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Interview With Bill Gates; Crisis in Syria Continues; New Push for Gun Control?

Aired July 24, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: an inside look at the explosive trap found at the Colorado shooting suspect's apartment.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are using the rampage in a major new push for gun control.

And CNN is inside Syria with rebel fighters stained with blood and fueled by anger.

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

In Colorado right now, police are starting to connect some of the dots to figure out how James Holmes allegedly armed himself to commit a massacre. This hour, we have all of the disturbing new details in the Colorado shooting investigation and a new interview with a young survivor.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's in Aurora, Colorado, for us right now.

Ed, what are you learning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a year ago, James Holmes when he arrived here in Colorado was a student going into a prominent neuroscience program.

Now many people around here are trying to figure out just what happened.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): James Holmes looks more like a mad scientist now, a far cry from the promising neuroscientist that came to Colorado just a year ago, one of six students awarded a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health to study at the University of Colorado.

The award is for students who show promise of making -- quote -- "significant contributions" to their field. That wouldn't happen. In June, Holmes dropped out.

BARRY SHUR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, DENVER: It is very unusual, very unusual for a student to withdraw from our program.

LAVANDERA: The neuroscience grant provided Holmes almost $2,200 a month, so he could focus on his schoolwork. But Holmes apparently focused on building a secret arsenal of weapons and explosive materials. About a third of that stipend paid Holmes' rent in this apartment building. And investigators are wondering if Holmes used any of the leftover money to buy, among other things, four guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

DOROTHEA BOOTS, NEIGHBOR: What kind of person does stuff like that? I mean, would you think that your next-door neighbor would do something like that next to your house?

LAVANDERA: A law enforcement source says Holmes left 30 grenade- like explosive devices in his living room. A web of wires connected the IEDs to a control box in the kitchen. There were also glass containers and gas cans in the apartment.

The law enforcement source says the explosion and fire would have completely destroyed the apartment building; 12 days before the theater shootings, Scott Bloyer, the pastor of Elevation Christian Church in Aurora, started a series of sermons based on popular movies. The church advertised that new visitors would get free movie tickets for coming. And he thinks in that congregation that morning was James Holmes.

PASTOR SCOTT BLOYER, ELEVATION CHRISTIAN CHURCH: I was sick when I first saw, because I -- immediately when I saw him, I was like I remember seeing this guy. Our thinking was, he came for the ticket.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Oh, really?


BLOYER: I mean, that's just my natural kind of thinking.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Bloyer says several church members tried to talk to the man wearing a cap down low over his face. He sat in the second to last row. Bloyer says there was an intense and determined look on the stranger's face.

LAVANDERA (on camera): As soon as the service was over?

BLOYER: Gone, booked the hallway. We had people say hi to him, in fact, said, hey, you want anything? Just kept going, head down, moving towards the door with the hat on. Got out to the parking lot, got in his car and left.

LAVANDERA: That was it.

BLOYER: That was it. But we remember the face.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Investigators are scanning through surveillance camera footage to figure out if indeed it was James Holmes who came to Elevation Church. Was it him? If it was, did faith or free movie tickets have anything to do with bringing him here 12 days before the movie theater killing spree?

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, what members of that church say is even stranger from that morning back on July 8 is that all new members to get those free tickets were asked to fill a card with their names and addresses, e-mail contacts. That was the way you would get the free movie tickets.

When James or whoever that person was, James Holmes, if it was indeed him, was told or asked to fill out that card, he refused, walked out of the church, and never got those free movie tickets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing part of the story. Ed, thank you.

A teenager who survived the shooting rampage is speaking about the fear and shock she's still experiencing and about her desperate attempt to save the life of the youngest victim, a little 6-year-old, Veronica Moser-Sullivan.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is joining us now from Colorado.

You spoke with 13-year-old Kaylan, Poppy. What happened?


I spent the day with a woman that I think is just an extraordinary person, 13 years old, little, a girl that was very scared and very shaken by everything that happened. but I have to tell you that Kaylan is a girl that represents all the courage, all the bravery, all the survival of this tragedy.

I sat down with her and her mother at their local church today. And here is the story. When you talk about Kaylan, she was the regular baby-sitter for Veronica Moser-Sullivan, and she was at the movies that night with five people. Three of them were shot, including Veronica, who died,, and Veronica's mother, Ashley.

And what Kaylan did is that she applied pressure to the chest of the little girl, 6-year-old Veronica. She called 911. They told her to do CPR, but she couldn't because Veronica's mom had collapsed on top of the little girl after being shot in the neck and the abdomen.

We talked about a lot of things today, but we also talked about the fear she felt as this was happening. Take a listen.


KAYLAN, SURVIVOR: There's no words to describe what was going through my mind. I thought I was going to die.

HARLOW: You thought were going to die.

KAYLAN: I have never had that feeling before in my life. And it is the scariest feeling, to think that you're going to die.


BLITZER: Poppy, I know you spoke to her pastor as well. What did he say?


HARLOW: I did speak to her pastor.

His name is Michael Walker. What he told me is that he is still shocked that a teenage girl, 13 years old, could be this selfless. Take a listen.


PASTOR MICHAEL WALKER, CHURCH IN THE CITY: She's the type of kid that would come in a room, and say what can I do to help? How can I give of myself? I mean, a young kid, that really can't be taught.


HARLOW: Yes, it can't be taught. And she had the clarity of mind to call 911, try to save this little girl.

She said she is still scared to go out of the house, still scared to go into crowds. At the same time, she's incredibly giving. She's going to her church tomorrow night like she does every Wednesday, and feed the homeless, and try to help. This is just an extraordinary story out of such horror, Wolf.

We will have the full story on Kaylan tonight on "A.C. 360."

BLITZER: Poppy, thanks so much sharing with our viewers -- Poppy Harlow on the scene.

Christian Bale, the actor who stars in the Batman movies, is visiting victims of the shooting that happened while he was -- while his new film was on screen. A photo of him at the hospital appeared on Twitter. And a Warner Bros. official confirmed that Bale went to Aurora, Colorado, to meet with the victims.

The spokeswoman says he is there on his own, and not representing the movie theater.

Colorado's governor says nearly $2 million has been donated so far to help victims of the movie theater shooting and their families. By the way, to find out how you can help, go to for information.

I hope a lot of people, Kate Bolduan, do that, because these folks, they are going to need help.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're going to need help.

While the tragedy happened over the weekend, it is still a tough week ahead, as families are now starting to make -- have to make funeral plans. So, this is not over for the families of those who have passed, especially also those who are still suffering in the hospital. So this is a long recovery ahead for that entire community.


BLITZER: We're taking a closer look this hour at the virtual time bomb that police say was ready to go off inside the apartment of the Colorado shooting suspect, James Holmes. We're going to map out what we know.

Also this hour, my interview with Microsoft's Bill Gates. He is here in Washington, D.C., for the global AIDS conference. He talked about progress and disappointment in the fight against disease. We also spoke about other issues, including the economy, President Obama, Microsoft's future. Stand by.


BLITZER: We are told the inside of the Colorado shooting suspect's apartment looked like something you would see in the war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A source says it was rigged with explosives that would have set off a devastating fireball and likely a lot more deaths.

CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now to take us inside James Holmes' apartment.

Tell our viewers what you're learning, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we are finding out is this really was just an incredible maze of triggers and bombs and problems in there.

The chief attribute of all this, the chief feature of all this is right down here in the middle. This was a cluster of 30 shells like you would see in fireworks displays, for example, and they're about the size of a softball. They were in the middle of one of the rooms here.

As you can see from this picture even that we have, all connected with just a maze of wires running every which way. We also know with these wires, there were at least 12 different triggers involved. The triggers were things that would have been set off by somebody coming through the room. They were not timed. These were not timed bombs, but this was something that somebody moving or opening a door or touching could have triggered off these explosions.

Whether or not they were all hooked together, and all could have triggered once or had to be triggered individually, or how it would have worked, we don't know. Those are the details we're still looking for. But we know this is why we watched that video for so many hours there of the authorities so carefully looking through the window, and figuring how to move.

Because they knew inside all of this was arrayed there. What was it? Tremendous amount of stuff, 30 of these grenades, in effect, not really a grenade like that, but these types of grenade, maybe with black powder, depending how they were configured could either blow up or could burn very hot, and set off a huge fire there, 10 gallons of gasoline in various containers, glass and metal and otherwise around the room apparently set so they would spread fire very, very quickly, multiple wires, as we mentioned, and triggers of a variety of types.

I talked to an expert in this sort of thing the other day who said basically many of these would be only $2, $3 type devices that you could put anywhere that might find on a home security system, for example. In any event, when they went out into the countryside there in the plains, and they blew up what they found inside the containers, you can see how much potential firepower and real fire would be related to that.

As with all explosions, the more contained it is at the time of ignition, the greater the force, the more it has an ability to blow out walls near it and spread that fire through all that accelerant to different areas.

But, Wolf, this will be fascinating, tragically so, to see as we get more of the schematic of exactly how this was wired, and why this was so dangerous, and authorities had to move so slowly, because you can imagine in a setting like this, if you have a dozen different triggers in there, clearly that is a mine field, a literal mine field that investigators would walk into if they had simply come through the door or through the window. They had to work very, very carefully, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They will want to learn how he learned how to do this, where he got all this stuff, the money that was involved, lots of questions in this investigation.

Tom, thanks, very much.

This investigation, Kate, is only just beginning.

BOLDUAN: And it's amazing to see that just even the graphic representation of what was going on in that apartment. We will have more on the theater massacre throughout the hour. So, stay with us.

But, first, I want to give you a check of what's trending right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Number four on our trending list, something a little funky is going on with Mitt Romney's Twitter account, apparently. He added more than 140,000 new followers in just two days, an astronomical jump. But the campaign assures that it is not manipulating the numbers.

Number three on our trending list, an NYPD officer talks a suicidal man down from a bridge in Cantonese. It turns out both men are from the same Chinese village. And the officer talked about his own family experiences to bring the man off the ledge. Amazing, amazing stuff.

Stay with us. The top two trending stories are coming up next.


BOLDUAN: Want to get you back to what's trending here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Number four on our trending list, Mitt Romney adds 140,000 new Twitter followers in just two days. It is a huge spike. But the campaign says it is not responsible. It is not manipulating the numbers.

Number three trending tonight, an NYPD officer talks a suicidal man down from a bridge in Cantonese. Turns out both men are from the same Chinese village. Pretty amazing.

And speaking of China, number two tending tonight, a driver got stuck in his crushed car after a bridge gave out beneath him sending him 30 feet down into the river. Rescuers made it down with ropes and lifted him out fortunately with no life-threatening injuries.

And number one trending tonight, there are tons of trucking jobs out there, apparently, but also apparently no one is looking for them, no one wants them even in this tough job market. We're talking about 200,000 open positions nationwide. But there are few takers. Maybe because it is hard to get certified, and some would say the lifestyle can be rough.

Life on the road.

BLITZER: Well, 200,000 jobs, though.

BOLDUAN: There are a lot of people looking for work.

BLITZER: They can make some money, too, those truck drivers.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Sign up.

BLITZER: Thank you.

CNN has confirmed reports that Colorado gun stores saw a huge spike in sales in the aftermath of the movie theater shootings. According to the state agency that processes gun buyers' instant background checks, last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday saw 43 percent increase in the number of approvals, compared with the average for those days in the month of July.

Remember, a background check doesn't necessarily mean a gun was sold, but it is certainly a very good indicator.

Meantime, both President Obama and Mitt Romney, they are resisting new pressure to respond to the Colorado shooting with new gun laws. We're going to discuss what's going on.

Plus, Mitt Romney's major foreign policy speech -- that coming up.


BLITZER: Protesters are tying hundreds of red ribbons to the gates over the White House, a symbol of their rally cry, more funding and increased treatments for AIDS patients. The Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is adding a megaphone to that message at the International AIDS Conference that is going on right here in Washington. He tells me that funding AIDS treatment needs to be a priority because millions and millions of lives around the world depend on it.


BLITZER: Bill Gates, thanks very much for joining us.

BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: How important is this that this global AIDS conference is here in the nation's capital, back in the United States for the first time in a long time?

GATES: Well, I think there are several great things about this.

The United States has come forward with the resources that are funding the research, funding the delivery of these drugs. Almost half of that is the generosity of the United States. The United States still has somewhat of an AIDS problem itself, so it is very fitting that experts are getting together here and figuring out where we go now.

BLITZER: When you say some of an AIDS problem, there's still a big AIDS problem in the United States as far as I can tell. Right here in the District of Columbia, there's a big AIDS problem.

GATES: That's right.

The big numbers are in Africa, but it is very disappointing that we have not been able to end the epidemic even in our own country.

BLITZER: How close are we now to a cure or to a vaccine?

GATES: Yes, the vaccine, there's excellent scientific progress on, the understanding of how to stimulate the right response, how to make these antibodies. Scientists are doing a wonderful job.

Again, the U.S. is very generous there. But that will probably take a decade before we have a vaccine. All the vaccine does -- it is wonderful, but it stops you from getting the disease. So, we will still have over 30 million people who have the disease, and we will have to keep putting them in treatment.

A cure would be a wonderful thing, but it's a long shot. There's not any real prospect right now of a cure. That would change the face of this disease, but it is not likely.

BLITZER: You know there's a growing opposition to foreign aid being funded by the U.S. government in Congress, especially during tough economic times. What do you say to members of Congress who just automatically will vote against any foreign aid, say keep this money in the United States?

GATES: Well, the total foreign aid budget is less than 1 percent of the U.S. government budget.

And yet we save people with bed nets. We save people with AIDS medicines. We're all human beings. And the more people can get out and see that this is really making a difference for these mothers, for these teachers, they will understand this is the most effective money that the U.S. government spends.

If you could save lives for $1,000 in the U.S., yes, we should do that, but where lives are being lost for the lack of a very small amount of money, that is in these poor countries. And if you want to lift them up, if you want to help them get self-sufficient, this is money well spent, and less than 1 percent of the total federal budget.

BLITZER: We don't have a lot of time. A few questions on the economy right now.

You agree with Warren Buffett, your good friend, that things seem to be moving in the right direction, or are you more pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy right now?

GATES: Well, definitely, there are signs of growth, there are good things going on.

The European uncertainty and the federal budget uncertainty probably weigh on people. And it would be great to get those resolved. But, otherwise, you see some good signs.

BLITZER: Are you supporting President Obama in his reelection?

GATES: Because of my role in the foundation, I am not out doing political campaigning.

You know, I am a regular voter. There's a lot of key issues I think are important, education, foreign aid. But I am not choosing to spend my time, except to speak out about those issues. In the last campaign, both candidates talked about raising foreign aid. I hope this time both candidates are good on that. We haven't -- we're not sure yet.

BLITZER: I asked the question. You did attend an Obama fund- raiser back in February, which says to me you're supporting him, unless you've changed your mind somehow.

GATES: Well, he's done a very good job on foreign aid. He's done a very good job on education, and it will be interesting to see what the Republican platform has in those areas.

BLITZER: Quick question on Microsoft. Steve Palmer, he's in charge, a man you know, obviously. All of this criticism of Microsoft lately. What do you make of that?

GATES: Well, I think the product cycle at Microsoft is very exciting. Windows 8, Surface, the quality of Bing, and I think that's what it's all about. It's making great technical products, and people -- people will be thrilled when they see what the company has been up to. BLITZER: Do you think it's moving in the right direction?

GATES: I see some great work.

BLITZER: Good luck with the AIDS Project. I want to thank you on behalf of all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world for what you're doing. You don't need to do it, but you're doing it. You deserve and your wife Melinda deserve a lot of credit for doing it. Thank you so much.

GATES: Thank you.


BLITZER: Saw him over there at the AIDS conference. Spent some time over there yesterday. He walks around, he's like a rock star. But if you didn't know it was Bill Gates, you'd think he's just a guy.

BOLDUAN: Just a guy. Well, he says he's a regular voter. But he sure is doing a lot for fighting AIDS all over the world. So that is a wonderful thing.

BLITZER: Second richest man in the world. He's only worth about $50 billion.


BLITZER: After Carlos Slim.

BOLDUAN: Yes, well...

BLITZER: Other news we're watching, including some Democrats in Congress say it's time to sound the alarm about gun control in the United States before there's another massacre like the one in Colorado. You covered this push today up on the Hill, Kate. What did you see?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. I mean, they're sounding the alarm, but no one really expects it to go anywhere, especially right now in an election year, especially when neither presidential candidate seems to be hearing that alarm.

Our Lisa Sylvester is looking at the Obama and Romney stance on gun rights, and gun control, and how they evolved over the years. Lisa, what have you found out?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's pretty interesting, Kate. If you rewind the tape, you can look back at the statements that both Mitt Romney and President Obama have made on the issue of guns. And it's an interesting review of what they said before they were running for president and after.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): There have been a number of recent high- profile mass shootings. The attack that nearly killed Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The Cardon, Ohio, High School shooting, and last week's Colorado theater massacre.

But not even the most recent rampage has prompted a call for tougher gun control laws from the two men running for president. In recent years, the views of both President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney have undergone a metamorphosis. When running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama called out President George W. Bush on the issue of assault weapons.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it is a scandal that this president did not force a renewal of this assault weapons ban.

SYLVESTER: But as president, Mr. Obama has done nothing to revive the ban himself. And even as a candidate for the White House in 2008, he came down on the side of gun rights.

OBAMA: What I believe is that there is a Second Amendment right. I think it is an individual right. I think people have the right to lawfully bear arms.

SYLVESTER: Mitt Romney, when he was running for the Senate in 1994 said, quote, "I don't line up with the NRA." And here is Romney in 2002.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts. I support them. I won't chip away at them. I believe they help protect us and provide for our safety.

SYLVESTER: As governor, Romney signed an assault weapons ban for Massachusetts in 2004, but as a candidate for president this year, Romney spoke out as a guns rights advocate at the NRA convention.

ROMNEY: We need a president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, and sportsmen, and those who seek to protect their homes and their families.

SYLVESTER: Public views on gun control have evolved. Gallup poll numbers show in 1991, 71 percent of those surveyed said gun laws should be stricter.

In 2011, support for tighter gun-control laws was down to 43 percent.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says the presidential candidates have been pandering for votes.

DAN GROSS, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: There are people who are afraid, intimidated by the gun lobby, and somewhere, somehow that's playing into the political calculus as it relates to the presidential election.

SYLVESTER: One reason for the shift may simply be the effectiveness of the National Rifle Association getting its message out. To try to counter that, the Brady Campaign has set up a new Web site called, petitioning the presidential candidates to get off the sidelines. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now, we reached out to the NRA for an interview, but they declined to comment.

Now, the NRA, of course, is very influential when it comes to campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA affiliates in the 2008 presidential cycle, they gave nearly $1.2 million to political candidates, 80 percent of that going to Republicans. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence PAC in 2008, same cycle, donated about $33,000. So huge, huge difference in money.

BLITZER: We also invited Wayne La Pierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, to join us in THE SITUATION ROOM. he declined so far. Maybe he'll change his mind.

So you know, we're going to discuss the political fallout of this, and the political fallout of Mitt Romney's speech today on foreign policy. John King and Gloria Borger, they are here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lots to talk about right after this.


BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit more about gun politics after the Colorado shooting. Joining us right now, our chief national correspondent, John King, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Always, Gloria, an outcry after a shooting for tighter gun control. Rarely anything significant happens. I assume you believe very insignificant action is going to take place now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Nothing. Not insignificant, nothing is going to happen. Not before the election, and maybe -- maybe not after the election.

This all started sort of -- 1994, Bill Clinton passed the assault weapons ban. He really went to the mat on that and passed it. And then you saw in the polling the numbers of people who want to protect gun rights really started going up, because people started being afraid.

Now you look at what's going on, you see the Obama administration afraid of losing rural voters, afraid of losing blue-collar voters, afraid of losing independent voters, and afraid of losing those voters and are anti-big government. I would make the case they probably didn't have a lot of those voters anyway. But they don't want to risk losing any independents.

BOLDUAN: You heard from Democrats on the Hill just today, I mean, they said they're waiting for the silent majority to speak up to kind of make Congress act.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're waiting for somebody else to have the courage to do what they don't have the courage to do, if they think it's the right thing.

Part of is -- part of this is timidity on behalf of Democrats who support gun control. They just don't want to say so, because they don't want to risk rural voters. They don't want to risk -- you know, a lot of people say Al Gore lost the presidency in 2000. He lost Ohio, lost Tennessee, lost West Virginia. They say gun control is at least a factor.

Right now, I'll give you a half-dozen reason the president of the United States, who campaign in 2008 saying stricter gun laws. You just saw Lisa Sylvester show him as a Senate candidate saying it was a scandal George W. Bush wouldn't extend the assaults weapons ban. Here's a half dozen reasons he won't say a word about this: Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Colorado, and I could go on.

BORGER: And John, you know, this could be more about congressional Democrats saying that the president -- also by the way, we would be in such danger of losing our Senate seats and losing our House seats if you put us on the spot on this. So this is not only at the presidential level. This is really at the congressional level.

BLITZER: All right. Let me play a little bit. Switching gears, Mitt Romney speaking today at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno on national security.


ROMNEY: The president's policies have made it harder to recover from the deepest recession in 70 years, exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national security secrets. And in dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it was not deserved, and apology where it is not due.


BLITZER: Vice President Biden quickly issuing a statement calling it empty rhetoric and bluster.

KING: Look, this election is going to be decided on the economy. Every challenger, every non-incumbent, has to prove themselves. Some of it is optic. Some of it is their words. Voters, especially the swing voters, they need them to close their eyes and say, "I see that guy as the president."

And look -- look, let's just deal with the facts. Osama bin Laden was killed on this president's watch. There have been significant gains against al Qaeda in the war on terrorism on this president's watch. So it's harder to attack a Democrat. It's a traditional Republican argument, Wolf. You've been through many campaigns. Republicans always try to say Democrats are soft.

So Romney is now going after the relationship with Israel. He says the president has walked away from an ally, and then questioning his relationships with China and Russia. It's a tough one. Will it matter in the end?

BOLDUAN: But you think it helped him? Because Romney is about to embark on his overseas trip. I mean, so he's obviously...

BORGER: Excellent adventure overseas, yes.

BOLDUAN: Do you think what you heard today and kind of then this coming trip, I mean, Obama has consistently been pulling, obviously, ahead of him on foreign policy.

BORGER: Well, you know, if you look at who would do a better job on foreign policy, according to our poll, Obama 51, Romney 43. So Romney has some credibility to gain when it comes to foreign policy. Clearly, as John mentioned, Israel is a big issue out there. He's going to Poland so he can challenge President Obama on Russia.

He needs to get some credibility, not only on foreign policy but on commander-in-chief issues. President Obama really consistently polls ahead on that.

BLITZER: John, we're just getting in brand-new numbers from the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll that was just released. Registered voters nationally, nationwide, are right now Obama is ahead 49 percent to 43 percent nationally over Mitt Romney in June. In the same poll -- in the same poll, it was 47 Obama, 44 Romney. So a slight little uptick. But within the margin of error, shall we say. But a little bit impressive number there nationally for the president.

KING: Right. And again, we elect presidents state by state. There are 10 or 12 battleground states that matter more than any national poll.

But important numbers there. It shows you the president is outspending Governor Romney right now. Now including super PAC spending, just campaign on campaign, the president is outspending Governor Romney two to one. Most of those ads are negative. There's some proof that they're working.

So is you're in the Romney campaign, you're heading in the wrong direction. Forty-three is not a good number. They would say you have the incumbent under 50. With 105 days to go, that's in some ways more significant to keep the incumbent under 50. But that's proof negative advertising works.

BORGER: But here's the interesting thing about the poll. The unfavorable ratings of both of these candidates has gone up, and this is a problem. People are already sick of this campaign. They're sick of these negative ads, which is why we saw President Obama do a comparative ad, but it was a -- he was kind of was looking into the camera ad.

And I think what the American public is saying is "We don't like either one of you guys right now, because we don't like what we're seeing on our television sets."

KING: And it is only July. BLITZER: Thanks, guys. Gloria, John.

Coming up, by the way, at the top of the hour, CNN's Erin Burnett is going "OUTFRONT" tonight in Africa. She's in Mali tonight at a refugee camp. She's looking at the human cost of al Qaeda's rise there. Erin, tell our viewers what you're seeing.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Wolf, it's pretty amazing. You're talking about how Osama bin Laden was killed under President Obama's watch, one of his signature foreign policy achievements.

Well, it's here on the frontier of the northern Mali border where al Qaeda and al Qaeda-linked extremists, a lot of militias here are rising. Borders, Wolf, as we'd experienced over the past days, borders don't mean anything. There are armed militias going around in 4x4's with guns mounted on the back of them. People are afraid for their lives.

And where I'm standing right now, you'll see tonight, this is a -- this is a refugee camp. And it's pretty horrific to look at, and it's pretty horrific to be here for the people who are here. There's some quarter million refugees who have fled northern Mali which now could be, some are saying, the next Afghanistan in terms of a safe haven for terrorists.

There are more than twice as many refugees linked to this Malian crisis than there are in Syria. But the U.S. put about 13 times more money into Syria.

So we've been going to the border. We've been talking to people. We have tried actually, --I called, Wolf, and tried to speak to the al Qaeda military leader myself today. We have all of that coming up top of the hour, the special report here from the northern Mali frontier.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. I can't wait to see your report. Thanks very much, and thanks for doing this important work.

Glad she's there.

CNN's Ivan Watson, by the way, is inside Syria now. He's getting an up-close look at the rebel army, making gains but losing more men every single day. We're going there when we come back.


BLITZER: Russians (ph) today are urging Syria not to use chemical weapons, echoing warnings from the United States and so many other countries around the world.

A human rights group says Syrian forces launched conventional attacks on the suburbs of Damascus today in the air and on the ground. More than 50 people were killed in fighting across the country.

As concern grows, though, about Syria's weapons of mass destruction, a foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday that WMD would be used to respond to, quote, "external aggression."

CNN's Ivan Watson is joining us now live from inside Syria. Ivan, why has there been such a dramatic increase in fighting in the main cities like Damascus and Aleppo in recent days?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rebels that I've been talking to say that after an explosion in Damascus last Wednesday killed four senior Syrian security officials, they jumped on this opportunity, on this setback for the Syrian government, and mounted their offenses. And that's what we're seeing, particularly right now in the commercial capital, Aleppo.

We've seen from the village that I'm in -- I can't gave you the name because of security reasons -- last night hundreds of fighters being rallied, armed with weapons with high-powered grenades of a caliber that we haven't seen here in the past, and headed in the direction of that city.

And in some cases, they're coming back paying the ultimate price. We saw one young soldier, his father with quite literally his son's blood staining his T-shirt, when his 22-year-old son was killed in battle for that city, Aleppo, by a helicopter gunship that killed him on a rooftop. And the father wiping the blood of his son on his face today, and calling him a hero and a martyr.

This is a bloody, dirty, violent, violent conflict. And it's far from over. The rebels are trying to maintain momentum right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are you seeing evidence, Ivan, of foreign fighters helping the rebels inside Syria? You are reporting now live from inside Syria.

WATSON: Certainly. The vast majority of the fighters we come across are Syrians. They're natives. They're the sons of these villages in towns that have risen up against a family that has ruled them for more than 40 years.

But we are seeing some foreign fighters. A man came up to me yesterday and said, "I'm Turkish."

And then his comrade said, "Please don't talk to this foreign journalist."

And in one community that we visited, the locals actually cook night after night for the rebels that are bivouacked in the school in their community, and they're telling me that there are North Africans among the majority Syrian fighters there.

And I've talked to a Libyan who was across the border in Turkey and says he intends to cross the border with a platoon of Libyan volunteers within a matter of hours, if not days.

The problem is, is there aren't guns for all of these fighters. The rebels are still having trouble finding the weapons for the volunteers. And, again, the vast majority of them are Syrian who want to fight to overthrow this government.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson is inside Syria right now. He's risking his life to bring us these stories.

Be careful over there, Ivan. Thanks so much for what you're doing. Amazing reporting.

BOLDUAN: Amazing. Ivan does fabulous work.

BLITZER: When he goes in there, it's obviously very, very dangerous.

BOLDUAN: Dangerous, to say the very least.

All right. I want you guys all to stand by for more up-to-the- minute reporting on the shooting massacre in Colorado and much, much more coming up at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Finally, our Jeanne Moos has found a woman married to a prankster who goes by the name "Manny the Maniac." Watch this.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sure, he occasionally dresses up as Elvis, but is this the face of a serial prankster? You bet. Manny Perez pulled the prank some are calling the meanest ever.

MANNY PEREZ, PRANKSTER: So there's a truck getting towed, and it looks like it's coming at us and my wife is asleep. So we're going to see if we can scare her.

MOOS: Don't do it, Manny. Don't do it!

PEREZ: Meg, wake up, there's a truck.


M. PEREZ: I'm sorry. It was funny. It's not a truck. It was getting towed.

MOOS: Manny's wife Sabra whacked his dash cam out of his hand. Posters who watched the video feared the worst: "I smell a divorce."

(on camera) But you guys are still happily married, right?

SABRA PEREZ, WIFE (via phone): Yes, we are.

MOOS (voice-over): Others predicted "Bye-bye sex."

S. PEREZ: Well, I did make him sleep on the couch that night. Because I didn't want to reward him for bad behavior, but...

MOOS: Sabra says she didn't stay mad. She knows who she married.

M. PEREZ: They call me "Manny the Maniac."

MOOS: By day, he's a crane inspector in North Carolina. But in his spare time, he's posting pranks on Manny's Channel and sending videos of himself to Ellen after she dared viewers to dance behind someone's back.

That's Manny's 5-year-old son, who seems to be following in his father's footsteps, if pinching Dad's nipples counts as a prank.

Caden was in the back seat when Dad pulled the truck trick.

(on camera) Of course, this wasn't the first prank Manny has played on his wife. There was the fake mouse scare.

(voice-over) Manny made a mouse out of a mitten and attached fishing line to it.

S. PEREZ: (SCREAMING) Manny, that is not funny.

MOOS (on camera): And who could forget the incomparably juvenile snake in the toilet.

M. PEREZ: My wife is terrified of snakes.

MOOS (voice-over): So he put a rubber one in the bowl.


MOOS: The highway prank could have been worse. In the movie "Out Cold," the buddies loaded a drunk Zack Galifianakis behind a wheel and spun the car around, then woke him up. That reaction was more violent than Manny's wife swatting the camera. And to think they've only been married six years. Life with Manny is going to be a scream.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.


BOLDUAN: It's not funny.

BLITZER: That's it for us. We can't say anything. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.