Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Politics of Terror; China's Most Wanted Man; Do Women Make Less Than Men?; Bill Clinton: Obama's Big Gun; Communist Party Rocked By Scandal; Symbolic Milestone In Manhattan

Aired April 30, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the politics of terror. Mitt Romney on the defensive as the Obama campaign marks almost one year since the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Also, he's arguably the most wanted man in China right now and it's likely he's hiding out at the United States Embassy in Beijing -- details of an unfolding diplomatic crisis.

And why do women make only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men? We have details of a new equal pay uproar.

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

Tomorrow marks one year since the U.S. mission that killed Osama bin Laden and today the terror leader's name is popping up out there on the campaign trail. The Romney and Obama campaigns are each trying to paint their candidate as the toughest, but for team Romney, it's a bit of an uphill battle right now.

Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is watching all this unfold.

What's going on, on this fight, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for months, Mitt Romney has been on offense. He executed an aggressive strategy to knock his rivals out of the GOP race. But in this debate over the killing of Osama bin Laden, Romney has been on defense, just the way the president wants it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): As Mitt Romney was shaking hands in New Hampshire, he was asked the question. Would he had given the same order to kill Osama bin Laden?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.

NARRATOR: CNN breaking news.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden. ACOSTA: It's the question the president's reelection campaign has raised for days in this new Web video highlighting the decision to take out bin Laden and in Vice President Joe Biden's speech last week.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't say for certain what Governor Romney would have done.

ACOSTA: Advisers to the presumptive GOP nominee say the president has cheapened a unifying moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think most Americans will see it as the sign of a desperate campaign.

ACOSTA: Not so, says the president.

OBAMA: I hardly think that you have seen any excessive celebration taking place here.

ACOSTA: The president then went after Romney's comment in 2007. "It's not worth moving heaven and earth," Romney said," spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.

OBAMA: I would just recommend that everybody take a look at people's previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what they said when they said it.

ACOSTA: But Romney's response, that jab at Jimmy Carter, may be a reminder to some that President Obama made a gutsy call.

After all, Carter's high-stakes mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980 failed miserably.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fate of -- the crewman of the two aircraft which collided were killed.

ACOSTA: Romney is trying to get back on offense with a new Web ad, charging President Obama with breaking his promise to cut federal spending.

OBAMA: I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work.

ACOSTA: And he tried out a potential running mate, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, who fired off a new line of attack on the White House.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: They are out of touch, special interest-driven, and they're not listening to the people of America.

ACOSTA: As Romney addressed one of his own vulnerabilities with working class voters.

ROMNEY: I want to help the poor, I want to help the middle class get the kinds of jobs that raise their income. Let's focus on helping the people who need the help the most.

ACOSTA: That comment came on the same day the nation's largest union released a new Web video that doesn't exactly play like a Romney highlight reel.

ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. I like to be able to fire people who provide services to me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And to mark one year since the killing of Osama bin Laden, Romney will travel to New York to appear with Rudy Giuliani at one of the city's fire stations tomorrow.

The image won't be to show Romney on offense or on defense, but in remembrance. And, Wolf, I did ask the Romney campaign for a response to what the president said today. The president did not mention Mitt Romney by name, but it was no secret who he was talking about. The Romney campaign so far has no comment.

BLITZER: Yes, we're going to have much more on what the president said. But he clearly had a little smirk on his face when he was talking about what people said four years ago. And he was clearly referring to Mitt Romney and that quote you had.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: That's right. And I think a new rule in this campaign, when the president starts referring to what other people might be doing, it's pretty clear he's talking about Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: Other people, i.e. Mitt Romney.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

It's a potential diplomatic nightmare, pitting Washington against Beijing and putting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a rather awkward position as she prepares to travel to China. We're talking about the case of a Chinese human rights activist who escaped house arrest and now may be hiding inside the United States Embassy in the Chinese capital.

We're standing by for remarks by the secretary of state momentarily.

But, CNN's Stan Grant with the latest on the unfolding drama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Somewhere behind these walls may well be the answer to China's great guessing game. Where is Chen Guangcheng? Within minutes of pulling out our camera, security at the United States Embassy in Beijing pounced. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't take photo here.

GRANT (on camera): I understand we can't take photos, but is Chen Guangcheng here at the embassy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know -- I don't know whether he is here.

GRANT: The blind human rights activist has been in hiding after escaping house arrest in his provincial village and fleeing to Beijing. Now a close friend and fellow campaigner says Chen is indeed here given refuge at the U.S. Embassy.

"When Chen Guangcheng first fled to Beijing, we had to keep moving him from place to place to ensure his safety. And we agreed the U.S. Embassy is the only absolutely secure location in town."

Chen had been under heavy guard for the last 18 months. The self-taught lawyer angered Chinese authorities by campaigning against alleged forced abortions and sterilizations. He had spent more than four years in prison convicted of disrupting traffic and damaging property during demonstrations. Since his release, he's been in lockdown.

This is what happened when we tried to visit Chen last year with Hollywood actor and "Batman" star Christian Bale. Now Bale has released a statement to CNN.

In it, he says: "An innocent family has been horrifically tortured. While it gives hope that for now, Chen Guangcheng is safe, his family is not. As a world leader, China must now show its wisdom and compassion and remind the world of its rich cultural history by permanently freeing Chen Guangcheng and his family and never allowing thuggery and corruption to tarnish China's reputation again. China's citizens deserve more."

(on camera): If indeed Chen Guangcheng is here behind the gates of this U.S. Embassy, then this threatens to become a political tug of war between China and the U.S. At the moment, neither country is making any public statements, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due in Beijing this week. And in the past, she has championed Chen.

Stan Grant, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.

Joining us, our State Department and foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

I know the secretary of state is getting ready to address presumably this issue. What are you picking up over there as she gets ready for this trip to China?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you would have to say that really this is almost like a lockdown on saying anything publicly because it is very, very sensitive right now.

What they're trying to do is work this out before Secretary Clinton gets there. As you know, she's going to be meeting tonight. We will be on the plane with her, going to Beijing for a series of very important talks about all sorts of things, the economic relationship and other issues, and then this had to happen.

So, right now, if you listened to what the president said just about an hour or so ago, it's not much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Obviously, I'm aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I'm not going to make a statement on the issue.

What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up. It is our belief that not only is that the right thing to do because it comports with our principles and our belief in freedom and human rights, but also because we actually think China will be stronger as it opens up and liberalizes its own system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: And Secretary Clinton herself has actually talked directly with the Chinese about this before.

Mr. Chen was a key part of a speech that she delivered back in November. So it is something that they have been pushing, but right now it's very, very delicate, as you can imagine. And, Wolf, beyond this, at this particular moment, the United States needs all the help it can get from China on issues like Iran, Syria, North Korea.

BLITZER: It's about as delicate as it gets, not only the diplomatic help the U.S. is seeking from China, but also the hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bills that the Chinese hold right now.

Wow. This is a real crisis potentially in the works. We will see what happens. Stand by, Jill, because I want to hear what the secretary of state has to say about this very, very sensitive matter.

CNN's Tom Foreman is also joining us right now on a little bit more on Chen's really amazing escape, all the more incredible when you consider he's blind, Tom. Tell us what you know.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the truth is, Wolf, we don't know a whole lot.

What we do know, though, makes this thing look like something out of a spy novel. You go into where he was being held by the Chinese authorities, technically not being held, but being monitored. They wouldn't let him have contact with different people down here in the Shandong province. We don't know exactly which village or which house, but we know something about the circumstances he was in. His house was surrounded by a wall put there by the authorities and he had guards who roamed around this compound and kept an eye on him. For several days, many of his accomplices who seemed to have helped him on the outside say that he feigned sickness, spending a lot of time in bed, so the guards were lulled into complacency, thinking he is going nowhere.

He waited until he was unattended, until they weren't paying attention to him on a dark night, with no moon, which actually plays in his favor there, because even though he's used to dealing in that environment, being a blind man, they were not. And then he went out and scaled the six-foot wall around his compound.

The activists who are helping him out say that he actually hurt his ankle coming over the wall. Nonetheless, he took off over land as far as we know. We don't know where exactly. But it is said that he got all scratched up. Some of this is forest land, some of it is various types of farmland. They say he got scratched up, sort of beaten up in the process of going over land.

At one point, he crossed a canal or river by himself and then he was met by a car on one of these roads out here between where he started in Beijing and picked up by one of these activist who then carried him the rest of the way, the entire journey, somewhere around 300, 400 miles depending on how he went until he reached Beijing, where the implication is that he went to a safe house, a hideout of some sort, maybe several, moving around the city to make sure that he wasn't caught.

And now all the hints are that he's somehow in the U.S. Embassy there, although U.S. officials will not confirm that. And of course if that is true, Wolf, that's going to be a big friction point in the talks with the Chinese.

BLITZER: Huge potential crisis in U.S.-Chinese relations. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, going to go back to our top story, the war of words between the president of the United States and his Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, on this, the anniversary, one year since the killing of bin Laden.

Jim Acosta is back.

I guess they're now, the Romney campaign reacting?

ACOSTA: That's right.

A few moments ago, we said that the Romney campaign had not responded to the president's tough words at that news conference. As I walked off the set, Wolf, a response from the Romney campaign hit my inbox.

I read it to you right now. This is from Andrea Saul. And this is a pretty tough statement. She is a spokesperson for Romney campaign -- quote -- "It is unfortunate that President Obama would prefer to use what was a good day for all Americans as a cheap political ploy and an opportunity to distort Governor Romney's strong positions on war on terror. President Obama's feckless foreign policy" -- her words -- "has emboldened our adversaries, weakened our allies, and threatens to break faith with our military. While the Obama administration has naively stated that the war on terror is over, Governor Romney has always understood we need a comprehensive plan to deal with the myriad threats America faces."

So a very tough statement from the Romney campaign directed at the president, even though the president technically did not use Mitt Romney's name during that news conference. We both know that that was obviously the agenda at that news conference in what the president had in mind. And the Romney campaign apparently is going to take the president to task on this.

BLITZER: Yes, this war of words between these two campaigns, it's only just beginning.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. We're going to have much more on this story coming up. Jim Acosta, thanks.

We're standing by for those remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's getting ready to leave for China tonight. We will see what she has to say on this potential enormous crisis in U.S.-Chinese relations.

Also, the equal pay uproar between our own political contributors. We're talking about Alex Castellanos, one of our political contributors. He had a big fight -- I don't know if you saw it yesterday -- with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC -- they had had a very sharp exchange. We're doing a fact check. Lisa Sylvester all over the story.

And Bill Clinton goes from critic to cheerleader, fighting for President Obama's reelection. It's a far cry from way back in 2008.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, less than four years after George W. Bush left Washington, Democrats are afraid of another Bush. If Jeb Bush were to become Mitt Romney's running mate, the Florida governor, former Florida governor, would likely deliver his home state, he would likely attract more Hispanics, Catholics, conservatives and independents to the Republican ticket, and that's exactly what Democrats are afraid.

So, they're very likely relieved to hear that Jeb Bush isn't interested. People close to Bush tell "Politico" that he means it, too. They say Jeb Bush truly doesn't want to be on the ticket, that it's not his time. It could mean that 2012 is just to close to the eight years of his brother's presidency, and that the country couldn't stomach idea of another President Bush at some point. Just think having a Bush in the race would immediately bring back talk about the Iraq war, torture, spying on Americans, et cetera.

However, Bush loyalists insist his family's privacy is a major reason why Jeb Bush didn't want to run for president this year and why he doesn't want to be number two on the ticket either. They say he's happy giving speeches, doing consulting and doing policy work through education and literacy foundations. Plus, as the son and brother of former presidents, Jeb Bush on a presidential ticket raises the political dynasty question. As George Will points out, if Bush ran as V.P., it would mean a Bush on the Republican ticket in seven of the last nine presidential elections.

Still, not everybody's giving up hope on Jeb Bush running with Romney. His oldest son, George P. Bush, told "Politico," quote, "It would be a phenomenal ticket," unquote.

Here's the question -- Democrats fear another Bush, should they? Do you?

Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, and post a comment on my block or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

So, here's a question: do women make less money than men for doing the exact same work?

On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, the Republican strategist and CNN contributor answered no, and that sparked a very passionate debate with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

We asked Lisa Sylvester to do a fact check for us. Lisa is here.

Lisa, who's right?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a fascinating subject, Wolf, and we have been looking into this. We reached out, by the way, to Alex Castellanos but he was not available for comment.

The question, is there an earnings gap between men and women? And the answer, according to the Census Bureau is yes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): As an adjunct profess for five years, Lisa Maatz says she often saw on college campuses male professors being paid a lot more than their female colleagues.

LISA MAATZ, AAUW, DIR. OF PUBLIC POLICY AND GOVT. RELATIONS: There's definitely a gap between men and women. There's a gap who gets tenure and who doesn't, there's a gap between who gets promoted and who doesn't.

SYLVESTER: Now, Maatz is an advocate for paying men and women equal salaries. She works with the American Association for University Women. She says full-time working women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. It's a common statistic, one now being charged by CNN contributor, Alex Castellanos, who got into a verbal with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Women in this country still make 77 cents on a dollar for what men make. So if -- women don't make less than that?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.

MADDOW: Wait, wait, no. Don't tell me the reasons. Do women make less than that for doing the same work?

CASTELLANOS: No, because --

MADDOW: Wow. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: Well, for example, men work an average of 44 hours a week, women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexibility --

MADDOW: Listen, this is not a math is hard type of conversation.

CASTELLANOS: No, no, no. Yes, it is.

SYLVESTER: Castellanos makes two points, that men make more because they work more and they go into professions that pay higher salaries.

But data directly from the Census Bureau shows there is a pay gap and it's real. Quote, "In 2010, the earnings of women who worked full-time year round were 77 percent of that for men working full-time year round, not statistically different from the 2009 ratio," end quote.

Lisa Maatz says the study takes into account factors like hours work.

MAATZ: The study we're talking about here control for those things. They do a very sophisticated regression analysis and they say, OK, let's control for those reasons, and then beyond that figure out what the gap is. So, the gap shrinks. It's not as high as 77 percent, that average median gap, but it's still there.

And that's the problem because it's unexplained. We can't say that it's because they work less hours, or it's because they supervise fewer people.

KAY HYMOWITZ, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE SENIOR FELLOW: I'm not convinced --

SYLVESTER: Castellanos' arguments echoed comments made by Kay Hymowitz, a fellow with the Manhattan Institute. She wrote an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" that women earn less because they work fewer hours. But Hymowitz argues one reason is that's because women are more likely to opt to work part-time, earning less than men who are less likely to agree to work part-time.

HYMOWITZ: It sounds like that everyone would want to work as much, you know, full-time and they don't necessarily. They feel equally tied -- many women do -- to their children, to their home and want more time there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: So the bottom line, is there a gender gap in payroll? The answer is yes, that 77 cents on a dollar difference between men and women's earnings, that comes directly from the Census Bureau. Now, it refers to full-time workers. But it is also true that many women choose to scale back hours more so than men, women choosing to work part-time and that's also reflected in the earnings, Wolf.

BLITZER: And so, the bottom line, though, with men and women have the exact same job, do women still only earn 77 cents on the dollar, if they're doing, working the same amount of hours, have the exact same job, in the exact same field.

SYLVESTER: They have -- there is definitely a gap. It is, if you're looking at. But there are all kinds of other control factors, you know, what college somebody went to, what region of the country. If you're talking salaried workers versus part-time workers, the average for full time workers, the difference is pay is 77 cents on the dollar.

Now, as you go along, as you control for other factors, even if you control for everything you could possibly imagine, all those things -- the college, the hours work, men still make more than women, that gap narrows, it's about 5 cents of a difference, but it still is there, it's still real, and the truth is, men make more than women.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks for the fact check.

SYLVESTER: OK.

BLITZER: Did a good job. Thank you.

President Obama going after Mitt Romney as the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death approaches. Is it a cheap shot as the Romney campaign is now claiming or legitimate?

And never mind all the things he said back in 2008, now the former President Bill Clinton is campaigning pretty hard for President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He was one of candidate Obama's sharpest critics in the 2008 campaign. But what a difference four years has made. Now, former President Bill Clinton is among the biggest guns out there in President Obama's re-election campaign.

Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is working the story for us.

Brianna, what is Bill Clinton doing right now for President Obama?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOIUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one source close to President Clinton that I spoke with said he's trying to help distill and simplify the message on the economy. As this source put it, President Obama can take something he said that is easy and obvious and make it seem hard and complicated -- so that's where President Clinton comes in in that regard. And he's really trying, as I said, to sort of simplify that message.

This source that I spoke with said President Clinton is very eager to help, to defend President Obama on the economy, and he's expecting to be used frequently in swing states, targeting moderate Democratic voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): In 2007, Bill Clinton took aim at Barack Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, I'm old- fashioned. I think it really -- I think a president ought to have done something for other people and for his country, when you pick a president.

KEILAR: President Clinton questioned Obama's inexperience.

B. CLINTON: I mean, when is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?

KEILAR: In early 2008, Obama won Iowa and entered an all out feud with the former couple.

HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-U.S. SENATOR: I'm here, he's not.

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-U.S. SENATOR: OK. Well, I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes.

KEILAR: Not surprisingly, Bill Clinton and President Obama have never been especially close. But appointing Hillary Clinton secretary of state helped some wounds heel. And since taking office, Obama has looked to the former president for help, hosting him at the White House during contentious negotiations with Congress in 2010.

OBAMA: You're in good hands. And Gibbs will call last question.

B. CLINTON: Yes. Thank you.

KEILAR: Having President Clinton on board might help attract voters in areas where Obama struggles, the South and some Rust Belt states. The Obama campaign is featuring Clinton in ads and hitting up his network of wealthy donor. Obama and Clinton appeared at a fund- raiser together Sunday at the home of longtime Clinton supporter Terry McAuliffe. Obama joked the crowd would be getting two presidents for the price of one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, Wolf, Clinton's message will be this, I know what it takes to have a good economy and President Obama is on the right track.

And you heard some of that last night in the remarks that were reported out of that fundraiser they both attended. President Clinton saying that Obama is, quote, "beating the clock as he works toward economic recovery" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I think that they raised about $2 million last night at Terry McAuliffe's house out there in Northern Virginia. And now president and former president are going to do a couple more fundraisers for the Obama campaign. But you're getting some other interesting tidbits about their relationship.

KEILAR: This is really interesting, if you talk to some folks in the Obama camp, they'll tell you that some of the, I guess, vitriol was overplayed. But certainly there was a time when President Clinton and then Senator Obama certainly had some issues.

I was told by a source close to Clinton that their relationship has been hot and cold, but it's in a very good place right now. And also that Clinton very much, President Clinton held a grudge, even more so than now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over what happened during the primary.

But that the turning point was really during the transition, as President Obama got ready to come into office that President Clinton was very happy with how he was treated and more importantly, according to this source, how his wife was treated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Thanks very much, Brianna Keilar, our White House correspondent.

Let's dig a little bit deeper in our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us now, two guests, the former Republican Senator Norm Coleman, he's an advisor to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and also the former Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan. He's the author, by the way, of a brand new book called "Blowout" in which he says the U.S. reliance on foreign will bring the economy potentially to its knees.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. I want to get to some other stuff, but Bill Clinton out there campaigning for Barack Obama in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio. If he does that, that's huge?

NORM COLEMAN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I think it's important because Barack Obama has trouble connecting with the working men and women in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. When you got 38 months of unemployment above 8 percent and the economy is suffering, Bill Clinton can certainly be a help. Barack Obama needs all the help he can get.

BLITZER: I assume you've already endorsed the president of the United States for re-election?

BYRON DORGAN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Yes, look, former President Clinton is a popular figure. His support will mean a lot, but Barack Obama in my judgment has been a president that has done a lot of good things for this country and I think he's going to be re-elected.

BLITZER: And Bill Clinton all the more important because his wife, the secretary of state, as a sitting secretary of state cannot go out there and aggressively campaign, do fundraisers, that's not diplomatic shall we say so.

That's why he's going to have to carry a lot of that work for the president. Let's talk a little bit about what's going on. These war of words on this first anniversary of Bin Laden's death right now between the president and Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney, a man you obviously support, Senator Coleman. Here's what the president said today. I'll play the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As far as my personal role in what other folks would do, I just recommend that everybody take a look at people's previous statements, in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out Bin Laden.

I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That's been at least my practice. I said that I would go after bin laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they do something else, then I would go ahead and let them explain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's referring to that comment that Mitt Romney said what four years ago, it's not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.

COLEMAN: The sentence after that was that we need a plan to defeat global terrorism.

BLITZER: It's worth executing an effective strategy to defeat global violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that. And the question was wouldn't the world be safer if Bin Laden were caught? And Romney said, yes, but by a small percentage increase, a very insignificant increase in safety by virtue of replacing Bin Laden with someone else. He goes on to talk about Ayman Al-Zawahri.

COLEMAN: Let me say that Romney would have both taken out Bin Laden and he would have fixed the economy. Really what you're seeing here -- they're looking at the Obama ad on this thing and they said it was despicable.

This is the time we all should be celebrating. There should be unity. Bringing this country together and any day we're not talking about the economy is a good day for Barack Obama. It's a bad day --

DORGAN: It's about one person and what another person said. This president made a very gutsy call. He brought to justice a guy that murdered thousands of Americans and was out there for nine years, living in a compound the last six, apparently.

But he brought him to justice and there was some risk to that. But it was also about what Mitt Romney said. Mitt Romney said more than you just describe in another circumstance, raised questions about whether we have the right to go into Pakistan, for example.

We don't have the right to go after someone that murdered thousands of Americans, of course, we have that right and this president understood it and made a gutsy decision to do it.

COLEMAN: We have a president who's foreign policy, whether it comes from Pakistan, whether it comes to Iran, or North Korea, a treaty a couple of weeks ago saying they're going to give food and they're not going test missiles, boom, three weeks later, they're testing missiles.

This is really about a president who's failed the economy. It was more than about Barack Obama, it was the men and women of the armed forces, intelligence committee. We should be celebrating this.

BLITZER: Senator, no one should question whether or not the president of the United States should say, you know what? I got a tough call, I made a gutsy call and the United States. We killed Bin Laden. The question is though should he be using that as a political advertisement suggesting that Romney would not necessarily have done that.

DORGAN: Mitt Romney implied himself that he didn't know that we had the right or the ability to go into these countries. But let me make this point to my friend, Norm.

This president, President Obama has wound down the war in Iraq, number one, number two has begun to remove troops from Afghanistan, number three, went and found and got and brought to justice Osama Bin Laden.

Don't tell me this president has a foreign policy that doesn't work. He does, and in my judgment he's been a fine president and I think he's going to win the re-election. BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it alone. But we'll continue with both of you guys down the road. Thanks very much for coming in.

We're learning stunning new details about secret al Qaeda attack plans that were, get this, hidden inside a porn video. Stand by, Nic Robertson has the details.

And terrifying video coming into CNN of a man losing his balance and plunging from a very tall structure at a concert, we'll tell you what happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including very deadly violence across Syria. Lisa, what's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, activists say 20 people are dead and about 100 people injured from three explosions in the city of Idlib. At least two of the blasts were car bombs.

The opposition also reported heavy artillery shelling in the capital of Damascus. Both sides had agreed to a ceasefire and claimed the other side is responsible for escalating the violence.

And crews are searching for survivors after a passenger ferry sank in India. At least 40 bodies have been recovered so far while a few dozen people have been rescued. About 100 people are still believed to be missing.

A thunderstorm likely caused the wooden ferry to sink shortly before docking. The Indian army has been called in to help with that rescue.

And investors might want to forget the month of April. All three indexes were down today making April the worst month so far this year. The Dow Jones Industrial average dropped 15 points today and finished the month, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, ended the month in the red.

And take a look at this terrifying video. A man in Australia falling at a concert, he snuck past security to climb the scaffolding and then lost his balance and plummeted to the ground, slamming into metal bars on his way down.

Fortunately, Australian TV said he jumped right up and went to the hospital. Yes, Wolf, apparently this guy is OK. You know, this is one of those things, things not to do when you attend a concert.

BLITZER: You think he might have had a beer or two before doing that? Do you think he was a little excited?

SYLVESTER: It is entirely, entirely possible. Just, again, folks, don't try that at home.

BLITZER: Don't try that at home at all. Lisa, thank you. Coming up, we have stunning new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about secret al Qaeda attack plans that were actually hidden inside a porn video. Our own Nic Robertson has the story. You do want to see this.

And dramatic testimony today in the trial of a man who wanted to be president of the United States. New details on how John Edwards allegedly tried to hide his pregnant mistress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves for China tonight where she will meet with top Chinese officials in Beijing. Two, not one, two diplomatic headaches are sure to come up, an escape activist who maybe hiding out right now at the U.S. embassy in China.

Also a story that potentially could spell some serious trouble for the Communist Party in China. It's a story CNN's Erin Burnett has been out front on. Tell us what's going on here, because a lot of our viewers have not necessarily been paying attention. But it's almost like a spy now.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "OUTFRONT": It really is and it boils down to this, a man who's a very senior Communist Party official, actually might have been the next president of China. That is how significant this man was. You see him there.

There was a power struggle. His right hand man apparently tried to get asylum at the U.S. embassy with allegations that Bo Xilai and his family may have killed the British businessman.

They did not get that asylum, but Bo Xilai and his wife now have not been seen for more than a month, ostensibly in Chinese government hands, no one exactly knows what happened, but Neal Haywood, the businessman who died, now apparently the wife of Bo Xilai could have killed him by cyanide.

This just sort of the tip of the iceberg, Wolf, and what appears to be a very serious question in China about corruption, who is in power and who is rising. We are now hearing, today that there could be a so-called written confession from the wife.

Apparently, some say she was having an affair with that British businessman, affair or not, she is suspected in his murder. So apparently there could be a confession coming out where she talks about what happened, whether she was in the room.

So we don't know if that will be the case, but that's what we're hearing now, it's a very serious question from Hillary Clinton and Tim Geithner, our treasury secretary going to China this week, how to handle that.

Whether to bring it up and then, as you say, there's the activist who may be right now at the U.S. embassy, Hillary Clinton, as you know, when she's in China, doesn't like to talk about human rights abuses.

She likes to sort of back off and be quiet about that. It's going to be very hard to ignore it this time around.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. That's a diplomatic potential nightmare this crisis unfolding between the U.S. and China. I know Erin is going to be all over it later tonight "OUTFRONT" at 7:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Al Qaeda attack plans hidden inside pornography videos. We're learning new details of a shocking terror tactics. Also history made in New York City, we're going to take you to Manhattan's new and tallest building.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack's joining us again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour, Democrats fear another Bush, Jeb Bush, should they? Do you?

Kim in Kansas writes, "The mention of the name makes me break out in a cold sweat. Americans should not forget about the near total destruction of the economy, the decimation of the middle class and the two completely illegal wars.

Knowing that George W. Bush is still walking around a free man after destroying so many lives and sending 4,000 soldiers to their deaths is as disgusting as it gets. I would certainly fear another Bush and justifiably so."

Bud writes, "Jeb could be a tough competitor. He appears to be reserved, conservative, but not ideological or pragmatic. He also looks like he's a nice guy, so to answer your question, Democrats probably would rather not have to deal with him."

Ron writes, "I fear both another Bush and the same Obama. This election is fast turning into of the picked a pile of garbage that smells the least situation. And neither party has solved that issue for me as yet."

Dale in Massachusetts, "The only thing to fear from another Bush is the knee-jerk faith-based irrational policies. Religion doesn't belong in policies or governing. Religion based If it isn't all the terror stuff, it's the fear that Iran et al and that Sharia law will think at some point that the whole world has to go see God or Allah in one single radiation induced event."

Pete in Georgia says, "Are you serious? Currently, I'd rather have Bush' cleaning lady in office compared to the deceiving socialist impostor now on Pennsylvania Avenue."

D.T. in Minnesota writes, "The whole world does, we put another goof ball in office who thinks it's play time, one more leader who only cares about his rich buddies and we're done for."

And Jan writes from North Carolina, "I guess it's a fair question. I'm a Republican and the thought of another Jimmy Carter scares the heck out of me."

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.

My guess is Jeb Bush will be around at some point in the future, but maybe not this cycle.

BLITZER: Yes, I think that's my guess as well, 2016, you know, it's only four years away. That's not far. We'll see what happens. Thanks very much.

Coming up in our next hour, using pornography to relay plans for terror attacks, it's a shocking al Qaeda tactic that is just now being revealed.

And dramatic testimony today at the trial of John Edwards. New details of how he allegedly tried to get others to hide his pregnant mistress.

And straight ahead, a symbolic milestone in New York City where Freedom Tower is now the city's tallest building.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More than a decade after a terrorist attack brought down New York's twin towers. One World Trade Center also known as Freedom Tower has just become New York City's tallest building.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is in Lower Manhattan for this symbolic moment. Poppy, how did it go?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was an incredible day here in New York, Wolf. Just the sense of pride in the city. I want to pan up so you can see. We're talking 100 floors at One World Trade Center now, 1,271 feet.

They put that steel beam on top about 2:00 this afternoon, it made this building about 21 feet taller than the Empire State Building so once again, the tallest building in New York City.

The Port Authority of New York, New Jersey overseeing this project have a press conference today, I'll let you take a listen to what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FOYE, PORT AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: By the time we reach the top of the building in the coming weeks, I think that Asia may be in full view.

All kidding aside, it's been a long, difficult journey over many years to achieve this significant milestone, New York and the New York-New Jersey region and probably the world has never seen a more complex construction project.

Not simply for the sheer physical challenges it has presented and there have been many, but also because the emotional significance of this site.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And that is true, Wolf, it is very emotionally significant, one man Javier biked over to me and said I worked at the World Trade Center until about three months before the attacks and to see it again being rebuilt, he said, it is simply beautiful.

I had a chance to talk to people around here in New York, tourist and locals. Take a listen to the sentiment that we heard from them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think it's just an overall coming together and unity for everybody and it's a great memorial for anybody who was alive during that time and shows a lot of innovation of things to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what the obstacle is we're face with, you know, we will survive. We will resurface and we can do this. So it's a pride thing as an American, but more importantly, as a New Yorker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Absolutely, Wolf, we still got a ways to go, about a year and a half left until this is finished, but 7-1/2 years of construction hit a major, major milestone in New York.

BLITZER: I know you have been inside that structure, what was that like?

HARLOW: It was incredible. You just can't even believe the enormity of it. We'll roll some video as you can see. I went up to the 76th floor in August and that was the top floor at the time.

It is immense, the amount of people working, thousands and thousands of workers around the clock. They never stopped working on this building for seven-plus years.

They gave us some interesting numbers, 30,000 tons of steel, 190,000 cubic yards of concrete into this building alone, and they're not even done yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Poppy Harlow on the scene for us. Thank you.