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THE SITUATION ROOM
Russia to Romney: Cold War Is Over; Health Care Law in Trouble?; Interview With Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Flight Diverted Due to Commotion in Cockpit; Entrance Exam Cheating; Nuclear Attack Study; Viral Political Ads
Aired March 27, 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, Mitt Romney fires back at Russia's president, who says the Republican is stuck in a cold war state of mind. This hour, questions about Romney's world view after he told me that Russia is America's number one geopolitical foe.
Also, an historic day at the United States Supreme Court and new reason to think that the health care reform law may be struck down.
Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how your coverage could be affected.
And what if what if -- what if a powerful nuclear bomb struck the heart of the nation's capital?
There's a new government study that answers that question in a very surprising way.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Mitt Romney saw an opportunity to attack Barack Obama. He went for it. But he wound up ticking off another president. We're talking about the president of Russia.
This new flack began right here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday, when Romney told me that Russia is America's number one geopolitical foe. It turns out Kremlin leaders were listening.
Here's our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim, they were listening very clearly.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The Kremlin knows how to listen, Wolf. That's right. With this open mic episode, the Romney campaign thought they had caught the president in his own Etch-A- Sketch moment, until the GOP contender created a whole new controversy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.
ACOSTA (voice-over): In President Obama's open mic moment with Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, Mitt Romney saw an opening. The question is whether the GOP frontrunner missed it.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is to Russia. This is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. The idea that our president is -- is planning on doing something with them that he's not willing to tell the American people before the election is something I find very, very alarming.
ACOSTA: But alarm bells also rang on Capitol Hill, where House Speaker John Boehner sounded as if Romney needed a lesson in Washington protocol.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: While the president is overseas, I think it's appropriate that -- that people not be critical of him of him or of our country.
ACOSTA: As for Romney's number one geopolitical foe comment, it didn't take long for that to transmit back to the Russian president.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It is very reminiscent of Hollywood in a certain period of history. It is 2012, not the mid-1970s.
ACOSTA: It was an apparent reference to the cold war in the days of 007 taking on the Soviet Union.
But was this episode of "From Romney with Love" a doctor no-no?
MATTHEW ROJANSKY, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I would call that acute political hyperbole.
ACOSTA: But Matthew Rojansky, with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, cautions there is good reason to worry about Russia. Take Vladimir's Putin's controversial return to the presidency, Rojansky says, or Moscow's moves to block United Nations sanctions aimed at stopping the crisis in Syria.
ROJANSKY: You cannot ignore Russia. You've got to find a way to work with the Russians.
ACOSTA: The Romney campaign responded to the Russian president with a statement, saying that: "Medvedev's comments about Governor Romney make it evident that the Kremlin would prefer to continue doing business with the current incumbent of the White House."
But the statement goes on to attack Russia as a unique, not number one, geopolitical concern. ROMNEY: This is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.
ACOSTA: The Democratic Party turned the comment into a Web video, questioning whether Romney is ready to be president. But listen to what one of Romney's fiercest critics and GOP rival, Newt Gingrich, told CNN.
(on camera): Do you agree with that assessment?
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we need a total reassessment of American foreign policy.
GINGRICH: And the world is much more complicated than -- than just any one country. There are at least centers of gravity -- or four if you count (INAUDIBLE) -- that you have to pay attention to every day.
ACOSTA: Do you think that was...
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: And in case you couldn't heard that -- hear that, he said not a gaffe there, at the end of those comments.
Now, Romney may be backing away from his assertion that Russia is the nation's top foe.
He is standing by his criticism that the president has caved to the Russians on issues like missile defense.
But the White House is not holding back, either.
When asked who the country number one enemy is -- the country's number one enemy -- Press Secretary Jay Carney replied: "It is still al Qaeda" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That's interesting, because when I pressed Governor Romney yesterday to back up why he said Russia was America's number one geopolitical foe, and what about Iran, North Korea, China?, he did back of from that statement.
ACOSTA: He did.
BLITZER: And I guess his definition of geopolitical was a -- was a -- was a major international player, if you will. But he sort of backed off.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: At least that was my interpretation. ACOSTA: And I think that's because out on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has identified a nuclear Iran as the gravest threat facing the United States. And so calling the -- calling Russia the nation's top geopolitical foe just sort of fought with that narrative that he's basically been saying out on the campaign trail for months. So it's not surprising that this campaign statement would come today, sort of backing away from that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I don't think the -- this story is going to go away.
All right. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
Let's get now to the most important Supreme Court case maybe in a decade. While protesters marched outside today here in Washington, the justices heard arguments about the key provision of the 2010 health care reform law. That would be the individual mandate that requires most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty.
Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, says the law appears to be in grave trouble right now based on the questions and the comments made by the justices.
Listen to the swing justice on the court, Anthony Kennedy, sounding sympathetic to opponents of the health care mandate.
ANTHONY KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Here the government is saying that the federal government has a duty to tell the individual citizen that it must act. And that is different from what we have in the previous cases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well...
KENNEDY: That changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in Jeff Toobin right now.
You Tweeted today. You said this was "a train wreck" for President Obama, what you heard. You were in the court during those two hours. "A train wreck."
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Sure did. You know, William Brennan, the famous liberal justice, used to say, the most important rule at the Supreme Court is the rule of five. With five votes, you can do anything you want. And there sure looked to me five votes to strike down the law -- to strike down the individual mandate. Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito and Thomas. And that's all you need.
BLITZER: The United States, since the '60s, has mandated or required that all of us, in effect, buy insurance -- Medicare insurance, Social Security insurance -- to pay for expenditures down the road.
What's different about mandating health insurance for everyone, as opposed to Social Security or Medicare?
TOOBIN: Well, Social Security and Medicare are straightforward taxes. And that's how they've been just -- they've been justified by the Supreme Court.
What makes this different, at least according to its opponents, is that the -- this law requires individuals to buy a product from a private company, to become participants in a private market, whether they want to or not.
Now, supporters of the law, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who made this point repeatedly, said, look, health care is a special market. Everybody is in the health care market, whether you want to be or not. If you get hit by a car, you are going to be taken to the hospital, you are going to be treated. And everybody, the taxpayers, are going to pay for that even if you don't have health insurance. So the government is -- is allowed to regulate that market and force people into it.
BLITZER: So if the Republicans -- a lot of Republicans say privatize Social Security.
If they were to privatize Social Security, would that be mandated, as well, going into the private sector?
TOOBIN: I think that's one of the unusual implications of striking down this law, that a lot of pet projects, privatizing in general, which, remember, is a Republican idea. The individual mandate started out at the right-wing Heritage Foundation. President Bush, when he wanted to privatize Social Security in his second term, those were forcing individuals to join a private market. All those ideas, I think, would go down the drain if the Supreme Court strikes down this law.
BLITZER: Hold -- hold on a second.
I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to help us better understand how Americans' health care potentially could be affected.
In a sentence or two, let's say the Supreme Court rules the mandate is unconstitutional.
What would happen -- Sanjay?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a few things. If the whole law is sort of struck down and some of the provisions that we've already seen go into effect -- people not being discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions, having a community rating, meaning that you're -- the premiums that you pay are based on people who are your age living in your community -- those things would -- would no longer be in -- in existence; staying on your parents' plan until the age of 26, also; and also this idea of lifetime caps. Right now, an insurance company, if someone gets sick, they can -- they may have a cap on how much they'll pay for a year or over the lifetime of the policy. Those caps, you know, are -- are gone in the Affordable Care Act, but, obviously, would be in play if -- if -- if that -- if the law was struck down.
BLITZER: We have questions for you from viewers out there.
This one came in via Twitter -- Sanjay, realistically, how will the individual mandate work with so many people unemployed?
How would it control costs?
GUPTA: Well, you know, the cost part of this is a -- is a tougher question. But the first part of this, you know, if someone is -- is unemployed, what would happen -- and, again, some of this taking place in 2014 -- if -- if this -- if this law is upheld. You're used to getting your -- your insurance through your employer. This person is unemployed. So they'd be able to access an open market and a sort of exchange to try and get their health care insurance there.
A part of that exchange, they wouldn't be discriminated against if they had a pre-existing condition. And -- and, again, they -- they would be -- have competitive prices with other insurance companies that are all part of this exchange.
If they can't afford the premiums that are charged by the -- the insurance company they choose, they could get subsidized, depending on what their income level is and how high those premiums are. Right now, if someone is unemployed and doesn't have insurance -- insurance out of their employer, then, you know, they have go to the open market, but it's very unregulated over there and they can be charged very high premiums.
BLITZER: We got another question via Twitter. I'll put it up on the screen: "My daughter was diagnosed with brain -- a brain disorder. How will replacing health care law affect pre-existing conditions status?"
GUPTA: Well, this is a -- this is a very important point, this idea that if someone has a, you know, is trying to get health care insurance and they have some sort of pre-existing condition, the cost of their insurance, their premiums, could be very, very high. Again, what we're talking about with the Affordable Care Act, it could end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
In her case, it sort of depends a little bit. Right now -- I assume this -- this woman is under the age of 18, they said her daughter, she -- she has no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. That has already gone into effect by virtue of the fact that she's a child.
If the entire law is struck down, again, that would go away. So, you know, the discrimination protection would go away. If the law is severed, so that the individual mandate is not part of this but some of these other provisions remain intact, then she might still get covered. That's a thorny issue, as Jeff and you have been talking about, just in terms of if -- if you sever it that way, where does the money come from to be able to pay for someone who has these sort of pre-existing conditions?
It's a question mark.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Jeff, I was talking to Jack Cafferty about this earlier. We never hear from Justice Clarence Thomas during these oral arguments. For six years, he's been silent. All the other justices, they -- they raise questions, ask questions. He stays silent during these two hours today, two hours yesterday, two hours tomorrow.
What's behind that?
TOOBIN: Well, he gets asked that a lot when he goes to speech -- speaks at law schools, which he does fairly often. And he says, well, I think the lawyers are interrupted too much. I think they should be allowed to make their case.
He has said, at one point, that he grew up speak Gola, the language in South Georgia, that he -- he didn't, you know, so he wasn't comfortable speaking in public.
At this point, I think it's just become bizarre. And -- and it's become sort of self-perpetuating. And I think he doesn't want to give his critics the satisfaction of his stopping.
But especially on this court, where you have eight justices who are so active and ask so many hard questions, his silence is even more conspicuous than it used to be.
BLITZER: Good answer.
Thanks very much.
Jeff Toobin will be back in the court tomorrow.
TOOBIN: I'm -- I have no problem talking.
BLITZER: Yes. No. Neither do I.
And San -- and Sanjay does an excellent job talking, as well. He's also a neurosurgeon. He's got a major novel...
BLITZER: You know that Sanjay's book is a "New York Times" best- seller.
TOOBIN: I'm jealous.
TOOBIN: But I'm also not a neurosurgeon.
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: You'd better go read it. You'd better -- more important, you'd better go buy it.
All right, Sanjay, thanks very much.
Health care reform may be a losing issue for the president no matter how the Supreme Court challenge turns out.
I'll ask the Democratic Party chairwoman, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, if she thinks that. She's going to be my guest this hour.
Also, a scary emergency landing after a pilot's angry rant and possible talk of a bomb.
What happened on that JetBlue flight?
And could nuclear terrorists wipe out the nation's capital?
There's a new government study that has just come out. It predicts the fallout. We'll share it with you.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good answer on Clarence Thomas. Very good. Rick Santorum says he's not ruling out becoming Mitt Romney's running mate. Nobody's asked him, but he says he's serious. No B.S. here. When asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network if he'd consider a vice presidential offer from Romney, Santorum said, of course.
Santorum says the race is, quote, "the most important race in our country's history," end quote. Aren't they all? And he's going to do everything he can to help the country. When he was asked the second time if he's keeping his options open for a V.P. spot, Santorum did not shoot down the idea. You suppose maybe he's finally facing the fact that he's not going to win the nomination, it's about time.
This idea is the perfect illustration of the phrase that politics makes strange bedfellows. Santorum has been vicious in his attacks on Romney. He called Romney, quote, "the worst" Republican to nominate against President Obama when it comes to the healthcare issue. Santorum also said Americans would be better off with President Obama winning a second term than Romney being elected.
He later sort of fudged around and tried to walk that back, but he said it. With friends like this, Romney has already suggested that he will not pick Rick Santorum as his running mate. Not surprised. Romney says he's not conservative enough. I don't think that's the real reason. So, who might Romney pick if he wins the nomination?
Some of the names out there include Florida senator, Marco Rubio, Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, Virginia congressman, Eric Cantor, and South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. It's still early. Remember, John McCain didn't find Sarah Palin until just before the convention. And what a find it was.
So, here's the question, if you were Mitt Romney, under what circumstances would you ask Rick Santorum to be your running mate? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect that's not going to happen.
CAFFERTY: No. Not at all.
BLITZER: All right. We've got another story we're following. It's developing right now. Shock and chaos onboard. A JetBlue flight forced to divert due to a so-called medical situation involving the pilot. A captain, witnesses say, charged the cockpit door and had to be wrestled to the ground. Wow! Let's bring in our aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzie O'Leary, once again with the latest. I know it's still a work in progress. We're learning new details, very bizarre. What do we know?
LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: So, what we know is we can sort of reconstruct a timeline of what happened here, this JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas, about three hours in this dramatic incident involving the captain had to be subdued by passengers and the crew. JetBlue has, Wolf, said describing it as a medical situation.
So, here's what happened according to several passengers who we've talked to on the plane and various authorities. It was going to Vegas, about three hours in, the co-pilot became concerned that the captain exhibited erratic behavior during the flight. You've got some video here according to the FAA. Now, the captain had exited the cockpit during the flight after which part the co-pilot locked the door.
So, he couldn't get back in. A passenger in the first row told me he saw the captain leave the cockpit, tried to get into the occupied bathroom, then flight attendants went up front to the galley where he was escorted, an off-duty pilot who happened to be flying along into the cockpit.
The captain saw this (INAUDIBLE) but walked back to the rear of the plane, then he turned around, ran up the aisle and began pounding on the cockpit door. He was shouting about putting the throttle in idle under different accounts from passengers. One said he talked about a bomb. Another said he didn't.
He said he referred to Iran and Israel saying we're going to get them, and then, repeatedly saying say your prayers. Several passengers and the crew subdued him. Listen to one of the passengers interviewed earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just heard a lot of commotion that we knew the code he wanted to get back into the cockpit. They shut the cockpit door, and he couldn't get back in and he was touting (ph) things. People heard different things. We heard the word bomb. We didn't know exactly what was going on.
He was shouting different things, and then, they subdued him and got him to the ground, and there were some male passengers that were helping them getting restrained him on to the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'LEARY: We talked to one of those passengers, a retired New York Police Department sergeant. He was in the seventh row. He was part of the group that tackled the captain. They restrained him, including using their own belts. They sat on him for about 15 minutes until the plane landed. The pilot was handcuffed, taken from the plane.
This passenger said I felt that if he got in the cockpit, he was going try and take that plane down. The plane came down very quickly. It was met by local law enforcement. Detectives interviewing all the passengers. No one was hurt. The airline has taken him on to Vegas.
And CNN has obtained a memo from JetBlue COO to employees, and essentially, congratulates them saying, "As aviation professionals, we depend on our training to know what to do in any situation. I'd like to personally thank the crew of flight 191 for their quick action and the focus on the safety of the customers."
Now, we know that law enforcement, both the locals and the FBI are investigating this, Wolf. Obviously, there's a lot more to come, and it may or may not be a medical situation, but they are looking into --
BLITZER: But JetBlue says it was -- the pilot --
O'LEARY: They say the pilot had a medical situation. He was taken to a nearby hospital, and that's pretty much all they're saying at this point.
BLITZER: Was he taking meds and got off of his meds or something?
O'LEARY: We don't know.
BLITZER: Because that for a flight attendant --
O'LEARY: We have heard that a flight attendant on American Airlines, she said she'd stopped taking her meds. So, this is something -- a couple of pretty high profile incidents in the past few weeks.
BLITZER: You can imagine how fearful those passengers were.
O'LEARY: Those passengers were, yes.
BLITZER: Fortunately, everything worked out OK.
BLITZER: Lizzie, thanks very much. Good report.
President Obama's signature accomplishment, healthcare reform, now in jeopardy of being overturned. I'll ask the Democratic National Committee chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz about the election-year danger for her party.
Also, tough new security rules to prevent cheating on college entrance exams. Some students say they're shocked this didn't happen years ago.
BLITZER: It's something of a circus outside the U.S. Supreme Court today here in Washington as activists rallied for and against the healthcare reform law. Quite a few members of Congress were eager to jump into the fray as well. Some were inside the court room. Let's bring our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, you had a chance to speak to some of those lawmakers who heard the arguments today. What were they saying?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We did, and Republicans, in particular, said that they were encouraged, Wolf. They feel that the administration didn't do that great of a job in making the argument for the healthcare law, but more importantly, they focused on Justice Anthony Kennedy who, of course, is the key swing vote on the court.
They focused on the questions he asked and the comments that he made that they said favored against the Obama administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: You're in the arguments today. How did you come out feeling in terms of which way the court was going to go?
SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R) WISCONSIN: Optimistic. I think, certainly, as Justice Kennedy was highly skeptical, and I think they define the issue right. I mean, can the federal government force Americans, free Americans, to buy a product?
SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I've heard that Justice Kennedy was asking the right questions, and he said that Obamacare would fundamentally change the relationship between government and the people. That's the question that needs to be asked, because the constitution did not allow for the government to force us to buy things that we don't want. So, I'm encouraged by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, Wolf, not every Republican was that giddy. I want you to listen to these two sound bytes. Tea party caucus chairman, Michele Bachmann, of course, a Republican, and the Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, saying virtually the same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: The questions are always good questions that the judges ask, but I think it's pretty clear you can't take from what the questions of the -- that the justices ask what the ultimate outcome of the --
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: You cannot base what the court's going do based on an oral argument. It's nice, it's good to speculate as what might happen, but believe me, those nine men and women are extremely smart. And a lot of times they probe with those questions not in any way to tip their minutes how they're going to vote on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, Reid was not in the courtroom himself. He sent some of his aides in there. I'm told by a Democratic source that they came back, again, thinking that they did not believe the administration did a good job, but not in the words of one source feeling that it was a real uh-oh moment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Dana is up on Capitol Hill.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now on this sensitive issue. Joining us is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: You know, the Tea Party movement, they had a huge demonstration up on Capitol Hill today, a lot of opponents. Where were the Democrats and the supporters of healthcare reform? Why aren't they out there trying to press the case that this is good for the country?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the Supreme Court is a group of nine justices. They are going to consider both the oral argument and the briefs that are submitted by the governments and the opponents of the healthcare reform law and where the Democrats have been and where we always have been since President Obama took office, focusing on job creation, focusing on getting our economy turned around, and focusing on making sure we can fully implement its healthcare reform.
BLITZER: You've heard the criticism, congresswoman. The Democrats are running away from their grand achievement healthcare reform on the second anniversary. We didn't see a lot of the president boasting about it, the vice president boasting about it, congressional leaders talking about it, why?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, that's actually simply not the case. Vice President Biden was in Florida on the anniversary of the healthcare law, with me on Friday, talked about the importance of making sure it's fully implemented, spoke to seniors about the importance of the prescription drug doughnut hole which will be fully closed by the Affordable Care Act over the next seven years, making sure we don't go backward and leave them twisting in the wind when it comes to try and to find a way to afford their prescription drugs.
Keeping young adults on their parents' insurance until they're 26, and the women like me who live with pre-existing conditions, making sure that we can't go back to the days like Republicans want to, that an insurance company can drop us or deny us coverage for those --
BLITZER: I don't know if you were watching Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, that he said he was in there for two hours. He's written a major book on the Supreme Court.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I read it.
BLITZER: He tweeted this was a train wreck for President Obama. The solicitor general, the representative, the lawyer arguing on behalf of the Obama administration didn't seem ready for prime time, if you will.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well I certainly don't think that based on one day of oral arguments that we can make a judgment on the ultimate outcome and the decision the justices will make. You have conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents that have upheld the law as being constitutional. At the end of the day, we need to make sure, number one, Congress certainly can regulate health care.
Number two, when you have tens of millions of people who make a decision not to carry insurance and then they get sick and they have to go to the emergency room and ultimately can't afford to pay, that decision is an economic decision that impacts millions of other people and drives everyone's health care costs up and that is why it is a commerce clause issue and makes it constitutional.
BLITZER: James Carville, our CNN contributor and pretty good political strategist --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes.
BLITZER: -- I should say he was in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour. He made the case that you, the Democrats are better off if the Supreme Court rules against health care reform overturns the law. Play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is not spin. I think that this will be the best thing to ever happen to the Democratic Party because I think health care costs are going to escalate unbelievably. It's 2012, 20 out of 100 people over 65 by 2020, it's going to be 26 and you know what the Democrats are going to say and it's completely justified. We tried. We did something. Go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.
The public has these guys figured out. Our polls show half think the whole thing is political. They overturned an election. And just as a professional Democrat, did nothing better for me than overturn this thing 5-4 and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You agree with him that it would be great for the Democrat going into November if the justices overturned health care reform?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What would be great for Americans is if the justices uphold the Affordable Care Act so that we can make sure that the Republicans aren't allowed to drag us backward to the days where insurance companies are making the decisions on what's best in terms of your health care. Doctors and patients should be making those decisions. We should make sure seniors like the ones I represent in South Florida don't have to leave some of their prescriptions behind at the counter because they can't afford to take them all home because of that doughnut hole. That's what would be best for America.
BLITZER: What if the justices do decide 5-4, 6-3 to overturn it? What are the contingency plans? What do you do then?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Obviously if there are revisions that need to be made those will be made, but we believe that this is -- this law is constitutional and that the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold it.
BLITZER: The whole notion though of this decision politically, forget about the substance because you make a good case why it should be you know continued and why it shouldn't be overturned, but on the political substance, would you win? Would this generate excitement, energize the base if the law were overturned as James Carville suggests?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We've got a pretty excited base already, Wolf, and --
BLITZER: Not as excited as they were in 2008.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well they're pretty darn close to as excited as 2008 and where the lack of excitement obviously is, is on the Republican side because you can see with almost every single one of their primaries they've had a huge drop in turnout. They have a lackluster field that they're flailing around trying to find who it is that should be their nominee. Mitt Romney has really not been able to close the deal. So if there's any concern over lack of enthusiasm it should be on the Republican side. We're fired up and ready to go.
BLITZER: How worried are you about that open mic incident yesterday in South Korea when the president was overheard saying to the Russian president, you know what? After the election we can do something else. Don't worry. (INAUDIBLE) get through this election, I then don't have to be reelected anymore and I'll be able to do things then paraphrasing, that I can't do now.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: President Obama has done a remarkable job in terms of foreign policy, being our commander in chief, bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, making sure that we re-established the United States diplomatic influence around the world and also speaking softly and carrying a big stick. I think his reputation internationally, globally has been significant and the American people are proud of their president and the position that he's brought the United States to.
BLITZER: You were very funny at the grid iron Saturday night.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: Are you getting a lot of good publicity for that?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It was fun. I enjoyed it.
BLITZER: I hope they let cameras in there one of these days --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That would be neat.
BLITZER: It's like the Supreme Court. They don't let cameras --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's right --
BLITZER: -- inside the grid iron dinner. They don't let them in the Supreme Court.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The skits were pretty good too.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Students who take college entrance exams now have to go to new lengths to prove their identities. We're taking a closer look at some tough new security rules after a major cheating scandal. And a new study reveals if anyone here in Washington can survive a nuclear bomb attack in the heart of the city. Stand by.
BLITZER: There's something new today for high school students to think about as they prepare to take college entrance exams. They now face tougher security requirements designed to prevent cheating. Mary Snow is in New York. She's looking into the story for us. What are you finding out, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this change affects more than three million students who take these tests each year. New safeguards were announced after a cheating ring was discovered here in New York last year.
SNOW (voice-over): It was these arrests tied to a cheating scandal in a wealthy New York City suburb that prompted new security rules for college entrance exams. Now everyone will be affected. Front and center was 19-year-old Sam Eshaghoff (ph). He told CBS's "60 Minutes" that students paid him around $2,500 to take their SAT tests for them. Nassau County's district attorney says she found 55 kids who either got paid to take the SAT or ACT test or paid others to take it.
(on camera): How easy is it to cheat on the SAT?
KATHLEEN RICE, NASSAU COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, before today it was incredibly easy to cheat. There were a number of loopholes that made it possible for kids to pay someone else to take the test for them.
SNOW (voice-over): Prosecutor Kathleen Rice says a fake ID was all that was required. To change that, she says students will have to upload a photo of themselves when they register for the test and it will be put into a database. On the day of the exam a photo ID will be required to match the registration. Scott Farber, who runs a prep course for students taking college entrance exams questions why it took so long.
SCOTT FARBER, PRES., A LIST EDUCATION: It seemed very, very strange that a test that was this important, that was tied to billions of dollars of financial aid and ultimately students' futures to not have those things in place before seemed very strange.
SNOW: When the cheating in Nassau County first came to light, test administrator said the problem was not widespread.
KATHRYN JURIC, THE COLLEGE BOARD: ETS (ph) data previously had suggested that impersonation was not a systemic issue. From the onset we've said one case is one too many and that's why we committed from the very beginning to work with the district attorney to further enhance the security processes.
SNOW: But Rice is convinced the cheating isn't contained to Nassau County.
RICE: I don't think there's any question that this is going on across the country. It's not just kids here in New York who come up with this idea.
SNOW: And Wolf, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice says another big change is that there will be better disclosure about cheating scams. She says the system that is currently in place makes it difficult for administrators from informing colleges, even parents about cheating -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary thanks very much.
Meanwhile, potential signs the U.S. economy may be turning around, but does that mean now is the good time to buy or sell your home? Also, for the first time in years, one U.S. team won't be going to the Summer Olympics. You're going to find out which one didn't make the cut.
BLITZER: A potential sign for peace may be, may be in the devastating Syrian crisis. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. I must say I'm skeptical, Lisa, but what's the latest?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.N. Arab League envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian government has accepted his six-point plan to end the bloodshed and is urging that it be implemented immediately. This as embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad visited the besieged city of Homs and was confronted by residents. Another 57 people were reportedly killed in the slaughter just today.
An Arab television network Al Jazeera says it won't broadcast video it received showing that deadly shooting spree in France. According to the Paris bureau chief, you can hear the victims crying out in the edited footage. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had asked TV stations not to air it. The gunman, Mohammed Mara (ph) was shot dead Thursday after more than 30-hour standoff with police. He claimed to have ties to al Qaeda.
And despite recent signs of hope for the economy, home prices have tumbled to 10-year lows. Analysts say potential buyers lack confidence in the market in part due to the looming number of potential foreclosures. On the other hand, homebuilders are gearing up for more new construction and mortgage rates remain favorable, so some also see evidence a housing market recovery may be approaching.
And it was a wrenching loss for the U.S. men's soccer team whose hopes of going to this summer's Olympic games in London were dashed by a dramatic late scoring El Salvador knocking it out of qualifying contention. It is the second time the U.S. team has failed to qualify for the Olympics since 1976. The last time El Salvador made the cut was back in 1968.
And if you don't already have your mega millions lottery ticket well you might want to think about buying one. Tonight's estimated jackpot is $363 million. It's the third largest in the game's history. The odds of winning are almost 176 million to one. But chances are somebody will have that lucky ticket, Wolf, tomorrow.
BLITZER: Yes, that would be pretty cool. If you don't buy a ticket, you can't win. I never buy tickets, so I obviously am not going to win that lottery. All right thanks very much.
A doomsday scenario, what if a nuclear terrorist dropped a bomb near the White House? We have a new study that has just been released that estimates who would survive, who wouldn't survive. Stand by.
And are politicians crossing the line with web videos that make your head turn and your jaw drop? Stand by for that as well --
BLITZER: It's something all of us here in Washington, D.C., would rather not think about. What if -- what if nuclear terrorists targeted the nation's capital with a powerful bomb? Federal officials have thought about that scenario long and hard over many years and they figured out who would most likely survive and who wouldn't. We have the information, the new report Brian Todd's been going through it. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this study was first published for official use only until it was circulated on scientific Web site. The study lays out a scenario where the White House and a large swathe of the nation's capital are destroyed, but the bomb doesn't wipe out the entire city.
TODD (voice-over): Buildings reduced to rubble as they were in Hiroshima.
TODD: Panicked crowds trying to escape deadly fallout, evoking images of 9/11. Scenarios that are part of a U.S. government study on what would happen if terrorists set off a ten kiloton nuclear device in the heart of the nation's capital.
(on camera): The study puts ground zero right here, 16th and K Street's Northwest in Washington (ph) just a few blocks from the White House. It is a direct line of sight to the White House meaning no buildings to shield the White House from the effects of the blast or the fallout.
(voice-over): From ground zero the most severe damage extends half a mile in every direction according to the study. Every building in that area, including the White House, flattened. More than 45,000 people dead, over 320,000 injured. It's the stuff of movies like the "Sum of All Fears".
TODD: This study uses a ten kiloton bomb for an example because experts say that's likely the most deadly device terrorists could put together.
(on camera): The scale is fairly modest, not too much highly enriched uranium needed for a 10 kiloton bomb, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would fit in this one gallon milk jug container.
TODD: Just the uranium.
COL. RANDALL LARSEN (RET.), WMD CENTER: That's all you need, the highly enriched uranium. What we call the improvise nuclear device, the IND would fit in any minivan you see going down the street behind me.
TODD (voice-over): But security expert Randy Larsen points out it's still 5,000 times more powerful than the truck bomb that destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Still in the Washington area, if the bomb was set off where the study puts it, buildings like the Capitol and the Pentagon would survive. (on camera): According to the study the severe damage zone where there's the greatest impact extends just beyond the south lawn of the White House right there. From that point this way the moderate damage zone. Colonel Larsen, on this side of that zone where it's moderate damage, that's survivable, right?
LARSEN: Yes. Nothing survivable on that side, survivable somewhat here. But if we just move another half mile away like the Air and Space Museum (ph), almost everyone will survive.
TODD: Larsen says that is if they take the right action after the blast. That means sheltering in place. He says the instinct is to look out the window to see what happened and then try to evacuate. He says that's wrong, the best thing to do, get to a basement or a garage and stay there for at least seven hours -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Why seven hours?
TODD: Well he says despite what we've been taught all these years, 90 percent of the radiation is gone after about seven hours. He says it you stay 12 hours, even more of it will be gone. Two days he says 99 percent of the radiation will clear away. You shelter in place, go to a garage for between seven hours and two days, you can come out, you should be OK.
BLITZER: But in the garage, the radiation won't get into that garage --
TODD: If you're not in that hot zone. If you're in that hot zone like near that area where the White House was, within a half mile of there, everything is gone including the garage areas. If you're outside of that half mile radius, you get to a garage, you have a good shot.
BLITZER: All right. Brian thanks very much. Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Kind of a depressing story, wouldn't you agree?
BLITZER: Very, very.
CAFFERTY: Yes. The question this hour is speaking about depressing stories, if you were Mitt Romney, under what circumstances would you ask Rick Santorum to be your running mate? Rick says he's open to this idea. Romney hasn't asked him as you might expect.
Everett writes "I'm not a Republican, but I'm watching closely. If I was Romney, I would never approach Santorum to be a running mate. Rick Santorum is far too conservative to be electable. Romney should be shrewd at this point, find a popular moderate as a running mate. If he says the right things now, he could be president."
Carolyn in California writes "Hell freezing over comes to mind." Chip writes "Santorum makes Dan Quayle look good." Greg in Arkansas says "Zero. After everything Rick has said about Mitt I would rather ask my ex-wife to manage my checkbook than to ask Santorum to watch my back as vice president."
Doug writes "If Romney wins the nomination, he'll ask Lindsey Graham to run with him." Luke says, "Well if I had lost a $10,000 bet." M. writes "I don't know, but I'm having a good laugh trying to think of an answer." Greene in Pennsylvania says "Under no circumstances should Romney ask Santorum to be his running mate. Romney has my vote unless he does that."
And John writes "If I were Romney, I'd be agreeable to having Santorum as my running mate provided that Santorum agreed to have his mouth taped closed whenever appearing in public." If you'd like to read more of this high brow dialogue you'll find it on my blog CNN.COM/CAFFERTYFILE or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Ain't no chance that's going to happen, Wolf --
BLITZER: Keep your eye, Jack, on Senator Rob Portman (ph) of Ohio, just a thought.
Coming up, who is behind the latest bizarre political ad? Jeanne Moos is next.
BLITZER: Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just in time for Easter, Herman Cain is hopping down the bunny trail.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is small business.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is small business under the current tax code.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pull.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Any questions?
MOOS: Well, one question someone posted is why does a rabbit sound like a seagull?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Any questions?
MOOS: But the most common question is what did I just watch? Actually, it's the second one in a row.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is the economy. This is the economy on stimulus -- any questions?
MOOS: How about did the fish survive?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Any questions?
MOOS: When Stephen Colbert showed the Herman Cain spot to his audience --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a Her-masterpiece.
MOOS: There was a bit of nervous tittering. Colbert did his own version.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: This is the economy on regulations.
MOOS: The folks at PETA called the Cain commercial really bad.
(on camera): Herman Cain says no gold fish were asphyxiated. No bunnies were blown to smithereens in the making of these messages.
(voice-over): The fish which Cain said belongs to the little girl was put back into water in time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, it wasn't killed. It was merely tortured.
MOOS: Herman Cain calls his latest spots focusing on the economy intentionally provocative.
HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People who are totally oblivious to how bad things are need to be awakened.
MOOS: For a little while, YouTube took down the bunny video because it was flagged as inappropriate, but after review, it was reinstated. Meanwhile PETA called the rabbit ad a step up from the gold fish ad since the rabbit wasn't real.
(on camera): These ads are so weird, it's hard to tell the ads from parities of the ads.
(voice-over): This, for instance, is a parity with a pretend director's track.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is Mr. Sniffles, such a professional. We worked so hard to get that bunny blood splattering out in mid air like that.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Any questions?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Any questions?
MOOS: Those people who do the Taiwanese animations of news stories had a question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind animal will Cain kill in his next video?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a stuffed toy rabbit. Put it in perspective.
MOOS: Tell that to the gasping gold fish or maybe it's just acting.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.