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Romney Visits Louisiana; President Obama Visits U.S. Troops

Aired August 31, 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: And happening now: a hurricane disaster and the race for the White House. Mitt Romney makes an unexpected trip to Louisiana. Also, Ann Romney talks to CNN, outlining why she thinks women will want to vote for her husband.

Plus, why a former U.S. Navy SEAL may not see any royalties for his controversial new book about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

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

We're coming to you live right now from the site of next week's Democratic National Convention, the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. The spotlight from the Republican Convention hasn't even cooled yet, but the party's newly minted nominee is already back out there on the campaign trail, tweaking his schedule to squeeze in a very presidential looking visit to a disaster zone.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is in New Orleans with details.

What's the latest with Mitt Romney, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney was scheduled to visit three battleground states today. But at the last minute, his campaign aides scheduled a stop here in Louisiana so Mitt Romney could go and visit some of the storm damage in this state. It is a sign that this campaign with just two months to go will have plenty of twists and turns, including one last night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Just before takeoff from Florida, Mitt Romney picked up where he left off at the convention, returning to a sales pitch to independent voters who chose the president four years ago.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You listened to the last guy running for president. He laid out what he would do. He was unable to do it. It's time to give someone new a chance. Hold us accountable.

ACOSTA: Joining the GOP nominee to make the case, arguably the star of the convention, Ann Romney.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Give this man a chance and he will not fail.

ACOSTA: And his running mate, Paul Ryan, tried to set the terms for the debate to come.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the chance where we have a choice. Do we want the failed leadership, the stagnant economy, the debt crisis, the welfare state, or do we want that opportunity society, that American idea where everybody can make the most of their lives and define happiness for themselves?

ACOSTA: Romney was showing off a newly wrapped campaign plane and mixing up his schedule. He dropped a previously planned trip to Virginia to survey the damage left by Tropical Storm Isaac in Louisiana. There was also some cleaning up to do after the convention that had nothing to do with all of those balloons.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself. You're crazy.

ACOSTA: Clint Eastwood's rambling, impromptu script with an empty chair that was supposed to be President Obama had some on the convention floor cheering, but reporters took note the Romney family was not laughing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We appreciated Clint's support. And he's a unique guy. And he did a unique thing last night.

ACOSTA: The campaign seemed to defend the actor in a statement, saying, "Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical lens doesn't work. His ad libbing was a break from all the political speeches and the crowd enjoyed it."

But the president's Twitter account took notice, sending out this tweet aimed at Eastwood and Romney that says, "This seat's taken."

NARRATOR: Not a word about his record in Massachusetts, where job growth was 47th out of 50.

ACOSTA: In signs of the tough fight to come, the Obama campaign released a Web video countering Romney's speech.

And Joe Biden offered a rebuttal of his own in Ohio.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not think you grow the economy from millionaires down. We know you build it from the middle class out. That's how you build America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And campaign aides are downplaying expectations of a post-convention bounce for Mitt Romney.

But, Wolf, lo and behold, there is a new Reuters poll out today that does show Mitt Romney leading the president by two percentage points coming out of the convention. So some good news for the GOP nominee there.

At the same time, Wolf, we should also note Mitt Romney's aides talked to reporters about the Clint Eastwood event earlier this afternoon, and according to Stu Stevens, a top adviser to Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney was laughing backstage when Clint Eastwood was up on stage, and they thought he did a good job last night at that convention with that skit he had there on stage, although at one point another campaign aide did tell reporters they had no idea what he was going to do with that chair when he put it on the stage.

They thought, Wolf, he was going to sit in it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure they didn't think he was going to do what he wound up doing, and they certainly didn't think he would ramble on for, what, 12 minutes, did they?

ACOSTA: Right. No, that's right. They said basically that they let this night -- or this part of the night be whatever Clint Eastwood wanted to do, that it was an improv, ad lib type of performance.

They basically gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. At the end, though, it sort of overshadowed a lot of what happened last night because so many people are talking about it today. Mitt Romney had a biographical video that played just before the 10:00 hour. Ann Romney herself told reporters today she wished that played in the 10:00 hour instead of Clint Eastwood.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very, very much.

President Obama will visit the hurricane disaster zone next week. Today he was on official business visiting U.S. troops in Texas. But he still managed to slip in some of his campaign themes into the remarks.

CNN's Athena Jones is at Fort Bliss and has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, team Bliss.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama spent Friday at Fort Bliss, Texas, visiting troops to mark the two- year anniversary of the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.

OBAMA: Because of your determination to succeed, you turned back an insurgency. You stood firm against sectarian strife. You helped pull Iraq back from the abyss.

JONES: Ending that unpopular war was a promise the president campaigned on and one the White House is eager to remind Americans he kept.

OBAMA: Two years ago, I was able to come here to Bliss and mark the end of our combat mission.

And that night, I told the American people that all our troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the following year. At the time, I know some folks didn't believe me. They were skeptical.

Some thought the end of combat was just word games and semantics. But I meant what I said.

JONES: His return to the base was billed as an official event, rare in the midst of a heated election season. On the campaign trail, his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, fresh off his big night in Tampa kept the pressure on.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Measure us, hold us accountable, do the same with the president. You listen to the last guy running for president. He laid out what he would do. He was unable to do it. It's time to give someone new a chance.

JONES: The Obama team spent the day hitting back, first in a Web video highlighting what the GOP nominee left out of his acceptance speech Thursday night.

NARRATOR: And at a time when 84,000 American men and women are fighting for their country in Afghanistan, not a single mention of how or when to bring them home safely.

JONES: And, later, dispatching Vice President Biden to speak before autoworkers in Lordstown, Ohio, where he mocked Republican claims that their proposals represent bold change.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's nothing gutsy about giving another trillion dollars in tax breaks to millionaires. There's nothing bold, there's nothing bold about turning Medicare into a voucher system. There's nothing bold about kicking 19 million kids and elderly off of Medicaid with no place else to go.

JONES: With hundreds of thousands still without power in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, Romney also visited the town of Lafitte, Louisiana, frankly Afternoon to meet with Governor Bobby Jindal. The president plans to visit the state on Monday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Asked about the timing of the president's trip to Louisiana and why he isn't going sooner, the White House cited logistical challenges, and they say the chief concern with a trip to a disaster area like this is making sure they don't divert resources from local governors that may need them, so his team decided Monday was the best day to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones traveling with the president in Fort Bliss, Texas, today, thank you.

Isaac also being blamed for at least four deaths, including an elderly couple that drowned in their own home.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Louisiana's hard-hit Plaquemines Parish with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you can see behind me just how devastated this town is. This was once a street. That was a street. And you can see what happened to this building right here. It was in this town where the first reported fatalities from Isaac occurred. We got access to that house only with an airboat. And we realized as soon as we got there the odds were stacked heavily against those who stayed.

(voice-over): It's still almost unapproachable and dangerous. We have to navigate around seeping natural gas and downed power lines just to get near it. This house is where the first two reported fatalities from Isaac occurred. A couple trapped inside.

Urban Treuil, the fire chief here, knew them and had to pull their bodies out.

(on camera): Do you think this couple ever had a chance to get out once the water started flowing in here?

CHIEF URBAN TREUIL, BRAITHWAITE, LOUISIANA FIRE DEPARTMENT: The water came up so fast, we had a lot of emergency personnel that had a rough time getting out. So an elderly couple needing assistance would have been very, very tough to do.

TODD (voice-over): There may have been one opening, maybe.

(on camera): The couple was found floating in the kitchen of this house. The kitchen is around the other side of the house. We can't access that right now. What we're told is that the water levels at the time rescuers got here were about eight feet higher than they were now up to the attic vent right there. If the couple could have gotten to that, possibly they could have gotten out.

(voice-over): Treuil declined to identify the couple by name. He says emergency officials got word to as many people as possible when the levee near here was overtopped.

One of the neighbors tried to get the couple to leave, and they wouldn't. Now, the only creatures that can inhabit this town are either amphibious or have to ride what's floating.

As we move around by airboat, we see homes that are flooded, buckled. Chief Treuil says one house floated about a mile from its foundation.

Bobby Landry and seven others in his family stayed through the storm too. He lost one house to hurricane Katrina and then moved here and remodeled this one. Now this -- he and his family had to climb out windows as the water rose toward the second floor.

BOBBY LANDRY, BRAITHWAITE, LOUISIANA RESIDENT: I feel empty. It hurts.

TODD (on camera): Bobby, do you want to come back and live here? LANDRY: This is great living right here. On this side of the river right here, the people in this community are all tight, close. Unfortunately, there's not enough of us to be worried about.

TODD (voice-over): An exhausted fire chief is worried about more potential losses.

TREUIL: It's not something I want to see and I hope that's the last ones we do see. We're still checking a few other residents along that area here. And we're hoping that everybody made it out.

TODD (on camera): When I asked the Chief Treuil if this town will ever recover from this, he said he thinks so. But he also said since the storm happened, they have talked to several resident who have packed up and never coming back. The chief is also reeling from this.

He lost his home and this store and gas station, which was his business -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Awful. Awful, indeed. Brian Todd reporting to us from Plaquemines Parish, thank you.

Fresh from the Republican Convention in Tampa, Ann Romney talks to CNN about women voters and the GOP. But did she answer the question? Stand by.

Plus, details of the legal battle erupting over a former U.S. Navy SEAL's book about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: She's not on the Republican ticket, but she's certainly one of its stars, and Ann Romney spoke today to our own chief political correspondent and the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," Candy Crowley.

Candy, you had a chance to interview Ann Romney this morning. You asked her about the problem that Republicans seem to have across the country attracting women voters. I will play a clip of what she said to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Those that may not have voted for a Republican in the past are coming up and telling me this, that enough is enough, that they care not about their own job and their children's job and their husband's job, which they do care about because they're worried about those.

They also are caring about the legacy of debt that we're leaving their children. And I think they recognize that it is time for someone that understands the economy, understands job creation, understands how responsible he is going to be in making sure that their children are not going to be burdened with the debts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, it was interesting. I was watching almost all those speeches. Mike Huckabee, he focused in on the social issues, the cultural issues, if you will. But most of the other speakers, including Ann Romney, they wanted to talk about the economy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, because they think that's their winning issue.

From the get-go, they have always thought it is the state of the economy. You have even seen very conservative and including socially conservative Republicans saying it is a distraction right now to bring up the cultural issues. It is in the plank. Everybody knows what the Republican Party stands for. But if we get wrapped around that axle, it takes away from what we want to talk about.

Ann Romney saying this is what women care about, they care about jobs, that is -- I guarantee you will get that answer from every Republican if you ask them, because they have that talking point out there. They say what women care about is jobs, which is absolutely true.

I did say, listen, Republicans have had this problem for three decades. This isn't a Mitt Romney problem, this is a Republican Party problem as well. You heard her say she thought women would take a look here. And we will see.

BLITZER: They got two months to see. We will see what happens.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It was also interesting. You asked her to share with all of us the reaction that Mitt Romney had to his own big acceptance speech last night.

CROWLEY: Right. Since everybody else has sort of critiqued it, I thought why not see how he felt about it?

She said really it was much more reflective than that for them, that when they were alone, they thought about his dad and his mom, and what they might have thought. You know the folks that were up there that talked about Mitt Romney and the good works he has done through his church, one of their sons found one of those folks and brought them up to the suite where the Romneys were, so they got to reconnect with them.

She said it was very much more reflective than, hey, what did you think of the speech?

BLITZER: From Tampa, we're now in North Carolina, in Charlotte, North Carolina, specifically.

Look at this. This is our most CNN/ORC/"TIME" magazine poll. Likely voters in North Carolina, Romney 48 percent, Obama 47 percent. That's a tie, 3.5 percent sampling error. Unemployment in North Carolina right now is at 9.6 percent, Candy, 9.6 percent, national average, 8.3 percent.

What does the president need to do over the next two months beginning in the next few days here in North Carolina to regain North Carolina? He captured it four years ago, not by a lot, but he did win North Carolina a four years ago.

CROWLEY: I think a couple of things. The first is everyone says he can't talk about the economy. You can't ignore the elephant in the living room. The way they have been talking about it, which is to say I know it is not great, but let's remember where it was.

And what this administration has always wanted to do, what the reelect team has always wanted to do is say maybe you're a little disappointed, maybe you thought I would do better than this, maybe we all thought the economy would be better by now, but do you really want to go back to how we got in this mess in the first place?

As always, they want to frame this as a choice, because they think then, even those still suffering, as long as they can see ahead and believe, hey, we're kind of on the right track, I believe this guy can do it, maybe he needs a little more time, and, by the way, the other guy is unacceptable to me, they think that's the path to victory.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Candy, Sunday morning, "STATE OF THE UNION," I know you got a terrific lineup getting ready, 9:00 a.m. Eastern this Sunday morning. We will be watching.

You will be here in Charlotte doing the program.

CROWLEY: Thanks. I will.

BLITZER: So will I.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Up ahead, I will talk to the Obama campaign's press secretary about what the president needs to do here in Charlotte.

But, first, it is the controversial book grabbing headlines, and now the military is cracking down on the former Navy SEAL that wrote it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A major legal storm is now brewing for the former Navy SEAL that wrote a tell-all book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It is possible, possible he may not get any money at all from the sales of the book.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story.

Barbara, what's going on here?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this has indeed turned into a high-stakes legal fight between the federal government and the Navy SEAL and the federal government is warning that it might consider legal action against him and his publisher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Appearing on CBS' "60 Minutes" in disguise, and under a fake name, Mark Owen, this is Matt Bissonnette, the former Navy SEAL who wrote the book "No Easy Day," his account of being on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

MATT BISSONNETTE, FORMER NAVY SEAL: My worry from the beginning is, it is a political season. This book is not political whatsoever. It doesn't bad-mouth either party.

STARR: Bissonnette retained Washington, D.C., attorney Robert Luskin, who once represented Bush White House adviser Karl Rove in the investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove was not charged.

Bissonnette's legal position remain very much question. Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson wrote Bissonnette he is in material breach and violation of agreements he signed to protect classified information and promising to submit his work to a security review. Luskin wrote back saying the agreement only requires the government to review writings under certain circumstances.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: If you're in possession of classified documents, as a Navy SEAL would be, you sign a nondisclosure agreement. And that agreement says, basically, if you write a book, any kind of a book, fiction, nonfiction, and you use information that might be even derived from classified information, you have got to get pre-clearance from the Pentagon.

STARR: Mark Zaid has represented clients in similar cases.

MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY: The SEAL's attorney's strongest case is going to be, one, the agreements he signed don't apply to the factual circumstances of the bin Laden raid.

STARR: The book's publisher, Penguin Group, could also be at risk.

ZAID: Rather than cooperating with the government, Penguin has not only increased the print run, but also expedited publication date, which is a brazen slap across the government's face.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, Penguin, the publisher, has not commented publicly since the Pentagon sent this letter. In addition, you know, a lot of people say that the SEAL could maybe avoid charges because the government may not want to discuss the bin Laden raid in open court, if it came to that. But the Defense Department, Wolf, is already raising this other possible solution, saying that it might seize all the money from the book sales -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We will continue to watch this story. Thanks very much, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon

We are live here in Charlotte, North Carolina. And in a few short days, actually coming up this Tuesday, President Obama will get his chance, as the three-day convention will begin. He will of course be at the podium on Thursday.

But just ahead, I will talk to the president's campaign press secretary about what he needs to do to counter Mitt Romney's convention message.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Both Mitt Romney and President Obama are trying to balance their campaigning with compassion. The Republican nominee has been in Louisiana today. You saw Jim Acosta's report earlier. The president is going there on Monday.

Let's talk about all of this and more with the Obama campaign traveling press secretary, Jennifer Psaki. Also joining me in the questioning, our own CNN political analyst Gloria Borger.

Let me ask just a technical question, Jen, first. First, what does it say to you -- what does it say to you that Mitt Romney actually went to Louisiana today, sort of upstaging the president, who's only going to show up there on Monday?

JENNIFER PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN TRAVELING PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I worked for the president for a long time. I know it takes a lot of resources to send any sitting president to a disaster area. He's been wanting to go. This has been in the works for a while. And he's looking forward to going on Monday.

So this isn't a political thing. This is an opportunity for President Obama, for Mitt Romney, as well, to you know, think about the people in Louisiana, visit with them, hear their stories, and hopefully take some of that back to people in Washington.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Jen, I'm presuming that you watched all or part of the Republican convention and that you watched Mitt Romney's speech.

PSAKI: I did not, all of it. We were campaigning, but I did watch the speeches.

BORGER: OK, OK. But he had to show his compassionate side, because that's his problem with voters who think that he doesn't understand their problems. Doesn't the president have the reverse problem, which is that when he comes to this convention here in Charlotte, doesn't he have to show that he's Mr. Fix it and can actually fix the economy?

PSAKI: Well, you know, I have to say I think the American people want to hear a plan. They want to hear an agenda. And the president has been out there talking about fighting for the middle class, talking about what -- preserving health care for Americans, talking about making sure kids have the opportunity to go to college. The American people know a lot about the president. Fortunately, we don't have to re-invent him.

BORGER: Jen, unemployment is still above -- but Jen, unemployment is still above, you know, 8 percent. So doesn't he have to show how he's going to get it down?

PSAKI: Well, he's been talking about it. He's laid out plans. And you'll hear him layout the choice next week. And we know that we've made some progress over the last four years. More work needs to be done. That's why he wants to go back and spend another four years fighting for the middle class.

BLITZER: Let me play a clip, Jen, of what Romney said in Tampa last night. Then we'll discuss on the other side.

PSAKI: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn't something we have to accept.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what do you say to those voters out there who are disappointed that the president -- they believe the president hasn't really delivered?

PSAKI: Well, I think if you talk to an auto worker in Ohio or Michigan; you talk to a teacher almost in any state in this country who's working because of the president fighting for more funding for teachers; if you talk to kids under 26 who are covered by their president's health -- or their parents' health-care plan now, they disagree with what Mitt Romney said.

We know this country has been through a tough time. There's more we need to do. And the president has been talking about that, and he'll talk about the choice next week.

BORGER: The criticism of Mitt Romney's speech was that we really didn't hear anything from him that we didn't already know and that we haven't already heard before. So can you give us a little preview? Are we going to hear some new policy prescriptions from the president in his speech in Charlotte or at least some promises and direction about what he would do in a second term specifically?

PSAKI: Well, there's an old saying: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, and I think that defines what Mitt Romney did or didn't present last night.

The president has been out there talking about his agenda, talking about what his being a fighter for the middle class. The American people know him pretty well. They know him much better than they know Mitt Romney. And he'll lay out the choice next week.

And I will promise you that the American people will have a good idea of the road map that he is going to present moving forward for the next few months and for a second term, next Friday when maybe we'll chat again.

BLITZER: So are you saying that he will outline a new vision, a new plan, a specific series of steps, get into some details; or just continue to say what he's been saying?

PSAKI: Well, Wolf, he's been out there talking about what he thinks needs to happen now, what he thinks needs to happen in the years ahead. I'm not going to get too ahead of the speech, but he will lay out the choice. He will lay out what's at stake in November, and I promise you he'll be ready to deliver it by Thursday. But in the meantime, he's still working on it.

BORGER: But we know the choice. But what about his specific direction and his specific plans for what he would like to do if he were reelected?

PSAKI: Well, Gloria, I know you've come out with us before. I mean, he talks about that every single day he's out on the campaign trail. He'll be talking about that tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. And people are familiar with what his focus is, which is on the middle class. And there's many pieces that fall into that. I expect you'll hear more from the president about that on Thursday.

But he's been out there laying out his agenda. There isn't a secret about his agenda. This is an opportunity to talk about it on a very big scale with a big megaphone. And we're looking forward to doing that.

BLITZER: Before we go, I've got to play a little clip from Clint Eastwood last night in Tampa. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON EASTWOOD, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself. You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You're the campaign press secretary. You want to react, because that's really generating a lot of buzz out there, as you well know?

PSAKI: It certainly is. You know, this may make me an old soul, but I do enjoy Clint Eastwood movies, so I have to say, I'm still a fan.

But, you know, I don't think the Romney team expected they'd be talking about Clint Eastwood today. And because Mitt Romney's speech was so lacking in details, so lacking in an agenda, that's what everybody's talking about. That's what we're talking about now. This is what people have been talking about all day. And I don't think that it was in their plans that they were thinking a few weeks ago -- weeks and months ago.

BLITZER: Well, did you think that Clint Eastwood was disrespectful to the president of the United States?

PSAKI: Look, you know, I think he is an actor. He's a class -- he's been in a lot of classic movies, you know. And it was a little confusing to watch what he presented last night, but you know, we're not worried about that. We're worried about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and what they're representing and how the president lines up with that, and we feel pretty good about where we are.

BORGER: But Jen, the campaign did tweet, "Seat taken," referring to the empty chair.

PSAKI: That's right.

BORGER: So it is clear, this is an argument you're not unhappy to have with Clint Eastwood.

PSAKI: Well, look, we -- we have fun from time to time. You've got to in the number of hours we work. And they did tweet a photo of the president sitting in a chair. It's a little fun, a fun, light response at last night. But we're ready to move forward, focus on our convention, you know, talking about the president's agenda, his vision for the future, and we'll move beyond Clint Eastwood's presentation last night.

BLITZER: We'll see you here next week in Charlotte.

PSAKI: Sounds good.

BLITZER: You're going to be coming with the president. The first lady will be here, and they're getting really excited on the streets of Charlotte, I've got to tell you.

PSAKI: That's great. Good to hear.

BLITZER: I was walking around earlier today. They were excited at Tampa, too.

PSAKI: Yes, I bet.

BLITZER: So a lot of Democrats here. There were a lot of Republicans there. That's what these conventions are all about.

Jen Psaki, thanks very much.

PSAKI: Great. Can't wait to get there. Thanks, Wolf. Thanks, Gloria.

BLITZER: Thank you.

All right. So you want to know what it's really like to experience the Democratic National Convention from the inside? This Tuesday, join the CNN Election Round Table. I'll be there along with CNN's political team. You can submit your questions, get answers in real time in this live, virtual chat. Don't miss the CNN Election Round Table, Tuesday at noon eastern, by logging onto CNN.com/roundtable.

Up next, a closer look at a bizarre convention speech that's creating a lot more buzz. We're going to continue to follow the reaction to Clint Eastwood.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It was Mitt Romney's speech, but the speech that has a lot of people talking, especially today, was Clint Eastwood's speech. The Hollywood icon, he stole the show at the Republican convention last night, rattled a lot of nerves with an unscripted, imaginary conversation with President Obama, who supposedly was in that chair. You're looking at that now. It's an empty chair.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us now with more action on that Eastwood speech. Miguel, a lot of people were stunned by what they saw there. What's been the reaction?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, apparently, Mr. Eastwood was given talking points by the Romney campaign. But suffice it to say the surprise celebrity guest did a performance that was not so welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EASTWOOD: You want to make my day, huh? All right.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): What started as classic Clint...

EASTWOOD: I've got Mr. Obama sitting here.

MARQUEZ: ... turned into political drama, with even the candidate's wife on "CBS This Morning" having a tough time with positive spin.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT'S WIFE: He's a unique guy, and he did a unique thing last night.

MARQUEZ: The four-time Oscar winner did get rave reviews from fellow actor John Voight and some guys who texted him.

JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: I got some texts, you know, "Clint's the man."

MARQUEZ: Unscripted and unplugged, Eastwood spoke twice as long as planned, causing, reportedly, nervous moments for Romney's campaign staff.

EASTWOOD: I wondered about, you know, when the -- what? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself.

MARQUEZ: The performance could be described as a hit. "Invisible Obama" on Twitter quickly grew to 50,000 followers. And something called Eastwooding has taken off. Basically, cute pics of empty chairs.

A party and a campaign upstaged by a celebrity and a chair.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Oh, that famous chair. But the Romney campaign at this point is saying that hey, look, people loved it in the audience. It's not a big deal. We are moving on. The campaign charges ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez, thanks very much for that. We're going to be following some other stories right now, including an outbreak of a potentially deadly virus at one of the country's most popular national parks.

And later, some of the greatest hits from past presidential campaigns. How many will you recognize?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Erin Burnett. She's "OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin, first of all, give us a little preview of what's -- what's coming up?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, sad not to be sitting next to you, Wolf. It looks good there in Charlotte. But we're back home here, and we're going to be talking about Ben Bernanke. I don't know if you've heard today, Wolf, he made a big speech defending -- I mean viciously, vigorously defending his record in terms of providing easy money to the U.S. economy. He says that, you know, thanks to some of his quantitative easing which has totaled trillions of dollars, we have 2 million more jobs in this country than we would otherwise.

Well, we did the math. How many -- how many dollars per job would that be? One million dollars. One million dollars for every job created. Was it worth it? It's a crucial question.

And he is the man, of course, Wolf, that could determine who wins the election, if he decides to start spending more money between now and November. So we're calling him the king maker. We're going to get into the real details of what he could do and that million-dollar jobs number.

Plus, Wolf, we had a special investigation a week ago about the GSA, you know, the division of the U.S. government that is charged with creating a more transparent, more efficient, less profligate U.S. government, shall we say? We have an investigation showing that we've got employees from Hawaii who work at home who work for the Kansas City office and transit back and forth with taxpayer money. Does that make sense? Drew Griffin had been waiting for months to try to get more invest -- more information from the GSA, Wolf, on how much money is being spent, and he has finally gotten details and they are shocking. Coming up, top of the hour.

BLITZER: Important two stories. While I still have you.

BURNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: And we'll be sitting next to each other next week, down -- down there behind me here in -- here in Charlotte.

BURNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: What did you think of the Republican convention in Tampa? You had a bird's eye view. You were right there on the floor. You were upstairs. What did you think?

BURNETT: You know, I enjoyed it. I have to say it was funny, Wolf, sitting there with you, and you said they're a lot more organized than the Democrats are. They really kept to their time. It was very organized. Things happened when they were supposed to happen.

And people seemed to be, I felt, having a good time and really getting behind their candidate. That's how it felt to me.

BLITZER: Except for -- except for that Clint Eastwood. That was not very well-organized.

BURNETT: No.

BLITZER: You and I were sitting there and listening to him. And I was mumbling to myself as I was watching it. It was painful; it was embarrassing. This is awkward. This is not the way it's supposed to be. And I was looking to see if he was reading a teleprompter or not. He clearly wasn't. He was just vamping or whatever...

BURNETT: Rambling, yes.

BLITZER: Yes.

BURNETT: Wolf, you were. You were muttering under your breath. And then we turned and looked.

BLITZER: I know.

BURNETT: For viewers, Wolf and I were sitting probably -- I don't know, Wolf, what was it, 30 feet away from the VIP box, so we were able to sort of see from the side the Romney clan reaction which was...

BLITZER: They weren't happy either.

BURNETT: It was anything but happy.

BLITZER: They were squirming. It was awkward. It was not -- everything else was pretty well-organized.

BURNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: It was on time. That was a blunder, obviously.

All right. I'll see you here in Charlotte. You're getting ready to come down. I'm here. All right, thanks very much.

BURNETT: All right, see you soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: See you.

All right, the government takes emergency action to keep the oil flowing after Hurricane Isaac. Lisa Sylvester is tracking that and some of the other stop stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Energy Department will loan one million barrels of sweet crude from its reserve to Marathon Petroleum. One of Marathon's refineries has been operating at a reduced rate in the wake of the storm Isaac. The department says it's keeping all options open to address supply issues.

And Facebook stock fell to a new low today after analysts lowered their price targets. Analysts say the expiration of several lockup periods when company insiders and major stock holders can sell their shares is also a concern. Reuters is reporting the social network's stock fell more than 5 percent to $18.06. Shares have been steadily falling since Facebook's high-profile IPO in May.

And the CDC says 10,000 people who stayed at Yosemite National Park this summer may be at risk for the deadly hanta virus. Two people have died and four more are reported infected in California. The virus is a rare lung disease, and it's presented in rodent droppings and saliva. It spreads to people when they breathe in contaminated air.

And astronaut Neil Armstrong was buried in a private family service today in Ohio, the first man to set foot on the moon. He died Saturday at the age of 82.

And in a statement, his family said, quote, "The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

And interestingly enough, Wolf, tonight happens to be a full moon. So when you look up there tonight, think of Neil Armstrong. Wolf, that's a beautiful moon by the way. That's a beautiful, beautiful picture that they pulled out for us, a gorgeous moon.

BLITZER: Very nice indeed. All right, good point, thanks very much. A true, true American hero. It's music to political ears. We're going to listen to some of the most memorable campaign theme songs. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Michelle Obama says everybody should watch the party conventions, but this week she admitted to David Letterman she hasn't been watching the Republicans'.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I, as the wife of the guy they're running against, I tend not to watch it, but I think it's important for everyone to watch these conventions. Because this is the time where you get to know the party. You understand the platform. You understand the candidates. You know, this is technically where the campaign begins.

So I think it's very important for everyone to watch as much of both conventions as possible to make their decisions. I -- I didn't watch it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Every political convention has a soundtrack. The Republican meeting in Tampa was certainly no exception. Campaign theme songs are as telling about the times as they are about the candidate. We listen to some of the greatest hits with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMNEY: That hasn't started a business. They need a president who respects and understands what they do. And let me make this very clear: unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Ike for president. Ike for president. You like Ike. I like Ike. Everybody loves Ike for president.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I love these old songs. They are so fun. And politics should be fun as well as serious business. And to the extent that we can share in part of that fun, I think we're better off with a chance for the leadership to really do something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Get on the winning boat. The man with the friendly smile will get the honest vote.

GOODWIN: One of my favorite songs, 'cause it's just such a crazy distance between the meaning of the songs and the words is "get on a raft with Taft." Now, Williams Howard Taft weighed at times 320 or 350 pounds. If you got on a raft with...

(SINGING) ... get on a raft with Taft... (SPEAKING) ... you wouldn't be on that raft very long. What were they thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): If he's good enough for Lindy, he's good enough for me. Herbert Hoover is the only man can keep our country free.

GOODWIN: The song for Hoover, it's, you know...

(SINGING) ... if he's good enough for lindy, he's good enough for me...

(SPEAKING) ... meaning that Hoover was supported by Charles Lindbergh, who was such a figure, a hero for having flown across the Atlantic. It's hard to imagine if there's anybody today, you know, if he's good enough for "XX," he's good enough for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again.

GOODWIN: Roosevelt and his supporters had such a sense of optimism about if we can get into the leadership role, we will make things OK again, as tough as they seem. So how bizarre and yet perfect.

(SINGING) Happy days are here again...

(SPEAKING) ... becoming the Roosevelt motto and the Roosevelt song. Because it made people really believe, if this guy gets in, things will really be better. And indeed, it turned out to be true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Vote Nixon. Remember Dick Nixon.

GOODWIN: Nixon's slogan throughout the 1960s was "Nixon's the one." It was a slogan, and then it also became a song. So the Democrats would like to tease him at times.

So in rallies, Republican rallies, the Democrats dressed up a series of maybe 20, 30 nuns looking pregnant, and they each carried a sign saying "Nixon's the one." The idea of Nixon impregnating nuns is so hysterical that you can't not be mad at it. It was something about the dirty tricks they played in the old days that weren't as mean- spirited. I mean, that's so absurd that you have to laugh. You can't be mad, even, at it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Nixon's the one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Music has changed over the years.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.