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Will Israel Attack Iran?; Interview With Newt Gingrich; Panetta's Revealing Remarks; Hiring Jumps, Jobless Rate Drops; Repeat DUI Offender Got Pardon

Aired February 3, 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: a big surge in hiring. The economy adds far more jobs added than expected. The unemployment rate falls. Stock markets soar, but the White House is cautious even as Republicans wrangle over who could do a better job.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich isn't pulling any punches when it comes to the economy or his main rival, Mitt Romney. He joins me this hour for a wide-ranging interview.

And a growing likelihood that Israel could attack Iran's nuclear sites any time in the next few months. That chilling prospect is only the latest stunning statement by the defense secretary, Leon Panetta. Why is he speaking so freely?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's been a long time since economists have sounded so giddy about jobs, but they're cheering the latest employment numbers, which show nearly a quarter-million jobs, 243,000, to be precise, were added in January. That's far more than expected and it brought the jobless rate down to 8.3 percent. That's the lowest in three years.

Investors cheered even louder today, sending stocks soaring. The Dow Jones industrials just closed, up more than 150 points to reach its highest level in almost four years. The Nasdaq reached a peak it hasn't seen in more than 11 years.

But that doesn't mean is the economic picture is suddenly all rosy.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's looking at all of this -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And here at the White House is cautious optimism. For the past few years, we have been talking about high unemployment numbers above 9 percent, under 9 percent, now 8.3 percent. But behind these numbers are real people. Some of them are finding jobs. Others are struggling to get back to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): They aren't popping champagne corks at the White House, but given the better-than-expected unemployment numbers, one economist says they should be celebrating.

DANNY BOSTON, GEORGIA TECH: This report is a reason for the president to crow and boast.

LOTHIAN: But 8.3 percent unemployment is far from a healthy economy. In hard-hit Nevada on the eve of the next Republican presidential contest, Liza Valdez (ph) knows that all too well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been tough. I have been out of work since September 11.

LOTHIAN: She and her friends in the Las Vegas hospitality industry are in the same boat, sinking, but on the horizon the encouraging unemployment numbers.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up, and we have got to do everything in our power to keep it going.

LOTHIAN: Republicans on Capitol Hill were caught off-guard. Poised to send out pre-written press releases about disappointing numbers, statements were delayed and revised according to two congressional Republican sources.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's certainly some positive news here, but the point we're making is that we could do a lot better.

LOTHIAN: House Speaker John Boehner called on the Senate to move on more than two dozen other jobs bills. The president returned fired calling on lawmakers to renew the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance -- quote -- "without drama."

BARACK OBAMA: Do not slow down the recovery that we are on. Don't muck it up.

LOTHIAN: But that's essentially what Republican presidential hopefuls have accused the president of doing, and they're used the bad economy and high unemployment as examples of his failed policies.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the president didn't cause this downturn, this recession, but he didn't make it better, either.

LOTHIAN: But some economists say it's hard to argue with the numbers.

BOSTON: The issue of unemployment, at least the extent to which we talked about it up to now, will not be as much of a political issue come election time, because I think, as I look at the numbers, there will be a much stronger argument to talk about how much the economy has recovered than it is to talk about how bad things are continuing.

LOTHIAN: Back in Las Vegas, Valdez is more concerned about getting back to work than helping the president keep his job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, you just have to do your best. And if it works, it works. You get lucky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Now, as part of his push to create jobs, the president today unveiled a plan to help post-9/11 veterans get back to work. This is something he talked about in his State of the Union address.

Under this initiative, communities will get grant money from the administration to essentially move these veterans to the front of the line for jobs in law enforcement, also money for fire departments to hire and train these veterans, but, of course, Wolf, this will require congressional approval.

BLITZER: Encouraging jobs numbers today. Thanks very much for that, Dan.

The Republican candidates for president are sparring over the economy just a day before Nevada's Republican caucuses.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now from Las Vegas with the latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Newt Gingrich came to this country music bar to poke what he calls Mitt Romney's booboo, the comment that he said he wasn't very concerned about the very poor, but those comments come as some Republicans are questioning whether Mitt Romney's gaffes on the economy just as the unemployment picture is improving are what this GOP front-runner not a bonanza, but a blunder in the fall.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Wrangling up votes in a Las Vegas country musical bar with its own mechanical bull, Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of stepping in it once again on the economy.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, Governor Romney trying to recover from hi booboo, talk about every possible example of what we don't want in a general election candidate.

ACOSTA: Gingrich is still making hay out of Romney's comments to CNN on Wednesday when the GOP front-runner said he wasn't concerned about the very poor, a comment he now admits he'd like to have back.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you do I don't know how many thousands of interviews, now and then, you may get it wrong. And I misspoke.

ACOSTA: Rick Santorum said the remarks are more than a gaffe. They're a betrayal of Republican values.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's not the Republican Party I want to belong to. I want to belong to a party that focuses on 100 percent of Americans and create opportunity for every single American. ACOSTA: The comments may not hurt Romney in this weekend's Nevada caucuses, but top conservatives are starting to worry out loud that Romney is handing Democrats a highlight reel that will be deadly in the fall.

ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people.

I'm not concerned about the very poor.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. It's going to make it harder and harder and harder to go after Obama.

ACOSTA: Another potential problem for Romney is the latest drop in the unemployment rate. Romney, whose campaign catchphrase is Obama isn't working, now acknowledges the economy is improving.

ROMNEY: I know the president didn't cause this downturn, this recession, but he didn't make it better, either. He made it worse.

ACOSTA: But Gingrich is as harsh as ever on the president's record. He still refers to Mr. Obama as a food stamp president. Only now, he's altered it slightly to take a dig at Romney's now-infamous support for the nation's safety net for the poor.

GINGRICH: We now know from Governor Romney he joins Obama. Obama's big food stamp, he's little food stamp, but they both think food stamps are OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: While Romney's misstep on the poor may not change the caucuses here in Nevada, it does change the conversation and it gives Newt Gingrich one more chance to put the horns to Mitt Romney and perhaps climb back in the saddle in this GOP race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good work over there. Thanks, Jim, very much.

As we head into the Nevada caucuses tomorrow, Mitt Romney's rivals are forced to play catchup.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, has Newt Gingrich found a single winning message yet?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he hasn't.

After his defeat in Florida, there was a lot of talk within the Gingrich compare that what he would embark on was a conservative crusade, the heir to the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

What we have seen, what Jim Acosta's piece has just shown us, is that instead he's continuing just to pound away at Mitt Romney personally, saying things like someone as rich as Romney shouldn't make comments about not caring about the poor. So trying Mitt Romney to Barack Obama, calling him Obama-lite is a strategy if he would stick to it.

But calling him a rich guy is just not going to get you a lot of votes. That's the question with Newt Gingrich. Does he have the discipline to stick to one strategy?

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Nevada caucuses tomorrow. At time tomorrow, you and I will be reporting on the results at some point as they start coming in. Everyone expects that Mitt Romney will win. The polls show that he's way ahead in Nevada right now , in part because of a large Mormon population in that state.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right. In 2008, he won the Nevada caucuses, beating Ron Paul by almost 40 points. One-quarter of the Republican caucus-goers in Nevada are Mormon. Clearly he's got that on his side.

But he's also making use of his campaign lists and his organization from 2008, and he's spending money in this state, because the last thing he wants to be is embarrassed in the state of Nevada. Take a look at this flyer, for example, that he is circulating in the state about Newt Gingrich.

He says Newt Gingrich spells trouble, and in the headlines of this, as you can see, it calls him erratic, unethical and reckless. On the air, the Romney campaign has spent $500,000, Romney 'super PAC over $70,000, all of it negative. By comparison, Newt Gingrich has spent in the state zero dollars. And the big question is whether his super PAC sugar daddy, Mr. Adelson, is going to ante up some more money for those Super Tuesday states, but so far no money in Nevada.

BLITZER: That's really what all they're aiming for, March 6, Super Tuesday, almost a dozen contests that one day alone.

These new unemployment numbers, a quarter of a million jobs almost created in January alone, the unemployment number going down to 8.3 percent, that does put some pressure on the Republicans.

BORGER: It sure does. It's the lowest of Barack Obama's presidency. The high unemployment number has always been his Achilles' heel.

They're not ready to dance over at the White House, because they understand there are some complications here that could occur. For example, Wolf, if all of those discouraged workers start now looking for jobs, what you could see is the unemployment number go up again if they decide to start trying to get back in the work force.

But Republicans, as you saw, have to really moderate their message, give Barack Obama some credit, and then say, you know what, these jobs didn't come back fast enough and we would be better stewards of the economy than he has been. But it becomes a little bit more nuanced.

BLITZER: Like everything else.

Gloria, thanks very much.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: And, by the way, I will speak with the Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich about the jobs numbers, his bitter rivalry with Mitt Romney, his plan for a moon colony, a whole lot more. My one-on-one interview with Newt Gingrich, that is coming up this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A stunning turnaround by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The cancer-fighting group has reversed, reversed a controversial decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. And it's apologized to the American people for decisions that it says cast doubt upon its mission of saving women's lives.

The Komen Foundation took considerable heat from Democratic lawmakers and other social networks for initially deciding to halt funding for Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screenings. Critics had accused Komen of giving into pressure from anti-abortion activists who have targeted Planned Parenthood. We will get reaction, by the way, from Newt Gingrich to this reversal by the Komen Foundation as well.

A shocking revelation that Israel may bomb Iran within a matter of a few months, but why is the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, speaking publicly about so many sensitive matters?

And can President Obama take any credit for the latest signs that the economy is now rebounding? I will ask Newt Gingrich about that and a whole lot more.

And another scandal emerges from the pardons issued by the former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. You won't believe what happened right after he let a multiple DUI offender off the hook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We heard a truly chilling forecast this week that war could break out in the Middle East almost at any time. It's all the more chilly because it comes from someone who should know, the defense secretary of United States, Leon Panetta. And it's perplexing because it's only the latest stunning revelations he's made.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been looking into all of this for us.

Barbara, what do you finding out?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPNDENT: Well, Wolf, a top aide to Panetta says, look, he's just a man who is blunt and direct and helps the president deliver messages when it needs to be done. But that blunt talk is causing a lot of raised eyebrows.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let it be known he was worried Israel might soon bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, he set off his own mini-explosion.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: A little surprised he was as aggressive in his talks as he was. We have lots of conversations in classified settings. I was a little taken aback by how clear he was about what his prediction might be about Israel's intention.

STARR: Some Panetta staff members tell CNN they have been startled by his continuing public revelations. These are sensitive matters usually reserved for discussion deep inside the Pentagon and the CIA, which he once headed.

On CBS' "60 Minutes" for the first time, Panetta tells why he believes that Pakistan had to have known where bin Laden was hiding.

LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We had seen some military helicopters actually going over this compound.

STARR: A close denied to CNN that this was big news. The aide says Panetta just wants to be open with information. But the secretary has had a lot to say.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: We've had a week of many statements by the secretary most of which appear to have not been calculated and not helpful.

STARR: When Panetta told reporters for the first time that combat in Afghanistan would begin wrapping up, quote, "hopefully, by the mid- to latter first part of 2013," it was fresh meat for the campaign trail.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why in the world do you go to the people that you're fighting with and tell them the day you're pulling out your troops. It makes absolutely no sense. His naivete is putting in jeopardy the mission of the United States of America and our commitments to freedom.

STARR: Some aides say that Panetta's revelation got ahead of 9 president making the announcement himself.

TOWNSEND: Frankly, my understanding is that was ahead of when it was supposed to come out.

STARR: All of this forced the White House to defend the defense secretary.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's an artful man, he wasn't -- again, I -- he was simply discussing the consultations he was about to have with his fellow defense ministers, and talking about what could be the case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So I circled back to one of Panetta's top senior aides and said, what gives? Why is the secretary making all these revelations in public? And the aide said, "No comment".

It's just an indicator, Wolf, of how sensitive things are around the Pentagon right now.

BLITZER: Certainly are. Good point. Barbara, thank you.

A check on the day's other top stories coming up next.

Also, the unemployment rate is dropping. How much credit goes to the president of the United States? You might be surprised by Newt Gingrich's answer. My interview with the outspoken Republican candidate this hour.

And dead dolphins are washing our shore by the dozens. CNN goes to the scene. That's coming up as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More ruthless fighting in Cairo.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other stop stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on in Egypt, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Well, the government says five people are dead and over 1,400 injured after violent clashes between protesters and police. Protesters have allegedly been throwing Molotov cocktails from the roof of a government building. The demonstration started after 79 people died in a soccer stadium riot on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people are dying from freezing cold weather in Europe. The eastern countries are being hit the hardest. Officials say about 100 have died in the Ukraine alone where temperatures gone down to 27 degrees below zero.

The frigid Siberian air is spreading east of Portugal, and is even causing snow to fall in the Sahara desert. The Red Cross is providing $141,000 for those in need.

And the secret to Michelle Obama's toned arms -- well, it may be out. Take a look here, the first lady -- she appeared on Ellen DeGeneres' show to promote her "Let's Move" campaign. And look at her go.

She was challenged to a pushup context with the talk show host, and Mrs. Obama, you see there, she didn't disappoint. She beat Ellen by doing 25 pushups. Ellen says she lost on purpose, but I think Michelle Obama, it looks like she won fair and square.

Look at the two of them go. That is pretty impressive. It looks like I should be working out more, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can you do 25 pushups like that, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: No, I do the girlie kind of pushups. I can't lie. I do a girlie, you know, knees down on the ground. I can do 25 of those. But that's the best I got for you.

BLITZER: Well, that's not that hard.

SYLVESTER: I know.

BLITZER: The first lady, she knows how to do those pushups.

SYLVESTER: I wouldn't have been able to hang with Ellen in the first place. I just wouldn't have been able to keep up. I know my limitations, Wolf.

BLITZER: She's inspiring all of us, I think, just by that -- those 30 seconds of that little video.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

After Mitt Romney won Florida, Newt Gingrich didn't call him to congratulate him. Why not? You're going to find out directly from the former speaker himself when I ask him in my one-on-one interview. The outspoken presidential candidate is next.

And how a pardon might have led to a deadly crash. We'll go live to Mississippi with the latest backlash against the governor's pardons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour:

America's leading breast cancer awareness group completely flips on giving money to Planned Parenthood. Why the about-face? We have details.

Hackers steal messages between the United States and England. How does this happen to two world powers? The answer is coming up.

And imagine being spied on at your place of worship? It's happening here in the United States. We'll have details for you.

Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: But our top story, a very surprising jump in employment, the latest sign that the economy is beginning to turn around. Economists and stock investors are cheering the news.

So what kind of impact might this have on the presidential race?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from Las Vegas, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. He's running for president of the United States. Mr. Speaker, good job numbers that came in today, 243,000 jobs created last month. The unemployment rate has gone down to 8.3 percent.

Does President Obama deserve credit for this positive trend?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he's going to take credit for it. We've been in a -- the longest, deepest race since the Great Depression. We already have a report out from the Congressional Budget Office this week, warning that it's likely to go back up this fall and that we're likely to see more unemployment. They're now projecting no end to this before 2014.

I think -- think, you know, vetoing the Keystone Pipeline, the -- proposing the kind of taxes he has don't help the economy any, but I'm sure the president will take credit while explaining that all the months of unemployment aren't his fault.

And the truth is that if it gets better and better and better between now and the election, he will get some credit. On the one hand, if this is a lull before it starts getting worse, his reelection will be in enormous trouble.

BLITZER: I asked the question because if the numbers were going in the other direction, unemployment going up, jobs weren't being created, you would be blaming him, at least in part, for that disaster.

GINGRICH: Right. And I -- I think he will get some limited credit. And it depends on how much the economy recovers and what the rest of the year looks like.

BLITZER: But -- but you don't think, as of now, he deserves any credit, is that what you're saying?

GINGRICH: No, Wolf, it's irrelevant. Give him some credit. If it makes you happy, give him some credit. The fact is he's -- his policies in general have driven up the national debt massively. They have weakened the United States economically. They have increased the price of gasoline so it's double what it was when he came in. The economy, even at 8.3 percent, is dramatically weaker than it was under Ronald Reagan at this exact same point in his first term. And he's not going to be able to go to the public and say look how successful I've been. The most he'll be able to say is, I'm -- I'm less destructive now then I was a year ago.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney now says he misspoke the other day when he said he really wasn't concerned about poor people because there's a safety net, if it needs some tweaking, they can fix it.

Do you accept that from him?

GINGRICH: look, I think what he said and the underlying part of that is very revealing. I don't -- I think we want to replace the safety net with a trampoline. We want to have policies -- Jack Kemp and I used to work on policies to help the poor become middle class, to help people get out of poverty.

I -- I'm not comfortable saying, oh, well, at least they have a safety net. I think that we ought to be -- in fact, my campaign is based on paychecks, not food stamps.

So I want people to have a chance to leave welfare, leave unemployment, leave poverty behind and live a better life. And I thought that, while I'm sure he didn't mean the exact comment about not caring about the poor, I think his underlying rationale, which is they have a safety net, we don't have to worry about them, is wrong.

Leaving Americans trapped in a safety net is not pursuing happiness, it's not their creator endowed right. We should have an aggressive conservative position that we can do better than liberals at helping people rise and helping them have jobs.

BLITZER: I just want you to clarify the whole George Soros comments, the billionaire, the liberal billionaire. You've been suggesting and a quoting source there's not much of a difference between Romney and President Obama.

But you believe there is a significant difference, I assume, right?

GINGRICH: Well, I think if you go to Newt.org, you'll see a fascinating George Soros videotape where we take Soros sitting in Davos with all the other big guys talking to a European reporter, saying you know, there really isn't much difference between Romney and Obama, we don't care which of them wins, because they'll bring different people with the same policies.

And then the rest of it, to the -- to the YouTube piece puts together Romney and Obama. It takes -- it takes ObamneyCare and it shows you that Tim Pawlenty was right, they're remarkably similar. It takes their position on gun control, which is remarkably similar. It takes their position on taxes, which, in many ways, is similar.

It's a -- it's a pretty interesting -- you can see it at Newt.org. It's a pretty interesting video and I -- it also points out that all of the big guys in Wall Street who supported Obama have now switched to supporting Romney almost uniformly. That -- that is actually from a news report from one of the -- actually, from Fox News.

So it's interesting to watch -- look at this developing. And what I've said to audiences is, we need a conservative alternative to the Soros approved candidates. And I think that's part of why we're doing better and better.

Our fundraising has been up since Florida, frankly, as people look at the race and they look at Romney's record and they look at things like his recent mistakes and they think, geez, is this the guy I really want to send to Washington when, in fact, "The Wall Street Journal" said his tax program is so timid, it could be Obama's.

BLITZER: All right, let me move on. I want to get to some... GINGRICH: But they're...

BLITZER: -- issues of the day.

GINGRICH: -- that's their quote, that's not me.

BLITZER: Right. I want to get to some other issues of the...

GINGRICH: OK.

BLITZER: -- the day.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure, they've now reversed themselves. They said they are going to continue, after all, to provide funding for Planned Parenthood for breast screening examinations.

Are you OK with that?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's unfortunate. I think that they were beginning to make progress. Planned Parenthood needs to split into two totally separate organizations, because what it does today is it takes money for seemingly positive health things to sustain the largest abortion clinics in America. Planned Parenthood performs more abortions than any other institution in the United States. The money is all fungible. So when you -- when you lure people in for women's health needs and, by the way, right down the hall you have an abortion clinic, I think that's inappropriate. And I think if Planned Parenthood is going to get any kind of help, they ought to split into two agencies.

As president, I would eliminate all of the Planned Parenthood funding and transfer it to an adoption service to give young women the choice of life rather than death as part of their future. And I think that, in that sense, that Planned Parenthood does not do the public a good service when it actively encourages abortions.

BLITZER: It's been reported, as you probably know, the Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, is suggesting that Israel may attack Iranian nuclear facilities as early as April, May or June of this year.

Here's the question to you.

If you were president of the United States, what would you do if you had intelligence that the Israelis were likely to go after Iranian nuclear facilities?

GINGRICH: Well, if I were this administration and I had failed totally in my effort to stop the Iranians from getting nuclear weapons, I don't know what they can do.

Israel has the right to defend itself. Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon. Three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. It is an -- it would annihilate the Jewish population of Israel.

And therefore, if you were the Israeli primary state, you would be faced with a very tough decision. I don't think they will ever allow the Iranians to have an operational nuclear weapon. And I think that the -- that's a fact.

If I were the American president, I would tell the Israelis that I would do everything I could to ensure that they went conventional. I would rather provide support to the Israelis at a conventional level than force them, out of desperation, to use their nuclear weapons.

And people should not kid themselves. The Israelis are not going to take the risk of a second Holocaust. And that is exactly what Ahmadinejad with a nuclear weapon represents.

BLITZER: So basically, just to be precise on this, if the prime minister of Israel said to you, as president of the United States, this is what Israel is going to do, you would insist on being a full partner in that operation?

GINGRICH: I wouldn't insist. I would say if you believe the survival of your country is at stake, what is it we can do to help you?

BLITZER: Well, that's pretty precise.

GINGRICH: But I think that...

BLITZER: All right...

GINGRICH: -- you know, no -- look, no -- no American has the moral right to -- to lecture an Israeli primary state about what risk he or she should take with the survival of their country. And given the record of World War II and the massacre of seven million Jews, I think people should be a little cautious when they listen to Ahmadinejad and they understand this guy will -- will destroy Israel if he has a chance. He says so publicly.

He cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: It's a statement causing a lot of buzz out there. Newt Gingrich says there will be a colony on the moon by the end of his second term as president.

Does he regret saying that or is he standing by his prediction?

Also, why didn't Newt Gingrich call Mitt Romney to congratulate him after his big win in Florida?

His explanation.

Part two of the interview, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The rhetoric is heating up just a day before the Nevada Republican caucuses. Let's get right back to my one-on-one interview with Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Rick Santorum has got a new radio ad he's playing out there on the campaign trail, really going after you on your proposals for space, creating some sort of base -- some sort of base on the moon.

Let's talk with Rick Santorum is saying about you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM RICK SANTORUM CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reckless spending has led to a $15 trillion national debt. That's $50,000 of debt for every person in America and it's crushing our economic recovery.

And what does Newt Gingrich suggest?

Spending half a trillion dollars on a moon colony. Gingrich's idea is fiscal insanity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, go ahead and respond. He says fiscal insanity on your part, that from Rick Santorum's campaign.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all -- first of all, if you look at the speech I gave at Cocoa Beach on the Space Coast, I don't talk at -- at all about increasing federal spending. I talk about a complete redesign of NASA and attracting private capital in huge quantities to do things med -- much more efficiently and much more boldly than NASA does. But I don't talk about increasing federal spending.

Second, I'm -- I'm really surprised at both Santorum and Romney. Both of them seem to be prepared to say, OK, so the Chinese have announced they're going to the moon, the Chinese have announced they're going to try to dominate space, we're not going to compete.

I mean what a -- what a tremendous gap from John F. Kennedy saying we can get to the moon inside a decade and we should do it to politicians today, who are too timid, too stingy, too lacking in imagination. And they're literally prepared to cede dominance of space to Russia and China?

I -- I can't imagine, for national security reasons, why they would be thinking like that. And I think, in the end, the American public is going to say we do not want the Chinese and the Russians to dominate space.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, after you won decisively in South Carolina, Mitt Romney called you and congratulated you. After he won decisively in Florida, you didn't call him to congratulate him.

What happened? GINGRICH: Well, if you read "The New York Times" article, which said that on Sunday morning after South Carolina, they had a meeting in which they decided they had to, quote, "destroy Newt Gingrich," that's their quote.

They then outspent me five to one to, quote, "destroy Newt Gingrich?"

You know, I think that that doesn't deserve congratulations. I think that's reprehensible. I think it's dishonest. And I think it's shameful. And if you'll notice, in the -- in the counties he carried, the Republican vote was down. In the counties I carried, the Republican vote was up, because people actually want a positive leader with positive solutions offering positive ideas.

In South Carolina, where I won by an historic margin, we had a one third increase in turnout, because people like a positive campaign.

It's pretty hard to see how somebody is going to negatively carpet bomb their way to the nomination. It's pretty hard to imagine that nomination is going to be worth much if that's all they've got to show for themselves.

So I -- I feel very comfortable with exactly what happened after Florida.

BLITZER: It sounds like you're pretty angry at him?

GINGRICH: No. I'm just -- I'm -- I'm reporting back the facts. I'm not angry at all. I'm very -- I'm very comfortable. He -- I'm -- I'm going to be the conservative candidate. He's going to be the Soros -- the approved candidate. We're going to see whether the Republican Party really wants to nominate somebody that is acceptable to George Soros. I don't think they are.

So I think the rest of this campaign is going to be fascinating. I'm -- I'm looking forward to it. We're having a great time in Nevada. We're going to have a great time in Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Maine. This is going to go on all the way to Tampa.

BLITZER: One final question. I interviewed Donald Trump yesterday after he endorsed Mitt Romney. He said if Romney gets the nomination, he's not running. But he ruled -- didn't rule out the possibility of his running as an Independent, third party candidate, if, for example, you were to get the nomination, even though he said he liked you personally.

I wonder if you want to react (ph) to Donald Trump?

GINGRICH: Donald Trump is -- is as brilliant a self-publicist as we have in America. I know him personally and -- and he's an interesting guy. We'll cross that bridge when I get the nomination. But my hunch is, if I'm the nominee, that he won't run. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there. I can't imagine anybody responsible splitting the vote against Obama when they know that that would reelect Obama. So I -- I suspect, in the end, he'll support the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.

GINGRICH: Thanks.

It's good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And CNN's coverage of the Nevada's caucuses starts tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, with a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for that.

After getting three DUIs already, a Mississippi man drives drunk and is involved in a wreck that kills an 18-year-old girl. We're going to tell you how the former Governor Haley Barbour could have stopped it from happening.

And dolphins are washing up dead on the shores of Massachusetts. The mystery is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to our top story. Stunning unemployment report numbers that sparked a surge on Wall Street. The Dow closed at nearly 12,900 points almost 5,000 points higher than the president took office.

Let's dig a little bit deeper into the unemployment numbers. Joining us now is CNN's Erin Burnett. Erin, what does this jobs report actually say? You're an expert on this subject.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "OUTFRONT": Well, look, this is a really good jobs report, Wolf. I mean, obviously, you could see that in terms of the market reaction. But it has been five months in a row that we have seen the unemployment rate drop. That is very, very significant.

The peak for unemployment in this country in terms of the formal rate was 10 percent. Now, we're down to 8.3. So that's good news. Now there's one important caveat to this, Wolf. As the labor market gets better, there's one thing that people should expect.

That is the unemployment rate is actually going to go up. You only count in that rate if you've been looking for a job in the past month. So once the people who really have given up and there's several million people in this country who are truly disenfranchised and have given up looking for work.

The labor market gets better and they start looking again, they're going to count in that number. So even though it's going down now, at some point before the labor market really recovers, it actually needs to go up again.

BLITZER: You know, it's amazing when you take a look at Wall Street well it has done in these three years since President Obama took office. We just took a look, on January 20th, 2009, the day he was inaugurated, the Dow was at 7,949. The Nasdaq at 1,440. The S&P is at 805.

What is it today? What did it close at today? Well, we're going to show you right now. The Dow closing almost 13,000, 12,862. The Nasdaq almost 3,000, 2,906 and the S&P 1,345. The Nasdaq and the S&P have almost doubled over these past three years.

You're talking to a lot of CEOs out there. What are they saying about this and the prospect of hiring millions more Americans in the coming years?

BURNETT: This is interesting. It's interesting, too, to see the market, when you look at where the market was when the president was elected. The market obviously -- we were right in the midst of the financial crisis there.

Unemployment when President Obama was elected 6.8 percent and it actually rose to 10. The market led it. Obviously, now it's dramatically improved and there's been millions of jobs added just over the past year during the president's -- during this president's administration.

Wolf, the hiring situation, though, is still dicey. That's really the best way I can describe it. We have a strike team of CEOs we have talked to and these are small business people, entrepreneurs and also big companies. They're hiring.

They're hiring, but they're not hiring with excitement and they're not hiring in a frenzy and right now, to really work through this backlog, almost nine million Americans losing a job during this financial crisis, we need serious hiring, and we need an acceleration in hiring. So optimism begets optimism. It could happen, but right now we need a little bit more.

BLITZER: Good point. Erin is going to have lot more 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." We'll be watching as we do every week day, Erin. I'll see tomorrow obviously for our coverage of the elections as well. Thank you.

An 18-year-old girl is killed by a drunk driver, but it's what happened while the driver was in jail that's truly shocking.

And America's leading breast cancer awareness group completely flips on giving money to Planned Parenthood. Why the about-face?

And imagine being spied on at your place of worship? It's happening right here in the United States. Stand by, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You probably heard about the controversy about those murders pardoned by the Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, the former governor, I should say. Now CNN has learned the shocking new details of another pardon, a well-connected man facing charges for his third DUI arrest.

While pardoned, this guy was pardoned, I should say, by the governor. A week after he was involved in a fatal crash that killed a teenage girl. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a reason the man in the redshirt, Harry Bostick looked familiar to the Sergeant Hildon Sessums. This was the second time the Oxford, Mississippi police officer had arrested Bostick for driving drunk.

SGT. HILDON SESSUMS, OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI POLICE: There was an open bottle of wine in the front seat with him. There was an open bottle of champagne on the front seat with him. He had a large cup that was full of red wine.

LAVANDERA: Police found he was driving at twice the legal limit of alcohol. This was Bostick's third drunk driving arrest in a year. Bostick pled guilty to the felony charge, was sentenced to a year of house arrest and four years in an alcohol abuse program.

SESSUMS: Right before I put the cuffs on him, he said, don't do this to me. My comment to that usually is you did it to yourself.

LAVANDERA: A year after that arrest, Harry Bostick applied for a pardon from Governor Haley Barbour. This former IRS investigator had high-profile friends write letters asking the governor to pardon Bostick.

Friends wrote that Bostick's life fell into a destructive course after the tragic death of his teenage son in a house fire and a divorce from his wife.

A federal prosecutor wrote, Harry no longer drinks alcohol and can now be a positive factor in many lives. Another friend wrote, Bostick had turned his life around.

The Mississippi Parole Board in a 3-2 vote recommended Bostick get a pardon. Governor Barbour agreed.

HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: The power of pardon in the state is to give people a second chance who have repented, been rehabilitated and redeemed themselves.

LAVANDERA: This is quite the artist. This is the gift she gave you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this is how she signed it.

LAVANDERA: She signed it with her hand print? But don't tell Linda Smith that Harry Bostick has been rehabilitated. Just seven days after he was recommended for a pardon, Smith's 18-year-old daughter, Charity was killed along this highway in a violent car crash. The driver of the car was Harry Bostick. LINDA SMITH, VICTIM'S MOTHER: She should still be here with me. She should still be here with me. This should not have happened.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The sun had just set on October night and Charity was driving down this gravel road. She had come to this neighborhood to pick up her sister and take her to dinner. They were excited. They hadn't seen each other in quite some time.

Mississippi authorities say in the meantime, Harry Bostick was driving this way, back towards Oxford, driving they say under the influence again, Charity pulled out into the highway to make a left- hand turn Bostick slammed right into the side of her.

(voice-over): Charity was killed, her sister survived. Bostick was sent to a jail in Oxford for violating his previous DUI sentence while prosecutors tried to figure out what to charge him with.

Harry Bostick's attorney never returned our repeated call. We tried to find Bostick at his home, he didn't answer and we called him. But while Bostick waited in jail, Haley Barbour pardoned him.

Bostick was free, how did that happen? It turns out the governor's office and parole board never did a last minute check of Bostick's record.

Both say they had no idea Bostick had been arrested a fourth time for drunk driving. A battling stroke of luck for Harry Bostick and Linda Smith worries her daughter has been forgotten in all of this.

(on camera): Do you feel like they didn't know about Charity? They didn't know what had happened to her?

SMITH: Why would they do it if they knew about her? She is a person. She wasn't just some name on a piece of paper.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Charity Smith was saving money to go to college dreaming of getting a business degree, a young girl with big dreams and an artist heart.

(on camera): This is the bun that stands out to me.

SMITH: Yes, this one "Life is Short."

LAVANDERA: Mourned by a mother with a broken heart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Wolf, what stands out, as we reviewed many of the pages in the pardon application filed by Harry Bostick, you see over and over that there are references to an expedited investigation.

We talked to one prison system source here in Mississippi saying there was such an on slaw of pardon applications that had been filed and they were up against the clock to finish them up before Haley Barbour's term expired -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a sad, sad story. I'm so happy you shared this with our viewers. There will be outrage, and I know you have a follow up report that will air later tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "AC 360." Ed Lavandera doing excellent, excellent reporting for all our viewers.