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THE SITUATION ROOM
Presidential Name-Calling; All-Out Fighting in Syria; Romney Sows Discord Among Dems; Super PAC Ad Blames Romney for Woman's Death; Museum Employees Accused of Stealing Parking Fees
Aired August 7, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're tracking the temple gunman's movements before the shooting, including practice rounds he fired.
Mitt Romney responds to name-calling by President Obama with a snarky taunt of his own.
And while museum-goers were looking at space ships outside the nation's capital, authorities say thieves were taking off with their parking fees.
I am Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A law enforcement force tells CNN the Sikh temple gunman was never a target of an FBI investigation before the shooting. The official says there's no information to suggest the agency wanted to open a case on Wade Michael Page, as some reports have suggested.
Authorities are though retracing Page's steps in the days leading up to the rampage.
So is our own Brian Todd. He is joining us now from Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Brian, you went to that gun store where Page bought his weapon. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, learning several new details today about the purchase of that weapon that authorities believe was used in the temple shooting. This information comes from the gun store manager, who is still very shaken by the experience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have one officer shot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Subject with a gun, balding, white T-shirt. Officer down.
TODD (voice-over): It was less than a week before this carnage that suspect Wade Michael Page stopped here and picked up the .9- millimeter semiautomatic pistol he's believed to have used in the rampage at the Sikh temple. That's according to a law enforcement official and Eric Grabowski, Manager of The Shooters Shop just outside Milwaukee. (on camera): When you heard about this, what was going through your mind?
ERIC GRABOWSKI, THE SHOOTERS SHOP: My first reaction was I was hoping that we didn't sell him the firearm.
TODD (voice-over): Grabowski can't say if he was working in the store when Page bought the weapon on July 28 or when he picked it up two days later after a background check.
He says Page likely paid about $700 for a model known as the XDM similar to this one. According to Grabowski and law enforcement officials, it was all above-board.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The firearm was purchased legally.
TODD: As for the occasions when Page was in this store...
(on camera): Did anything about him strike out at you or the employees here who might have dealt with him that day?
GRABOWSKI: He was un-rememberable, not rememberable to any of us. There are two types of people we remember, longstanding customers, as well as people who rub us the wrong way and then they don't buy a gun here.
TODD: So you do refuse service to people who give you a bad vibe?
GRABOWSKI: Very often. Yes, we do.
TODD: And he didn't?
GRABOWSKI: No. He wouldn't have purchased a firearm here if he did.
TODD (voice-over): Employees here tell us that gun is mainly used for target practice and self-defense.
(on camera): A law enforcement official tells us Page also bought ammunition at The Shooters Shop and came down here to use the shop's firing range. The owner says he used this range on July 30, the same day he picked up the weapon.
(voice-over): Assistant manager Brian (ph) Grabowski, Eric's brother, demonstrates the firepower of a similar .9-millimeter. Brian says each magazine holds at least 17 bullets. In the store, I asked Eric Grabowski, who has worked here for a decade, how he feels looking back on this.
GRABOWSKI: It hurts. I mean, it's not something that I would ever want, obviously. You know, that community is just is in pain. You know, us here at The Shooters Shop -- I'm at a loss for words. I'm sorry. You know, I know a year ago this month, I lost my daughter. So I understand what it's like to lose a family member. I don't want -- I don't like knowing that that's what happened and -- something I had sold.
TODD: Eric Grabowski and the gun store's owner tells us there is surveillance footage of Wade Michael Page purchasing that weapon and there is surveillance footage of him using their firing range and they say they have turned that footage over to law enforcement.
BLITZER: Did they tell you they actually watched the surveillance video, the video inside that store before they turned it over to law enforcement, Brian?
TODD: They have been a little bit cagey about most of the details of that, Wolf. No, they did not tell us whether they watched it or not.
Maybe some of the details can come out if we can eventually get our hands on that footage. I'm sure that's something of great interest to law enforcement now in their analysis of all this.
BLITZER: I spoke with the Oak Creek police chief earlier today. He said there were multiple magazines. You say each magazine had 17 bullets. Do we know how many magazines he had when he went into the Sikh temple?
TODD: No. No, we don't know that information, Wolf.
At the store, they are only saying he did buy ammunition there. They wouldn't say exactly how much ammunition he bought. And as you could see by the demonstration of that weapon, it carries quite a punch, 17 bullets in each magazine, and they can squeeze off rounds pretty quickly. With several magazines at his disposal, according to police, a lot of damage he could have done and of course did.
BLITZER: We will have more from the police chief later in Oak Creek later this hour. My interview with him, we will run it here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Brian, thanks for the good work.
We're also learning more about Wade Michael Page's ties to white supremacists and how he spread a message through music. We're told he played in two skinhead bands and was associated with one of the scariest and most violent racist groups in the United States.
Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit has been looking into all of this for us.
What are you finding, Drew?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It was all wide in the open on this guy. He literally was a walking billboard of hate with all of his tattoos that he had on his arms that you just showed, Wolf, and he expressed his hatred of Jews, of blacks, of Muslims through his very own music, white power music, which has become sort of the way that the message of hate is being spread in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN (voice-over): The white power music scene has become, according to those who follow it, the focal point of hate groups in America. Its festivals around the country are gatherings for fans of bands like Blue Eyed Devils, 13 Knots, the Caucazoids, and Wade Michael Page's band, End Apathy, punk rock with disturbing lyrics, like this song from the band Definite Hate.
GRIFFIN: Author Devin Burghart says beyond the disturbing lyrics is their disturbing mission.
DEVIN BURGHART, AUTHOR: These bands are known for their recruiting and for bringing young people into the movement. They play festivals, shows and gigs around the country which are specifically designed to bring in new young people and indoctrinate them into the white nationalist movement.
GRIFFIN: Burghart, who penned the book "Soundtracks to the White Revolution," says the underground music scene has hundreds of bands and generate millions of dollars. Wade Michael Page has lived in the world of white power music for the past 12 years.
BURGHART: From what we have been able to uncover, Mr. Page was intimately involved in helping to lead the white power music scene. He was in several different white power bands which played roles in recruiting a myriad of young people into the white nationalist movement.
GRIFFIN: One thing we do know, Wolf, is this guy wasn't making a living in music. Had a bunch of low-level jobs, most of which he was fired from.
And as far as we can tell by tracking some of these Web sites and festivals, his band really wasn't doing much appearances as of late -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But this whole skinhead music phenomenon, that's an effective tool to try to recruit young people into this movement, is that what you're hearing?
GRIFFIN: That's what these experts who track this, some of these authors and others who have tried to study the white power music scene, how do they keep regenerating themselves, not necessarily growing, but getting young people involved to kind of replenish the troops?
It seems they have gone to punk rock sound, getting festivals together in various cities across the country, and trying to pass on the message of hate through the music. I heard one person say it is one thing to hand out a pamphlet. Most kids don't read pamphlets, but they do listen to music, and they hear those repeated lyrics over and over again, and many believe that that's a way they can indoctrinate these messages of hate. BLITZER: It's a scary, scary thought. Drew, thanks very much.
BLITZER: At half past the hour, Mitt Romney is accusing the president of gutting welfare reform. He's doing it on President Obama's home turf.
Also coming up, the sons of the only woman killed at that Sikh temple in Wisconsin, they share anguish over their mom's death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMAL SAINI, VICTIM'S SON: It's the land of opportunity they told me when I first came here.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you still believe this is your land of opportunity?
K. SAINI: Took my world away. All it takes is one ignorant person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There was one woman among the six people killed in that Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin. Her grieving sons say she was a devout believer who died in one of her favorite places in the world.
CNN's Poppy Harlow spoke with them in an exclusive and very emotional interview.
HARLOW: Wolf, for every person killed in this tragedy, there are countless loved ones grieving. The two sons of Paramjit Kaur, one of the victims of the shooting, opened up to us earlier today about the anguish that this has caused.
(voice-over): It didn't take long for Kamal Saini to learn what happened to his mother.
KAMAL SAINI, VICTIM'S SON: My aunt told her that there is a shooting going on outside. We need to get up and leave. And rather than just getting up and leaving, she wanted to just bow down and pray for the last time and then get up and leave. As she was just getting up, she was shot in the back.
HARLOW: Murdered in her sacred place.
K. SAINI: She collapsed there. She didn't have a chance. They said she was dead on the spot.
HARLOW: Paramjit Kaur, 41 years old. K. SAINI: I called her a few times and she didn't answer her phone. And I went to the scene, and they had every road blocked off and they wouldn't let us through.
HARLOW (on camera): You tried to go find your mom.
K. SAINI: Yes, and told the police officer that, my mom's in there. You have to let me through.
HARLOW (voice-over): Twenty-year-old Kamal left his younger brother, Harpreet, at home, trying to protect him. As survivors emerged, Kamal searched among them.
K. SAINI: I went downstairs in the basement where the rescuers were and looked for my mom, and she wasn't one of them.
HARLOW: Reality sinking in.
K. SAINI: I had an idea that she didn't make it, but I just didn't want to believe it.
HARLOW: Paramjit Kaur went to the gurdwara every Thursday and Sunday, often arriving early to help prepare food.
K. SAINI: She was a good woman. She was a great mom. She lived for us. She worked for us. Anything she did, it was for us.
HARLOW (on camera): What was she like when she walked into a room? What was she like?
K. SAINI: Always had a smile. She always had a smile.
HARLOW (voice-over): Paramjit saved every penny for the past eight years to take her family to India last month to celebrate Harpreet's 18th birthday. It was their first time back since emigrating to the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was probably the greatest experience we have had together was going to the Golden Temple. And she always wanted to go there.
HARLOW (on camera): What were your mother's dreams for you?
K. SAINI: She just wanted us to be educated. She told us education is everything here.
HARLOW (voice-over): Both Kamal and Harpreet want to go into law enforcement.
K. SAINI: It's the land of opportunity they told me when I first came here.
HARLOW (on camera): Do you still believe this is your land of opportunity?
K. SAINI: Took my world away. All it takes is one ignorant person, one ignorant person to take somebody's world away.
HARLOW (voice-over): Now the brothers want answers.
HARPREET SAINI, VICTIM'S SON: Why would you do that? Why did you do that?
HARLOW (on camera): For what?
H. SAINI: For what reason?
K. SAINI: I just want to know where she was laying. I want to go back and look.
K. SAINI: That was the last time she was...
HARLOW (voice-over): The only comfort they have is that their mother's last moments were in the place she loved.
(on camera): And Kamal, the older son, is currently studying criminal justice. Both the sons told me that this situation has just strengthened their resolve to go into law enforcement, to become police officers and to make their mother proud.
And they also wanted me to relay this, Wolf. They said they are immensely grateful to all the first-responders, the police officers who responded to this horrific tragedy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a sad, sad story. Poppy, thank you.
A fund, by the way, has been set up to help victims of the temple shooting and their families. To find out how you can donate, go to CNN.com/impact.
BLITZER: Let's get the latest on the civil war that is going on in Syria right now. At least another 140 people have been killed today, according to opposition groups.
Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is on the ground. He's in northern Syria, outside of Aleppo, the largest city in the country, right now.
Ben is joining us on the phone.
Ben, tell us what's going on. What's the latest information you're getting?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the Syrian air force jets continue to bomb parts of the city that are controlled by the Free Syrian Army. We saw really throughout the day planes dropping bombs and strafing around the old city, the citadel, and also in very packed civilian areas, some areas of the town in fact which are under the control of the rebels, but from which relatively fewer civilians had fled.
So, we were at, in fact, Wolf, one of the field hospitals operated in the rebel-controlled area, and the doctors complained to us that they're short on medicine, medical supplies and also staff, because many of the doctors and the nurses who normally work there can't make it to the field hospital because of the fighting.
In fact, we watched as the doctor who ran that field hospital came out of surgery, his hands covered in blood, holding his cell phone, pleading and begging with doctors and nurses to come and help him deal with the wounded who had come in from yet of those airstrikes on civilian areas in Aleppo.
And this really went on all day long, and that after a night of severe shelling the civilian -- rather, the rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo. In fact, we got little very sleep overnight, Wolf, because the bombardment was so intense.
The humanitarian situation remains dire. Many people are trying to leave rebel-controlled parts of the city, because they fear that the government forces are about to launch an offensive. We watched, for instance, as more than 100 people lined up to get whatever bread they could from the only functioning bakery.
In that particular part of town, I spoke with one man who told me that his entire family is sleeping in the stairwell of their apartment building, out of fears of the artillery bombardment. Otherwise, we were also seeing merchant store owners loading up pickup trucks with their goods. They are worried that if the fighting spreads throughout the rebel-held parts of the city, and the government forces come in, they could move their entire -- everything they have.
So very much a sense of trepidation at the possibility that there will be a massive government offensive to try to retake the rebel-held parts of Aleppo -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Ben, before I let you go -- I know you're in a dangerous situation -- you were in Libya in the worst times in the fighting here. You were in Egypt in the worst times there. How much worse is the situation in Syria compared to Libya and Egypt?
WEDEMAN: This is really much worse.
I didn't see anything in Egypt like this, and the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath were relatively much less bloody. In Libya, you just didn't have the kind -- you have almost more people in the city of Aleppo than in the entire country of Libya.
And these are very densely populated areas. Aleppo is a huge city that spreads over a huge area. There are many people. Now, we have heard from humanitarian officials that more than 200,000 civilians have fled those civilian areas.
But what that means is that there are millions still left behind, and you have a government that does not hesitate to drop bombs, to strafe, to send its planes to strafe in areas they very well know that civilians are living there.
In fact, when we were woken up -- not woken up -- when we were trying to sleep at 3:00 in the morning, we were shaken awake by a bombardment on a civilian building just about 300 meters away from us. There were no signs of any fighters there. This is a government that is going to try to crush this rebellion, regardless of what it means to its own people -- Wolf.
BLITZER: One of our courageous journalists, Ben Wedeman, on the ground for us outside Aleppo in northern Syria. Ben, thank you very, very much.
We will stay on top of this story.
Also, other news we are following, including more name-calling in the presidential race. Are the Obama and Romney campaigns forgetting about important issues voters came about most?
BLITZER: The race for the White House is sounding more and more like a schoolyard brawl. First the president labeled Mitt Romney as Romney Hood, to suggest he's stealing from the poor, giving to the rich. Today Romney called the president's jab a bunch of Obamaloney.
In the midst of all the talk, some serious issues are on the line. Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with Romney in Illinois.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mitt Romney is out to pit one Democratic president to another, accusing Governor Obama of gutting one of Bill Clinton's signature achievements: welfare reform. The GOP contender unleashed the attack on Mr. Obama's home turf of Illinois.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama in the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare. That is wrong. If I'm president, I'll put work back in welfare.
ACOSTA: The Romney campaign is seizing on this memo issued by the Department of Health and Human Services last month, that offers waivers to states in implementing the welfare program. Romney's latest ad says that memo adds up to fewer welfare recipients meeting their work requirements.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.
ACOSTA: In response, the White House pointed to the memo itself, which reads, "HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals."
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Let me say that this advertisement is categorically false and it is blatantly dishonest.
ACOSTA: And the Obama campaign e-mailed out this letter signed by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts, appealing to Congress for increased waiver authority in the program for the sake of moving recipients from welfare to work.
Obama aides also pointed out then-Governor Romney even defended a state program that provided automobile insurance and AAA plans to welfare recipients who were donated cars.
But for Romney, the welfare attacks are all part of a theme that President Obama is encouraging government dependency. As Romney told a fundraiser last month, "Your friends who like Obama care, you remind them of this. If they want more stuff from the government, tell them to go vote for the other guy."
It's an echo of a message Newt Gingrich used during the primaries.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama is the most effective Food Stamp president in American history.
ACOSTA: The president counters that it's Romney's economic plan that will hurt the middle class, accusing the GOP contender of being a reverse Robin Hood.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's Romney Hood. He's asked the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year.
ACOSTA: Now, the campaign called that charge from the president, in their words, Obamaloney.
And speaking of campaign baloney, there was an item in the Drudge Report earlier today, saying that Mitt Romney might pick David Petraeus, the head of the CIA, as his running mate. The agency later put out a statement staying Petraeus is staying put.
Romney, meanwhile, is in Des Moines, Iowa, for a campaign event tomorrow morning.
And Wolf, not to be outdone, the president is also heading to Iowa early next week for a three-day trip through the state. It's going to happen at the same time Romney is on that high-profile bus tour up and down the East Coast, when everybody is going to be watching to see whether he announces his vice-presidential running mate. The pace is certainly picking up out here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is. I suspect he will be announcing his running mate as early as next week. Let's take a closer look now, Kate, at what may be the harshest political ad so far of this political season.
BOLDUAN: I think that's a good estimation, Wolf. What we're talking about was put out today by Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supportive of President Obama.
The ad ties to -- tries -- ties Mitt Romney and his work at Bain Capital to the death of a woman, tries to tie his work to the death of a woman. The wife of a former steel worker. Here's part of that spot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care, and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that, my wife became ill. I don't know how long she was sick. And I think maybe she didn't say anything, because she knew that we couldn't afford the insurance. And then one day she became ill, and I took her up to Jackson County Hospital, and they admitted her for pneumonia. That's when they found the cancer, and by then it was stage four. There was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days.
I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. And I -- furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about this ad. Let's bring in our guests, Obama campaign press secretary Jennifer Psaki, also Republican strategist Bay Buchanan. She's a senior adviser to the Romney campaign; also the author of the book, "Bay and Her Boys." Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.
You want to associate or disassociate yourself with this pro- Obama super PAC ad?
JENNIFER PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, as you know, we have about as much to do with the priorities ads, the super PAC ads, as Michael -- as we do with Michael Phelps winning gold medals last week. I can't speak to the ad.
I mean, there's a larger question here we've been discussing for months, which is what we do and don't know about Mitt Romney's time at Bain, how long he was there, what decisions he was involved in, you know, who he laid off, who he was involved with laying off, and what benefits were cut.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar did a fact check of that ad, and it is -- it's full of falsehoods. So you don't have to -- obviously, you had nothing to do with it. The campaign is not associated with the super PAC. But you can say, "You know what? We want to disassociate ourselves from that ad, because it's repulsive." Do you want to say something?
PSAKI: Well, first, Wolf, we have nothing to do with the ad. We're focused on our race. We're focused on going to Colorado tomorrow, and that's where we're at from the campaign side.
BOLDUAN: Do you want to have inaccurate ads, inaccurate information out there? If this was coming from a Romney super PAC, you guys would be all over this.
PSAKI: Well, look, I mean, we're focused about when the president goes out there, and he's talking about the campaign, he's talking about the differences between himself and Mitt Romney, he's going to be out there tomorrow, talking about women's health care, and providing access to affordable health care for women. That's what this race is about.
We can't speak to the super PAC ads. We don't have anything to do with them. So I don't have anything further on the super PAC ads.
BLITZER: Because it is pretty -- pretty serious here when you're not doing it, but the super PAC is making this allegation that Mitt Romney is responsible for the death of this woman when that's simply not true.
PSAKI: Well, Wolf, you know, I didn't -- I wasn't involved with making the ad. No one on the campaign was involved with making the ad. Let the super PAC speak to that.
BLITZER: Hold on. I want you to respond. Because there have been false Romney ads, as well, taking words that the president of the United States said totally out of context.
BAY BUCHANAN, MITT ROMNEY ADVISOR: Let me just go back, Jen. Are you suggesting that you cannot be certain that Mitt Romney was not part, took any part whatsoever in this poor woman's death?
PSAKI: I wasn't involved with making the ad. No one from the campaign was involved with making the ad. I don't have any more specifics on the ad.
BUCHANAN: This is typical. We have the most powerful man in the world, president of the United States, takes no responsibility for his campaign, no responsibility for his PACs, no responsibility for his cabinet members, who are out there raising money for this PAC so this ad can run. Takes no responsibility for the pain and suffering this country is suffering. The people in this country are suffering with the high unemployment, loss of homes, falling into poverty.
The only thing he takes responsibility for is the businesses other people are building. This is a disgraceful, despicable, dishonest ad, and if the president of the United States...
BLITZER: You know, Bay...
BUCHANAN: ... does not want shame on himself, he should immediately reject it outright.
PSAKI: You know, I have to say it's ironic hearing you say that, since you support Mitt Romney, who's questioned whether the president is American or whether he supports freedom. So there's a lot of things that have been thrown around in this campaign, including from Mitt Romney himself, so we can speak to that, too.
BUCHANAN: I think there's a memo that we must have missed from the Barack Obama campaign that said something like, "Listen, all Democrats, become aware, alert. We have nothing to run on. We have no record. We do not have any ideas. What we must do is go Chicago style."
PSAKI: I'm not going to speak to...
BUCHANAN: "Smear this candidate. Smear this candidate. Say anything. It doesn't matter if it's dishonest. It doesn't matter how awful and ugly it is. Be as mean-spirited as you can, because that's the only way we can win."
PSAKI: Well, what we're running on is protecting and standing up for the middle class, making sure that they have a fighter in the White House. As we know from a report we saw last week, a nonpartisan report, Mitt Romney's tax plan would raise taxes by $2,000 on middle- class families. I think that's what people are talking about at kitchen tables at home.
BLITZER: I think it's important that substantive issues be discussed. But when both of these campaigns occasionally, whether they do it directly or with the super PACs that support them, come out with outrageous accusations -- in this particular case I think it's pretty outrageous to accuse Mitt Romney of actually being responsible for the death of this woman.
When we did a fact check, she died several years after he left Bain Capital. And it's -- tragic and sad as it is.
But your campaign, the Romney campaign, has refused to occasionally disassociate itself from some outrageous accusations against the president of the United States.
Here's what else is bothering me right now. Want both of you to weigh in. When both -- when both of these candidates, president of the United States and the Republican presidential candidate, get engaged in what seems to be childish name calling -- and I'll play some clips.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He'd ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood.
ROMNEY: We've been watching the president say a lot of things about me and about my policies, and they're just not right. And if I were to coin a term, it would be Obamaloney. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You've got to admit, this is -- this is kindergarten stuff.
BUCHANAN: This is light, Wolf. You know, you get out there. You say some cute things. He just tried to get a little coverage. What he's trying to say to both the president and Mitt Romney, I think, is he's trying to make a quick statement that kind of summarizes what they feel about the other person's tax policy, or statements that he made earlier.
But I think the most important thing is the issues that are on the table. And I can't believe that the president of the United States would have a campaign that is so empty of ideas. I mean, million -- tens of millions of dollars spent.
BLITZER: Plenty of ideas. You can disagree -- you can disagree with his ideas. He's got a lot of ideas. He's got a record to run on. You can say that it's a crummy record, but he's got plenty of ideas.
BUCHANAN: Why is he spending tens of million dollars? Why is his PAC spending all that money on ugly, misleading...
BLITZER: Well, this isn't a -- this is a super PAC that supports him.
BUCHANAN: Let me ask you. If you have 60, 70, $80 million, you're a PAC. You have the president of the United States as your candidate. Can't you come up with something positive? Can't you say, "Listen, let me tell you what he's done for America?"
No. They have only one hope, and that is to destroy the opponent, and that's their goal.
BLITZER: Ladies -- hold the thought, Jen, because we're going to continue this conversation with our representative from Obama campaign -- that's you -- our representative from Romney campaign. That's you. We've got more to discuss. We'll take a quick -- we'll take a quick break. More of this conversation on the other side.
BLITZER: We're back with Bay Buchanan from the Romney campaign, Jen Psaki from the Obama campaign. Now, I want to wrap this up right now. A final thought. Do you want to say this is a bad ad, you don't have any -- you had nothing to do with it, but do you just want to say, "You know what? It's something that we're not proud of" or whatever. Whatever you want to say.
PSAKI: We're -- well, we had nothing to do with the ad. You've seen our ads. I'm happy to speak to any of those. I'm happy to speak to the president's agenda.
I will say, because Bay had a chance to speak to this, we know that Mitt Romney and his campaign is going to throw everything at us but the kitchen sink, maybe the kitchen sink, too, at us.
We're out there talking about the president's agenda, his ideas and his plans. I can't name three things Mitt Romney would do for the middle class. That's what the race is going to be about. It's not going to be about all these superfluous side issues.
BOLDUAN: I want to change -- change the topic here if we will really quickly.
Conventions coming up. The conventions are huge. They can make or break careers. It's a prime time spot to be speaking about. I mean, we've got new announcements today of new speakers that are going to be speaking at the convention. I think we have a graphic showing just some of them. Rick Santorum announced, Jeb Bush, Senator Rand Paul, as well as Governor Mary Fallin.
When you look at kind of the whole menu of who's been announced to be speaking at the Republican convention, what does this menu of speakers tell you? What should it tell voters?
BUCHANAN: We have an incredible number of great leaders in our party, young people who are very passionate about seeing this country turned around, put back to work. We've got people who are economic, fiscal conservatives out there. You've got the social conservatives. You've got people that have enormous experience in government who are really there to fight for their cause.
BOLDUAN: There are some absences so far.
BLITZER: Sarah Palin.
BUCHANAN: I don't know who's going to be chosen. I'm not part of that.
BOLDUAN: Should they?
BUCHANAN: You know, I think they should choose whomever they think is best to send that message. And I don't know who that is. But I do know what the message is.
This is a team that not only wants to see America working again, they know how to do it. And they will fight for it, in Congress, in the Senate, in the governorships across this country.
BLITZER: A lot of the Romney folks I've spoken to are nervous about maybe Sarah Palin, maybe Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain alienating some of those undecided voters out there who may be turned off, a fire and brimstone kind of speech.
PSAKI: Boy, you know, I'd rather have Mayor Castro and Bill Clinton, and Vice President Biden speaking on my side than have to worry about Santorum and Sarah Palin and what they're all going to say and how it fits in.
I think we all know that conventions are opportunity to excite and energize your base, get them going for the final two months. We have plans to do that as I'm sure the Republicans do, as well.
But they have a much higher hill to climb. There's not enthusiasm for Mitt Romney in the party. No one is getting "Mitt Romney for President" tattoos out there, I promise you. So they have a harder hill to climb there. And, you know, we're excited about our own convention.
BUCHANAN: We don't do tattoos. But there is great excitement and enthusiasm. I can tell you, I worked the -- I worked with grass roots, and this is a team that's ready to come together across this country and defeat Barack Obama.
BLITZER: We'll be in Tampa and we'll be in Charlotte. We'll be watching those conventions. You have a tough job. Thanks for coming in...
PSAKI: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... Jen Psaki.
Bay Buchanan, thanks to you, as well.
BUCHANAN: Thanks, as usual (ph).
BLITZER: We invited Bill Burton of that super PAC to come in. Unfortunately, he couldn't join us. We invited Paul Begala, also of the super PAC, a CNN contributor. Unfortunately, he couldn't call us. And you had the guts to come in. We really appreciate it.
PSAKI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen at one of the Smithsonian's most popular museums. We're going to tell you how attendants allegedly pocketed parking fees. Stand by.
BLITZER: Here in the Washington, D.C., area, new information about a stunning scheme at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Annex that ended with a small fortune being stolen from the parking garage. Our own Lisa Sylvester has details.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While tourists were flocking to see the Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum Annex in Chantilly, Virginia. Authorities say three parking attendants there were stealing thousands of dollars in parking fees. Just how much did they make off with?
JASON BROOKS, TOURIST: How much did they say? Like $400,000? Good God, that's ridiculous.
SYLVESTER: Actually, it was more than $400,000 over a three-year period, according to the U.S. attorney's office and the Smithsonian's office of the inspector general. (on camera) Every vehicle that passes through here is actually counted. The way these people were able to do this is by disabling the electronic vehicle counter, and that allowed them to steal as much as $4,000 in a single day.
(voice-over) It costs $15 to park at the Air and Space Museum Annex near Dulles Airport. The parking booth attendants worked for a private company, PMI, which has a contract with the Smithsonian Institution. According to the court affidavit, closed-circuit television cameras caught the three workers in action.
The news was shocking to museum visitors.
GLYNIS COLLEN, TOURIST: I just think that's really, really sad. It's a wonderful institution. It's sad to hear something like that happened.
EASTLAND COLLEN, TOURIST: It's really sad that people would do that. I hope they get prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
SYLVESTER: The Smithsonian has been under financial pressure in recent years, confronted with the threat of funding cuts. And $400,000 Could go a long way toward bolstering its programs. Claire Brown is a spokeswoman for the Air and Space Museum.
CLAIRE BROWN, SPOKESWOMAN, AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM: Well, very upset. Of course, we're very upset to have learned about it.
SYLVESTER (on camera): Has anything like this ever happened before?
BROWN: Not to my knowledge has anything like this happened before.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Each booth attendant faces a maximum of ten years in prison if convicted.
Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Chantilly, Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: From air and space to just space. We have some new pictures coming in from Mars. That's next.
BOLDUAN: Check out this first color picture from NASA's new Mars rover. The mountains in the distance that you're seeing actually are part of the rim of the huge crater where the rover landed. NASA has also cleaned up a picture of the crater's central peak. It's taller than Mt. Rainier, if approximate you can believe it. Amazing pictures coming out of Mars today.
From Mars to McDonald's, of course. Finally, Mitt Romney shared a secret about his father today. It turns out George Romney had a card signed by McDonald's founder Ray Croc, entitling him to free meals at McDonald's for life.
Mitt Romney told a Chicago crowd he found the card in his dad's desk, had it laminated. And the other Romney went almost every day for a burger or a fish sandwich.
How do you like that one, Wolf?
BLITZER: Very nice. Thanks so much.
That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.