for office and following in his dad's footsteps, but he said today he has no plans right now to do that. he spoke about his father's commitment to the labor movement, the senator's eldest son gave one of the most moving and memorable speeches at his father's recent funeral. mel martinez says he's leaving the u.s. senate with some regrets and some proud accomplishments. the florida republican delivered a farewell speech on the senate floor today. he's giving up the senate seat 16 months before his term was scheduled to end. he's only the second immigrant in the united states senate. >> a tremendous sense of gratitude for the opportunity to give back to the nation that i love and it's not the nation of my birth, but it's the nation of my choice, which is a significant difference.
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it is a great nation and the proud tradition of welcoming immigrants to this country is one that has been throughout the history of this nation. >> florida governor charlie crist appointed his former chief of staff george lemieu. he'll be sworn in tomorrow. cnn deploys to the war zone, our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta flies an afghanistan emergency mission, racing against time with combat medics, this is an incredible story that's just come in. stand by, you're about to see it.
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right now cnn is in the line of fire in afghanistan. our correspondents are out in the full force bringing you unparalleled coverage from the war zone, as the eighth anniversary of 9/11 approaches coming up this friday. our chief medical correspondent dr. sanjay gupta, himself a neurosurgeon went on an emergency mission with combat flight physicians in afghanistan. >> reporter: one hour, that's it. minutes began ticking town when word came that two men, both civilians that two men about 40 miles from here were critically wounded, without help they could bleed out and die. >> in an urgent patient, we have timelines where we need to be
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moving extremely fast. i mean within minutes. we don't mess around. when that bell rings we run. we get out here and we get all geared up and we take off. >> reporter: right now this helicopter is traveling about as fast as i have ever traveled in here, just a few hundred feet off the ground. there's two men injured, we don't know how bad off they are. it's what these guys do. i'm with an elite medical dewsoff crew. the name goes back to vietnam. it was a radio emergency call signal to chopper in the combat flight medics. they are a go team. 24/7, they steal moments of time to save lives. >> our job is to get people up and out of here in seconds, because seconds count. >> reporter: for nick dabny and his team, most missions are about rescuing american military. >> they're leaving this gate every day in vehicles and on
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foot, not knowing what's out there. >> reporter: but today, the call came to help afghan locals. we are now into the golden hour. most trauma patient who is die of blood loss die within an hour unless we can stabilize them. so we have 20 minutes to fly. 20 minutes to get the patient on the chopper. 20 minutes to get the patient to a hospital. it's one golden hour. >> so when i got in the aircraft, my mind set is airway, oxygen, stabilization of the chest. fine-tuning this down to the very last second is the most important thing. >> reporter: but with the dustoff teams, the challenge is not just getting to the patients, but about getting out of there safely. >> this is probably the most dangerous place in afghanistan. couldn't see any security out yet. here we are coming into this area, you can see it when we're going, there's 6-foot high corn
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fields and water and mud everywhere. not very many ways for us to get out of there real quick if we have to. so i was worried. >> reporter: for so many reasons, that fear is always looming, dabny surprised me when he pulled out this picture, these are his three boys. >> i have discussed with my wife, i have even written a letter for her to read to them. when it comes to that kind of thing, you hope that they're proud of you. it's one of those things you try not to think about. >> reporter: it must have been a tough letter to write, though. >> it was. in fact it probably took me about, you know, being a dad is probably the most privileged and most important job you could ever have, no matter what you do. i mean you know this. and at the same time, showing them what being a man is really about, you know, fighting for your country, sacrificing for
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your country. things that are more important than, you know, staying home and avoiding this kind of thing. >> reporter: as for today's mission, dabny and his dustoff crew cheated the clock again. it's now clear the two men they flew in to save will survive their terrible wounds. >> sanjay gupta reporting, risking his life for those reports. want to thank him very much and all of our colleagues. a lot more live reporting coming up from afghanistan later tonight on "a.c. 360," 10 p.m. eastern, 7:00 pacific, we're covering the world for you as only cnn can. let's check in with lou dobbs coming up at the top of the hour. lou what are you work og on? >> we're counting down to the president's prime time speech on health care, the white house top democrats hoping this will be what they call a game changer that they desperately need. also we'll have new details on what the president plans to say, also the most contentious part
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of the debate so far. should the president's proposals be all about a government-run health care option. we'll have answers in our face-off debate tonight. and the loudest and most influential voice in this debate, the will of the people being heard in the nation's capital, a departure from the norm. join us for all that and more at the top of the hour. >> lou dobbs, thank you. let's check in with jack once again for "t"the cafferty file." this question is actually rooted in a charity auction. what would you give to have dinner with sarah palin or karl rove.
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>> if you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog at and look for yourself there among hundreds of others. >> it's for a good cause, though, let us know what the final numbers are. >> it is a good cause, money for the wounded. 12 bids on the sarah palin dinner and so far it's up to like $26,000. an emotional moment for president clinton, he shares some thoughts about how walter cronkite helped him get through a trauma in his life, the monica lewinsky scandal and impeachment. that's next. (announcer) everything you need to stretch out on long trips. residence inn.
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so i couldn't always do what i wanted to do. but 5 minutes ago i took symbicort and symbicort is already helping significantly improve my lung function. so today, i've noticed a significant difference in my breathing. and i'm doing more of what i want to do. so we're clear, it doesn't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden symptoms. my doctor said symbicort is for copd, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. it should not be taken more than twice a day. symbicort may increase your risk of lung infections, osteoporosis, and some eye problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking it. my copd often meant i had to wait to do what i wanted to do. now i take symbicort and it significantly improves my lung function, starting within 5 minutes. symbicort has made a significant difference in my breathing... now more of my want to's are can do's. ask your doctor about symbicort today. i got my first prescription free. call or go online to learn more. (announcer) if you cannot afford your medication, astrazeneca may be able to help.
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(announcer) everything you need to take a breather on long trips. residence inn. america's most powerful plirl figures and journalists pay tribute to walter cronkite. this most revealing one from former president bill clinton. >> i thought he was an astonishing man. and i liked his inquiring mind and his caring heart. and he did something for my family that was so simple, and even now it's hard for me to talk about. but in a very tumultuous summer
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in my personal life in 1998, we were at martha's vineyard and he picked up the phone and said, i want you to go out sailing with us. we'll just go out and sail around. somebody might take a picture of it, but so what? i'll never forget that. at the time i could have done with a picture with walter cronkite. i say this because that wasn't something he had to do. he was 81 years old. he was a good man. >> summer of '98 was when bill