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THE SITUATION ROOM

Isaac Following Katrina's Path; Isaac Likely To Push Up Gas Prices; Interview with Herman Cain, Republican, Former Presidential Candidate; Blaming Bush; Iran is Hosting Several Nations

Aired August 27, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


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

Happening now, we have the new forecast for Tropical Storm Isaac. Exactly seven years after Katrina, Isaac is on a strikingly similar and ominous path. Memories of the killer storm are spurring urgent preparations along the Gulf Coast, as residents board up and pack up. We'll take you to New Orleans and Mississippi.

And a rare look inside Iran. Tehran hosts a meeting of 120 nations and is taking full advantage of the chance to promote its agenda and to protest U.S.-led sanctions.

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

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tampa.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But first, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We're here at the Republican National Convention. It has formally opened, immediately recessed, the proceedings delayed a day by earlier uncertainties about Tropical Storm Isaac. Tampa may have dodged a direct hit, but others won't be so lucky. And this is just coming in. The latest forecast for Isaac, a storm which eerily and ominously, is following a track very close to that of Katrina, that took place in 2005. Seven years ago this week, Katrina devastated New Orleans, much of the Gulf Coast. And urgent preparations are now underway for Isaac, including evacuations in three states.

Let's go straight to our meteorologist, our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.

He's at the CNN Weather Center -- the latest forecast just came in, Chad.

What does it tell us?

(AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: All right, Chad, hold on a minute.

Chad, unfortunately, we -- we aren't getting your audio. We're going to fix that. We're also getting another story in from the White House. The White House press secretary has just issued a statement saying the president was briefed much of this day by the FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate, the National Hurricane Center director, Dr.

Richard Knabb, and others on this -- on this potential of a Category 1 hurricane emerging along the Gulf -- Gulf Coast, and potentially even moving into New Orleans.

Following the briefing -- and the president was fully briefed on what's going on -- the president convened a call with the Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, the Mississippi governor, Phil Bryant, and New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu. And he promised that -- that the federal government would be directly involved in making sure they did whatever was necessary to avoid a disaster.

On the call, the president also informed Governor Jindal of Louisiana that he had approved the governor's request for an emergency declaration for Louisiana for this tropical storm, Isaac. Mississippi also is potentially in trouble.

David Mattingly is on the scene for us -- David, what are you seeing where you are?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, everyone has a very close eye on this Isaac, as it's coming ashore slowly but surely toward this part of the Gulf. Everyone still remembering what happened seven years ago, still rebuilding, in some ways, from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

But as that rebuilding has been going on, everything has been done with plans for a storm much bigger than Isaac.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Mississippi's Bay St. Louis was a town decimated by the winds and waves of Hurricane Katrina -- ground zero for the powerful storm's eye. Little was left standing.

Corky Hadden is among those who chose to rebuild -- this time, much higher.

(on camera): Twenty-four feet?

CORKY HADDEN, HOMEOWNER: It's 24 feet above sea level.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Katrina's storm surge took Hadden's old house, leaving only a foundation and columns. His new house is built to withstand not just a Hurricane Isaac, but, if necessary, another Katrina.

HADDEN: If you look at what's happened the past 200 years, this house should be high enough to sustain anything we've seen in the past 200 years. MATTINGLY: An eye on the future, but painfully mindful of the devastation of just seven years ago. Bridges, roads, sewers all had to be rebuilt.

(on camera): But nowhere are the changes to Bay St. Louis more obvious than right here on the waterfront.

When Katrina hit, the city's old seawall stood at about eight feet high. That wasn't nearly enough to stop the storm surge. So when they rebuilt, this is what they put in its place -- in some places, a pile of cement and steel more than double what it used to be.

(voice-over): Bigger, stronger, smarter -- but also more expensive. This is the aftermath of Katrina in Gulfport, where the beachfront was torn to pieces. Today, many lots are still vacant and for sale.

(on camera): Could this House stand up to Katrina?

BEN STONE, HOMEOWNER: Not with me in it.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): He can laugh now, but Katrina destroyed Ben Stone's house. The new one looks almost the same, only higher, with windows that can withstand 200 mile per hour winds and cement walls six inches thick.

The allure of life on the ocean was worth the risk.

STONE: It gets angry from time to time, but it's the most beautiful sight I can see.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MATTINGLY: And everyone we've talked to here, Wolf, will say this, that beyond the similarities of the path and the timing of Isaac, they are saying it is no Katrina. But at the same time, they've learned to treat each and every one of these storms with respect -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As they should.

David Mattingly in Mississippi for us.

We'll stay in very close touch with you.

Let's go back to Chad Myers over at the CNN Severe Weather Center -- Chad, you were telling us about the latest forecast only moments ago. It just came in.

Update our viewers.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Seventy miles per hour now, four miles per hour shy of a hurricane. And it is forming an eye wall. The hurricane hunters have flown through it and they've seen the eye wall. It's open to the north. It's not a complete circle. It's just kind of an open sea, with the north part being the open part.

But that means the storm is intensifying rapidly now. And it will be moving on up toward the north and toward the northwest.

Here's the forecast track. It wobbled a little bit today. It made a little bit of an S curve right there. But the forecast is still back on track for it to be very close to New Orleans.

This is 2:00 a.m. Wednesday night. So we're talking 30 or so hours from now here, 35 hours from now, right here south of New Orleans in the bayou. There's not much here. There's not much there there. This is bayou. Maybe a little bit down toward Grand Islers -- Islands here and then along the Mississippi River itself there's a bank. There are some buildings there.

But we're -- we -- we have to wait until about, I don't know, maybe 8:00 in the morning before it would make it closest approach to New Orleans.

Now, remember, it could be over here and it still could be over here. That's the white part, all the way from -- that's about Gulfport, Biloxi and back over here to about New Iberia.

But there is the cen -- center of the line here, so closer to New Orleans than we have been for most of the day now and back -- back to a 100 mile per hour storm, as that minimal, but it's still a Category 2 hurricane.

The big threat with this storm this time is going to be storm surge. This could surge eight to 12 feet, even as a Cat 2, because it's been in the water so long, that bubble has been building for days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And just to remind our viewers, seven years ago, Katrina, once it eventually hit the Gulf Coast around New Orleans and in Alabama and Mississippi, it was a Category 3, right?

MYERS: That is correct. What happened with Katrina that's not happening with this storm is Katrina actually took a trip over here into the water here. This was the very warmest water in the Gulf of Mexico, called the Loop Current. That made it explode to a Category 5, at least briefly.

And then as it came up into the New Orleans area, it turned a little bit to the right and made a direct hit on right where David Mattingly was. That was that Bay St. Louis. That town was literally taken apart by a 25-foot storm surge there. And now, this storm is farther to the west of New Orleans, which means the storm surge will be making a run into New Orleans rather than east of New Orleans. So this is a big deal for New Orleans. Even at a 100 mile per hour storm, there's a lot to worry about. Plus, New Orleans gets almost 17 inches of rain that they have to pump out.

You know, all these walls are great. That keeps the seawater out. But if you put 17 inches of rain in that bowl, you have to pump it out of that bowl. And that's what they're worried about. BLITZER: As they should be.

All right, Chad, thanks very, very much.

There are no plans yet to or -- order evacuations of -- of New Orleans, but city officials say they are far better prepared than they were for Katrina seven years ago. That includes building massive storm barriers.

Our meteorologist, Rob Marciano, is in New Orleans right now.

And he has a closer look at the city's defenses.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's still a beautiful day here in New Orleans, but it's probably not going to be that way come tomorrow, and certainly tomorrow night.

We are along the 17th Street Canal, where, seven years ago, when Hurricane Katrina came through, this structure wasn't there. And all of the water from Lake Pontchartrain went down the canal, breached the levee, filled the northern part of the -- of this city with water.

Now we've got 11 flood gates there, each weighing 20 tons, that can be dropped down to protect the city. And then these massive pipes that are hooked up to pumps that can pump out water on the other side of that flood wall to Lake Pontchartrain at an amazing rate of over 8,000 gallons per second. There are several of these stations along the -- the waterfront here. And there's a couple more south and east of town. Not to mention a surge wall protector on the easternmost flank of town meant to withstand a surge there.

So the city itself fair -- is pretty well protected, the Army Corps telling me that they're -- they're confident with this system, especially since it's only forecast to be a Category 1 storm. But if it gets a higher intensity than that, then everybody here is going to start to worry and -- and residents may be on the move.

Right now, a voluntary evacuation in place for the city pro -- the city limits of New Orleans. Outside of that barrier, in surrounding parishes, at lower levels, people are evacuating mandatorily. And they are -- they're on the move right now, not only here, but across Southeast Mississippi.

Isaac is scheduled to arrive here sometime tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow night, potentially into Wednesday morning.

All eyes are on the Gulf here in New Orleans.

Rob Marciano, CNN, New Orleans.

BLITZER: And while Isaac was still brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, GOP organizers decided to delay their convention. But now, controversy may be brewing here. I'll speak with the former Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain. We'll talk about that and more. And oil drilling rigs and platforms -- they're being evacuated in the Gulf, as Isaac moves in. We're drilling deeper into both candidates' claims on energy.

And will you soon be able to use your electronic devices more freely on planes?

The FAA is considering it and we have new information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here.

He's got The Cafferty File -- hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, with Isaac drawing a bead on the city of New Orleans, the Republican Convention is no longer at the center of this week's media storm. Nevertheless, the GOP must, must shine during its abbreviated three day convention if they have any hopes of recapturing the White House.

And while national conventions these days are highly scripted affairs, there is still room for a politician to surprise, either on the upside or the other side. Politico takes a look at past conventions and how they've been the breeding ground for both rising stars and unintended screw-ups.

Barack Obama's keynote address, 2004 Democratic convention propelled him into the national spotlight and set his stage for a run for the White House, which he was successful at. The other end of the spectrum, Bill Clinton's 1988 convention speech. It went on and on for twice the allotted time. Delegates not paying any attention except when they started cheering when Clinton finally said the words, and in closing. The place erupted.

As for the Republicans' Tampa convention, there are already high hopes for the keynote speaker in New Jersey governor, Chris Christie -- I can't wait for him -- Florida senator, Marco Rubio, and the candidate's wife, Ann Romney. This convention could be the Republican's last best chance to introduce Mitt Romney to the country on their terms.

New CNN/ORC poll numbers show while the race is a dead heat between Romney and President Obama, likely voters think the president cares more about people and better understands their needs while Romney is better able to -- perceived to be better able to handle the economy, which in the end is always the most important issue in any presidential election.

And while the temptation might be to try to make Mitt Romney seem warmer and fuzzier, he's resisting saying, quote, I am who I am. At the end of the day, it's likely easier to be true to yourself than to try to be someone you're not. Dan Rather said it well, the camera never blinks.

Here's the question. What's the greatest risk Republicans face at their convention? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Wolf, I can't wait for Chris Christie.

BLITZER: Yes. Chris Christie will be a good speaker. I'm sure Marco Rubio will as well. I'm actually looking forward to Ann Romney's speech a lot.

CAFFERTY: I am, too.

BLITZER: I think Paul Ryan. And we'll see what Mitt Romney, he's the star of the show --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- Thursday night.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: You know what, the downside, though, is there could be a hurricane that hits New Orleans right at that time tomorrow night, Wednesday night, who knows what's going to happen, and that notion of some sort of split screen. Hurricane disaster, Republican convention going on simultaneously is not what these Republicans who have gathered here in Tampa, Jack, want to see.

CAFFERTY: What do they do, though? They can't just cancel the convention. I guess, they could. They could nominate Romney another way. But, they certainly don't want to do that if they don't have to.

BLITZER: No. They don't want to do that. We'll see. Let's hope this tropical storm, soon to be hurricane, does not really cause a lot of damage. We'll watch it closely, though.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: And by the way, to our viewers, you can experience what it's like to be at the Republican National Convention. Tomorrow, I'll be hosting the "CNN Election Roundtable" along with CNN's political team. You can submit your questions. You'll get answers in real- time. Join our live virtual chat tomorrow noon eastern. Log on to CNN.com/Roundtable. You'll get a lot of information how to do it.

Dozens of oil rigs and platforms have been evacuated as Isaac moves through the gulf and the storm could quickly have you paying more at the gas pumps. CNN's Tom Foreman is taking a closer look at that and the role energy is playing in this campaign. Tom, what are you finding out?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is nothing out there right now that can more underscore the debate going on between the president and Mr. Romney about energy policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Americans burn more than 19 million barrels of oil a day. Countless tons of coal and natural gas, too, raising persistent questions about supplies and the environmental impact. President Obama has pushed alternatives, solar power, electric cars, wind and more.

In fact, Mitt Romney says in a new policy paper, President Obama has intentionally sought to shut down oil, gas, and coal production in pursuit of his own alternative energy agenda. Romney wants more oil exploration, faster drilling permits, and state control of exploration on federal lands. An echo of the Republican chorus, drill, baby, drill.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will set a national goal of America and North America, North American energy independence by 2020.

FOREMAN: But President Obama says chill, baby, chill.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. At any time.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FOREMAN: So, who is telling the truth? In the mid 1980s, U.S. crude oil production went into a decline, and yet, despite a moratorium on offshore drilling after the gulf spill, domestic production has surged, last year reaching its highest level since 2003. In addition, production from oil shale and natural gas is way up.

However, much of this was set into motion years before President Obama took office. Technological advances by private firms have helped a lot, too. So, while he has taken some steps to encourage production, he can't claim as much credit as he'd like to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (on-camera): The president has angered some oil and coal producers by pushing more toward alternative energy, but there's just no real evidence out there that he's trying to shut down traditional energy sources the way that Mr. Romney claims.

Beyond that, it's also not entirely clear that Mr. Romney's plans would substantially elevate the speed at which we move toward this elusive goal of energy independence or that we would ever get there without him talking a lot more about something the president likes to talk about, which is using more conservation in our fuel. Cutting down on our use of this.

On the bottom line, both of their arguments run out of gas. Mr. Romney's claim that President Obama does not want to have anything except for all these alternative forms is simply false. That is not true. And for his part, the president goes a little bit too far in taking a little bit too much credit for everything that's happening right now.

That's something that many, many politicians do all the time. To take the work of everyone who went before and say, look what's happening in my administration. That's what makes it a little bit misleading -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman, doing the fact checking for us. He's going to be doing a lot of that over the next two months.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump delivering some fighting words to his party. I'll talk about that and more. Herman Cain is standing by. He'll join us. He's here at the Republican convention.

And a stuck accelerator sends an Iowa woman on a gut wrenching half hour high-speed ride with state troopers trying to keep up. We're going to tell you how it ended.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Another attack today by Afghan security forces claims the lives of more U.S. troops. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no one has claimed responsibility for today's attack by an Afghan soldier that left two U.S. troops dead in Eastern Afghanistan. Coalition officials say NATO troops killed the attacker. They say at least 42 NATO troops have now been killed by Afghan soldiers or insurgents in disguise.

Officials in Southern Helmand province say also today ten Afghan soldiers were gunned down by members of their own unit.

And could that warning to airline passengers, you know, the ones that put away all your portable electronic devices, could that become a thing of the past? The FAA announced today that it wants a panel to re-examine what can and cannot be used safely during flight.

The agency says the move was prompted by the widespread use of DVD players, personal computers, and other devices. It does say making or taking calls on your cell phone while in flight will still be off limits.

And the American Academy of Pediatrics says the health benefits of circumcision to infant boys outweigh the risks, but not enough for it to recommend that this procedure be routined. It issued a policy statement today saying the decision should be left up to the parents.

Circumcision is a Jewish and Muslim religious right and it is a common medical practice. Critics say it's not necessary and can cause pain and complications.

And now, you've got to take a look at this heart stopping video. Laurie Olerstat (ph) of Ames, Iowa, said she thought she was going to die when her accelerator got stuck, taking her to speeds well over 100 miles an hour. This thing lasted a half an hour nightmare on Interstate 35, was captured on the dash cam of state troopers trying to help her. Nothing worked to stop the SUV. The dispatcher stayed on the phone as she frantically, you can see these pictures there, frantically weaving in and out of traffic. She finally got her Kia Sorento to stop by lifting the accelerator with her foot while pressing down on the brake.

Could you imagine that, Wolf? Going 100 miles an hour with no way to stop your vehicle? Absolutely terrifying. This thing lasted half an hour. This was not just a short little trip and suddenly she was OK.

BLITZER: Yes.

SYLVESTER: Thirty minutes.

BLITZER: She's a lucky woman. And you know what? There are some other drivers are lucky as well that she could avoid them. What a nightmare. That is -- half an hour. It's amazing. Hundred miles an hour. Thank God she's OK. Thank God everyone else is OK.

SYLVESTER: Certainly lucky to be alive.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. Very much so.

All right. We got more coming up here at the Republican National Convention. He was once a top contender for this year's Republican presidential nomination, but now, Herman Cain finds himself sort of on the sidelines at this convention in Tampa. He's walking in here to the sky box. We're going to be talking with Herman Cain in a moment.

Mr. Cain, thanks so much for joining us. Good to be reunited with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With Tropical Storm Isaac still brewing, Republican organizers decided to delay the start of the Republican National Convention here in Tampa. It was formally open for about 10 minutes today, then recessed for a day. But now there may be some more controversy brewing. Let's discuss what's going on with the former Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, who's here in THE SITUATION ROOM in Tampa.

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, "Blitz." How are you?

BLITZER: Nice to see you. You made me famous. You remember that debate we had.

CAIN: I remember.

BLITZER: I moderated it in Constitution Hall in Washington and --

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: You didn't call me Wolf.

CAIN: No.

BLITZER: You didn't call me Mr. Blitzer.

CAIN: It's just "Blitz."

BLITZER: That's what it was --

CAIN: And I think it stuck. And you can call me Cain.

BLITZER: That's what I said. You call me "Blitz." I'll call you Cain. I'm surprised. You're here in Tampa.

CAIN: Yes -- yes.

BLITZER: But you know right behind us is the podium.

CAIN: Right.

BLITZER: You're not going to be speaking?

CAIN: No.

BLITZER: What's going on?

CAIN: It's not about me.

BLITZER: What do you mean? I mean --

CAIN: It's not about me.

BLITZER: Remind our viewers.

CAIN: Yes --

BLITZER: There was a point you were the leading Republican presidential candidate and all the polls showed you were atop.

CAIN: For about four straight weeks until the attack on my character came out and it was coordinated. It had to be coordinated.

BLITZER: By whom?

CAIN: We can't tell you by whom because we don't have proof exactly by whom. But we do know that it was coordinated --

BLITZER: Can you tell us if it was coordinated by a Republican?

CAIN: No. I can't tell you that either because I don't want to say anything that might jeopardize what we might do in the future in terms of exposing what happened. But I was on the top for about four straight weeks, you're right. This convention is about Mitt Romney defining his message, defining his solutions, and defining his leadership. And I happen to believe that the slate of speakers that they have is outstanding. And there are some speakers that need the exposure like Mia Love (ph) from Utah, former Democrat Congressman Davis (ph) from Alabama --

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Arthur -- let them be on stage. I don't need this as an opportunity to expand my visibility.

BLITZER: Do you talk to these Romney people? Have you spoken to Mitt Romney in recent months?

CAIN: I have -- I have spoken with Governor Romney in the last two months at least three times one-on-one.

BLITZER: What do you talk to him about?

CAIN: We talk to him about -- well first of all, the last time I met with him was when they were in Wisconsin when Ryan went back for the first time after being selected. We had a one-on-one conversation. He says what are you hearing out there? And what do I need to do? The guy listens. That's what leaders do and so I made suggestions about sharpening the message and he has done that.

BLITZER: Give me an example --

CAIN: Here's an example. I said, Governor, continue to talk about energy independence. You know the political consultants want you to talk about energy security. Leroy and Bessie, the average people, they don't understand energy security, so he's talking energy independence. And last week we rolled out his five-point energy independence plan that's simple to understand and it makes sense. And I believe that that's -- that's the type of sharpening of the message. He's got to do the same thing relative to the economic growth and jobs.

BLITZER: Because he hasn't picked up your 9-9-9 --

CAIN: No, no --

BLITZER: -- and all of our viewers remember 9-9-9.

CAIN: 9-9-9 is still fine, fine, fine --

BLITZER: You still support that?

CAIN: Absolutely, it's still fine, fine, fine, so the other thing that I suggested and he's, you know he has to do it when he's comfortable with it. The narrative needs to become replace the tax code. There are three very good options out there. Fair tax, flat tax and the most recent entrant is the 9-9-9 plan. Let the public debate which one is best. Either one of them will be better than the current tax code.

BLITZER: On Medicare, he wants -- at least Paul Ryan has supported not for people over 55, but under 55 --

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: -- going to the option of having a voucher system.

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: In other words, the government would give you some money. You'd then go buy your insurance from an insurance company. You'd have to deal with them on that kind of basis --

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: Why would anybody though who's a senior want to do that if right now the Medicare system, the seniors get their health insurance taken care of, they don't have any problem. Why would anybody want the option of a voucher system?

CAIN: Well remember, the seniors are 55 and older. The voucher is for those that are under 55.

BLITZER: But they would get it when they turn 65 or 67.

CAIN: They would get it --

BLITZER: Once they're eligible for Medicare then they could make a decision we want the voucher, give us a few thousand dollars --

CAIN: No, no, no, no, no, back up. Let's back up. Here's what young people are telling me. If we do not change the system for those under 55, it will self-destruct. So young people are saying, people under 55 years of age are saying, if I had a voucher to help me buy it, here's one thing about human nature that's being forgotten about this whole voucher system. When people spend their money, they spend it a whole lot differently than if they're spending the government's money. Younger people under 55, they love this idea because it puts them in control and it saves Medicare.

BLITZER: I don't know anybody who's over 65 or 67 who's going to say, you know what? I want to deal with insurance companies as opposed to the current Medicare system which most seniors love because it takes care of all their --

CAIN: But you see that system isn't going to change.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: That system isn't going to change. If you are 55 years of age or older, you stay on the current Medicare system --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So you have the option of the current system or a voucher system, you would take --

CAIN: I would go with the Romney/Ryan plan, the way they have it. If you're 55 years of age or older, OK, yours doesn't change. I'm 66.

BLITZER: So you like the current Medicare -- CAIN: I like -- no. I would have rather have gotten a voucher when I was 55 years of age.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: I would have rather have gotten a voucher when I was 55.

BLITZER: All right. I got to go. But quickly, what you said earlier, intriguing. Someone planted a conspiracy to derail your presidential run. Give us a little bit of --

CAIN: It was a well coordinated effort and all you have to do is look at publicly what happened, three consecutive weeks, three different stories attacking my character and attacking me to create doubt in the minds of many of my supporters. That's what forced me to drop out of the campaign, because of the pain that it caused my family by spinning these false accusations and lies over and over and over and over.

BLITZER: But the headline, what I'm hearing you say now, you're investigating this and you want to get to the bottom.

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: You're looking who started to spread those stories about you --

CAIN: Yes -- yes -- yes.

BLITZER: -- and these women in the past, all of this?

CAIN: You got it -- exactly. We're not done with the story yet.

BLITZER: You have investigators working on this?

CAIN: Yes I do.

BLITZER: Really?

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: And you're spending money out of your own personal pocket looking at this?

CAIN: Yes I am. My character and my reputation is much more than dollars and we're going to get to the bottom of this.

BLITZER: Cain.

CAIN: "Blitz."

BLITZER: Good to see you.

CAIN: My man.

BLITZER: Been way too long.

CAIN: Good to see you "Blitz."

BLITZER: You let me know when that investigation wraps up.

CAIN: I will.

BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation.

CAIN: You got it.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

CAIN: Yes.

BLITZER: The former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, says it's time for President Obama to, quote, "move on and stop blaming the bad economy on his predecessor." We're going to talk to President Bush's former press secretary Ari Fleischer about that and a lot more in our "Strategy Session." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us our CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer -- guys, thanks very much for coming in. Let me play a little clip from "Meet the Press" yesterday. The former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaking out about his brother, the former president, the man you worked for, Ari, President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I think it's time for him to move on. I mean, he -- look, the guy was dealt a difficult hand. No question about it. But he's had three years. His policies have failed and rather than blame others, which I know we were taught that that was kind of unbecoming, over time you just can't keep doing that. Maybe offer some fresh new solutions to the problems that we face. But that's not going to happen between now and Election Day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He said the president should not be always blaming the former President Bush for all the economic problems. But he acknowledges himself, he was dealt a very difficult hand. So the Bushes can't completely sever their responsibility for this economic mess that all of us have had to endure in recent years.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC.: The bigger point he's making, Wolf, is good advice for any incumbent. No incumbent leads by blaming whoever was their predecessor for whatever came first. People are elected to clean up what is ever on their plate and to deal with it and make new decisions and take the nation in a new different direction as promised in the case of President Obama without good results. So actually I think if I'm Barack Obama I would listen to that. That's pretty sound advice.

BLITZER: Because it is almost four years later and a lot of people are saying how many more years can this president keep blaming former President Bush for the economic problems, the high unemployment above eight percent, for example, that still goes on.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know if you listen to President Obama, he rarely mentions President George Bush's name. What he talks about is the policies, the reckless failed policies that almost brought us to an economic depression. Look, I think it's important to understand that we cannot solve our problems if our leaders are not willing to tell the truth. Tell the truth about where we are and where we need to take the country.

This problem wasn't caused overnight and I'm talking about the lack of jobs, because we're not hemorrhaging 22,000 jobs a day or 795,000 jobs a month. But instead we're growing the economy very slowly and we need to talk about how do we move this economy much faster so that we can grow more jobs so that people can get back to work.

BLITZER: It is the economy. You saw our new "CNN/TIME Magazine/ORC" poll that came out today. North Carolina -- now I assume -- the president won it the last time around. But I assumed North Carolina was going to be Republican this time. But it's still a battleground state and look at this. In this current poll, these are likely voters' choice for president. In North Carolina, Ari, Romney's at 48 percent, Obama's 47 percent, sampling error 3.5 percent. That's a statistical tie in North Carolina right now.

FLEISCHER: You know Wolf, I haven't worked on campaigns. My advice to everybody when it comes to polls is start to tune all of them out, but the one thing that's constant you're going to know is this is a close race. The battleground states are going to remain close. The national polling numbers are going to remain close.

I think the break will come in late October after the debates when we see how that goes. And the chances are, undecided break against the incumbent. But basically any poll is going to be within a close margin, close race any given day and they're going to fluctuate.

BRAZILE: I'm surprised that --

BLITZER: North Carolina is this close?

BRAZILE: Oh, look, I mean Wolf, President Obama barely carried the state. There's been a lot of demographic changes in the state of North Carolina. What I do know is that the Obama team has really good ground game. I think the president's message will resonate in North Carolina. I think people want to talk about how we move the economy forward in the 21st Century. They don't want to go back. Next week we'll be in Charlotte and that's an opportunity for the Democrats to plant new seeds and to harvest a wonderful turnout this fall.

BLITZER: I was also surprised in this new "CNN/TIME Magazine/ORC" poll in Florida the president is slightly ahead of Romney in Florida. You saw those numbers.

FLEISCHER: Yes, I saw that, too, Wolf, but again, you know you look at these polls -- on the national poll CNN just had Mitt Romney is ahead by one point, so how do you mesh (ph) being ahead by one point with these polls? And you just can't get hung up too much on any one poll. That's my bigger point. These are all battlegrounds.

Wisconsin will be a battleground. Iowa will be a battleground. The question of Colorado, New Mexico, could those become battlegrounds. We're just going to get used to that. I really don't see anything changing that dynamic an incumbent president very weak and significantly under 50, that's his problem.

BLITZER: We're here, Donna, at this Republican Convention. And a lot of us are thinking about what's happening along the Gulf Coast right now, especially Louisiana. You got family members there. What are you hearing from your relatives, your family, what's going on?

BRAZILE: You know, yesterday the governor, I thought, gave some great instructions to people.

BLITZER: Governor Bobby Jindal?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. He talked about the lower parishes, the river parishes to plan for evacuation. People are really paying attention to what the governor and the mayor and others are saying. Members of my family, they're moving to higher ground. They're moving away way from, you know, the potential devastating rainfall. It's the rain, Wolf. It's the levee. You know there's an old joke in Louisiana every time it rains we get waterfront property. Imagine when you get a hurricane of this magnitude even with 80, 85 mile-per- hour winds. That could really drench the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

BLITZER: We wish them only, only the best --

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right, hold on for a second. Jim Acosta is here, up with us as well. You're getting some new information --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

BLITZER: -- from the Republican leadership about this convention?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Republican leadership here at the convention including Rush Schriefer (ph), who is a top adviser with the Romney campaign as you know, they just held a conference call with reporters and basically said that there will be no changes to the schedule here at the convention. As it stands now, they're still going to have the three nights. There was some speculation that they might try to shrink this convention down even more, perhaps extend it to Friday. Right now the plan is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, no change to that right now. Wolf, I had a chance to catch up with the chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, just before coming out here. He also told me that was the plan. They're still planning on three different nights, but he said this to me, Wolf. We are going to be nimble. If we have to do anything to incorporate some of the occurrences, I guess that's regarding the storm, into the schedule, that's what we will have to do. What that means, he said, I don't know. But he emphasized, we are going to be nimble. So that may be the watch word over the next couple of days Wolf --

BLITZER: This tropical storm, Ari, could turn into a hurricane, category one, category two. It could hit tomorrow night --

FLEISCHER: Yes.

BLITZER: -- 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 at night. It would be pretty awkward to have a split screen with speakers here at the Republican Convention and devastation along the Gulf Coast --

FLEISCHER: It's a terrible problem for the convention planners to have to wrestle through and figure out what to do. You know and I also know that President Obama has announced he's continuing. He has a two-state political swing I believe to Iowa and Colorado that he intends to continue to go on. Republicans here have to make a big decision about what tone do you set and they're going to be as Reince said, nimble because the most important thing is to see what the actual tropical storm or hurricane is. What damage might it do? What damage might it not do? Maybe it'll turn off the coast as it's been indicating it might do. So they're going to have to just be flexible, be nimble.

BLITZER: Yes.

FLEISCHER: The worst thing in the world for Republicans, though, would be that split screen --

BLITZER: Terrible --

FLEISCHER: -- of partisan speeches as people are being evacuated --

BLITZER: That would be awkward --

FLEISCHER: Yes.

BLITZER: We'll watch it. You guys are not going away. Jim, don't go too far away. We've got more news to report later as well.

Meanwhile, other news we're following. Iran's public relations push. How the Iranian government is now trying to paint a new picture of its nuclear program. Our correspondent, Reza Sayah, he's in Iran right now.

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BLITZER: Iran right now is hosting more than 100 nations claiming to have no allegiance to a world power. The country is also trying to paint itself as a victim of terror rather than a rogue country. CNN's Reza Sayah is inside Iran right now. He's in Tehran -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Iranian regime is well aware that much of this world is watching this summit, the representatives and leaders from more than 100 nations are here and it's crystal clear that it wants to use this meeting to push forth its narrative to project itself as a regional power that plays a key role in regional and global issues, that it's not a rogue, an isolated nation that's a threat to the region, that it's actually a victim of terrorism and not an exporter of terrorism.

All over the summit displays showing the three Iranian nuclear scientists who were assassinated during a 13-month span. While this could be viewed as a PR coup for Iran, some may view it as a PR setback for western powers and the government of Israel, those governments, of course, aggressively depicting Iran as a rogue and isolated nation that's a threat to the region and is secretly building bombs, of course with heavy hitters coming this week like U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi (ph), and Indian Prime Minister Mamou Hinsing (ph), that message coming from Western powers and Israel could be undermined.

The summit also looking to tackle the conflict in Syria, of course, Syria a key ally of Iran, Iran supporting the Assad regime saying the military solution is not an answer. They're calling for peace talks. But don't look for that view to be aggressively pushed during this summit by the Iranian regime because also in attendance during this regime, a lot of Sunni dominated nations like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, who have condemned the Assad regime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Reza will be reporting for us from inside Iran throughout this week, Reza Sayah who is in Tehran.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows President Obama with an edge right here in the crucial battleground state of Florida and CNN is changing another state to toss-up. We have details coming up.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, what's the greatest risk the Republicans face at their convention?

Jim in Reno writes, "discounting Hurricane Isaac -- and it's not a hurricane yet -- although it's expected to become one -- the greatest risk is that the speakers including Ryan and Romney will cement the present image of the GOP as hopelessly trapped in right wing extremism and further feed the growing conviction among the poor and middle class voters in the country that they have nothing to gain and everything to lose from a Republican victory."

James in North Carolina says "the only fear is being too overconfident. If this election is truly about the economy, then Romney and Ryan cannot lose, talk economics and it's over."

Mark in Topeka says "the greatest risk for the GOP being prevented from building a coalition with more moderate Republicans and Independents on social issues. Fiscal conservatism and social moderation could be a winning combination but fiscal conservatism combined with social conservatism results in an Obama victory by a significant margin."

Wilhelm in Las Vegas, "I think the worst thing that could happen is to have some speaker like Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee go off on some social issues rant making the party look way religious crazy. I honestly don't know why these two have speaking roles. For a cautious candidate like Romney, it seems like that's a huge risk."

Tom in Texas writes "someone saying something that makes sense to reasonable people, not the draconian right wing."

Robert in Florida "biggest risk a liberally biased media", Brian in Chicago "Accidentally revealing their true positions", if you want to read more on the subject go at the blog CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very, very much.