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THE SITUATION ROOM
Rick Santorum Interview; "Disgusting" Video Of U.S. Marines; Ron Paul's "Dangerous" Campaign; Warren Buffett's Challenge to Congress; Disturbing Bus Crashes Caught On Tape; Violence And Protests In Syria
Aired January 11, 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: 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.
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BLITZER: But up first, this video just coming in, a new video that appears, appears to show really disgusting behavior by United States marines in the presence of dead bodies. A Pentagon official says the pictures turned his stomach. An investigation has now been launched. Our pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us with details. What are they saying over there, Barbara? What's going on?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a 39-second video that began to appear on the internet earlier today. For obvious reasons, we are only going to show a blurred still image. This is simply not suitable to be shown. What it does appear to show is four men dressed in Marine Corps combat gear in a war zone urinating on what appears to be three dead bodies of potential insurgents.
The Marine Corps has launched an investigation into all of this. We have to emphasize, as you continue to look at this photo, we do not know when or where exactly it was taken, but there are some interesting clues already emerging. I just spoke to a senior Marine Corps official who says, look at the picture.
You will see that these people dressed in the Marine Corps gear are carrying 30 caliber sniper rifles, especially the marine dressed person closest to you is wearing a helmet, very particular to Marine Corps sniper teams. So, they are going to start looking and seeing if anything matches a potential unit that served potentially in Afghanistan that they might be able to determine who this it was and what exactly were doing here.
By all accounts, they believe this video is legitimate. They do not believe it's a fake, and this is very serious, Wolf. This is U.S. military potentially, potentially desecrating dead bodies -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are they bracing for really an angry response in the Muslim and Arab world to what's going on here?
STARR: Well, I think, you know, it's a bit early right now. This just began to appear on several Web sites in the United States earlier today, but we know the internet, of course. And, anything that appears can go viral and become global very, very quickly.
So, they will be looking to see what reaction is out there, and clearly, they're moving very quickly to establish an investigation, to appoint an investigating officer, and try and pin down exactly who these people are, where they served, what they were doing, and see whether there is the possibility and the appropriateness of bringing charges against them.
The military, you know, ever since some of the initial incidents in Iraq so many years ago, if they've learned nothing else, they have learned to try and move very quickly to contain these incidents which appear to continue to happen over the years because of that very question you raised, Wolf, these go viral there is a reaction around the world when these types of things are seen.
We should emphasize again they have not confirmed when or where these photos were taken, where this video was taken, who was involved in all of it, but there is now an investigation under way, and they hope to pin it all down very quickly, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure they do. They all remember the Abu Ghraib Prison, you referring to that, the disgusting photos that went viral at that time, and the enormous damage it did to the U.S. military in Iraq and elsewhere. All right. We'll stay in close touch, Barbara. Thank you.
Other important news we're following, political news here in the United States. All six Republican presidential candidates are campaigning with a vengeance today in South Carolina only hours after New Hampshire voters gave Mitt Romney his second win of 2012. Ron Paul heads south with added momentum from a second-place finish last night in New Hampshire.
He's warning that he's dangerous to the status quo and to Romney's chances of winning the presidential nomination, but South Carolina is a very different battleground. Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is covering Ron Paul's campaign for us. He was impressive in his second place finish, Dana, last night. What's happening today?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he said, that they're very different battlegrounds. There's no question here in New Hampshire this is very different political terrain than South Carolina where Ron Paul was today. But, look, after decades of trying to sell his message with out a lot of buyers, he was clearly energized by his big showing here last night.
REP. RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you very much. BASH (voice-over): For Ron Paul, New Hampshire's silver medal was a big win.
PAUL: We had a victory for something very important in this country. We had a victory for the cause of liberty last night.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: This quick one-stop trip to South Carolina an attempt to capitalize.
PAUL: We are not a small minority any longer, and we're constantly growing. And we are going to have a lot of influence with the future of this country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: In an exclusive interview with CNN minutes after learning of his second-place New Hampshire showing, Paul suggested it's now a two-man race.
Are you now the buffer between Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican candidates?
PAUL: I don't know what you want to call it, but I know that we're next in line to him. So, I would say that we're the only ones really in the race with him, and we'll have to remain to be seen what turns out.
If this momentum is going to continue, we are going to have to do the work, and it takes a lot of work.
BASH: Paul's aides admit he doesn't have close to the kind of organization in South Carolina than he did in Iowa and New Hampshire, but CNN is told he plans to spend about a million there. TV ads like this one are already running, attacking Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One serial hypocrite exposed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went the other way when he got paid to go the other way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, another has emerged, Rick Santorum.
BASH: A million dollars is a lot of cash in a state where television time isn't all that expensive (ph). And Paul will, of course, rely heavily on something money can't buy, love. Intense energy from his ardent supporters, especially young people who travel the country to volunteer for his campaign. In New Hampshire, 76-year- old Paul won 46 percent of the youth vote, far more than any other GOP candidate. His message is consistent, anti-interventionist --
PAUL: What we need to do is say that, once again, this country should never go to war, unless, the war is declared, win it and come home. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: And libertarian.
PAUL: The purpose of all political action from my viewpoint is the protection of liberty. That's what it should be.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH (on-camera): Now, Paul's problem is that plays big here in the live free or die state. Voters in South Carolina are traditionally more socially conservative, less libertarian, but, Wolf, Paul is banking on the fact that this election year is anything but traditional, and he was making it abundantly clear that he intends to stay in the race for the long haul. GOP nominee or not, he wants to take his message and his movement all the way to the Republican convention -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thank you. Dana Bash reporting.
While his Republican rivals duke it out, President Obama is shoring up support on his home turf. He's on his way to Chicago where he'll speak at several campaign fundraising events tonight. Earlier, the president met with executives of 14 companies at the White House to talk about issue number one in the election, jobs.
You saw live pictures of the president arriving in Chicago, air force one. The whole situation is bringing -- the president is trying to show that positions that have been outsourced to other countries can be brought back to the United States.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want America to be a nation that's primarily known for financial speculation and racking up debt bank stuff from other nations. I want us to be known for making and selling products all over the world stamped with three proud words, made in America. And we can make that happen.
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BLITZER: The president was making probably a not such a thinly veiled shot at Mitt Romney and his record when he ran a private investment firm of outsourcing some jobs. We're going to talk about that a little bit later this hour.
President Obama finds himself in the middle of a very unusual fight right now. Get this, a Democratic senator, not a Republican senator, a Democratic senator is blocking one of his judicial nominees. That's right. Robert Menendez of New Jersey is blocking that nominee. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is taking a closer look into this for us. This is extraordinary, Brianna. What do we know?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of political intrigue, Wolf, and actually, some new developments at this hour. The chief of staff for Senator Menendez says he is open to having another meeting with the judicial nominee that he is blocking, Patty Schwartz, if she asks for it.
Now, that may seem like a small development on its face, but it's a sign that, ultimately, he could change his mind and step out of the way of blocking his nominee. But for right now, his official objection stands, and that means that a confirmation hearing cannot proceed.
KEILAR (voice-over): It's a regular thing for President Obama, having his nominees held up in the Senate, but not by a Democrat. New Jersey senator, Robert Menendez is blocking the nomination of federal judge, Patty Schwartz, to the powerful Third Circuit Court of Appeals, one step below the Supreme Court. It's a most unusual situation.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's almost unprecedented in recent American history for a member of the president's own party to stop one of that president's judicial nomination.
KEILAR: So, why is Menendez standing in the way? He said in a written statement that Schwartz didn't know her facts during his formal interview with her, specifically, on the recent landmark campaign finance case, Citizens United. But Schwartz' supporters says it's revenge.
She once worked for Republican Chris Christie when he was U.S. attorney for New Jersey before he was elected governor. Under Christie's direction, Schwartz' longtime boyfriend, James Nobile, oversaw a corruption investigation of Menendez. It was criticized as a political move, launched in the middle of the senator's 2006 reelection battle.
Ultimately, it found no wrongdoing, but bad blood remains. Now, the White House is in an awkward position, squaring off against a senator from the president's own party.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We, obviously, want to see all of the president's nominees considered in a timely manner. And, we would like this nominee also to be considered in a timely manner.
KEILAR: Pressure is mounting on Menendez to get out of the way. His hometown newspaper, "The Star Ledger," put the story on its front- page this weekend. Tuesday, the editorial pages for both "The Washington Post" and the "New York Times" piled on. But for now, the fate of Patty Schwartz' nomination remains in the hands of one senator.
TOOBIN: Current Senate procedure gives senators a virtual veto right over judges in their home state. Unless, he changes his mind, it seems like her nomination is dead in the water.
KEILAR: And perhaps, Wolf, a sign that it's not dead in the water now that Senator Menendez just through his chief of staff saying that he will meet with Patty Schwartz and a statement here that we got just a short time ago from a White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, saying we are regretful that the senator's motives were questioned, and we're hopeful he will give the nominee a chance to address his concerns.
Sounds like he is, Wolf. No doubt some coordination here between the White House and the senator's office as they try to move past what's an awkward situation, really.
BLITZER: All right. So, it's a developing story, we should say, and you'll update us if you get some more news. Brianna, thank you.
Jack Cafferty is joining us right now. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If the Republican primary race was a movie, the director might be ready to yell cut, print, that's a wrap. Mitt Romney's plowing ahead in the South Carolina with a win at his back after becoming the first non-incumbent Republican in modern history to win both Iowa and New Hampshire.
He may now be all but unstoppable. Not too bad, considering the Republicans have spent the last year trying out a whole roaster of other candidates as the Anti-Romney. They've kicked the tires for everyone from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich, most recently, Rick Santorum.
And despite brief spikes in the polls, none of these other candidates has been able to present a serious challenge to Mitt Romney. And if they're going to, they better start. Time is running shorter. CNN contributor, John Avlon, writes for "The Daily Beast" that Romney is, quote, "ready for primetime" after his double-digit New Hampshire victory.
Consider this, Romney won almost every major demographic group in New Hampshire. He won catholic voters, Romney is a Mormon, and he ran against two Catholics. He won evangelical voters and Tea Party supporters, despite all the talk that Romney wasn't conservative enough for the right-wing of the party.
And the rest of the crowd doesn't seem to get it. Despite weak performances in New Hampshire, I think Perry got one percent of the vote, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Perry, they're all going to stumble on into South Carolina. There's an old expression where I grew up out there in Nevada. When it's over, it's over.
So, here's the question, is the Republican race over? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I heard somebody say the other day, Jack, it ain't over until the fat lady sings. You know that expression, of course.
CAFFERTY: Is that Yogi Berra?
BLITZER: Yes, somebody said that, but the fat lady hasn't sung, but some rotund women are out there rehearsing right now. It's not my line, I heard that in some place. I thought it was --
CAFFERTY: You know, I'm glad you didn't take credit for it.
BLITZER: I'm just copying somebody. All right. Thanks very much.
CNN is inside Syria right now documenting new bloodshed, including the death of a French journalist. Our own Nic Robertson is in Syria. He finally got inside. He finds Syrians who fear President Bashar al-Assad, and even an American woman who says she supports the Bashar al-Assad regime.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president was forced to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be chaos, big, big chaos. It's his -- the security there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a peaceful president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The deadly months-along uprising in Syria has now claimed the life of the first western journalist. Here's some graphic video of purportedly showing the horrific scene only moments after a well-known French reporter was killed during a mortar strike in the city of Homs. He was part of a group of international journalists on a rare government-authorized minded trip into the country.
Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is also on that trip, but he managed to capture an exclusive glimpse of the bitter desperation and the heartbreak we hardly ever get to see in Syria.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A body carried high. A sister uncontrollable with grief. This is an anti-government rally barley 15 minutes from Syria's capital. They've come to bury a 32-year-old man they say was killed by pro-government gunmen.
(on-camera) The level of anger and passion here is absolutely palpable. We're just a few miles from the center of Damascus, and the crowd here -- thank you. Thank you. This is a crowd perhaps of several thousand people. They've taken over the poll area. They put rocks in the road to prevent the police coming in here.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): It is a rare opportunity to meet the people who want to overthrow Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is very bad. We are only want to be like you, like the western people. We want to be freedom. We want to be free people. Look at him, 32 years old, only because he said (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ROBERTSON: Who killed him? Who's responsible?
The government is responsible. Bashar al-Assad is responsible. Bashar al-Assad is killing us only because we want to be like you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid when I'm talking to you right now. Why? Because I'm going to lift this scarf and go into my home and I'm not 100 percent sure that I'm going to be safe. Because if not today, if not tomorrow, they will arrest me.
ROBERTSON: The defiance possible, because two orange jacketed Arab league monitors are here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are here, without them, you don't -- you will never going to see any protester.
ROBERTSON: Even so, protesters told us they didn't trust the Arab league mission.
(on-camera) The monitors tell us this is one of the most difficult and dangerous situation for them. The people are angry. The crowd is volatile. Everyone wants to go (ph) through. The monitors say the most important thing that they can do is be neutral, take down all the information, and show that they are completely impartial.
(voice-over) Everyone here has something to say. Many push forward to show injuries they say were inflicted by government forces.
(on-camera) Absolutely desperate to show us the level of suffering. And they say they can't go to the hospitals, because if they do, the government hospitals, they fear being arrested. Some of the injuries we're seeing here seems to show signs that they're not being treated as well as they could be.
(voice-over) When the monitors leave, so do we. Within minutes, they are stopped.
(on-camera) We're barely half a mile from that anti-government rally, and here, there are pro-government supporters now blocking the road, a small group trying to show the monitors that their support for Bashar al-Assad. It appears to be an impromptu demonstration, but it's surprising, because, clearly, they knew this was the way the monitor were going to come.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): And it's not the only pro-government rally in town. At least two others. Here a huge P.A. system blasts the president's message. Government troops dancing with the crowds.
(on-camera) The most striking difference between this pro- government rally and the opposition rallies that we've seen, here, it's a celebration, it's a carnival atmosphere. At the opposition rallies, there is absolute real fear in people's eyes, they're terrified of their situation.
(voice-over) Here, they say, they trust the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bashar al-Assad is a good man. If you want to see, you can see. That's real here.
ROBERTSON: And they believe the government line that opposition is fabricated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not legal opposition.
ROBERTSON: What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This opposition is not legal.
ROBERTSON: It's not real?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Legal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not for real.
ROBERTSON: How do you mean not legal or real?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a fake.
ROBERTSON: Few here will talk about the danger of Syria imploding into sectarian chaos. This American woman and her Syrian husband an exception.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president was forced to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it will be a big, big chaos. It's his -- the security forces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a peaceful president. He likes to see all religions get along. He's a peaceful man.
ROBERTSON: So, now, Assad remains in control for the most part, but it's hard to imagine his supporters and opponents can be kept apart much longer.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Damascus, Syria.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Excellent reporting by our Nic Robertson, and Nic is joining us on the phone right now from Damascus. Nic, this story shocked me. I know it shocked a lot of people all over the world today. The killing of this French journalist, a well-known French journalist who's on the same government-sponsored visit as you are right now. You were there apparently with them. Tell us what happened.
ROBERTSON: We were in Homs, and we spent the day in Homs with government official minders (ph) being shown around various parts of the city. We weren't able to go to any of the option-held areas. He (ph) was with a different group of journalists. They've been invited into the country. Officially, they were there.
We both -- our group and his group were invited to go to a pro- government rally. We told the government minders with us that we didn't want to go. We've seen too many rallies, and they've said that's fine, and we leave. And as were leaving, we've been standing around filming in that area just before. And as we were leaving, we saw the group of journalists he was with going toward the rally.
Within ten minutes of leaving that area, we began to get calls that Jill (ph) and the others had been hit in some mortar rounds explosion as they covered the rally. Apparently, one mortar round hit a roof. The journalists rushed to the roof to film it. Another mortar round hit, they rushed to film that as well, and another mortar round landed right in the middle of the journalists.
And that's how -- when's Jill (ph) was injured, his partner, a photographer, she came to the car where he was being bundled into a taxi to be taken to a hospital. And at first, she doesn't realize it's the man she loves lying in the back of the car, her head is slightly bleeding. And people are telling her, get in the car, get in the car.
Go to hospital. It all happened very quickly. And of course, a lot of people asking questions now, who was responsible?
BLITZER: Did you know Jill (ph)?
ROBERTSON: I knew Jill (ph) a little bit. We spent a lot of time in the ricks (ph) of hotel in Libya just over a year ago covering the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi. I'd also met his partner as well. I didn't know them intimately well. It's a very sad day. And I think this is (INAUDIBLE) to small corps of journalists here quite heavily, Wolf.
The government mind us that the rally was targeted. The pro- government rally was targeted by opposition forces, because they knew international journalists were there, but I think a lot of us feel that probably -- that may not very well not be the truth, Wolf.
BLITZER: I just want to say, our deepest condolences, obviously, to his family and friends, and be careful over there, Nic. Also, you have a great photographer, Khalil Abdullah, from our Washington, D.C. bureau. He's doing a magnificent job as he always does, and Tommy Evans, your producer. All three of you, please be careful over there. We'll check in with you tomorrow. How many more days that you guys planning on staying there?
ROBERTSON: Wolf, it's almost a day-by-day basis. We were supposed to leave today. We had a few days extended onto our visas, and we'll see how long it goes.
BLITZER: Nic, Tommy, and Khalil are three of the most courageous journalists we have working for CNN. We're grateful to them for their reporting.
The state department is further reducing its embassy staff in Damascus amid all this heightened security concern. Took out a new travel warning today ordering a number of U.S. embassy employees to leave Syria as soon as possible.
Rick Santorum under attack. His rival, Ron Paul, now labeling him, and I'm quoting him, "one of the most corrupt members of Congress" in a brand new ad. Rick Santorum is standing by. He'll respond.
And the billionaire, Warren Buffett, has a new plan to try to pay down the U.S. national debt ahead. The new pledge he's issuing to Republicans in Congress.
BLITZER: New challenge from Republicans from the billionaire, businessman, and investor, Warren Buffett. There's a new cover story on Buffett in the new issue of "Time" magazine. It's owned by our same parent company as CNN.
We're joined now by "Time's" managing editor, Rick Stengel. Fascinating interview you got with Warren Buffett, Rick, and the issues of challenge to Republicans in Congress. First, give us the background and then tell us what the challenge is.
RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": Actually, Wolf, he's answering a challenge that Republicans made to him a few months ago when he wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" saying, "I should be paying more taxes. My assistant pays a greater percentage of her taxes than I do."
Mitch McConnell said, well, if Warren fells so guilty, he can pay more taxes on his own. And the Republican created a Buffett rule which voluntarily allow people to pay more taxes.
But Warren's response is, A, taxes are not philanthropy, the government should be deciding how much people pay, and then he issued a challenge, saying any Republican who wants to pay more taxes, I'll meet it dollar for dollar. And in the case of Mitch McConnell, I will make it 3 to 1.
BLITZER: That's his challenge.
He's been very supportive of President Obama so far, hasn't he? STENGEL: He's a very big supporter of President Obama. He was a lifelong Republican who became a Democrat a number of years ago. He has a very progressive view of the way tax policy should work.
On the other hand, he doesn't think there should be many regulations governing banks and things like that. His views are an interesting, contrarian mix of things, and that's what makes the story so interesting.
BLITZER: Very quickly, also, Rick, President Obama, he gave a speech calling for insourcing, as opposed to outsourcing today, saying we've got to create more jobs here in the United States instead of exporting them someplace else like China or India.
I saw it and a lot of people saw it as a thinly-veiled criticism of Mitt Romney, who, when he was CEO of Bain Capital, wound up outsourcing some jobs from companies that Bain Capital bought. Did you see it like that as well?
STENGEL: Well, I think that was the subtext in some ways. At the same time, everybody is in favor of insourcing -- Mitt Romney, every Republican, the president, and Democrats. People would like to have jobs come back here that had been exported.
And by the way, one of the counterintuitive functions of having high unemployment and people looking for jobs is that, in some ways, it will be easier to insource some jobs, because people are working for lower wages here now relative to what they were working before and relative to some wage earners in India and China.
BLITZER: The new issue of "TIME" magazine, "The Optimist" is on the cover, Warren Buffett. I suspect all of our view who read that interview, read the article, are going to learn something.
Rick Stengel, as usual, thank you.
STENGEL: Thank you so much, Wolf.
BLITZER: When we come back, I'll speak with Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate. We have got lots to discuss. I'll leave it at that.
Also, scary crashes all caught on videotape, dozens of them. You may never feel safe on a bus again after you see this.
BLITZER: Rick Santorum's presidential campaign says it's raised $3 million in the past week since he came in a very close second in Iowa. And we're told he'll spend at least half of that money on ads in South Carolina. Senator Santorum is hoping for a strong showing if the first southern contest after finishing next to last in New Hampshire last night.
Rick Santorum is joining us from Columbia, South Carolina, right now.
Senator, as usual, thanks very much for coming in.
How do you have to finish in South Carolina to keep on going to Florida. What is your hope?
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, our hope is to finish first. That's what we tried to do in Iowa.
We understood when it was not a possibility in New Hampshire, but we felt that we could come down here and compete, and vigorously compete here in South Carolina, and try to repeat that performance of being in the top two or three here in South Carolina. This is just another step in the process for us, but we think we fit South Carolina well. We've got a good team down here, and we're getting a lot of very positive response so far to the message of economic growth, limited government, strong national security experience. And we've got the package that I think that fits well.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich says if Romney wins in South Carolina, in his words, he's probably going to be the nominee. You agree with the former Speaker?
SANTORUM: No, I don't agree with him. You know, I feel like, you know, we need to get this race down to two people. And -- you know, I shouldn't say three, because Ron Paul I don't think is going to drop out. But we need to get it down to two people who can be the nominee, and I'm hopeful that after South Carolina, we can finish strongly here and show the conservatives in this country that they can rally behind somebody who can take on Mitt Romney and successfully, more importantly, take on Barack Obama and win this election with a principled conservative who can make the changes that are necessary in this country after we beat Barack Obama.
So, to me, a win without the kind of change we need in this country is not the win we need. We need to have someone who has got the record of being someone who can make big changes in Washington. And I've done that.
BLITZER: And you don't think Mitt Romney is that man?
SANTORUM: Well, if you look at his record as governor of Massachusetts, it's not someone who was able to lead and make the changes. He governed over doing more of what the left wanted to do.
We've been doing that for a long time in Washington. We don't need anybody else to come and do that. We can put anybody in there.
We need someone who has a record of repealing entitlements, not adding entitlements. We need someone who has a record of standing up and fighting for the family, not someone who's not been successful in doing that.
There's a lot of differences between the two of us that, as this race gets down to two people, that we'll be able to highlight. And hopefully they'll see that we're the stronger candidate, we can make this race about Barack Obama and his failure, as opposed to the problems that Mitt Romney had as he was governor that look a lot like Barack Obama's policies.
BLITZER: I think I read a quote from you saying that Mitt Romney would only be marginally better than President Obama. Is that an accurate quote?
SANTORUM: Well, marginally, you know, it depends on the term. He'll be substantially better on some fronts. Others he won't be -- in my opinion, won't be that much better at all.
So I think we need someone who's got bold ideas and not someone who has, as "The Wall Street Journal" says, timid ideas on the economy. We need big changes, we need someone who is going to be willing to go out and attack that deficit, and drive down the cost of spending, get rid of the regulatory burden that's crushing businesses.
And again, we've got a track record of showing that, and Governor Romney has been, you know, more timid. And we don't need that. We don't need that contrast.
BLITZER: Ron Paul has a new ad that he's put out in South Carolina. I don't know if you've seen it, but it directly goes after you. He's got a lot of money, as you well know, Ron Paul's campaign.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR (voice-over): Santorum promised to stand with workers, then sided with big money union bosses and opposed the Right to Work Act. Santorum promised to fight the special interests, then took the most lobbyist cash in Washington and was named one of the most corrupt members in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow. "One of the most corrupt members in Congress."
Go ahead and respond to Congressman Paul.
SANTORUM: Well, I said this in the debate the other night. I mean, the organization that named me the most corrupt member of Congress is one of these George Soros left-wing organization that names every Republican up for election as one of the most corrupt members of Congress. He starts citing these radical left-wing organizations as his source for this, it's pretty bizarre.
And as far as the right to work issue, I've admitted, you know, when I represented the state of Pennsylvania, it was not a right to work state. And I wasn't going to change the law for Pennsylvania.
As president, I don't represent Pennsylvania, I represent the country, and I believe -- and I said I would sign a right to work law. And it's one thing as a member of Congress when you represent a state and you don't want to change that story, it's another one when you're leading the country and you're doing what you think is best for the country.
BLITZER: You know, I don't know if you're ready how ugly it's going to get over the next 10 days between now and the primary in South Carolina, but even Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, he's going after Mitt Romney, his record as a venture capitalist. He's saying he was a vulture capitalist, and he said this -- listen to Rick Perry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're just vultures. They're vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick. And then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you comfortable with that kind of language?
SANTORUM: No. You know, this is -- you know, you have capitalism where you have companies that are takeover opportunities because the management hasn't done a good job at managing the company, and someone comes in and tries to save that company and turn it around. And sometimes you're successful and sometimes you're not.
The idea that Bain Capital, at least from the record I've looked at, has had a lot of success. I mean, they weren't a company that has a long track record of basically destroying companies and selling off the pieces.
You know, they've had some situations where they had failures, but every company does. I mean, I'd hate to sit here and be a defender of Mitt Romney, but to me, this is a defender of capitalism. And I have to say that, you know, this is an attack that's probably not warranted.
There's plenty of Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts to attack and go after as his not being the best candidate to run against Barack Obama, or necessarily to lead the conservative charge in Washington, D.C., but I don't think going after capitalism and companies that, in many cases, do a public good in saving companies is the way to go about doing that.
BLITZER: Yes. I must say, I've been pretty surprised by the discourse that's unfolding right now, and I suspect it's about to get a whole lot nastier. So get ready, Senator. We'll stay in close touch with you. Good luck.
SANTORUM: Well, this is not my first rodeo, so I've been bucked a few times. I'm looking forward to it.
It's nice to be in the fray, nice to be in the arena. And thank you, Wolf, for putting me on the program. I appreciate it.
And if you want to help, go to ricksantorum.com. We've got a money bob (ph). I had to put the pitch in.
BLITZER: You did, and you did it well. Thank you, Senator. Thanks very much.
Rogue buses in the nation's capital, dozens of accidents all caught on videotape.
BLITZER: Washington, D.C.'s public transit system is in serious hot water right now following the release of dozens of shocking collisions and close calls all caught on tape.
Brian Todd is joining us now. He's got the details.
Brian, what's going on here?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Metro bus officials say these videos don't represent the safety records of their drivers, but in many cases, the clips illustrate what appears to be distraction and, as one safety advocate says, recklessness.
TODD (voice-over): Brace yourself. On the right side of your screen, you're about to see a pedestrian get hit by a bus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no!
TODD: The pedestrian, we're told, wasn't seriously injured.
Here, a bus slams into an SUV stopped in a school zone. Deja vu. Another one hits an SUV at an intersection with a child nearby.
In clip after clip, collision or close call, all involving Metro buses from Washington, D.C., the sixth largest city system in the U.S. CNN Radio affiliate WTOP got the clips from the bus systems through a public records request. The station says it got 134 near-collision videos, dozens showing actual collisions and violations covering just a two-month period last summer.
They're recorded on device called DriveCam activated by G-force. In some of them the incidents clearly are not the fault of the bus drivers, but in at least three of the clips, buses are shown running red lights. Look at this near miss.
(on camera): I mean, that's pretty egregious, right?
JOAN CLAYBROOK, PUBLIC CITIZEN: It is egregious, and it's clearly the inattention of the driver that's at issue here.
TODD (voice-over): We went through the clips with Joan Claybrook of the safety watchdog group Public Citizen.
CLAYBROOK: They clearly need to have more training if you have examples like there -- and there are quite a number of these -- in a short period of time.
TODD: This, in a city with millions of pedestrian tourists on the street each year.
(on camera): In addition to her comments about the possible lack of adequate training, Claybrook is concerned that a lot of these Metro bus drivers simply aren't aware enough of the sheer size and destructive capability of these vehicles.
(voice-over): Claybrook says distractions are a huge problems among city bus drivers and says some make mistakes from the stress of trying to keep up with schedules.
We approached some Metro bus drivers on the street to ask about their training. They wouldn't comment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you boarding the bus?
TODD (on camera): No. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then step back, please.
TODD: Can you talk to us though about your training, anything like that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, sir.
TODD (voice-over): But Metro official Jack Requa says the training is excellent that their drivers have an exceptional safety record, especially considering what they're up against.
JACK REQUA, METRO ASSISTANT GM: We carry about 543,000 passengers on a given weekday. We've got the challenges of pedestrians, double parking, events that are taking place, construction. But the numbers are getting better and we think that the program works.
TODD: That means he says that they're using these videos as a training tool for their driver. Now, Metro bus officials say accidents are trending down, with only two customer injuries per one million passengers trips -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's a question, though, Brian. Are they disciplining these drivers for these incidents?
TODD: They say they have done that in some of these cases of those videotaped incidents. And they say they do have a zero tolerance policy on distraction. If a driver is caught just once using a cell phone while driving, they're fired. And they also point this area of Washington, D.C., may be the most congested in the country and has some of the worst drivers in the country.
BLITZER: And they better never text, either.
Jack Cafferty is coming up next with your e-mail.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question is: Is the Republican race over?
And Wolf, I couldn't hear anything you said during the intro, so if I didn't react properly, that's the reason.
Paul in North Carolina writes, "Most likely it is, but it shouldn't be. The only person in the Republican field I would consider voting for at any level is Jon Huntsman. But the extremist majority in the GOP won't even give him a second look. They're so fixated on defeating Obama, they would nominate Genghis Khan if they thought he could win."
Bizz writes, "I hope not. This is like watching a good soap opera that's real. You have Romney, who givers whenever somebody mentions revealing his taxes; the bad Gingrich showed up; Rick Perry is acting like he doesn't know what he got himself into; and Rick Santorum is defending life while wanting to bomb Iran. Add to all of this Ron Paul scaring the hell out of the Republican Party with his strong showings and it adds up to being great stuff."
Rich writes, "Sure is. The Republicans know Romney is their only chance to defeat the president. Since he's not a conservative but a moderate, the Republicans really don't like him, but they're holding their nose and voting for him in the primaries."
Cory writes on Facebook, "Mitt won Iowa by eight votes and was predicted to win New Hampshire for the last year. How is the race over? Do two states speak for the United States?"
David writes, "Probably over. For Romney to lose, then three of the four, Santorum, Newt, Perry and Huntsman, would have to drop out and unify against him. I don't think they have enough humility among them to fill a teaspoon. Thus, Romney will win it by default."
And Ann in Charleston, South Carolina, where the next primary is in 10 days, "Not so fast. The bubbas and good old boys down here in South Deliverance country haven't spoken yet."
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 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
Jeanne Moos coming up next.
BLITZER: Here's Jeanne Moos on Twinkies.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twinkie Twinkie little cake, how I wonder how many more of you they'll make?
(on camera): Hostess filed for bankruptcy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
MOOS (voice-over): It's premature to panic. We don't need to save the Twinkie yet, we need to savor it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that golden cake. That cream inside that just bursts in your mouth with a nice coffee and a cigarette after?
MOOS (on camera): Here, you can have one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm good. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I'm on a diet.
MOOS (voice-over): No wonder Hostess has filed for bankruptcy for the second time in seven years. But the icon lives on.
Bill Clinton sealed a millennium time capsule with a Twinkie inside. Jon Stewart served one to the then president of Pakistan.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": This is an American delicacy. It's called a Twinkie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember putting hot dogs inside of them.
MOOS: We actually made those using the Twinkie as a bun drizzled with Cheese Whiz.
You can divide the world into opposing camps.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They give me a stomachache. They're kind of disgusting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a delicious log of joy.
MOOS: Part of the joy has been to torture the log. Nerds have dropped it six floors. On CakeSpy, they dreamed up 51 ways to kill a Twinkie, ranging from crush it in a cell phone, to feed it to a snake, to make it listen to Randy Newman.
RANDY NEWMAN, SINGER (singing): Short people got --
MOOS: It was the star of the Golden Twinkie Awards.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twinkies make poor doorstops. Twinkies don't make good wind chimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone knows there are only two things that can survive a nuclear Holocaust: cockroaches and Twinkies. MOOS: Thanks to a now-retired science teacher in Maine who saved one as a class project, we know what an almost 40-year-old Twinkie looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's brittle.
MOOS (on camera): Do you think it's edible?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't want to try it.
MOOS: By the way, the maker of the Twinkie says its shelf life is actually 25 days.
(voice-over): There are humans who have never tasted a Twinkie.
For this Australian couple, it was their first bite.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mmm. They're yum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Don't stop making Twinkies.
MOOS: Hostess says that during the bankruptcy proceedings, "we're going to operate business as normal." They'll keep making Twinkies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodness, they make you feel good. It's hard not to smile when you eat a Twinkie.
MOOS (on camera): Would you like a Twinkie?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No thank you.
MOOS (voice-over): The company says it owes more than $1 billion to creditors. That's a lot of Twinkies.
Jeanne Moss, CNN --
(on camera): A toast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cha-ching.
(voice-over): -- New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.