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THE SITUATION ROOM
Anne Romney's Plane Emergency Landing; Obama and Ryan Spar Over Medicare; Interview With Sen. John McCain; Mitt Romney Rallies Vegas Crowd; Curing Cancer; Joe Biden Campaigns in Concord, New Hampshire
Aired September 21, 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: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Mitt Romney about to speak publicly for the first time since releasing his new tax information, as Joe Biden blasts him for those controversial comments on the so-called 47 percent. You're going to hear from both of them live this hour.
Plus, Senator John McCain furious with the Obama administration's handling of the attack that killed the United States ambassador and three other Americans in Libya. I'll ask him what went wrong inside a high level closed door intelligence briefing on Capitol Hill.
And first on CNN, the United States expected to remove a major Iranian exile group from its terror list. We're going to tell you why.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we just want to report what's coming in right now. The plane carrying Ann Romney, the -- the wife of the -- of the Republican presidential nominee. A plane carrying Ann Romney had to make an emergency landing in Colorado this afternoon. The campaign says everyone on board is safe.
Let me quickly add, a campaign aide tells our own Rachel Streitfeld there was smoke reported in the cabin. Emergency crews met the plane on the runway. A Secret Service official tells our producer, Kevin Liptak, it landed at 4:25 p.m. Eastern in Denver. No one was hurt.
Once again, Mrs. Romney had been in Omaha for a fundraiser earlier on Friday. We're told by Romney campaign aides that Ann Romney and Mitt Romney spoke by phone immediately after the plane landed.
We don't know why there was smoke in the cabin. We don't know what happened. But we do know it was an emergency landing and crews -- and crews met the plane on the runway.
So that's what we know. We'll get some more information. Fortunately, everyone is OK right now. We'll update you with more. Other news we're following. First, to the battle over one of the most controversial issues in the bitter race for the White House. We're talking about Medicare.
President Obama and his vice presidential rival, Paul Ryan, each trying to convince the AARP, a leading advos -- advocacy group for seniors, that the other isn't telling the truth. And for Ryan, at times, it seemed to be a tough sell.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is fact checking the candidates.
She's joining us now -- Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
That's right, Congressman Paul Ryan did get booed when he said the Romney administration would repeal ObamaCare. That's not entirely surprising because the organization he was speaking to, AARP, came out in support of the president's signature health care plan, ObamaCare.
We frequently hear President Obama say on the trail, as he did today, Wolf, that if Mitt Romney is elected president, he would voucherize Medicare and that would cost seniors more.
So we wanted to take a look at what is true.
Here's what we found.
YELLIN (voice-over): Medicare -- the program's future has become a tug of war in the fight for the senior vote. Speaking to the AARP Friday, the president said Mitt Romney's plan would...
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Turn Medicare into a voucher program and essentially transfer those costs onto seniors.
YELLIN: Not true, says Congressman Paul Ryan, who insists Romney's vision, based largely on Ryan's own budget, would let seniors...
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Choose the coverage that works best for them from a list of plans that are required to offer at least the same level of benefits as traditional Medicare.
YELLIN: So we're breaking down the claims.
The Obama campaign argues...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY OBAMA FOR AMERICA)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney would take away Medicare's guaranteed benefits.
(END VIDEO CLIP) YELLIN: FactCheck.org agrees, under Romney/Ryan's proposal, Medicare could cost recipients more.
LORI ROBERTSON, MANAGING EDITOR, FACTCHECK.ORG: It's definitely a possibility that, under this Romney/Ryan plan, seniors, in the future, would have to pay more to keep a traditional Medicare plan. You know, it could vary from region to region, where the traditional Medicare could be cheaper in some areas of the country.
YELLIN: But it's impossible to know, because in the Romney/Ryan proposal...
ROBERTSON: There's not a lot of detail. You know, there -- there would be a lot of little details to be worked out. And, you know, the other big part of it is that we just haven't done this before.
YELLIN: FactCheck.org also takes issue with the Obama campaign's claim that Romney/Ryan would...
OBAMA: Turn Medicare into a voucher program.
ROBERTSON: Seniors aren't given a voucher or a coupon and then left on their own to go buy health insurance. The plan sets up a new Medicare exchange. Seniors would pick a plan, but then the payment goes directly to the insurance company.
YELLIN: There's one way the two sides agree.
ROBERTSON: And they both want to cut the growth of Medicare spending. And they're really not that far apart on how much -- how much of a reduction that they want, they just have a big philosophical difference on -- on how to do that.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
YELLIN: Wolf, here's the big picture. Democrats argue that under the Romney/Ryan plan, the private insurance companies would pick out the healthiest beneficiaries, leaving the sickest people in traditional Medicare, and that would drive up the cost of Medicare for people who want to use it.
The Republicans argue that's simply not the case, because the whole point of the Romney/Ryan plan is to drive down costs for all health care providers.
We just can't know because it's never been tried and we don't have all the details -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And this is such a huge issue, the future of Medicare, especially in states with -- with senior citizens, like Florida, for example. It's really playing out over there. And it may explain, Jessica, why the president, at least according to the most recent polls in a state like Florida, seems to be better than Romney right now.
YELLIN: Absolutely. It's become a major issue, especially since Paul Ryan got in the campaign, because, as you know, this was one of the major issues he has tak -- taken on since he came into public prominence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We keep hearing Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, the former speaker, she keeps on saying that with Romney on the ticket, she thinks the Democrats have an excellent chance of picking up those 25 seats and becoming the majority in the House of Representatives.
YELLIN: We'll see.
BLITZER: And maybe she would be the speaker again. That may be more wishful thinking than reality, but we shall see. She says it with passion.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
We're waiting to hear from Mitt Romney, by the way. He's getting ready to speak at UNLV, the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. You're seeing live pictures over there, somebody speaking before him. But eventually, he will go up there. We'll go there. We'll listen in to hear what he has to say. This will be his first appearance since releasing more of his tax information a couple of hours or so ago.
Romney is ending what's been a tough political week, putting the focus back on another source of his headaches on the trail, his taxes. Today, the campaign, as I said, released the 2011 tax returns. Earlier, they released the 2010 tax returns. They released summary information about other tax returns over 20 years, not the tax returns themselves.
Joining us now to talk about the impact of all of this, if any, it could have on the presidential race, our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" -- now, Candy, what do you think of Romney releasing his 2011 tax returns, a summary of his other returns, today?
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: The 2011 tax returns, I don't think anyone is going to learn anything different than they didn't know before.
The first is that Mitt Romney is a very wealthy man, that the bulk of his wealth is now coming from investments that he's made and that he gives a lot to charity. And that because most of his income is investment, he pays the investment -- what's pretty much the investment or the capital gains -- sorry, the investment tax. And that's around 14, 15 percent. So we knew that from his previous tax returns.
I think it's more interesting the -- the sort of summary that we were given, the notarized summary from his tax folks, saying, look, over the past 20 years, he's paid, on average, off his adjusted gross income, about 20 percent in taxes. He's given X amount in charities. I don't think that the folks who have wanted and have been using this issue of Mitt Romney's tax returns as a way to kind of say, you know, say, look, he's hiding something, he's hiding something, they're not going to be satisfied with this sort of summary.
And I think the folks, if there are any, that were waiting to see what his tax returns were, might well be satisfied with this, before they made up their minds.
But I just don't think, in the main, it changes much.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on, Candy.
I want to play for you some of the back and forth that's been going on out there on the campaign trail between Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president today threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can't change Washington from the inside, he can only change it from outside. Well, we're going to give him that chance in November. He's going outside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He stood up in a rally and proudly declared, "I'll get the job done from the inside."
OBAMA: What kind of inside job is he talking about?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Candy, what -- what do you -- what's your interpretation of what's going on here?
CROWLEY: That sounds like word play to me. I don't think -- I mean this is the kind of stuff that's great to talk about and have some fun with the crowd, get those who are going to come out and see you and be all enthusiastic all revved up to go vote and to help out your campaign in these final couple of months. But it's just -- it's -- it's kind of word play. It does hit to one of the weaknesses of President Obama, which he wasn't able to change the tone in Washington. But, you know, I just don't think that moves the meter much, either.
In the end, this is still about the economy. I think what Mitt Romney is doing is what conservatives have been saying the whole past week -- get out there and fight for this. I think that's why you see him the way he is.
But in general, I don't think the whole inside/outside thing is some big issue that's going to change this race.
BLITZER: Yes, I agree with you completely. Candy, give us a little sense -- you know, there's a lot of people who say Romney did not have a good week, maybe the last two or three weeks, not so good.
What does he need to do, at this late stage in the game, to reset -- to get his campaign moving in the right direction?
CROWLEY: You know, I -- if -- if I really knew, I'd get them to hire me for a lot of money. But I mean he clearly has to shake up this race. The -- the -- we go into the fall and it is very clear it's advantage Obama. So the -- the onus is on Mitt Romney, if he is to win, to find a way to turn that upside down.
We know that the biggest chances for him really are the debates, when he's going to be side by side with the president and folks can -- the persuadables and the folks who haven't made up their mind can take a look.
But -- but how Mitt Romney shakes up this race, I don't know. I think that's what they're working on right now. They keep talking about resetting. And he's going to go out there and he's going to be tougher and he's, you know, going to five -- give us some more details of his plan, because that's what people want to know. We'll see if he does it and then we'll see if it shakes up the race.
But he -- he clearly needs to change the feel of this right now.
BLITZER: He certainly does.
All right, Candy is going to have a lot more coming up Sunday morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," 9:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll be watching.
Candy, appreciate it very much.
So could the November election end in a so-called electoral landslide?
You're going to want to hear what the former president, Bill Clinton, has told our own Fareed Zakaria.
Plus, now that we have new information about Mitt Romney's taxes, will it quiet calls for more returns to be released?
I'll ask a top Romney supporter, Senator John McCain. He's standing by.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: There are really dramatic developments happening in Benghazi, Libya, right now. CNN's one of the only news organizations in the world with a very courageous young journalist who's there. Arwa Damon is joining us once again. Arwa, I think you're on the phone. Tell our viewers in the United States and around the world what's going on in Benghazi. VOICE OF ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are literally witnessing pro-democracy demonstrators, pro-democracy residents of Benghazi taking their city back. They just, in the last few minutes, marched on the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, that militant Islamist organization, and they have managed to take it back, they say, without firing a single shot.
Hundreds of them converging on this militia's headquarters. They say that the militia members fled fairly quickly. They stormed inside. They set a vehicle on fire. They say that they freed at least 20 prisoners. One man who we walked past said that the revolution toppled the -- began in Benghazi and the revolution to win back their revolution.
It's taking in Benghazi right. Everyone's very exuberant cheering saying these are the real people of Libya. This is what Libyans really want. They don't want these extremist militias. And now, they're trying to capitalize on this momentum, Wolf. They plan on storming other known headquarters of Islamist militias in Benghazi.
So, the one thing that's been very striking is the fact that we've seen very few people with weapons. Some members of the police force, of the army, of some of the accepted revolutionary brigades, the moderate ones who do have weapons, but by and large, these demonstrators are not armed.
This is the Libya people of Benghazi literally taking their city back. Wolf, it is pretty incredible to be witnessing this.
BLITZER: That's very exciting news. And let's not forget, Arwa, and our viewers should remember as well, it was only a few days ago when the U.S. ambassador was at the consulate in Benghazi and he was shot -- he was killed. And three other Americans were killed at the same time right in that same area where you are right now.
Arwa, hold on. I want to bring Senator John McCain into this conversation. He's joining us now from Capitol Hill, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator, you've been to Benghazi, you've been to Libya. Give us your immediate reaction. You just heard this dramatic report from Arwa what's going on in Benghazi.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZONA: Somewhere, Chris Stevens is smiling. This is what we knew -- what Chris Stevens and I and others knew about Libya. Chris Stevens and I were in Tripoli as I'm sure your correspondent was on the night of July 7th after they had voted in overwhelming numbers to reject Islamists.
Thousands were in the downtown and Chris and I were down there. And as they drove by by the thousands said thank you especially to Chris Stevens, thank you, America. Thank you. And they obviously overwhelmingly wanted to reject this radical Islam, which has committed such a horrible crime. And I'm very happy about it.
Could I just mention one thing? It's interesting it comes when a few hours from now, we're going to have a vote on a Senator Rand Paul amendment to cut off all aid and assistance to Libya. This shows how ill-founded and frankly bad idea that Senator Paul and the isolationists have.
BLITZER: Senator Paul while he was on the show the other day, he not only wants to end all U.S. aid to Libya. He wants to end it to Pakistan, he wants to end it to Egypt. I think he wants to end all foreign aid to every country. But the question to you, senator, does he have the votes to do it? Who's going to prevail in the Senate?
MCCAIN: I'm confident that he does not. And I know that what's going on is more important. But, Wolf, there's been a history in our party, the isolationist, the wing of our party going all the way back after World War I, the Henry Cabot Lodge, the league of nations, and then in the 1930s, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, isolationist.
After World War II, you had the Taft wing and the Eisenhower wing of our party. And this is always out there, this debate, in hard economic times understandably that a facet or part of our party gains traction. But history shows that the United States cannot retreat to fortress America. And when we do, we pay a very heavy price.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to what the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said today about that extraordinary briefing yesterday behind closed doors to all members of Congress by her and other U.S. intelligence and administration officials. Listen to what she said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yesterday afternoon, when I briefed the Congress, I made it clear that keeping our people everywhere in the world safe is our top priority. What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You were at that briefing.
BLITZER: Are you and the secretary of state on the same page based on what you heard yesterday?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, the secretary and our U.N. ambassador and Mr. Carney and everybody else should be apologizing, because they said that this attack was a spontaneous attack which defied all logic. People don't bring mortars to spontaneous demonstrations. That's what they said. And there was a total reversal that she's saying today.
Second of all, she didn't tell us anything nor did the other people there at this briefing, secret briefing we had, and said that they couldn't give us any details because it was an ongoing investigation. So, this morning, in detail, the whole situation was described to us. And as it happened in the "Wall Street Journal" and the "New York Times."
It was, frankly, insulting to the United States Senate. I know that she's busy, but -- we have something to do with our time rather than go in a secret room and be told, well, we can't tell you what happened.
BLITZER: It's a sad story, indeed, if, in fact, they can't tell members of the United States House and Senate what's going on, but they have to read about it in the newspapers the next day. I spoke to David Ignatius, the columnist for "The Washington Post." He has information and I want to run it by you senator, if you seem to agree, that the killing of Ambassador Stevens, the U.S. ambassador at the consulate in Benghazi and the other Americans was revenge.
He says he has some indication it was revenge for the U.S. taking out an al Qaeda leader, al-Libby, back in June. Does that sound accurate based on everything you know?
MCCAIN: Of course not. What it was is an al Qaeda affiliated organization, the one that you're just seeing has been taken down by brave Libyans that were involved in this operation. How long it was planned and all that is hard to know. But that's just -- I don't think it's logical, but it may have been.
Mr. Ignatius has a direct line to the administration since he always prints whatever they tell him to. So, I think that to somehow allege that is as bogus as the first allegations that this was a result of a spontaneous demonstration, which is incredible.
BLITZER: I will say David Ignatius is a friend of mine. He's a very solid, decent reporter, but you and I can disagree --
MCCAIN: He's been wrong on every issue. He's wrong on the surge. He's been wrong about Syria. He's been wrong about Afghanistan. And he's wrong now.
BLITZER: All right. Well, you can disagree with David Ignatius. I'm sure he disagrees with you from time to time, senator, as well.
BLITZER: On that surge, though, what do you think about that? All the surge added forces, what, those 30,000 additional U.S. troops, they are now out of Afghanistan. U.S. down now to about 68,000 or 70,000 troops. They're supposed to stay, at least many of them, another two years until the end of 2014. But the surge, the added troops are out. Are you happy about that?
MCCAIN: It's an abject failure, total failure. First of all, the military advised 40,000 rather than 30,000 so we could never go to east, only south. And then, of course, the president kept announcing withdrawal, which is not lost on our enemies, and of course, which we now reach a point where we can't train and operate because of these horrible and terrible attacks by a uniformed Afghans on uniformed Americans. So, how can we train them and equip them and have them ready to take over? It's impossible. And so, here we are -- and by the way, attack on our most secure base, which is the biggest damage inflicted since the ted offensive in the Vietnam War. So, $200 million worth of U.S. aircraft were destroyed in the last few days.
And this is a result of a failed policy of withdrawal which the president's never uttered the word success or victory. And obviously, the people in the neighborhood are making the necessary adjustments. We're failing in Afghanistan. We've failed in Iraq. Iranian planes are now overflying Iraq with surprise and arms to Bashar Assad.
And meanwhile 25,000 Syrians have been killed, and the president hasn't said a word much less provide them with weapons that they could defend themselves with.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks for coming in.
MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: Senator McCain joining us from Capitol Hill. When we come back, Mitt Romney speaking out at UNLV right now, University of Nevada Las Vegas. We'll dip in. We'll hear what he has to say right after this.
BLITZER: We're just getting this picture in of Ann Romney's plane. Take a look. It was forced to make an emergency landing in Colorado due to smoke in the cabin. You can see firefighters rushing on board. The cabin of the plane filled with smoke apparently due to an electrical fire according to a campaign aide.
Romney's plane was headed to Los Angeles but landed in Denver where it was met with emergency vehicles on the runway. The campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Sal, tweeted, quote, "all OK, thank goodness." Mitt Romney's campaign says the candidate just spoke with his wife on the phone just before taking the stage in Las Vegas.
Everyone all right. Ann Romney's plane, the cabin filled with smoke apparently an electrical fire. Let's go out to Las Vegas right now. Mitt Romney's speaking. I want to listen in a little bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: -- Immigrants coming here building our country. And by the way, did you know that the immigrant community, Latinos and other immigrants come here, they build new businesses more often than those of us who've been here all of our lives.
We welcome people who come here and build enterprises and put Americans to work. And we want to help them.
(CHEERING) ROMNEY: And he said it. He said it right there. He said, you know what, if you come here and you build a business, you did build that business. The government did not build that business.
ROMNEY: This is a time of choice for the country. This is a time when we can decide to go down the path President Obama's put us on. He said he wants to pool our resources and reallocate. All right. He's going to take from some and give to others. This redistribution idea, this redistribution idea has been tried in other places. This is not a new idea. It's just never worked in other places. And it's certainly not going to work here. He wants a bigger and bigger government, trillion dollar deficits. What that leads to is not more people coming out of poverty; it's putting more people into poverty. Look, government is there and must be there for people who need help for disabled, for the elderly that need help, for those that can't care for themselves. Of course we will always be there. We are a compassionate people. But as someone has said, we don't measure compassion by how many people are on food stamps. We measure compassion by how many people can get off of food stamps and get a good job.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: I'm convinced that the path he has put us on is the path to Europe or I jokingly say to California, all right? And I don't want to go there. That's not working there. I don't want to have it come here. I don't want to have a government getting bigger and bigger, more intrusive, telling us what kind of health insurance we have to have. I don't want to have a government that becomes so large that it smothers the American dream. I don't want to have a government that takes from some and gives to others. What I want to do is restore the principles of freedom that made America's economy work in the first place. I believe in the vision of founders. I believe that when they said God gave us our rights, they were right. And among those rights are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: We are not going to transform America into something we would not recognize. We will restore American greatness by restoring the principles of America. We will restore freedom, free opportunity for the American people to realize their dreams. That's what's going to bring us back. I want to create those 12 million jobs. I want to help every citizen of this country have a bright and prosperous future. I want your children to know the future will be better than the past. We're going to make it happen. I need you to get me elected in November. Let's get the job done. Let's get America strong again. Thank you so very much, Nevada. Thank you, Las Vegas. Thank you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: It's a key battleground state, Nevada. In fact, the last CNN/ORC poll showed likely voters choice for President Obama 49 percent, Romney 46 percent, three-point difference right there, but Mitt Romney obviously trying to fire up his supporters speaking at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and making some strong points against the president of the United States and his policies. We're going to hear a very, very different side of the story from the Vice President Joe Biden. He's getting ready to give a speech in Concord, New Hampshire, another key battleground state there. You see the stage is now set for the vice president of the United States. Once he shows up, we'll go there live. Stay with us. We're watching all of the political activity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Dr. Susan Lynch (ph), Governor John Lynch (ph), Dr. --
BLITZER: We're getting ready to hear from the vice president of the United States Joe Biden. He's being introduced by a whole bunch of speakers in Concord, New Hampshire, another key battleground state. Once Joe Biden gets into it, we're going to hear what he has to say. Stand by.
Meantime, other news we're following including Pakistan erupting into deadly violence today. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's the latest?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, government calls for a peaceful protest on a hastily declared national holiday in Pakistan disintegrated into chaos today. Violent protests by Muslims angry over an anti-Islamic film left at least 15 people dead and almost 80 more injured in Peshawar and Karachi. We'll have a full report from Pakistan coming up in our next hour.
And General Motors says it is recalling more than 400,000 of its sedans for a transmission glitch that may cause cars to roll over even if they are in park. GM says the recall affects Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn sedans. It says the certain problems is in certain cars with four-speed automatic transmissions built between 2007 and 2010. They include Chevy Malibu, Saturn Aura (ph) and Pontiac G-6 models.
And the federal government reports today that the unemployment rate rose last month in 26 states, seven of which are key battleground states for the upcoming presidential election. The unemployment rate went down in 12 states, only two of those are swing states. And Nevada continues to hold the nation's highest jobless rate at 12.1 percent in August. Oil-rich North Dakota has the lowest rate at three percent.
And in just the past hour we have gotten word that a man jumped from a monorail into a tiger pit at New York's Bronx Zoo. The zoo's director says emergency crews used a fire extinguisher to force a tiger away from that man. A fire department spokesman tells CNN that he has been transported to a local hospital. He is in critical condition.
And a historic goose bumps moment today for the space shuttle "Endeavour". For the last time "Endeavour" took off from California's Edwards Air Force Base this morning for its final flight to Los Angeles International Airport where it landed less than two hours ago. And it was the last leg of the orbiter's three-day piggyback transcontinental journey. "Endeavour" will travel its last 12 miles by ground to a science museum next month. And those are great pictures that we're seeing right now as it's passing over various cities. A lot of folks out there got a chance to see it as it went by, which was quite a treat, Wolf.
BLITZER: It was a thrill indeed I'm sure for all those folks. Lisa, thank you. So could a cure for cancer soon be within reach? Just ahead a top researcher tells our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta exclusively the number of deaths could plummet, plummet in the next decade.
BLITZER: It's a feared disease that touches the lives of nearly everyone. Now the fight against cancer is at a crossroads. Within just a few years cancer deaths are expected to plummet. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta got an exclusive interview with top researchers. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in a position to make dramatic impact on cancer mortality in this decade.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're saying if we do everything right, in five years from now there will be far fewer people dying from cancer, right?
DR. RONALD DEPINHO, PRES., MD ANDERSON CANCER CENTER: Correct. I think that with the existing knowledge and the application of what we now know, we could begin to see dramatic declines in mortality that would accelerate in years five through 10 and beyond set the stage for ultimate control of the disease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Sanjay is joining us now. Sanjay, this sounds huge. But how big of a deal is this?
GUPTA: I think it's a big deal. The man you're just hearing is the president of MD Anderson. It's the largest cancer center in the world. They do about 1,000 clinical trials there, Wolf, and they've been you know building their knowledge over a great period of time. I will tell you and you'll appreciate this, the mood down there is -- they call it the moon shop program and it sort of had that same feel when President Kennedy talked about putting a man on the moon, they're talking about this project sort of the same way. And they're targeting eight specific cancers saying we will dramatically reduce mortality by 50 percent or more just within the next few years. Not a long way off. We have a list of those specific cancers as well I believe -- take a look there, Wolf -- melanoma, lung cancer, that's the biggest cancer killer of all, prostate cancer, breast cancer, triple-negative, that's a very tough cancer to treat. You can take a look at the list, audacious, Wolf, is how I describe it, but these are the guys who do it. These are the cancer doctors at -- are at the forefront of all this.
BLITZER: So what is the theory behind them eliminating melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer? How do they do it? What's the theory behind it?
GUPTA: One thing you can't ignore is this idea that first of all just preventing a lot of these diseases in the first place, screening for them, that's always going to be an important part of this. But I think this whole notion that people are becoming more personalized in the way that they can treat these as well. So Wolf, for example, if you had cancer and someone else your age another man had the same cancer, in fact the two cancers are very different even though they're both maybe lung or whatever type of cancer, the genes of that cancer, your genes, how it all interplays makes a huge difference in terms of how that cancer will behave and I think more importantly how it will get treated.
Right now it's sort of a one-size-fits-all approach. And I think individualized treatments is going to be a large part of this. But again it's -- you know they've been doing these clinical trials for some time and they believe now based on everything that they know that they can make these huge sort of quantum leaps. It's not going to be that we're going to wake up and read the newspaper or watch you on TV one day say cancer is now cured. But it's happening in slow gradations. They think the time is getting closer --
BLITZER: I may be -- I'm not the only one -- I've been -- you say talk about screenings --
BLITZER: -- for pre cancer, I'm totally confused. For example, prostate, PSA screening test --
GUPTA: Yes -- yes.
BLITZER: -- good or bad, you get conflicting advice, mammograms, for example, good or bad? You get conflicting -- I don't know about you, but it's making a lot of people totally crazy out there.
GUPTA: I think it's very hard -- even within the medical community there's been a lot of confusion on this. And doctors who are doctors who treat these types of cancers regularly, they still order these tests for their patients. I was just reading through Governor Romney's records and Paul Ryan, we're going to talk about that a little later on in terms of the testing they had and this issue came up there as well. But I think in terms of what MD Anderson is doing, they are basically ready to say with the screening that we now know that works, early detection for things like lung cancer and treatments we're making some big steps.
I think -- I met a guy -- I don't know if you have some video of him, a guy named Brian Rose (ph), he's a baseball coach in the Midwest. And he has stage four melanoma, which is -- melanoma has spread throughout his body. And what we find is that he basically is getting a treatment where his immune system, his own immune system, is taught to fight the cancer. It's a remarkable therapy. And what you're looking at there, Wolf, is some of the first time in the world that this type of therapy has occurred.
BLITZER: It's amazing, Sanjay, thanks very much. I know you're going to be back the next hour. We're going to talk about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, they released their medical records today. Some interesting details in there especially Paul Ryan, his father died in his mid-50s. His grandfather died in his mid-50s. He's in his early 40s. He's in very good shape. But I want to talk to you about that, what's going on, Sanjay, don't go too far away.
And to our viewers, don't miss Sanjay's special report "Chasing the Cure" this weekend. It airs Saturday 4:30 p.m. Eastern, Sunday morning 7:30 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN. Plus as I said Sanjay will be back in the next hour. We'll review the health of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
All right. We're just getting a statement in from the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reacting to the new tax information released by Mitt Romney today. And it's a blistering statement. He's not backing down at all in his accusations against the Republican presidential nominee. Let me just read a line from this lengthy statement.
"The information released today reveals that Mitt Romney manipulated one of the only two years of tax returns he's seen fit to show the American people and then only to quote 'conform' with his public statements." Reid goes on to say and I'm quoting once again, "It's also galling to see the creative accounting Mitt Romney applied to his own tax returns only days after learning of his insulting comments that seniors, soldiers and hard-working parents don't pay enough taxes."
The statement goes on to say more. One thing the statement does not say is what Harry Reid had said earlier. He had charged that Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for a period of 10 years when he was at Bain Capital. That is not included in this blistering tough statement against the Republican presidential nominee. But clearly a strong bitter statement. Much more on this coming up.
Joe Biden, by the way, is getting ready to speak in Concord, New Hampshire. He's just been introduced. He's doing some obligatory thank yous. When we come back, we're going to hear from Joe Biden. He's always outspoken.
BLITZER: Medicare, it's a hot issue right now, Joe Biden is in Concord, New Hampshire, a battleground state speaking about it. Let's listen in.
JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me tell you what they say about us, but let me tell you what their plan actually would do. Their plan actually, actually would immediately cut benefits for 48 million recipients of Medicare on Medicare today. It would cause the Medicare Trust Fund to go -- become insolvent in 2016. In addition to that they're really not for Medicare. They're for an alternative, voucher care. They have a plan whereby you will be literally taken off of Medicare. You will be given a voucher that is a chit (ph) or whatever they want to call it, a premium support, whatever phrase they use, and say to your 80-year-old mom, you can now go out or by the time this kicks in, you can go out on the market mom, and you can compete for the best plan that you can get.
And you can buy back into Medicare if you want, except the value of the voucher is by definition going to be less than the plan you now have under Medicare. Otherwise they can't save any money. The CBO that is always being quoted by Romney and Ryan suggests that the first plan they put forward would cost a senior, an average senior $6,400 a year out of their pocket to keep the same Medicare benefits they have today. It also points out the new plan they have that if you are 50 -- 55 years old, and they say it won't kick in for 10 years, it will cost you $60,000 more to be on Medicare. Not a year, but the lifetime you're on it.
And if you're 45 years old, it will cost you $125,000 more. Ladies and gentlemen, let's be clear. Let's be clear about something. Barack Obama and I will never allow Medicare to be turned from a guaranteed program into a voucher program.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: We will never allow that to happen. And if you listened -- if you listened to their convention, they had this urgent concern about the national debt. They talked about it, the clock ticking behind them, the national debt clock. It is an urgent concern. They told you they care, but what they didn't tell you is -- what they didn't tell you is every single proposal put forward, a $4 trillion proposal by us to cut the deficit, the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which Congressman Ryan served on and quotes (ph) every bipartisan commission, they voted no or resisted or said they would be no part of why. They're against any plan to cut the national debt.
BLITZER: All right, so you get the point, the vice president on his stump speech in Concord, New Hampshire. We're going to continue to monitor what he is saying. Much more on that coming up. We're also breaking down Mitt Romney's tax returns, his health records, a lot more news right after this.