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Details on Wisconsin Shooter; Romney's V.P. Pick?; Rover Lands on Mars; Recent Shootings Spark Gun Control Debate; Who Is on Romney's Shopping List for a Running Mate; Romney Beats Obama In July Fundraising; New Obama Ad Targets Women; Calm Winds Help Oklahoma Firefighters

Aired August 6, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: We're learning more about the gunman in the Sikh temple shooting rampage, and we're piecing together the horrible details of the slaughter in suburban Wisconsin.

Also, new clues emerging about Mitt Romney's potential vice presidential pick -- what the Republican Convention schedule tells us about who may be on the short list.

And after traveling hundreds of millions of miles, NASA's rover makes an extraordinary landing on Mars, ready to search for the building blocks of life.

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

The shooter who brought death and horror to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was a U.S. Army veteran discharged more than a decade ago for misconduct. Authorities say the gunman may have had ties to white supremacists, and neighbors say he played in a far right-wing punk band.

We're learning more about how the shocking rampage left six victims and the gunman dead.

Brian Todd is joining us now from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, right outside Milwaukee.

Brian, what's the very latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have got some important new information.

We have names of those who played pivotal rolls in this event and new details on the shooter's path at the temple.


TODD (voice-over): Narinda Boparai (ph) can't escape it, an indelible moment of horror. She says she was among the first to see the shooter as he started his rampage at the Sikh temple of Wisconsin.

Boparai says she was parking her car when she saw the suspect, now identified as Wade Michael Page, approach the lead priest near the entrance.

(on camera): Did he say anything to the priest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. Priest, he is quiet. I didn't see, you know, like no (INAUDIBLE) nothing. And he just took two steps in front of the children. He is going this way. And I thought maybe are were talking. But they did not talk. He just started shooting.

TODD (voice-over): The priest fell and was dead. Page went inside, officials say, and kept shooting. The police chief says they got the initial call at 10:25 a.m. local time. The first officer to arrive, now identified as Lieutenant Brian Murphy, was right in the shooter's path.

(on camera): How many times was he shot, and was it close range? What he was doing at the time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very close range. He was tending to someone down in a crouched position, what it appears. And the individual walked up on him around a vehicle and engaged him very closely, inches to feet, and fired at him. He was shot between eight and nine times.

TODD (voice-over): Other officers then responded, gave commands to the shooter. He ignored them, Chief John Edwards says, and was taken down with a police rifle. When officers then tried to tend to their wounded colleague...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He waved them off. He had been shot nine times, one of them very serious in the neck area, and he waved them off and told them to go into the temple to assist those in there.

TODD: The wounded officer was carried off. A rescue operation began for the other victims. But officials now say they're looking for this man who showed up after the shooting. They call him a person of interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an individual who showed up at the scene after the shooting and was just on scene and someone mentioned him to another officer who was out there saying this guy looks suspicious. And so we're looking to question him.

TODD: Officials stress they believe the gunman acted alone and just want to talk to this other man. Narinda Boparai needs help from her husband to reflect.

(on camera): What are your feelings just looking back on this and what you saw?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I couldn't sleep.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She couldn't sleep. We had a rough time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really bad. I take two tablets, but I couldn't sleep. It won't work.


TODD: As witnesses and victims deal with all this, our sources and police are giving us a mosaic of the suspect. They say that Wade Michael Page discharged from the Army 14 years ago after a pattern of misconduct may have been a white supremacist. But they still are trying to put together what may have been a motive for inflicting this kind of carnage.

BLITZER: Did Wade Michael Page have a criminal record? Any prior convictions?

TODD: We are told, Wolf, that he had some kind of a record. As far as convictions, officials are not going there yet. They're not giving details on his contact with law enforcement.

They say that he was known to law enforcement, did have contact with law enforcement at some point. The police chief here told me that law enforcement officials in this area had not had contact with him. They will really not give much more detail than that. So we're led to believe he encountered law enforcement at some point in another region of the country.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us, we will check with you. Thank you.

Let's get some more now on the record and the background of the gunman who served in the U.S. military more than a decade ago and left under a cloud.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has been looking into this part of the story for us.

All right, Chris, anything stand out in his military record based on what you're finding out?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There are a couple of things, Wolf, that I think the viewers will find interesting, especially as you get beyond the basics, that he got into the Army around 1992 and served for about six-and-a-half years.

He was a psychological operations specialist. Now, that has some very classified, secretive overtones and aspects to it. But what we believe that he was involved with was the basic stuff, you know, dropping leaflets in foreign countries, talking about propaganda for the U.S. military, getting the U.S. military message across.

He was demoted from sergeant down to specialist and eventually given a general discharge under honorable conditions. What that means is, it's not as bad as say a dishonorable discharge. It's sort of like the military coming to you and saying, this isn't working out for you or us. But you vt done anything criminal or anything as egregious to warrant a dishonorable discharge, Wolf.

BLITZER: Was he ever deployed to a combat zone? I know he served before 9/11.

LAWRENCE: No. We checked into that as well. He was never deployed overseas.

He served on about three bases across the United States, including Fort Bragg, got some basic medals. But they're the kind of medals that, you know, you show up, you do your job and you receive these medals, nothing out of the ordinary. One of the men who went to psych-ops school him and served with him at Fort Bragg said he did have a drinking issue. That's what got him busted down in rank and eventually led to him leaving the Army.

This man also says that he would talk about the racial holy war, that he would talk about racist propaganda and things like that. But, Wolf, I got to tell you, from being in the Navy, people say a lot of inappropriate things, a lot of sexist things, a lot of racist comments.

And I talked to one person who said, look, especially back in the mid- '90s, someone just saying this, but never acting on it, or no overt problems with it, it's not something that's going to necessarily rise to a level where you're going to see real problems listed in their service record.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, good point. Thank you.

President Obama spoke out about the Wisconsin shooting rampage today, noting it's the latest in a series of violent tragedies to strike the nation. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, we're still awaiting the outcome of a full investigation.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to both the governor and the mayor, as well as leaders of the Sikh community in Oak Creek. All of us are heartbroken by what's happened. And I offered the thoughts and prayers not only of myself and Michelle but also the country as a whole.

I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence.

As I have already said, I think there are a lot of elements involved in it. And I want to do is to bring together law enforcement, community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials at every level to see how we can make continued progress.


BLITZER: The Sikh religion is certainly one of the world's most popular religions. But many Americans are very unfamiliar with the faith and the tightly-knit Sikh community in the United States. Let's bring in Eric Marrapodi. He's co-editor of CNN's very popular Belief blog.

Tell us a little bit about the Sikh faith. What's going on with this religion? About 700,000 Sikhs in the United States, 25 million worldwide.

ERIC MARRAPODI, CNN PRODUCER: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

That makes it the fifth most popular religion in the world. It comes out of India about 500 years ago. It's a monotheistic faith, which means they believe in one God. Real important stressors in the faith are on equality and on service. Some of the key tenants is meditation on God, honest living and hard work, and of course service to the community, which we saw. The women who were in the temple in Wisconsin, they were getting ready for a big community meal, which is a big part of the faith.

BLITZER: And anyone can come and get a delicious meal in the process at their services at these temples across the country.

MARRAPODI: And around the world. As long as you're dressed modestly and ready to eat a vegetarian meal, you're more than welcome to come.

And there's a big stress from the Sikh community here in the United States that their temples are going to be open on Sunday. And they want everyone to come and participate in their services and in those community meals with them.

BLITZER: We have done some checking and a lot of people have. Since 9/11, there have been a lot of attacks against the Sikh community and their temples across the country. What's going on here?

MARRAPODI: A lot of that comes from one of the most public displays of faith. Men and women who are baptized into the Sikh faith let their hair grow long. They never cut it.

The men, in particular, wrap their hair in turbans. Of course, after 9/11, when we saw those al Qaeda leaders who had bastardized Islam wore turbans, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri. And so when people went out trying to commit a hate crime against Muslims, what we found is that Sikhs were the ones who were attacked in the United States.

Many Muslim men here in the United States don't wear them. It's not fashionable. But for Sikhs, it's not about fashion. It's about their faith and it's an important article of their faith.

BLITZER: How is the community across the country very and what about worldwide?

MARRAPODI: Worldwide, we're hearing a huge outpouring from the entire faith community of support and solidarity. And like we said, look on this weekend, this Sunday, lots of faith communities, particularly Sikhs, are opening be their doors and saying come in, share the meal with us, learn a little about us. Get to know us. And they're a big part of the American fabric here, even though there's only about 700,000 here in the States.

BLITZER: Are they intensifying security at their temples?

MARRAPODI: We have seen some intensified security in places like New York. But Dan Simon was reporting earlier, look, out on the bay, at Silicon Valley, where he was, they're not even locking the doors at that temple, because it's a big part of who they are. They're open to everyone.

BLITZER: I have also pronounced the Sikh faith Sikh. Other says Sikh. What is the correct way of pronouncing the religion? Because in Europe, it's one way. In India, it's another way, here in the United States, a third way.

MARRAPODI: Sure. The word comes from India. It means sikh. It means disciple or student. Sikhs here in the United States have told me they prefer Sikh. Of course, Sikh is also acceptable as well.

BLITZER: Yes. OK. Eric, thanks very much.

Eric is the co-editor of CNN's Belief blog. Thanks very much.

Much more on the story, by the way. Coming up later, I will speak with the mayor of this community that lost these individuals. He will be joining us live. We will get the latest on what's going on.

Also, other news we're following, including the list of Republican Convention speakers is growing, and it may offer us some new clues as to who is and who isn't on Mitt Romney's short list of potential running mates.

And a bold and bloody border attack -- the stunning details of how mass gunmen slaughtered Egyptian troops and then set their sights on Israel. We're going live to Jerusalem.

And mission control goes wild over what some are calling a miracle, a perfect landing on Mars by NASA's rover.


BLITZER: All right, we're just getting this in from a spokesperson from the FBI in Washington, D.C. He says that so-called special person, the person of interest discussed earlier in the day by law enforcement out in Wisconsin, was sought for some questioning. They have now -- that person has been located, interviewed and cleared. Keyword, cleared. So that person of interest no longer a person of interest. We're getting more information on all of this. I just wanted to update you on the so-called person of interest. That person has been questioned, located and cleared as a result. No more person of interest. And there's much more on this coming up later, including our live interview with the mayor of Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Jack Cafferty is here right now. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Wolf, those shootings that killed six at a Sikh temple in Washington yesterday come just over two weeks after the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, in a movie theater. And once again, it's sure to revive the debate over gun control. It seems every time something like this happens, there's a great human cry for stricter gun laws that goes up. And then it dies down just as quickly.

Coincidentally, before yesterday's violence, a group of mayors released an ad that demanded President Obama and Mitt Romney give us a plan when it comes to gun control. That won't happen. The ad features three survivors from the 2011 Tucson, Arizona, shootings that killed six and wounded 13, including former Congressman Gabriel Giffords.

The reality though is this. The issue of guns is a political hot potato that no political politician, Democrat or republican, wants to go near, especially in an election year. And there's a reason. A lot of Americans like things just the way they are.

In the aftermath of last month's Colorado shootings, background checks for people wanting to buy guns spiked more than 40 percent in that state. And the Pew research poll taken about a week after the Colorado shootings found very little change in Americans' attitude toward gun control.

The pollsters say other recent major deadly shootings, including the one in Tucson last year and Virginia Tech in 2007, had little affect on gun law control. Two-thirds of those polled say the shootings like the one in Colorado or at the Sikh temple are isolated acts of troubled individuals. Only about one-fourth say shootings reflect broader problems in American society.

So here's the question. What is it going to take for gun control laws in the country to change? Go to and post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on "The Situation Room's" Facebook page -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

We'll have more on this story coming up later, including my live interview with the mayor of Oak Creek, Stephen Scaffidi. He'll join us with the latest on what's going on in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Other news we're following, including political news, Mitt Romney is spending a quiet day in New Hampshire. We've seen him do a little grocery shopping. We're also getting a clearer picture of who might be on Romney's shopping list for a running mate that's to new details about who is speaking at the Republican convention. Primetime slots now going to Mike Huckabee, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator John McCain, Florida Governor Rick Scott. The speaker's list also includes the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice; the South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, and New Mexico governor, Susana Martinez.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, who is joining us from New York right now.

John, can we presume the people we just mention are not on Romney's short list, or is that going too far?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going a bit too far, Wolf. But if you talk to people inside the campaign, they say it's a safe bet with this caveat, the final decision will be made by Governor Romney himself. You saw him grocery shopping there. He's in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. He's at his home up there. We're told mostly down time, but several senior staff members are up there to see the governor this afternoon. The vice presidential search is one of topic sure to be discussed.

Most top campaign insiders say they haven't heard the choice from the governor yet. He told Gloria Borger, "I don't have anything for you on that." They expect that Governor Romney is close to his final decision. Wolf, they believe none of the people you just mentioned will be that choice.

Who do they say it will be? Again, most of the information we're getting from senior advisers, they are piecing together pieces of information as well. They're being reporters just like us. They say, here's the short list as they see it. They say the former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, someone Governor Romney is comfortable with, someone who was a candidate in the Republican field, he is on the list. The Ohio senator, Rob Portman, is on the list as well. He served in the House before the Senate, also was a trade respective and budget director in the Bush administration. He is also on the list. And you're hearing increasingly pushes from the outside, but also said to be considered from the inside, the Wisconsin Congressman, the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan. That's the short of the shortest of the short list, if you will, Wolf. We talked to people close to the process, the Florida senator, Marco Rubio, still comes up from time to time. Every now and then you hear about a wildcard chance. Still, we'll hear this from Governor Romney himself over the next several days. Exactly when is still a mystery. Most people think it will come from that Pennsylvania's Tim Pawlenty, Portman, Ryan list. But even they say, Wolf, Governor Romney hasn't told them yet.

BLITZER: The two other names people keep talking about, Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, he supposedly is on the short list also. Also John Thune, the Senator from South Dakota, supposedly on the short list. Are they on the real short list, or not so short?

KING: It depends who you talk to inside. There's no question they were on a list at some point. As Governor Romney pares down his choices, he's talking mostly to Beth Meyers, his trusted confidant of some time. She's was his chief of staff as Massachusetts governor. She is the head of the process. People inside say those are the two know everything. Other people pick up pieces of information as you through the vetting process. Again, they're not willing to rule anybody out. Even those people we say we now known have not publicly been given speaking roles. But inside the campaign, they seem to think this is largely a Pawlenty, Portman, Ryan contest. They, inside the campaign, they tend to list them in that order. There are some disagreements, But Bobby Jindal, Senator Thune also names we hear from time to time. And we have to wait and see. BLITZER: Yes. You know, the "Weekly Standard," the conservative magazine, they basically endorsed Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. We'll see how influential they are when all the political dust settles. We know they had an important role four years ago in helping select Sarah Palin. They endorsed her at that point. We'll see if they have that clout this time around.

My own guess, John -- I don't know about you. My own guess is it could come as early as a week from today, after the Olympics are all done. My own suspicion is it will be next week at some point. Obviously, that's just a guess. What are you hearing?

KING: It's a good guess, and it's a well informed guess in the sense that inside the campaign they make a few key points. Number one, they say the Olympics are getting very good ratings. Why would Governor Romney do it now? Number two, they say he hasn't made a final decision. He wants to go through -- he's a very methodical guy. He wants to go through it more himself. Number three, one of most trusted advisers happens to be his wife, Ann Romney. She's at the Olympics. She won't be back until Thursday. They say she would like a couple days rest after the trip, because they'll have the couple's portrait as part of the role out.

So most people inside the campaign believe next Monday, a week from today, at the earliest. They say Governor Romney could surprise them. But they're --inside the campaign, when you talk to folks, they're with you. They say look for Monday through Thursday in that period next week as the most likely window.

BLITZER: We'll be ready any day that do it.

John, thanks very much.

BLITZER: Wall Street is off to a good start this week. We'll have the numbers and the reasons behind the optimism. That's coming in a moment.

Also, a milestone in the quest of green energy. Standby.


BLITZER: The stock market starts on an upbeat note.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some other top stories in "The Situation Room."

Lisa, what happened?

LISA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, the Dow Industrial, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 ended the day with modest gains extending a rally that was going gang busters last week. Investors are feeling good about the better-than-expected jobs report that came out last Friday. They're also relieved by developments in the European debt crisis where Spain and Italy are finding lower rates.

Best Buy's stock surged today after the company founder and major shareholder made an offer to take the electronics retailer private. The deal would value the company at $8 billion. Richard Salts (ph) launched Best Buy back in 1966 but he stepped down as chairman this year after it was disclosed the CEO knew he was having an affair but he didn't tell anyone.

And Colorado's biggest utilities companies reporting a milestone for green energy. Xcel Energy says one night back in April, an all time high, 57 percent of electricity was being generated by the wind. The company's coal and natural gas-fired power plants kicked in the next morning after people get up and demand for electricity increased.

And finally, the National Zoo is naming a pair of new cheetah cubs after a pair of fleet-footed Olympians. The "Washington Post" reports the female club is named after Carmelita Jeter, who won the silver medal in the women's 100-meter race. And the male cub will be called Justin, after Justin Gatlin, who took the bronze in the men's 100 meter. And aren't those pubs absolutely adorable? I can't get over those pictures. They look so sweet and very appropriate, considering they are the world's fastest land animals -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Love that. Love the pictures. Love the zoo to begin with. Always have.

Lisa, thank you.

Mitt Romney is beating President Obama in the race for campaign cash big time. The new polls show the president is over 50 percent in a pair of vital swing states. There's plenty to discuss in today's strategy session.

Also, new trouble unfolding right now in Sinai. And both Egypt and Israel are deeply concerned.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney's presidential campaign continues to bring in more money than President Obama's campaign. Let's discuss what's going on in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us is the Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Mary Matalin along with Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.

Jamal, these numbers, if you're a Democrat, you support President Obama as you do. They have to be depressing on the screen last month Romney raised more than $100 million, $101 million precisely.

The president raised $75 million. Third month in a row Romney has raised a lot more than the Obama campaign. When you add the numbers, look at these numbers, these are the "Super PACs," the pro Romney and the pro Obama "Super PACs."

Look at these, "The Restore Our Future" or "Winning Our Future," pro- Republican "Super PACS.' Look how much they've raised so far if you add up the numbers. That's $114 million compared to "Priorities USA Action," the pro-Obama campaign, which has raised so far only $17.3 million. How much of a deficit is this going to leave the Obama campaign, Jamal.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Wolf, I got to tell you. The number one thing, people in the campaign are worried about. They think they have a more effective message. I think they got a more effective messenger than the president.

If they get outspent in cash, at the end of this campaign, it's going to put them in a bad spot when it comes time to communicate with the voters.

The one good spot though is in a presidential race, media like this, CNN, all the television networks. All of the newspapers, they'll have a much bigger impact than campaign advertisement.

So that maybe the only silver lining here, but Democrats have got to raise more money.

BLITZER: They certainly do if they're going to compete. Three months to go exactly, Mary. You know, look at the new ad that the Obama campaign just put out going after Mitt Romney on the issue of women. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not the 1950s. Contraception is so important to women. It's about a woman being able to make decisions. I don't remember anyone as extreme as Romney.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think Mitt Romney can even understand the mindset of someone who has to go to Planned Parenthood.

ROMNEY: Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Romney would definitely drag us back.


BLITZER: Maybe that's why in these two battleground states in Florida and Ohio, Mary, Romney is not doing all that well among likely women voters in Florida.

According to the Quinnipiac/CBS News/"New York Times" poll, likely women voters, 51 percent for Obama, 44 percent for Romney. In Ohio, 58 for Obama and 37 percent for Romney. How much of a problem is this for the Romney campaign and women?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Those polls are outliers, of course. The reason --

BLITZER: Hold on, Mary, why are those two Quinnipiac/CBS News/"New York Times" polls outliers? MATALIN: Because the sample size over white Democrats. It's the first time Quinnipiac had been with CBS/"New York Times" -- the methodology -- it does not conform with other polls.

You got, they just don't comport with any other polls, the public or private. But women are concerned about the same thing men are concerned about. Only an extremist would think that Mitt Romney is an extremist.

That campaign ad is a lie. Mitt Romney does not support banning contraception. Never did. Women support the Romney decision, which is to repeal the Obama regulation that forces religious institutions to violate the articles of their faith.

This is the Obama spending problem is. They're all going to have plenty of money to do their campaign, but they're wasting money and their burn rate is precipitous clip because they're wasting it on ads like that, which they've been running for months now. And they haven't made any difference.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if they does. But Jamal, we do know that three of the three major prime time speakers at the Republican convention have already been announced.

As you know, women, Susanna Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina and the former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, so clearly there will be very featured women speaking at that convention.

SIMMONS: Wolf, they have to do something. I think that's right. They're trying to find a way to appeal to women. Because the reality is Mitt Romney had a chance to stand up for women, but Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke of those many months ago.

And Mitt Romney didn't stand up and say that calling the woman a bad name because she wants to get up and tell her part of a public policy story, he didn't defend that.

I think that spoke a lot to women. And the reality is George Bush lost women. The Democrats can do better with women in the Election Day. George Bush lost for about three points in 2004, but he was able to win. John McCain lost women by 13 points in 2008 and he lost. They have to close the gap if they want to win.

BLITZER: How do they that, Mary? If you were going to give the Romney campaign advice for going after likely women voters, what's the single most important thing they could do?

MATALIN: The worst thing they can do is insulting women by saying that their priority is birth control. Women don't think there's a birth control government in this country. They think there's a government control problem.

And what they shriek about when you do it in focus groups or pulses, tell them the level of that that each household has a saying under the Obama economy. It's upwards of $40,000 for every household. They understand that today's debt is tomorrow's taxes. They understand their kids are not going to have as bright a future as they had. That's what women care about. It's insulting to think they sit around the kitchen table talking about their reproductive rights. They do not.

SIMMONS: Well, Mary, the one issue though here is, women just like men want to be able to trust the candidate that they're going to vote for. They're going to look out for them when the going gets tough.

I think the one thing about Mitt Romney is he has shown that he's not really willing to stand up for the radical parts of the party when the going get tough.

BLITZER: We got to leave it there, guys. But one thing we do know is the next president of the United States over the next four years will probably have at least one, maybe two Supreme Court nominations to make and they have different positions on Roe versus Wade, for example.

Romney says he doesn't want somebody who supports the Roe versus Wade. The president does so that's an important issue not just women voters, but men voters out there will have to consider as well. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Oklahoma firefighters are getting at least part of what they've been hoping. How the weather is aiding the battle against those massive wildfires. We'll have a live report.

And mission control celebrates after NASA's rover travels hundreds of millions of miles and nails down a perfect landing on Mars.


BLITZER: Let's get back to Lisa. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, it's so hot and dry across the state. The winds have died down. That will give crews a better chance to get control of 18 wildfires across that state. At least 121 structures have burned as well as 68,000 acres.

And out in the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Ernesto is getting stronger and may be a hurricane by tonight. These pictures were taken when the storm passed over the Island of St. Lucia Friday. Ernesto is on course to make landfall over the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday morning as a Category One hurricane.

And thunderstorms brought tragedy to the NASCAR race at the Poconos Raceway in Pennsylvania. A lightning strike in the parking lot killed one fan and injured nine others. Because of the heavy rain, the race itself lasted only 245 of the scheduled 400 miles. Jeff Gordon won that race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Lisa. A bold and bloody attack on the border. Mass gunmen slaughtered Egyptian troops and set their sights on Israel. We're going to Jerusalem for a report.

And trapped during the Sikh temple shooting rampage, a survivor tells us what it was like that's coming up in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour, Wolf is, what will it take for the gun control laws in this country to change?

Benny in Connecticut writes, "There you go again, Jack, along with the second amendment crowd. Chicago, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation is the murder capital of the United States.

Gangs, mad men and other criminals don't obey the laws and will always manage to get guns. And since the police can't be everywhere all the time, it's up to us citizens to protect ourselves from these murderers."

Linda writes, "Wrong question. The correct question may be more achievable is how can we teach men, particularly white men over ages 20 to 40, to deal better with failure? One psychologist after the Colorado shootings pointed out that many mass murderers are inept to dealing with failure in their lives."

Robert in Florida writes, "Changing the gun control laws won't change psychopathic behavior. We have speeding laws, people still speed. Drunk driving laws, people still drink and drive. We're always trying to find something or someone else to blame instead of the perpetrator of the crime.

The gun control fanatics need to look at the facts. The cities with the toughest gun control laws have the highest violent crime rates. The old saying is true, if you make guns illegal, only the bad guys will have them."

D.P. writes, "It starts with the NRA. Guns are big business, and so that's where the money and the power come from. The NRA won't say it publicly, but the NRA and the gun dealers have vested in this escalation. They benefit not only from the sale of guns that end up in the criminals hands, but now ordinary citizens have reason to buy more guns."

Peter writes, "The one thing that will change the laws is when, not if, a couple politician grand kids' get killed. I hope it never happens, but that's what it will take."

Michael writes, "It will take courage." If you want to read more on the subject, go to the blog or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. I wouldn't hold my breath -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, not before the election to be sure.

Egyptian authorities are vowing a crackdown on Jihadists after a bold attack along the Egyptian-Israeli border. Mass gunmen attacked an outpost close to both Gaza and Israel slaughtering Egyptian troops. They then seized two military vehicles and headed to Israel and a deadly encounter with Israeli forces.

CNN's Diana Magnay joins us from Jerusalem with this report.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The remnants of two vehicles burned after Israeli defense forces respond to a brazen courage on the soil.

Just across the border, Egyptians mourn at least 15 soldiers shot dead by mass gunmen. It's not yet clear who it was that attacked this army check point and then common (inaudible) a truck an armoured personnel carrier, which Israel says the gunmen then filled with explosives and drove across the Israeli border. But Egypt's new president promised swift retribution.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED MURSI, EGYPT (through translator): This incident will not pass lightly. The armed forces will assume complete control over the area of Sinai to secure them, and those who carried out the attack will pay a high price.

MAGNAY: The Israeli defense forces say they had intelligence of a possible attack. And that's why Israeli air power was on hand to strike and kill the five gunmen who made it through to Israeli territory.

LT. COL. AVITAL LEIBOVICH, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We can assume the goal of this terroristic event was to abduct Israelis or infiltrate into the community and maybe kill Israelis.

MAGNAY: Since the uprising last year, there have been numerous acts of sabotage on the pipeline that transports gas from Egypt to Israel thus several attacks on Israeli troops.

Israeli officials are increasingly concerned that al Qaeda and other extremists are moving into Egypt's rested Sinai Peninsula and that the new Egyptian government isn't doing enough to stop them.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): In my opinion, the risk of a heavier attack was prevented. And this is important for a successful operation in the battle that occurred there and perhaps it will be a proper wake-up call to the Egyptians to take matters in hand on this side of the border in a firmer way.


MAGNAY: Wolf, we're now hearing both from the Israeli and the Egyptian side that some of the masked gunmen involved in the attack did come from Gaza.

Hamas has now shut off the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. It also closed the crossing. It doesn't want to disturb delicate relations with Egypt at this point just as Israel doesn't want to do anything either, which might disturb the peace agreement between the two countries -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a very, very sensitive time in Sinai right now and there are still several hundred U.S. military personnel who are in Sinai themselves. They have been there since the 1979 Israeli- Egyptian peace treaty.

We're going to check in to see how they're doing in the midst of all of these unrests in Sinai. Diana, thanks very much. Diana Magnay reporting for us from Jerusalem.

NASA's newest Mars rover kept sending back pictures. Scientists say the views will keep getting better. Stay with us. We'll have the very latest.

In our next hour, the mayor of the Wisconsin town coping with shock and disbelief after the shooting rampage at a Sikh temple.


BLITZER: Here's a picture that's out of this world. It was taken last night by one of NASA's Mars orbiter just as the new rover was descending toward the Martian surface. CNN's John Zarrella reports.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, "Curiosity" has landed. The most sophisticated rover ever sent to Mars is on the ground awaiting orders from a jubilant science team.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Seven long agonizing minutes in mission control, the Mars science lab team could do nothing, but wait for the signal to reach them from 154 million miles away then suddenly euphoria, an eruption of emotions.

The "Curiosity" rover, the centerpiece of this $2.5 billion mission was alive on the Martian surface. It had survived the harrowing 7- minute ride through the Martian atmosphere, an incredible image taken from an orbiting spacecraft shows "Curiosity's" parachute during the decent.

ROB MANNING, NASA SCIENTIST: All of those things that kept me and the rest of the team awake for years. We don't have to dream about it. We don't have to think about it anymore. So it's a great thrill and a great relief for all of us.

ZARRELLA: Minutes later, the first picture, one of the rover's six wheels sitting on the surface, a blurry image taken through a dust cover to protect the lens during the landing.

The second, a tantalizing slice of the landing site, a place called the gale crater. In New York's Time Square, people watched and cheered as the landing drama unfolded.

Here the landing team soaked by success. "Curiosity" had threaded the needle right on target between a mountain inside the crater and the crater wall. JOHN HOLDREN, WHITE HOUSE SCIENTIST: And if anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of U.S. leadership in space, well, there's a one-ton automobile sized piece of American ingenuity, and it's sitting on the surface of Mars right now.

ZARRELLA: The science team chose this spot because they believe in the planet's ancient history, water may have flowed here, and it may have been a time when perhaps some sort of life existed here and might still.

"Curiosity" does not have the ability to detect life, but it will hunt down the signatures, the building blocks of life, water, carbon and methane gas.

JOHN GROTZINGER, MISSION MANAGER: It's a question that you can't help but ask yourself. You know, was there life there? Did it ever evolve and that's the emotional part of it, of course, you hope it was there. It would be one of the greatest discoveries that we could ever make.

ZARRELLA: Then it's down to answering that age-old question: Was Mars ever hospitable enough for life to have taken hold?