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THE SITUATION ROOM

George Zimmerman Appears in Court; Interview With Hilary Rosen; More Revelations About GSA Spending; Zimmerman Arraignment Set For May 29; Two People Killed At Coast Guard Station; Tenuous Truce Takes Hold In Syria; Oil Sheen In Gulf Of Mexico; "Underwear Bomber" Moved To Supermax Prison; GOP's Representative West: Dems Are Commies; Turning A Hot Item Into Worthless Junk

Aired April 12, 2012 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: A furious political storm blows up after a Democratic strategist says that the mother of five, Ann Romney -- quote -- "never worked a day in her life." Hilary Rosen is here live this hour to explain what she meant about women, about work and about wealth -- my interview with her coming up shortly.

George Zimmerman was out of sight for more than six weeks. Now they will finally see him in front of the judge. You will see him. You will see the video as he faces a murder charge in the Trayvon Martin shooting. We will learn what lies ahead.

And North Korea says its rocket is now ready to go. That launch could come literally any minute now. With neighboring countries on alert, we're monitoring the launchpad in real time.

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

Out of nowhere, seemingly, a huge political controversy erupts over women, and work and wealth. It began with a Democratic activist's sarcastic comment right here on CNN about Mitt Romney's wife. And Republicans now hope it will help Romney cut into Barack Obama's big lead among female voters.

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen is here to explain her comments. She's standing by live.

But let's get some background right now from our senior correspondent, Joe Johns.

Joe, tell us how this political storm erupted.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is certainly a great debate over working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. But no matter what side you come down on, the speed with which this controversy took on a life of its own with all of the players weighing in on social media says a lot about how this could be a campaign like none other.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): 8:43 p.m. Eastern time, CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, a prominent Democratic strategist, on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" goes after Mitt Romney's wife.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that's what I am hearing. Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.

She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we worry -- and why we worry about their future. I think, yes, it's about these positions and, yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions.

JOHNS: Twitter lights up almost immediately and the future of American presidential campaigns is suddenly here. At 10:07, the Romney campaign springs into action. On Twitter, Romney's message man Eric Fehrnstrom incorrectly labeling Rosen an Obama adviser accuses her of going on CNN to debut a new kill Ann strategy and in the process insulting working moms.

Now, like it or not, Rosen is a campaign issue. Tweets are flying about the 35 times she visited the White House, the firm she works with that's linked to other prominent Democrats.

At 10:11, Rosen tweets, "My point is that he, Romney, should stop saying she is his guide to women's economic problems."

At 10:18, Ann Romney herself weighs in. Her Twitter account was set up some time ago, according to the campaign, but this was her first tweet directed at Hilary Rosen's comments. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

At 10:42, none other than the manager of the Obama reelection team tweets, distancing himself and his organization from Rosen. "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off-limits. She should apologize."

At 10:58, Rosen is actually tweeting Ann Romney, no apology yet, but complimentary. "Please, I admire you, but your husband shouldn't say you are his expert on women and the economy."

At 11:27, Josh Romney, one of their five sons, gets in the act, tweeting his mom "is one of the smartest, hardworking women I know, could have done anything with her life, chose to raise me."

Thursday morning Hilary Rosen under fire was back on CNN still not backing down from her original point.

ROSEN: This isn't about whether Ann Romney or I or other women of some means can afford to make a choice to stay home and raise kids. Most women in America, let's face it, don't have that choice.

They have to be working moms and home moms and that's the piece that I am not hearing from the Romney camp. Instead everybody is attacking me. That's fine. Attack me, but it does not erase his woeful record on this issue.

JOHNS: At 10:42 in the morning, Ann Romney was on FOX News. In just 12 hours, the controversy had gone full-circle from cable news to social media and reemerged on TV with new power.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: My career choice was to be a mother and I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make. Other women make other choices to have a career and raise family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful.

But, you know, there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women and all those choices that they make.

JOHNS: At 12:00 noon, first lady Michelle Obama even tweets: "Every woman works hard and every woman deserves to be respected."

By this time, the story has reached the protest that the on-camera White House briefing kicks off with a comment from the press secretary.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We can all agree, Democrats and Republicans, that raising children is an extremely difficult job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Of course, Hilary Rosen did apologize and you will have more on that in a minute, Wolf, but checking with Twitter, this controversy appears to have gotten up to almost 250 tweets a minute at its peak.

When you consider that Ann Romney wasn't even active on Twitter until last night, she also got thousands of followers very quickly. It's pretty remarkable.

BLITZER: It's an amazing story when you think about how it unfolded. Joe, thanks very much.

And Hilary Rosen is here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hilary, thanks for coming in.

I see you smiling a little bit, but I don't know why you're smiling.

ROSEN: Well, I'm smiling at sort of how crazy this all is, because, first of all, I have been a stay-at-home mom.

This is not a debate about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms. I said this afternoon and I said it actually last night that what I meant was -- had nothing to do on an attack on stay-at-home moms. What I meant was that Mitt Romney is using his wife as an economic surrogate. He himself said it.

And I just thought that that was off-base. He needed more. And I think that we are all sort of falling victim to this amazing crashing political machine in this campaign to move away from the real issues, which as I see it and saw it last night and still see it, is, does Mitt Romney really understand the struggles of women economically who are supporting their families, who are struggling in their jobs, who don't have a job, who have been thrown off unemployment insurance, whose kids' day care funding has been cut off or threatened to be cut off if the Romney-Ryan budget passes?

Those are the issues we should be talking about.

BLITZER: But you said, Hilary, you said that Ann Romney -- quote -- "never worked a day in her life."

ROSEN: Yes. And that was -- look, I'm a mother, right?

Anybody who knows me knows that that's not what I meant. And I prefaced the comment by an economic comment. I respect women and moms all the time. I have fought my whole life for women to make choices, to have the choices that Ann Romney talked about. I'm impressed that she defends them nicely.

I like that her kids are out there. That's not what this is about. This is not a debate between working moms and stay-at-home moms.

BLITZER: How should you have phrased what you wanted to say? Because this was an awful way of saying it, because she's not only a hardworking woman. You know, raising five boys obvious is not easy, especially someone who has M.S., has breast cancer. This is a wonderful woman.

And so how should you, if you could do a do-over...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: If I had the do-over, what I would be saying is that Mitt Romney should not be on the campaign trail saying to women, my wife tells me how it is for women out there, because people of wealth sometimes take for granted some of the niceties that they have in life. And the Romneys are people of wealth. She doesn't just...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, so look into the camera. If Ann Romney is watching you right now, talk to her.

ROSEN: Well, I said a few things this afternoon, but I will say it again.

Mrs. Romney, I applaud your decision to stay home and raise what are obviously five wonderful boys. This is not about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms. I think your husband needs to stand up for women's economic struggles. And, so far, we have not seen how he's going to do that on the campaign trail.

This hasn't come out of his mouth, and maybe it will at some point, but this is a distraction that his campaign is forcing on the American people to avoid his record on the issues.

BLITZER: I didn't hear an apology. ROSEN: Oh, well, I sent out an apology this afternoon.

BLITZER: I didn't hear you say to her just now an...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: I'm sorry. Well, I assume that Mrs. Romney saw my apology this afternoon, but, if not, I apologize.

Working moms, stay-at-home moms, they're both extremely hard jobs. I know. I have shared them both, and I'm sorry if that offended you.

BLITZER: I want to put this clip -- she was also -- we heard a little bit of what she said on FOX earlier in the day.

ROSEN: Yes.

BLITZER: I will play this little clip right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: If I get a chance, I want to tell you what women are telling me.

And Hilary needs to know this, because I have been on the campaign trail for one year. And guess what women are talking about? And I don't care if they're stay-at-home moms or they're working mothers or they're grandmothers. Guess what they're all talking about?

They're talking about jobs, and they're talking about the legacy of debt that we're leaving our children. That's what I'm hearing. And that's what we're talking about here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She makes a fair point there.

ROSEN: She does make a fair point. I do think that's what women care about.

And when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts -- let's go back further. When Mitt Romney ran Bain Capital, his record of hiring women was terrible. Fewer than 10 percent of the senior executives at the company were women. There have been -- and he actually went on the record and said, well, I just couldn't find qualified women to serve in these positions.

No woman alive believes that.

BLITZER: Here's what I don't understand, because you're an excellent and very astute political strategist.

All of those points you're making are fine, but why bring Ann Romney into this conversation? Why did you have to bring -- you hated it when conservatives, right-wingers used to go after Michelle Obama or spouse or wife of any of these Democratic candidates. Why bring her into this conversation?

ROSEN: Look, Wolf, you know, I should not have chosen words that seemed to attack Ann Romney's choice in life, and I apologize for that.

But Ann Romney and Mitt Romney brought themselves into this conversation. When he goes on the campaign trail and says she is his economic surrogate, when she goes out there and makes these points, I'm not bringing them into this. Come on. That's a little too much. We know that they have brought themselves into this.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: When Michelle Obama goes out there and speaks on behalf of her husband, should conservatives, Republicans go after Michelle Obama?

ROSEN: You don't think that the Republicans...

BLITZER: They do, but...

ROSEN: ... are going to hold Michelle Obama accountable for every single thing that comes out of her mouth and always have? Of course they have.

BLITZER: But is that appropriate? Is that appropriate?

ROSEN: You know what? When it comes to the family, no. But when it comes to defending your husband's record, when it comes to what you do in your life, those are things that end up happening. That's the political world we live n.

And she will pay the price. If anybody believes that the Republicans lay off of her, they're naive.

BLITZER: You're a lifelong Democrat, but the Democrats are quickly throwing you, as you well know, under the bus, Hilary.

ROSEN: Yes.

BLITZER: The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, tweeting, "Every woman works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected."

ROSEN: I couldn't agree more with the first lady on that.

BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic Party: "Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments. As a mother of three, there's no doubt that raising children is work."

And Vice President Joe Biden just gave an interview to MSNBC in which he said -- and they have been tweeting it -- "My response to that is that's an outrageous assertion."

And you saw what David Axelrod and Jim Messina from the campaign, the Obama campaign... ROSEN: Yes. That's OK.

BLITZER: How does that feel when all your fellow Democrats are going after you like that?

ROSEN: You know, I totally agree with what the first lady said about women.

That's what I have felt my whole life. So what she said is fine. What the rest of them said, you know, that is politics. The Republicans slammed and came at this pretty quickly. People who know me know that I didn't intend that, but my words are -- were not very good.

If they want to play politics with it, that's fine. It doesn't change the issues. It doesn't change whether Mitt Romney appeals to women or not. And it doesn't change whether the fact that I still believe Barack Obama has the best record to run on that supports women.

BLITZER: Have any of these people or others in the White House or at the DNC or at the Obama campaign contacted you or spoken to you about any of this today?

ROSEN: I have had several supportive calls.

BLITZER: Supportive? But what are they saying?

ROSEN: Well, you know, people understand. People know me. They know that I wouldn't attack a stay-at-home mom and that that's not what I think this debate is about.

So I'm comfortable with that. And people who know me, I think, are comfortable with it, too.

BLITZER: And you heard in the Joe Johns report that Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, right out of the box, he's asked about you and your comments. And apparently your name -- or Hilary Rosen's name comes up 35 times having visited this Obama White House.

Listen to what Carney says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, I haven't seen the records.

I don't know that -- Hilary Rosen, I -- I know three, personally, women named Hilary Rosen. So I'm not sure that those represent the person we're talking about, necessarily. So I really can't comment on the number of visits since I'm not sure that's accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It sounded a little insulting, don't you think?

ROSEN: I don't know any other Hilary Rosens, but Jay must. So, you know, it's politics. It is what it is.

BLITZER: I mean, it's politics. One thing for the Republicans to be slamming you, which, obviously, that's politics.

But for all these Democrats that you have worked so closely with them over the years to quickly...

ROSEN: You know, I -- I think that this -- that the modern-day campaign and the swiftness of the charges and the countercharges and the intensity of it is enormously frightening for campaign professionals and for consultants and candidates alike.

You know, everybody's words are parsed so carefully. And, you know, I have clearly been on the other side where I have jumped on people's misstatements.

So, I'm not claiming victim here. So, I -- when people go for the corner, their respective corners, I understand it. It's not personal. I hope Mrs. Romney knows that I didn't mean it personally.

I was talk -- trying to talk about the economic issues. But, you know, this is going to be an ugly campaign season. And if this ends up being a start to it, so be it, but, actually, I don't think it is.

BLITZER: If someone -- you would probably be happy about this -- could organize a little face-to-face time between you Ann Romney to talk about this in person, that would probably be helpful, don't you think?

ROSEN: You know, we don't have a beer summit. She doesn't have to answer to me. Her husband is the one running for president.

And he's got to make his case to American women that he's got a vision for them and that he understands us, and whether we want to be stay- at-home moms and whether we are struggling with two jobs to feed our families while he wants to give his rich friends a tax cut.

BLITZER: Hilary Rosen, thanks very much for coming in.

ROSEN: OK, Wolf. thanks.

BLITZER: Good luck.

ROSEN: Thanks.

We will have more on this political storm coming up in our "Strategy Session." Maria Cardona and Bay Buchanan, they are both standing by.

Also, new controversy for a government agency already accused of wasting taxpayer money. Now there's word it spent more than $300,000 to relocate one employee.

And echoes of McCarthyism on Capitol Hill here in Washington, a Republican lawmaker accusing dozens of his Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives of being communists. What is Congressman Allen West talking about? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: In case you weren't already worried about your retirement, listen up. We get word now that it's getting more and more expensive to get old. The International Monetary Fund says people around the world are living three years longer on average than expected and that's increasing the costs of aging by 50 percent. Governments and pension funds aren't ready for it.

"Reuters" reports the IMF study which will be out next week shows the longevity is a bigger risk than previously thought. Researchers say if everybody in 2050 lived two years longer than now expected, society would need extra resources that equaled 1 percent to 2 percent of global GDP per year. In the U.S. alone, the extra three years of life would add 9 percent to private pension plan liabilities -- that's assuming there are any private pension plans left by 2050.

Life expectancy in the U.S. is approximately 78.5 years right now. According to CIA world fact book, the United States ranks 50th worldwide. Top of the list, Monaco, where people live an average of 90 years, followed by countries like Macao, Japan and Singapore.

The IMF is calling on governments and the private sector to prepare now for longer life spans, as medicine improves and standards of living go up in some of the developed countries, people simply continue to live longer. The question is can they afford it?

Government options are fairly limit individual this. They can raise the retirement age, raise taxes to fund public pension plans and lower benefits. A lot of countries were already considering doing all of these things just attack on existing, crippling national debts. Governments can also educate people how to better prepare for retirement, you know, like save a little more money.

Here's the question: can you afford to get old? 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: Jack, thank you.

First, there were images of government employees living up in Las Vegas, the taxpayer expense now. Look at this. More information is coming out about activities on GSA, the General Services Administration workers.

Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been investigating the story for us.

Dana, what else are you learning?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's Republicans on Capitol Hill particularly in the House committees that are looking into this. They have been digging through reams and reams of documents all this week, working around the clock, combing through them, preparing for next week's hearings.

And remember, GSA is an agency that's supposed to make the government more efficient and save taxpayer dollars. But we obtained a document that showed the agency spent an eye-popping amount on more than just conferences.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): We've seen the GSA employee videos mocking wasted abuse.

We've seen evidence of the lavish 2010 GSA convention in Las Vegas costing taxpayers more than $800,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am wearing all Armani.

BASH: Now, new information exposing what appears to be excess spending beyond all that -- what one GSA official calls millions of taxpayer dollars spent in a two-year period to relocate GSA employees.

In one move alone, relocating an employee from Denver to Hawaii, it looks like the GSA spent $330,000. That comes from a transcript of an interview conducted by a GSA inspector general investigator with an unnamed GSA event planner charged with relocating employees.

The transcript was provided to CNN by Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. In it, the planner said it, quote, "blew me away how much it costs to relocate somebody. It's crazy. It's astronomical. Hundreds of thousands of dollars." Going on to say, quote, "I mean, it's outrageous."

Among the relocation costs generally picked up by the GSA, a house hunting trip, temporary quarters for up to 90 days, one vehicle shipped, and groceries and laundry. Beyond that, the event planner said the government would pay closing costs on a home purchase if the person relocating can't sell their house, we have a guarantee that we'll buy it, then sell it off.

As to how much the GSA has spent in two years, "Oh, millions," replied the GSA event planner. "How many employees are we talking about?" the investigator later asked. "I'd say right now, probably about 15 files on my desk," said the GSA event planner. The investigator simply replied, "That's amazing."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, we should note it's unclear from the transcript whether the government was reimbursed for any of that $330,000 relocation move from Denver to Hawaii. The GSA. we should remind people, they don't with relocating employees in their own agency, Wolf. It also sets the parameters for relocation costs for a government-wide, which is another reason why this is so stunning.

And I talked to a GSA official who didn't have a direct response to this report or this transcript, but did kind of indicate that they understand the problems because they've set up pilot programs around the government to bring down costs for relocating government workers.

BLITZER: They'll have to do something quickly.

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: This is a disaster for the GSA.

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

BASH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: U.S. lawmakers -- get this -- accused of being members of the communist party by a fellow lawmaker. Details in an explosive McCarthy-like uproar on Capitol Hill right now. What's going on? Stand by.

A major new development in the Trayvon Martin death as the shooter, George Zimmerman, makes his first appearance in court.

And all eyes on North Korea right now and its defiant rocket launch. The first window has passed, leaving high tension in the region and beyond.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Arraignment is now scheduled for May 29th for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman made his first court appearance today.

Criminal defense attorney and CNN legal contributor Mark NeJame is in Orlando. He's watching it all for us.

Mark, why didn't George Zimmerman ask for bail?

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that was a decision that Mark O'Mara appropriately made. Please remember, and for those who don't know, I simply got a phone call yesterday morning from George Zimmerman's close family friends to handle the case. With this conflict of interest and personal family reasons, I just simply passed, gave five names and Mark O'Mara was one of them.

Mark didn't even get on this case until late yesterday afternoon and that's woefully inadequate to prepare a bond hearing that would be as complex as this.

He wants to go in there and do the job right rather than going there and forcing it through.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So in other words, can he still get bail at some point down the road? Is that what I'm hearing you say?

NEJAME: Absolutely. All today was, was a first appearance, but since charges have already been filed that eliminates that there's been a determination of probable cause. Today, we had a county court judge.

It needs now to go to a circuit court or felony judge. So all Mark will be doing is filing a motion to set a reasonable bond and then looking for some time on the court's docket, schedule it for a hearing and have a full-pledged bond hearing.

He'll be looking for the quickest possible time that still allows him time to prepare his case. It can be before or after the arraignment. The arraignment will have nothing to do with this.

BLITZER: And I just want to make sure that everyone knows you are now a CNN legal analyst, and I want to welcome you to CNN.

NEJAME: Thank you.

BLITZER: So explain what you think. You have a ton of experience in Florida criminal law. Why this second-degree murder charge may be appropriate and may not be appropriate, is it too harsh? What do you think?

NEJAME: Well, I think the prosecution has surely thought that out. We know Miss Corey's reputation is that of a strong advocate for the state, but we also know that she has a policy of charging the highest possible case that she thinks that she might in good faith be able to prove.

A lot of prosecutors charge as high as they can and either wants to get that charge or looking for a lesser included offense. If you lowered the ceiling to a manslaughter that's the maximum you could get.

If you bring it up to second-degree murder then you can go below that and still get a conviction that might satisfy everybody. So, apparently, her philosophy is to charge the highest. She runs the true risk of being perceived as overcharging this case.

She will now have a burden of proving a depraved mind. There are a lot of issues and a lot of elements that go into that. So we'll have to see how the evidence unfolds and how the discovery comes out during the course of time.

BLITZER: What do you know about this judge who is now presiding?

NEJAME: The judge today or the one that's been assigned?

BLITZER: The one who has been assigned?

NEJAME: Well, that's Judge Recksiedler and it's going to be an interesting issue. It will come out and might as well. It turns out she happens to be the wife of one of my law partners. So we're going to have to see how that plays itself out.

She is a very knowledgeable and skilled. She was recently elected to the bench. She's known as being tough, but very smart, very hard worker. But we'll see what happens with this position that I have and how that plays itself out. One of my law partners, the partner who handles the personal injury, that's Recksiedler and we'll see how that goes.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see how that goes and see if there's a problem or not necessarily. Mark, thanks very much for helping us. I know you're going to helping us for the duration. Appreciate it.

NEJAME: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have George Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara join us live in our next hour. We'll ask him some of the questions that are relevant today as well.

But first, a mysterious oil sheen shows up off the Louisiana coast covering 10 square miles. What's the U.S. Coast Guard is saying and what's going on?

And Hilary Rosen backing off her slam against Ann Romney, but the political storm continues. We'll discuss that and more in our "Strategy Session."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A shooting incident in the U.S. Coast Guard station. Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent, is working the details. What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is in Kodiak, Alaska, a long way away from many of our viewers, but a serious situation unfolding at this hour.

The Coast Guard based on Kodiak Island just south of Anchorage has had a shooting. Two Coast Guard members are dead and the base, we are now told by the U.S. Coast Guard, is in lockdown as well as some surrounding schools.

They say this is precautionary because they don't know exactly what has happened and how these two members of the U.S. Coast Guard came to be shot dead. They are looking for a possible perpetrator, perhaps, a possible gunman.

And they say as a precaution this U.S. Coast Guard base on Kodiak Island in Alaska, the surrounding schools and the community, they're asking everyone to remain very vigilant and look for any suspicious activity until they can get this situation resolved -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thanks very much. When you get more information, let us know.

An eerie calm descends on Syria after months of deadly violence. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's being described as a fragile and tentative truce with Syria, apparently, bowing to international pressure to stop its bloody crackdown on dissent.

But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Syrian forces and weapons remain in population centers and the country is not in full compliance with the U.N. peace plan. An estimated 9,000 to 11,000 people have died since anti-government protests began 13 months ago.

This oil sheen covers 10-square miles and it's located 56 miles off the Louisiana coast. Royal Dutch/Shell first discovered it yesterday between two of its drilling platforms, but the company says there are no signs of leaks from its equipment.

Shell says the sheen is the equivalent of about six barrels of oil. The Coast Guard is now monitoring the sheen and trying to figure out its source.

The man dubbed the "Underwear" bomber has been moved to one of the country's highest security prisons. The so-called "Super Max" in Florence, Colorado.

Omar Fahrouk Abdullah Mutallab is serving a life sentence for trying to down a Northwest Airlines flight in 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear. Prison officials won't say Abdul Muttallab was moved to "Super Max," which also houses, unibomber, Ted Kaczynski, Olympic park bomber, Eric Rudolph and the so-called "Shoebomber," Richard Reid.

And the second straight day of gains on Wall Street. The Dow, Nasdaq and the S&P all closed up more than 1/3 percent with the Dow gaining more than 172 points. So, a good day on Wall Street -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good news for the investors out there. Thank you, Lisa.

Communists in Congress. The Republican congressman from Florida, Allen West says dozens of his Democratic colleagues, yes, dozens are not just socialist, they are not just communists, but they are in his words, members of the Communist Party.

And some key Republicans out there have said in recent days that Allen West would make a good vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney. We'll discuss what's going on in our "Strategy Session."

And many Americans have had their cell phones stolen, but a new effort is now under way to make that a useless move for would-be thieves.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Maria Cardona along with Republican strategist, Bay Buchanan. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

We'll talk about Hilary Rosen in a moment, but let's talk about Allen West right now. He's a prominent conservative, Tea Party favorite, congressman from South Florida and he was meeting with some of his constituents and he had this exchange. I'm going to play it for our viewers and then we'll discuss. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: I believe there are 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: If you could read it, I believe there are 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party. I don't know what he's talking about, but Bay, help me explain what's going on.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I suspect he's just -- it's an analogy. He has not chosen the best of words. This is a man who is clearly a great American hero, a war hero, but this is a statement I couldn't agree with.

BLITZER: It sounds like McCarthy.

BUCHANAN: I don't know even think there is such a thing as a card- carrying member of the Communist Party?

BLITZER: There's virtually no -- collapsed of communism in Russia. But what he's referring to are the progressive caucus, which is both liberal members of the House of Representatives and they're not necessarily communists, and certainly not members of a Communist Party.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course, not and that's completely over the top, but you know what? Unfortunately or fortunately, I guess, for the Tea Party members and for the people that he is serving up this red meat for, that is typical Allen West.

He was a lightning rod during the campaign and he will be a lightning rod if in fact he is a prominent member of this campaign either as a Romney supporter or anything else. And with statements like that and as a Democrat, I say bring it on.

BLITZER: You know, it's not just -- we know he's a favorite of the Tea Party and a lot of folks -- and they upset the election in 2010. Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party with John McCain four years ago, she was on Fox. Listen to what she said about Allen West.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I love that he has that military experience. He is a public servant and willing to serve for the right reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This is a while back on April 3rd when she was asked who would you like to pick as a vice presidential running mate? Top of my list is Allen West and then Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina said -- was asked a similar question.

She said you've got great ones. You have heard Governor Palin talk about West and he's good. He's not just some crack pot out there and he's someone they take very seriously, Allen West.

He's obviously, you know, got a constituency out there. But, you know, this kind of stuff makes him sort of look ridiculous.

BUCHANAN: Wolf, I'm sure you must be somewhat familiar. He has an amazing story. What he did over there in the war and how he took care of his troops.

BLITZER: On the military front, I totally agree, but when you start talking about communists.

BUCHANAN: I agree. I think as you pointed out, he's using the term communist to mean progressives and very left wing and in some people's eyes so far left closing in on the communist.

BLITZER: But you agree, when he says members of the Communist Party, members of the -- he should apologize. He should take it back. We checked in with his office to see if he's revising, changing, issuing some sort of clarification and so far --

BUCHANAN: You know, I would almost like to see what he said following that and did he explain it?

BLITZER: Talk about the progressives.

BUCHANAN: And he explained a little more and so it was a terminology to tell his people there. This is how left they are, and if that's what he's saying, fair enough. He's into that and he's into being very dynamic.

CARDONA: He seemed pretty sure of himself in that quote and that sound bite. It was almost as if he had seen the cards, Wolf, of the card-carrying members of the communists.

BLITZER: So he says, you know, some ridiculous comments and Hilary Rosen, the Democratic strategist who is a CNN contributor like you are, Maria. She was here. I don't know if you saw the interview.

CARDONA: I did.

BLITZER: Democrats are throwing her under the bus big time right now. Michelle Obama tweeting and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the vice president of the United States, David Axelrod, Jim Messina, they are all trying to run away from her as quickly as they possibly can. What do you think the fallout from this is going to be?

CARDONA: Well, look, I think this is clearly two things going on. It's politics and it's politics in a new era, and what the Obama campaign did they did because it is politics.

And I think at the end of the day and I'm not going to put words in Hilary's mouth. I think she was very articulate in her apology and in terms of what she really meant when she talked to you about it.

But I think the underlying message here is something that I think Mitt Romney still needs to answer to, which is look, he can't continue to say, we were talking about this in the green room. He can't continue to say when he gets a question about women's issues he can't continue to say, I wish Ann Romney was here because she's so much better at answering these questions.

I wish Ann was here because this is a question she could better answer. No, Willard, this is a question for you. You are the candidate. You are running --

BLITZER: You're a supporter of Mitt Romney and you did hear Hilary apologize.

BUCHANAN: I did.

BLITZER: -- to Ann Romney, so case closed now?

BUCHANAN: Well, I'm a supporter of Ann's as well. She's a terrific gal, and I'm not going to question the sincerity of Hilary. I do believe she was sincere. I think there's no question she's out there only because of the pressure that's put on her in the last 24 hours.

They thought she had to in order to still work in the Democratic Party, but you know, the outrage from her response -- for her comments, Wolf, was completely legitimate. There is elitism amongst Democratic leaders, certainly not the whole party, but amongst some of those leaders.

You heard it when George Bush ran. They went after Laura on the same point, and this isn't a throwaway line. There is a sense that you stay at home and you lose your value. Sure, you should be respected, but your opinion, your voice, doesn't have the same weight as someone who had workplace experience.

That is wrong. There's no more real experience than raising children, getting up at 2:00 in the morning with a sick child. You learn a whole lot there.

CARDONA: I don't think that's true of the Democratic Party as a whole and it's certainly not true of Hilary. She's a mother herself, again, poorly chosen words.

BLITZER: Awfully chosen words and she's arc apologized for them. Let's see what happens now, but she's a very good mother, and I want to point that out. She knows how difficult it is raising kids.

BUCHANAN: Don't we all.

CARDONA: And we do, as well.

BLITZER: It's hard work.

A new satellite image of the site where North Korea is poised to make a rocket launch. We're going to explain what the picture reveals. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, can you afford to get old? They've done some studies and the cost of this additional longevity is going through the roof.

Kyle in California writes, "I can barely afford to be young. My wife and I were married in February and really have to watch our pennies. I've accepted the fact that I'll have to work most of my life even if I live a modest lifestyle and stay away from death. The advice I got from my grandfather was good, live modestly, save heavily, stay away from death, pay cash."

Pete in Florida writes, "As more and more of our country's wealth is transferred to the upper 5 percent, most of the rest of us will never be able to afford to retire or get health care or live comfortable lives or get old. Work for the 21st Century version of the company store until you die until someday the wage slaves revolt and take back by force what the rich and powerful have stolen from us all."

William in Minnesota says "No, but then I refuse to grow up or get old. If I do some day, I'm 55 now. I plan to live with my kids like they did with me for the first 25 years of their lives. I get to return the favor."

Amelia writes, "Sure you can if you have good health insurance, a $75,000 year income and a home that's paid in full, but how many old people have all that?"

Paul in North Carolina writes, "First of all, projections out to 2050 may be amusing, but they're essentially useless. The Mayan calendar is right. We've only got eight months left to live all of us anyway.

Most people nearing retirement age will never see 2050 and very few under 40 have given it much thought. I suggest you focus the questions on the here and now and leave the abstract theoretical stuff to the philosophy majors."

And Larry in Texas writes, "As long as my wife stays healthy and works I'll be OK. Just don't tell her I said that."

If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. How long are you going to work, Wolf?

BLITZER: Until they kick me out, as long as I -- you know --

CAFFERTY: I know you do.

BLITZER: I look forward to going to work. As long as I feel like that I'll keep on it.

CAFFERTY: It shows. You do a wonderful job.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Commercial airline flights are being diverted as North Korea prepares for a controversial rocket launch. We're looking at possible paths and what can go wrong. Stand by. New information coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Stolen cell phones make up, get this, 30 percent to 40 percent of all robberies in the United States and now there's a new effort under way to keep thieves from using them. CNN's Lisa Sylvester has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): What you're looking at is hot property, cell phones stolen and ending up on the black market, confiscated by D.C. police during a raid last month.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Now today, iPhones and smartphones are catnip for criminals. They're valuable. They're exposed. They're easy to steal.

SYLVESTER: Much to say way prized Jordan basketball shoes were a hot commodity being stolen on the street, now smartphones at $500 a pop are being targeted, often violently.

CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: In the middle of the day walking down the street pushing a baby stroller, with her cell phone in her hand. She was punched in the face. Her jaw was broken and they took her phone, just her phone. I can give a hundred examples like that.

SYLVESTER: Last year, about 270,000 cell phones were reported stolen. What's striking is the trend. In New York City, 10 years ago, stolen mobile phones were 8 percent of all robberies.

Today, they're over 40 percent according to the New York City Police Department, but now the major wireless companies, the Federal Communications Commission and law enforcement are teaming up to make it easier to deactivate stolen smartphones.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE: Now carriers with the push of a button will be able to take highly prized, stolen instruments and turn them into worthless pieces of plastic.

SYLVESTER: The plan includes a new database of stolen phones. When someone reports their phone stolen, it will be flagged and blocked from being reused again.

Future smartphones will have automatic prompts to remind users to lock their phones with passwords and a public education campaign to encourage customers to use widely available apps to either lock, locate or wipe the data from their smartphones remotely.

(on camera): One such app is called find iPhone. Say your iPhone was actually stolen, well, then you can go online, for example, in my case this is a map of Washington, D.C. and I actually track the guy who has my stolen cell phone. He's right here on 8th Street and then contact the appropriate authorities.

(voice-over) The announced initiative will cover 90 percent of U.S. cell phone subscribers. The database will be up and running in six months.

JULIUS GENACHOWSKI, CHMN., FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION: We're sending a message to consumers. We've got your back, and a message to criminals that we're cracking down on the phone and tablet resale market, making Smartphone a crime that doesn't pay. Don't waste your time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on-camera): Now, each phone has a unique number, much the same way that a car has a Vehicle Identification Number or VIN. Senator Chuck Schumer has introduced legislation that will make it illegal to try to change or tamper with your phone's ID number to circumvent the stolen phone database, and this is an effort to try to stay one step ahead of the criminals, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.