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THE SITUATION ROOM
Convention Bounce For Obama; Yemen: #2 Al Qaeda Leader Killed; Osama bin Laden Raid; Taliban Targets Prince Harry; Compromise on Health Care; Air Force and TV Producers
Aired September 10, 2012 - 17:00 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. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: What a difference a week makes. President Obama went into the Democratic convention deadlocked with Mitt Romney, but our new poll shows he got an important boost from all the hoopla down in Charlotte. President Obama now leads Governor Romney 52 to 46 percent among likely voters nationwide.
That's up from a 48 to 48 tie before the Democratic convention. Let's go live to CNN's White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, who's watching all of this for us. I wonder if they're asking themselves over at the White House whether all the glow will last, Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm sure they are. A lot of people are asking that question, but I don't think anyone can really answer that now. We have to wait to see how the numbers take out over the coming weeks.
What's interesting though is that the president is getting this bump even though unemployment remains above eight percent, and the economy is still struggling to recover.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): In a race that's become about who can lock up key battleground states, President Obama moved to create more distance between his policies and his Republican opponents' plans during recent trips to New Hampshire, Iowa, and Florida.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What they are selling, we are not buying. We've been there, we've tried it. It's not working.
LOTHIAN: In the process, he's inching ahead of Governor Romney according to two recent surveys. The CNN/ORC poll has him up by six points. A Gallup tracking poll has him up by five. White House spokesman, Jay Carney, tried to downplay games by focusing on what has been a tight race. JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have always believed that this will be a very close race, and that it continues to be the president's belief as well as the belief of those around him. So, if that helps in terms of our assessment of things, that's how we view it.
LOTHIAN: And here's how the Romney campaign views it. This memo to supporters from its chief pollster, quote, "Don't get too worked up about the latest polling. While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar high from the convention, the basic structure of the campaign has not changed significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency and Mitt Romney will win this race."
The polls didn't appear to take any of the punch out of Governor Romney's stump speech.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Forward is his campaign's slogan. I think forewarned is a better term.
LOTHIAN: But it's more than just an uptick in the president's polling numbers. For the first time since April, the Democrats outraised Republicans. More than $114 million last month for the reelection effort, only $111 million for Governor Romney. The president's supporters are going out of their way to tout small donors as the engine of their fundraising efforts.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: We're getting this basic support of individuals across America who believe they have to rally for the president at this point, otherwise, the Super PACs are going to own the television stations.
LOTHIAN (on-camera): Now, the Romney campaign is trying to sway voters by making the argument that they are not better of now than they were four years ago, but the Obama campaign counters by saying that progress is being made but that a full recovery will take time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The president this coming week, any major events on his schedule that we should take notice of?
LOTHIAN: No big major events from the -- tomorrow, obviously, is 9/11. So, the president will be marking that somber anniversary. And of course, the president will be getting back out on the campaign trail later this week. And also next week again, the president will be hitting the road, continuing that theme of pushing for the middle class, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian at the White House, thanks.
The Congress is back in action, but not for long. Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill today after a five-week recess. Don't look for them to get much done before they leave on yet another break. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, what's the latest.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is you're right, there is so much unfinished business piled up here on Congress' plate, but with 57 days until the election, we expect Congress to spend their brief time back here in session. Doing a lot of politicking and legislating? Not so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House will be in order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate will come to order.
BASH (voice-over): Back to work after summer break with a long, long list of unfinished business and plenty of frayed election-year nerves, so much so that the House Chaplain opened the session praying for collegiality.
REV. PATRICK CONROY, HOUSE CHAPLAIN: Help each member to overcome unnecessary division that hamper productive work on behalf of our nation.
BASH: Not likely. Across the capital at the exact same time, the Senate Democratic leader started the day by going after Mitt Romney's running mate.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: The Ryan Math doesn't work with his budgets. It doesn't work with Medicare. It doesn't work with his tax plan.
BASH: The Senate's number two Republican used his time to rebut Democratic claims from their party convention last week.
SEN. JON KYL, (R) MINORITY WHIP: It is impossible to say that the tax cuts on the rich caused the recession.
BASH: There is bipartisan agreement that they don't want to be here. They'd rather be home campaigning for reelection. So, expect Congress to accomplish the bare minimum during the short two to three-week spurt of pre-election work, most importantly, averting a government shutdown.
Since Congress failed to send the president any of the dozen or so spending bills it's required to pass, leaders agreed to vote on a stopgap measure funding the government for six months at current spending levels. That's something Tea Party-backed Republicans who were elected to cut spending had vowed never to go along with.
Then, there's the Farm Bill, a five-year measure governing everything from farming to food stamps, which runs out at the end of this month. Sources in both parties expect at least a one-year extension and some help for drought-stricken cattle ranchers and farmers.
Yet even issues both parties want to address are trapped in partisan gridlock, cyber security, postal reform, even extending the Violence Against Women Act, which expires at the end of the year. Never mind the really tough stuff namely the so-called fiscal cliff on December 31st when Bush-era tax cuts expire and about $100 billion and mandatory spending cuts kick in unless Congress acts.
BASH (on-camera): And Congress is punting on those economic issues that really will have a huge impact on people's wallets until the election, mostly, according to sources in both parties, because they want to wait to see what the political landscape looks like after the election. Democrats hope if they do well, they'll have the upper hand. Republicans feel the same, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you know, Dana, if Congressman Paul Ryan will come back to Washington from the campaign trail to vote on any of these bills?
BASH: Our understanding is the answer is, yes. Kevin McCarthy, who is the House Republican whip, told reporters this morning that he does expect Mitt Romney's running mate to be back here to vote on the so- called continuing resolution, that stopgap measure to keep the government running.
It will be interesting to see how he votes. As a party leader, presumably, he will vote to keep the government running, but as somebody who is for fiscal discipline, a lot of Republicans say that they don't want to vote for it because it doesn't cut spending. So, interesting vote that he'd come back for it to do that.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Dana, thank you.
Let's go to Jack. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As Dana mentioned, Congress is back on the Hill, although, most of them aren't really there at all. Rather they're worried about themselves and Election Day and being reelected, they don't give a damn about you or about me. It's being re-elected, and Election Day is only two months away.
If it's at all possible for the atmosphere in Washington to get any worse, well, now's the time. And while the country's knee-deep in some serious problems, Congress is focusing on politics. What else is new? Look for a lot of meaningless hearings and votes on measures that both sides know won't pass.
The Republicans want to roll back automatic defense cuts, repeal Obamacare. The Democrats want to vote on a jobs bill that has no Republican support. Also, I expect a lot of these votes to echo themes that we're hearing out on the campaign trail courtesy a message Obama and Romney.
Pathetic is the word that sums up what these folks are all about. All this as the U.S. hangs at the edge of that fiscal cliff Dana was talking about. If Congress chooses to do nothing about the deep automatic spending cuts and the inspiring Bush tax cuts, economists say it's almost certain the country will be headed for another recession next year. Urgent matters, these, to which the response is, ready? The Senate might leave town again for another seven-week vacation as soon as September the 21st. But be sure to vote to reelect the incumbent in your state or your Congressional district because they're doing such a great job, aren't they?
Here's the question. Why is Congress so good at kicking the can down the road? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to the post on the SITUATION ROOM's" Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that.
Mitt Romney's math, can he lower taxes for the middle class, not raise them for the rich, and balance the budget? We're checking all the numbers.
Also, why the death of a top al Qaeda leader in the Middle East could be a really big deal for the United States?
BLITZER: These are live pictures from Chicago right now. Those are teachers. They're on strike right now. Chicago's public school teachers, they're on the picket lines instead of inside their classrooms on this day, and it's happening in the country's third largest school district, now about 350,000 students, 350,000 have nowhere to go.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Chicago. He's watching all of this. Ted, what's the status of the talks? What's going on?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the talks are ongoing, Wolf, which of course is a good thing. However, there's no indication that a deal is imminent, meaning most parents have come up with plan "B" and are expecting that their kids will be out of school again tomorrow.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): With their teachers on the picket lines, 350,000 Chicago schoolchildren spent the day either at home or at places like Sweet Holy Cross Church where the doors were open for kids to come to eat breakfast and lunch and watch movies.
ROWLANDS: At this point, money doesn't seem to be an issue. Teachers here make an average of more than $70,000 a year and have been offered a 16 percent raise over four years. The major sticking point is a proposed evaluation system that teachers believe will mean job losses. They also are striking, some say, because of the way they claim they're being treated.
STACEY DAVIS GATES, TEACHER UNION: Teachers are under pressure. Nationally, teachers are being demonized for the ills of society. Teachers need resources. They need support.
ROWLANDS: The focus of a lot of the anger on the picket line seems to be pointed directly at Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Some teachers believe he's turned his back on them, which he told us today couldn't be further from the truth.
You like teachers, right?
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, (D) CHICAGO: Of course. I love teachers, and they work in very difficult circumstance. This is not about me and it's not about anybody else. Let's focus on what the education system is about. It's about our children, their learning, their opportunity.
ROWLANDS: The board of education along with several community leaders have asked teachers to return to work while negotiations continue. There's no indication at this point that the union will go along with that, which means unless there's a deal reached soon, classrooms will be empty again tomorrow.
ROWLANDS (on-camera): Which of course, Wolf, puts a lot of pressure on the parents of those 350,000 kids because they do have to either stay home from work or find a place for their kids to go as this continues. If it continues for day after day, the pressure is also going to build on both sides for them to come together and make a deal.
BLITZER: I can only imagine those working parents, single parents who now have another problem they have to deal with. These are live pictures, Ted. These are teachers, they're on the picket line right now. Is that what we're seeing?
ROWLANDS: Yes, a live pictures of teachers. They've been picketing all day at different spots. Every school had picketers early in the morning, and then, what they have done is they've gone to different spots as groups.
And what you're seeing there is a larger group that is at the district administration building. They vow to keep picketing through the evening, vow to keep picketing every day until there's a deal here.
BLITZER: All right. Let's hope there's a deal soon. I feel bad for those teachers and parents and everyone else in Chicago. We'll stay in close touch, Ted, with you. Thank you.
It reads like a space novel. Code words, government property, and more than $100,000 in cash. Now, a New Jersey mayor is under arrest. You're going to find out how the FBI brought him down.
BLITZER: The mayor of New Jersey's capital now facing corruption charges. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what happened? LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. After a two-year investigation, FBI agents arrested Trenton mayor, Tony Mack, today. He's accused of accepting $119,000 in kickbacks from a purported developer to sell city-owned property well below the assessed value for a parking garage.
Court documents say Mack used code words to discuss the scheme on the phone. And Mack's brother and the business associate are also charged as they now face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted.
A British bomb squad investigated suspicious items and they found nothing hazardous in the home of a couple who were shot to death in the French Alps last week. A French cyclist was killed alongside the British-Iraqi engineer, his wife, and mother-in-law. The couple's two young daughters survived that shooting.
Police briefly evacuated neighbors as they investigated the couple's London area home. It's unclear what the motive was in that killing.
Florida police are mourning a veteran officer who was killed while helping escort President Obama's motorcade. Bruce St. Laurent, he was traveling through West Palm Beach yesterday when a Ford pick-up hits his motorcycle.
A White House spokesman says the president was notified, and he sent his thoughts and prayers to the St. Laurent family. The 55-year-old officer, he leaves behind a wife and four children.
And good news for sleep-deprived parents of newborns. A new study in the Journal Pediatrics says two sleep training methods can help without causing long-term emotional harm to the baby. With controlled comforting, the parents quite notice as ferberizing. Parents let the baby cry and respond at increasing intervals until the baby falls asleep.
And the other method, camping out. Parents sit near the crib and pat or stroke the baby and then they gradually move back out of the room. So, the bottom line, I know this is something a lot of new parents want to know. Is it OK to let your baby cry? That on the Journal of Pediatrics is saying, so far, no harm there.
BLITZER: So far. Key words, so far. Let's continue to watch it. Thank you.
Britain's Prince Harry targeted by the Taliban. He's deployed now in Afghanistan, and they say they'll do their best to capture or kill him.
BLITZER: Al Qaeda's affiliate of the Arabian Peninsula has apparently suffered a major blow. Yemen says its forces have killed the group's second in command pending DNA confirmation. The group was behind the attempted underwear bombing back on Christmas day, 2009.
Joining us now, CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the Homeland security adviser to President Bush. She serves on both the CIA and Homeland Security External Advisory Boards. This individual, al Shihri, how important, Fran, was this guy?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Hugely important, Wolf. He had been captured along the Afghan/pak border by U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo. He's a Saudi. And, he was held there in Guantanamo for many years. He was then repatriated back to Saudi, that's his country of origin, where he was put through a rehabilitation program.
And like many of rehabilitation programs in this country, it failed with him. He wound up then leaving the kingdom, sneaking out of the kingdom, going to Yemen and is essentially one of the founders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which we've heard government officials describe as the most direct threat to U.S. national interests around the world.
BLITZER: So, in the scheme of things, how much of a setback for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is this?
TOWNSEND: Tremendous, Wolf. I mean, look, he's one of the leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The major bombmaker best we can tell is still out there. But this will really, after Anwar al-Awlaki, al Shihri is probably the next most important individuals in that group. And so, it really does undermine the leadership of that group.
BLITZER: Is AQAP, al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, still considered a significant threat to the United States?
TOWNSEND: Absolutely, Wolf. You mentioned the underwear bomber, but remember, there was also the computer cartridge in the cargo plane, that plot. And there was the more recently disrupted plot of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well where they were going to try and get explosives on a plane.
And so, they've consistently tried to target the U.S. and U.S. aviation interests. And so, this is really -- I think it's an -- it will be an important victory, especially for Yemeni forces ifit turns out that the DNA confirmation comes through.
BLITZER: Let me switch gears to that Navy SEAL who's now written this already best-seller. He was featured on "60 Minutes" last night. He was obviously involved in the killing of Bin Laden. That's the cover of his book, "No Easy Day." Listen to what he said on "60 minutes."
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MATT BISSONNETTE, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: I'm not talking secrets. I'm not talking tactics. I don't even get into any of that stuff, but I really try and to give the reader a sense of what it's like to be there.
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BLITZER: All right. As a former homeland security adviser to a president of the United States, what's your assessment? A lot of damage, no damage, modest damage? What do you think?
TOWNSEND: Well, look, the Pentagon hasn't made sort of an official assessment yet. But, Wolf, what you can't have is each individual making judgments about whether or not what they're going to reveal is harmful in terms of revealing tactics or classified information. That's why there's a process.
That's why he signed a nondisclosure agreement that required him to have the Pentagon and the CIA vet this book before it was printed. There's an argument that there are tactics in there. And so, he may have to face consequences even if he made a good faith effort not to reveal them. What I find most interesting, Wolf, is he talked about -- this was a capture or kill operation.
One of the things we've not heard talked about is if that is indeed true, and I suspect it is, in fact, true. There would have been a capture plan. How were they going to transport him? Was he going to be -- was Bin laden going to be sedated in the helicopter? Where was he going to be taken from Jalalabad?
Was he going to be taken to Guantanamo? Was he going to be tried criminally? Those are questions, frankly now, that get raised as a result of his coming out and having -- making that statement.
BLITZER: He says his goal was merely to set the record straight for the American public. What do you make of that?
TOWNSEND: Wolf, look, this is one of the problems when you have a White House and politicians come out and give such an excruciating amount of detail which I, myself, found pretty dangerous. Look, it was a great victory, but what we didn't need to know was every nit and nat that the White House put out there.
When politicians and political people do that, you really invite this sort of reaction from the ground forces who really showed the courage and commitment to go out and actually execute the mission.
You know that he wanted to set the record straight, if he thought that the facts had been contorted by politicians is not surprising. It doesn't justify what he did. But I think political people have some responsibility here, where they put out as much detail as they did and somebody on the ground who was there could say, no, let me tell you what really happened.
BLITZER: I've heard everything said as far as what the government might do to take the royalty money, for example, take that away, confiscate that from this former Navy SEAL to actual criminal charges. What do you think?
TOWNSEND: You know Wolf, as a practical matter, I think all of those options are absolutely on the table. But as a practical matter, can you imagine -- first of all, Mark Owen (ph) has committed most of the profits to charity in support of fallen heroes and their families. Can you imagine a guy who put bullets in bin Laden we're going to try to criminally prosecute him, we're going to try and take the proceeds of the book out of the hands of a charity? He's been very smart about -- and slick about the way he went about it. And I frankly think the government is not going to want to be put in that position ultimately. So I think they're going to go back and look going forward as a training and policy matter, can they prevent this in the future? But I don't expect that they're going to be able to do very much to Mark Owen (ph).
BLITZER: Mark Owen (ph) being his pseudonym. His real name, and this had been reported Matt Bissonnet (ph). All right, thanks very much Fran for that.
Britain's Prince Harry is now on the front lines in Afghanistan piloting on attack helicopter, but he also apparently has become a target of the Taliban. Brian Todd is here. He's been looking into this store for us. It's a pretty worrisome story, Brian. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is no cushy deployment for the prince. British military officials say Prince Harry's helicopter unit will engage in close combat when needed. The Taliban are making a threat they often make when a VIP comes into their territory, but this does raise serious questions about the safety of the prince and those around him.
TODD (voice-over): He's called Captain Wales in the British military. To most of us, he's Prince Harry. To the Taliban, he's the enemy. With the prince's recent deployment to Afghanistan, the Taliban says it will try to capture him or kill him.
THOMAS SANDERSON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Clearly they have to make some sort of statement because here comes a high-profile target into their area.
TODD: Thomas Sanderson, an analyst who has traveled extensively in Afghanistan says there is a military need there for Prince Harry. He's an accomplished co-pilot and gunner in a squadron of Apache helicopters, a feared weapon that engages in close combat with militants often providing cover for allied forces under attack. Experts say Apache missions in Afghanistan are dangerous no matter who's on board, but --
(on camera): Does this put a bigger target on the backs of the soldiers and the forces around him among the British?
SANDERSON: I think there's a marginal increase in the threats. Certainly there are individuals in the Taliban who are going to run off and try and score this trophy. But I think that you know this will not translate into a wholesale change in Taliban tactics and operations to get Prince Harry.
TODD: A source with Britain's Ministry of Defense tells us they've thoroughly assessed the threat to Prince Harry and others around him. The source acknowledges that with the prince's arrival, the Taliban might have ratcheted up its intent to strike at British forces but says there's no intelligence to suggest they have any more capability of doing that than they normally have.
(voice-over): Prince Harry will be stationed at Camp Bastian (ph) in southern Helmand's (ph) Province, a Taliban stronghold. But our Defense Ministry source says Apaches often deploy three or four at a time. And it will be hard for Taliban forces to figure out which one he's on. CNN royal correspondent Max Foster says the prince has always wanted to be deployed and this might counterbalance recent headlines about him dancing naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: In the military, he's a different person. I think you're going to see nothing but professionalism from him in the military and perhaps it doesn't harm seeing him in a uniform and being professional instead of at a party in a hotel room.
TODD: This is scheduled to be a four-month deployment to Afghanistan. Prince Harry served briefly there four years ago there but he was quickly withdrawn out of concern for his safety when news of his deployment to a small forward operating base was leaked -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The British have been pretty much key players in this attack helicopter warfare that's been going on in various places.
TODD: That's right. A British military source says that they had 22 very dangerous missions over Libya during that conflict. In addition to all the missions they've flown over Afghanistan, the British, according to Thomas Sanderson, have never lost an Apache helicopter in any of these wars. But make no mistake, they fly very aggressive missions and this is a dangerous deployment for him.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope that Prince Harry is OK. Let's hope all of those troops, all of the NATO troops are OK as well. Thanks very much, Brian.
Mitt Romney is promising to cut individual tax rates for everyone. We're taking a closer look at his plan to see how the numbers are stacking up.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney raised some eyebrow this weekend when he seemed to suggest he'd be open to keeping at least parts of President Obama's health care overhaul. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here. Gloria, it wasn't that long ago you sat down with Mitt Romney for the documentary "Romney Revealed" and you spoke about health care reform with him. It was a fascinating conversation.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It was. And we really talked about health care reform in Massachusetts, which, as you recall Wolf, he passed with a bipartisan majority. And I asked him whether that would be a governing model if he were to win the presidency. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORGER: So you'd work with Democrats in Congress?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, sure. Sure. You've got to -- you've got to be able to work with people across the aisle who may have differences on policy but who agree in terms of the goal because ultimately, you can convince each other. You can find that there's common ground. There are a lot of places, by the way, you can't. You just say you know we're just going to have to agree to disagree, but there are other places where --
BORGER: Tax cuts --
ROMNEY: There are other places you can say look this -- I think for instance we can agree that Social Security is fine for current retirees and near retirees. But for people in their 20's, we've got to come up with a better way to make sure Social Security will be there for them. I think Democrats agree with that. Republicans agree with it. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill (ph) agreed with that and worked out ways to keep Social Security going for present generations. We have to be able to do the same on important issues. I was able to do that in Massachusetts. There are some lessons I learned in doing that and if I go to Washington, absolutely. I expect to have a very close working relationship with leading Democrats and probably some coalitions of Democrats and Republicans that care about issues I care very deeply about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Gloria, how are conservatives going to react to that?
BORGER: Not so much. You know they heard him over the weekend talking about keeping parts of the president's health care reform plan. Here he's talking about working with Democrats. This is clearly -- his target is independents. But conservatives, Wolf, as you know from covering those primaries that conservatives are very skeptical about Mitt Romney to begin with. He was careful in my conversation, I should say, to say that there are areas we're just going to have to agree to disagree. But he did talk about working with Democrats. One of the areas, of course, they will have to agree to disagree is the question of extending the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy which he has said there is absolutely no compromise there. But conservatives hearing these words, combined with his words over the weekend, are going to say, you know what, maybe he's not the severely conservative candidate he told us he was.
BLITZER: Because I always grew up to believe that there's nothing wrong with compromise.
BORGER: Well, I grew up covering Congresses that compromised an awful lot. But I think what you have now in Washington are conservatives who came here for a specific agenda, Tea Party Republicans, for example, and they don't have very much in common with lots of Democrats. And there are lots of liberal Democrats who feel the same way about the Tea Party conservatives. So you have a much more polarized Congress. And people don't think it's in their self- interest to compromise because they come from polarized districts. So working with each other for the public good becomes more and more difficult.
BLITZER: Have you sensed since -- certainly since the Republican Convention over these last week, 10 days or whatever, that he is trying to adjust a little bit, Mitt Romney --
BORGER: Oh yes --
BLITZER: -- and appeal towards more moderates out there?
BORGER: And we saw that at the convention, Wolf. You know at the convention you heard very little about social issues. I would argue you heard much more about the social agenda at the Democratic Convention because they were trying to keep their base of the party, than you did at the Republican Convention. So what I think you're seeing Mitt Romney trying to do, particularly in the battleground states, is appeal to that sliver of the population that is disaffected with President Obama, may have voted for him in 2008 and is still trying to decide whether Mitt Romney is a good alternative. And so to appeal to those people, he is saying, you know what, those pre- existing conditions, you know we'll keep that in Obamacare. Conservatives are going to say, you know what, you didn't tell us the truth when you were campaigning in the primaries.
BLITZER: Yes, there's nothing wrong with compromise, even Ronald Reagan, you know he was well known. He compromised on many occasions with the Democrats in Congress --
BORGER: Yes and Republicans would say they were different Democrats, right?
BLITZER: Well we'll see.
BORGER: They may be.
BLITZER: Gloria, thank you very much.
BLITZER: While President Obama came out of the Democratic Convention with a bounce, Mitt Romney is trying to pop that bubble to a certain degree with a new campaign offensive. In Ohio today, he warned that an Obama reelection would mean more years of high unemployment and a high deficit. But does Mitt Romney's own arithmetic add up? CNN's Tom Foreman is here with a fact-check for us. You've been studying this. What are you finding out, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well as you know the White House is attacking Mitt Romney on his math. What they're saying is over the past couple of days the White House has hammered away on Romney's promise to lower taxes for the middle class, not raise taxes for the rich and simultaneously move toward balancing the federal budget. And the White House is saying this just can't be done. Romney and Ryan have countered by saying yes, it can. You just have to rewrite the tax code, lower corporate tax rates to spur investment and close a lot of loopholes and those loopholes are where this gets tricky because economic analysts say the biggest ones and probably the only ones that would produce enough savings to make this plan work are sacred cows in Washington.
For example, the home mortgage credit, if you no longer got a break on your taxes, for all that interest you pay on your house, the government would pocket about $100 billion a year. Do the same thing and eliminate the deduction for charitable giving. That's another nearly $50 billion for Uncle Sam. Cut deductions for health insurance, even more savings for the government, pushing up toward $200 billion. But any of those actions would significantly sting the middle class. Accordingly, each would also spur a furious counterassault from everyone trying to defend them, which may be one of the reasons that Ryan and Romney seem to be suggesting they will not touch those particular programs and by the way, they have some complaints with the tax analyst who say their program won't work. But this is the fundamental problem in their tax reform plan.
It simply does not include enough details and they're not offering much more information to work with, saying those details are something they're going to work out with Congress. So we can't really say if the White House is right when they call this bad math. But the numbers are in serious need of some support if people are to believe them. Otherwise, Wolf, we're just going to argue about this until the cows come home.
BLITZER: What if they eliminate some of the deductions and loopholes for huge corporations, for example? That's billions and billions of dollars there as well.
FOREMAN: That's billions of dollars. The problem constantly comes around to this. There really are relatively few rich people in this country. And if you go after just the rich people and you say, we're going to get all that it still doesn't produce enough money to offset all this. Ultimately all the tax analysts, all the economic analysts seem to say is you're going to have to hit the middle class if you want to produce those kinds of savings. And that's a problem that the Republicans are grappling with now and to a different degree, the White House is also grappling with.
BLITZER: Even if you go after ExxonMobil and the tax credits they get or GE, some of these huge corporations, that still wouldn't be enough money? Because there have been some suggestions that some Republicans have made that some of those deductions and loopholes could be thrown away.
FOREMAN: There are things you could do to remake the entire tax code. But I've often said that's kind of like saying let's change all the rules in the NFL. Now who's going to the Super Bowl? You're talking about such huge changes if you rewrite everything in the tax code for everybody, then, again, the problem becomes anyone predicting where you wind up in that process and whether you or I or John down the street pays more or less and how much.
BLITZER: Yes, because those are pretty controversial, those huge write-offs that the big companies get --
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: -- especially GE, I think in the last few years they basically have paid no federal income tax or some of the benefits at ExxonMobil --
BLITZER: -- and some of these other huge corporations because it's built into the system.
FOREMAN: Sure. It's huge and it's controversial and it's worth bearing in mind the reason they're built into the system is because over the years, very powerful forces have lobbied for all of these loopholes. They didn't appear by accident. So getting rid of them is going to be a titanic battle for whomever wants to do it, Democrat or Republican, no matter what you say --
BLITZER: The home mortgage deduction that is a sacred cow. But tax breaks for GE not so much.
FOREMAN: Not so much --
FOREMAN: -- except to GE.
BLITZER: To GE, that's right. Thanks very much.
The Air Force is being bombarded with data, but help may be coming from an unexpected source. How reality television sifts through the images. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Why is Congress so good at kicking the can down the road is the evergreen question we ask periodically. Tom in Germantown (ph), Illinois, "I believe no one at any elected government level should have more than one term. I've been voting for 45 years and the only time I can remember voting for an incumbent was Clinton's second term. I strongly agree with the adage help fight corruption. Re-elect no one."
D. in New York says "Congress is good at kicking the can down the road because practice makes perfect. We haven't held them accountable for their actions. They have gotten away with it until now we've reached the edge of the fiscal cliff. We pay these misfits and we need to vote them out when they don't do our bidding."
Dale in Lowell (ph), Massachusetts, "None of them has the courage to stand up to their corporate sponsors and do the right thing or anything for that matter."
Wilhelm in Las Vegas, "Because 80 percent of the Congress are in safe seats and have no worry about their performance being evaluated so they don't have any inventive to really do anything." Peter writes, "Perpetual campaigning, not one elected official will risk defeat by voting for something even remotely unpopular. Hence they kick it down the road."
And John writes "Because there's no consequence for them. It would be nice if there was a law that said Congress had to do their jobs but they're the ones who write the laws and they're certainly not going to write themselves out of a job." If you want to read more on the subject, go to the blog CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page --
BLITZER: Jack, thanks --
CAFFERTY: Very nice glasses, Wolf, very nice --
BLITZER: Thank you very much. I've been getting a lot of reaction. Some likes --
BLITZER: -- some not so liked, but that's --
CAFFERTY: Very distinguished looking.
BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you very much. More on the glasses coming up, Jack. Stand by.
President Obama gets a bounce in the polls, but the Romney campaign calls it nothing more than a sugar high. How Romney is trying to blunt President Obama's momentum. That's coming up in our next hour.
BLITZER: You might not think reality television producers and the U.S. Air Force have much in common, but they both have to evaluate a huge amount of video to decide which images are important. Air Force drones collect more than a thousand hours of video a day. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us right now. Chris, what can the Air Force learn from TV producers?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when you start thinking about some of these reality shows that have dozens of cameras, continuously running, and then these producers trying to compartmentalize all of that and cram it into a 30-minute episode, you start to get an idea of how much they may have in common with the Air Force.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Hard to believe that TLC's "Toddlers" --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
LAWRENCE: -- or Kourtney and Khloe -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't born yesterday like --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- don't even (EXPLETIVE DELETED) just say you're out having fun.
LAWRENCE: -- would have something to teach the Air Force --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
LAWRENCE: But the reality is they just might.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
COL. MIKE SHORTSLEEVE, U.S. AIR FORCE: They have looked at ESPN, different networks. You name it, we're out there looking for whatever we can that can help us.
LAWRENCE: You see, thousands of surveillance drones are bombarding the Air Force with data.
(on camera): So how much video do you see in a day?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have about 1,600 hours worth of full motion video we see in a day.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): We got an exclusive look inside the intelligence center at Langley Air Base where all that video pours in but there's a limit to how much a human being can watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to get water. You need to get up. You need to un-focus your eyes for a second.
LAWRENCE: A RAND report found the military could learn something from shows like "Rock of Love."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it was up to me I would do all of this for you.
LAWRENCE: Like the Air Force, reality TV producers see hours of mundane video with multiple cameras running 24/7, but their software can tag the key scenes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
LAWRENCE: And to allow operators to see beyond their individual computers, the report recommends the military adopt the TV control room set-up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one.
LAWRENCE: The clock is ticking. New surveillance systems can spy on entire towns. (SOUNDS)
LAWRENCE: More advanced sensors will capture a lifetime of video in just one day.
LT. GEN. LARRY D. JAMES, U.S. AIR FORCE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: So if you sat down and watched movies for 85 years straight high definition movies, that's the amount of information this sensor, one sensor will create.
LAWRENCE (on camera): In a couple of years you might need well over 100,000 people just watching this video all the time.
JAMES: Right. We're not going to get more people. We have to make do with the people that we have.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): And officials tell us why spend money to develop new software if they can adapt what reality producers already use?
LAWRENCE: And catching just one frame of video can have huge consequences.
SHORTSLEEVE: In the end, what it does for us, it makes us provide better information to the guy on the ground so that we can save his life.
LAWRENCE: And the Air Force is also considering whether to dedicate one ground station to watch each area that they're spying on instead of just beaming all that video back to everyone. It's sort of the same thing as a reality crew being assigned to just watch Khloe's (ph) bedroom while another crew takes a look just at the Kardashian store. So Wolf, if you have been telling all your friends that you're watching "Downtown Abbey" (ph) when you've really been TiVoing (ph) "Here Comes Boo Boo" you can come out of the closet now. It's OK.
BLITZER: I have no idea what you're talking about, but Chris Lawrence reporting for us. Thank you.