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THE SITUATION ROOM
"Most Fortunate Contender" in 2012 Race?; Analysis of the Republican Presidential Primary Race; Iranian Students Storm British Embassy; Herman Cain "Reassesses" Bid; Conrad Murray Receives Maximum Sentence; S&P Downgrades Major U.S. Banks; American Airlines Files for Bankruptcy
Aired November 29, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, all eyes on embattled Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, now reassessing the future of his campaign in the wake of explosive new sexual allegations he first revealed in an interview with me.
Ahead, a closer look at whether he can survive in this race for the White House.
Meanwhile, a triple score for his rival, Mitt Romney, who's just earned three prized endorsements in the critical voting state of Florida. Why it could be the boost he needs to potentially win the Republican nomination.
And chaos erupts in Iran, as hundreds of protesters storm the British embassy in Tehran. It's fuelling new concern about the country's nuclear program.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
First, to Florida. You're looking at live pictures where Mitt Romney is campaigning in Tampa. It's a state crucial to winning the White House. The GOP presidential frontrunner, Mitt Romney, he's getting ready to speak there. He just picked up three major new endorsements in that state. And it's all drawing new attention to his steady successes on the campaign trail.
CNN's Jim Acosta has details.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Herman Cain train may be jumping off the tracks, but Mitt Romney is cruising at a comfortable altitude, safely above the wreckage of the 2012 campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Governor Mitt Romney.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Mitt Romney just might be the most fortunate contender in the 2012 campaign. While he's been warming up some half- baked attack lines for the president...
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He'd never had a job. I think to create jobs, it helps to have had a job. And I have.
ACOSTA: -- Romney's rivals have been burning themselves, whether it's Herman Cain or Rick Perry. Cain, an associate minister who has officiated weddings, is the latest contender to stumble, facing accusations of breaking some marriage vows of his own, allegations he's denied.
Romney critics say it's another break for the frontrunner.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Can I just say that Mitt Romney is the luckiest man on the planet?
I mean all of these guys just keep imploding. Their campaigns implode. And Romney just holds steady at like 22 to 25 percent.
ACOSTA: Romney has done that, in part, by playing it safe, granting few national interviews and holding only brief news conferences. He's also picked up key endorsements from Cuban-American politicians in the early voting state of Florida to a pair of GOP senators, Kelly Ayotte and John Thune.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: After the Romney campaign took the president's words out of context in a negative ad last week...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The right next step in the -- in the fight to preserve the sanctity of life is to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: The Democratic Party responded in kind with its own misleading use of Romney's past comments to paint the former governor as a flip- flopper.
But that fit neatly into Romney playbook -- fight with the president, not with his GOP foes.
ROMNEY: It shows that they're awfully afraid of facing me in the -- in the general election. They -- they want to throw the -- the primary process to anybody but me. So bring it on. We're ready for them. ACOSTA: But before he can bring on the president, he still has to get past his latest surging rival, Newt Gingrich. The former speaker just won the endorsement of New Hampshire's major newspaper and now has the lead in a new South Carolina poll, ahead of Romney and the fading Cain.
Gingrich suggested to a radio talk show host Romney is not a reliable conservative.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, COURTESY CHARLESTON'S MORNING NEWS RADIO 94.3 WSC)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't switch my positions for political reasons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, how do you answer the charge from Speaker Gingrich?
ACOSTA: Romney wanted nothing of it, climbing in his SUV and back under the radar.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: A Cain exit from the race could cut two ways for Mitt Romney. A recent CNN/ORC poll finds it could certainly help Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry. But it could also work to Romney's advantage, telling GOP voters it's time to end the Republican reality show and get behind a candidate who has a decent shot of beating the president -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta on the scene for us in Tampa.
Let's dig a little bit deeper now not only Romney, but Newt Gingrich, but also Herman Cain, whose campaign, as we just saw in Jim's piece, could be on the brink of imploding.
John King is here, our chief national correspondent, the host of "JOHN KING USA".
First to Herman Cain, this reassessment.
What are you hearing?
How long is it going to take for him to make up his mind whether he stays in the race or drops out?
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": I would look for that to happen within 48 to 72 hours. This is about money and support on the ground, Wolf. We're at the point in the campaign, you know, Herman Cain has had these crises in the past and they've sometimes benefited financially from them, even though it has hurt his poll numbers.
You're at a point in the campaign now, Steve Grubbs, his Iowa chairman, I spoke to him earlier today. He says this is where you have to spend money to get your grown
Game in place, to get some radio and TV ads in place, to do direct mail in a place like Iowa, which votes in a month. They have to prove in the next 24 to 48 hours they can raise the money. The people who work for Herman Cain are expecting a decision before the weekend.
BLITZER: Because -- and all of us remember, in the aftermath of the initial sexual harassment allegations, he raised a ton of money in those immediate days that followed. I wonder what's going on right now. I assume he's assessing what's going on.
KING: They are trying to raise money. One of the reasons you put this out publicly is to test what happens to come in. So watch. If we get a release from the Cain campaign tomorrow or the next day saying look at all this money that's coming in, that would be your first signal. If they are quiet, that tells you something else.
And, again, New York 1 is reporting he had a big dinner planned Sunday night in New York with media luminaries to try to get to know some of the big names in broadcasting and other media outlets in New York City. And according to this report, he told one of his supporters to cancel that dinner because of the possibility he might drop out of the race.
That's -- that's -- that would with a major development, obviously.
Now you had an extensive interview with Newt Gingrich, who seems to be benefiting from a lot of this over the past few days, despite what he said in our debate last week on immigration, which caused a stir.
KING: And what a fascinating question. You have John McCain, who had to modify his position in 2008, almost killed his candidacy in 2008 when he was for a path to citizenship. Then you have the rise of the Tea Party. You believe the Republican Party is moving to the right. And here you have Gingrich going to the top of the polls, where he has not quite the McCain-Bush position, but just short of it.
He says legalize many of those people. Give them legal status. Michelle Bachmann, she was just criticizing him again in your interview with her, called him the most liberal candidate in the race on immigration.
Listen to the former speaker's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Are you the most liberal Republican candidate for president on the immigration issue?
GINGRICH: I have no idea. I think I'm the most common sense. We need to have something like a World War II Selective Service Board, where local citizens would review and certify people who have been here 25 years, who have been obeying the law, paying taxes, might have two or three kids, a couple of grandkids, a member of your local church. I can't imagine that America is going to send police in to tear somebody out of a family and a community in that kind of setting. And so I want to get to a common sense solution. No citizenship, no right to vote, but end the illegality for people who have been here a very long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the Tea Party Republican congressman, Tim Scott, sitting right next to Speaker Gingrich there, says that position will probably hurt him. To Tea Party members, to many conservatives, that is amnesty. Gingrich doesn't call it that. To many of them, it is. Letting anyone stay if they came in illegally is amnesty.
What a test this could be of the Republican Party. We would say -- and all the evidence move -- proves is moving to the right, if it moves back to the center a bit by embracing the Gingrich position on immigration. That's...
BLITZER: And he's very...
KING: -- that would be a big development.
BLITZER: -- nuanced, as he usually is. He says they should have legal residency, but not necessarily citizenship.
KING: He says legal status to stay. And then if they want to apply for citizenship, they would get in line like everybody else, which is -- it's very hard to press the other candidates on this, because you have Romney essentially had the Gingrich position four years ago. He has a tougher position now.
Perry's position is don't finish the fence, give the in-state tuition benefits. He has, he says, absolutely no amnesty. But, again, he doesn't say round them up and throw them out, either. So you have a number of the leading Republican candidates taking a position that you would think is at odds with the conservative base. Let's see how it sells with the voters.
BLITZER: You're going to have much more coming up on "JOHN KING USA" after us.
BLITZER: John, thanks very much.
KING: Thank you.
BLITZER: Republican presidential contender, Rick Perry, is also picking up a key endorsement. The controversial immigration hard- liner, the sheriff, Joe Arpaio, rallied behind the Texas governor in New Hampshire today. The Arizona sheriff's tough tactics against illegal immigrants have incited national debate and triggered a number of civil rights lawsuits. The Perry camp is hoping the endorsement will bolster his image with Republican voters on this critical issue.
Let's turn now to Iran, where a diplomatic dispute with Britain has spilled over into the streets of Tehran.
CNN's Brian Todd is following this story for us -- Brian, this is really raising lots of concerns in Washington, in European capitals, other capitals around the world. Tell us what has happened on this day.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of concerns about this, Wolf.
Two incidents in Iran raising more concerns about the country's nuclear program
First, to Tehran. This is a -- a scene reminiscent of 1979, when the American embassy was stormed by Iranian students and that hostage siege began. Well, if you look at the video here, take a look. This is Britain's embassy in Tehran. Hundreds of Iranian students storming two embassy compounds today, breaking windows and doors, tossing papers out, replacing the British flag with an Iranian one. No reports of injuries.
Britain's foreign secretary says all the staff and their dependents are accounted for. No indication this was a hostage situation.
But the foreign secretary says at one point, Iranian police were projecting the British ambassador and his staff from the larger crowd outside.
Now, Iran's foreign ministry calls this unacceptable and promises an investigation and that proper security measures are going to be taken. But CNN's stringer in Tehran says after an initial round of trouble, many of the protesters went off for evening prayers, then came back and were allowed to reenter that compound.
British officials furious over this. They vow serious consequences.
Here is what President Obama said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For rioters essentially to be able to overrun the embassy and set it on fire is an indication that the Iranian government is not taking its international obligations seriously. And so obviously we're deeply concerned about that situation and we expect to see some sort of definitive action sometime very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: How does this all relate to the nuclear issue?
Well, there has been tension between Britain and Iran in recent days following Britain's decision to cut financial ties with Iran. That decision made over concerns about Iran's nuclear program -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And what about those exten -- explosions we heard about in Iran near a nuclear facility?
Brian, I know you're working on this. What -- what do we know?
TODD: There were various reports that an explosion occurred yesterday in the city in and around, possibly, the city of Isfahan. There were reports in Iranian media of people hearing it, feeling it. But then those reports were pulled from Iranian Web sites. Iranian officials now denying it ever happened.
This is significant because just about 10 miles from Isfahan's city center, on the other side of a mountain, you've got Iran's uranium conversion facility. We've got some pictures of it here. This is where they make uranium hexafluoride, the main feedstock for centrifuges at another key Iranian facility. There are some pictures of inside that facility.
The other key facility we're talking about is Natanz. We're going to go in there on a map. And what's significant about Isfahan and Natanz, Natanz is where they make highly enriched uranium, which is used to make nuclear weapons.
Iran denies trying to make a bomb.
But those -- both these facilities, in Natanz and in Isfahan -- Natanz about right here on the map -- are under surveillance by the UN's nuclear watchdog.
When we contacted them, the IAEA would not comment on any of this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There was also, Brian, another mysterious explosion in Iraq just a couple of weeks ago.
What do we know about that?
TODD: That's right. A massive explosion at a military base west of Tehran killed at least 17 people, including an Iranian general. Now, this is a ballistic missile factory operated by the Revolutionary Guards. Now satellite imagery from the Institute for Science and International Security shows us the extent of the damage. We've got a slide effect here that we'll show you. This is before that explosion happened. Look at afterward. You can see all the buildings destroyed, all the debris. Again, before and after. This was just a couple of weeks ago. U.S. officials have told us, though, this was likely an industrial accident.
But two mysterious incidents a couple of weeks ago at this facility and then yesterday in Isfahan raising a lot of questions about what's going on in Iran right now.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what Britain finally does, as far as the trashing of its embassy in Tehran.
Thanks very much, Brian, for that. Other news we're following, including Michael Jackson's doctor gets a verbal lashing in court today and a tough sentence to go with it. You're going to hear exactly what the judge had to say.
Plus, American Airlines files for bankruptcy protection. It could mean changes for you in the months ahead. We'll have a detailed report.
And commander-in-chief versus campaigner-in-chief -- why President Obama is getting new slack as his bid for reelection gains momentum.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What's wrong with this picture? A lot, actually. The United States ranks 28 in life expectancy, and yet, we pay more for healthcare than any other country in the industrialized world. Thirty-four nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is out with the rather stunning report on all this.
It shows 27 nations live longer than we do led by Japan, yet, Americans pay nearly $8,000 per person per year for healthcare more than any other country in this report. Only a handful of countries in the report have a lower life expectancy, Mexico, Estonia, and Turkey. Meanwhile, despite high spending on healthcare in the United States, Americans actually get less care than many other nations.
Our primary care system suffers from shortages of family doctors along with high rates of avoidable hospital admissions for common illnesses like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure. America also leads all nations when it comes to expensive medical procedures, things like knee replacements, MRIs and CT scans.
As for pharmaceuticals, they cost about 60 percent more here in the U.S. than in most European countries. There are some positives for the U.S. healthcare system. We have among the world's highest survival rates for breast and colorectal cancer. Also, Americans generally get very good acute hospital care, but overall, there is no doubt our healthcare system is broken.
And that, along with questionable lifestyle choices means we're not living as long as we could.
Here's the question. The U.S. is 28 in life expectancy. What is killing America? Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Good question. Thank you.
Let's go to the White House right now where President Obama is taking bold new steps to push his bid for re-election just as he gets ready to hit the road on a trip. His critics are charging isn't for a commander in chief, but rather for a campaigner in chief. Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's working the story for us.
Brianna, as you know, the White House strongly resisting suggestions the president is campaigning on his visits to swing states.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and they've been resisting those suggestions over and over for months now, but now, starting today, all you have to do is turn on your TV to see that it's campaign season and not just for Republicans, but for President Obama.
KEILAR (voice-over): He's off and running.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 2012 campaign is underway. And the outcome will depend not on what I do, but on what you do.
KEILAR: The president's re-election campaign launched its first ads Tuesday looking for volunteers.
OBAMA: To help build our campaign in your community.
KEILAR: The same week, the DNC put out this ad resembling a movie trailer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story of two men trapped in one body.
KEILAR: Hitting Republican rival, Mitt Romney, is a flip-flopper even before the first caucus and primary. Wednesday, the president travels to Pennsylvania, one of many battleground states he's visited to promote his jobs plan.
OBAMA: It is good to be back in Asheville, North Carolina!
OBAMA: Great to be back in Virginia.
KEILAR: During his third year in office, Mr. Obama has held 55 events in swing states, more than any other president according to the "Wall Street Journal". Republicans are hitting him saying he's campaigning on the taxpayers' dime, but the White House denies the travel is political.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Every president ought to be able to travel everywhere in the country. It's part of his responsibility serving the American people to get out and be among them and to speak with them about his agenda or her agenda. This president will continue to do that.
KEILAR: Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos, says the president should be out on the campaign trail.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Nothing's getting done in Washington from now until next November, so it's not too early for the president to get out there and start campaigning.
KEILAR: But Castellanos also says, it's understandable the White House is resistant to calling what look and sound like political events political.
CASTELLANOS: I think the president is caught in a catch 22 here, and that is that he is running against politics in Washington. He says that's what's preventing anything from getting done, but then, he's going out there and becoming political. And that is open seem (ph), I think, to the charge of hypocrisy, and I think that's what he's trying to avoid.
KEILAR (on-camera): And Wolf, one of the other sensitivities has to do with presidential travel. Taxpayers pick up the tab for the vast majority of it, and while that is completely legal, it may not sit so well with voters when that travel is political.
BLITZER: Yes. The subject comes up during every presidency, when a president is seeking re-election. I remember when Bill Clinton, I was the White House correspondent. He came out during Bush's efforts, George W. Bush's efforts to get re-elected, the firs President Bush. It always comes up, and there's a delicate, delicate balance there, what the taxpayer should pay for, what the campaign should pay for, but the debate, no doubt, will continue.
KEILAR: It will.
BLITZER: Brianna, good work. Thanks as usual.
Herman Cain now reassessing his run for the presidency. Can he survive the latest allegations of an extramarital affair? We'll talk politics. That's coming up.
And Rick Perry confused about the voting age for Americans. We're going to tell you about that as well. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Republican presidential contender, Herman Cain, now said to be reassessing whether his campaign can survive despite new allegations he engaged in a 13-year extramarital affair. It appears to be a change in the tone for the candidate just one day after he first revealed the allegations to me here in the SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're staying in this race. You're not dropping out.
HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not dropping out of this race, no. As long as my wife is behind me and as long as my wife believes that I should stay in this race, I'm staying in this race, because I am sick and tired of this hurt and harm that somebody out there is doing to my family more so to me with these baseless charges.
See, what this say is this is that somebody's awfully afraid that I'm doing to well in this Republican nomination to continue to dig up these stories to try and put a cloud and a damper on my campaign. We are going to stay focused on this campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about whether or not Herman Cain can survive in this campaign. Joining us are CNN political contributor, the democratic strategist, James Carville, also joining us, Republican strategist, Tony Blankley. He's executive vice president for Global Public Affairs with Edelman Public Relations here in Washington. James, can Herman Cain survive?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: In a word, no. I mean, I guess that the truth is, you're not going to have anybody left to call you blitz anymore a few days.
BLITZER: I'm sure other people would.
CARVILLE: I'm sure. But no, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure that Tony agrees with me --
BLITZER: Well, let's ask him.
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. Look, sure. Look, there's always a lag between when a candidate's campaign is effectively over and when he realizes it, and this one is over, and is question of how long. Sometimes, a candidate like Tim Pawlenty may have gotten on too soon. Cain is imminently going to be getting out too late.
BLITZER: All right. So, listen to what Newt Gingrich said as far as what would happen if he were the candidate or any other Republican were the candidate and how President Obama and the Democrats would go after the Republican nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obama can't possibility win an election that's fair. The only way he's going to win is to so destroy the Republican that people decide reluctantly that he is less disgusting that his opponent. So, they will run a campaign of astonishing dishonesty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Tony, you still work for Newt Gingrich. You know him well. What is he talking about here?
BLANKLEY: Well, look, there are sort of three ways to run for re- election. One, because you've been a success. So far, that's not something the American public thinks about this administration. The other is that, you're, nonetheless, the best guy for difficult time. That was FDR in (INAUDIBLE) in 1940.
And the third is you're better than that terrible guy who's running against me, and that's obviously, I think, the default position the incumbent president is forced to run in. So, those are the choices any incumbent has, and I think it's number three for President Obama.
BLITZER: You know, James, that the Democrats already are going after Mitt Romney very hard.
BLITZER: Not necessarily Newt Gingrich so much, but Mitt Romney. He's being slammed on a nearly daily basis by the Obama campaign and a lot of other Democrats.
CARVILLE: Yes. Look at what happened to John Kerry in 2004. And then, all we need to do is unearth all the cause (ph) where people say it's an election, represent their choice. Of course, they're going to go after whoever the Republican nominee is, and of course, the Republican nominee is going to go after President Obama.
This is not so much of a secret here. And this is good sort of for the Republican (ph). Actually, I don't know if they need to do much to Republicans. They're doing a pretty good job of hurting themselves in this nominating process to be honest with you. You know, maybe the thing will drag out a little bit longer here.
BLANKLEY: This isn't a very tough campaign by historic standards. I mean, certainly, I think Obama and Hillary were tougher on each other where as like races were being thrown around.
CARVILLE: I think it's all self-inflected. I mean, now, you've got Rick Perry not knowing the voting age.
BLANKLEY: He's not going to be the nominee.
CARVILLE: I think that this is more suicide than homicide.
BLANKLEY: Maybe victory. Let's have to wait and see.
BLITZER: Let me play the little clip, what, about 14 seconds, and he made two blunders in those 14 seconds, Rick Perry. I'll play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those of you that are -- will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote. Those of you who won't be, just work hard because you're going to inherit this, and you're counting on us getting this right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire primary is January 10th, and you don't have to be 21. You have to be 18 to vote. Tony, what's going on here?
BLANKLEY: Look, when you're known for not knowing a lot of stuff, you don't want to show that you don't know something that's pretty basic. Most people know 18 is currently the voting age. It was load (ph) from 21 I think under Nixon.
So, it's embarrassing, and you know, I'd said on this show, I think months ago, that I don't think Perry's going get the nomination based on his debate performance. He simply doesn't know enough about the subject matter the public is going to want the president to know.
BLITZER: So let me ask James the question I asked about Herman Cain. Can Rick Perry survive? Can his campaign keep on going, James?
CARVILLE: Well, it can keep on going because he has sufficient funding to get through a couple of these states, but he's not going to do very well. Maybe -- he's attacking Mitt for being a flip-flopper. Maybe he wants to be consistent, consistently ignorant. I mean, why confuse people? If he just keeps doing the same thing, maybe he'll take that for a campaign slogan strategy.
BLITZER: Tony, do you agree with me -- and I wrote this on my SITUATION ROOM blog today -- that if Herman Cain were to drop out, that would be a net-plus for Newt Gingrich, ,who would probably get a lot more of those Herman Cain supporters than Mitt Romney?
BLANKLEY: That's certainly one's gut instinct, but you always have to remember that when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in '68, the second choice for Bobby Kennedy was George Wallace, who was a right-winger, an extreme, while Bobby Kennedy was a left-winger. So you can never be sure how these dropouts are going to affect it, but yes, the logic of it right now would suggest that Newt might get a plurality of Cain support.
BLITZER: And what is your --
CARVILLE: I think you're on safe ground.
BLITZER: What is your theory, James, on why -- the Democrats and the Obama campaign, they're really going after Mitt Romney right now. Is it A, because they think Mitt Romney's going to be the nominee, they want to weaken him as early as possible, or B, they're afraid that he will be the nominee because he might be the most electable and they are hoping he loses in the Republican race?
CARVILLE: I think both. You know, I think that there's some sort of validity to sort of both of them. But you know, why not?
And, you know, what their calculation is, is that, you know, go early and keep him off balance. I think that they think the flip-flopper charge that they've come out is not their strongest charge, but I think they probably want to soften him with up that. And I think they've got other things that they think works better than that.
BLITZER: Yes, it's happening on a daily basis.
Tony and James, guys, thanks very much.
BLANKLEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden, touches down for a highly symbolic visit to Iraq just a month before all U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of the country. And Facebook settles with the feds over alleged privacy violations. We're going to tell you what information they shared and what they're now agreeing to do.
BLITZER: A mostly positive day on Wall Street today. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Stocks edged higher on continued optimism that leaders are making progress on Europe's debt crisis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 32 points, so that's about .3 of a percent. The broader S&P 500 posted a similar gain, while the NASDAQ was down about half a percent.
Vice President Joe Biden touched down in Baghdad today for a previously unannounced visit. His office says he's there to honor the sacrifices of American and Iraqi troops. He's also expected to meet with top Iraqi leaders, including the prime minister. U.S. troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of the year.
And a high-profile Chinese dissident says his wife was detained by police earlier today and is now being accused of unspecified crimes. Police are declining to comment on the report. The dissident, Ai Weiwei, says that he believes authorities are "trying to threaten me through her."
The dissident was himself detained by police for 81 days earlier this year and ultimately charged with tax evasion. He is fighting those charges.
And Facebook is agreeing to undergo privacy audits for the next 20 years to settle allegations that it misled members about sharing their private data. The Federal Trade Commission says Facebook violated federal law by breaking promises to users about keeping their information private. Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will undergo third-party privacy audits every two years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
Lisa Sylvester, reporting.
Michael Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, gets a tough sentence in court today and a verbal lashing from the judge. You're going to hear and see what happened.
Plus, some changes could be in the works for American Airlines customers in the wake of today's bankruptcy filing. We're going to tell you what you should expect.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, was slapped today with the maximum sentence, four years behind bars, for the pop star's death, and it came with a tough verbal lashing from the judge.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE MICHAEL PASTOR, L.A. COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: Dr. Murray is offended by that patient dying, and I don't have any idea what will prompt Dr. Murray to do or not do something in the future that may be dangerous to a patient. If he does practice medicine in the United States, or even elsewhere, I think Dr. Murray is so reckless based upon the law and the definition of criminal negligence that I read, and everything that I heard and saw in his case, and Dr. Murray's subsequent conduct, that I believe he's a danger to the community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Casey Wian was there, watched it all unfold.
How did it go, Casey?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not well for Dr. Conrad Murray. That sound bite you just played from the judge, just among the many reasons that he said he would sentence Dr. Murray to the maximum of four years in jail.
He talked about this pattern of lies, deceptions and cover-ups before, during and after Michael Jackson's death. He talked about ordering gallons of Propofol. He talked about not cooperating with emergency personnel and medical personnel. And he talked about his lack of remorse, giving media interviews during the trail, said that that's one of the reasons on its own that he was not a candidate for probation, which is what his defense had requested.
Now, we've got to point out that even though Dr. Murray did receive the harshest possible sentence, four years in jail, it's likely going to mean only two years in Los Angeles County Jail, not four years in the state penitentiary, as the prosecution had requested. That's because California jails are seriously crowded, and involuntary manslaughter is one of those crimes that is considered a candidate for someone not going to the state penitentiary.
And if you can believe this, Wolf, the case isn't even over yet, because there is still this pending request for restitution from Dr. Conrad Murray to Michael Jackson's family and his estate. It's a whopping number, $100 million in potential earnings for the series of concerts that Michael Jackson was planning, and $2 million in funeral expenses. The judge put a hearing off on that issue until January -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, at least two years, is that what you're saying, Casey? He's going to spend at least two years, or could he be eligible for parole more quickly? WIAN: Well, he'll be eligible for release earlier than two years because he's already received 46 days of credit for time served between sentencing and the conviction. And you get one day of credit in Los Angeles for every day you actually serve in prison, so it's going to be something less than two years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Casey Wian on the scene for us.
Casey, thank you.
All right. This important news just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. S&P has just downgraded several major U.S. banks' credit rating.
Mary Snow has got the details for us.
What happened, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Standard & Poor's said that it reviewed 37 financial institutions, some of the largest financial institutions, and applied its new ratings criteria for banks. This isn't a total surprise.
S&P had been saying that it was overhauling its methods for scoring the ratings of these banks, and it had been anticipated that some banks would be downgraded. But we're seeing the major banks on this list including Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan.
Now, also, there is the potential for further downgrades. They're on review right now -- or under review -- and there is the potential that there could be some more downgrades in the near future.
Standard & Poor's is going to have a teleconference tomorrow, going through the specifics of each bank, but this is putting pressure. And as you know, Bank of America has been under a lot of pressure. Its stock price has been trading about $5 a share, and this could continue to put pressure on stocks like Bank of America.
BLITZER: Yes. The federal government is downgraded, now these major banks, financial institutions, are downgraded. I wonder what happens next.
I know you'll stay on top of it for us, Mary. Thanks very much.
The United States ranks 28th in the world in life expectancy. Jack Cafferty is asking, "What's killing America?" Your answers, coming up.
Plus, a real-life superman flying alongside a jet plane. Jeanne Moos, she is going to show us some incredible video footage.
BLITZER: American Airlines is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Lisa Sylvester is following the story for us. Lisa, the airline is presenting this as a mostly business as usual decision. Maybe usual, maybe not so usual.
SYLVESTER: That's right, Wolf.
Well, if you are holding on to an American Airlines ticket, don't worry. That ticket is still good. As Wolf said, it will be business as usual, at least in the short term. Customers won't notice much of a difference. But in the longer term, there may be some changes ahead.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Here's the bottom line for customers. American Airlines says their planes will still fly, their tickets will still be honored. And if you have frequent flyer miles or elite status on American, that will remain intact.
But American Airlines' new CEO says labor costs, high oil prices, and global economic volatility left the company no choice but to file for bankruptcy protection.
THOMAS HORTON, CEO & PRESIDENT, AMERICAN AIRLINES: This year, we're going to pay almost $2 billion more for fuel than we did last year, so that was -- you know, that was a kick in the teeth we didn't need this year. But it's a reality, and our company is facing reality, and we're going to go forward.
SYLVESTER: American Airlines' competitors have gone down this path before. Delta, United and Northwest have all filed for bankruptcy in recent years. American Airlines says its labor costs were $800 million a year higher than other air carriers.
RAY NEIDL, AIRLINE INDUSTRY ANALYST, MAXIM GROUP: They're the only big airline not to have gone through bankruptcy, so they have stuck with the old legacy costs, and they couldn't get out of that voluntarily with their union people. So now they're going to have to do it under the supervision of a judge.
SYLVESTER: In the short term, customers won't notice a difference. But American's Chapter 11 filing will cause some changes in the months ahead.
Employees will likely be asked to make pay and pension concessions. American Airlines may consolidate some of its routes. And there is a very real possibility American could follow the path of the other major carriers like United and Continental, Northwest and Delta, and shop around for another airline to merge with.
George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com says that would directly impact passengers.
GEORGE HOBICA, AIRFAREWATCHDOG.COM: Airline consolidation means that airfares are going to go up, and in some cases smaller cities are going to lose air service all together. There's much less competition than the past, where perhaps two airlines served a route, now there's only one, and obviously that airline can raise fares to any level they want.
SYLVESTER: Now, the people who will feel an immediate effect are the shareholders and the creditors, those holding on to unsecured debt. They are the ones who are going to be the big losers with this bankruptcy filing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Stuff happens, I guess, in the airline business, but people are worried because they've got to travel, especially getting ready for Christmas and New Year's.
SYLVESTER: Yes. The bottom line, what they want to know is, is that ticket good if I've got an American Airlines? It's fine. American Airlines planes are going to be taking off.
And the frequent flyer miles, many people are really concerned about that. That's going to be intact as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.
Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: The United States is 28th in life expectancy. What's killing America?
Gary, in Arizona, "Diet and exercise, Jack. Simple as that. We eat the wrong things, we don't exercise. We've become a fat, slovenly bunch who smoke, drink, use drugs, and generally abuse life with dumb habits. We've become our own worst enemy when it comes to living a long life."
Rick writes, "If you have to ask, you haven't been looking at people. Obesity."
Jan, in Washington, "Food, drink, and a lack of affordable health care. A lot of the most affordable food is loaded with carbs and sugars. A large share of shopping carts leaving supermarkets have cases of beer, soda and chips in them. The store flyers and mailers have far better sales on these items than on fresh fruits and vegetables."
Gordon, in New Jersey, writes, "Overeating, TV, corporate greed, and a medical industry that caters first to patients with money, second to patients with good benefits, and third -- well, the funeral industry takes care of them."
Jay writes, "Easy one. Putting the profits above the well-being of fellow citizens. Every other decent country on earth has figured out that health care is not the moral place to try to make a buck. Selfish greed is what's killing America."
Bob, in Maryland, writes, "It's easy. As I'm sitting here eating a hot dog for dinner, I'm sure my counterpart in Japan is eating some nutritionally-rich sushi. We just have bad habits and we're lazy. Maybe the recession will get more Americans off their butts and rethinking our choices."
And Terry, in Indiana, writes, "Speaking of life expectancy, Jack, who's going to take your place?"
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.
And I'll be here tomorrow.
BLITZER: He must be a good friend of yours, that last reader, viewer, whatever he is. You know him?
CAFFERTY: That's cold. No, I don't know him.
BLITZER: Yes. Tough crowd you're hanging out with over there, Jack. Never easy when you're out there, right?
CAFFERTY: That's true. Well, at my age, it gets tougher all the time.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm going to go get some delicious sushi myself, I think.
CAFFERTY: I'm going to eat a hot dog.
BLITZER: No hot dog, sushi. Very healthy.
Thanks very much, Jack.
CAFFERTY: See you.
BLITZER: So, when is the last time you saw a guy in a skin-tight suit flying -- yes, flying -- just outside the window of your airplane? Jeanne Moos is coming up with a breathtaking report on an aviator known as "Jetman."
BLITZER: It's a bird. It's a plane. It's time for CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It seemed amazing back in 1928, and it seems just as amazing in 2011, and most amazing when the Swiss aviator known as "Jetman" actually flew with jets.
What's it feel like?
YVES ROSSY, "JETMAN": Like unreal. Hey, I'm flying almost naked with nothing, but I am with jets and fast.
MOOS: Fast for Jetman, around 137 miles per hour. Slow for the actual jets.
ROSSY: The jets, they went the minimum speed just before stall. And I was at my maximum.
MOOS: It was a stunt high above the Alps the other day. Fifty-two- year-old Yves Rossy has been developing his jet wing for 15 years, crossing the Grand Canyon, not crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. For his rendezvous with the real jets, he had a chopper drop him off.
He say his doesn't steer, it's pure flying.
ROSSY: I just turn a little bit the shoulders to the right, and I turn right. I bend down, I go down.
MOOS: He has only enough kerosene for the four engines under his wing to last for about eight minutes of flight, but oh what a flight it was.
"Jetman" carefully stayed out of the tail turbulence from the two bright lane (ph) jets. The watchmaker is Jetman's sponsor.
As for the pilots --
ROSSY: When they told me just a little -- besides, they were a little bit afraid to hurt me.
MOOS: The leader of the jet team described it as emotional. "Just outside your cockpit you can see into the eyes of a man flying next to you, smiling while keeping pace with a jet."
(on camera): When's the last time you saw a guy in a skin-tight suit flying around outside a jet aircraft?
(voice-over): That's Superman saving a passenger plane as it nosedives into a baseball stadium. Of course he doesn't have to worry about running out of fuel.
(on camera): Rossy said he's had to bail out of an uncontrolled spin about 20 times since he first started developing his wings.
(voice-over): In an emergency, he detaches, and then both he and the wings float to the ground on separate parachutes.
ROSSY: Woo Hoo!
MOOS: There was no emergency this time, and "Jetman" landed gracefully. Talk about winging it.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: I wouldn't do it.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.