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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama Slams GOP Rivals "Big Talk" On Trail; Top U.S. Gen.: "My Biggest Concern Is Iran"; FBI Launches Attack On Hacker Group, Reportedly Helped by Former Leader; Alleged Ohio School Shooter in Court; Super Tuesday Predictions and Analysis
Aired March 6, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, President Obama hits his GOP rivals with a scathing dose of Super Tuesday rhetoric, warning them, and I'm quoting him now, "this isn't a game and wishing them luck" he seems to think they need.
The worsening crisis in Syria igniting huge political fireworks on Capitol Hill as key lawmakers demand to know what the United States plans to do to stop the slaughter.
And top members of the notorious hacking group busted worldwide in a string of major cybercrimes affecting more than one million victims.
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 at the CNN Election Headquarters. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: It's a side of President Obama we don't always get to see. The gloves were off over at a White House news conference today where he hit his rivals hard again and again on foreign policy, slamming what he calls their, quote, "bluster and big talk on the campaign trail." Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, was at that news conference. She's joining us now with details. Jessica, tell our viewers how it went?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, by holding his first press conference in three months, President Obama worked himself prominently into Super Tuesday coverage. He tried to make news on the domestic front by announcing a right off the top some new housing aid, but reporters here took the conversation in a very different direction.
YELLIN (voice-over): It was a press conference heavy on foreign policy. The president pressed to explain his push for Israeli patients with Iran over its nuclear program. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sanctions are starting to have significant effect inside of Iran, and that's not just my assessment. That's, I think, a uniform assessment. So, this notion that, somehow, we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks or a month, or two months is not borne out by the facts.
YELLIN: He slammed Republican candidates for what he called their loose talk of war.
OBAMA: What's said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They're not commander in chief. Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven't launched a war. If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so.
And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.
YELLIN: On another grueling crisis (ph) in Syria, he dismissed Congressional calls for the U.S. to stop the slaughter with force.
OBAMA: For us to take military action, unilaterally, as someone suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake.
YELLIN: The press conference was strikingly light on economic news. He laughed off the suggestion he wants gas prices to stay high.
OBAMA: Is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?
YELLIN: He wouldn't weigh in on the contraception controversy, but with suburban women voters a key swing vote in this election, he said --
OBAMA: I believe that Democrats have a better story to tell to women about how we're going to solidify the middle class and grow this economy. I'm not somebody who believes that women are going to single-issue voters.
YELLIN: As for his message to Mitt Romney who in an op-ed on Super Tuesday called him the most feckless president since Jimmy Carter, the president offered this --
OBAMA: Good luck tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, really.
YELLIN (on-camera): Now, Wolf, again, the press conference heavily focused on international policy, but because this housing policy matter to so many millions of Americans, I want to emphasize this, the president drawing a start contrast with Mitt Romney who has said that the housing market should be allowed to bottom out.
And it should be noted that the president's administration has it self-proposed at least 10 different housing refinancing or other reform programs, and yet, since the beginning of his administration, there are nearly as many homeowners underwater today as there were when he took office. His housing reforms, Wolf, barely making a dent in the market's problems right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: At least, so far. All right. Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.
You saw on the screen Mitt Romney is voting in the state of Massachusetts, his home state in the Republican primary. There much more on that part of the story coming up as well. He's getting ready to speak to reporters in Massachusetts. We'll have live coverage.
Also, you heard President Obama blasting his Republican rivals' talk of potential military action against Iran. Here's what the candidates actually said about Iran's nuclear threat today.
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MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I'll be ready to engage in diplomacy, but I will be just as ready to engage our military might. Israel will know that America stands at its side in all conditions andin all consequence.
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we need to do more to just talk. We need to set forth a clear ultimatum to the Iranian government. We need to say to the Iranian government the time is now. You will stop your nuclear production now.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The red line is not the morning a bomb goes off. The red line is not the morning our intelligence community tells us they have failed once again. The red line is now, because the Iranians now are deepening their fortifications, deepening their underground laboratories, deepening their commitment to nuclear weapons while we talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The other Republican candidate in the race, Ron Paul doesn't support U.S. intervention in other countries. He doesn't great with his opponents' policies on Iran, certainly doesn't agree with the president's policies, either.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was on Capitol Hill today, where a fierce debate is brewing about how the United States should respond to the Iran crisis. Let's bring in our Congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan. She's following that part of the story. How did it go up on Capitol Hill, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. We saw those pictures right there. There were bipartisan meetings on both ends of the capital today with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but despite those photo opportunities meant to show Congress is united in its support of Israel, the top Democrat and top Republican in the Senate today showed sharp disagreement on the issue of Iran, and specifically, what the U.S. should do next with regard to Iran.
Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, he is now pushing for a Congressional vote on authorizing the use of military force against Iran. Listen here to him today.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: It is time to consider a resolution authorizing the use of force, a resolution authorizing the use of force is not a mandate to use force, but clearly would indicate to the Iranians that we're willing to go beyond sanctions that many of us are skeptical or likely to get the final result.
Not that the sanctions are not a good idea, not that they're not useful, but the reason for the sanctions is for Iran not to step that next level and develop a nuclear weapon and the capacity to deliver it.
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BOLDUAN: Now, McConnell's top aides tell me that that vote would come if intelligence shows that Iran has begun to enrich weapons-grade uranium or if intelligence shows that Iran has made the decision as decided to develop a nuclear weapon.
I asked right after speaking with Mitch McConnell there and asking him a question I asked the Senate majority leader, Democratic senator Harry Reid, about the vote authorizing military force. He made clear he's not on board. Listen here.
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SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: And I'm not going to be part of rushing forward on a declaration of war. These are things we have to be done very, very cautiously. We have problems around this world that are so significant. We have North Korea, we have Iran, we have the situation in Syria, we have problems now in Egypt. So, let's just stop throwing the word "war" around so casually.
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BOLDUAN: Wolf, both sides are clearly trying to emphasize their solidarity and support of Israel. Politics up here, as you know, are never far away. This debate allows Republicans an opportunity to separate themselves, draw a contrast on foreign policy as well as national security issues and important issues in areas during an election season.
For democrats, this allows Democrats the opportunity to try to paint Republicans as the president has as unnecessarily beating the drums of war -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kate Bolduan up on the Hill, thank you.
Top U.S. military leaders were also up on Capitol Hill. They were pressed about just how dangerous Iran is, just how far the threat extends around the world. Our Pentagon correspondents, Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr, they're both standing by live. Let's begin with Chris -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even though Iran only spends about one percent of what the U.S. spends on its military, American commanders say it's got the kind of fast boats and long-range rockets that could completely destabilize that region.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): What's the most significant threat to the entire Middle East? U.S. military commander say Iran.
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, CENTCOM COMMANDER: They're fighting basically a shadow war every day.
LAWRENCE: Gen. James Mattis says Iran is the only nation trying to spark violence in the region, weapons into Sudan to establish a base on the red sea, trying to influence the post-Arab spring government in Egypt, dispatching ships full of weapons to rebel factions in Yemen, and sending technology, cash, and weapons to help Syria crush its rebellion.
MATTIS: My biggest concern is Iran. That is the nation with four different threats.
LAWRENCE: The most critical is its nuclear program, but the Pentagon says Iran can threaten ships at sea and launch covert attacks around the world using it secret police and surrogates like Hezbollah.
MATTIS: They got the long-range rockets and ballistic missiles that they can use and hold other nations at risk from the Mediterranean down into the Gulf Coast.
LAWRENCE: The Pentagon is hinting it will need more money to fight these threats, from sea-based missile defense systems to assets that can block Iran's fast attack boats and more countermeasures to clear minds. American fighter jets and bombers are some of the assets already on the table if Iran's nuclear program advances has to certain point.
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Military action is the last alternative when all else fails, but make no mistake. When all else fails, we will act.
BLITZER: Chris, stand by for a moment, because at the very same hearing, senators also grilled commanders on why the United States isn't intervening militarily as far as the situation in Syria is concerned. Pretty grim over there. Let's bring in Barbara Starr. She's got new developments on that front -- Barbara. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're right. It was the same commanders talking about Syria, and for the first time, in detail, talking precisely about why it would be so tough for the U.S. to attack.
STARR (voice-over): The top U.S. military commander for Middle East operations says the fall of Bashar al-Assad is inevitable.
MATTIS: Not if, but when he's going to go.
STARR: But for Syrian civilians, it may be about to get a lot worse under Assad's rule.
MATTIS: He's gaining physical momentum, sir, on the battlefield. I think he's creating more enemies. I think he's creating more reason, more international pressure against him, but on the tactical battlefield, he is clearly achieving what he wants to achieve.
STARR: And the first public discussion from the military, why Senator John McCain's call for air strikes may be too tough to do.
MATTIS: The Russians have provided very advanced integrated air defense capabilities, missiles, radars, that sort of thing that would make imposition of any no-fly zone challenging, if we were to go that direction.
STARR: But McCain was clearly out of patience, especially with the argument that Syrian opposition groups may include al Qaeda fighters.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Frankly, one grows a little weird of this. We don't know who they are, and they're probably al Qaeda. General -- you think we can find out who they are?
ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMANDER: Sir, I think it's always prudent to find out who your allies are.
MCCAIN: I suggest we find out who these people are. And I guarantee you that you will find out that it's not al Qaeda, that it's not al Qaeda. It's people who have the same yearnings universal, and that's freedom, democracy, and our God-given rights.
BLITZER: Barbara, you also have reported before that Iran is helping Syria, we know that, but there's more information you're collecting right now. What else are you learning?
STARR: Well, you know, Wolf, Gen. Mattis who you saw in that piece was very clear about his relationship between Iran and Syria, how much Iran wants to hold on to Syria as an ally. He said if they lose Syria, it would be the biggest strategic loss for Iran in 20 years. That's an indication of how hard Tehran may fight in this whole situation. BLITZER: And Chris, let me just bring you back into this conversation. The defense secretary, Leon Panetta, he went before the pro-Israel lobbying organization to reiterate the U.S. military commitment to Israel in defense against Iran. How did that go?
LAWRENCE: Yes, Wolf. The U.S. is giving Israel about $3 billion in military aid this year. You've got U.S. personnel on the ground there in Israel, operating a radar system that contributes to Israel's missile defense. Today, Secretary Panetta promised to Israel that they will get whatever they need to maintain air superiority in that region.
The one thing he did not mention were those bunker buster bombs that could be used to go after deeply fortified Iranian nuclear facilities.
BLITZER: You mean whether or not the U.S. would give those bombs to Israel to use in case they make that decision?
LAWRENCE: Exactly. So far, the U.S. has not given those to any other country, period. And Sec. Panetta did not specifically mention those bunker buster bombs today.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Guys, thanks very much.
It's the biggest day yet in the Republican primary, and we're waiting for the very first CNN exit polls. John King is just coming back. He's getting a lot of information. We're only minutes away. The first glimpse into this major contest. Ten states at stake, including Ohio. Stand by.
President Obama discusses his daughters during a question about the escalating Rush Limbaugh controversy. Our political panel will weigh in on his answer.
And we're getting the first video of the alleged gunman in that deadly Ohio school shooting. You're going to hear from him what he has to say for the first time. That's coming up as well.
And a mother's legs almost completely severed in an effort to save her children from those deadly tornadoes.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they're screaming, mommy, I can't live without you, I don't want to die, please don't let me die.
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BLITZER: All right. The first exit poll numbers are just starting to come in to the SITUATION ROOM right now. Let's bring in John King. You've had a chance to digest some of these early numbers.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And let's focus on the state of Ohio for now. Ten states in play tonight, it gets pretty complicated looking at all this data. We know Ohio is one of the biggest battlegrounds. So, polls showed at the end a dead heat between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. So, let's take a look at what we know. We can't talk about results, obviously, from the exit polls.
There are still people going to vote, but when did people decide? That often has an impact on the race. You see how tough the race is out there and less. Look at this, only 10 percent of the voters in the Ohio Republican presidential primary today say they decided just today as they went to vote, 17 percent in the last few days. So, a little over a quarter of the voters decided in the few days.
Thirty percent said the last few weeks, 22 percent, Wolf, and if you add up to 18 percent, they're 40 percent said they started a long time ago. So, we'll watch how that plays out tonight. Let's look at some other numbers here. Again, it was a Santorum/Romney race. So, we asked voters, do you think Rick Santorum's positions on the issues are, are they too conservative? Twenty-four percent of the voters said that, not conservative enough, 17 percent.
About half of the electorates said, you know what, he's just about right on the issues, Rick Santorum. Important to watch that Sen. Santorum, how he's doing pretty well. But look at this, just about the exact same number on about right. Forty-seven percent said Mitt Romney is just about right on the issues.
Thirty-seven percent, more than a third of the Republican voting today said not conservative enough for them. Only seven percent of the voters today said Mitt Romney is too conservative. And Wolf, let me show you this one lastly, here's your electorate in Ohio today. Sixty-four percent of the voters, 64 percent, so, nearly two thirds described themselves as conservatives.
And look at this, do we have a tight race? We have a tight race. Thirty-nine percent of those conservative voters went for Senator Santorum, 39 percent of those conservative voters went for Governor Romney.
That suggests you, my friend, that we have a very hot race, very tight race in the battleground of Ohio, one of the big battle ground states tonight. That suggests I'll buy the coffee. We're going to be here a while.
BLITZER: Yes. We're going to be here awhile. We won't be making projections. The polls in Ohio closed early, relatively early, tonight, but we could be here for hours and hours.
KING: If this among the conservative voters a dead heat, we're going to be counting them late.
BLITZER: All right. John, thanks very much. John, of course, is going to be back. He's crunching all the numbers as a huge day, a huge day, in the race for the White House. We have the best political team standing by to discuss exit polls, Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos, they are here.
Also, the secret internet hacker group that's been dogging the FBI for years, and now, they're not anonymous any longer. You're going to find out who officials say is behind some of the country's most notorious internet crimes.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get back to John King. Once again, he's crunching numbers. Tennessee this time, we got some early exit poll information.
KING: And we just told you Ohio. We know that's one of the big battlegrounds tonight. Tennessee, perhaps, the other defining battleground. Rick Santorum was well ahead. Gov. Romney has come back, and polls show Romney slightly behind, Wolf, coming into the voting. So, we need to be careful.
But again, we asked Republicans as they went to vote in Tennessee today, which of the candidates -- not who are you going to vote for, but which of these candidates you think is most likely to be the strongest candidate against President Obama? It's interesting.
Among Tennessee Republicans, 44 percent, more than any other candidates say Mitt Romney is the strongest candidate against Barack Obama. Twenty-three percent said that about Sen. Santorum, about the same number, 21 percent against Speaker Gingrich.
Now, this is not how they voted in a Republican primary, it's who they think would be the strongest candidate in the fall against President Obama. Here's a great thing here to look at, what's the most important issue? This has tracked in almost every state. We get differences from state to state, and this is a great test, Super Tuesday, a national primary, if you will.
States in New England, states in the south, all the out west to Alaska. So far, every state, of course, no surprise, right in this area, usually to around half the voters, 40 percent say the economy. That's true in Tennessee, the budget deficit among conservatives voting in Republican primaries. The budget deficit the most important issue, number two.
This is very interesting here. Are you a White born-again evangelical Christian? This is a high percentage here. Normally -- we're not going to get deeper to the numbers now, but normally, that's a strength for Senator Santorum, evangelical Christians 7 in 10 voters in the Tennessee Republican presidential primary today, identify themselves as evangelicals. So, if you're the Santorum campaign, you probably like that number. We'll look more closely later.
And what about the Tea Party movement? Tennessee, one of the states where we did see the Tea Party movement come up in 2010. Sixty-three percent, not quite two thirds, but close of the Tennessee voters today will say they support the Tea Party. Twenty-four percent of the Republicans voting are neutral.
So, you have here Tennessee is not the biggest state, but it's a diverse state. You want to watch and see how, again, how does Santorum do in the rural Tea Party evangelical areas? Can Mitt Romney who decided late to make a push. He has the support of the governor of Tennessee. How does he do in the more affluent suburban areas around national (ph)?
Ohio we know will be tight. We expect they'll be having a long night kind of votes (ph) in Tennessee as well.
BLITZER: John, I know you'll be crunching all these exit poll numbers. Mitt Romney just voted in his home state of Massachusetts. Now, he's speaking to reporters. Let's listen in briefly.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- have shown your favorability dropping. Does that concern you going forward and what do you make of it?
ROMNEY: Just the nature of a campaign. Obviously, you're going to have attacks that come from various people in a campaign process, and some of those attacks, until they're understood answered have an impact in people's perceptions, but you know, these are long campaigns.
They say the day is, you know, like a lifetime in politics. So, we have plenty of time to talk about the real issues, and some of the attacks and back and forth diminish over time as people put those things in context and learn the reality with regards to any particular candidate.
ROMNEY: Hi, John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, governor, Mrs. Romney. John Kerry went on the Senate floor today and denounced your op-ed statement on Iran as empty rhetoric. What's your response to that?
ROMNEY: My view on Iran is pretty straight forward and that is that this president has made some extraordinary errors. This president did not put in place crippling sanctions when he came into office. He's doddle (ph) for three years to finally get sanctions in place. Secondly, when the people of Tehran went to the streets to protest a stolen election, he had nothing to say.
And then, with regards to military action, he seems to be more concerned about Israel potentially taking military action than it is about Iran becoming nuclear. I think it's important for us to make it very clear that a nuclear Iran is not acceptable to the United States, it's not acceptable to the world.
And believe that that is something which I should continue to speak about, and I hope the president picks up the same refrain.
ROMNEY: I'll be back. I'll be back. Yes.
(INAUDIBLE) ROMNEY: I don't have any plans with regards to my campaign's finances at this stage other than to keep on raising the money necessary to go forward.
ROMNEY: Criticized who? I'm sorry. My campaign is about jobs, and the economy, and scaling back the size of government, and I'm not going to weigh in on that particular controversy.
ROMNEY: OK. We're going to sign a book and then --
(END LIVE FEED)
BLITZER: All right, so he's answering a few questions. Right at the top of that little informal news conference, his exchange with reporters, he was asked to comment about the president's remarks earlier in the day when he wished him, Romney, good luck out there on the campaign trail on this Super Tuesday. Let me play that clip for you now.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
ROMNEY: Do you think that was an endorsement? I hope so, but I don't think so. I appreciate the good wishes, and wish him the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's taking the high road over there as well. Let's discuss what we just heard and a lot more with our two CNN political contributors, a Democratic strategist Paul Begala and a Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Paul is a senior strategist for the Democratic fundraising group, Priorities USA (ph) and Priorities USA Action (ph). Those are the Super PACs supporting the president of the United States. Is that right?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.
BLITZER: What did you think of his taking the high road, the president taking the high road, the president earlier today said I wish him good luck. He said is he endorsing me? What do you think about that?
BEGALA: I thought it showed a little humor. I thought it was charming. It was gracious. This has been tough. You can see it in his face, this is tough on Governor Romney. He looks like a Ken doll, he's just gorgeous, OK, he's like a product of a freakish genetic experiment --
(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: -- perfect looking candidate, but it's wearing on him. But what I'm happy to see, as an analyst, not as a Democrat, is it doesn't seem to be affecting his personality. He seemed perfectly pleasant in that exchange. It looks like they're not getting under his skin maybe as much --
BLITZER: Do you think he has it wrapped up?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think he's almost got it wrapped up. I think you know last week Mitt Romney could not afford to lose Michigan. Tonight I don't think Rick Santorum can afford to lose Ohio. And if he does, then that's I think the beginning of the end and conservatives will begin to consolidate around Mitt Romney.
BLITZER: Because there are still a lot more contests and there are some big states, I think New York State, California, these are big states out there.
CASTELLANOS: Every time we've buried the body, the hand has come back from the grave. You know they keep coming back, so, but no I think it's beginning to consolidate. Republicans are beginning to see the wear and tear of this process, is the impact it's having on the candidates and I think they want to begin to bring this to an end.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment?
BEGALA: The wear and tear? It's driven Mitt Romney is favorable in "The Wall Street Journal" poll down to 28, which is the lowest for any major front-runner in modern history, 28. Meanwhile the same poll has the president at 50. Yes, I think it'll even out. I think Romney is actually right analytically. He'll come back if he's the nominee and this is a 50/50 race, but the damage pulling him to the far right, particularly on contraception and immigration --
BEGALA: -- the two key swing votes here are Latinos and single women, OK, and those are two issues where he used to be a moderate to a liberal. Now the process has pulled him out of the mainstream. There's long-term damage --
BLITZER: It's what?
BEGALA: Long-term damage --
CASTELLANOS: That's a very effective spin, but it just --
CASTELLANOS: I don't think it happens to be entirely accurate. If Romney had been pulled to the right, if Romney were the candidate of the conservative part of the Republican Party, he would have the nomination wrapped up. It hasn't happened that way.
BLITZER: He's got some work to do.
CASTELLANOS: He's got some work to do --
BLITZER: Because both Santorum and Gingrich, they want the other guy to drop out so it would be Romney versus them. The question is who drops out first, Santorum or Gingrich?
BEGALA: You know the speaker, of course, running in Georgia, his home state. Most people think he's pretty likely to win his home state, which is at least --
BLITZER: If he gets more than 50 percent of the vote in Georgia, he'll get all the delegates and this is the biggest prize of the day, Georgia.
BEGALA: Right and as my friend, who is a very wise man said last week the most important precinct for Newt is that precinct in Las Vegas, where Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate lives, who has been financing a great measure of the Super PAC for Newt, so this all right now works for Mitt Romney as the rest of the field divides the conservative vote, but at some point someone has got to get him one- on-one and if he's not (INAUDIBLE) these conservatives, it's going to be Barack Obama --
BLITZER: I thought the president was effective today, when he explained why he made that phone call to that young Georgetown University law student in the aftermath of the whole Rush Limbaugh uproar. Let me play this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know the reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's a pretty good answer.
CASTELLANOS: Pretty good answer and let's give him credit. I don't think he's very good at being president, but Barack Obama is very good at wanting to be president and campaigning. And he took advantage of a great political moment, did it in a nice, elegant subtle way, helped himself, but you know a couple of weeks ago Republicans were saying that Democrats were waging war on religion.
This week the Democrats have hit the ball back over the net, why Republicans are waging war on women. I checked the data and I know if Paul is aware of this, half of Republicans actually are women and the other half think very highly of them. So there is no such thing. This is a big battle about contraception -- BLITZER: Quickly Paul --
CASTELLANOS: Planned Parenthood, 24 percent, by the way of the largest abortion organization in America their budget comes from Title 10. Republicans want to stop that.
BEGALA: Romney wants to zero out all funding for contraception in the federal budget. That's extraordinary and --
CASTELLANOS: -- what he said --
CASTELLANOS: -- is I totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception.
CASTELLANOS: That's a direct --
BEGALA: -- funding for it, which is effectively the same thing --
CASTELLANOS: No, no --
BEGALA: -- for over five million women.
CASTELLANOS: Seventy one percent of that funding comes from Medicaid, only the funding that goes to the abortion providers.
BEGALA: Title 10 finances contraception for over five million women in over 6,000 clinics in 75 percent of the counties in America. He wants to take that to zero. It was written by the Republicans. George H.W. Bush was one of the House sponsors of it. Richard Nixon signed it into law. This is a radical position to take --
BLITZER: All right --
BLITZER: Hold you, guys. Hold that thought. We'll continue this discussion. We've got a lot of time tonight, so there will be a lot of opportunity. Guys, thanks very much.
And please be sure to stay with CNN tonight for complete coverage of all the results for our viewers in North America. We begin in less than half an hour from now with a special edition of "JOHN KINS, USA". That's at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. It is followed by live coverage at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with me, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, John King, the rest of the best political team on television. Stand by for that. We're also following some other big news today. The suspect in that horrible school shooting in Ohio, he finally speaks in court. You're going to hear him for the first time and the secret Internet hacker group that's been hiding from the FBI for years, now they're not anonymous any longer. You're going to find out who officials say is behind some of the country's most notorious Internet crimes.
BLITZER: The 17-year-old boy accused of killing three fellow students inside a high school cafeteria calmly walked into court today. He sat just a short distance from the families of his victims. He came face-to-face with, for the first time. CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us from Chardon, Ohio. It's outside of Cleveland. Martin, you were in the courtroom today, we finally heard from T.J. Lane. What did he say?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was the initial hearing, essentially what would have happened is he would have had the reading of the charges. The defense said that's not necessary, so the judge then launched into sort of explaining the nature of the charges and the potential consequences. And that set up a very interesting sort of Q&A between the judge and T.J. Lane. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a right to receive a copy of the complaint, and as acknowledged by your attorney, you have seen the complaint and have waived the reading of the charges, but you are aware of the six charges that have been brought against you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am, your Honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a right to have a trial on those charges and at that trial you have a right to require that the state of Ohio prove each element of each charge at trial beyond a reasonable doubt if the state can do so. Do you understand?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do, your Honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: He spoke in complete sentences. He was always very polite, but Wolf, as you're sitting in the courtroom and watching you can't help but notice how small this young man is, how quiet he is, and how in stark contrast that is to the horrible nature of the crimes of which he has been charged.
BLITZER: Martin, have we heard from the victims' families?
SAVIDGE: There were for the first time victims' family members that were inside the courtroom. They weren't staring at T.J. Lane, but they certainly were watching his motions and listening to his words. Also inside the courtroom again were his grandparents, not in the courtroom were his mother and father. I noted that when the grandmother left she had on her lapel one of those red and black ribbons that is symbolic of sympathy and feelings towards the tragedy and the victims' families.
I should also point out there was a funeral today, and that was for Demetrius Hewlin. He is 16 years of age. He donated his organs. Eight people's lives were impacted, according to his family. As one person sort of aptly put it, Demetrius may have been killed, but his heart continues to beat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Heartbreaking story I must say. Martin Savidge on the scene for us in Ohio. Thanks very much.
Remember, we're standing by to begin our nonstop coverage of Super Tuesday, the election results that are going to be coming in fairly soon. More exit poll numbers, stand by for that.
Also a heart-breaking story out of North Carolina, a soldier who survived six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, died at home, trying to save his family. You're going to find out what happened. That's coming up.
And chaos in a courtroom when a grieving family tries to take the law into their own hands. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A tragic fire in North Carolina has devastated a family in a close-knit Army community. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what happened?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a horrific scene around 2:00 this morning. A Green Beret who survived six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan died while trying to save his little girls from a fire inside their home. Chief Warrant Officer Edward Dewayne Cantrell (ph), who had four Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart returned from his latest deployment in August. His wife jumped from a second-floor window and ran to call for help. He and their 4 and 6- year-old daughters never made it out.
Within seconds of entering a Massachusetts courtroom to face a judge, an alleged murderer found himself under attack. Take a look at the pictures here. Jose Santiago (ph) was going to be arraigned on charges of killing his girlfriend, but her father and stepfather tried to get to him first. Now they're facing charges of their own. No one was seriously hurt in that scuffle.
And a mom put her life on the line to save her children when not one, but two tornadoes headed straight for their home. Stephanie Decker (ph) ended up losing both of her legs and her house in Henryville (ph), Indiana was destroyed, but her 5 and 8-year-old boys are alive. She covered them with a blanket to protect them from debris. One of the tornadoes was an EF-4, with winds up to 200 miles an hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story that is as well. All right, thanks very much, Lisa. Federal officials say they busted the secret hacker group known as Anonymous. You're going to find out who the FBI says is part of the movement. That's coming up. And it seems everyone has an opinion about Rush Limbaugh. Some of the most memorable moments, that's coming up as well.
BLITZER: There's a major takedown on the war against computer crime. Authorities in the United States and Europe just rounded up some alleged hackers suspected in a recent string of high profile cyber attacks. Brian Todd has the details -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these alleged hackers have carried out some of the highest profile breaches around the world over the past couple of years. Experts are now worried that taking them out will only spawn more cyber attacks.
TODD (voice-over): They allegedly breached government Web sites, major financial services, entertainment conglomerates and law enforcement networks. Six elite hackers from LulzSec, an offshoot of the hacktivist (ph) group Anonymous, have been arrested in the U.S., Britain and Ireland, charged with hacking and other crimes which authorities say affected more than a million victims. I spoke to Newt Ghosh from the cyber security firm Invincea.
ANUP GHOSH, INVINCEA: It's fairly significant that the FBI in concert with the partners were able to identify the individuals behind these attacks. In cyber getting attribution (ph) of the attacker is very difficult.
TODD: One of those charged, Hector Monsegur, known as "Sabu", seen in these photos posted online pleaded guilty back in August. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN "Sabu" agreed to cooperate with the government as part of his plea, that he helped build a case against other suspects. Law enforcement officials say "Sabu" and his associates are behind some notorious hacks, launching denial of service attacks against Visa, Master Card and Pay Pal to hit back for their refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks. Retaliation, officials say, was a trademark tactic with "Sabu" and others at LulzSec.
(on camera): The group didn't like a PBS documentary about WikiLeaks so it hacked into PBS's Web site, posted a fake story about Tupac Shakur (ph) and Biggie Smalls (ph) being alive and well in New Zealand. Both rappers were killed in the late '90s.
(voice-over): LulzSec once disabled the U.S. Senate's Web site and officials say one of those charged was involved in hacking into e- mails giving them information about an important conference call recently between the FBI and New Scotland Yard, a call where a probe into hackers was discussed. The suspect allegedly recorded that call. Some hackers' apparent real names are bleeped out. Their aliases are not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've set back the further arrests of Kayla and T-Flow, that being (BEEP) and (BEEP) until we know what's happening.
TODD: I asked Ghosh about the social media onslaught in the aftermath of this takedown.
(on camera): A lot of bragging tweets out there today. Cut off one head, we grow two back, so they really haven't tapped into much of this network, right?
GHOSH: That's right. I mean the important thing to realize here is Anonymous is a movement.
TODD: Ghosh believes these arrests will be a rallying cry for other so-called hacktivists within Anonymous to launch more operations, both to retaliate for these charges and to send out their signature message reminding governments and companies that their cyber security is very porous -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian thanks very, very much.
Rush Limbaugh is just responding to the president of the United States. We got the tape. Stand by for that. Also we're getting ready for Super Tuesday coverage. It begins right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: Rush Limbaugh just posted this on his Web site, apparently in response to President Obama's comments today that he didn't know what was in Limbaugh's heart. Let me read it to our viewers and you can get the sense.
"Everybody knows what's in my heart. Everybody who listens to this program and every one of these critics who's jumping on this for the political advantage they think it gives them knows what's in my heart. Everybody knows what I do here. Everybody knows how I do it. And everybody knows what kind of person I am." Meantime, Limbaugh's critics aren't pulling any punches. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember the days when the "S" word was a comedy punch line?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jane, you ignorant slut.
MOOS: The way Rush Limbaugh used it has made him a punch line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Human cold shower Rush Limbaugh, see (ph) --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poster boy for contraception, Rush Limbaugh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four wives he's had. No children. Dude, you are birth control.
MOOS: Cartoonists put him in a Viagra bottle, represented him as a pig, and did the limbo, the Rush limbo, how low can you go? At the "Detroit Free Press" (ph), cartoonist Mike Thompson (ph) is running a cartoon caption contest. Entries so far include "open mouth insert career", "who says I'm an inflexible bigot" and "my foot is such a slut", gees, I feel uncomfortable even calling a foot that word.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was called a slut because I was doing coverage in the Middle East. What year is this, Limbaugh? Shut your cake hole, please.
MOOS: At least she said please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a fat, gutless loser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And remember he only apologized to keep his advertisers, proving Rush will do anything with his mouth for cash.
MOOS: Some conservatives say the left is out to hush Rush, to silence him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) what political party is Rush Limbaugh a part of?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a whore.
MOOS: Yikes all this name calling. As for the name of the law student insulted by Rush, Sandra Fluke, Rush calls her --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Susan Fluke, Susan Flake, Susan Fluke or Sandra Fluke, whatever he name is.
MOOS: Coincidentally a bronze bust of Rush is scheduled to be enshrined soon in the Hall of Famous Missourians at the State Capitol alongside governors and Mark Twain and Walter Cronkite. Can you imagine Walter reporting on this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you're a slut, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a punk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's actually a very good person and I'm sure he will be just fine.
MOOS (on camera): And while Rush is facing the music, someone was actually listening to the music playing ever so low during Rush's rant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke.
MOOS (voice-over): That's Peter Gabriel's (ph) song "Sledgehammer".
MOOS: And he doesn't want Rush using it anymore, even if the music video does feature a sperm.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jane, you ignorant slut.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right?
MOOS: -- New York.