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THE SITUATION ROOM
Battle for Florida; Occupy Protesters Clash With D.C. Police; Newt Gingrich Interview; Romney: Gingrich Can't Connect; Carney: GOP Chairman Going "Too Far"; Who's Funding The Super PACs?; Police Chief Retiring After Scandal; Carnival: Wreck Will Cost $150 Million; Gates Foundation: $363 Million To Fight Diseases; A Deadly Game of Cat And Mouse
Aired January 30, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Primary eve in Florida, and Mitt Romney's campaign is going at Newt Gingrich full force with an assault that the former House speaker is now seen as being on the ropes.
Also, a loud standoff in Washington between Occupy protesters who refuse to leave and police who want to disband their camp. The next few hours could be the most tense yet.
Plus, a doctor accused of treason for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden. Will Pakistan put him on trial?
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He arrived with a swagger fresh off his impressive South Carolina victory, but what a difference nine days have made for Newt Gingrich in Florida. On this, the eve of the state's closely-watched primary, Gingrich is facing an all-out assault from Mitt Romney's formidable operation in Florida.
CNN's Joe Johns is seeing it all firsthand. He also had a one- on-one interview with Newt Gingrich earlier in the day and we will see that interview at the bottom of the hour.
Meantime, Joe, 15 hours until the polls open. What's the latest?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it has just been a very hectic 24 hours for the Gingrich campaign and a very different picture of the race is starting to emerge since Gingrich took the Palmetto State primary by storm.
JOHNS (voice-over): This was a far cry from his big showing in South Carolina, where former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich got the favorite son of the South treatment. In Florida his campaign came under attack from every direction imaginable, starting with a massive television advertising campaign that Gingrich has referred to in military terms. NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has a basic policy of carpet-bombing his opponent. He doesn't try to build up Mitt Romney. He just tries to tear down whoever he's running against.
JOHNS: And the ads were only the beginning. Romney surrogates like Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz starting showing up at Gingrich events responding to his speeches almost in real time.
It got to the point where the former speak's secretary had no choice but to confront Chaffetz, taking the media focus off the main event, which was supposed to be the former speaker's speech.
RICK TYLER, FORMER NEWT GINGRICH AIDE: No, Gingrich is more qualified to be president. And that's why you're following him instead of Romney.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I'm just going to offer a little perspective.
TYLER: On why you think Gingrich should be president.
CHAFFETZ: On why I think that Mitt Romney should be the president of the United States.
TYLER: OK. All right.
JOHNS: There was seemingly no place for the Gingrich campaign to run or hide from the onslaught and they didn't seem to have an effective way to defend themselves.
When Gingrich showed up to speak at this well-attended event Sunday in the sprawling retirement community known at The Villages, the Romney campaign had already reprinted a letter from Bob Dole endorsing Romney in the community newspaper. Not even the pro- Gingrich independent expenditure pro-super PAC could help him that much. Rick Tyler, a Gingrich supporter, said they couldn't compete with the money.
TYLER: My understanding is they have spent $15 million, their super PAC, which I lovingly refer to as destroy our future. And then we have sent about $6 million, so we are never going to match them dollar-for-dollar but I think this is really a grassroots campaign.
JOHNS: Gingrich has said he plans to stay in the race all the way to the convention. And in an interview, he described a campaign going forward that sharply characterizes Mitt Romney.
GINGRICH: We're going to tell the truth much more explicitly and much more aggressively. I don't believe the Republican Party will nominate a liberal.
JOHNS: The Romney organization frankly has been working for years on Florida and other states as well and now it's up to the Gingrich camp to show how they plan to compete -- Wolf. BLITZER: And you say the crowds have been impressive at these Gingrich events over there in Florida?
JOHNS: There have been a lot of crowds that have been very impressive especially at The Villages just yesterday on Sunday. However, we have also seen some smaller crowds. We saw a very small crowd at a church setting in the Orlando area.
So it sort of varies, very different I would say from South Carolina, where it seems like everywhere he went the crowds just grew and grew as you got closer to the primary, Wolf.
BLITZER: Only a fewer hours left to go. Thank you very much, Joe.
Mitt Romney appears to be taking some pleasure from Newt Gingrich's position and he says the former speaker is -- quote -- "flailing." Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This sure is fun. What a day this is. I'll tell you, with a turnout like this, I'm beginning we feel we might win tomorrow. What do you think?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: Gosh, you know, I know the speaker's not real happy, Speaker Gingrich. He's not feeling very excited these days.
I know. It's sad. He's been flailing around a bit trying to go after me for one thing or the other. And you just watch it and you shake your head. It's been kind of painfully revealing to watch. But I think the reason he isn't doing so well is because of those last two debates. Don't you think?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot more presidential politics coming up, including Joe Johns' one-on-one interview with Newt Gingrich only a few minutes away. Stand by for that. And stay with us tomorrow for complete coverage of the Florida primary right here in THE SITUATION ROOM," continuing "JOHN KING, USA."
And starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, I will join Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, John King, all of our award-winning political team, for live coverage of the Florida primary results.
Meantime, we're following a potentially explosive situation in Washington, D.C., where Occupy protesters are vowing to stay their ground as police try to disband their camp. The next few hours could be the most intense.
Our own Brian Todd has been there all day watching what's going on.
What's the latest over there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this has been one of the most active and contentious 24-hour periods since the Occupiers moved into this park in October.
Take a look behind me. Right there you have got the statue of James McPherson here. They have pulled a huge tarp over it stamped with protest sayings and everything here. What's going on is that the police say they may move in here soon to crack down on what they call campers. They want people to remove bedding and they want them to remove personal items, anything that's a sign that people are going to stay overnight here.
But as you can see, the protesters are really not moving and they have vowed to stay here. So we could have some confrontation here in the next few hours. Again, they're going to be -- the police have already come through here, done a walk-through to check out some of these encampments here to see if people are actually going to be sleeping.
Now, people have removed some of their bedding and we have been told by the police that there have been some compliance here. So they don't expect mass arrests. And they will only target certain people who are in violation. But if it gets contentious and if a lot of people stay and are determined to sleep here, then there could be some trouble.
This has all come against a backdrop of even more tension in recent hours between protesters and police.
TODD (voice-over): A massive tarp stamped with protest messages is pulled over the statue of civil war hero, James McPherson. These Occupy D.C. protesters have been here since October expressing sustained anger over what they believe is an out of touch corporate, financial and political elite.
But the National Park Service has been pressured by some in Congress and the D.C. government to crackdown. So Park Service police have moved open campers getting protesters to remove bedding and personal items so they don't stay overnight.
So far, no mass arrests, but most protesters vow to stay. And tension is building, evidenced when a police news conference was interrupted.
SGT. DAVID SCHLOSSER, U.S. PARK POLICE: It's our goal that we can have everybody exercise the First Amendment rights but they also must be able to do so in a manner that's healthy and safe within this environment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, if you don't comply, do you get Tased? I'm just serious. If we don't comply with your rules and regulations, you get Tased? I'm pretty sure we do because it happened yesterday.
SCHLOSSER: So we're looking for compliance.
TODD: The protester was talking about an incident on Sunday night when police used a Taser on a demonstrator, a spectacle posted on YouTube.
Protesters say it happened after the man went from tent to tent removing notices posted by the Park Service. The Park Service has not commented. Its officers heard loudly about their tactics later.
(on camera): Got a protester here kind of taunting the Park Police over here, Park Police officials here just kind of standing at the ready possibly to move in. A couple protesters here have taken turns standing in front of them and taunting them and so the tension here is building quite a lot right now. We will see if they move in any time soon.
(voice-over): I asked protester Emily Margaret about what prompted the police to tighten up.
(on camera): Some local business owners and others have complained about sanitation conditions here, about petty crime in this area, and they're basically fed up with it. What do you say to that?
EMILY MARGARET, PROTESTER: I would say they're way worse crimes going on in this city than what's going on here. There are issues here, but, you know, that's what happens in our society. It's like a microcosm of our society.
TODD: And Margaret and others we spoke with say they will be here as long as it takes to get their message across.
As Margaret said to me -- quote -- "This is our opportunity to say something. If not now, then when?" -- Wolf.
TODD: Brian, we will stay in close touch with you. Thank you.
But let's go to Pakistan right now where the government is deciding how to punish a man who is said to have helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden.
The Pakistani physician collected DNA from residents of bin Laden's comment which the CIA used to verify bin Laden was there. Now the doctor may be charged by the Pakistani government with treason.
The defense secretary, Leon Panetta, who oversaw the raid of bin Laden's compound as CIA director, is calling for the doctor's release.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I'm very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual. This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence on -- that was very helpful with regard to this operation.
And he was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan. He was not in any way doing anything that would have undermined Pakistan. As a matter of fact, if Pakistan's -- and I have always said this -- Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's a member of CIA and Homeland Security external advisory boards.
Fran, based on your experience at the White House, you worked there during the Bush administration, some sources are now suggesting that Secretary Panetta may have revealed, confirmed at least a confidential source, namely this physician. Is this a potential problem?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, what we don't know is what why Leon Panetta, formerly the CIA director, would have confirmed this, whether or not there was a reason for it.
In other words, to the extent that Leon Panetta confirms a source, it will put pressure on Pakistan. Pakistan has complained since the Abbottabad raid that that was a violation of their sovereignty. And this is just an extension of that, the use of a potential source inside Pakistan without the Pakistanis' knowledge.
But what makes this odd is normally these are the sorts of disagreements between services, intelligence services that are best handled quietly, whether that's directly between somebody like the CIA and ISI, or whether that is through a third country that can negotiate for the resolution.
So we don't know whether or not Leon Panetta made a conscious decision and that that information has been declassified for him to reveal it or whether, frankly, this was a misstep.
BLITZER: Because this physician is facing potentially treason charges and he could face the death penalty in Pakistan for assisting the United States, namely, a foreign intelligence service, the CIA, in helping the United States find bin Laden. And I assume that the Pakistanis are arguing, look, you can't just help any foreign intelligence service, whether friend or foe?
TOWNSEND: Well, that's right, Wolf.
But if you play out sort of the current path that the Pakistanis are on -- and I think Leon Panetta makes this point well. This is not in their interest to ultimately pursue this to a trial and a potential imprisonment or death penalty. After all, while they may disagree with how the U.S. government went about gathering the intelligence or executing the Abbottabad raid, in the end, the outcome was a shared goal between the U.S. and Pakistan. And what they need to do like we have with so many other disputes with our Pakistani allies is work through this and understand future rules of engagement.
BLITZER: I assume the Pakistanis understand. Maybe they don't care anymore, but I assume they understand as seen here in the United States, this is a physician who is a hero. He helped the U.S. find and kill bin Laden, who committed all these acts of atrocity.
And now they want to try him for treason? This is a country that receives billions of dollars of U.S. assistance. Do they not care about this overall U.S./Pakistani relationship and the enormous assistance the United States provides Pakistan?
TOWNSEND: I think they care tremendously about it. After all, you make the point, it's a tremendous amount of military aid we provide.
But there's a sense of pride and that's at the crux of the sovereignty argument and, frankly, the aid now is being based on certain -- Pakistan meeting certain cooperation and conditions and they resent that. I think this is their way of pushing back on the U.S. applying sort of conditions to the cooperation and to the relationship.
Of course what they want to talk about is the violation of their sovereignty, the November 26 killing -- raid that resulted in the deaths of Pakistanis. They're talking about the things they're upset about and what they're looking to do is push back U.S. criticism right now.
BLITZER: U.S.-Pakistani relations in the meantime going down, down, down, not good for either country, Fran. Thanks very much.
The White House is fed up and says now Republicans are simply way out of bounds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you are so desperate for attention that you make an analogy that Michael Steele deems inappropriate, you know you have probably gone too far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We are going to show you what the president's press secretary is drawing a line in the sand about.
Also, one-on-one with Newt Gingrich. He speaks to our own Joe Johns about the relentless Romney assault he is facing.
Plus, you will see the extreme measures Syrian protesters have to take as they risk their lives to speak out against the regime.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, President Obama's proposed 30 percent tax on millionaires would be but a tiny drop in the bucket when it comes to solving this country's deepening financial crisis.
The White House isn't too interested in talking about the impact of the so-called "Buffett Rule" and here's why: Tax experts suggest the additional tax on the wealthy would raise about $40 billion a year in revenue. That's less that 1 percent of what the government spent in 2011. Forty billion dollars is nothing compared to the more than $1 trillion annual deficits the Obama administration is running or the national debt, which now exceeds $15 trillion.
Republicans say the plan's nothing more than a political charade. One congressman told "Politico" the president wants to, quote, "pit one group against another so he can raise more money to spend on a bloated government," unquote.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama suggested it comes down to tax cuts for the wealthiest or investments in everything else -- funding for education, medical research, the military. President Obama senior strategist, David Axelrod, said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that in order to solve the deficit, quote, "everyone is going to have to give a little and that includes people at the top."
Hey, what about cutting the size of government? What about cutting spending?
Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll shows Americans are divide on whether the economic system is unfair. Forty-nine percent agree with the president, say it's unfair, 45 percent say it's fair. However, a majority, 62 percent, say the economic system is fair to them personally. And that could make President Obama's re-election strategy of giving everyone a fair shake a tough sell if most Americans think the economic system is fair to them.
Here's the question: Is a 30 percent tax on millionaires a good idea?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jack.
It's a mission that is designed to help Americans buy homes. But now, there are reports that the mortgage giant Freddie Mac, owned by taxpayers, has actually been betting billions and billions of dollars, get this, against American homeowners -- against American homeowners.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester is looking into this story for us.
Lisa, what is going on here?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Freddie Mac is a quasi- government agency. It was chartered by Congress and its whole goal is to expand opportunities for home ownership. But it had to be bailed out, along with Fannie Mae, by taxpayers, some $100 billion. It is allowed, however, to do Wall Street trades, which is significant because these represent home mortgages.
Your mortgage, my mortgage, they all get bundled together and they are sold as securities on Wall Street.
Now, what "ProPublica," an online magazine, and NPR News found is that what Freddie Mac has been doing is taking a portion of these mortgaged securities, the interest portion and they have essentially been purchasing them to the tune of $3.4 billion. The reason why that's significant is the higher your interest rate is, the more money that Freddie Mac gets. At the same time, Freddie Mac has been tightening the rules on who is allowed to refinance out of high- interest loans.
JESSE EISINGER, PROPUBLICA: The crux of the story is that at the same time they're crucial gate death keeper about housing finance, about who can get a home loan, and who can get a refinancing in this country. And they made it harder to get those. So, they had a financial incentive that was against homeowners being able to refinance and they simultaneously made it harder for people to refinance.
SYLVESTER: So what does Freddie Mac have to say about this? Well, we asked them and they gave us a statement, essentially saying that the side of Freddie Mac that is in charge of setting rules on refinancing is separate from the side involved in trading.
They said, quote, "Freddie Mac employees that purchase and sell financial instruments are walled off from other Freddie Mac personnel." Freddie Mac also pointed out its record of helping homeowners saying, quote, "During the first three quarters of 2011, we refinanced more than 170 billion in mortgages, helping nearly 835,000 borrowers."
But this is still going to raise a lot of questions, particularly: is there a conflict of interest at Freddie Mac?
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester, thank you.
One-on-one with Newt Gingrich. He's hammering away at Mitt Romney and these, the final hours before the Florida primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe the Republican Party is going to nominate a liberal who is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase, pro-gay rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're less than 15 hours away from the polls opening in Florida, in the Florida Republican primary. And the battle in that state between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich is now very personal.
Gingrich is facing a relentless assault by the Romney campaign but he's fighting back right now. He's hammering away at Romney's conservative credentials.
Gingrich went one-on-one a little while ago with CNN's Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It's been said that you sort of -- and you tell me whether this is true -- that you didn't have an answer when the Romney campaign sort of did the full-court press, the carpet bombing.
JOHNS: What's your answer going to be when you move from Florida to some of these other states?
GINGRICH: We're going to tell the truth much more explicitly and much more aggressively. George Soros gave us the perfect answer yesterday. He said it flatly, there's no difference between Romney and Obama. He doesn't care which one wins. He said, now, Gingrich would be different.
But here you have the leading left wing billionaire in the world saying to the Europeans, look, Romney and Obama are the same people. You have an article today in the "Wall Street Journal." There's no difference between Romneycare and Obamacare.
The fact is I don't believe the Republican Party is going to nominate a liberal who is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase, pro-gay rights. And I don't think Romney, frankly, can raise enough money to sustain the falsehoods that are the base of his campaign.
JOHNS: How do you compete on television ads? That's been a problem for you.
GINGRICH: I think you compete with clarity to the American people, using every form of media. And I'm very comfortable that as we walk through how big the gap is between Romney's liberalism and Obama on the one hand, and a Reagan conservative on the other, I think you'll find resources pouring out. The Republican-party base does not want to nominate somebody that represents the establishment and Wall Street and New York.
JOHNS: You keep your own counsel, a lot of people say. How does that working for you? Is that effective? Do you need more people sort of who have your ear, doing your bidding?
GINGRICH: Well, I'll tell you what, there's nothing like $17.5 million of false ads to make a big difference. We did fine -- you know, you guys have counted me out three times so far this year. We'll do fine.
Romney managed to run more falsehoods. The debate is a good example. The reason I seemed flat in the second debate in Florida is, I have never seen a candidate for president that methodically dishonest. I mean, I stood there thinking, how can you say these things you know are falsehoods? That's why I was quiet, because there was no civil way to call him out on what was, in fact, a series of falsehoods that were astonishing.
JOHNS: A different strategy in these caucus states?
GINGRICH: I think you'll see us to do is be very explicit about just how liberal he is and just how dishonest he is. And I think you'll see us lay out for the country, you want Romneycare and Obamacare? They're the same person.
You want a war on the Catholic Church by Obama? Well, guess what? Romney refused to allow Catholic hospitals to have conscience in their dealing with certain circumstances. Romney cut off kosher food for elderly Jews on Medicare. Both of them have the same lack of concern for religious liberty.
You want somebody who raises taxes? Obama -- you know, Romney raised enough taxes in a state that ranks fourth from the bottom -- third from the bottom on job creation.
So, we're going to be very explicit about his record. And we're also going to ask the question: how can a guy who's a great manager not file 23 foreign holdings last year when he filed? And how can he go through -- how can he have signed a document saying that he provided services for Bain as part of his income tax when he kept telling everybody he didn't provide services for Bain.
I mean, a lot of pieces of Mitt Romney don't hold up once you start looking at them honestly.
BLITZER: Coming up in our next hour, we're going to hear from a high-profile Mitt Romney supporter, Senator John McCain. He'll be joining us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But joining us right now our "Strategy Session," our CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
Mary, did you just hear what Newt Gingrich said about Mitt Romney, the man that might potentially be the Republican nominee, that he's dishonest, he's liberal. He's pro-gay, you can't trust him. He didn't say that in the last debate Thursday night. What's going on here? MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's still a better rendition in a primary squabble, which is painful. I don't care what side you're on, primaries are the worst, but that's better than when Newt focuses on himself or the process.
When he starts talking about the negative ads or all of that, that's not what got him to his assent. His assent was wholly based on his passionate and confident championship of conservatism. That's when he does best.
And when he contrasts that with Obama, now he's contrasting it with Mitt Romney and that's what primaries are about. When he goes to the personal, I think -- I say that of all the candidates. When -- that turns off the conservative voters. It turns off all voters actually.
BLITZER: It's gotten very personal, Paul, as you can see. It's not just talking about policy issues. It's talking about Mitt Romney's character.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it does not turn off all voters, Mary. I haven't been this turned on since when I found my first "Playboy" magazine when I was 14. I think this is great stuff.
I publicly thank Newt Gingrich. I advise the pro-Obama "Super PAC" and I think he just made our -- one of our ads for us because he did, Mary is right. He went right to character. That was a personal attack and he said that Mitt Romney's dishonest.
It's going to be really hard to walk that back if Romney winds up the nominee. So I can't thank Speaker Gingrich enough. I happen to agree with both these candidates when they attack each other.
Every time, Mitt Romney says Gingrich is erratic and unfit to be president, I think that's a good point, Mitt. And now when Newt says that Romney is dishonest, I'm loving that for the same reason Mary's not, frankly, the Democrat, this is nothing but fun.
BLITZER: Listen to Mitt Romney earlier in the day, Mary. I'll play this clip for you because he's really making fun, sort of ridiculing Newt Gingrich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Speaker Gingrich wasn't very happy with the debates. He said after the first debate that he didn't the well because the crowd was so quiet. It threw him off.
Yes. The second debate he said he didn't do well because the crowd was so loud. So I think the real reason he hadn't done so well connecting with the people of Florida is that the people actually saw him in those debates and listened to his background and experience and --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Does he have a fair point there, Mary?
MATALIN: Well, it's irrefutable that Mitt Romney is a better candidate and is showing more fight because Newt Gingrich did as well as he did in the debates. That was the other concern of conservatives.
It wasn't just his record in Massachusetts and some of the other things the other candidates have brought up. It's can he fight? And he's proved that he can fight and I would ask Newt to remember what Newt said about Romney when Romney was attacking Newt.
Which is if you think this kitchen is hot, what do you think Obama's going to do? There's nothing Romney can say about Newt or Newt is going to say about Mitt that will hold a candle to the scorched earth at President Obama's going to do in the fall.
BLITZER: I think it's fair, Paul, to say that either of these candidates will probably be a better candidate against President Obama if one of them should get the nomination, based on all this preliminary work they're going that you right now.
BEGALA: Well, it is true that this is making them better debaters. They're already good debaters and intelligent men. Here's where it's hurting them though, these character attacks.
When one of the leading figures in your party says you're dishonest and a lot of voters believe it's true -- I happen to agree with them -- it hurts. And it also hurts that Gingrich is dragging Romney to the far right.
Mitt Romney has such an extreme position on immigration I think he'll have an impossible time of getting any respectable percentage of Latino vote. The primaries make your tougher and smarter and more agile.
But they can hurt terribly when fundamental issues of character are raised the way Newt is raising them about Romney and they seem to be resonating with a lot of voters and the ideological forces pull him out of the mainstream, that's where they hurt.
BLITZER: Guys, listen to this clip. This is a clip from Reince Priebus, he's the chairman of the Republican Party, a response from Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.
Reince Priebus accusing the president of the United States of behaving like that captain that hated captain of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PREIBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: In a few months this is all going to be ancient history and we're going to talk about our own little captain, which is President Obama abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interesting in campaigning than doing his job as president. JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you are so desperate for attention that you make an analogy that Michael Steele deems inappropriate, you know you've probably gone too far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Michael Steele, the former Republican Party chairman. Mary, did the current chairman go too far?
MATALIN: Well, I'm sorry Michael Steele is on MSNBC. I'm sorry for him on that. I will say about Reince Priebus. He's consecutively outraising the DNC for many months now, many corners.
In deploying the resources quite well, professional get out the vote team and communication's team. He's a great chairman and he has a great message. And we had a rule when we were in the White House -- I don't know, obviously Democrats don't do this.
The White House press secretary doesn't do politics from the podium. He doesn't take on the chairman of opposite party so if guess it's all campaign all the time at this White House.
BLITZER: I'll take that as a "no" you don't think he went too far. What about you, Paul?
BEGALA: Well, you know, I feel sorry for Reince Priebus. These are tough days to be a Republican. You know, they were leading and now they're losing. And if you look at the polling data, voters are watching these primaries and they are repulsed. Swing voters, not the Democrats.
But swing voters are repulsed by this and this is really hurting the Republicans and so you can expect the party chairman to lash out like that.
They held themselves to a much higher standard with Mary Matalin and I don't hold him to that high standard so I give him some slack. He's no Mary Matalin, but he's just a party chairman.
MATALIN: Stop it, stop it. That's one of your beautiful tactics. I'm not taking the bait. He's a far better professional than I do. And James still has his magazines from when he was 14 and that's why you guys are best friends.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. We'll come back to you guys later.
Driving through dark alleyways to escape armed gunmen. Arwa Damon takes on an extraordinary trip experienced by very few people. How is the U.S. military preparing for a possible, repeat, possible fight with Iran?
BLITZER: Tomorrow's the deadline for the so-called "Super PACs" to disclose their donors. CNN's Erin Burnett has been watching the story very closely. Erin, are we expecting any realy major surprises? ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "OUTFRONT": I guess, we know we're going to be hearing about a lot of money. You know, Wolf, it's pretty interesting. You may know there's a loophole where if a "Super PAC" has a charitable arm they might not have to disclose all of their donors.
But tomorrow when we hear from Newt Gingrich's and Mitt Romney's "Super PACs" you're going to be getting all the donors. Neither one of them have a charitable arms so there's really no loophole.
You're going to see them all and it will be big money. Now a couple things I'm looking for, Wolf, though that is going to be really interesting. Sheldon Aidleson, the Las Vegas billionaire, apparently didn't start giving massive amounts of money to Newt Gingrich until the end of January.
So we might not even see that $15 million we keep hearing so much about, to see exactly how much money it was. That's something to keep in mind and with Mitt Romney, I'm actually looking here at the what they look like, the forms.
This is what we got in June, which is the last time we heard from any of the "Super PACs." Newt Gingrich didn't have one at that time. Mitt Romney did and I've read through all of this in its entirety. There were 90 donors and the lowest one was about $205,000 to Mitt Romney in the end of the summer so the next six months you'll see significantly more money.
It was $12 million last time around and you'll see who doubled down. One thing that stands out on Mitt Romney's list is you got big Mormon money from the Marriotts.
You have a lot of money from the private equity industry, whether it be from companies like Bain, but KKR. You have a lot of investors and a lot of real estate money, which is interesting. And a lot of CEOs from some of the exchanges just an example where people trade.
So that's what you're going to see in Mitt Romney's. And then, of course, you'll be getting the first from President Obama, Wolf, and we'll see what gets disclosed. They have the ability to use that loophole.
BLITZER: If you're anybody, you got to have a "Super PAC" and all these guys now have "Super PACs." We'll check back with you tomorrow. Erin, thanks very much. Of course, we'll have more at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Erin Burnett "Outfront."
Coming up, CNN's Arwa next, going inside the Syrian opposition.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM including more fallout for a Connecticut mayor -- Lisa. SYLVESTER: Hi, there, Wolf. The town's police chief is retiring following a federal investigation into racial profiling by the force. Four officers have been arrested for allegedly mistreating Latinos.
East Haven's mayor brought national attention to the issue when he told a reporter that he might's tacos to support the city's Latino community. He has apologized twice for that comment.
And no surprise here. Crashing a cruise liner is expensive. Carnival Corporation says it will lose between $375 million and $395 million this year because of the Costa Concordia wreck. At least 17 people have died. Fifteen are still missing.
And the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pledging $350 million to fight tropical diseases the goal is to eliminate ten diseases by the end of the decade. Thirteen pharmaceutical companies, the World Bank and multiple countries including the United States, are also giving to the cause -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. For some people in Syria, this happens daily.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government might actually be coming in so now everyone is rushing away as fast as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to go faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Arwa Damon goes underground with the opposition inside the battle for Syria. Stand by for an amazing report. You'll want to see this.
BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Indeed. The question this hour is, a 30 percent tax on millionaires a good idea? Robert in Florida, "No, Jack, it's not a good idea. The mindless Kool-Aid drinkers and occupiers who haven't got a clue are buying into Obama's class warfare.
The rich pay their fair share and part of mine along with 50 percent of other Americans that don't pay that much either. Let's stop spending money on bailouts and Solyndra's and other bad choices before we ask for more money from others. To demonize the rich is only Obama's attempt to distract from his failed policies."
Dan in Pennsylvania writes, "A 30 percent tax on millionaires is not a good idea, it's a great idea. However it should be accompanied by removing more tax breaks and safe havens, the very wealthy have rangeled in legislation of years through using with K Street gang.
After many changes to the tax laws that put a greater burden on the average American it would be unfair to call it even and start with a flat tax."
Tom in Atlanta writes, "The administration doesn't get it. They seem to think in the spirit of fairness everybody should be economically equal and ignore the data that shows when we give incentives to those that employ others everyone gains. What's fair is when you encourage me to employ people rather than causing me to slow down and lay them of in order to save the company and its investors. The administration is playing its reference to unfair unfairly. It might work but it's just plain stupid."
And Burt in Los Angeles writes, "Jack, a 30 percent tax on millionaires is a small step in the right direction and a step away from the Reaganomics fiasco that caused our economic mess to begin with. We need to take our country back by dumping the aristocratic ideas the same we dumped the tea in the Boston harbor a long time ago."
And Joe writes, "A drop in the bucket is still, at least, a drop." If you want to read more about this, go to my blog, cnn.com/cafferty file or through our post in THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.
Thousands and thousands of people killed for speaking out against their government. CNN's Arwa Damon takes us inside the Syrian opposition.
And coming in the next hour, the U.S. Transportation secretary's son taking refuge at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. We'll tell you what's going on.
BLITZER: Dozens of new deaths are reported in Syria as the government's brutal crackdown on its opponents continues. Activists in Syria say at least 100 people have been killed on this day.
But the mounting total is not discouraging anti-government protesters. CNN's Arwa Damon follows some of them in their deadly game of cat and mouse with security forces in Damascus.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We drive in tense silence. The opposition activists we're with checking to make sure we're not being followed. Down dark alleyway we change vehicles.
We're in the heart of Damascus. This 21 year old goes by the pseudonym of -- he's a first-year medical student. What he's witnessed, haunting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A whole lot of things and my friends, what does it mean when your friends are hurting and you can't do anything and some people they -- it was really hard for me. My friend, which I grew up with them since I was 1 year old and I couldn't do anything. I have nothing to do --
DAMON: The losses fuelled his determination. Eleven months into the uprising, the activists have it down to a science. Spotters are prepositioned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We watch if anybody coming there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: it's a joke here.
DAMON: There are posters and other materials hidden in a safe house along with tiny printed leaflets ready to be scattered.
(on camera): So this is your message to the people staying silent? Isn't it about time, haven't they, the regime, filled the land with enough bad things?
(voice-over): Demonstrators move in groups of two or three to avoid attracting attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now they will go to other streets and hide.
DAMON: At the signal, the street erupted into activity. Everyone has a duty. The revolution's flag ripples above the crowd. The Syrian flag before the bath party took over more than 40 years ago. The leaflets reined down like confetti.
(on camera): One of the chance we're hearing to what translates to men, we're slaves for you, Lord, that chant, the activists say, has become especially prominent because they feel the Arab League, the United Nations and the international community have all abandoned them.
They say at this stage all they have left is their courage and determination and their faith in God. Every night the protesters do this. Their numbers are small and their determination is not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not just people that think -- a symbol or a demonstration. This is a very big deal. We're facing bad regime. We have to do this. It's one of the hardest things that we have to do, daily.
DAMON: How nice is freedom, the crowd chants. But every night the protest is short-lived. Ten minutes after it started --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government might actually coming in so everyone is rushing away as fast as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: we'll have to go faster.
DAMON: They leave the flag behind to make a point. That even if just for a while they did it. They are just telling us that we have to go faster. The government is moving in from all sides right now.
(voice-over): Another deadly game of cat and mouse in the Syrian capital.
DAMON: And Wolf --
BLITZER: Arwa, I just wanted to ask you, before I let you go, first of all, thank you for all your terrific reporting.
All this diplomacy going on at the U.N. Security Council right now asking Bashar Al-Assad to step down, is it real will you going to make a difference on the ground?
DAMON: Well, if he does step down and hand over power to his vice president as the resolution is proposing and that proposal, of course, based on the Arab League peace plan, it could potentially make a difference.
A lot of the activists we've been talking to were saying that they would possibly find that to be a digestible solution. At the end of the day, it is the only plan that is out there. Should this resolution not go through, one can certainly imagine that we're just going to keep seeing this cycle continuing. It's a cycle that's growing more violent by the day. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Arwa Damon, thanks very, very much.