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CEO of Charity Founded by Penn State Coach Accused of Child Abuse Resigns; NBA Players Reject Owners' Latest Offer; Herman Cain has Trouble Answering Question on Libya; Russian May Have Aided Iran's Nuke Quest; "Let Me Just say...They're Wrong;" Poll: Gingrich Surges to Front of Pack; Obama Health Care Law Lands At Supreme Court

Aired November 14, 2011 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, President Obama throws some fiery new counter-punches as the Republican presidential contenders hit him hard on foreign policy. Just ahead, our new CNN poll be numbers -- they are revealing some dramatic new details about who's coming out on top, at least right now.

Plus, an escalating deadly bloodbath in Syria, despite new pressure on the embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, to stop the violence and step down.

Is any of it, though, making a difference?

And new fallout in the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal.

Just ahead, what it could mean for thousands of kids served by the charity that's right at the center of the firestorm.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But first, to the presidential campaign here in the United States, where foreign policy now taking center stage. President Obama is firing right back after the Republican candidates did their best in Saturday's debate to convince voters the president's world view is dangerous for the country.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is traveling with the president there in Honolulu. He has a closer look at some of the key differences on both sides -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And, you know, it was all politics for the president again today, where he just wrapped up a fundraiser during the remarks he talked about some of the accomplishments so far in his -- in his administration, but also some of the challenges that remain. We heard some of this talk from the president yesterday, as well, during the closing press conference here. As you know, Wolf, from having covered the White House, these are designed to talk about the issues at hand, about the economy and trade. But reporters can ask questions about anything. The president did not back away from taking on the Republican hopefuls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: In the race for the White House, punching the president is par for the course. Republican hopefuls take shots at Mr. Obama in their debates.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama.

MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's better than Barack Obama.

LOTHIAN: But when President Obama is asked to respond, he often settles on this well rehearsed line.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to make a practice of not commenting on whatever is said in Republican debates until they've got an actual nominee.

LOTHIAN: But he didn't hold back when I asked him about waterboarding and strong views expressed by Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann at the most recent Republican debated South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CBS NEWS/"NATIONAL JOURNAL")

CAIN: I don't see it as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CBS NEWS/"NATIONAL JOURNAL")

BACHMANN: I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think It was very effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: In 2009, President Obama banned the controversial practice that simulates drowning.

OBAMA: Let me just say this, they're wrong. Waterboarding is torture. It's contrary to America's traditions. It's contrary to our ideals. That's not who we are. That's not how we operate.

LOTHIAN: While President Obama is less vulnerable on foreign policy than on his biggest domestic challenge, job creation, the Republican candidates have tried to expose weaknesses in the way the White House deals with China on its currency and intellectual property.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CBS NEWS/"NATIONAL JOURNAL") MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But if you just continue to sit back and let them roll over us, the policies of Barack Obama in China have allowed China to continue to expand their -- their entry into our computer systems, their entry in stealing our intellectual property.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's time, Governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: During the AIPAC summit and at his curtain closing news conference, the president was quick to show the world that the U.S. is not just sitting back.

OBAMA: We're going to continue to be firm in insisting that they operate by the same -- same rules that everybody else operates under.

LOTHIAN: But perhaps the sharpest attacks against the president were over his handling of Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Mitt Romney called it "Mr. Obama's greatest foreign policy failing."

Newt Gingrich was equally blunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CBS NEWS/"NATIONAL JOURNAL")

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, there are a number of ways to be smarter about Iran and there are relative few ways to be dumb. And the administration skipped all the ways to be smart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: The president is pushing China and Russia to back tougher sanctions on Iran. And while Republican hopefuls are talking about military action, the president and his top aides insist all options are on the table.

For voters, these sharp contrasts help define their choices. But as the president and former candidate has learned, it's easier to criticize than execute.

ED ESPINOZA, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: It's theory versus reality. When you're governing, the things that you talk about, you have to actually do. And there is accountability there. And whether or not you're able to push that program through or if you can push it through but see it until end are very difficult things. On the campaign trail, it's all conceptual.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LOTHIAN: After having a little down time here in Hawaii, the president heads to Australia tomorrow, where he will highlight the strategic and security situation and arrangement with Australia. He's expected to announce a new arrangement -- a military arrangement with that country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian traveling with the president in Hawaii.

Thanks.

We'll be checking back with you.

This programming note. I'll be the moderator when the Republican candidates take part in CNN's next Republican presidential debate. It's a national security debate. It will take place in Washington, DC at Constitution Hall. Join us Tuesday, November 22nd, a week from Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Later, President Obama breaks an amusing APEC, Asian-Pacific Economic Conference, tradition, which means no Hawaiian shirts in the leader's class, at least this time. There you see saw some of the earlier photo-ops. Weird shirts, but not this time.

Meanwhile, our new CNN/ORC Poll is revealing some surprising new developments in the Republican presidential contest. Newt Gingrich is making a dramatic surge to the front of the pack, virtually tied right now with Mitt Romney, 22 percent to 24 percent. Herman Cain has slipped dramatically amid the sexual harassment allegations swirling around his campaign.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is drilling down on all of the numbers for us -- Gloria, Cain's support dropped by about half over the past few weeks. I assume it's because of these sexual harassment allegations.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is because of the sexual harassment allegations, Wolf. And it also really goes to the question of credibility, the credibility of Herman Cain as a potential presidential candidate or nominee.

We asked the question, "Do you believe Herman Cain?," of Republicans. And then we broke it down with -- by Republican women.

So 51 percent of Republicans believe him on these allegations rather than women. But Republican women don't believe him. Only 39 percent believe him. Women are very, very important to the Republican primary electorate, Wolf. So if he's got credibility problems with women, that's not going to help him. And overall, as you mentioned earlier, his favorability ratings among Republicans has really dropped.

We -- these are the unfavorable numbers here. In June, he had an 8 percent unfavorable. Of course, a lot of people didn't know who he was at that point.

But now, look at it, 31 percent. If the voters didn't know him then, they certainly know him now. And they're not feeling a lot more positive about him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: One thing our new poll is showing, as we're seeing Newt Gingrich gaining some popularity big time.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: We're still seeing, potentially, some of his weaknesses.

BORGER: Right. Well, Republicans have started dating Newt Gingrich a little bit. He's having a bit of a boomlet here. And I think that's because, Wolf, as -- as you know, he's done very well in these Republican debates.

So we asked people whether Newt Gingrich has the personal qualities a president should have. Republicans say 74 percent; all Americans, 45 percent. The 45 percent number is the number that's troubling, Wolf, because it speaks to the question of whether Newt Gingrich would be a good general election candidate. And that would pose a potential problem.

Also, when you get in that top tier, as you know, Wolf, people start going back into your background, his own personal values, how we behaved during the Clinton impeachment, those hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of charges at Tiffany's.

So now that he's in the top tier, he's going to get an awful lot more scrutiny.

BLITZER: Gloria, hold on for a minute.

I'm going to get back to you shortly, because we're getting some new information on Herman Cain right now, as well.

Stand by for a few moments.

We'll get that ready for viewers.

In the meantime, let's go to the Supreme Court, where President Obama's sweeping health care reform legislation could be in jeopardy. The court has agreed to determine whether or not the law is constitutional.

Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

She's got the latest for us -- all right, Jessica, tell us what's going on.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Well, first of all, the White House has released a statement saying that thanks -- that in response to the Supreme Court's decision to take the case, they say, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without applying -- without paying an extra penny for -- out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of their premiums -- your premiums -- on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. "We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree."

That's from White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer.

So if we're talking the politics here, in that statement, you see that the White House is already, in the very statement in response, appealing to key voting blocs for the president -- young voters and female voters, and then dinging insurance companies, which is in keeping with the president's current advocacy, his position on -- in the road, advocacy for the middle class against big corporate entities.

I should add that the administration does believe that because three lower courts have not struck down the law, that it is likely the Supreme Court will uphold it, too. But as you know, you never know.

BLITZER: Well, what happens if they don't uphold it, Jessica?

YELLIN: In terms of the politics, it would certainly be a blow to the Obama reelection effort, no question. It's the president's signature domestic policy accomplishment. To some extent, it would depend on exactly what the Supreme Court rules -- can some of the law still stand?

And if Mitt Romney is the Republican opponent, as you know, when he was Massachusetts governor, he signed a health care law with a very, very similar individual mandate. So that would mitigate the sting of the attacks he could make on the issue. But the Republican Party as a whole definitely plans to make the health care law and Supreme Court's consideration of it an issue. And at this hour, it already is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the Republicans you're talking to telling you, Jessica?

YELLIN: Well, that in their research, opposition to the president's health care law, they say, is a key issue that will energize voter turnout, not just for conservatives, but for Independents, too.

Now CNN has done a CNN/ORC Poll today that shows nationally, a majority of Americans favor the individual mandate, that piece that requires people to get health care.

But Republicans say the story is different in key battleground states. And if overturned, they will use it to question the president's judgment, the president's competence, leadership. It would get ugly fast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly would.

All right, Jessica.

Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, new fallout inside the charity at the center of a growing Penn State University child sex abuse scandal. Ahead, new concerns about the fate of the thousands of troubled kids it serves.

Plus, strong new calls in the Middle East for Syria's embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, to simply go away and step down as the death toll climbs.

Will it, though, make any difference? And the Russian mystery man who allegedly helped Iran advance its nuclear capabilities. We're getting new information on that.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File." We are getting a new videotape, Jack. You will be interested in it, and our viewers are, of Herman Cain, saying some stuff. I'll leave it at that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But just get ready, because you will be interested in this.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'll stay tuned for that, saying some stuff.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: All right, speaking of stuff, the so-called super committee turning out to be anything but. A little more than a week to go now before the deadline. Things are looking grim for bipartisan panel tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from our national debt over the next decade.

For starters, "Politico" reports the committee all but abandoned full panel meetings. Instead a series of small bipartisan groups now dominate the negotiations. The six Democrats on the panel can't even come to consensus among themselves. That makes chances they will agree with Republicans slim to none.

Plus key lawmakers are talking about dragging out the process now. They are talking about a two-step process to reform the tax code and entitlements. The super committee would set a figure for increased tax revenue but then individual House and Senate committees would have to craft the legislation. In an election year -- yes, that will happen.

This is outrageous. If it happens it would make the super committee just one more group of politicians to kick the can down the road when it comes to our nearly $15 trillion national debt. And we can't afford that. Oh, yes and remember the automatic trigger that is supposed to go into effect if the soup are committee capital agree on cuts? Now lawmakers are trying to weasel out of that too. One member says it's very likely, quoting now, "that Congress will try to dismantle those across the board cuts to defense and entitlement spending," all the while both sides trading accusations about who would be to blame if the super committee fails.

Our government is broken and we are losing this country because of it. Here is the question. How do you see the super committee concluding its business? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Post a comment on my blog with "THE SITUATION ROOM" Facebook page. Now I want to see your stuff. Herman Cain's stuff.

BLITZER: We're getting it ready. We have good stuff coming up. You'll be interested in this, Jack.

But there is a very serious story we're watching right now, another new twist in the growing Penn State University child sex abuse scandal. The head of the youth charity founded by Jerry Sandusky, the suspect in the case, resigned his position today. Now there are new questions about the future of the charity and thousands of troubled kids it serves. Let's bring in our own Mary Snow on the campus of Penn State University. She has latest details. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is really the first time we are hearing from this charity since Sandusky's arrest outside some written statements last week. The attorney general says that all of the alleged victims were tied to this group. And as it looks for answers, there are questions about whether or not it can survive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: More than a week after Jerry Sandusky's arrest, the charity he founded to help kids at risk, The Second Mile, is investigating itself. Jack Brakowitz has been removed as CEO. He's been with the group for 28 years, and an outside law firm hired that includes former Philadelphia district attorney Lynn Abraham. We briefly caught up with the interim head of Second Mile.

(on camera) Can this organization survive?

DAVID WOODLE, THE SECOND MILE: I think that it is a challenge that we are looking at right now. I think that it would be unrealistic for me to say that it is not going to be a tough challenge. What we are doing is we are meeting with all of the people we sponsor and all of the people that sponsor us.

SNOW, (voice-over): Jerry Sandusky left the group in 2008. The organization says when the former Penn State defensive coordinator says he is being investigated but that there is no truth to sex abuse allegations made against him. Sandusky still maintains his innocence.

But the CEO of the Second Mile was mentioned in the grand jury report concerning a 10-year-old boy in 2002 who was allegedly raped in a Penn State locker room shower by Sandusky. The athletic director testified he was told of conduct described as "horsing around" but not of sexual conduct.

In a statement last week, former Second Mile CEO jack Raykovitz said at no time was The Second Mile made aware of what was alleged in the grand jury report. Instead he says he was told by Penn State's athletic director someone saw Sandusky in the shower with the boy and a review found no wrongdoing. Tru-TV Correspondent and attorney Jean Casarez says, like the university, The Second Mile could face civil lawsuits.

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION" ON TRUTV: The civil suites, they haven't even gun begun to be lined up yet. We have just learned that victims may be getting civil attorneys now. And how many more victims are there that have not surfaced?

SNOW: Despite all the turmoil, there are some who feel Second Mile is worth saving. Pat Sullivan is the principal of a small local high school where he says some of his students have benefited from a Second Mile leadership program.

(on camera) Given what happened, should this organization survived?

PAT SULLIVAN, GRACE PREPARATORY HIGH SCHOOL: It it's going to be disappointing if it doesn't. I know there is going to have to be structural changes at the leadership position for it to survive. But it is affecting, impacting, hopefully in a positive way, thousands, at least count 100,000 kids a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: And Wolf, unlike some of the other investigations that have been ongoing, there is a timeline for this one from the Second Mile. The group said today that it expects to have its own findings by the end of this year. Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm so heartbroken. It is a shocking, shocking story. And it's only probably only get a whole lot worse. Mary, thank you.

This programming note for our viewers -- Anderson Cooper has the first TV interview with Sandusky's attorney later tonight, 8:00 p.m. eastern, "AC 360."

The Taliban, they say they have inside information that could help them disrupt a meeting seen as key to the future of U.S.-Afghan relations. New details just coming in. And we're getting new video of Herman Cain getting stumped on a question about Libya. You're going to want to see this. We have the videotape. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a foiled suicide bomb plot in Afghanistan. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, Afghan forces have killed a suicide bomber who targeted a gathering of tribal leaders. The meeting is considered an important step for the future of U.S.-Afghan relations. A Taliban affiliated website claims to have a leaked document detailing security plans for the meeting, but the Afghan government says it is a fake.

Venezuelan authorities have arrested five more suspects in connection with last week's kidnapping of Major League Baseball player Wilson Ramos. Eleven people are now being held in connection with the case. Ramos is a rising star for the Washington Nationals. After being abducted from miss mother's home, he was held for two days before being rescued in a mountainous region of North Central Venezuelan.

And NBA players have rejected the league's latest offer and are beginning the process of disbanding the union. The NBA had already cancelled games through December 15th. Players have been locked out since July as team owners seek more revenue, saying last year was unprofitable for many of them. I know that's not welcome news for you, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly isn't. And I really feel bad for all of the people who struggle to make a living at the stadiums, people who sell the popcorn, sell the beer, those who scan your ticket when you walk in, the people who have businesses around the corner from the stadiums. I don't care that much about the millionaires and billionaires, the players and owners. I care about all the folks that are going to impacted by this, and I'm really concerned that the NBA will lose a lost fan base as a result of this craziness. That's just me as an NBA fan, that's me venting a little bit on that. Thanks, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Sure.

BLITZER: Herman Cain gives a new interview, seems to have a rather tough time about a question about Libya. Is this a Rick Perry "oops" moment for Herman Cain? We've got the videotape. We're going to play the whole thing for you. You're going to want to see this. Stand by.

Also, mounting pressure on the Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down as bloodshed worsens. But there are some countries sticking by him. And you may be surprised by one of those countries.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Herman Cain is in Wisconsin right now. He's getting toward go to the Green Bay Packers game later tonight. But the Republican presidential candidate earlier sat down with the editorial board of the "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel," and he had this exchange. I'm going play the whole clip for our viewers. Then we will discuss what has happened and what it potentially could mean for Herman Cain's campaign. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You agreed with president Obama on Libya or not?

HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Libya -- President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gadhafi.

Just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say yes, I agree, or no, I didn't agree. I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reasons. No, that's a different one.

I've got to go back and see. I've got all this stuff twirling around in my head.

Specifically, what are you asking me did I agree or not disagree with Obama on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was asking if you agreed -- Craig (ph) was asking you about the Bush foreign policy, so I was taking a specific example from the Obama administration that was controversial within his own administration on what he should have done or not done.

And I was wondering if you agree with what he did or if you would have responded differently. You know, it's an issue that's come up since you've been running for office, and I was wondering how you would have handled it.

CAIN: Here's what I would have -- I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is. And I'm sure that our intelligence people had some of that information.

Based upon who made up that opposition, OK -- based upon who made up that opposition, it might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated. Secondly, I did not agree with Gadhafi killing citizens, absolutely not. So something would have had to have then -- I would have supported it many of the things that they did in order to help stop that.

It's not a simple yes, no, because there are different pieces, and I would have gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up the at the same place. But what I think more could have been done was, what's the nature of the opposition?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain answering questions at the editorial board meeting of "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel."

Gloria Borger is here, our chief political analyst.

Gloria, it looked like he was almost stumped there when they were asking him about Libya.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Totally.

BLITZER: He was finding it difficult to answer that question. I don't know if we can call it a Rick Perry moment, but I'm sure it'll get a lot of scrutiny.

BORGER: You know, Wolf, it wasn't a trick question. He was asked a direct question about whether he agreed with President Obama's handling of Libya, and he seemed confused and flat-footed and unprepared to answer the question, then seemed to be running through in his mind what he was actually going to talk about.

And Republicans, very easily, have said, like John McCain has said, we should have gone in unilaterally. Some Republicans agree with that. Some Republicans disagree with that. They use it as an opportunity to talk about how the president leads from behind and let the British and French take the lead.

And he took none of those opportunities, but seemed rather to be just confused by a very direct question about Libya. BLITZER: At one point, he said -- as he paused, he said, "I've got to think about this. I've got so many things going through my mind." I think he used the things like "twirling through my mind," or whatever, whether he was trying to think about Libya or Egypt or Syria, or who knows what he was really thinking about. But it was an awkward moment. I'm sure everyone will agree with that.

BORGER: Yes, it was an awkward moment.

Don't forget, this comes just a couple days after he was probably cramming for a foreign policy debate. He has got another one coming up with you in the next week.

But again, this wasn't a complicated or a trick question. It was a very basic question that he seemed just completely unprepared to answer.

And I don't think it was really a Rick Perry moment. It was a different kind of a moment, because Perry was affirmatively saying these are the three departments I would cut, named the first two, and of course forgot the third.

This was in response to a very direct question about Barack Obama's policy on Libya. And you would think if you are a presidential candidate, it would be something that you could talk about immediately because you thought about it an awful lot.

BLITZER: Yes. "I've got all this stuff twirling around in my head," was the exact quote.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: You can see it at the bottom of your screen.

Gloria, stand by for a moment.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: Professor Fouad Ajami is here. He's a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

When you were watching that tape -- and you're a professor who has got to grade students, if you will, and decide whether or not they're able to get a master's degree or a Ph.D.

What did you think?

FOUAD AJAMI, SR. FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: I think it's a disgraceful moment, and I think the flight from the world, if you will, is just a problem in our country. And the idea that someone is running for president and is so unprepared -- and, in fact, he tried to make a virtue out of his ignorance a while back. He said he doesn't care and he doesn't know the name of the president of "Uzbeki -- Uzbeki -- Uzbekistan."

So he glorified ignorance, and I think this is this kind of moment. BLITZER: But, you know, as you see this, he does want to be president of the United States.

AJAMI: Yes.

BLITZER: And normally, when he doesn't have a good answer on a foreign policy or national security issue, he always says, I will defer to the generals and see what the advice they give me, and then I will make a decision.

Is that acceptable for the commander-in-chief?

AJAMI: Well, actually, if you take a look at most of the candidates in the Republican Party -- and I speak as someone who is quite conservative and sympathetic to them -- I think probably only Newt Gingrich has thought long and hard about these questions. I don't think even Mitt Romney has really thought about these questions --

BLITZER: I think Jon Huntsman --

AJAMI: Exactly. I mean, this is a different candidate.

But if you take the top tier, I think it's a very, very poor field. And I think this almost willful ignorance of the foreign world is a disgrace.

BLITZER: Rick Santorum is obviously an intelligent guy, too, but he's, as you say, at the bottom of the tier right now.

Let me pick your brain on what's going on in Syria right now. The Arab League, over the past couple of days, took a very dramatic vote to suspend Syria. Almost all of the countries in the Arab League, including all of America's friends, whether Egypt or Libya or Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, they all voted in favor of the resolution.

Two voted against, Lebanon and Yemen. Lebanon, very close to the Syrians. Yemen is sort of a surprise. I wasn't exactly sure what they were up to.

But Iraq, which has received so much assistance from the United States own these years, since 2003, $1 trillion, thousands of lives, they decide to abstain on a resolution like this, Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki's government?

AJAMI: Well, you know, this is -- in fact, this is the drama, if you will, of Iraq. And I think there's a very healthy and spirited debate in Iraq about this vote.

The problem is that Nouri al-Maliki cast this vote, and the problem is that Nouri al-Maliki spent 17 years of exile in Syria. He spent some seven years in Iran, he spent 17 years in Syria. And I think he is very sympathetic to the Syrian regime, and I think he is thinking in sectarian terms.

He looks at Syria and sees the opposition to the Assad regime as a Sunni opposition. So I think he is really, really -- (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because he leads a Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

AJAMI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: But do you think he is just trying to make nice to the Iranians? Is that what he's up to? Is he more concerned about how his decisions will play in Tehran or Washington?

AJAMI: I hold a very, very revisionist view on this one. He doesn't owe Iran this vote.

This is a vote about the years in exile that he spent. And this is a vote about Nouri al-Maliki as a man of -- in this Iraqi political class, looking next door, looking at Syria, and thinking the regime is Damascus is better for him than the Sunni regime.

He is very afraid of what the Sunni society, if you will, what the Sunni-led regime, would look like. And I think it's something that doesn't speak very well of him and it doesn't speak very well of the game in Iraq.

BLITZER: The Arab League vote to suspend Syria as a member of the Arab League, will it have any affect on Bashar al-Assad in Damascus?

AJAMI: We can't say it's free for him, in fact, because if we're really saying, does the Arab League have military divisions to dispatch and to change the balance of power, military power on the ground, the answer is no. But I think in the isolation of Bashar al- Assad, and in the statement to the Syrian people that the Arab world stands by them -- because, in fact, these protesters have been calling upon the Arab League to do the right thing. So I think is not free for the Bashar regime.

BLITZER: Did you see those people attacking those embassies of the countries that voted to suspend Syria, including one country that is not a member of the Arab League, Turkey, which is obviously opposed to Bashar al-Assad?

AJAMI: All it tells you is that this regime is really feeling the heat and feeling the pressure. These demonstrations are all, in fact, trumped-up demonstrations. There is no spontaneous demonstration.

The only spontaneous demonstrations in Syria are the protesters. The only spontaneous demonstrations are the people of Homs who have become, if you will, this almost -- this is a rebellious, defiant city.

The rest of these demonstrations, the people brought out into the street, the students brought out, the workers, the government employees, to say how much they love by Bashar, these are all, in fact, simply made-up protests. And the same applies in this case.

BLITZER: We used to call them a rent-a-crowd.

AJAMI: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: That's what they are.

I write about this on my blog today, CNN.com/SituationRoom, about Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki is coming to Washington mid-December, just as all the U.S. troops are getting ready to leave. And I'm sure that officials in Washington will paper all over this, as they usually do. But we'll see what kind of reception he gets and what he does, more importantly.

Thanks very much.

AJAMI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Professor Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution.

Allegations that a shadowy Russian scientist helped Iran get closer to building a nuclear weapon. We have new information.

And President Obama says no to an APEC wardrobe tradition -- the shirts.

Much more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A new report sheds new light on how close Iran may be to producing a nuclear weapon, and a mysterious Russian scientist who may have helped Iran take a major step toward that goal.

Our own Brian Todd has been following this story for us.

Brian, tell us what you're learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've learned how Iran leapfrogged years of research and development and figured out how to put an explosive nuclear device on a warhead thanks to one man from the outside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): To get to the threshold of developing a nuclear weapon, one of Iran's key hurdles was getting highly-enriched uranium to explode, triggering a chain reaction. According to the latest from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, one mysterious scientist helped them do that.

The IAEA says Iran developed a high "explosives initiation system," a detonator with the help of "a foreign expert." The report doesn't name him.

David Albright does.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Vyacheslav Danilenko worked for many years in a very important Soviet nuclear weapons research and development facility. TODD: Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, has tracked Vyacheslav Danilenko for a couple of years and has information from internal IAEA documents. Albright says Danilenko left Russia around the time the Soviet Union collapsed.

(on camera): "The Washington Post" says he then traveled to several places including the United States looking for investors for his Ukrainian-based company. That effort reportedly failed. Then Danilenko contacted the Iranians.

(voice-over): The IAEA says he worked in Iran from 1996 to about 2002. His expertise was in something Albright says the Iranians really had no use for, creating explosions to produce industrial use diamonds. It was his method they wanted.

(on camera): The key to that was his detonator. What did he show the Iranians?

ALBRIGHT: Well, the IAEA suspects that he showed them how to build a thin hemispherical shell with holes in it, and where the detonation happens and you simultaneously set off explosive pellets in a series of holes in that aluminum shell. And those explosive pellets ignite the high explosive underneath, and in a very spherical way, it compresses the core, and then you get a nuclear explosion.

TODD (voice-over): We couldn't get Iranian or Russian government officials to comment on this story. Iran's PRESSTV says Danilenko only helped Iran make synthetic diamonds. Danilenko, interviewed by a Russian newspaper, said, "I am not a nuclear physicist, nor am I the founder of the Iranian nuclear program."

No one has accused him of being either. But --

ALBRIGHT: What he is really accused of doing is working with the Iranians to help them miniaturize their nuclear warhead so they can put it on top of one of their missiles so it can be fired.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Albright points out the Iranians still have not developed enough highly-enriched uranium to actually produce a nuclear weapon, but he says Danilenko's expertise helped the Iranians figure out how to eventually put an explosive nuclear device inside the payload of one of these things, the Shahab-3 missile, capable of hitting Israel. And he helped the Iranians do it years earlier than they normally would have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So where is Danilenko now?

TODD: Albright and the IAEA believe that he left Iran in 2002, went back to Russia, took Russian nationality, and that he's lived there fairly openly in retirement ever since. He's in his late 70s now, but he's not really hiding from anything or anyone.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Very important as well.

Brian, thank you.

Jack Cafferty is asking, "How do you see the super committee concluding its business?" Jack and your e-mail, that's next.

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BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How do you see the super committee concluding its business?

Brandon in Denver writes, "Failure is inevitable. The job of a politician is not to make good decisions for our country, but to get elected."

"It speaks volumes when 63 percent of American voters want to see increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and six members of the panel will listen to Grover Norquist before their own constituents. They'll crash and burn, despite the solution being obvious."

Terri writes on Facebook, "Seriously, did anyone ever expect this microcosm of Congress to do anything the full body could not? What a joke. I expected it will end with a credit downgrade, a Republican cry to change the rules again, and a big drunken party at taxpayers' expense."

Ray in Georgia writes, "I suspect it will end just like all the other committees, deadlocked. Then they'll send it back to the Congress, where it will linger until after the next election."

Paul writes, "I actually expect they'll reach some kind of agreement close to the deadline in order to avoid those across-the-board cuts. Unfortunately, I see the results as likely to be watered down, weak, yet lauded as being a great achievement, with both sides using it as a prop on the campaign trail. All the while, the credit agencies will gather to consider downgrading the country's credit rating yet again."

Frank writes, "I think they'll fail to agree on something, then they'll worm out of the mandatory cuts."

Karl says, "I see them dividing the food tab by 12, putting it on their expense accounts. It's the only thing they can agree on. Other than that, nothing."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, cNN.com/caffertyfile -- the deadline for this is next week, by the way -- or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.

BLITZER: November 23rd. You're not very upbeat.

CAFFERTY: The day before Turkey Day.

BLITZER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: It had become a tradition at the annual APEC Summit, the photograph of world leaders posing in shirts representative of the host country. But at this year's meeting in Hawaii, President Obama is breaking tradition. No Hawaiian shirts.

The president was asked if he was trying to avoid the perception of fun during these tough economic times. Here's his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- some pretty exotic locations.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. I got rid of the Hawaiian shirts because I had looked at pictures of some of the previous APEC meetings, and some of the garb that had appeared previously, and I thought this may be a tradition that we might want to break.

I suggested to leaders -- we gave them a shirt. And if they wanted to wear the shirt, I promise you, it would have been fine. But I didn't hear a lot of complaints about us breaking precedent on that one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're just getting also some new reaction from the Herman Cain campaign on that Libya exchange he had with the Milwaukee newspaper. Stand by. That's coming up next.

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BLITZER: We're just getting this reaction in from the Herman Cain campaign to that video of him answering questions at "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel." It was an awkward moment. You saw it here. We played that segment in THE SITUATION ROOM. He was having trouble with a Libya question.

Cain communications director J.D. Gordon said, "The video is out of context in some measure." He said Cain had been fielding questions from several editorial board members for 45 minutes, skipping around from every topic from A to Z.

"He just had to think about it," Gordon said. "He had been getting a lot of briefings on the subtleties of the Arab Spring." "He got the answer right," according to Gordon. "The U.S. didn't act in its own interests." It just took him a little bit of extra time to get there.

That reaction from the Herman Cain campaign. And we'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.

But let's make the turn to Jeanne Moos right now. It's not exactly passionate, but Jeanne Moos reports on a musical way of puckering up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the movies, you've seen accidental, shy kisses, and passionate kisses. And even Spider- Man's upside-down kiss.

But if you think a kiss is just a kiss, pucker up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the harmonic kiss. Ooh

MOOS: We're not talking about transmitting germs when we say that the 2-year-old harmonic kiss has just now gone viral.

TRAN QUANG HAI, HARMONIC KISS: Ooh

MOOS: Typical reaction, "What the hell did I just watch?"

HAI: One person just says, "Ooh."

MOOS: Tran Quang Hai is well known in the field of overtones, even if his harmonic kiss sounds a little dirty.

ROLLIN RACHELE, PROFESSIONAL OVERTONE SINGER: Take another person's mouth cavity and put it next to your resonator.

MOOS: The founder of OvertoneSinging.com explains that a person can sing more than one note at the same time by changing the shape of their mouth.

RACHELE: Ah.

MOOS: It becomes --

But the harmonic kiss got the kiss-off from many. "Gross, you guys. Get a room." "They're like fish!"

Not quite the mermaid man kiss in "Splash."

Tran Quang Hai moves his wife around as he comes in for the kill like Patrick Swayze in "Ghost."

Though the harmonic kiss is mostly for fun --

HAI: I have used it for the music therapy.

MOOS (on camera): Therapy to solve marital problems, though some might consider it grounds for divorce.

(voice-over): Tran Quang Hai definitely has a sense of whimsy, playing his musical talents using his fingers, a credit card, and spoons.

When it comes to the harmonic kiss --

(on camera): -- this is one of those things that once you see it --

(voice-over): -- cannot be unseen. Sort of like the Al Gore-Tipper kiss.

At least women can say to the harmonic kisser what Deborah Kerr said to Burt Lancaster --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FROM HERE TO ETERNITY)

DEBORAH KERR, ACTRESS: Nobody has kissed me the way you do.

BURT LANCASTER, ACTOR: Nobody?

(END VIDEO CLIP, "FROM HERE TO ETERNITY")

MOOS: Nope, nobody.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.