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THE SITUATION ROOM
Rick Santorum's Fight on Mitt Romney's Turf; Romney's Changing Fortunes; Pres. Unveils Leaner, Cheaper Military; Interview With British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond; Interview With Richard Cordray; American Teen Deported
Aired January 5, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Mitt Romney gets out of his comfort zone, visiting a state that could take the wind out of his campaign, potentially, at least. But there's new evidence that he has on his home turf, at least in New Hampshire, the situation there being well covered for him.
Some of Romney's rivals are seeing big jumps in donations, but do they have enough cash to stop him? This hour, how much does money in an election really matter?
And the first national interview with the president's controversial new consumer watchdog leader. I'll ask Richard Cordray this hour if his recess appointment without congressional approval is legal.
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.
Just five days to go before the first presidential primary of the year. A new poll showing no one is coming close to Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.
The former governor of neighboring Massachusetts has a 23-point lead in a new poll of likely Republican primary voters. His closest competitor in the New Hampshire race right now, Ron Paul, the Texas congressman. The rest of the pack trailing in single digits, and that helps explain why Romney now is turning his attention to South Carolina, where the January 21st primary is expected to be far more competitive. He had an event in Charleston this afternoon, he's there right now, while most of his rivals stayed back in New Hampshire.
Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, is turning the heat up on Romney, doing four events in New Hampshire today. Jon Huntsman has four events in the state where he's invested virtually all of his campaign time, energy and money. Rick Santorum is making five stops in New Hampshire, riding momentum from his very near victory in Iowa.
CNN's Jim Acosta is covering Santorum's spike for votes in Romney's back yard. He's joining us from Concord, New Hampshire, right now.
What's the latest over there, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this might be Mitt Romney country, but don't tell that to Rick Santorum, who has roughly 20 events over the next few days. It's the kind of ground campaign that paid off for him in Iowa.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, he literally worked in the coal mines until he was 72 years of age.
(CELL PHONE RINGING)
SANTORUM: Could we please silence all pagers and cell phones? I'd appreciate that. I'm just kidding. You can let them ring.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That might be because opportunity could be calling for Rick Santorum, who's running from town hall to diner in a mad dash for votes in New Hampshire, dialing up conservative talking points.
SANTORUM: Unless we repeal Obamacare, and do it immediately -- I wouldn't be in this race if it wasn't for Obamacare. I believe that is a game-changer for America.
ACOSTA: Santorum's rise after Iowa is also a game-changer. That explains the punches from Newt Gingrich, who's diminishing the former Pennsylvania senator's influence in Congress. The former Speaker reminded voters it was he who brought about the Contract With America in the '90s, not Santorum.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would say in terms of -- if you think of us as partners, he would clearly in historical experience have been the junior partner.
ACOSTA (on camera): What do you think of that comment?
(voice-over): Santorum was so taken aback by Gingrich's comments, it took him a moment to gather his thoughts. He then pointed to his role in rooting out corruption in Congress before Gingrich was even Speaker.
SANTORUM: I was no junior partner in that. Newt was not involved in that revolution when it came to the corruption and the scandal. He sat on the sidelines.
ACOSTA: But Gingrich wasn't through just yet.
GINGRICH: But I don't know that he has any track record of being able to organize a large-scale campaign that I'm describing.
ACOSTA (on camera): You don't have a whole lot of money right now. You're just starting to raise money.
SANTORUM: Well, we raised over a million dollars yesterday.
ACOSTA: That's not going to be enough, is it?
SANTORUM: That's one day. That's a pretty good start.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But Santorum is looking past Gingrich to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, who's seen by some voters here as too moderate, too Massachusetts.
KEVIN MOCHEN, SANTORUM SUPPORTER: I don't trust him, basically.
ACOSTA (on camera): You don't trust him. On that issue or overall?
MOCHEN: Well, he jumped around on everything else to me. On a lot of other issues, he's flip-flopped.
ACOSTA (voice-over): To do well in New Hampshire, this surging GOP contender will have to tangle with Ron Paul, whose supporters don't like Santorum's vow to use air strikes to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
PAUL PEARL, RON PAUL SUPPORTER: I think it will be even worse than Iraq. It will be drawn out, it will be ugly, it will cost a lot of money and a lot of blood. And that's not a road I want to go down.
ACOSTA: Rick Santorum still knows how to stir up controversy. At an event that just wrapped up a few moments ago here in Concord, he clashed with college students over the issue of gay marriage. Santorum compared gay marriage to polygamy. That did not go over well with this crowd, Wolf. He was booed as he left the podium.
BLITZER: You know, Jim, it seems to me that in New Hampshire -- you're there -- and certainly as opposed to Iowa, these candidates are getting a lot more critical questions at these town hall meetings than they seem to have received in Iowa. But give me your impression.
ACOSTA: That's exactly right. I mean, I think that the New England town hall is one of the best traditions of American politics, and Rick Santorum is going through that process right now.
He was able to do those town halls up in Iowa with very little press attention, very little scrutiny, but he is definitely getting that. The flat terrain is over with out in Iowa. He's on a more bumpy ride in New Hampshire. And you can tell that not just by the comments from Newt Gingrich, but by the reaction he had in this room earlier today.
This was not a pro-Santorum crowd that he was dealing with earlier today. They were booing him as he was leaving that podium after some very controversial comments on gay marriage -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And unlike in Iowa, Independents can vote in New Hampshire, as we all know.
Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Ron Paul and Rick Perry are taking a break from the campaign trail today. Congressman Paul will return to New Hampshire tomorrow.
Perry will be there for weekend debates, and then he'll head off to South Carolina to campaign. Perry's in Texas today and tomorrow.
Just moments ago, Mitt Romney wrapped up his event in Charleston, South Carolina, with Governor Nikki Haley at his side, along with his new supporter, John McCain. His target, President Obama.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the fun of reviewing some of the campaign tapes from Barack Obama's speeches when he was a campaigner. And back then, he made a lot of promises.
He was going to repair the nation, remember, and repair the world. There's a big gap between what he promised and what he delivered, and what we've seen over the past three years is a failed presidency. I don't think he's a bad guy. I just think he's way over his head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What a difference a month has made for Mitt Romney. In December, "TIME" magazine had Romney on the cover asking the question, "Why Don't They Like Me?" The new issue of "TIME" has the same photo. A different side of the photo, though, a new caption, "So You Like Me Now?"
Let's bring in Rick Stengel, the managing editor of our corporate cousin, "TIME" magazine.
All right, Rick. Explain why then has changed to now as far as your cover stories are concerned.
RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Well, back then, Wolf, which wasn't so long ago, just a few weeks ago, Romney was in the second tier, even the third tier of candidates, in Iowa. People thought he might not get one of those coveted three tickets out of Iowa, but he took a chance.
He saw his numbers were rising. He saw he was doing better with Evangelicals than he thought. And he decided to put his money on Iowa, not so much as he had done the last time, and then he triumphed. And a win is a win.
And the fact that he actually won in Iowa actually makes him better suited to win everywhere else. If he had lost in Iowa, he would have gone down a rank everywhere else. So, to me and to us, it was a big deal, his win, even though it was a very razor thing one.
BLITZER: And it's the same photo of him, right, on both of these covers? What was the thinking behind that? STENGEL: Well, in a sense, they're bookends. It's a little bit of a game that we're playing with our readers and with the public. It's a little bit of one chapter and now a new chapter. And we thought we'd have some fun with it.
Governor Romney himself has had fun with it, because when people give him the cover to autograph, he annotates it and he says for the old one, "Why Don't They Like Me?" he crosses out the "NT," and it's "Why Do They Like Me?"
Let's talk a little bit about Mitt Romney in the sense that, realistically, is there anyone out there that can really stop him? What do you and your reporters at "TIME" magazine concluding, at least right now?
STENGEL: Yes. I mean, I don't want to put an end to the primary process, not that I could, but we look at it as that it's going to be very, very hard to stop him.
I was listening to your last story, Wolf. You point out, for example, that in New Hampshire, Independents can vote. It's such a different terrain than Iowa.
New Hampshire is the Northeast. It's contrarian. There are more liberals. Independents can vote. There's effectively no Democrat primary, so those Independents might vote in the Republican primary.
So it helps him in New Hampshire. And down in South Carolina, which you've been talking about, which is the killing field of candidates, he has money, he has organization. And those are the kinds of things that Rick Santorum, as much as we're talking about him, and as interesting a figure as he is, he doesn't have the money and he doesn't have the organization.
BLITZER: And Joe Klein, your columnist, has an excellent article on Rick Santorum in the issue as well.
All right. Rick Stengel, thanks very much.
STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me recommend the cover story in the new issue of "TIME" magazine.
Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, when I read these numbers, I was stunned, and it takes a little to stun me. I had no idea that Americans make up fully one-half of the world's richest one percent.
When you look at the world's population as a whole, it only takes $34,000 a year per person after taxes to be part of the world's richest one percent. A family of four with after-tax income of $136,000 would be among the richest one percent in all the world. Sixty million people make up the world's richest one percent, and according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, half of them, or 29 million people, lived in the United States as of 2005. Another four million live in Germany, and the rest are scattered throughout Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia.
None of the world's richest one percent live in Africa, China or India, statistically speaking. Although places like China and India are seeing economic growth, and people there are getting richer, they're starting from a very low base.
It also means the emerging middle class in those countries isn't the same as the middle class in developed nations. No cars, no retirement plans. They don't own their own homes.
Milanovic says people in the world's true middle live on about $1,200 a year. That means even the poorest five percent of Americans are richer than two-thirds of the entire world. Something for all of us to think about.
While the Occupy Wall Street movement targets the so-called one percent with protests in New York, L.A., Denver and Washington, these numbers give one percent a whole new meaning.
Here's the question. What does it mean when Americans make up half of the world's richest one percent?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.
Twelve hundred bucks a year, Wolf, for the average middle income earner worldwide.
BLITZER: I was stunned when I saw that report, just as you have been. Anxious to hear what our viewers think about that as well, Jack.
Thanks. Good report.
A big, big change for the United States military. President Obama outlines a long list of cuts and a strategy change not seen in years. We'll break it down for you.
Also ahead, Republicans say this man's appointment is unconstitutional. I'll ask the president's new consumer watchdog director about that when he sits down with me in his first national TV interview.
BLITZER: President Obama is promising that America's armed forces will stay strong and effective despite his new strategy for a leaner, cheaper military. He made a rare appearance over at the Pentagon today to unveil the strategy personally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's important for all Americans to remember over the past 10 years, since 9/11, our defense budget grew at an extraordinary pace. Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this -- it will still grow because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership.
In fact, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration. Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military's superiority armed forces that are agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.
We're also going to keep faith with those who serve by making sure our troops have the equipment and capabilities they need to succeed and by prioritizing efforts that focus on wounded warriors, mental health, and the well being of our military families. And as our newest veterans rejoin civilian life, we'll keep working to give our veterans the care, the benefits, and job opportunities that they deserve and that have earned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The guy behind the president, by the way, is Gen. Ray Odierno, the army chief of staff, the former U.S. commander in Iraq. The administration is in the final stages of deciding on specific cuts in the size of the military and the 2013 budget. The new strategy moves the United States further away from the past bill of being able to fight two major wars at once, and it puts greater emphasis on security threats in Asia.
Deadly new attacks, meanwhile, in Iraq today and growing fears of a civil war. At least 60 people were killed in strikes that targeted Shiites. More than half died in a suicide bomb attack outside the southern city of Nasiriyah.
And joining us now, Philip Hammond, the British defense secretary. Mr. Secretary, welcome to Washington.
PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you.
BLITZER: I want to go around the world right now. Important issues that starting with Iraq, where it looks to me like we are on the potential of a civil war erupting between Sunnis and Shia, are we?
HAMMOND: Well, I agree the situation doesn't look good. What really matter now is the reconciliation in Iraq so that the Iraqi people can look to the future and put the wars behind them and go on to develop the economic prosperity which they deserve and which they are capable of.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq? Because what he's doing is going after many Sunni leaders, apparently, refusing to name a defense minister, an interior minister. It looks like he's trying to consolidate support. HAMMOND: Well, I think there are a number of pressures going on inside Iraq at the moment, but it is very clearly in our interest, the international community's interest, and in the Iraqi people's interest to have a reconciliation there, to try to dampen down these tensions so that they can now rebuild their nation after what has been a pretty traumatic ten years.
BLITZER: Because a lot of officials here in Washington, privately, they're losing confidence in Nouri al-maliki. So the question to you, are you losing confidence in him?
HAMMOND: Well, I haven't lost confidence in anybody. I believe that the Iraqi government has the ability to control the situation, but I have to agree as of this morning, things are not looking good in Baghdad.
BLITZER: Is Iran an active player in fomenting this potential civil war in Iraq?
HAMMOND: Well, we know that Iran's tentacles stretch to its neighbors around the gulf. This is a continuing cause of concern, so while I don't have specifics, I would not be a total surprised to find Iranian involvement in some of what is going on in Iraq.
BLITZER: Was it a mistake for NATO, U.S., British forces all to leave Iraq?
HAMMOND: We have to move on. We've done what we came to do in Iraq. We've ensured that country cannot be the launch pad for further attacks on our nations. We've ensured our own national security objectives. We have to move on. We have to allow the Iraqi people to resolve their problems and to rebuild their nation themselves.
BLITZER: The Iranians are now saying no more warships in the Persian Gulf, U/S. British, or whatever. Are you going to heed to that warning?
HAMMOND: No, we're not. We are part of a multinational task force working with the U.S. fifth fleet in the Persian Gulf. We will continue to do that work. We will continue to have naval assets in international waters and in the home waters of our allies in the gulf.
BLITZER: Are you going to try to shut down Iranian oil exports?
HAMMOND: We will continue to squeeze through economic sanctions the Iranian regime so long as they go on defying the international community with an illegal nuclear program, and they need to understand that that pressure will continue.
BLITZER: By sanctioning the central bank which in effect would prevent them from doing business with the outside world, especially oil.
HAMMOND: By sanctioning the central bank, also by imposing direct sanctions on oil imports from Iran into Europe, which is a subject which has been advanced today in Europe. BLITZER: Because Europe gets a lot of oil from Iran, but that's going to stop if you had your way.
HAMMOND: It does. That's right. We're going to shut down the purchasing of oil from Iran in Europe, squeezing a little bit more, the regime, hopefully, bringing them back to the table to talk about resolving this conflict peacefully.
BLITZER: When you say squeezing them a little bit more, the emphasis on the word little or significantly more?
HAMMOND: I think the emphasis is on continually tightening, continually tightening the pressure on Iran while also extending the hand of engagement. At any time, the Iranians can engage with the international community, but they have to renounce the military use of nuclear power.
BLITZER: Syria right now, are we seeing another potential Libya unfolding in Syria?
HAMMOND: The situation in Syria, I think, is very different in Libya, but the regime clearly has lost legitimacy. Assad is butchering his own people. There is no doubt about that. He should heed the call of the international community to stand aside and allow Syria to transition to a more open --
BLITZER: What if he doesn't?
HAMMOND: -- democratic form of society.
BLITZER: What will you do? France, NATO allies, a no-fly-zone like in Libya?
HAMMOND: Well, we will continue to apply pressure and seek to build an international consensus for pressure on Syria, but we can only act whether it's legal capacity to do so, and at the moment as you know, it has not been possible to build a consensus across --
BLITZER: You'd like a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize potential military action?
HAMMOND: Well, I would like to see a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on the regime to end the violence against Syrian nationals. We need to work with other Security Council members to look at how we can tighten the pressure on the Syrian regime.
BLITZER: I'm very worried about the Korean Peninsula right now with the death of Kim Jong-Il. Kim Jong-Un is young man taking over, and the fear I have, and I know many national security officials here in Washington have, inside and outside the government, is that Kim Jong-Un is going to do some provocative act, going to do something to create a crisis to consolidate his own authority and power in that country.
Shell an island, sink a South Korean ship, launch some missiles. Is that something you're worried about? HAMMOND: Well, of course, any change in a country about which we collectively know so little is always a matter of concern. There is, of course, an opportunity that a change of leadership could lead to an opening, could lead to a reengagement with the international community. That's a fervent hope and aspiration, but on balance.
I think experience tells us that it's probably unlikely, and the instability that change of regime creates is, of course, dangerous and leads to -- increases instability in the region.
BLITZER: I wouldn't be surprised if there's -- I was there in North Korea a year ago. If there's an incident in the next few weeks or months, I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised either.
HAMMOND: Well, I wouldn't be surprised, but we have to hope that the transition of power turns out to be an opportunity rather than a threat.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, good to have you here in the SITUATION ROOM.
HAMMOND: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in. Good luck.
HAMMOND: Thank you.
BLITZER: He's at the center of a constitutional controversy right now here in Washington. Richard Cordray, he's President Obama's newly appointed consumer watchdog. He's joining me here in the SITUATION ROOM in his first national television interview.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A good agent always looks to their artists for inspiration. It's such a vision really that we tend to sort of work out what opportunities really work with his vision. He has an amazing project on with Disney. Something in the works with Google, of which I can say little, otherwise, I'll have to kill you.
He has all of this brand equity already. He has the design avail (ph). He has the huge fan base. At the heart of it all, he really wants to please people and to bring a lot of joy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I ever wanted to do with my life is make art, so every day is exciting if I'm only doing that. It's a lucky thing.
BLITZER: We can't wait. That's how the White House is defending President Obama's decision to appoint the new director of a consumer protection agency without the Senate's approval. Richard Cordray will join me in his first national television interview. That's coming up.
His first national interview since the appointment just in a few moments, but first, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Jessica, the White House isn't backing down despite legal questions surrounding this appointment.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Remember when Democrats were complaining that the president was giving away the store to Republicans, that he had no backbone? That was so six months ago, before we were in an election year. Now, meet calling your bluff, Mr. President Obama 2.0.
YELLIN (voice-over): A defiant move by President Obama.
OBAMA: Today, I'm appointing Richard as America's consumer watchdog.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
YELLIN: A controversial step that has progressives cheering and conservatives crying foul.
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's wrong. And someone needs to stand up and say, enough, Mr. President. You are not --
YELLIN: Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, calls it a sharp departure from a long standing precedent. It's all about the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In July, the president nominated Richard Cordray to run it. In December, Senate Republicans blocked Cordray's nomination.
Then, senators went out of town, but they made sure the president could not make a recess appointment. Instead, they kept the Senate in what's called pro forma session. Every three days, a senator shows up, hits the gavel, stands around, then hits the gavel again, and leaves. It's like a virtual Congress. President Obama decided to challenge the practice.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As for a minute, I think all of you should run up to Capitol Hill, check out the House and Senate and see if you can find a single member of Congress, and then, tell me on this working day for most Americans whether or not Congress is in session.
YELLIN: White House counsel, Kathy Ruemmler, tells CNN, the president has the constitutional authority to make recess appointment, and the administration believes for all practical purposes, the Senate is in recess. They're calling the Senate's bluff.
But, is the president flip-flopping? After all, when he was a senator, he opposed President Bush's recess appointment of John Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N.
CARNEY: In the case of Mr. Bolton, there were a great many questions about his qualifications for the job and a great deal of opposition to his nomination on the merit (ph).
YELLIN: Still, the official record shows Bolton likely had the votes he needed to get.
YELLIN: Wolf, and in the case of Ambassador Bolton, President Obama, then-Senator Obama, importantly did not challenge the right of President Bush to make a recess appointment. In fact, at the time, then-Senator Obama was quoted saying, "The president is entitled to take that action."
BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much.
And joining us now, the new director of the Consumer Financial Production Bureau, Richard Cordray.
Mr. Cordray, thanks very much for coming in.
RICHARD CORDRAY, DIRECTOR, CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU: My pleasure.
BLITZER: And congratulations, although you know your job is coming under very, very controversial circumstances. I want to get your personal feeling as a former attorney general of Ohio. You know there's a lot of legal challenges. Presumably, they're going to be leveled at the way the president did this during this pro-forma session, not necessarily a legal recess session.
What do you think?
CORDRAY: Well, Wolf, I'm going to leave those distractions to others. I'm now the director of the consumer bureau. It's a big job, an important job.
Our mission is to make financial markets work better for the American people. That's every family. You know, all the folks that we know in our community who need some help and someone standing on their side to make these markets work. That's going to have 100 percent of my focus, time and attention.
BLITZER: And we're going to get to some of the substance and what you're going to plan on doing. But let me read to you a statement Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, put out.
He says, "President Obama's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is perhaps the most powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy in the history of our nation, headed by a powerful and unaccountable bureaucrat with unprecedented authority over the economy."
I want you to respond and explain why he's wrong, if you believe in fact, as I assume you do.
CORDRAY: Well, I think there's a lot of accountability in the law for this bureau, but the other thing is there wasn't a lot of accountability in the financial marketplace before we had the meltdown in 2008. That was a real tragedy for this country, and it hurt millions of people. And part of it was because we had banks and non- banks competing in financial markets. The non-banks were entirely unregulated in many cases. They led a race to the bottom, they destroyed standards, and they hurt a lot of people.
BLITZER: Who's going to be overseeing from the congressional perspective your bureau?
CORDRAY: I believe that we're subject to the leadership in both houses of Congress. I have spoken personally to those folks over the course of this process and pledged that I would give them the kind of input and information that would help them understand how we're doing our job and how to do it better.
What I know, Wolf, is that the congressional leaders, they hear from and they serve the very same people that we're now serving. They hear the stories about people losing their homes, buried in debt, that they didn't understand or maybe it wasn't fully explained to them, frauds and scams that occur out there. Our job is to try to make the marketplace work better for consumers, and I think as we begin to do that, we will win our way forward.
BLITZER: There was a criticism that the lead editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" today leveled against the new agency and, to a certain degree, you, entitled, "Contempt for Congress." "Republicans have said they'd be happy to confirm him" -- meaning you -- "if Mr. Obama agrees to reforms of the bureau that would make it more accountable to elected officials and subject to congressional appropriations. As it stands, the bureau is part of the Federal Reserve, but Mr. Cordray sets his own budget and doesn't report to the Fed chairman."
Is all that accurate?
CORDRAY: The reality is that we, as a bureau, are subject to plenty of oversight. We have to do audits and reports that go beyond what other agencies do to Congress. We are subject to a potential veto on a rule making that no other agency is subject to. But the key thing here is that we have a job to do to protect consumers.
The American people know this is an important job. They like the concept of having a consumer watchdog. They know the struggles that they, their family members, their friends, people in their community are having over mortgage problems, over credit card problems, over payday loan problems, and they want to know that someone is going to stand on their side, protect them against fraud, and make these markets work for consumers.
That's our job, and we're going to do it.
BLITZER: Are you subject to congressional appropriations the way all other government agencies, in effect, are?
CORDRAY: All banking agencies are not subject to the government appropriation process. We, however, we have a cap on our budget, and if we need additional funds, it's contemplated we would go to Congress and we would go through the appropriation process to get additional funds.
So there's a lot of oversight over this agency, but the key thing here is my background at the state and local level -- people know it, people in Ohio know it -- was I always had very good relations with people on both sides of the aisle. We've worked together to solve some tough problems, tough financial problems, and we always had that good relationship. I'm committed to building that relationship with the legislative leaders in both houses of Congress. I have told them that and I plan to deliver on that.
BLITZER: So, which House and Senate committees will oversee your agency?
CORDRAY: It will be the House Banking Committee and the -- the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. People from our bureau have been there to testify in front of both committees a number of times already.
They've heard in particular -- I know from the head of our office, service members affairs, Holly Petraeus (ph), and what we're doing to help protect service members against some of the despicable scams and frauds that have perpetrated on them over the years, how we can improve their lives, people who are serving our country and shouldn't have to worry about being preyed upon by financial scammers back home. So we will continue to go and testify in front of Congress, make sure that they have the information that they need and want to have about what we're doing. We're serving the very same people they are serving, and I think that as they see how we can improve markets for consumers, they'll approve of what we're doing.
BLITZER: And very quickly, because we're out of time, what's the first thing you're doing on this day as the new director?
CORDRAY: Well, as the new director, the big change for us is that we now have authority over the non-banks. We can level the playing field between them and the banking firms.
Today, we have launched our non-bank supervisory program. We will now be able to go in, ask them tough questions, see exactly what they're doing, and have them fix problems if they're not complying with the law. That's a big change for consumers. It will be good for consumers. It will help improve this country.
BLITZER: Mr. Cordray, good luck over there --
CORDRAY: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- because I know a lot of people are going to be hoping you do the right thing.
CORDRAY: Well, we'll do our best.
BLITZER: Thank you.
A 14-year-old American girl deported to a country where she doesn't even speak the language. Her disturbing story coming up.
And did that woman really climb the rock in this popular TV ad? Jeanne Moos gets to the bottom of it.
BLITZER: An American teenager who doesn't even speak Spanish is deported by U.S. immigration officials to Colombia. It's a stunning story that has her family demanding answers.
They spoke to CNN's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No one seems to understand how Jakadrien Turner could have fooled so many people in getting herself deported to Colombia, but her mother and grandmother, who live in Dallas, have been desperately trying to find her for more than a year, and they fear the young girl is trapped in a dangerous web.
(on camera): It seems like part of you thinks that this isn't your daughter's doing.
JOHNISA TURNER, MISSING TEEN'S MOTHER: I mean, I feel like she's been coerced. I feel like someone has told her, maybe promised her something or -- something. I don't know.
But it's not her -- it's not her. It's not her personality. There has to be adults involved. No 14-year-old can change their name and get to Colombia on their own.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Last April, Jakadrien was arrested for shoplifting in a Houston mall, but instead of giving police her real name, Jakadrien claimed to be 21-year-old Tika Cortez (ph) from Colombia. After pleading guilty to the theft charge, she was turned over to federal immigration agents.
Somehow, Turner managed to keep the false identity alive. Without any identification, she convinced the immigration system she was Tika Cortez (ph). She then convinced the Colombian government and got the necessary Colombian citizenship papers to get deported to Colombia.
There were bulletins for Jakadrien Turner spread around law enforcement circles. The Dallas runaway is even featured on the Web site for missing and exploited children.
(on camera): From where I sit, either someone completely screwed up here on this end, or she has completely fooled a long line of people to get herself to Colombia.
Do any of these seem like viable explanations?
LORENE TURNER, MISSING TEEN'S GRANDMOTHER: No. You have to have IDs to get, you know, to another country. And I just don't understand how it could happen. Someone made a goof, and I think it's what -- ICE or someone. They goofed up.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Lorene Turner spent months scouring the Internet looking for any signs of Jakadrien. She discovered Facebook postings from her granddaughter's friends and was terrified by what she was fighting.
Jakadrien was in Colombia. Her own Facebook postings at times seem to suggest she hates her life in Colombia, but then she appears to glow about how happy she is.
Jakadrien Turner is now pregnant. She's been in the custody of Colombian juvenile authorities for more than a month. CNN is told the Colombian government is working on returning her to the United States, but it's not clear what is taking so long.
(on camera): This must be incredibly hard for you to bear.
J. TURNER: I basically stopped working and have just kind of shut myself off from everybody, because you really don't realize how big a city is until someone you love is missing.
LAVANDERA: Wolf, ICE officials just learned about this case a couple of days ago. They say they're taking this very seriously and are still trying to gather all of the facts that led to this situation. But as you can imagine, this has been simply baffling for many, many different people on many different levels -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A14-year-old girl deported to Colombia. Unbelievable.
All right. Thanks very much, Ed. Stay on top of it. If you get some answers, let us know.
It debuted right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Tuesday. We're talking about Erin Burnett's flick Wall in the CNN Election Center. Up next, Stephen Colbert has some fun at our expense.
BLITZER: If you saw our Iowa caucus coverage the other night, you got the first look at our new way of showing polling data with the flick of a wrist. We had some fun with that. So did "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": CNN debuted their new flick technology which allowed them to throw charts at each other across the studio when it wasn't confounding Erin Burnett.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Before I send it back to you and Anderson, we will do a little reverse flick.
BLITZER: OK. Let's see that.
BURNETT: All right. Ready, Wolf? Are you ready?
BURNETT: Yes, very good. The third time is a charm.
BLITZER: The third time is a charm. Excellent flicking.
COLBERT: Erin, you clearly need a lesson in advanced flickology, so join me now at "The Colbert Report" Flicktronic-Tron 5600.
Welcome to the Flicktronic-Tron 5600, where the news will not stay in one place.
OK. Now, let's bring up Erin Burnett's lovely photo and flick!
Where did she go? Where did she go? Where is Erin now, you ask?
Let's see. I'm sensing a presence somewhere -- it's in this area. Young lady, hold still. Are you -- what's -- what's this?
CNN, is this your graphic? Pow!
BLITZER: Very funny stuff. Very funny stuff.
Going to discuss this later with Erin Burnett, see how she feels about this. But that's that.
By the way, on a very different subject, a very serious subject, check out my blog today, my blog post, CNN.com/situationroom. Does Mitt Romney have it all wrapped up? See what I think. Go to CNN.com/situationroom.
And Jack Cafferty is asking: What does it mean when Americans make up half of the world's richest one percent? Your answers coming up.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is: What does it mean when Americans make up half of the world's richest one percent?
Johnny in Los Angeles says, "It proves first and foremost that an economy based on free enterprise will make a nation rich."
M.L. writes, "All well and good, but what does that have to do with the discrepancy here in America between the rich and the poor middle class?"
Robert in Florida, "It means that until recently, America was the land of opportunity. It means until recently, the government didn't try to control every aspect of the American business community. It means that government regulations didn't always stifle growth and punish success."
B. in Missouri writes, "The United States has the richest poor people in the world. Most have a home, many have transportation, and most don't have to beg for food on the streets, even though sometimes they don't get enough to eat."
Michelle on Facebook, "It means that's the reason everybody wants to come to America. It's the land of the free, where anything is possible."
Ron writes, "It means people really don't know how good they have it living in the United States. Do any of those Occupy Wall Street people want to trade places with the average person in Africa, Asia or India?"
And Larry in Texas writes, "Count my blessings on a daily basis and give more to others in need. We are the most fortunate people on earth at this time. But at our current rate, we'll be joining the people in China, India and Africa."
If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.
I think we lose sight sometimes, Wolf, of just how well off we are.
BLITZER: How lucky we are. And to think about one percent of the world. What did you say, 50 percent of America?
CAFFERTY: Fifty percent of the top -- the richest one percent of the world, about 29 million of the 60 million people that qualify as the richest one percent, live right here.
BLITZER: It's a good number to have if you're an American, there's no doubt about that. Bad number for the rest of the world, but good for all of us.
BLITZER: Jack, see you tomorrow. Thank you.
CAFFERTY: OK, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a commercial many of you have seen, but is it real or is it fake? Jeanne Moos goes directly to the source.
BLITZER: You've probably seen the ad, a woman climbing a terrifyingly high rock formation. Is it real or is it fake?
CNN's Jeanne Moos finds out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We talked about getting a diamond --
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These days, when seeing is no longer believing, maybe you've seen this commercial and wonder if you can believe what you see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used my Citi ThankYou card to pick up some accessories -- a new belt, some nylons, and what girl wouldn't need new shoes? I flew us to the rock I really had in mind.
MOOS: The reaction online has been, " This can't be real."
KATIE BROWN, ROCK CLIMBER: Yes, it's real.
ANNOUNCER: The Citi ThankYou card --
MOOS: Thank you for making viewers physically dizzy and sick. "I just can't help getting wiggy when she gets to the top and the camera angle is pointed at her feet, and all you can see is imminent death."
BROWN: It's actually not very technically difficult.
MOOS: It is a rock formation called ancient tower near Moab, Utah, but "Who is that hot ad girl?"
BROWN: I had a camera on the helmet. So, it's me, like, looking at my feet as I walk.
MOOS: The feet belong to Katie Brown. She became one of the top female climbers after she began competing at the age of 15.
Citibank hired her and Alex Honnold to do the commercial. You might recognize Alex from the jaw-dropping piece "60 Minutes" did on him. Alex is famous for free-soloing, climbing incredible rock walls without ropes.
ALEX HONNOLD, CLIMBER: There's no adrenaline rush. You know, if I get a rush, it means that something has gone horribly wrong.
MOOS: In the Citibank commercial, the two climbers were using ropes and no one fell, though Katie says she has had a few scary falls, like this one shot by photographer Carlos Mason.
Viewers of the commercial are almost as curious about the lyrics to the song --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Somebody left the gate open.
MOOS: Is it "Somebody likes potatoes"? "Somebody leggo my Eggo"?
No. A band called LP is singing --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Somebody left the gate open.
MOOS (on camera): Got to give Katie credit -- (voice-over): for being honest about how it felt up there at the tippy-top.
BROWN: It's a little intimidating.
MOOS: The spot ahs even been parodied by someone using footage from a Swedish diaper commercial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Somebody left the gate open.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I flew us to the rock I really had in mind.
MOOS: That high up, who wouldn't need a diaper?
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's amazing. And thank you, Jeanne, for doing that.
Thanks very much for joining us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.