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Mitt Romney on the Attack; New Jobs Numbers Released; Battling Over Religion; Interview with Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Union Baptist; More Jobs, But Not Enough; Understanding the Jobs Report With Austan Goolsbee and Stephen Moore;

Aired October 7, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: better jobs numbers, but far from good enough, growing pressure on President Obama to try to turn things around.

One by one, presidential Republican candidates are parading their conservative credentials at the Values Voter Summit. We're going to hear from some of them this hour.

And the front-runner, Mitt Romney, accuses President Obama of surrendering America's world leadership role and he lays out his own vision of what he's calling an American century.

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

The latest jobs numbers are better than expected, but certainly not good enough. Despite a jump in hiring last month, the unemployment rate is still stuck at 9.1 percent.

Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is adding up the numbers for us.

What do they mean first of all for the president and more importantly for the American people?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the bottom line, Wolf, is that the economy is having a difficult time finding traction even as the 2012 campaign ramps up.

Republicans are blaming this on the president's -- quote -- "failed policies," but this is all showing a sense of urgency for the president and members of Congress that they need to do something now.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): On a beautiful fall day in the nation's capital, nothing but blue skies and sunshine, but a dark cloud continues to linger over the nation's economy.

TIG GILLIAM, CEO, ADECCO GROUP NORTH AMERICA: The reason we're not seeing the hiring we want is because we're not seeing the economic growth we need.

LOTHIAN: The latest numbers bear that out. Unemployment remains unchanged at 9.1 percent, what the White House called unacceptably high. While employers added 103,000 jobs in September, stronger than expected, the overall report was considered relatively weak.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As we've said and others have said already this morning, it is far from good enough.

LOTHIAN: White House aides say this underscores the need for quick action on the president's jobs bill, what Mr. Obama himself described as an insurance policy against a double dip recession.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At a time when so many people are having such a hard time, we have to have an approach, we have to take action that is big enough to meet the moment.

LOTHIAN: But there's resistance on Capitol Hill where the jobs act as one piece of legislation seems unlikely to pass and Republicans were quick to point to the unemployment numbers as yet another sign of failed leadership.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And after three years of false hopes and broken promises, Americans continue to be left asking the question, where are the jobs?

LOTHIAN: With success in the 2012 elections expected to hinge on the health of the U.S. economy and Republican presidential hopefuls taking shots at the president, there's mounting pressure on the Obama administration to turn things around.

QUESTION: Can he get reelected if the economy is not significantly improved and does he deserve to?

CARNEY: Yes, and here's why: because what the election will be about is whose vision for America's future is best.


LOTHIAN: The president met here at the White House today with Democratic leaders in the Senate, including Harry Reid. Carney says that it was a good meeting. They talked about the president's jobs act and what the leadership is planning to move forward on a vote on this next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will stay on top of it together with you, Dan. Thank you.

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential front-runner, Mitt Romney, today called for an American century, laying out his vision of a strong United States playing an active role as leader of the free world.

In his first major foreign policy address, Romney accused President Obama of shrinking from that challenge. It came on this day, the exact 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will order a full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation's sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban. I will speak with our generals in the field, and receive the best recommendation of our military commanders. The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics.

I will bolster and repair our alliances. Our friends should never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel's existence as a Jewish state. I will count as dear our special relationship with the United Kingdom. And I will begin talks with Mexico, to strengthen our cooperation on our shared problems of drugs and security.

This is America's moment. We should embrace the challenge, and not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America's time has passed. That is utter nonsense. An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender.

I will not surrender America's role in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president.

You have that president today.



BLITZER: All right.

Let's talk about this with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

Gloria, this was a very tough speech on the president's foreign policy record.


And Mitt Romney was saying something that we have heard before from many Republicans, which is this notion that Barack Obama does not embrace American exceptionalism. Early on in this administration, the president was asked about American exceptionalism and he said, yes, I believe in it, but I believe the British probably believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks probably believe in their own exceptionalism.

And after that moment, it's been easier for Republicans to say this is a president who doesn't believe that we are the greatest and also who spends too much of his time apologizing for America rather than defending America. So that's what we were hearing from Romney.

BLITZER: Strong words from Romney.

Chris, what are they saying over at the Pentagon about what Romney's strategy in Afghanistan, for example, is all about?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think when we talked about going back to the commanders on the ground and getting their best assessment and making sure that the withdrawal decision is not based on politics, it was a pointed attack at President Obama setting the 18-month firm deadline.

And Governor Romney is right in the respect that many military leaders did not approve of setting that firm deadline. But go back just a couple of months to the June Republican debate. In that case, Governor Romney said -- quote -- "U.S. troops shouldn't go off and fight a war of independence for another nation and it's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can."

That statement sounds a lot like President Obama. And if Governor Romney was going to open the possibility of extending a larger U.S. presence in Afghanistan, you have to deal with the effects of cost. By some estimates, it costs $700,000 to upwards of a million dollars for every man that the United States has in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: It's costing about $2 billion a week in U.S. taxpayer money to keep all those troops in Afghanistan.

And the president's strategy says another three-plus years, those troops -- 100,000 eventually will be withdrawn, but they're going to be there at least until the end of 2014. I didn't hear a whole lot of difference between what the president's strategy is, at least as far as Romney's strategy right now. I didn't hear a whole lot of difference.

BORGER: There isn't. There isn't a whole lot of difference. What Mitt Romney was trying to do was place himself firmly on the side of the generals, which is a very good political position to be in, and say that the president is withdrawing troops faster perhaps than we ought to be doing it right now.

But in terms of 2014, he agrees with the president that we ought to be out of there. What's interesting is that I think Mitt Romney was criticizing Republicans in this speech, too, by talking about a strain of isolationism. I don't think he was talking about Democrats, but he was talking about his fellow Republicans like Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, who wouldn't want to remain under any circumstances even if the generals said you needed to stay, so differentiating himself with the president, but also with the Republicans...


BLITZER: Yes, he ridiculed that isolationist wing, if you will, of the Republican Party.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Chris, Romney also said, you know what, he doesn't want to cut any more defense spending. On day one, he's going to stop all that defense cuts in order to try to balance the budget. Was there anything in what Romney was saying that the military might not necessarily like?

LAWRENCE: Well, I think the one thing that jumped out to me was when he said I will reverse President Obama's massive defense cuts.

The reality is that defense spending has actually gone up every year that Obama has been in office. Now, the president has proposed cutting about $400 billion in defense, but again, that is a proposal right now and that's spread out over the next 12 years.

The other thing that jumped out to me was specifically that the governor would like to increase the number of ships that the U.S. Navy is building from about nine a year to 15 a year. That is music to the ears of many people in the Navy who are very worried about naval readiness and also to a lot of states like Virginia where you have got ship building. The question is, how do you pay for that?

His aides have talked about going after waste, but even former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says all that low-lying fruit has already been picked. They have already made the easy cuts when it comes to waste.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Chris, thanks very much. Gloria, thanks to you as well.

They call themselves values voters. Right now, Republican presidential hopefuls are trying their hardest to lock down their votes. We're going live to hear what some of those Republican candidates are saying right here in Washington.

And what happens to the economy if neither side budges in Congress? Two experts are standing by to debate that and a lot more, the former White House chief economist Austan Goolsbee and "The Wall Street Journal"'s senior economics writer, Stephen Moore.


BLITZER: Republican presidential candidates are courting social conservatives today at the annual Values Voter Summit right here in Washington.

Rick Perry and Rick Santorum spoke earlier in the day. Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich are scheduled to speak this hour.

CNN's Jim Acosta is over there for us.

Jim, what's happening right now?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I was able to pull aside here just for a few moments Dr. Robert Jeffress. He's the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

He also gave a speech introducing Rick Perry earlier this afternoon. And if you don't mind me saying, Pastor Jeffress, you created a bit of a stir coming out of that speech because in talking to reporters, you said in pretty strong, plain language what you think of Mormonism.

You described it as a cult and you said that if a Republican votes for Mitt Romney, they're giving some credibility to a cult. Do you stand by that comment?


And that's not some fanatical comment. That's been the historic position of evangelical Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult.

I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent -- to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.

So that's why I'm enthusiastic about Perry.

ACOSTA: But what do you say to those voters who say that religion as Mormonism shouldn't be an issue in this campaign? He's just as American as anyone else.

JEFFRESS: I agree he's just as American as anyone else. And Article Six of the Constitution --

ACOSTA: And Mormons do say they are Christians. They say that. They believe in Jesus Christ.

JEFFRESS: A lot of people say they're Christians and they're not, but they do not embrace historical Christianity. And I, again, believe that as Christians, we have the duty to prefer and select Christians as our leaders. That's what John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court said.

And again, when I think we've got a choice, as Evangelicals, between a Rick Perry and a Mitt Romney, I believe Evangelicals need to go with Rick Perry.

ACOSTA: Well, you started an issue here. This is not going to be the end of it.

But Dr. Jeffress, we appreciate your time.

And we just want to also mention that I had a chance to talk to upstart insurgent presidential candidate Herman Cain about Dr. Jeffers' comments as he was coming in to this event.

Here's what Herman Cain had to say.


ACOSTA: Remarks?

HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some -- some -- no comment. Some people feel that way. You know, I respect -- I respect everybody's, you know, religious beliefs and Mormonism's been around a long time. So no comment. Not going to get into that.

ACOSTA: Do you think that's appropriate to say? CAIN: I don't think it's appropriate to say, but he said it. OK? He said it, but I don't want to get into that. I want to focus on growing the economy, creating jobs.

ACOSTA: What did you think about the jobs report today?

CAIN: I think it's another indication that this president has had failed economic policies, period. And what some -- what some people have done is they've tried to create a distraction with this whole Wall Street thing. The policies -- they shouldn't be --

ACOSTA: Shouldn't some people on Wall Street be held accountable for what happened during the financial crisis?

CAIN: Wall Street didn't write the economic policies. The White House did. What happened on Wall Street is part of the problem, but it didn't create this high unemployment.


ACOSTA: And that was Herman Cain on the economy, but this issue of Mitt Romney's faith is certainly taking center stage here at this summit, Wolf.

And I had a chance to talk to Tony Perkins, who is the head of the organization hosting this event, and you know him well. He said Mitt Romney's faith should not be an issue in this campaign. It should be the issues that all Americans will be voting on -- the economy, how to get the economy moving again. On the economy, he thinks that'll be the central part of this campaign, Wolf.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, and I want you to relay this question because I know he can't hear me, Rev. Jeffress.


BLITZER: But is he saying that because Mitt Romney is a Mormon, people shouldn't vote for him for president of the United States strictly because of his faith? Is that what he's saying?

ACOSTA: Wolf is asking me to ask you, are you saying that because of Mitt Romney's faith, that people should not vote for him? That people should not go into the voting booth and flip the switch for Mitt Romney because of his faith? Should that be held against him?

JEFFRESS: Look, I think if it came down to a contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I would hold my nose and hope for Mitt Romney. I would rather have a non-Christian who at least supports biblical principles than a professing-Christian like Barack Obama who embraces unbiblical positions.

But we're in the primary season right now and because of that, I believe that Christians ought to select Evangelical Christians. That's my point.

ACOSTA: And just really quickly, nobody from the Perry campaign asked you to bring this up today?

JEFFRESS: Oh, absolutely not. I have no reason to believe that Governor Perry shares my views at all. He probably doesn't. But I'm speaking at a pastor, not as a politician or a pundit.

ACOSTA: As you heard, Wolf, this issue is coming up here. It is an issue that Mitt Romney thought he dealt with in the 2008 campaign. You'll remember, he gave that big speech at Texas A&M. It appears that issue is now back in the 2012 campaign, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, going to cause a lot of stir.

One quick question. If you could ask him how he feels about this hypothetical. What if there's a non-Christian like Eric Cantor, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, the majority leader, who's Jewish. He's not Christian, he's Jewish.

Could he support a Jewish Republican conservative like Eric Cantor if he were running against an Evangelical Christian?

ACOSTA: Pastor Jeffress, Wolf has another question for you. And that is because a lot of people have talked about Eric Cantor as a potential presidential or vice presidential nominee, would you hold his faith against him, the fact he is a Jew?

Would you be OK with seeing a Jewish president in the White House? Should his religion be held against him?

JEFFRESS: No, I don't think it ought to be held against him. I think, again, given the preference of having a Christian versus a non- Christian, it was John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, said we should prefer and select Christians as our leaders.

Look, when it gets down to it, we need to remember this. In 2008, 30 million Evangelical Christians sat at home and didn't vote. Barack Obama won by 10 million votes. Whether you like it or not, Mitt Romney will not energize Evangelical Christians. The fact is they may --

ACOSTA: Not everybody agrees with that.

JEFFRESS: Well -- and I know --

ACOSTA: Tony Perkins says that that's not the case.

JEFFRESS: And I understand that, but also understand that people don't always tell the truth to pollsters, especially when it comes to issues like this. They don't want to appear to be bigoted.

But what they say to a pollster and what they do in the voting booth sometimes are two different things. And I believe for a significant number of Evangelical Christians, they would prefer a strong Christian like Rick Perry to a Mormon.

ACOSTA: Wolf, there you have it. This is going to be an issue that Evangelical Christians will be talking about. It makes folks uncomfortable to talk about it as an issue, but it is coming up in this campaign.

BLITZER: Yes, well, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

And let's just point out that Mormons consider themselves to be Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ, even if the reverend and others do not believe that Mormons are in fact Christians.

I think this is going to cause quite a stir out there. We'll continue to follow it. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Nerves were already frayed in Congress with the bitter dispute over the economy and election year partisanship, but there was an extraordinary outburst of anger in the Senate last night. The flashpoint was bill aimed at punishing China for so-called currency manipulations, but the bill does have bipartisan support.

This fight was really about power and politics, and it broke out as minority Republicans tried to tack on some unrelated amendments to the so-called China bill. After Democrats gathered the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, a stalling tactic used by whichever party is in the minority, they shocked Republicans by ramming through a rule change preventing Republicans from adding the amendments.

Let's get some more not from CNN's Athena Jones.

Athena, this caused a little more of a stir itself.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did. You know, at issue here is the whole idea of minority rights. In the Senate, Republicans are in the minority, so it's about minority rights to offer amendments to be heard, but it's also about the idea of keeping the Senate going and actually getting things done.

What Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to do was tack on some unrelated amendments on things like EPA Farm Dust bill and also specifically this jobs bill. He wanted to see Democrats vote on the original version of the president's jobs bill. This is the one without the update that Senator Reid added changing the way the bill would be paid for, that's by using the tax on millionaires.

And so, they wanted to push through this vote knowing that it might show some divisions among the Democrats.

If you talk to Majority Leader Reid, though, he'll say this was really just a delaying tactic op the part of the Republicans.

And so, there was a lot of back and forth last night, it got heated. Let's listen to some of what they had to say.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: In the United States Senate, the minority is entitled to be heard. Not entitled to win, but entitled to be heard.

And so, that's the core problem here. And I'd say to my friend, the majority leader, and this is nothing personal, I like him, we deal with each other every day, we are fundamentally turning the Senate into the House. No amendments before closure. No motions to suspend after closure. The minority's out of business.

And it's particularly bad on a bill that has the support of over 60 members, as this one did. If you're not among those 60, you're out of luck.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I found over the last Congress in nine months that when I try to have an open amendment process, it is a -- road to nowhere. It just -- we -- we haven't been able to effectually single bill being passed that way. Regardless of whether that's right or wrong, that's what I did.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I really don't want to speak. Here's what I want to happen.

I think members on both side of the aisle feel like this institution has degraded into a place that is no longer a place of any deliberation at all. And I'd like for you and the minority leader to explain to us so that we have one story here in public, as to what has happened this week to lead us to the place that we are.

That's all I'm asking. That's all I want to know. Explain how the greatest deliberative body on a bill that many would say was a messaging bill in the first place, ended up having no amendments and we're in this place that we are right now. I'd just like to understand that.


JONES: And so, there you saw these simmering tensions right leading into a week where we're going to have a lot of big bills on the floor. They're supposed to be discussing the jobs bill, upcoming free trade agreements with Columbia, South Korea and Panama and also returning to this currency bill. And so it's -- right now, it doesn't make it look like -- it shows lots more dysfunction here in Congress, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly does. Not a great surprise, though, and I think it's just going to begin.

Thanks very much, Athena, for that.

A hundred and three thousand new jobs created in the United States last month. Where did they come from? We're talking jobs, the economy and much more with former White House economist Austan Goolsbee and "Wall Street Journal" senior economics writer Stephen Moore. That's coming up.

And exploding tankers full of ethanol. We're getting new details of this fiery train derailment that's forcing hundreds to evacuate.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story now, a better than expected jobs number for September and upward revision for the two previous months as well.

So what does it mean for the overall economic picture? Let's discuss with the former White House chief economist Austan Goolsbee, he's a professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Moore, he's the senior economics writer over at "The Wall Street Journal."

Stephen, if you add them up, almost 300,000 jobs created July, August and September. Not great by any means, you need at least 150,000 new jobs a month to see that needle move down from 9.1 percent, but it's a lot better than losing 700,000 or 800,000 jobs a month, which was what was happening when Obama took office.

STEPHEN MOORE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, yes, that's right. I mean, look, I mean, if you look at these numbers, remember we talked about the numbers last month and it looked like we were headed right into a double-dip recession. I think when you've had thunderstorms and you see a little sliver of sunshine, it looks pretty good to you.

And this was accident number. We had 103,000 jobs this month and then they revised numbers for the past two months that were upwards of another 100,000. But here's the thing, Wolf, we shouldn't get too excited about this, because if you look over the last six months, the Labor Department tells us we've been averaging about $75,000 jobs a month. We need at least twice that number each month many to just keep pace with the growth in the labor force and to start chipping away at this unemployment rate.

So, pretty good report, but not great.

BLITZER: And if you look deeper, Austan, into the month of September, 103,000 jobs created, but 45,000 of those jobs were from the Verizon workers who were off work for a few weeks because of a strike. So that -- that really is a little phony, that number, right?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIST: Yes, look, there are always bumps in these monthly numbers. Yes, they added this month, but they got subtracted from last month.

I thought some of the good things in the report were you started to see life coming back in the construction industry, which has been down for years and years. And one of the negatives was you're still seeing the negatives on manufacturing.

I think the stuff going on in Europe is not good. It's driving the dollar up. It's making U.S. companies pricing less competitive, so it's, again, a bit of a rough patch for manufacturing.

I think it's good that it's better than expected, but it's not a great report by any means.

BLITZER: And unemployment number remains at 9.1 percent.

Both of you, first to you, Steve. Are we in or heading toward another recession?

MOORE: You know, if you asked me a week ago, I would have said a good probability in it. But this I think significantly reduces the probability of a double dip recession any time soon, thank God, because that would be horrible for the economy.

But I want to say one thing that I think is very interesting and I bet neither you, Wolf, nor you, Austan, will even accept this number or believe it. But if you look back at the same stage, Austan, of the Reagan expansion in September of 1983, same stage of his presidency and this one, do you know how many jobs we've created in the month of September 1983? One-point-one million.

I would make the case that maybe we shouldn't be looking at the Reagan ideas and move away from these Obama ideas that aren't creating enough jobs and bring unemployment down.

BLITZER: Which is the most important?


BLITZER: Hold on --

GOOLSBEE: The top --

BLITZER: The most important one that Austan and others should be looking at. And then Austan respond.

Steve, which Reagan idea do you want --

MOORE: Oh, I think he should start taking regulations off the economy and I think we should stop talking about raising tax rates and maybe Austan start talking about lowering them in exchange for getting rid of loopholes.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Austan.

GOOLSBEE: I will simply point out that the top federal marginal tax rate at that time Steven is describing was 50 percent. So I really don't think that was the main driver of recovery.

BLITZER: What was the main driver?

GOOLSBEE: What happened in the 1980s, and we should go back to that, is they were able to return to what the economy was doing before the recession began. Here, we're trying to get away from what we were doing before the recession began because it was rooted in a bubble. Now, I think Steven and I both agree we've got to put a focus on growth. Ultimately, unless the economy's growing, we're not going to add jobs.

BLITZER: Austan, let me go to you first this time. If there's no action in Congress, if the political gridlock continues between now and November of next year, what happens to the U.S. economy? What happens to job growth in the United States?

GOOLSBEE: I mean, it will be less than it should be. And I'd say it also hinges on whether the Europeans step up and deal with their problems. I mean, they got some very substantial financial problems over there, which are having a negative impact on our economy. I hope that we can find some whatever the bipartisan things we can do to get the economy growing, let's do those because it's bumpy here, but outside the U.S. -- I mean, people are strapping on their parachutes.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Steve?

MOORE: Yes, I think the big problem with the economy now is we're supposed to be in an expansion and we're growing at only 1 or 2 percent. We need to ramp up growth more quickly than it is growing now. And I think that if -- look, I don't have any confidence that that jobs bill would create many jobs. It looks to me like it's just stimulus two.

But I will say this -- that, you know, if we don't see a big pick up in jobs over the next six months or so, you're talking about a president going into re-election in the fall with an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent, 9 percent. It's hard to see how President Obama's going to get re-elected with numbers like that.

BLITZER: You want to have to final word, Austan?

GOOLSBEE: Look, I'm not the political expert, but I think everybody ought to be 100 percent for let's get the growth rate up -- and there are a number of bipartisan things we can do. Let's do those things.

BLITZER: Let's see if they can. I'm getting increasingly suspicious they won't be able to do much.

MOORE: Maybe a payroll tax cut. We might be able to agree on the payroll tax cut.

BLITZER: Look, if they do something to create some jobs, that would be good.

GOOLSBEE: Do that. Yes.

BLITZER: This gridlock in Washington is pretty -- are pretty awful. All right, guys, thanks very much.

MOORE: See you soon.

BLITZER: Fallout from the bin Laden raid. Why a Pakistani doctor could face execution and why bin Laden's three wives may go free. We're digging deeper.

Plus, a train derails, cars go up in flames. What it means for local residents in Illinois.


BLITZER: Herman Cain is speaking right now at the Values Voters Summit here in Washington, speaking about all sorts of social issues -- speaking about abortion right now. Let's listen briefly.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dad went to pursue his American Dream with the only kind of equity he had, sweat equity. And he was able to achieve his American Dream, he and my mother.

And dad wanted to give us a little bit better start in life and they did. Dad wanted to make sure that one day, he could buy a whole house for the family.

You see, growing up in Atlanta most of time, we lived in what my brother and I called a half a house. It was a six-room house with three rooms on one side, three rooms on the other side. We lived in half of it.

My brother and I, being typical kids, said, dad, why do we live in half a house? Dad said, it's a duplex -- because we didn't know that dad was saving for his dream, which one day buy a whole house for the family and he did.

Dad knew that the pursuit of happiness meant working those three jobs. Dad also knew that --

BLITZER: All right. You're listening to Herman Cain. We're going to go back to him later. He was talking earlier about abortion, his opposition to gay marriage, other social issues. He's speaking over at the values -- Voter Values Summit in Washington right now.

Earlier, and you saw it basically unfold here in THE SITUATION ROOM, one of the organizers told us, told the crowd there earlier that he could not support Mitt Romney because of his faith, because he's a Mormon and he says not a Christian, even though Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and they say they are Christian, he believes it's a cult and he says evangelical Christians believe that the Mormon religion is a cult.

We're going to have much more on this part of the story coming up because it's exploding into a huge issue right now. Romney being the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination and, all of a sudden, an influential group of conservatives and Republicans insisting that they should not vote for Romney because A, he's not a Christian, B, he believes in a cult and they should vote for, quote, "real Christians."

This is a story we're watching. Stand by for more on this.


BLITZER: Also, this just coming in THE SITUATION ROOM. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, is furious over allegations that he misled Congress.

Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on here, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, House Republicans have accused Holder of not being truthful about when he first learned of a controversial ATF gun running program called Fast and Furious. And Holder is clearly furious. He's just sent an angry letter to key members of Congress insisting his testimony was truthful and accurate and blasting what he calls political posturing and irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric. We'll have much more on this unfolding story in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Walt Disney Company says Bob Iger will step down in March of 2015 after just short of a decade at the helm. The company value has increased by more than a third under Iger and annual revenue has reached $40 billion. There's no word on a possible successor. Iger will continue as executive chairman of the board through June 2016.

And a train derailment and fire has forced some 800 people to evacuate in north central Illinois, about 115 miles west of Chicago. Crews were planning to let the fire burn itself out, but they changed tactics after three tanks, of course, full of ethanol exploded. They are now trying to douse the flames with water and foam. No injuries are reported -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you.

Pakistani doctor trying to help the United States with the hunt for Osama bin Laden could soon be facing treason charges, possible hanging by the Pakistani government. We're digging deeper into a very, very disturbing case.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Major political news breaking right now over at the voters value -- the Values Voters Summit I should say. The -- some of the organizers, evangelical Christians, insisting they could never vote for Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination because he's running against what they call real Christians.

Mitt Romney, as you know, is a Mormon and they are suggesting that Mitt Romney belongs to a cult. That he's not a real Christian, even though Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and believe they are Christians.

The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, his spokesman issued a statement, Mark Miner, the national press secretary telling our Jim Acosta the governor, meaning Governor Perry, does not believe Mormonism is a cult.

Let's discuss what's going on with two of our strategists, James Carville, the Democratic strategist, CNN contributor is joining also, Republican strategist, Tony Blackly.

Tony, let me let you weigh in first. This is a huge uproar right now. It really wasn't discussed much over these many weeks and months. The fact that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman for that matter both Mormons.

But all of a sudden at this conference unfolding in Washington today, you're hearing complaints that they're not real Christians and that Evangelical Christians should not vote for them. TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, we've always known this attitude exists amongst some Evangelicals. It happened to Orrin Hatch when he was running briefly back in the '90s for primary. I think it was one of the reasons why Romney has had, not the only reason, but one of the reasons why he's not been able to get much above 25 percent in the primary process.

I think just analytically, the most important statement that the reverend made, I didn't catch his last name, was that in the general election, they could vote for him if other issues justified it. So these are votes that are not lost I think to Romney should he become the nominee, but clearly, some are going to be lost to him in the primary.

"The Washington Post" poll from a few days ago showed I think 20 some percent of Evangelical Christians said they wouldn't vote for someone who they judged not to be of their faith. That's down, by the way, from I believe four years ago when it was at 40 percent.

BLITZER: The Reverend Robert Jeffers, James, he's the one that spoke to our own Jim Acosta saying he could not support Mitt Romney because of his faith, because he's a Mormon, because he belongs to what he called a cult. You're the son of the south. What do you make of this?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, first of all, the Church of Jesus Christ, the Latter Day Saints, they definitely believe in Jesus Christ, definitely Christian by the definition I suspect.

The point here is that people of that faith have served this country honorably and very, very confidently for a long time without any influence from the church. The Udall is one of the great families in the history of Democratic Party's, Harry Reid's a Mormon.

They tend to be more Republican, but it's very important to note that they have a real tradition of service in very competent and honorable service to this country. I would hope that the reverend, you know, would reconsider his position in light of the history of Mormon serving.

But it may be something that Governor Romney's going to have to address. I hope not. I think we got bigger problems here than that, but it could be.

BLITZER: How much anguish is this going to cause among Republicans and conservatives, Tony, right now, the fact that all of a sudden, this has come up as an issue today?

BLANKLEY: Well, look, I think it's part of what has been known to be some concern that Romney does not invigorate important elements of the Republican Party. Some because of issues -- positions he's taken in the past and others unfortunately because their view on the religion.

I obviously shared James' view on the contributions the Mormons have made and continue to make in American culture. This is part of the rich and unusual tapestry of American politics and goes back, as you know, Jack Kennedy had the problem with being Catholic in 1960. We work through these things, but it's complex.

BLITZER: Listen to the sound bite. I'll play it, James, then we'll discuss. I'll play the clip where we heard the Reverent Robert Jeffers telling Jim Acosta that he could not support Mitt Romney because he's not a Christian.


ACOSTA: You said in pretty strong, plain language what you think of Mormonism. You described it as a cult and you said that if Republican votes for Mitt Romney, they're giving some credibility to a cult. Do you stand by that comment?

JEFFRESS: Oh, absolutely.

And that's not some fanatical comment. That's been the historic position of evangelical Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult.

I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent -- to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.


BLITZER: All right, hold on, guys. I want to come back and discuss what we just heard. We have to take a quick commercial break. Much more on the breaking news.

All of a sudden, some Evangelical Christians at this conference here in Washington saying they cannot support the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, because he's a Mormon and because he's not a Christian. They say, he belongs to a cult.

More of the breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: We all knew, James Carville, that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. It wasn't really an issue, all of a sudden, today, right now, it's become an issue as a result of this conference unfolding in Washington. How will it play out do you think as far as Mitt Romney's chances of winning the Republican nomination?

CARVILLE: Well, what struck me, that gentleman is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. That is a very influential church. There used to be fellow there when I was young by the name of Chris Well, who's big reactionary guy, but he was very, very influential.

And this guy in the Evangelical world is not some rule, he's probably a pretty serious guy. So I suspect this thing could mushroom into something. I think some of the problems is these conservatives just they don't like and trust Romney.

That's why he's in a difficult time moving in the polls. He's a little bit like some a lot of Democrats. Look at Senator Lieberman, no matter what he says, they just not going to sort of warm up to him and that seems to be what it is.

And you know, this sort of religious thing, which I think is completely bogus, but my own personal view might give him some parking spot to make him feel different about it.

I don't know, but he's probably going to have to address this at some point. I hate that politics is like this. I personally find it not my cup of tea, but that's what's going to happen.

BLITZER: Very quickly, what do you think, Tony? Is this going to be a major issue now that it's come out in the open?

BLANKLEY: Well, I think it's always been a factor and now, it's public and may move some more votes. This is a fraction of a fraction within the Republican primary. It's not all Evangelical Christians as "The Washington Post" poll showed.

Majority of conservative Christians do not judge harshly or make the decision based on whether the candidate is a Mormon or other form of Protestant, but it is a factor.

I think it will determine depending on who the Romney's alternative candidate is going in when it comes down to the last two, how strong that one is will determine whether it's critical. I think Romney is probably safe, but it's going to be a challenge.

BLITZER: We'll see and we'll watch much more of the breaking news coming up. Guys, thanks very much.

Also, jobs and Wall Street protests, unemployment concerns are bringing out some unlikely activists. We'll meet some of them. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Let's listen a little bit to the Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain over at the Values Voters Summit.


CAIN: -- because we have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And because it is our right and our responsibility to do some altering on abolishing, we will be able to push that shining city on the hill back to the top of the hill.

Ronald Reagan, the Gipper, reminds us just how fragile this thing called freedom and this thing called liberty really is when he said, freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.

You can't pass it on in the bloodstream. It must be thought for and protected. For, one day, we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our grandchildren what the United States of America used to be like when men were free.

I'm not going to have that conversation with my grand kids. And I don't believe you want to have that conversation with your grand kids.

Help me put united back into the United States of America and let's retake the hill! The shining city on the hill! The United States of America!