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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Visits Australia; General to Brief President of Situation in Middle East; Interview With Jon Huntsman; Is Jerry Sandusky Case a Slam-Dunk?; 'Patriotic Millionaires' Demand More Taxes; Sources: Gingrich Paid $1 Million Plus by Freddie Mac; Gingrich Soars To Top of Pack
Aired November 16, 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 SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich firing back amid swirling questions over whether he was paid more than $1 million by the troubled mortgage giant, Freddie Mac.
Could it hurt his dramatic surge in recent days in the polls?
Also, Jon Huntsman is fighting a steep uphill battle out there on the campaign trail. But when it comes to national polls, the Republican presidential candidate says -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I don't care what the rest of the country thinks." Ahead, I'll ask him why he says New Hampshire is what really matters.
And President Obama takes major steps to deepen the already tight bond between the United States and Australia. What it could mean for China's growing influence in the region.
Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first to the deepening political hot water for Republican presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich who, just days after making a dramatic jump to the top tier in the polls, is now facing some serious questions about his ties to troubled mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, specifically, why sources say he was paid more than $1 million by the company.
Let's bring in our own Brian Todd.
He's been working on this story -- Brian, what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this new information about Gingrich's compensation at Freddie Mac and what he did for them presents tough new questions for the candidate, especially considering his campaign rhetoric in recent days.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD: (voice-over): Newt Gingrich has had some harsh words recently for politicians who dealt with troubled mortgage companies.
Listen to his comments as a "Washington Post"/Bloomberg debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OCT 11, COURTESY "WASHINGTON POST"/BLOOMBERG NEWS)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you want to put people in jail, I want to second what Michelle said. You ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. And let's look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment and the politicians who put this country in trouble.
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST: Clearly, you're not saying they should go to jail?
GINGRICH: Well, in Chris Dodd's case, go back and look at the Countryside deals. In Barney Frank's case, go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to that -- that -- at Freddie Mac.
TODD: But there are new questions about Gingrich's own connections to Freddie Mac. CNN has confirmed from sources in position to know, information first reported by Bloomberg News that Gingrich was paid between $1.6 and $1.8 million for two separate stints at Freddie Mac, From 1999, when he left Congress, to 2002, and from 2006 to 2008.
Asked if the money figure was accurate...
GINGRICH: I don't know. We're going back to check.
TODD: What did the Republican hopeful do for Freddie Mac?
Gingrich said at one point, he offered advice as a, quote, "historian," telling Freddie Mac officials that lending to people with no credit history was a mistake. He later said he was a strategic adviser.
Contacted by CNN, four people who worked for Freddie Mac while Gingrich was there disagreed with his characterization that he was a historian. One said his role was strategic, specifically political strategy.
Bloomberg cites former Freddie Mac officials familiar with Gingrich's work in 2006, saying the former House speaker was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans.
I spoke with Bob Edgar of the liberal group, Common Cause, which advocates for more transparency in government.
(on camera): What does that seem like to you?
BOB EDGAR, COMMON CAUSE: When you're paying over a million dollars to build bridges with Capitol Hill, you're buying a lobbyist. You're buying somebody with your money that can connect you with members of Congress. You don't hire a historian to do that. You don't hire someone just to give you polite advice. You hire somebody who makes those relationships work. And that's lobbying, whether you're registered or not. That's hard core lobbying and that's what Newt Gingrich was doing.
TODD: (voice-over): A characterization Gingrich formally denies.
GINGRICH: I did no lobbying of any kind. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you...
GINGRICH: That's all I've got to say about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you accurately characterize...
GINGRICH: That's all I've got to say about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- it as...
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Now it would not have been illegal for Gingrich to have lobbied for Freddie Mac unless he did it that first year he was employed by them, 1999 to 2000. Asked if he would make public the records of his work for Freddie Mac, Gingrich said he would, to the degree he can.
We checked federal records and found nothing indicating Gingrich was a registered lobbyist. Freddie Mac would not comment on any of this, other than to say Gingrich was a consultant but did not lobby for them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, you've also picked up some more information on exactly what Newt Gingrich did for Freddie Mac.
What are you learning?
TODD: Well, one former official there told me that at one point, Gingrich was consulted about Freddie Mac's efforts to become more transparent about risk and capital management, about how those efforts would be received in Congress, especially by Republicans. This person said Gingrich was also consulted about the company's efforts to bond with the Bush administration and bring more minorities into homeownership.
This was all at a time when Republicans were working against the whole idea of having companies like Fannie and Freddie sponsored by the government.
But again, none of this involved physical lobbying. Gingrich very steadfast in his denial that he ever did that.
BLITZER: Yes. He apparently never did register as a formal lobbyist.
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: And that's why when he says he never lobbied, he's telling the truth. TODD: Right.
BLITZER: He never did formally lobby. He was not a registered lobbyist. But he was providing some important advice. And, as you say, he took in what, between $1.6 and $1.8 million?
TODD: That's right. That's correct. That's the figure we got from several sources at this point.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
All right. Let's talk a little bit more about Newt Gingrich with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
She's joining us -- Gloria, is this likely to have much of an impact on his boomlet, as they say, right now, because he's doing well in the polls?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, sure. I -- I think we have to look at how Gingrich handles this. As you know, Wolf, you've covered him and I've covered him. He's not only a historian, he's somebody with a long personal and political history.
I remember him from the Clinton impeachment days, when he was speaker of the House. He had his own personal ethics problem. And then, just this last summer, his campaign staff had to essentially do an intervention with him to get him to start campaigning in the early states. A lot of those staffers left, Wolf, and a lot of them are working for Rick Perry's campaign.
The -- the thing about Newt Gingrich, though, is that you never quite know which Newt is going to show up, when you interview him or when he's on the campaign trial. During the debates, Wolf, he's often seen like the adult in the room. But he can also get pretty nasty. He uses the press as his foil a lot and that tends to work for him.
But now that he's under the microscope, we're going to have to see how he reacts to the stories, like the Freddie Mac story.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney is really doing well in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: A new Bloomberg poll out today. Forty percent say they like Romney, 17 percent Ron Paul. Gingrich is down at 11 percent, Herman Cain, 8 percent. You see the numbers there. So he's basically almost a resident of New Hampshire, Mitt Romney.
BLITZER: Does this make Iowa, the first contest...
BORGER: It does.
BLITZER: -- even more important? BORGER: Yes, it makes Iowa much more important. And I'm going to show you some more numbers, Wolf, because take a look at this. Iowa is really a very, very close race, according to a new Iowa poll taken by Bloomberg News. You can see the top four candidates there are really bunched together, with a margin of error, Cain at the top. But that can change.
And so, Wolf, Iowa is the first time that really votes are cast. And some campaigns have to win Iowa or the money is going to dry up. I think that would be Michelle Bachmann or Rick Santorum.
And Romney has a lot at stake here, too. Remember, four years ago, he really put a lot of money into Iowa. He competed in Iowa and he lost. And it was a real problem for him. He didn't have momentum. And John McCain went on to win New Hampshire.
So now, he's got a big decision to make. He wasn't going to compete heavily in Iowa. But he look -- he's looking pretty good in those polls. He may just have to take the plunge and do it.
BLITZER: What do you think?
What are you hearing?
Will he do it?
BORGER: Well, there's a lot of pressure on him, Wolf, particularly from the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, who came out today and said, look, it would be a big mistake for Romney not to spend more time there and more resources there.
Now I spoke with a couple of top Romney advisers today who said a few things to me. They said, first of all, their internal polls show that when they ask potential caucus-goers whether they've heard from the Romney campaign, almost half of the caucus-goers say that, one way of another, they have been contacted by the Romney campaign. So they say to me, look, you're not seeing it on the airwaves yet, but we are campaigning there. Once you see us on the airwaves, you'll know we're really in it. And you will start seeing Romney in Iowa if we're in it in a big way.
They say they haven't made that decision yet, Wolf. But I bet they're getting close and I bet they're going to go in.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria.
Thanks very much.
This programming note for our viewers. I'll be the moderator when the Republican candidates take part in CNN's national security debate in Washington, DC next Tuesday, this coming Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This will be your second debate this -- this election season, right?
BLITZER: I did Tampa and now Washington, DC. It's very exciting and I'm honored. It's a great thrill for me to do it.
CAFFERTY: It's good stuff. You do a good job, too.
BLITZER: Thank you.
CAFFERTY: Much better than some of your colleagues at the other networks.
Just about a year out now until election day, the United States is a rationally divided nation when it comes to President Barack Obama.
Consider these numbers. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that whites disapprove of the way President Obama is handling his job by a margin of 61 percent to 36 percent. That's almost two to one.
For non-whites, it's the mirror image. Only 32 percent disapprove, while more than twice as many, 67 percent, approve.
For a president who was supposed to symbolize a post-racial America, this isn't good news. When Mr. Obama defeated John McCain in 2008, he did it with significant support from white Americans. Exit polls from that election showed that Obama won 43 percent of white voters. That was the largest share of white support in a two man race since 1976.
Among young voters, white ones, he did even better, getting 54 percent of their support.
If the president wants a second term, he's got to win back support from more white Americans in the coming months leading up to the election.
Meanwhile, our new poll shows other results that could also spell trouble for President Obama. Overall, he gets a 46 percent approval rating, with 52 percent saying they disapprove.
When you compare that to recent incumbent presidents running for reelection, President Obama ranks only above Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. And they both lost their reelection bids.
Most incumbents who win reelection have an approval rating above 50 percent a year out before the election. And, finally, the poll shows 54 percent of the crucial Independent voters disapprove of the job President Obama is doing.
The president has his work cut out for him if he's going to get a second term come next November.
Here's the question -- can President Obama win reelection if almost two-thirds of whites are opposed to the job he's doing?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page. And I would venture to say, Wolf, a lot of these poll numbers are a result of the rather lousy economy that President Obama has had to shepherd for the last three years.
BLITZER: Didn't one strategist once say, "It's the economy, stupid?"
CAFFERTY: I -- I heard that phrase, yes. That was old what's his name, the bald-headed guy from Louisiana?
BLITZER: The raging Cajun...
CAFFERTY: -- James Carville.
BLITZER: -- James Carville.
CAFFERTY: Yes, right.
BLITZER: The '92 campaign. Good advice then. Still good advice now.
CAFFERTY: Yes, indeed.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: Dozens of millionaires storming Capitol Hill in Washington. They want to be taxed at higher rates. Just ahead, their message for the so-called super committee that's struggling right now to cut the nation's deficit before time runs out just one week from today.
And as the U.S. prepares to drawdown troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama is expanding the U.S. military footprint in another part of the world. We're going to tell you where and why.
Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": President Obama is now taking some major steps to try to strengthen the military bond between the United States and Australia. It's a move that could put China on notice in the wake of its growing economic and military power. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. He's traveling with President Obama in Australia right now. What's going on, Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, the U.S. and Australia have long been close allies. President Obama says that the deepening relationship shows a strong and lasting commitment to the region.
LOTHIAN: As China continues to flex its military muscles, the U.S. footprint in Australia is expanding. By the middle of next year up to 250 marines will be deployed to Darwin in the northern part of the country, and in a few years that number is expected to grow to 2,500. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our U.S. marines will begin rotating through Darwin for joint training and exercises. Our Air Force will rotate additional aircraft through more airfields in northern Australia.
LOTHIAN: The numbers are modest, but experts say the message it sends is loud and clear.
DOUGLAS PAAL, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: It sort of gets into the area of the Asia Pacific with a close ally and a relationship that could be very important in managing the rise of China over in the decades ahead.
LOTHIAN: China recently rolled out its first aircraft carrier and is locked in a dispute in the South China Sea, an oil rich passageway for commerce. News of the deepening U.S. Australia alliance was met with skepticism. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said, quote, "It may not be appropriate." China's growing influence in the region is one reason for the stepped up presence, a top White House aide said, but at his joint news conference with Prime Minister Gillard, Mr. Obama dismissed fear as a factor.
OBAMA: The notion that we fear China is mistaken.
LOTHIAN: But there was more to this visit than tough talk. President Obama received an official arrival ceremony and attended a parliamentary dinner as he helped commemorate a six-decade military alliance.
JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Our alliance has been a bedrock of stability in our region.
LOTHIAN: Now, I asked one of the president's advisers, Ben Rhode, about China's skepticism. He says this new military arrangement is not only appropriate but important in dealing with some of the future challenges in the Asia Pacific region. Wolf?
BLITZER: I'm sure the Chinese are watching all of this very, very closely. Dan Lothian traveling with the president. Thank you.
As the United States draws down forces in Iraq, it's also drawing up plans to boost its military presence elsewhere in the region. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is looking into this part of the story for us. What are you learning, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if you thought the U.S. military was wrapping things up in the Middle East and Iraq and Afghanistan, think again.
STARR: CNN has learned General James Mattis, the head of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, will soon brief the Obama administration on proposals to increase the number of troops in the Persian Gulf for just one reason -- Iran.
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: So, you see, everywhere you go, you find Iran's hand in the subterfuges of their nuclear program keeps spinning, so it is a very difficult situation.
STARR: Increasing troops, warships, and aircraft in the region as a hedge against Iran comes just as U.S. troops are leaving Iraq.
MATTIS: What do we do in this region? How do we try to make sense of a region in so much turmoil?
STARR: President Obama has to approve the deployments and Gulf nations have to agree to take the new troops. The U.S. already has 24,000 troops in Kuwait. An additional 4,500 soldiers leaving Iraq are scheduled to remain in Kuwait for seven months. And there are 7,000 droops in Bahrain, another 10,000 in various Gulf States.
Right now, up to 30 U.S. warships are patrolling the region at any one time. Mattis wants to now increase both ground and naval units across the Gulf according to a senior military official. He also wants more military exercises with Arab countries, a signal to Iran of regional support for the U.S. presence.
So far, no one is saying how many more troops might go, but there is a problem -- money. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta already has to cut at least $450 billion from the budget, so adding capability in the Middle East means cutting somewhere else.
Analysts say the U.S. military has to remain a global power even in tight times.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: What you have to do is try to protect those interests in the western pacific and the Persian Gulf Middle East, but do it in a more creative, innovative, efficient and economical way.
STARR: Now, General Mattis isn't commenting publicly about any of this, but senior military officials say message the military's trying to send is the war in Iraq may be wrapping up, but they want Iran to know the U.S. military is still in the region and keeping an eye on them. Wolf?
BLITZER: Barbara, thank you. Let's go to Syria where opposition to the embattled regime seems to be gaining some significant momentum. A force of military deserters claim they attacked a major government security complex near the capital overnight. CNN's Ivan Watson is watching all of this from nearby in Turkey. He's got the latest for us. Ivan, what do we know about what they're calling free Syrian army and it's claims of today's blast?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's almost impossible for us to concern, but this is a group of army deserters. They call themselves the free Syrian army. Some of the leaders here in exile in Turkey, we've been talking to them. They claim that this attack happened late last night against a branch office of one of the many intelligence agencies in Syria.
They say that it was an inside job, that some of their moles inside first launched the attack from inside this building. They sent us a photo of it, and then were joined by others from outside to attack with rocket-propelled grenades, with rifles, as well as seeing more than 20 people engaged in this attack. They don't have numbers of casualties for us yet, and of course, impossible for us to confirm.
But I've been meeting with these people frequently here in Turkey, some of the ones who fled across the border and are trying to spread the word. They're asking for a no fly zone to be imposed over Syria. They're asking for a buffer zone to be established so that protesters, dissidents, can move to a safe area. And they're asking for foreign governments to simply their compatriots inside with weapons. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want foreign governments to send weapons to the free Syrian army inside Syria?
CAPT. AYHAM KURDI, FREE SYRIAN ARMY (via translator): We do have some sources from inside the army, but the supplies remain small to face the government. If the defectors are provided with weapons to carry out its operations, for example, you cannot blame a butcher for killing a sheep or carpenter for cutting wood. It's the same thing for an army. You cannot have them work without weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Now, Wolf, this protest movement started peacefully last March, but more than 3,500 people have been killed since then according to the United Nations. And what we're seeing is what many observers agree is the increased weaponization of the opposition. You're setting up a formula for a civil war inside Syria. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pressure is certainly mounting in the west to do in Syria what it did in Libya. We'll see if that unfold. Thanks very much, Ivan, on the scene for us in Turkey.
Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman says he doesn't care what the rest of the country thinks. He only cares about New Hampshire, at least for now. Does he want to stick by that statement? Does he want to revise it? Jon Huntsman standing by live to join us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, NASA's past is celebrated in Washington while its future in space is debated.
BLITZER: The Republican presidential contenders spanning out in a campaign trail with polls showing the race certainly up for grabs. Ron Paul is in the nation's capital of Washington D.C. Herman Cain is in Florida. Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich, they are in Iowa just weeks ahead of that state's critical caucuses. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman are both in New Hampshire. They're gearing up for the first of the nation primary also only weeks away.
Here's a controversial comment that Jon Huntsman had to say about New Hampshire. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't care what the rest of the country thinks or feels. That's not important. I do care about what the people of New Hampshire feel because this is important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jon Huntsman is joining us now. He's the former U.S. ambassador to China, the former governor of Utah. Getting a little grief, a little buzz on that comment. Governor, you don't care what the rest of the country feels? Explain.
HUNTSMAN: Of course I do. Let' put it a little more artfully for you, Wolf. I don't care much about what the polls have to say about our performance anywhere else other than here in New Hampshire. This is a critically important state for us. We've got weeks to go before the good folks of New Hampshire turn out on January 10th. They're rallying around in these last few weeks somebody with a message, somebody who's got a track r record, somebody who exuded trust, all of which we desperately need in our next leader.
And I like our chances here. We just celebrated last night Wolf our 100th public event in New Hampshire. Tonight we're doing 101. And with each event, the crowds get larger. They get more enthusiastic. And I feel a level of connection here that makes me feel viscerally that we're going to do very, very good in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: The polls in New Hampshire, including a Bloomberg poll, showed Mitt Romney basically owns the state at least as of right now. He's at 40 percent in this new poll. He almost lives in New Hampshire as the governor of neighboring Massachusetts. Can you beat Romney in New Hampshire?
HUNTSMAN: Well, there have been a whole lot of other tenuous front- runners here, and the people sometimes have other ideas in mind. They don't like to be told more who to vote here. They want the candidate to earn it. They want to know your heart and soul. They want to know what you're all about in terms of what you've done, where you come from, and your vision for a better tomorrow.
And you've got to work it. There's no way around it, Wolf. You've got to be on the ground here working it. And gladly we've got a little bit on the air cover now on the air, so you combine this shoe leather, the sweat equity that we're putting in on the ground with a little bit of air cover.
And I like our chances as we move forward. People will begin to coalesce around the candidates probably late December and early January. And then they have to ask themselves a very important question as they stare down that ballot box. That's when the theatrics and the show business aspects of the pre-primary season are all behind. They have to look at the ballot box and ask the question, who can actually do the job of the president of the United States of America? Who actually has a track record, the requisite experience, the ability to bring people together during this time of need, and a vision for America's future? And given all of that, I kind of -- I like our position.
BLITZER: What does it say to you that Gingrich was paid between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in recent years to advise the troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac?
HUNTSMAN: Listen, it says that you all are out doing your work and you have discovered some numbers that nobody can explain but Newt Gingrich. And every time we have these issues pop up, it takes a little bit of the bandwidth away from our ability to actually talk about the issues that really matter like --
HUNTSMAN: Pardon me?
BLITZER: Does that trouble you at all?
HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, I don't know the truth behind it, and I wouldn't want to render a judgment at this point in the campaign. There are always allegations floated, and it's up to Speaker Gingrich to address them.
He's a good man. I have a lot of respect for him. And I have no doubt he'll be able to offer an explanation to the American people on it.
BLITZER: The other day, in Milwaukee, Herman Cain struggled with a relatively simple question about Libya. Let me play just a tiny snippet of what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A disqualifier, as far as you're concerned? What do you think?
HUNTSMAN: We'll let the people decide. I mean, aside from giving the late-night humor writers a whole lot of raw material with which to work, ultimately the people are going to decide, and they're going to take into account what all of the candidates have to offer. And in the end, I think they're going to say, I like somebody with real business experience, someone who's governed a state where job creation was number one, someone who's actually overseas before, as I have four times, who's been an ambassador three times. Those are three elements that I think are going to weigh very heavily in the minds of voters when they go to vote. And all of this is part of the pre-season effort. It allows folks to get a full measure of who the candidates are, what their backgrounds are, how well prepared they are to deal with the issues and what their vision consists of, most of all, to bring this country together during an unprecedented time of need.
We can't forget the big picture here, Wolf, and that is, 14 million to 15 million of our citizens are without work, without the dignity of employment, with millions more who are so dispirited, they have just given up trying. We're now up to $15 trillion in debt. These are unprecedented problems, and we need real leadership.
BLITZER: All right.
And we're almost out of time, but put your hat on as an expert on China. You speak Chinese. You're a former U.S. ambassador to China.
The president announcing today the U.S. is about to establish a real military presence, a bunch of U.S. Marines, several thousand, in Australia, perhaps as a signal to the Chinese. What do you think about this?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I think it's the right move. Afghanistan is not our long-term interest. Iraq is not our long-term interest.
Our long-term interest is the Asian-Pacific region. It's three- quarters of our trade flow. It's where the emerging militaries are going to be.
It's where the action will be for the United States from a national security standpoint. We need to take it seriously, and there are several more potential partnerships and alliances in the Asia-Pacific region that we ought to be cultivating as well that will put us in the position we need to be in as a counterweight against Chinese growth and military buildup.
BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, thanks for joining us. Good luck.
HUNTSMAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're learning new details about the alleged child rape charges against the former Penn State University coach Jerry Sandusky. Who will be held responsible for the scandal? Stand by.
And why are some millionaires who are coming to Washington, D.C., actually begging to have higher tax rates? The answer, coming up.
BLITZER: In just the last hour, CNN confirmed a new judge has been assigned to the case against the former Penn State University coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky faces numerous child sex abuse charges. He was granted bail by a previous judge who had connections to Sandusky's youth charity. CNN's Erin Burnett has been covering the scandal and the case against Sandusky, among other things.
Erin, first of all, what are your legal sources telling you? Is this clearly a slam-dunk case against Jerry Sandusky?
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": You would think so, especially given the interview that we all heard that he gave with Bob Costas. But interesting, talking to some attorneys, what we've been finding out, Wolf, is it may not be a slam-dunk case, and the reason for that is, well, they say you really need two people to explain exactly what happened.
So, for example, with the case we've all talked so much about in 2002, when Mike McQueary, the assistant coach, saw Jerry Sandusky, he said raping a 10-year-old boy, that you would need not just Mike McQueary to testify, but also that boy, now a young man, obviously, to come forward and put his fact to this and go in front of the court. And that's very difficult in all of these sort of sex crime cases, to try to get the victims to actually come out and put their faces out there and testify.
So, you really would need both McQueary and that young boy in just that one instance. Obviously, there are eight cases in the grand jury testimony, and there could be more, but it just gives you a sense of what you really need to get this to go all the way.
BLITZER: And financial liability this in this case, who is financially liable?
BURNETT: Well, this is interesting. We were looking into this.
Where you get the real damages here is on the civil side of things. You go ahead with the criminal case, and as you know, with O.J. Simpson, or even Michael Jackson, you can be said to be by a jury not guilty criminally and, still, a civil case could proceed against you where you end up having to pay damages.
We were talking to Paul Cowen (ph) -- and you know Paul -- about what this could be per victim. It could be, in terms of the cost, $900,000 to $7 million is what each victim could end up winning in this case against Jerry Sandusky on the civil side, and that's just in terms of compensatory damages.
If you added punitive damages, apparently those could run as high as anywhere between $20 million and $30 million a victim. We have an attorney coming on our show tonight who spent 20 years prosecuting sex crimes cases. Last week -- Jeff Harmon (ph) is his name -- in Miami. He won a $100 million verdict against a priest in Miami for abusing young boys.
So, the numbers could get very high here, and Jerry Sandusky would likely use all of his money, as you can imagine, in the criminal case. So they would end up have to go after Second Mile, and then Penn State. But Second Mile would likely be held liable before Penn State itself actually had to pay money. BLITZER: Erin, thanks very much.
For our North American viewers, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."
We'll be watching.
BURNETT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: NASA says it's accepting applications for new astronauts, but their next space flight could be a long way off.
BLITZER: The congressional Super Committee has seven days to hammer out an agreement on how to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. If they don't do a deal, who will the taxpayers blame? A new CNN/ORC poll shows Republicans. Forty-two percent would blame them, compared to 32 percent for Democrats.
Some ultra-wealthy taxpayers descended on Capitol Hill today to deliver a message you don't often hear.
Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is joining us with more.
What was that message, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was one you don't hear very often, which is, raise our taxes, Wolf. This was part publicity stunt, as it was sponsored by more liberal members of the House who already support higher taxes on the wealthy, but it was also part lobbying push, millionaires walking the halls of Congress trying to grab the Super Committee's attention.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): These millionaires are on Capitol Hill demanding the Super Committee do something most Americans would not ask for: tax them more.
DOUG EDWARDS, FMR. GOOGLE EXECUTIVE: We challenge the millionaire politicians who oppose paying higher taxes to consider for a moment how much their country has done for them.
CHARLIE FINK, FMR. AOL EXECUTIVE: We hope our fellow citizens will seriously consider rejecting any deal the committee makes that does not include an income -- an increase on taxes on incomes over a million dollars.
BOLDUAN: Charlie Fink, a former AOL executive, is one of the millionaires lobbying for higher taxes to help pay down the deficit. They took their pitch directly to lawmakers, meeting with Democratic and Republican members and their staffs.
(on camera): Why do you feel that you need to step up to make that declaration to the Super Committee right now? FINK: Because what we've been doing in this country for the past 10 years is madness. You don't have to be a businessman or a millionaire to know the first thing to do when you're in a hole is to stop digging. Revenue has to be part of any agreement the Super Committee reaches.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Fink was joined by about two dozen other millionaires, all part of a group called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. They want the Super Committee to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for wealthier Americans as a way of reaching the required minimum of $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years.
(on camera): One argument that many Republicans make is they do not want to raise taxes on job creators. It will hurt job creation. You don't agree with that?
FINK: I think that's a lie.
BOLDUAN: You think that's a lie?
FINK: It is a lie. I've worked for big Fortune 500 companies. I work for a little startup today. And every consideration regarding an employee had to do with the demands for our product and services. It had nothing to do with taxes.
BOLDUAN: Well, they're definitely getting attention. The millionaires who came here today are not likely to win over many Republicans, as Republicans have long opposed such tax increases.
The reality on the Super Committee, though, the committee continues to meet behind closed doors. They have not yet reached agreement, despite a flurry of meetings today. Both sides insist they are still talking, Wolf, but still, as I said, no agreement. They continue to be deadlocked, and we are now one week away from the Thanksgiving deadline -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I hear that clicking ticking, ticking, ticking.
BOLDUAN: Louder and louder.
BLITZER: Yes. Thank you, Kate.
Jack Cafferty is asking, "Can President Obama win reelection if almost two-thirds of whites are opposed to him?" Your e-mail and a lot more news coming up next.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: Can President Obama win reelection if almost two-thirds of whites are opposed to him? And they are, according to CNN/ORC's latest poll. Robert in Florida writes, "Well, Jack, it's nice to se CNN is still a valued member of the president's reelection campaign. Let's just further divide an already divided country by trying to make this about race."
"The president is in over his head, and people are beginning to realize that this administration has only made a bad economy worse. His policies do more to inhibit job growth than encourage it."
"You can't keep borrowing money that takes years to repay to create jobs that only last for months. The bottom line is it's the bottom of the seventh inning and we're losing the game. It's time to replace the pitcher."
Richard of Texas writes, "Of course Obama has a chance of winning. Look who the competition is."
"You have a Republican field consisting entirely of ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and foolishness. This is a slam-dunk for Obama. He doesn't even have to get off the bench. The Republicans will beat themselves. Just give them enough time."
Loren writes, "We can only hope he doesn't win reelection. While there are some who think racism is involved, with whites rejecting President Obama's presidency, I think it's the other way around."
"Non-whites who still support the president are racially motivate motivated. While the president would like to tout that his policies bring hope to the poor, the fact of the matter is those at the bottom continue to suffer. And the pool of poor in this country has gotten larger."
Noel in New Mexico writes, "I think it all depends on who his opponent is. Given the fact that a proven officeholder, ambassador, businessman, and foreign policy expert who looks presidential, Jon Huntsman, is dead last in the polls, I think gives Obama a very good chance."
Avant writes, "There's a way for Obama to win with two-thirds whites opposing him. Let the Republican nominee be a Mormon."
And J.D. in New Hampshire says, "Have you looked at the GOP roster? Unless they came up with a viable candidate, Bozo the Clown could win a second term."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my -- this is keen, insightful political analysis -- you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Love your blog, Jack. Thank you.
BLITZER: Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is now safely docked with the International Space Station. Its flight is the first manned mission since NASA retired its shuttle program.
Today, in Washington, concern about NASA's future from the men in NASA's past.
CNN's John Zarrella explains.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You judge. Was this an honor or an obituary to the U.S. space program?
Congress bestowed four American space heroes Wednesday with Congressional Gold Medals: the crew of the first moon landing mission, Apollo 11, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
Glenn spoke some of the same words he used 50 years ago before a joint session of Congress six days after his flight.
JOHN GLENN, MERCURY ASTRONAUT: As our knowledge of this universe in which we live increases --
-- may God grant us the wisdom and guidance to use it wisely.
ZARRELLA: Honoring John and Neil and Buzz and Mike was a worthy, long overdo gesture. But those days, Glenn in Friendship 7, then Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon, are a stark contrast to where things stand today.
Just a couple days ago, an American astronaut hitched a ride to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket. With the shuttle retired, the Russians, at $50 million a ride, are the only ride in town.
We're paying the price, NASA's top man says, for past indecision.
CHARLES BOLDEN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: The problem is that we -- "we," being NASA, "we," the public, "we," Congress, the nation was not very disciplined in developing the replacement for shuttle so that we wouldn't find ourselves where we are right now.
ZARRELLA: Budget cuts waffling and changes in direction are why NASA is where it is now, four years away from commercial companies being ready to fly astronauts to the station, at least four years away from the first test flight of a new NASA rocket.
For the last man to walk on the moon, it's shocking how the tide has turned.
GENE CERNAN, APOLLO 17 ASTRONAUT: We're ceding that leadership back to the same people by a different name, the Russians today. They were Soviets then. We're saying, OK, we've come around (ph), here it is, we're giving it back to you.
ZARRELLA: The Chinese are in the space game as well. Some experts believe they are poised to pass us. But NASA remains ever optimistic, announcing it's accepting applications for its next astronaut class and releasing this astronaut sales pitch video --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your space flight experience begins right here, right now.
ZARRELLA: The application reads, "Frequent travel may be required." The problem is, it won't be anytime soon.
ZARRELLA: Now, NASA is planning that first space flight to an asteroid, Wolf, in 2025, a human flight to an asteroid. But some experts are saying the Chinese might get there first -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John Zarrella, as he always does, on the scene for us.
John, thank you.
Jeanne Moos is next.
BLITZER: A sexy get-out-the-vote ad in Russia. Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First, Russia's leader couldn't keep his shirt on. And now Vladimir Putin's party has a get- out-the-vote ad shows a couple getting it on, getting it on in the voting booth.
TIMOTHY FRYE, DIRECTOR, HARRIMAN INST.: The tagline is, "Let's do this together."
MOOS: Harriman Institute director Timothy Frye says the ad smacks of desperation on the part of Putin's United Russia Party.
FRYE: It's clearly an attempt to make United Russia look hip.
MOOS: The attempt to go after the youth vote spawned Putin puns such as, "She was Putin out."
(on camera): Some say this ad goes hand in hand with Vladimir Putin's macho brand brimming with testosterone.
(voice-over): Hence, the half-naked horsy and hunting photos while cleavage-bearing supporters calling themselves Putin's army strut their stuff much like "Obama Girl" did in 2008.
MOOS: At least "Obama Girl" didn't strip as this candidate for Poland's parliament did.
"You want more?" it says, "Vote for SLD." But apparently they didn't. The left-leaning party got creamed.
(on camera): But the most orgasmic political ad ever came from Catalonia, in Spain.
(voice-over): Voter excitement reaches new peaks in this ad from the Young Socialists. It's a "When Harry Meets Sally" moment as she savors dropping her ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.
MOOS: "Voting is a pleasure" was the tagline, but the orgasmic ad spawned criticism that it was an attack on the dignity of women.
And now a new Benetton campaign has had to withdraw an image called the "Unhate" campaign. It features Photoshopped pictures of leaders kissing, mostly adversaries, like President Obama and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
But an image of a pope kissing a Muslim imam that we aren't showing was declared unacceptable by the Vatican. Kiss that one good-bye. We "Unhate" to see it go.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
The news continues next on CNN.