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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bin Laden Doctor Gets 33 Years in Pakistan Prison; Interview with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari; Etan Patz Case; Birther Controversy; Ketchup Freed at Last; "My Suffering Was Beyond Imagination"; Iran Negotiator Defends Nuclear Program; President Obama on the Attack

Aired May 24, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, in his first television interview since breaking free, a blind Chinese dissident now telling Anderson Cooper about his dramatic escape from house arrest and the suffering he endured.

Plus, the doctor accused of helping the United States find Osama bin Laden is now ordered to serve 33 years in prison in Pakistan. I'll ask the son of Pakistan's president about the sentence -- the sentence that American officials are calling "outrageous."

And what if a hurricane disrupts the Republican National Convention in Tampa. It's a real possibility, we're told. We'll discuss whether Florida is ready for the worst.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're starting with a story you will see first here on CNN -- a chilling account of captivity, beatings and suffering beyond imagination. The Chinese human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, is speaking out about his years in prison and then under house arrest. And he can talk openly about the ordeal only now, now that he's free and safe here in the United States.

Our own Anderson Cooper just spoke with him.

Anderson is joining us from New York right now -- Anderson, tell us how it went.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, this is really the first time he has spoken. He gave a -- a brief press conference when he first arrived. He is here, being sponsored by New York University. And he's living down by the NYU campus. He's going to be studying here for the next year. He's -- he hasn't sought a political asylum. He does hope, at some point, to go back to China, whether or not that's going to be possible.

But he is speaking out. He's particularly concerned about family members he left behind and his friends and colleagues who helped him escape and get into the U.S. Embassy, all of whom, he says, are now under the -- the watch, and in some cases, in the custody of Chinese authorities. His nephew, in particular, has been charged with intentional homicide for allegedly using a knife to defend himself when Chinese security agents burst into his home when they were searching for Mr. Chen.

I -- I talked to him, though, about what it was like before he escaped, when he was in that home confinement for some two years.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When you were released, you -- you were under house arrest.

What -- what was that like?

CHEN GUANGCHENG, CHINESE HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST (through translator): I want to correct one thing here. When we talked about my situation and the future, let's not use the word house arrest, but instead, use the term illegal detention. It's hard for me to describe what it was like during that time, but let's just say that my suffering was beyond imagination.

COOPER: Did it feel like there was an end to it?

Did it feel like it was just going go on and on?

GUANGCHENG:

I didn't see much hope.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: And, Wolf, there's a lot he does not want to talk about at this point. It's obviously a very sensitive time for him. He's concerned about the activists who -- who helped him escape, about his nephew who is in custody, his brother. His mother is there, as well, as well as people in his home village. There are reports that the village is kind of under a lockdown by -- by local Chinese authorities, who are upset, obviously, that he was able to escape in the first place.

BLITZER: Is he physically OK -- Anderson?

COOPER: Physically, I mean he -- he's in a wheelchair. Obviously, he's blind, been blind since birth. But he's in a wheelchair because he hurt his foot while escaping. But he doesn't seem to be in great physical condition, actually. He apparently had been nauseous and sick as he drove to -- to go to the interview. On the flight over from China, he apparently was also throwing up. So he does not seem to be in great shape.

And -- and after a certain point, he sort of said that -- that he was tired and wanted to stop talking. So we -- we ultimately ended the interview.

But he -- he certainly hopes to -- to get his foot recovered over the next month or so here.

BLITZER: And he hopes to stay here, what, at least a year at NYU, is that right?

COOPER: It's -- he didn't really determine, you know, give a -- a length of time. He's going to be studying here for the next year. You know, he's a self-taught lawyer. His wife read to him from legal textbooks. And that's how -- he never went to law school in China. So he's going to be studying about the law. He's hoping to learn English, as well.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to him.

Anderson, thanks very much for that report.

And to our viewers, Anderson is obviously going to have a lot more in depth, more of this interview with Chen later tonight on "A.C. 360," 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Now to negotiations about Iran's nuclear program. We're told significant differences remain between world powers and the Tehran government after two days of talks in Baghdad. More talks now planned for Moscow next month.

Will Iran give ground?

What's going on?

Let's bring in CNN's Hala Gorani -- Hala, you had an exclusive interview today -- I watched it with CNN -- with Iran's chief negotiator. You had that interview on CNN International.

What's the latest?

What are you hearing?

Is he hopeful there can be a deal?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, when I asked him if he was hopeful for -- as far as the next meeting is concerned, next month, in Moscow, June 16th through -- June 17th, I should say, through the 19th, he said, well, I am hopeful, but, really, a few conditions need to be met, including the fact that Iran is essentially the victim of measures -- of punitive measures and measures that he disagrees with, including sanctions, for instance, against Iran.

Here's what he told me when I asked him whether or not that the P5- plus-1, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany and Iran could come to some sort of agreement on his country's nuclear program.

Here's what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAEED JALILI, IRAN'S TOP NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (through translator): Well, we believe that, as we have always said, the thing which could break this deadlock is the attitude and the strategy of cooperation. I have always said that the strategy of pressure would make the strategy of talks to come to the end. The time for pressure and the strategy of pressure is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: All right. And there you have Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, speaking to me from Baghdad about two hours ago.

One of the sticking points, of course, is Iran's ability and right to enrich uranium at 20 percent -- high grade fuel enrichment. I asked him about that. I said, look. What would it take for the P5-plus-1 to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium at that high level.

And he defended Iran's right to enrich at 20 percent. He also said this is something that is useful to Iranians, that it's for peaceful purposes.

But Iran -- but P5-plus-1 and Western countries suspect that Iran is conducting this enrichment of nuclear fuel in order to develop nuclear weaponry. And that is the big concern for them.

So now we look forward to next month in Moscow and whether or not the two sides will get closer together. We heard from the EU foreign policy chief, Kashin -- Kathryn Ashton, as well. And she said significant differences remain, but that there still is hope that the two sides can get closer together -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they work it out peacefully.

Hala Gorani reporting for us from Cairo.

Thanks, Hala, very much.

Right now, President Obama is in the battleground state of Iowa. He's speaking soon at a wind energy manufacturer in Newton promoting his energy plan. He's also pushing Congress to make progress on what he calls his to-do list. We'll monitor what the president has to say.

If the president doesn't go after Mitt Romney in his speech this hour, you can certainly bet he will later this evening, during a campaign event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Iowa State Fairgrounds is a popular destination for presidential candidates. And as President Obama returns to fire up his supporters, his reelection campaign released a new Web ad reminding Americans of what some considered a gaffe his likely opponent made during a speech here last summer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD, ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We could raise taxes on people. That's just the way...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Corporations.

ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: In a statement, the Romney campaign reacted sharply, going after the president. Quote: "All he has to offer now are tired political attacks. With no record to run on, no new ideas and flailing attacks like these, it's no surprise that the Obama campaign has had such a tough week."

In case you're wondering, the gloves have come off, even as national polls show an almost even race between President Obama and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

At a campaign fundraising rally in Redwood City, California Wednesday night, President Obama had a much sharper tone as he worked to discredit Romney's private sector experience as qualification to run the country.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's saying, well, you know, my 25 years in the private sector gives me a special understanding of how our economy works.

Well, if that's true, why is he peddling the same bad ideas that brought our economy to the brink of collapse?

LOTHIAN: And on the heels of his commencement address at the Air Force Academy, where he touted his foreign policy achievements, the president took a shot at Romney on Iraq and Afghanistan.

OBAMA: He said ending the war was tragic in Iraq. He won't set a time line for ending the war in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: A report from our own Dan Lothian, who's traveling with the president in Iowa right now.

Remember, we'll monitor what the president has to say and we'll bring you important news if that develops.

Stand by.

Florida, meanwhile, is preparing to host the Republican National Convention at the end of August. There is a big concern, I have to tell you about. What happens -- what happens if a hurricane hits the state at the same time?

Stand by. New information coming in.

And a possible break in the disappearance of a boy 33 years ago. We have new information on that, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, five months to go before election day and there is one thing we can all count on -- polls. There will be lots and lots and lots of polls.

Some of us in the media tend to hyperventilate about the latest polls, their significance and what we can read into them. But it's worth remembering that sometimes the polls are just numbers.

The "Los Angeles Times" has a very smart piece that lays out some rules about how to be smart when it comes to the polls. To begin with, don't forget the limits of national polling. While presidential elections are fought out state by state in the Electoral College, most polls are nationwide. And it's too expensive to keep polling all of the battleground states individually, which is eventually where the race is won or lost. So while national polls can be helpful, they can hide important changes at the state level.

Next up, don't obsess about small shifts in the horse race numbers. Small bounces in the polls for Obama or Romney from week to week likely the result of natural changes in the statistical sample. Instead, pay attention to what issues are moving voters. Another hint -- be skeptical of apparent big swings. They usually don't happen in the general election campaign.

Also, don't mix apples and oranges. Every polling organization does things a little bit differently, which could explain significant shifts in surveys done by different pollsters, even in the same state. Quote, "As the saying goes, some people use data the way a drunk uses a lamppost for support rather than illumination.

Here's the question. How much faith do you have in the polls? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog or go to the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. A little primmer in polls.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Excellent advice, I must say. Someone who's been studying these political polls for decades. That's all good stuff for me, "L.A. Times."

CAFFERTY: Yes. They did a nice job.

BLITZER: Very nice. All right. Jack, thank you.

We're heading into the heart of another hurricane season here in United States, and the U.S. weather officials are now predicting an about average number of storms this year.

We can expect as many as 15 named storms in the Atlantic, including up to eight hurricanes, one to three of them could be major hurricanes as many as 18 named storms are forecast for the eastern pacific, including up to nine hurricanes.

Five of those hurricanes could be major storms. We've already seen some tropical storms formed, including a hurricane that's threatening Mexico. Let's check in with CNN severe weather expert, Chad Myers. He's watching all of this. The National Hurricane Center just issued the new advisory. What did it say?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It says that this hurricane bud is going to a category 3 hurricane in 12 hours. And it will make landfall along the west coast of Mexico. Here's Manzanilla, here's Puerto Vallarta. Somewhere right in between, those two towns maybe making landfall in one of those towns as a near-category 2 hurricane.

It goes to three, then slows down a little bit when it makes landfall. Then, Wolf, the problem is it stops, turns around, and goes back out to sea. That stop and turn around time could also cause severe flooding in Western Mexico. There could be a foot of rainfall in some of these mountain towns.

That would cause flash flooding, and the flash flood damage could probably and possibly be worse than the wind damage. We saw what happened in Vermont with Irene, how much damage there was there in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, all of those -- and New York and Pennsylvania by flooding, not wind damage, but sometimes, flooding can be much worse.

BLITZER: You know, as soon as I know that we're in the hurricane season, one of the things that went through my mind and a lot of political reporters out there, as you well know, Chad, the Republican National Convention scheduled for Tampa in the last week in August and that's the height of the hurricane season. What could happen if the storm were to hit that area? Is the state ready?

MYERS: The state is ready. There's no question. Pinellas County all the way through the Tampa Bay area would be ready for something like that, but you're going to put 50,000 extra people into one city that may have to be evacuated. It's hard to do that when you are trying to evacuate or move the residents away from the water.

What we have down here already something circulating could be called Berl, the second storm of the year. Alberto out here over the weekend. It didn't do anything except kind of spin in the water. But what it would do a storm -- something like a Charlie that would asses (ph) what their biggest concern would be, a storm that comes right up through and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Super warm water by the middle of August and September and drive itself right into Tampa Bay. That's what Charlie tried to do, but at the very last minute, Charlie turned to the right and hit Punta Gorda. I was down there with Anderson Cooper to watch that entire event unfold. The biggest problem with Tampa would be flooding, would be saltwater, surge flooding as all of wind would put the water into the bay and then the water would have to go somewhere or have to go up these tributaries and a lot of downtown Tampa, the areas there around the air force base, all would be under water.

Now, this would be a significantly high on the odds, maybe one in 500 chance that something like this, that big of a storm would happen on that date, but certainly, the officials down there are thinking about it and preparing for it as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I know they're thinking about it. I wonder, I don't know the answer to this, if the Republican National Committee even thought about that as a factor when picking Tampa as the site of the Republican convention at the end of August. I'm going to do some checking, unless, you have the answer, Chad.

MYERS: You know, we thought about it in the weather center saying, you know, Charlotte where the other one would be, probably has a better chance of some type of tornado or severe weather event than Tampa would have over hurricane, but hurricanes are so large. They can affect so many people with wind and water, you know, anywhere along the east coast, the gulf coast, all vulnerable.

BLITZER: Since I will be in Tampa and will be in Charlotte, I hope there's no tornadoes. I hope there's no hurricanes. I hope there's beautiful, beautiful weather for both of these political conventions.

MYERS: Me, too.

BLITZER: Chad, thanks very much.

Mitt Romney may have a new problem on his hands, birthers. Just ahead, why some in the Republican Party are now renewing the debate over where President Obama was born.

Plus, new video of George Zimmerman just released in the Trayvon Martin case. Up next, why it may help answer some questions about his past relationship with police. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The details about the Trayvon Martin case. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. Lisa, what do you have?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a video obtained by the Miami-Herald showing a bandage George Zimmerman in the Sanford Police Department three days after killing Trayvon Martin could shed light on his relationship with police as a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Zimmerman reportedly wrote in January 2011 he was disgusted by what he saw on ride alongs with police, but, by the end of the year, he was praising them. He's charged with second-degree murder in the unarmed teen's death. And Facebook's stock is struggling to break even on Wall Street. It's still down 13 percent from the price of last week's much-anticipated initial public offering. This as the social media giant is embroiled in a class action lawsuit alleging that its underwriter, Morgan Stanley, shared privileged information with key investors. Facebook tells CNN the lawsuit is without merit.

And terrifying dash cam video purportedly taken from an SUV driving along a Russian highway when an oncoming tractor trailer rounds a quarter tips over. You see it there, slams head-on into it. The truck driver, apparently, took that turn too quickly. Luckily though, everyone survived. That is terrifying. It's hard to watch that video. A little hard to watch that video.

BLITZER: Very hard to watch, but you know what, I don't know if we can do it. I'd like to see that again. Can we cue that up? I just like to see that. Whoa!

SYLVESTER: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes.

SYLVESTER: Again, you know, we have to tell our viewers, no one, fortunately, was seriously injured.

BLITZER: I'll drive a little bit more slowly in those curves from now on -- continues to be a truck driver. Thanks very much.

It's a story that's angering lots of Americans. The Pakistani doctor who actually helped the United States find Osama Bin Laden is now going to prison for 30-plus years. What's going on? I'll ask the son of the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari. The son is here in the SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, after 33 years, do police finally have their hands on the man who may have killed this boy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Another major blow in the unraveling relationship between the United States and the key ally in the war against al Qaeda, Pakistan. This time, a Pakistani doctor, considered a hero here in the United States, sentenced to 33 years in prison there for helping the CIA track down and kill Osama Bin Laden. Here's CNN's Reza Sayah.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the 33-year prison sentence against Pakistani Dr. Shakil Afridi comes with one important caveat, and that is it was handed down by a tribal court in Pakistan's tribal region near Afghanistan where laws are very different. Dr. Afridi couldn't have a lawyer. He couldn't defend himself.

These courts are usually run by tribal leaders and local officials who play the role of judge and jury. Human rights groups, even some Pakistani leaders, themselves, have often said these trials are not fair. That said, analysts say, Dr. Afridi has a good chance of overturning this sentence if he appeals it in a civilian court. So, if you cut through all the nuts (ph) and the complexities, the sentence does sound serious. The doctor is in jail, but it's not clear what it means in the long run and if the sentence will stick, but if you take a step back, it's another bone of contention, and there are many when it comes to the U.S. and Pakistan.

Washington says this doctor should be rewarded, not punished. In the meantime, Pakistan still maintaining the blockade on the two NATO supply routes here in Pakistan that's been the case ever since NATO air strikes last year killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Relations so frosty between Washington and Islamabad last weekend in the NATO summit in Chicago.

U.S. President Barack Obama refusing to meet Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari one-on-one. These are two countries that say they're partners in the fight against extremism, but they certainly don't always act like it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Reza Sayah, thanks very much for that report. Reza reporting from Islamabad.

Joining us now is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He's chairman of the Pakistan People's Party. He's the son of the president of Pakistan, President Zardari, also the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Bilawal, thanks very much for coming in.

BILAWAL BHUTTO ZARDARI, SON OF PAKISTAN'S PRESIDENT: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: You understand the outrage here that someone who helped the United States, killed bin Laden who killed 3,000 Americans, you understand the outrage of what's going on right now?

ZARDARI: Yes, Wolf, I do appreciate the outrage. In fact Osama bin Laden tried multiple times to kill my mother. The final attack on December 27th, 2007 was successful. As far as Dr. Afridi (ph) is concerned, it is against the law in any country to cooperate with foreign intelligence. I mean look what happened to (INAUDIBLE) here in the United States where a U.S. court sentenced him to life imprisonment for spying for Israel. We have an independent judiciary which the Pakistan People's Party restored. I have no control over their outcome.

BLITZER: You believe that bin Laden was responsible for killing your mother?

ZARDARI: No, that's not what I said, Wolf. He -- I think that there is Islamic extremism and (INAUDIBLE) are both equally responsible for the assassination of my mother Benazir Bhutto. Al Qaeda issued the instructions (INAUDIBLE) who carried out the actual attack while Pervez Musharraf purposely sabotaged my mother's security when he knew there was going to be attacks and she would be eliminated.

BLITZER: Going back to Dr. Shaquil Afridi (ph), the U.S. Senate -- there is a resolution now in the Senate that would withhold $33 million, $1 million for every year that he has been sentenced to prison and withhold that from Pakistan, U.S. aid to Pakistan, given to underscore the anger right now that a lot of Americans are feeling towards Pakistan.

ZARDARI: That's true Wolf and it's really unfortunate that our relationship has deteriorated so much over the past year. We have weathered a series of crises, from the Raymond Davis (ph) fiasco where a CIA agent shot and killed two innocent Pakistani civilians in the back on the streets of Lahore, to the Abbottabad (ph) raid, to the NATO attack at Salala (ph) that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead which did not result in an apology, but I am confident that we will work together to resolve our issues because we have a common goal, a common aim which we must achieve together.

BLITZER: Now you said in a speech in New York and I'll put it up on the screen -- you said "the unilateral action by the United States in Abbottabad made many in Pakistan question whether the United States actually considered Pakistan a military ally in our common war on terrorism and extremism."

But you must understand that the U.S. had information that bin laden was hiding out there presumably for years. Somebody was protecting him in Pakistan and they weren't going trust the Pakistani government with this information. They just went in and killed him because the suspicion is it's widely held that there were elements in the Pakistani military or intelligence service protecting bin Laden in Abbottabad for those years.

ZARDARI: Well the U.S. found a treasure trove of evidence in the Abbottabad compound. Not a single piece of evidence was found to suggest that there any link between al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden and the ISI (ph), the Pakistani army or the Pakistani government.

BLITZER: Because that compound was, what, a mile away from what is considered the west point of Pakistan, that compound.

ZARDARI: He was hiding in plain sight. It was the perfect place to hide.

BLITZER: So you believe no one in a serious senior position in the military or intelligence knew bin laden was hiding there?

ZARDARI: We phoned the Abbottabad Commission (ph), which is looking into this and we'll come to the truth.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about your personal experiences. You know your mom, your mother, Benazir Bhutto, she was sitting in that chair, it wasn't all that long ago, it was September 26, 2007, when she was here in Washington and she was about to go back to Pakistan, and I discouraged her. I said to her, I think it's dangerous for you to go back to Pakistan and we had this exchange. Let me play it for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Your family has a history unfortunately, a tragic history of assassination. BENAZIR BHUTTO, ASSISSINATED IN PAKISTAN IN DEC. 2007: I know the past has been tragic, but I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in God. I feel that what I am doing is for a good cause for a right cause to save Pakistan from extremists and militants and to build regional security. I know the dangers are there, but I'm prepared to take those risks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And so you see your mother speaking there and then it was only a couple of months later she was killed. She went back for the reasons you know. What goes through your mind when you see that, because frankly, I'm a little worried about you going back to Pakistan myself?

ZARDARI: Well, Wolf, I am confident the Pakistani government will provide me with the adequate security, unlike the government at the time that sabotaged my mother's security in Pakistan.

BLITZER: When you say the government that was President Pervez Musharraf?

ZARDARI: Yes.

BLITZER: You blame him for your mother's death?

ZARDARI: He murdered my mother.

BLITZER: What -- he -- you go that far?

ZARDARI: I hold him responsible for the murder of my mother.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

ZARDARI: Because he purposely -- he knew -- he was aware of the threats. He had threatened her himself in the past. He said your security is directly linked to our relationship and our cooperation.

BLITZER: So --

ZARDARI: When he imposed emergency and it was clear that he was pulling the wool over our eyes, he was not interested in returning democracy to Pakistan and my mother started to speak out more against him the security decreased.

BLITZER: So what about you? What do you plan on doing now?

ZARDARI: I am the chairman of the Pakistan People's Party. I did not campaign in the last election. I went to university. I don't feel like at the moment I have the mandate to take a particularly active role. I look forward to campaigning in the next election and playing a larger role then.

BLITZER: So you hope to go into politics?

ZARDARI: Yes. BLITZER: And would you some day like to be the leader of Pakistan?

ZARDARI: I would like to help my people in any way I can, Wolf. It's difficult times in Pakistan and we all have to help.

BLITZER: Well good luck and be careful over there when you go back.

ZARDARI: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

We're also working new developments right now in a 33-year-old mystery. The possible killer of a boy now in custody. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a major new development in a 1979 cold case that raised awareness about missing children. Police in New York are getting ready to hold a news conference on the Etan Patz case. This comes after we learned that a former Manhattan store owner now is claiming he strangled the 6-year-old. Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti is covering the story for us. Susan what's the latest information we're getting?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well we heard first thing this morning, Wolf, that according to Ray Kelly, the police commissioner here, that a man had implicated himself in the case and then a law enforcement source told us that, in fact, this man, a man by the name of Pedro Hernandez (ph) who used to own a convenience store in Etan Patz's neighborhood had in fact confessed, claimed that he had killed Etan Patz that he had strangled the boy and that Ray Kelly would have something to say about this, the police commissioner, some time later today and we expect that we might be hearing more about the developments in this case later tonight.

So again this is a man who owned a store in the very same neighborhood and we also know, according to sources, that this same man was interviewed by police briefly many years ago and may even have made similar claims back then, but they're talking to him again after that search about a month ago that turned up nothing in that basement in Etan Patz's neighborhood, but that in turn, led to police getting a call from a confidant of Mr. Hernandez who claimed that he was confessing to this matter and so police re-interviewed him. So we're waiting to see exactly where this investigation is now going -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because whatever I read about this over the past couple of days suggest that this individual now under suspicion, did provide some contradictory information, if you will, and his whole story, even though he may be confessing allegedly is not necessarily completely panning out.

CANDIOTTI: Well we are getting conflicting information. Some law enforcement sources telling us that there seems to be very solid information, very good information while others are really waving a yellow flag saying the jury is still out on this and are approaching this with some skepticism, so we're all awaiting to hear what investigators -- what kind of evidence they may have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan, we'll stay on top of the story, and I know you will, as well. Thank you. Jack Cafferty is standing by with his answers to "The Cafferty File" also, David Letterman like you've never seen him talking politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Arizona's top election official initial now says he's sorry if he embarrassed his state by casting doubt on President Obama's birth certificate, but that's not putting the so-called birther controversy to rest. Brian Todd is looking at this story for us. Brian, some Republicans are refusing to let go and that could be potentially a problem for the Mitt Romney campaign. What's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could be a problem, Wolf, because every time we've thought this issue was gone it's popped back up. It might be because polls have shown some significant segments of the Republican Party still at least have questions about whether President Obama is qualified for his office, but one question remains. Will the top party leadership clamp down on the birther talk?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Funny, it doesn't look like a dead horse, but some Republicans are still beating it. Arizona's secretary of state recently threatened to leave President Obama off the state ballot in November unless officials in Hawaii authenticated the president's birth certificate. Ken Bennett (ph), who is Mitt Romney's campaign co-chair in Arizona later said he got the necessary information and put it to rest, but his fellow Arizonan Joe Arpaio who calls himself America's toughest sheriff has a deputy and a team of volunteers he calls the "cold case posse" in Hawaii on a criminal investigation into the certificate.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO (R), MARICOPA CO., ARIZONA: We believe probable cause exists indicating that forgery and fraud may have been committed.

TODD: In Iowa, the state GOP wrote a clause into its proposed platform calling on presidential candidates to show proof of being natural-born citizens, a move a party official acknowledges is a shot at President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): There are many Republicans who feel that Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen because his father was not an American when he was born and therefore feel that according to the Constitution he's not qualified to be president.

TODD: Three Republicans in Congress from battleground states have raised the birther issue recently.

(on camera): CNN and other news outlets have investigated this a lot and found nothing that would disqualify President Obama from his office, but some Republican officials who have raised this have said they did so because some of their constituents demanded it. (voice-over): Analyst Ron Brownstein says it all collectively hurts Mitt Romney.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Look Mitt Romney wants the election to be about one question and one question only, are you better off than you were four years ago?

TODD: But what are top Republicans doing about it? The party chairman has said this.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, RNC: I've been pretty clear now for over a year or however long I've been chairman that this is -- this issue is a distraction.

TODD: I asked GOP strategist Ron BonJean about the back room talk.

(on camera): Internally is there serious backlash to the people doing this by top party leaders right now?

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They're not focused on it. I think that if more elected officials were to start to talk about this issue, sure, Republican leaders would ask them to knock it off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: I contacted the Romney campaign and asked them if Mitt Romney or anyone else on his team would make a more concerted effort to smack down the birther talk within the party. They didn't answer that, but they did point to a recent interview when he was asked about all of this, Romney at that time said the citizenship test has been passed. He believes the president was born in the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This though has already cost one Republican candidate in this election cycle. What's going on there, Brian?

TODD: That's right. A man named Jim Pendergraph, he is a GOP candidate for Congress in North Carolina. He had won the "Charlotte Observer" newspaper and that's an important endorsement there. Earlier this month though "The Observer" took back that endorsement after Pendergraph said he has quote "reason to be suspicious about whether President Obama was born in the U.S." In many Republican circles, Wolf, this is still considered a fringe issue, kind of crazy talk among fringe Republicans but it just won't go away.

BLITZER: Yes, won't go away. All right thanks very much, Brian. It's David Letterman like you've probably never seen him before right here on CNN. He's opening up to Regis Philbin, who's in for our own Piers Morgan, talking politics and much more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you see, over the years --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- talk show hosts have not gotten involved in politics because they fear --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all different now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that if you know one portion --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- of your audience is a Republican or a Democrat and they don't like what you're saying, they're going to tune you out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it bother you?

DAVID LETTERMAN: Well you -- I know what your point is, and I have been guilty of appearing to be playing partisan politics. However, I just like to say that, for the record, I am a registered Independent. You go where the material takes you. Poor Bill Clinton, no president that I'm aware of got hammered harder than Bill president -- Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky situation. We beat up on him.

We still use him as a reference. And then we were desperate. We thought, well, this was so easy and then we got George Bush, and within a matter of days we realized our prayers had been answered. He's just as good in terms of material. So, we -- it may appear to people that we have a slant one way or the other. But, if a guy, you know, drops his dog or a guy straps his dog to the roof of his car or if a guy gets a shoe thrown at him, well, this is where the material is going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This important note, you can see the full Letterman interview Tuesday night, 9 p.m. Eastern, Regis Philbin filling in for Piers Tuesday night. You're going to want to see this. This is going to be very, very good. Letterman does not do a whole lot of interviews. Let's go to Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You could make the argument that the politicians in this country today make the greatest contribution to our comedians. Not the public. The comedians. Question this hour is how much faith do you put in the polls? A lot of them coming between now and November.

Bryan, "I struggle with the ability of the pollster to be unbiased. Everybody has an opinion. People want to be on the winning team, know their candidate is on the top of the polls. It makes them feel included in mainstream America. Any poll can be manipulated to achieve desired outcome in a race that is basically 50/50."

Steve in Illinois writes, "I hate to say it, but a lot. Whoever is ahead after Labor Day will win. I hear that's almost always been the case."

Lisa in Connecticut, "Their importance is about 50/50, plus or minus 25 percent."

Dan in New Mexico, "Jack, not much in any short period of time. But various credible polls over a period of several months, maybe. It depends on the questions and how they are asked and who is the polling organization working for."

L. writes "Hardly any faith at all, Jack. Looks like a person could make up poll figures to suit themselves. And who's to say they don't? I wonder who they ask, because they never ask me."

Pete in Florida writes, "One poll, no faith at all. A lot of ongoing polls, quite a lot of faith. They're pretty good at tracking trends."

Grumpy ole dude writes, "Let me see, my former stockbroker became a weatherman. When that didn't work out, he then became a pollster. Do you see a pattern here"

And Terry in Virginia, "Zip, nada, nothing. Long live President Dewey!"

If you want to read more on this you go to the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

Ketchup now coming out of the bottle quickly, Jeanne Moos is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The days of waiting for ketchup to come out of the bottle may soon be over. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who among us hasn't been guilty of assault on a ketchup bottle, but has technology finally caught up with ketchup?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing slide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god.

MOOS (on camera): Our long national nightmare is over.

(voice-over): Mechanical engineering students at MIT have come up with a super slippery coating that makes anything from ketchup to mayonnaise practically leap out of a bottle coated with the stuff. They call it LiquiGlide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It works on everything we've tried so far-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So glass, plastic, different types of plastic, metal. MOOS: Even Tony Soprano would be beholden to these students.

(SOUNDS)

MOOS: Look how annoyed Tony gets at the dreaded ketchup clog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if Collin (ph) starts talking homicide --

(SOUNDS)

(BLEEP)

(SOUNDS)

MOOS: Sure, there are techniques ranging from the "Goodfellas" bottle roll to the Heinz 57 trick --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tilt the bottle at a 45-degree angle --

MOOS: And gently slap it on the sweet spot where the 57 is imprinted near the neck. But LiquiGlide could make all those tactics obsolete. The idea is to apply the coating during bottle manufacture. Student Dave Smith says it's totally nontoxic.

DAVE SMITH, MIT STUDENT: This is stuff that people already eat in some foods. It's perfectly safe.

MOOS: They've already applied for a bunch of patents.

(on camera): What are the secret ingredients?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well --

MOOS (voice-over): Well, they wouldn't be secret if they LiquiGlide it out of their mouths. Dr. Crepa Varanozi (ph) and his students are already talking to bottlers and food companies. We asked the folks at Heinz if they were in contact with the LiquiGlide inventors. All they would say was "We love the idea of making it easier to pour out Heinz Ketchup". Despite rave reviews --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's amazing.

MOOS: -- there are traditionalists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't feel that ketchup would have the same satisfaction to it if it just poured out that quickly.

(MUSIC/ANTICIPATION)

MOOS (on camera): Yes, well, guess what the young inventors at MIT are anticipating.

I mean do you think this is going to turn you guys into like millionaires?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so. (LAUGHTER)

MOOS (voice-over): They already have a slogan, "LiquiGlide, let it slide". No more banging with shoes or mallets or sucking up ketchup.

(SOUNDS)

MOOS: For traditional bottles, LiquiGlide could mean their last gasp.

(SOUNDS)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Love that report. I can relate. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.