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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rahm Emanuel; Bill Clinton Headlines Democratic National Convention
Aired September 5, 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 want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
We are live from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, this, the second day of the convention. It kicked off about an hour ago.
I am Wolf Blitzer reporting.
Just moments ago, we got our hands on what excerpts of what former President Bill Clinton is expected to say later tonight when he hits the stage.
Let's get right to the floor. CNN's Dana Bash is standing by.
What are you hearing, Dana? What's going on?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right.
We do have the first excerpts what the former president is going to say. Let's just give them to you right now. I think we have them the put up on the screen.
He is going to say: "In Tampa the Republican argument against the president's reelection was pretty simple. We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up. So fire him and put us back in. I like the argument for President Obama's reelection a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators."
That really is the crux of what we were hearing beforehand, that he will lay out the contrast, as the Democrats believe only Bill Clinton can do, but also from the point of view of somebody who has experience of rebuilding the economy.
I want to read one other excerpt we just got, this is really a line that they hope will sell Barack Obama again to the country. "The most important question is what kind of country do you want to live in. If you want a you're on your own, winner take all society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility, a we're all in this together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
Those are the two themes at least that the Clinton folks, Bill Clinton himself and the Obama campaign want us to seize on heading into the speech which he will give in about four hours from now right at that podium behind me.
BLITZER: We will be watching, obviously. A lot of folks will be watching the former president of the United States. Dana, thanks very much.
This convention on day two went dramatically off script just about an hour or so ago when a change to the party platform sparked a noisy protest on the convention floor.
Let's go to Jessica Yellin and she has got the details.
Jessica, tell our viewers what happened.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
As the convention was gaveled into session, they altered the party platform to add in some changes. The two most controversial changes from 2008 were the fact that it lost Jerusalem as -- recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and it had lost recognizing, using the name God, God-given rights in the language in the platform.
By acclamation, they added those two additions back into the platform tonight. There were some boos and some of the delegates seemed to disapprove. I am told they seem to be disapproving of the addition of God back in.
But my latest reporting is that the president himself intervened to change this language. The president was bothered by the fact that they removed Jerusalem, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because he wanted to affirm his strong support for the security of Israel and to focus in the words of one top Democrat on Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, that those are the issues and that the president stands steadfastly with Israel.
Clearly, it is not just a policy issue but a political issue as well during an election season in which all these issues can be political footballs, and that the president also wanted to add the word God back in because as one person tells me his reaction when he heard it was gone was -- quote -- "Why on earth was it taken out?"
So, the president himself getting involved in the party platform and a change tonight here at the Democratic Convention, Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's no answer, Jessica, as far as I know why on earth was the word God taken out of that? Who was responsible for that?
YELLIN: Well, you know, these things happen in committees and hearing rooms with party officials when the highest levels of staffers are not always engaged. I will work on getting you the answer to exactly who was the person or persons that took it out. But right now, the president himself is the one we know that got it put back in.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin working her sources for us, as she always does. Thanks. I will see you in a few minutes.
One of the biggest challenges facing Democrats in the coming weeks is fund-raising in the party and the super PACs. They continuing to lag behind Republicans when it comes to pulling in campaign cash.
Now one familiar face is in charge of trying to close the gap.
Joining us now, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff at the White House to the president.
RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: What's this new role you're doing fund-raising for the president? Talk a little bit about that, because I remember in '92, you were a big fund-raiser for Bill Clinton's campaign. In those days, the dollars were a lot less than they are right now.
EMANUEL: You think?
BLITZER: Yes. But tell us what you're about to do.
EMANUEL: Well, look, there's 61 days left in the campaign.
And the question is would I be more helpful to the president's reelection co-chair of the campaign or helping Priorities, and not his campaign, but his efforts. And so I am going to try to help him.
BLITZER: Priorities USA, the super PAC.
BLITZER: So you're not going to be directly involved in the campaign. You're going to be working in a super PAC with Bill Burton, Paul Begala and the others.
BLITZER: Why has Priorities USA, the Super PAC, done so poorly compared to the Republican super PACs?
EMANUEL: A lot more special interest money on the other side.
BLITZER: You used to do well with all the big fat cats on Wall Street. That sort of disappeared.
EMANUEL: It is what it is. I think this decision by the Supreme Court, worst decision by a court in the last 50 years. BLITZER: The Citizens United decision.
EMANUEL: Citizens United.
BLITZER: But that's the law of the land. You have to deal with it.
EMANUEL: And that's what we're doing.
BLITZER: Tell us what you are going to do for Priorities USA.
EMANUEL: It's very simple. I can either stay as co-chair of the campaign or help them. I'm helping them. It is not really that more complicated.
BLITZER: So in the next 60 days between now and the election, you will be raising as much money for Priorities USA as you possibly can?
BLITZER: Because the Republicans and Romney campaign have been raising a lot more money lately than the Obama campaign.
BLITZER: But their super PACs have been doing a lot better too.
EMANUEL: Yes. And I am going to try, if I can, whatever effort I can do, narrow the difference, make the change, I'm going to do.
BLITZER: All right, so walk us through how do you do that?
EMANUEL: I just got started. I will let you know. How about this? I will come back in a couple weeks and we will talk about it.
BLITZER: You go to fund-raisers, dinner, get on the phone?
EMANUEL: A lot of this is kind of one-on-one conversations.
BLITZER: Can the president win if you don't do what you're about to do, raise a ton of money? How close is this election?
EMANUEL: It is a very close election.
BLITZER: How important is money?
EMANUEL: Well, resources are always important. But they don't trump a message. They don't trump interest in a candidate.
The public is not very excited about Mitt Romney. I would rather have the public feel about a candidate like they feel about Barack Obama and President Obama and his leadership and what he is done. I think that's important.
You can accept certain imbalances, you can't accept the type of imbalances that exist today, and I am going to try to level the playing field.
BLITZER: I sense a little worry right now, right?
EMANUEL: I am Jewish. We are born worried. So, no. I think it is a tight race. I am not saying anything new here, Wolf. It is not insightful.
Ready? It's going to be a tight race, a few voters, down to a few states. You already have some of the -- quote, unquote -- "battleground states" that are now kind of peeling off because they're starting to go back to their kind of election DNA, so to say, electorate DNA.
So it is going to come down to a few voters in a few states, it will be a concentration on those efforts. I think that's where I want to make sure we can be helpful.
BLITZER: You are unique in this situation because not only were you chief of staff to this president, President Obama, you had a high role in...
EMANUEL: Senior adviser.
BLITZER: To President Clinton.
BLITZER: Back in his first term.
EMANUEL: Second term, senior adviser...
BLITZER: You were a political adviser as well.
EMANUEL: Special projects, correct.
BLITZER: You know both of these men quite well. Listen to what President Clinton said in June.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A man who's been governor, and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.
But they have dramatically different proposals, and it is my opinion anyway that the Obama proposals and the Obama record would be far better for the American economy and most Americans than those that Governor Romney has laid out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Those words, that Romney had a sterling business career, given the fact that the Obama campaign, the super PACs have been going after his business career at Bain Capital, raises questions about tonight and this president, President Clinton. Does he go sometimes off message? Will he tonight?
EMANUEL: First of all, let me say something. You said I worked for both presidents. Both presidents faced fierce oppositions from the Republicans.
Not a single Republican voted for President Clinton's first budget to lay the groundwork for the economic recovery. Not a single Republican supported President Obama's first budget. Both presidents wanted to make major investments in education, health care, energy, the environment. They were fought tooth and nail.
President Clinton faced Republican opposition that actually tried to shut the government down and did for a little while. And after the election, they got a balanced budget. The Republicans have actually at every step of the way when it came to any initiatives the president had on jobs...
EMANUEL: Wait a second. You asked a question.
There's a parallel to their politics and there's a parallelness to the policies they pursued.
BLITZER: Here's a difference, though, because I covered -- I was there at the White House covering it.
EMANUEL: You were? Is that where I met you?
BLITZER: Yes. When Bill Clinton lost in '94, he then moved to the center.
EMANUEL: He didn't lose. He lost the House, correct.
BLITZER: When he lost the House, and lost the majority, the Contract With America, Newt Gingrich became the speaker, he moved to the center and he worked with them, welfare reform and all sorts of other issues.
The argument is this president, President Obama, didn't move to the center and embrace this kind of compromise.
EMANUEL: First of all, President Clinton vetoed two Republican welfare bills because they were dramatic wrong direction policies.
The bill that signed were the bills that President Clinton had to be done. President Obama when he was a state senator actually designed the state's welfare to work initiative. Number two, the real story of the last 20 years is the radicalization of the Republican Party. It is not the same Republican Party of Bob Dole, Bob Packwood, Senator Chafee. This is an entirely different Republican Party than the one you grew up on.
BLITZER: You had to deal with Newt Gingrich.
EMANUEL: Are you saying...
BLITZER: He's still around.
EMANUEL: That's right.
And my point is the '90s was not exactly black and white "Ozzie & Harriet" type movie where everybody got along. I remember specifically they literally shut down the government at that point. Same kind of politics of opposition, ideology over working together, and their determination.
And, in fact, Bob Dole and other Republicans have even said about this party they better start becoming more inclusive rather than exclusive the way they have been operating, more tolerant rather than intolerant.
From leaders of the Republican Party about their own party, given where it is today, one. Two, President Clinton voted for President Obama and will vote for him and campaign for him again. The policies they pursued are the same policies I worked for in the sense of rethinking government, investing in key areas, like education, health care, the environment, energy, that will pay long term and immediate term, job term benefits for the United States.
BLITZER: Looking forward to his speech tonight.
EMANUEL: So am I. I am excited.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.
EMANUEL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We are geared up for complete, complete coverage. It is the second night of this Democratic National Convention here in Charlotte.
I am down on the convention floor. The Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, meanwhile, has been speaking to our own Piers Morgan and says one of the president's claims is -- he says it defies logic. Piers is standing by to join us.
And we're gearing up for tonight's headliner, the former President Bill Clinton. You will see his speech on CNN later this evening.
BLITZER: We are back here on the floor of the Time Warner Cable Arena here for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. This room is beginning to fill up big time. Democrats here in Charlotte maintain President Obama saved the country from fiscal disaster and prevented a bad situation from becoming even worse.
But the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, says that flies in the face of the facts. Listen to what Ryan told CNN's Piers Morgan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": You have to give President Obama a bit of time just to get things back on track. Their argument is, look, once we got things back on track, we have now had well over 20 months of consecutive job growth. The stock market is beginning to soar again, et cetera, et cetera.
You have heard the argument. How much of a pass do you give them, given you, yourselves, believe that what happened at the end of President Bush's tenure was pretty catastrophic?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I mentioned, you have to give President Obama the fact that he inherited a very difficult situation.
But, Piers, I think he made things worse. Look, usually when we have a deep recession in America, we come bounding out of it with fast economic growth and quick job creation. We did that after the '81, '82 recession with Ronald Reagan. We did that after the tough '70s recession we had.
We are limping out of the recession right now. Economic growth is stagnant, job creation is stagnant. The labor force participation rate is stagnant. The unemployment rate today is higher than it was at this time in the Carter era. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in July of 1980. Today it has been above 8 percent for 42 months. To make the argument that they're putting us on the right track I think just defies logic. It just -- it flies in the face of the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And Piers is joining us now live.
Piers, what else did Paul Ryan have to say?
MORGAN: I thought it was a really fascinating conversation because what he was clearly trying to do was position the relationship between President Clinton and the Republicans in a much fairer and mutually beneficial light than he wanted to portray the relationship between Barack Obama and the modern-day Republicans.
And listening there to Rahm Emanuel, slightly pooh-poohing that, saying, hang on, we had our problems, too. But I do think there's a certain merit to the fact that Newt Gingrich regularly told me, for example, that he and Bill Clinton would get a room together, chuck all the advisers out, and then just do deals. They would make the compromises. You don't see much of that happening between Barack Obama and John Boehner or any of the senior Democrats and Republicans. So Paul Ryan was very I think mischievously trying to say, look, if only Bill Clinton was president again, we would be doing all these deals.
I put quite an intriguing question to him, though, Wolf, which I thought was quite an intriguing answer that came back, which was, OK, if you start comparing like with like, do you really believe after eight years of George Bush's presidency, the American people were better off than they were at the end of Bill Clinton's, because by any real economic yardstick, the truthful answer is no, they weren't.
And he sort of stumbled over it and he didn't really give a firm answer, but certainly didn't deny you could paint that picture. When it came to his claim about unemployment, for example, and linking it back to Carter, what he didn't say, of course, was unemployment when George Bush left the presidency was the same as it had been under Carter, 7.8.
Not much difference really there. I think the election will come down to who you believe most. Do you think Barack Obama has improved albeit in quite a small way the fortunes of the American people or do you think Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney can successfully argue they have had four years and they should have done better than this?
BLITZER: You make a good point. You said he stumbled when you said that President George W. Bush inherited a pretty good economy, an excellent economy when he took office, budget surpluses as far as the eye could see, and unfortunately things went down as far as national debt is concerned, and it doubled from $5 trillion to $10 trillion.
He did not have a good answer why President Obama inherited an awful economy and he has had to deal with that. What did he say about President Bush?
MORGAN: He didn't really want to get too much into it. I kept pressing him a few times about it because I think it is a very important question to put to them, which is to try to understand how successful Barack Obama has been in reviving the economy, you have to understand the depth of what he inherited, and be fair and impartial about it, which neither side really wants to be.
The Democrats I think play out it down too far. The Republicans play it up too much. The reality is I suspect that any government, any government that took over from what George Bush had left in those catastrophic last few months would have found it very, very tough to get anything going in a positive way, probably for at least a year.
So the real comparison I think that's probably fairer is has Barack Obama improved the lot of the average American after his first year in the next three years? And there I think the Democrats have a much more compelling argument. Look at the auto industry and so on to say, you know what, once we were able to stabilize things, we haven't done too badly.
BLITZER: Piers, thanks very, very much. I want to just alert our viewers in our next hour, Piers will have an even longer excerpt of his interview with the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.
Don't forget, at midnight tonight, Piers is live, once again, a special edition of "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" from the CNN Grill at midnight tonight.
Day two of the convention is now under way. There are moments that we're going to the floor, take things live standing by. We're going to hear what is going on. We're looking ahead to Bill Clinton's speech later tonight. CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by with our political panel as well. They're coming up next.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
I'm here on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
Let's go up to the CNN skybox right now. Anderson Cooper is standing by with an excellent panel -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Wolf, I am joined of course by chief national -- all our contributors, really, Democratic strategist Paul Begala, former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, CNN chief national correspondent John King, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and senior political analyst David Gergen.
Paul, you have been I believe in touch or aware of what President Clinton is doing.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have. I have spoken to sources close to the former president.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Paul spoke to himself.
COOPER: What are you hearing about the speech?
BEGALA: It is a robust defense of President Obama and his term. I think President Clinton is one of the great counterpunchers that I have ever known, not always best at throwing the first punch.
But I think he really liked hearing the Republican argument and then trying to make the counterargument. I think that's what he wants to do tonight. He wants to say this guy has actually done a great job, and by the way, he is facing terrible headwinds.
COOPER: Will people call it an attack speech?
BEGALA: No. I wish, but no, not enough Begala in it for me.
No, it actually -- I think, you know, Gergen has worked on a million of these when he worked for President Clinton and other presidents. It is more wonky than most convention speeches we're used to. It's not the red meat. There's a time and place for that.
But he is a former president. Voters, especially the one we're trying to reach, think he did a very good job on the economy. He will try to walk through on a real policy level why this guy has done a great job and why he ought to get a second term.
COOPER: It's interesting, David.
I think in the past, former President Clinton said he likes a good speech to be like jazz, sort of impromptu in the middle, which is the kind of thing that strikes fear into the hearts of convention organizers. Do you expect any jazz tonight?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's probably what the Obama people are a little bit worried about.
But Paul will remember, when he was the president, often speechwriters would give him a speech about half as long as the time allotted to the speech, because he would riff the rest of the time and you wanted to let him go on that.
I don't think he will do that tonight, honestly. But I am not sure it will be on the teleprompter in time.
COOPER: It is fascinating, the relationship, often contentious, you think four years ago, than candidate Obama in his campaign did not like a lot of things Bill Clinton was out there saying on the stump.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was incredibly contention and personal when Bill Clinton's wife was a candidate for president against Senator Barack Obama.
When the campaign was over, there was bad blood that lingered. Welcome to life, welcome to politics. However, I think too much drama is made at the convention that will this be a secret Hillary in 2016 speech. She said she's done at the end of this term. I don't buy that, I'm not sure, we will see what happens, whether President Obama wins or loses.
She will leave government and make an assessment about what to do next. But Bill Clinton is a Democrat, Bill Clinton is a former president. There's a former president's club that's nonpartisan, you might say. Plus, I think he understands the challenge this guy faces.
One other point, they're both benefiting here. President Obama gets a guy that created 23 million jobs. You heard the number four million last night, they were bragging out that -- 23 million jobs. People out there may remember that. He gets to talk about the economy, and he gets to talk about I know what a good economy is and I understand the problems this president has faced, he is doing a good job, he's fighting for you.
And Bill Clinton gets what he wants, which is that stage and a national spotlight to say I still matter. Remember the I'm still relevant press conference.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do remember that.
KING: He's still relevant.
COOPER: I want to read you something that Maureen Dowd said, Gloria.
She said, "Obama needs his Democratic predecessor to reassure jittery voters that the future can look like the past, with a lower deficit, plenty of jobs and the two parties actually talking. In return, Bill will have the capital to try to ensure that the past can look like the future, with Hillary as Obama's successor."
BORGER: Look, I think, and, Paul, correct me if I am wrong, Bill Clinton would like nothing more to see his wife maybe run for the White House again, right? Yes.
BEGALA: One thing more, repeal the 22nd Amendment and let him run.
BORGER: But I think, look, these two men are never going to be close buddies.
This is a transactional relationship, as everyone calls it. He's got a job to do. And he is the best explainer there is in politics. He can explain why the American public should have patience and give the president some more time to get this done. And he can explain welfare reform.
COOPER: Which has been a very effective tool the Republicans have been using to hit back -- to hit back at Obama about, saying that he's basically changing welfare reform. You think the president is going to rebut that?
FLEISCHER: Yes, I suspect he would. That's a good back and forth fight between the two parties. But it also underscores something that Bill Clinton did that Barack Obama has been unable to do, and that's work positively constructively with the Republicans in Congress.
Welfare reform is a Republican initiative. President Clinton signed it. One of the reasons we had job growth in the 1990s and 23 million jobs, was Bill Clinton signed into law a capital gains tax cut that was written by Republicans, a $500 per child tax credit crafted by Republicans, marriage penalty relief.
He worked with a Republican Congress. He was a former governor. He knew how to cut deals; he knew how to work with the other party. President Obama is much more aloof, won't engage, hasn't done what Bill Clinton was able to do in a bipartisan way.
BORGER: And that was a different Republican Congress, Ari, at the time.
FLEISCHER: Do you think that John Boehner is harder to work with than Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey and Tom DeLay?
BORGER: Yes. I think their caucus may be very different.
COOPER: We should just point out people are standing right now. It's not for a Pledge of Allegiance or anything. They're actually taking a photograph, one of those panoramic photographs of everybody in the hall. So that's why people...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we do that? Smile.
COOPER: We'll have the back of our heads in there.
KING: Another important point to know. It's important to go through each of the issues. But there's also a broader political thing. Bill Clinton is very popular still, even frankly, more popular now than when he left office with a constituency where President Obama has consistently struggled...
KING: White working-class voters; in southern Ohio, in the rural areas of Virginia and North Carolina. You know, Bill Clinton was able to win in the south, the Arkansas connection, but in places where the president struggles and Joe Biden is actually part of their weapon, Bill Clinton is stronger.
GERGEN: Yes, but...
FLEISCHER: But is it transferable?
KING: That's a huge question.
GERGEN: I think Gloria is on the right track here because Clinton is the best in politics at framing a choice, at framing an election. What is it all about? There's no one, I think, who equals him right now. And that's the good segue; that's the springboard for Barack Obama. He -- his speeches tended to be the setup for Obama. And it serves both of them well. COOPER: Let me ask you. Ari raises a point of -- that Bill Clinton was better at reaching across the aisle, at making deals. Whose fault is that? Is that the fault of President Obama, who's not a Bill Clinton back slapper? Or is it the fault of the Republicans who are more entrenched than they were in the '90s?
FLEISCHER: I know Bill Clinton. I did not work with Bill Clinton, and he is not President Obama. They are just cut from different cloths; different people.
And you know, there's this notion that Republicans won't compromise or it's harder today. On the big deal that did get cut to temporarily avoid a debt limit crisis, Boehner-Obama deal, 50 percent of the Democrats voted for him and two-thirds of the House freshmen voted for it.
So there's also a problem with Republicans are more willing to work with him. Democrats aren't. And he is not good like Bill Clinton was at bridging those gaps.
BORGER: I think -- I think it's a very different group of Republicans now. I think Boehner worries about bringing his caucus along with him, that he can cut a deal, but he can't sell it.
BEGALA: They did -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for goodness sakes. When I was working in the White House, they impeached him. They spent, the House Republicans, spent two years investigating President Clinton's Christmas card list. I kid you not. So it was an enormously partisan time and yet, they did get things done.
This president has taken the Republican position on the health care individual mandate, not the Democratic position of single payer public option. That wasn't good enough. He took the Republican position on cap and trade. Clinton, we had a tax on that. He takes the Republican position because the Republicans don't meet him halfway.
COOPER: Let's check in with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. We're going to take a quick break. There's activity going on here on the convention floor. Much more of our coverage from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte right after this.
BLITZER: New York Senator Chuck Schumer is really going after Mitt Romney right now. Let's listen in.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Mitt Romney's only bottom line is the one at the end of his own bank statement.
What's the problem? The problem is that Mitt Romney confuses his own narrow self-interests and that of people like him with the national interest. He thinks, as long as we do right by the Mitt Romneys of the world, America will be just fine. We can't afford a president with so narrow a perspective.
We certainly want those at the top to do well. But if you base your entire presidency and your entire economic platform on helping them do even better, you're missing what makes the economy tick. Because not everyone has been as fortunate as Mitt Romney. You cannot base your whole approach on a life experience as rarified as his. If your focus is only on those like Mitt Romney, it's not going to help the economy or do enough for the middle class.
Now, there are so many reasons why Mitt Romney should not become president. But perhaps the most of all is the insidious narrowness of his experience, perspective and vision.
Now, Barack Obama has different priorities. He knows America does best when the middle class succeeds, not just those at the top.
On foreign policy, President Obama has kept our nation safe from terrorism. He's restored our standing in the world. When it comes to one of our closest allies, Israel, President Obama has been resolute. The two biggest threats to Israel are the threat of nuclear weapons from Iran and the launching of Hezbollah rockets from Lebanon. No president in history has done more to confront these threats. The president has imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Iran and provided record amounts of security to aid Israel.
Republicans always try to paint Democrats as weak on defense. This time they can't. After all, Mitt Romney's idea of an overseas accomplishment is sending U.S. jobs there.
Now, Barack Obama knows that to create an economy built to last, we need to focus on middle-class families. Families who stay up on Sunday nights, pacing the floor, like my dad did, while their children tucked in bed dreamed big dreams. Families who aren't sure what Monday morning will bring, but who believe our nation's best days are still ahead.
President Obama hasn't stopped fighting for those families, and now we need to fight for him. To those like Mitt Romney that want to take us backward, let us send a strong, strong message in Brooklyn -- in November. As we say in Brooklyn, fugeddaboutit.
COOPER: Listening to Chuck Schumer there, here from the CNN sky box. He was talking about Israel, and earlier on the floor, we saw a change to the Democratic Party platform, to mention Jerusalem again and the word "God," which for some reason was not in the platform before, had been taken out. What do you make of that, Paul?
BEGALA: That's an unforced error. I mean, these things are supposed to be scripted. The powers that be (ph) want them to be scripted. But somebody made a big mistake, both political and substantive.
Democrats believe in God and Democrats are pro-Israel and believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel and that America should recognize that by putting our embassy there. That was in -- both those references were in the '08 Obama platform. So I don't really blame -- I can't blame Barack Obama. He helped craft the platform in '08. So I think it was a staff error. The convention fixed it, and you know, it's embarrassing, but at least the Democrats fixed it. And, you know, now they can move on.
FLEISCHER: I'm not sure it's over, because there's one issue that remains, and that's how did it happen, who put it in, or who took it out, and what's the president's position now? If President Obama is asked, "What is your position, what is the capital of Israel," is he going to say Jerusalem or not? Because if he says no, as his press secretary has indicated the answer is no, they're going to be right back in the same platform soon. So a reporter is going to ask that question of the president. I don't think it's over.
KING: And here's the language. I have the language in front of me, the 2012 platform, the original language, which has now been amended to restore Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
But something else they changed from 2008, there was a reference to Israel as our quote, "strongest ally," unquote, in the Middle East. That language is gone. I was just in an e-mail exchange where the senior campaign official who said finally conceded that language was gone. He was trying to convince me it was in here somewhere. And we looked and we looked and we looked.
And then the response was, well, if you read this, is there any doubt that the president views Israel as our strongest ally? Guess what? The Romney campaign will have those doubts, and they will say where are those words, and where did they go?
Does this matter? Who knows. I would just remind you that Ari's former boss, George W. Bush, was elected thanks to 537 votes in the state of Florida and a Supreme Court majority. So if Florida is that close, does this matter?
COOPER: But it's interesting, because earlier two weeks ago Debbie Wasserman Schultz was making a big deal about the Republican Party platform saying that the Romney campaign wrote it, even though our reporters in the room -- wrote the abortion plank, even though our reporters in the room at the time pointed out, actually, that they did not. She was saying the platform is controlled by the candidate.
The Republicans can now turn around, using her own argument, and say did Barack Obama not want God or Jerusalem in the platform?
FLEISCHER: That's why I think it's not over. The natural thing to do is follow up with the president of the United States and ask that question.
BORGER: Well, but he has said...
BEGALA: If Ari or a journalist wants to ask the president do you believe in God, do you think Jerusalem is the capital, that's fine. But the difference is the Republicans did not change their platform which says a woman should have no right to choose, even if she is raped, even if she's a victim of incest.
BEGALA: Now I know Mitt Romney has a different position, but Mitt Romney did not have the courage in his convictions to change his platform on a very important issue to meet that.
BEGALA: Barack Obama has had his party change its platform to match his position, which is...
COOPER: Republicans will point out the platform actually did not say, did not mention rape or incest. It just left it blank, basically.
BEGALA: But it plainly excludes abortion in the case of rape. Not in the literal language. But if you read it, it excludes any exceptions to the ban...
COOPER: But Anderson, the president has...
BEGALA: ... except if it threatens the woman's life.
COOPER: The president has intervened here, though. I mean, Jessica Yellin, our chief White House correspondent, is reporting that on the God issue, the president said, quote, "Why on earth would that have been taken out?"
I mean, as you know, presidents don't pay attention or candidates don't pay attention to every line in their platform until it causes them some trouble.
FLEISCHER: Gloria, what did he say about Jerusalem? What did the president say on that?
BORGER: The amendment, they say, is the same as it was, except for that.
KING: Israel is the strongest ally. We would not be having this conversation. We'd not be talking about what Chuck Schumer or someone else just said about Mitt Romney or what somebody else said about Mitt Romney if Paul can tell you about the Clinton days.
Bill Clinton did have some differences with his Democratic Party. He changed the platform, because he was a different kind of Democrat, more moderate Democrat. They had some fights over this.
But you had a smart policy person who also understood politics reading every line and saying why are we doing this? Somebody in Obama campaign, if the president finds those changes so objectionable, how did they happen?
FLEISCHER: Also, how do -- how do you have a convention floor with 50 percent of the people here objected to calling Jerusalem the capital to put it back? There's a grass roots rank and file problem under way.
BEGALA: Five p.m. and the majority of delegates weren't here yet.
FLEISCHER: It was 50/50.
BEGALA: Robert's rules, two-thirds.
COOPER: We are going to be talking much more about this, no doubt about it.
Also coming up tonight, exclusive interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the address by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues.
BLITZER: Same-sex marriage is once again an election issue. But this time the Democratic Party and the president are coming down firmly on the side of extending marriage rights to gay couples. The question is what impact will this have come November?
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has been looking into this part of the story for us. Brianna, now that we have a distinct division between these two parties on gay marriage, what's the likely fallout?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, officially from a party standpoint, Democrats are for this. Republicans are against it. And even though there's been a changing attitude across the nation -- most Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage -- it's not quite that simple.
There are some Democrats and some independent voters who went for President Obama in 2008 who don't agree with this. And because of that, this social issue could be a factor in November.
KEILAR (voice-over): At this convention, Democrats are whole- heartedly embracing same-sex marriage in the very state that just passed a referendum banning same-sex marriage. Colorado's Jared Polis, the first openly gay person to be elected to a first term in Congress, spoke Tuesday.
REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: That's why we must continue bringing America together.
KEILAR: And just take a look at the entertainment lineup. Delta Ray, a North Carolina band slated to perform Thursday night, wrote the anthem opposing the same-sex marriage ban that passed here May 8. It was one day later that President Obama changed his stance on the hot- button issue.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
KEILAR: Four years ago when he was running for president, Obama held a different view.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Define marriage.
OBAMA: I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.
KEILAR: The president's change of heart has energized young voters and his base.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It absolutely makes me respect and support him ten times more. That's an issue for the bedroom, not for -- not for our courts.
KEILAR: Six out of ten Americans have a family member or close friend who is gay, and most Americans now support same-sex marriage. But it's also a divisive issue that could cost the president some votes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Obama. I haven't decided who I'm going to support for president this year. Marriage should definitely be within a man and a woman and should stay that way.
KEILAR: Republicans are hoping ads like this one, made by a conservative super PAC and running this week in North Carolina, will pull voters away from the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama is trying to force gay marriage on this country. That's not the change I voted for. Marriage is between a man and a woman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the change I voted for either.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can we do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can vote for someone with values.
KEILAR: But the Obama campaign is betting he gains more votes and campaign donations than he loses over this issue. The day after her big speech, Michelle Obama touted what her husband has done for gay and lesbian voters.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Whether it's passing hate crimes legislation or speaking out for the rights of all Americans to be able to do what Barack and I did and marry the love of our lives.
KEILAR: Now one potential complication here, Wolf, for President Obama is that in some states, including here in North Carolina, there are religious black voters who don't agree with same-sex marriage. On the flip side, as you know, President Obama enjoys almost universal support from black voters. So this election will really be a test of whether his position on same-sex marriage might dampen the enthusiasm of some of them.
BLITZER: As you know, yesterday, the first day of this convention, Brianna, the Democrats really doubled down in support of same-sex marriage, abortion rights for women, Obama care, clearly trying to rally that base to get out the vote. They don't want people to just stay home. They want them to actually vote.
KEILAR: That's right. And you saw, as well, Jared Polis speak yesterday and a number of speakers yesterday talking about same-sex marriage and rights for the LGBT community. There was quite the response, the reaction here on the -- here on the convention floor and in this arena. A lot of folks here in favor of that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar will be on the floor for us throughout this night, the second day of this convention.
Also, a star is born during last night's keynote speech. We're not talking about the person who was actually speaking, but his daughter. There she is. Stand by.
Also, stand by for complete coverage of night two of the Democratic National Convention, including an exclusive interview with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: The convention's keynote speaker upstaged by his own daughter. You'll understand why when you see what she did. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kids at conventions are loose cannons. So when the keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, referred to his 3-year-old...
JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO MAYOR: Carina Victoria.
MOOS: ... the cameras naturally went to her and caught her scratching and sticking out her tongue until she suddenly noticed herself on the big screen, as if it were a mirror.
CASTRO: And I found myself whispering to her as was once whispered to me, (SPEAKING SPANISH), may God bless you.
MOOS: As she flipped her hair, the tweets flew: "Ready for her close-up," "Work it, baby girl."
To her father's surprise, delegates were laughing at a part of his speech that wasn't supposed to be funny. As a "Chicago Tribune" reporter tweeted, "Carina Victoria Castro for Secretary of the ADORABLE." Next thing you know, her hair flipping was flipping around the Web, put to the pop hit by Will Smith's daughter, Willow.
WILLOW SMITH, SINGER (singing): I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth.
MOOS (on camera): And thus the girl dubbed "Little Miss Hair Flip" whipped her way into the annals of cute convention kids. The last time this happened, it involved licking rather than flipping.
(voice-over) Who could forget Sarah Palin's daughter, Piper...
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I knew their families, too.
MOOS: ... licking and slicking her baby brother's hair as Mom addressed the 2008 Republican convention?
Back at the hair flip for the ages, Carina was so mesmerized she almost forgot to join the standing ovation when her dad finished. While the applause was music to his ears, she covered hers.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And CNN's coverage of the Democratic National Convention continues right now.