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THE SITUATION ROOM

More Romney Video Released; President Obama Pulling Ahead in Polls?; "It's Not Elegantly Stated"; Romney: No Apology, Not Backing Down; Democracy Leader: Ease Myanmar Sanctions; Eastwood: GOP "Dumb Enough To Ask Me"; "The Explosion Was Huge"; Pilot To Tower: "You've Got 60 Seconds"

Aired September 18, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: More secretly recorded video surfaces of Mitt Romney talking candidly with donors. Find out what's in the latest release.

Romney's complaint that 47 percent of Americans support the president because they're dependent on government already has his campaign in 100 percent damage control mode.

Also, an important new poll shows President Obama pulling ahead in yet another important swing state.

Wolf Blitzer's off Today. I'm Joe Johns in a very rainy Washington, D.C. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the fallout over Mitt Romney's complaint that 47 percent of Americans will vote for the president no matter what he says. Those 47 percent are -- quote -- "dependent on government, believe they are victims" and in Romney's words, "My job is not to worry about those people."

The remarks are from a nearly hour-long secretly recorded video of a Romney fund-raiser last May. The video was obtained by the left- leaning magazine "Mother Jones" which started running snippets on Monday and this afternoon posted the entire video.

Let's bring in chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, fascinating story. So much has happened over the last 24 hours. You had quite an article online today. And I just want to read part of that. "Romney has a businessman's approach to politics, which means he sizes up a situation or an audience and figures out what he needs to cut the deal. Then he does it and expects it to work."

That's sort of a salesman's approach, almost, isn't it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Romney is a businessman and he was talking to a business group and he wanted them to write checks.

What do you do when you ask people to write checks? You tell them what you think they want to hear. JOHNS: But what's wrong with that?

BORGER: Well, when you're running for president, first of all, there are different kinds of politicians. Some people come to politics because they have a strong belief system.

Others come to politics because they think it's the time in their lives they ought to be doing that. And I think for Mitt Romney whose father was a politician always told him succeed in business first and then do politics, right, Romney's approach is, OK, I know how to fix things. But I have to get there. What do I need to do to get there?

Well, in the primaries, be more conservative perhaps. When he was governor of Massachusetts, be more moderate. And in the end, that leaves people feeling, you know what, we don't know what he really stands for or who he really is. The question they had at the outset of this campaign, they still have heading into the home stretch.

JOHNS: CNN chief national correspondent John King here now.

This 47 percent that Romney talks about on this tape we have heard so many times here today on CNN and other networks, is he right if he's talking just about the 47 percent of core supporters for President Obama?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he's actually talking about -- I believe very strongly based on some reporting and research that there's two sets of numbers he's talking about.

He says 47 percent twice and then he talks about 48 percent and 49 percent. When he says 47 percent, I'm convinced he's talking about the president's base support because his own pollster comes from a firm that produced these slides which they gave me several months ago and said I could use in my research.

They talked about the president's support among Latinos, African- American, other non-white voters and college educated white women. When they add that up, they get to 47 percent. They have researched this because despite this anemic economy, the president's coalition has stayed pretty solid.

When Mitt Romney says there are 47 percent who will vote for the president no matter what, his own pollsters say almost no matter what. That's where that comes from.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: This 48 percent and 49 percent is I assume the people who don't pay taxes.

JOHNS: Let's just go back and run that videotape so we can talk about it just a little more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.

All right, there are 47 percent who are with him who dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

But that's -- that's an entitlement, and that the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: There's also this issue of victimization and entitlements and it all sort of gets mishmashed in there.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And dependency.

It's the notion that senior citizens who get their Social Security, veterans who get their veterans benefits, people by the way who pay payroll taxes, may not pay more than that or who get benefits because they have children.

It seems that he was sort of writing off half of the electorate as dependent. And that's the real question I have about what he was saying.

KING: You can't make a sweeping generalization like this without stepping into the quicksand, because if you listen to what he says, he's essentially saying all of the president's voters, all of them don't pay income taxes. All of them are dependent on government.

But you can't win 95 percent of the African-American vote, 66 percent of the Latino vote, 52 percent of college educated white women, the other non-white voters, you can't win all those votes and say none of those people pay taxes, all of those people are victims, all those people are dependent on the government, so it's a sweeping generalization.

Do some conservatives want to have a debate about government benefits? Does the country maybe need a debate about government benefits at a time of deficit spending? Sure. But when you cast these sweeping generalizations, you insult a lot of people.

BORGER: And that's why he was saying his lower tax message would not hurt because if these are people who pay no taxes, why would a lower tax message resonate?

JOHNS: The tax question also is a real issue too. I hope to ask some conservatives today. Here you have a Republican candidate telling people that there is a certain number of people that don't pay taxes, when Republicans sort of aspire to lower taxes generally.

So you kind of wonder exactly whether that really appeals to conservatives as well. BORGER: Right. It gives the Democrats an opening too to say a man who shelters his income in the Cayman Islands, I have heard that more than once today, how can he talk about tax rates? What gives him the moral authority to do that?

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: Go ahead.

KING: And just more broadly, the timing. Timing is everything in politics.

The Democrats had a good convention. Governor Romney had some missteps last week. If you look at the polling around the country, a new Virginia poll today, six-point race there. This is still a very, very close race. The debates will matter. But with 49 days out, Joe, you don't have a day to waste. You don't have a day to waste. Every time Governor Romney's explaining himself, especially explaining something he said back in May, it's not a good day.

BORGER: Here's the problem. It reinforces the Obama narrative about Mitt Romney, which is that he's rich and he's out of touch with the middle class and he doesn't care about people like you when he says things like this to a big fund-raiser, right?

KING: He will argue it's inelegant. And he's going to have to explain what he means by that.

But to Gloria's point, it also takes the Obama narrative a step forward. This is what the Democrats will do. They have said he doesn't care about you. Here, they're going to say he's disdainful of you. He has contempt for you.

JOHNS: The Democrats are already moving that direction.

We have to go shortly.

BORGER: What a shock.

JOHNS: Right.

One other question for you. In an age of Twitter, Facebook, bloggers, does a candidate really have an expectation of privacy, that this kind of thing when he says this won't get out?

KING: Ask Barack Obama.

BORGER: Ask George Allen.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It was at a fund-raiser when he said cling to God and their guns and those kinds of things.

Any politician today who thinks that they're at an off-the-record event is not paying attention. BORGER: Remember George Allen, what was that, 2006, the macaca moment in the Virginia Senate race? No.

KING: No.

JOHNS: Gloria Borger, John King, thanks so much. Always good to have you guys around on a story like this.

Now that we have the full video of what Romney said, we're going to let you hear the question, as well as the unedited answer and then get reaction from Romney campaign senior adviser Bay Buchanan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Seven weeks before voters decide on their next president, a secretly recorded video of Mitt Romney threatens to undermine his campaign's message.

Joining us now is Romney campaign senior adviser Bay Buchanan.

Thanks so much for coming in.

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, you're certainly welcome, Joe.

JOHNS: So you have seen this. You have talked about it all day long today.

BUCHANAN: Sure. Sure.

JOHNS: And one of the things frankly that really struck me right out of the bat is the discussion of taxes, because it's such an issue that affects Republicans and conservatives. And with Mitt Romney suggesting, for example, that there are a large number of people who don't pay taxes, is that something that's supportable, especially when you consider the Bush tax cuts are the kind of thing conservatives are fighting dearly to preserve?

BUCHANAN: Joe, your entire premise is inaccurate.

We're not running from what the governor said. He has not backtracked in the least. What he was doing is making a political analysis to some of the people that are supporting him. It happens all the time. You get into a closed room and high donors want to say, how are you going to win this? How is this going to happen and why are you doing this?

So he's talking strategy, something I have advised many a candidate not to do, but they like to do it. And so that's what he was doing. As for the taxes, he made it very, very clear. He said, listen, Barack Obama has about 47 percent. That's his hard-core supporters. It's going to be very tough for us to kind of take some even off the top. So we're going to focus our attention on the 7 percent, 8 percent, to 10 percent out there that we think we have a real good chance of reaching. And then he goes on and he talks about why it is that those people are so focused and determined to support Barack Obama at this time and he talks about how there's this enormous dependency on government. And the more dependent you are on government, the less likely you're going to accept a message of his about cutting spending, et cetera.

JOHNS: Forty-seven percent are victims? That's...

BUCHANAN: First of all, there are so many 47 percents in this statement.

It's too bad that CNN doesn't run more of it, rather than these snippets, because then you get a clear idea. First of all, he talked about the base of Barack Obama.

JOHNS: We're going to.

BUCHANAN: That's 47 percent.

Also, 47 percent is a number that came out of a study. It's 47 percent who do not pay income tax. And so he was talking a little about that as well. I think there's been some confusion.

As for victims, these people are victims to the Obama policies, the economic policies, through no fault of their own. They have dumped, many of them, into poverty, many of them now on food stamps to pay for their own -- of their families. This isn't something they have wanted. They have worked hard and found their jobs are no longer there. So, surely, they're victims.

And that's what he's talking about. Unfortunately, they're now dependent for one substance or another on government. And this is a great debate, and we welcome it.

JOHNS: One of the things we would like to do is to show you a little of the Q&A that occurred last night after all of this sort of blew up on the evening news.

Mitt Romney came out and talked just a bit. He sort of doubled down on what he was heard saying on the tape. Let's listen.

BUCHANAN: Correct.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: It's a message which I'm going to carry and continue to carry, which is, look, the president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes, because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn't as attractive to them.

And, therefore, I'm not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: So, again, though, the question is whether he made a mistake here, a mistake about strategy, talking behind closed doors or not.

BUCHANAN: No. That's not a mistake.

What he just said there is, again, what -- and you have got to know, if you take a look at what Mitt Romney's said throughout his campaign, all he was saying is repeating that, maybe not as articulately as he wanted. But he's repeating it.

What he's saying is, listen, if people who are out there who aren't paying income, income, that's 47 percent of Americans, one of my big policies is to cut 20 percent off the top of income tax, why who you would that appeal to them? You know, if I were talking about spending, he says, people who are relying on government are not going to be responsive.

So, he says, look, that supported the voting segment that I'm not going to get. So I'm going to focus my attention somewhere else.

He's making a very sound political analysis. And he's not wrong. And there's no reason for us to back away.

And there is great reason for us to engage in this debate because this is the foundation of his campaign.

JOHNS: Certainly watching the Internet, we know there are a lot of conservatives that have supported him. There are many powerful and well-known conservatives that have not. For example, conservative Bill Kristol liken Romney's comments to President Obama's comments in 2008 calling them stupid and arrogant. Another conservative "New York Times" columnist David Brooks wrote Romney's comment is a "country club fantasy, what a self-satisfied millionaire says to each other."

And isn't this sort of the kind of thing that makes Romney look just like Democrats have said, an out of touch millionaire?

BUCHANAN: Just like Barack Obama says things that maybe he doesn't really as articulate as he was like if you like. But, no --

JOHNS: Less damaging? Because it buys into the narrative?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: How many times has James Carville said Obama's campaign is a disaster? OK, it's all there. You always have somebody out there who is the Monday night quarterback saying they could have done better if they did this or that.

We can't worry about that. I do know one thing. We had a great convention. And that convention reflected the remarks that the governor was saying of how to reach out to people, how to build a consensus to put him over the top in November. And that's exactly what we're doing. And we're going to run a strong campaign. And we are not going to continue to divide this country like Barack Obama --

JOHNS: Do these comments appeal to people in the middle?

BUCHANAN: You know, this is what -- if you look at what he said and not snippets and how they're being interpreted, indeed they do. Because what they say is, listen, Barack Obama has divided America to the haves and the have notes. And he's building the have-nots and he's proud out there. He's talking about more and more millions of people being on food stamps. That's his legacy -- food stamps, debt and embassies under siege.

We are about giving people a ladder to climb out of so they can be self-reliant, a path towards self-reliance. That's what Mitt Romney's whole campaign is about, is building that middle class making it stable and sound and helping that poor move up into it again.

JOHNS: When you talk about divisions, this is a situation where Mitt Romney himself is dividing the country, is he not?

BUCHANAN: But see that's what you constantly want to say he's talking about the nation in general. He was talking about a campaign. And in a campaign what you do, Joe, you know as well as anybody --

JOHNS: So does he say things differently to his fund -- to the people who are giving him money as opposed to the people he's talking to publicly?

BUCHANAN: He's saying if these people in the room had read the national press for the last several months, they would have seen that what's the national press saying? Barack Obama has 47 percent, pretty solid, a lot of people are ones who find themselves very dependent or somewhat dependent on government. That's his base of his vote. That's all he's saying, is exactly what's being said by the press. And what he is saying and he's just sharing that information.

There's nothing divisive when you're talking campaign, how do I win the election? Let's go for that 7 percent to 10 percent -- many of whom voted for Barack Obama, and let's see how we can appeal to them, reach them and bring them aboard our campaign.

I say his message is right to the people out there who have suffered under Barack Obama because he gives them a real chance to turn their lives around.

JOHNS: Some important numbers today coming out, polling in the state of Virginia shows Obama with a 52 percent to 44 percent lead on Mitt Romney in the battleground state of Virginia. What do you make of that?

BUCHANAN: Well, Virginia's going to be tough. Joe, this is another thing. I've seen and read these poll numbers are so outrageous. I don't know which ones to believe. I saw last Friday or Saturday we had 1 percent in Virginia. Now, how do we lose all that points in a few days? And I see we're up a point in Florida today.

But you have to look at the polls. They're looking at what happened back in 2008 and how many Democrats came out and voted. That's the basis of what they're doing. So they're over-polling Democrats, overwhelmingly. These polls are just part and parcel of the campaign for Barack Obama to help him stay in this game as long as possible. I think millions of Americans --

JOHNS: Wait a minute. Did you say the polls are part and parcel?

BUCHANAN: When you deliberately over-poll Democrats so that you sway those numbers so that you skew them, I mean, there's a CNN poll last week we won in the poll the independents by 14 percent. And we won Republicans by 98 percent. And somehow the CNN poll had us losing by six. Now, you and I both know if we win 14 percent of independents we're going to have a mighty good day. So what is that about?

It's a deliberate attempt to make it look like Barack Obama is strong, helping his fundraising ability --

JOHNS: That's a strong statement. Deliberate attempt.

BUCHANAN: I standby it. You go look at those polls. How is it poll after poll overpolls 10 percent to 15 percent by the Democrats? That is not a legitimate poll in 2012.

And I call on every pollster to look at what they're doing in those polls because it's not the kind of fair message going out to the American people.

JOHNS: All right. Bay Buchanan, thanks so much for that. Good seeing you as always.

BUCHANAN: It's good to see you, Joe.

JOHNS: I have to ask you more about those polls coming down the pike.

BUCHANAN: Be glad to talk to you about that rotten CNN poll last week any time.

JOHNS: No comment. All right. Here we go.

Now that we have that full video of what Romney said, we're going to let you hear the question as well as his extended answer. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Since there's just a ton of noise about the Mitt Romney videos released by "Mother Jones" magazine, we thought you might appreciate a chance to listen to what Romney said unfiltered and with no commentary now that "Mother Jones" has posted the full video for the first time we're hearing the question that prompted Romney's response providing some better context for you. Here's the question with an extended section of the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the past three years, all everybody's been told is, don't worry, we'll take care of you. How are you going to do it two months before the elections to convince everybody you got to take care of yourself?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president who no matter what, all right? There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it -- that that's an entitlement and the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

And I mean, the president starts out with 48 percent, 49 percent -- he starts out with a huge number because these people pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. He'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. That's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people.

I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon -- in some cases -- emotion whether they like the guy or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: After that video was posted, Romney who was in California at the time took the unusual step of calling in reporters for an impromptu news conference. This is what he said shortly after 10:00 Eastern Time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I believe the point I made is the president starts out with a large number of voters, 47 percent, 48 percent, 49 percent, something like that. These are people who are in his camp. And they'll vote for him almost no matter what. And I also have a large number of people who will also vote for me no matter what, at least I hope so. And the campaign effort is to focus on the people in the middle. The people I will try and draw into my campaign are largely people who voted for Barack Obama last time around but who I want to have as part of my campaign to become successful.

So it's a question and answer as recall about the process of the campaign and how I'm going to get the 51 percent or 52 percent I need. I point out it's by focusing on those folks neither in his camp nor in my camp.

REPORTER: If you're not stepping away from anything you said in this video, you're not backing away from anything, and do you worry you offended this 47 percent who you mentioned?

ROMNEY: Well, it's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question. I'm sure I could state it more clearly, in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that. So I'm sure I'll point that out as time goes on. But we don't even have the question given the snippet there nor the full response. And I hope the person who has the video would put out the full -- the full material.

But it's a message which I'm going to carry and continue to carry, which is look the president's approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn't that attractive to them. And therefore, I'm not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now, Mitt Romney just spoke out forcefully on the controversial video. We'll hear what he's saying now on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Mitt Romney is still not apologizing or backing down from his newly revealed complaint that 47 percent people will vote for President Obama no matter what and that they're dependent on government. Here's how he explained it just now on an interview on the Fox News Channel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say, gosh, this provision that Mitt keeps talking about lowering income taxes, that's not going to be real attractive to them.

And those that are dependent upon government and those that think government's job is to redistribute, I'm not going to get them. I know there's a divide in the country about that view.

I know some believe that government should take from some to give to the others. I think the president makes it clear in the tape that was released today that that's what he believes. I think that's an entirely foreign concept.

I believe America was built on the principle of government caring for those in need but getting out of the way and allowing free people to pursue their dreams, free people pursuing free enterprises is the only way we'll create a strong and growing middle class and the only way we'll help people out of poverty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So is not backing down the best damage control? Joining me now for today's "Strategy Session" are Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, they are both CNN political contributors.

I want to start with you, Mary, if you'll just listen to this tape a little bit more from the fundraiser just released yesterday Mitt Romney talking about Hispanic voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We are having a much harder time with the Hispanic vote. And if the Hispanic voting block becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting block has in the past, well, we are in trouble as a party and I think as a nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So we've heard a lot of that. And as you listen to him talking to the people at that fundraiser, the question has always been what are Republicans and Mitt Romney specifically doing about it?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what they're trying to do should he get elected and I believe he will, is grow the economy, create jobs. The government doesn't have money.

When the government redistributes money from the producers and gives it to whatever programs, at best it's inefficient. Let's take education. The state gets back. Taxpayers get back 17 cents on the dollar.

And this is the observation the philosophy imputed to his philosophy, which is it's corrupt. What is it producing? It's destabilized families. It's created more poverty. It's not as -- flatlined our education.

You said in your thing, is this damage control? I don't think it was damaging. I think it's great. Many of us have been waiting for Mitt Romney to say this clearly and loudly and he has been saying eloquently in his speeches.

It's great to have this debate. That's what this campaign was always going to be about. Do you want a big centralized do your life for you make your decisions or do you want decentralized people helping people?

The government helping people in need or in need of temporary assistance or unable to help themselves, that's what this campaign is about. And we cannot sustain the former model, the redistributionist model, that has took the country and the economy where it is today.

JOHNS: I want to pick up on that with Hilary Rosen. When you look at this, there's a lot of research that says 47 percent of voters are going to vote for President Obama almost no matter what. In other words suggests it's a true statement by Mitt Romney. Where is it not true?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I don't think the issue is whether those people are going to vote for President Obama. I think the issue is how he characterized the 47 percent. And let's just pause for a moment to say that when he in his interview today he didn't even kind of acknowledge the feelings that people have about being characterized as kind of being government moochers.

We're talking about military families. We're talking about senior citizens. We're talking about small business owners. A whole series of people in that 47 percent who pay other kinds of taxes, not just income tax.

And I think that Mitt Romney's problem is, is that this is just enormously divisive that the keynote of his convention speech was we're going to bring people together after the election is over.

I think all he did was drive a deep, deep wedge in the electorate and I think it's extremely disheartening. And as commentators said all day today, really shows a sense of ignorance about the country.

He divides the country into rich and poor. Now, he completely ignores the entire middle class of this country, which have a very different experience and his policies show that.

JOHNS: Mary Matalin, I got to get you in there. A lot of conservatives I've talked to and some I've read say this is actually perhaps a plus for Mitt Romney because it's sort of galvanizing conservative support. Do you think it really happens that way?

MATALIN: It galvanizes American support. Americans are smart enough to distinguish between vets or people who have served their country, who deserve their veterans' benefits or people have paid into medical and Social Security their whole life.

And now because of these horrible policies that have doubled down by Obama aren't going to get Medicaid and the Social Security they pay. That's a different government transfer. That's inefficient one.

The corrupt one are all the poverty programs that have gone up for 50 years and have destabilized, destroyed families, have reduced their educational achievement, there's a difference.

ROSEN: You're talking about the 1960s.

MATALIN: Hilary, there are makers and takers. There are producers and parasites. And people -- Americans can distinguish between those who have produced and paid through no fault of their own cannot get a job or underemployed. That's what the campaign is about.

ROSEN: It is a fact of the matter that a huge portion of the 47 percent of Americans that Mitt Romney attacked through this diatribe and Mary just doubled down on again and so did Bay Buchanan earlier, pay taxes. They just don't pay income taxes because of the kind of income they have. It's not that they're on the government dole. It's that they're hard working people who take similar tax deduction deductions.

And frankly, for Mitt Romney to be attacking people on taxes when he doesn't even show us his own tax returns is just -- as my people would say, the height of -- it's beyond belief we would be in this argument over taxes for the poor and middle class.

Let's talk about the tax fairness that, you know, a significant number of people are not paying, the same number because they're too rich and have too many deductions.

JOHNS: I'm going to ask you both, Romney suggested last night that he might in future days sort of massage this language that we heard on this video last night.

But it seems clear that he can't apologize. Donald Trump has said as much. There's no room to apologize. No room to go back on this. Do you agree with that, Mary Matalin?

MATALIN: Why should he apologize, Joe? This is -- I'm going to say this again. We are in an unsustainable budget situation where most Americans understand while they have been cutting back, the government's been spending more.

When you say to an average American what's the best thing that government can do? They say cutting spending. Some of these programs are necessary. I will say again, Hilary's distorting what I said.

I make a distinction as does Romney between recipients of Social Security, veterans' benefits, Medicare, those taxes that people have paid. You don't listen to his speeches.

If he backs -- I hope he doesn't just double down, quadruples down to the tenth power exponentially makes this case loudly and clearly because it's the essence of the American dream. Progressive measures success of their program by how much money they spend on conservative measure how many people get out of poverty.

We want to lift people out of poverty, pursue their dreams and live off the God-given talents they've been given. Not some government decision like what they're going to support and what they're not because it's corrupt and immoral.

ROSEN: I think what we're hearing is what we've heard from Mitt Romney is that he's sort of trying to wave this kind of welfare Queen Boogyman to the American people. That does not exist anymore.

Those programs are not the same as they used to be in the '60s and '70s. We've had multiple reforms over the years. Here's I think the real challenge for Mitt Romney, which is as Bill Crystal laid it out today, to stop sort of attacking people and talking about the past and talking about what he would do differently, that's something he hasn't done.

That's something President Obama has done and turned this election into a real choice of direction going forward. I think Mitt Romney has to put these conversations in the context of real people. That's just something we haven't heard. And we don't hear it when he tries to explain himself.

JOHNS: Hilary Rosen, Mary Matalin --

MATALIN: Joe, to that point, you put it in context. This is not his campaign speech. He was answering his question. You put the context. He's not dividing anybody. He's making the bigger debate. Thank you for letting me make that point, Hilary.

JOHNS: Thanks so much, I got to say, no matter what side you're on, it certainly has ignited a great debate in this country. Thanks so much to you both.

Clint Eastwood's talking about the chair again. You'll hear whether he thinks it was a mistake or whether he'd do it again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Joe. Hello there, everyone. Myanmar opposition leader and former political prisoner leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in the U.S. meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Suu Kyi is urging Washington to ease sanctions against Myanmar formally called Burma. Saying the people need to consolidate democracy on their own. She spent 15 years under house arrest for her pro-democracy work before being freed and elected to parliament back in April.

Also, the first eight months of this year are the hottest on record. You probably already knew that without me telling you. The National Climactic Data Center says temperatures in the continental U.S. averaged 4 degrees above normal, the most since recordkeeping began back in 1895. But that's not so on the west coast from San Diego to Seattle, temperatures were slightly cooler than average.

And Clint Eastwood, now best known for his work at the Republican convention, just kidding. Clint Eastwood said Republicans were taking their chances when they asked him to speak at the convention in Tampa.

The actor had many people scratching their heads as he faced an empty chair and carried on an imaginary conversation with President Obama. Here's what he told the TV show "Extra."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: People loved it or hated it and that's fine. That's what it's supposed to be. That's a reaction. I was just having fun. Figure -- somebody's dumb enough to ask me to go to a political convention and say something, they're going to have to take what they get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Take that. And when asked if he would do it all over again, Eastwood said probably. As opposed to a politician and the damage that can be caused when a politician botches a speech, I don't think this speech is going to hurt Clint Eastwood's career.

JOHNS: That's for sure. Wouldn't it be funny if that's what he's remembered for after all he's done?

BOLDUAN: I sure hope not.

JOHNS: The candor is refreshing.

BOLDUAN: Very refreshing. Take what you can get.

JOHNS: Amazing. Dumb enough to ask me. Who's asking him?

BOLDUAN: I think he's being a little Clint Eastwood-y.

JOHNS: Thanks so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Sure.

JOHNS: After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, today marked a deadly new first. Plus, what had a pilot threatening to order everyone off his plane?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: A twist in the violence gripping the Afghan capital. For the first time a suicide bombing by a woman. CNN's Anna Coren has details.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, another deadly day here in Afghanistan with a female suicide bomber striking the capital killing 12 civilians including eight South Africans.

Now this attack was in direct response to that anti-Islamic film causing so much anger across the Muslim world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COREN (voice-over): On a busy highway close to Kabul Airport is the twisted metal and debris of vehicles that an hour before had been filled with passengers. Their bodies lie in the dirt, the latest victims in this bloody war.

The explosion was huge and very dangerous as he was walking to school. I could there were many casualties. Police believe a minibus carrying eight South Africans and one Kergist, some of them pilots working for an international flight transport company along with their Afghan driver was rammed by a car packed with 300 kilograms of explosives.

The driver of that car, a 22-year-old woman, making her the first female suicide bomber in Kabul. A car exploded near the minibus carrying foreign passengers from the airport to their residence says the Kabul chief of police. All those inside the minibus were killed.

Two other Afghans also died in the blast that flung the engine block of the car more than 100 meters down the road. Eleven people were also injured. The blast shattered windows of a nearby wedding hall and ripped apart the gas station close to where the bomb was detonated. A motorcycle lay on its side with the rider's shoe still underneath it.

(on camera): This is supposed to be inside the ring of steel. There are security checkpoints located around Kabul to prevent these kinds of attacks from happening inside the capital. Serious questions are being raised as to how suicide bombers are getting into the city.

(voice-over): The radical Islamic group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was in retaliation to the anti-Islamic film that's caused much anger across the Muslim world.

On Monday violent protests broke out in Kabul as police clashed with 300 Afghans trying to make their way to the U.S. Embassy. Fifteen police officers were injured. Two police trucks were set on fire.

The founder believed to be based in Pakistan or in the border region was a senior member fighting the soviets during the 1980s. After the Soviets withdrawal, he was appointed as the country's prime minister for a short time.

The group's political wing was recently involved in peace talks with the Afghan government because they were considered more moderate than the Taliban. But after this attack on western and afghan civilians, there's more uncertainty over the future of those talks and this country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: And that level of uncertainty increased today with U.S. and NATO forces suspending some joint operations with Afghan troops. Now this partnership is obviously the cornerstone of the mission to transfer power, but it's hoped these measures will reduce the number of insider attacks that have already claimed the lives of 51 coalition soldiers -- Joe.

JOHNS: A plane under attack and a pilot on the verge of drastic action.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: A jet's pilot just seconds from ordering his plane evacuated at JFK. CNN's Sandra Endo has the story -- Sandra.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, when you listen to the cockpit voice recordings, you can tell the pilot didn't like being left in the dark for about half an hour as to why his plane was being directed to wait as emergency personnel started surrounding his plane.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO (voice-over): Confusion and frustration moments after two passenger jets landed at JFK Airport.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: We're surrounded by emergency vehicles. There's a reason for this. Somebody's got to give us the reason or we're going to evacuate the aircraft. You got 60 seconds.

ENDO: Pilots demanding answers from the control tower after an American Airlines and Fin Air flight ordered to taxi to a remote area of the airport for inspection.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: I'm the captain of this airliner and I need information pronto.

ENDO: Transportation Security Administration officials say an anonymous caller said there was a security threat on board these two jets coming into New York.

KEVIN HIATT, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION: A pilot came on and told us he had no information, but he says we're being held for possible phone-in threat.

ENDO: When situations like this happen, flight safety experts say ultimately the pilot can decide when to evacuate a plane, but relies on information from the ground.

(on camera): What's the protocol of communication between the control tower and the pilot on board a plane in that situation where there could be a possible threat?

HIATT: Well, the protocol is you want to keep the lines of communication open. You want to be talking openly to them, exchanging information back and forth as to what the situation is on the airplane and what the situation is from the tower in terms of what information they can pass along to me when I'm sitting in my airplane.

ENDO (voice-over): But sometimes the information flow may not be as fast as some pilots would like.

HIATT: The tower is actually acting as a go-between from the authorities, which in this particular case could have been someone from the TSA.

It could have been someone from the New York Port Authority. Somewhere they were getting information even the FAA. And they were just becoming the vehicle of moving that information from one place to another.

ENDO: The FAA would not elaborate on security procedures or communications. And officials would not further characterize the threats. But in the end after a 90-minute check of the planes, authorities said the threat turned out to be a hoax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone kept calm, and it was good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENDO (on-camera): Now, authorities routinely do security checks on planes when there's a possible threat, but here, the issue was perhaps more about the communication between the pilot and controllers on the ground -- Joe.

JOHNS: Sandra Endo, thanks for that report.