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Romney Tours Battleground States; President Obama Focuses on World Peace

Aired September 24, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A little over a week before their first debate, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are trying to hit each other where it hurts. The Obama campaign is out with its first ad attacking Romney's now infamous 47 percent remark, and Romney just went after the president for an interview that seemed to downplay the bloodshed in the Middle East.

Our senior political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is with the Romney campaign on a new tour of battleground states.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with the calendar shrinking and the debates fast approaching, Mitt Romney is barnstorming through some crucial states with serious ground to make up, and he's hoping to do just that today on the subject of foreign policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's not debate time yet, but Mitt Romney was looking for one on foreign policy in front of a crowd in Colorado. That's where the GOP contender laid into President Obama for describing the recent unrest in the Middle East as bumps in the road on "60 Minutes."

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He says the developments in the Middle East are bumps in the road.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: Yes, that was my reaction. Bumps in the road? We had an ambassador assassinated. These are not bumps in the road. These are human lives.

ACOSTA: Romney has some catching up to do in campaign battlegrounds across the country. CNN's latest poll of polls shows the president with an edge in three critical states, in Colorado by three, in Ohio by five, and in Florida by four.

ROMNEY: Let's find at least one person who voted for Barack Obama last time.

ACOSTA: As he's done repeatedly at recent events, Romney urged his supporters in Colorado to go to work and phone a friend.

ROMNEY: I want you to find them and talk to them and ask them whether they can't vote in favor of someone who will bring real change and strengthen America again.

ACOSTA: Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, hope to close the gap in Ohio next with a bus tour across the state. Trying to explain why he's trailing, Romney complained on his campaign plane the president is not fighting fair.

ROMNEY: He's trying to fool people into thinking that I think things I don't.

ACOSTA: His campaign is also seizing on President Obama's admission to "60 Minutes" that some of his ads have failed with fact- checkers.

OBAMA: Do we see sometimes us going overboard in our campaign? Are there mistakes that are made? Are there areas where there's no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things? That happens in politics.

ACOSTA: But those same fact-checkers have been just as critical of Romney's ads, like this one accusing the president of gutting the work requirement in welfare.

NARRATOR: They just send you your welfare check, and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.

ROMNEY: My job is not to worry about those people.

ACOSTA: The Obama campaign's latest ad uses Romney's own words from that hidden camera video showing the GOP nominee going off on voters who don't pay federal income taxes.

NARRATOR: Doesn't the president have to worry about everyone?

ACOSTA: After days of second-guessing from conservative critics, Romney took responsibility for the remarks.

ROMNEY: That's not the campaign. That was me, right? That's not a campaign.

Not everything I say is elegant and I want to make it very clear I want to help 100 percent of the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The Obama campaign released a statement accusing Romney of using the Libya incident to seek political attacks, saying that is beneath someone who is seeking the office of commander in chief, but it's also the latest example of both campaigns trying to turn winning the news cycle into winning the election -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jim Acosta traveling with the Romney campaign.

Governor Romney's newest attack on President Obama's foreign policy just hours before the president addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Critics say President Obama has a lot of explaining to do to the world and to voters here at home.

Our Chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is in New York covering the president's visit.

Jessica, what's the latest?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the eyes of the world on President Obama when he addresses the General Assembly tomorrow morning, but the president will not be staying long.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Heading into a big week, President Obama was asked if he's under pressure from Israel's prime minister to step up his efforts against Iran. He told CBS:

OBAMA: I am going to block out any noise that's out there.

YELLIN: The Romney campaign pounced, accusing the president of a chronic disregard for the security of Israel.

And he's taking heat for this, too. The president arrived in New York a day ahead of his big speech to the United Nations. And he sat down for a one-on-one with the ladies of "The View," but not with foreign heads of state.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": He has time for Whoopi Goldberg, but he doesn't have time for world leaders?

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Chris, they have telephones in the White House. Last week, he talked to the president of Egypt. He talked to the leader in Libya.

YELLIN: Yes, it's foreign policy, election season edition.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Unfortunately, in American election cycles, foreign policy becomes not so much an issue of demonstrating wisdom as it is an issue for demonstrating toughness. So I think you will see a lot of that from the president in his speech.

YELLIN: The president speaks to the U.N. generally assembly Tuesday morning. Administration officials say he will address the issue at the heart of the tension with Israel's prime minister, Iran's nuclear program.

HILL: I don't think you will see any daylight in the U.S./Israel alliance. But I think the president needs to show that he is not dawdling on the question of Iran, he's got a robust diplomacy in mind, he's got a sanctions program, and, as he's said many times, he's left everything on the table.

YELLIN: He will also address the violence in the Middle East that claimed the lives of four Americans. The secretary of state offered a preview.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Extremists around the world are working hard to drive us apart. All of us need to stand together to resist these forces and to support Democratic transitions under way in North Africa and the Middle East.

YELLIN: Other pressing issues, U.S. trade with China and:

HILL: I think he does need to address Syria. This is a civil war in Syria that has all of the makings of something that could metastasize throughout the region.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Wolf, the Middle East in particular has changed a great deal since President Obama delivered a speech in Cairo in 2009. Then he declared a new beginning. Well, tomorrow could be a chance for the president to explain how he sees the future of the Middle East after the Arab spring and the U.S.' role there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thanks very much for that report.

Kate Bolduan is here. She's got more on what the president and other world leaders will be up to in New York at the U.N. General Assembly.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Obviously very busy, but for more on that we're going to go -- we're talking about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton's diplomatic skills if you will are being put to the test as she stands in for the president at the U.N. today and sets the stage really for his big speech tomorrow.

For more on this one, want to bring in foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, who is following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Jill, she is keeping quite a schedule.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: She is. It has been one meeting after another and it's not over yet because she has another one at 8:30 tonight with the leader of Egypt, but it's really been intense and it's not been that easy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): A day of diplomatic damage control for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

CLINTON: The people of the Arab world did not set out to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. There is no dignity in that.

DOUGHERTY: In New York for the U.N. General Assembly, Clinton met with the leaders of four countries where the U.S. has been under attack. In the first high-level meeting with Libya since the terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, the secretary tried to keep the focus positive, as she met with the president, Mohammed Magarief.

CLINTON: I want to thank them in person for the important efforts that they're taking to help find and bring to justice all of those responsible for the attack.

DOUGHERTY: Then Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the highest-level meeting with the Afghan meeting since the brazen attack on NATO's Camp Bastion by insurgents wearing U.S. military uniforms.

Pakistan, too, was on Clinton's schedule, the scene of violent protests over the blasphemous film about the Prophet Mohammed.

CLINTON: We very much appreciate the strong response of your government.

DOUGHERTY: Hillary Clinton was filling in for President Barack Obama who also is here in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

But in the midst of an election campaign, he's decided to sidestep the mine field of foreign policy hot spots and not meet individually with other world leaders. Clinton, speaking at her husband's Clinton Global Initiative, dipped her toe into domestic political waters while talking about international economic development.

CLINTON: You know, I'm out of American politics, but it is a fact that around the world, the elites of every country are making money. There are rich people everywhere. And, yet, they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: A little hint there.

But, in any case, back to foreign policy, we did have a briefing by a senior U.S. official this afternoon on Pakistan. They said that it's been a rough couple of months, but they're going in a good direction. They said they wouldn't want to oversell it.

But on Libya specifically, in that meeting with President Magarief, he said they're ready to cooperate with the investigation that would be taking place, is taking place, and also interestingly he said he wants the country to rise to the level of confidence and trust that the United States and other countries around the world have given to Libya -- back to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jill Dougherty outside the U.N. for us this evening. Jill, thank you so much. I know I and many people, I'm sure including you, are very interested to hear what President Obama has to say before the General Assembly tomorrow.

BLITZER: Nine a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning, that's when he is scheduled to address the General Assembly. CNN of course will have live coverage.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, a new warning today that new voting laws here in the United States may keep millions of Latinos from actually casting ballots this year, is that true, is it not true? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A civil rights group is warning that more than 10 million Latino Americans may be discouraged from casting ballots this year because of new voting laws affecting about half of the nation. It is a big chunk of the electorate and it could change the outcome on November 6 if, if it's true.

Our own Joe Johns has been looking in to this story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the honest truth about the latest report on Latino voting rights is that the headline on the story is frankly a little misleading, but the issue is real, nonetheless.

(voice-over): At the Congressional Black Caucus dinner over the weekend, first lady Michelle Obama spent a lot of time talking about a political hot topic that is getting even hotter, minority voting rights.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots. We cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the voting booth.

JOHNS: The latest salvo is over the Latino vote. Today, the left-leaning Advancement Project released a new report that says voting laws in 23 states could have a huge impact in November.

JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: There are 10 million Latino voters who will be affected by these laws that will have to overcome these new barriers that have been put in place to restrict the vote.

JOHNS: There are estimated to be around 25 million Latinos eligible to vote nationwide which according to the Advancement Project means more than a third could be affected. But the report's conclusion was almost immediately challenged. Republican strategist Ana Navarro has done Latino outreach for campaigns.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The numbers that are included in this report include people like me, a naturalized Latino in Miami, Florida. I can tell you I'm not scared to vote. I know I'm not disenfranchised. I know I will be able to vote and if they ask me for a picture I.D., so what? I get asked for a picture I.D. when I go and fly.

JOHNS (on camera): Experts say there's no way to know the number of people who might be affected partly because so many voting rights laws are still tied up in the courts. So what's changed for Latino voters this election? Proof of citizenship, including some states require a photo I.D. Also, battleground states like Florida and Colorado have attempted to purge voter rolls of alleged non-citizens.

BROWNE-DIANIS: Purging people from the rolls because they're suspected non-citizens actually creates a burden on Latino voters that other communities will not see.

JOHNS (voice-over): Opponents of the changes see political motivations and say they were in put place to suppress minority voters who tend to support Democrats. A recent Gallup poll showed overwhelming support among Latinos for President Obama.

NAVARRO: I think there's a balance that can drawn here. We all agree that only those eligible to vote should be voting and those that are not eligible to vote should not be voting. Now, the question is, why create such alarm and why create such controversy?

JOHNS (on camera): A lot of Republicans who pushed these legal changes through say this is mainly about protecting the integrity of the vote and rooting out fraud. But so far, study after study has shown there's scant evidence to support claims of fraud -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting, thank you.

Next month, Joe will have an hour-long documentary all about the legal battle over voting rights in the critical battleground state of Florida. Tune in to "Who Counts." That airs Sunday, October 14, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Joe's been working very hard on it and I'm really looking forward to seeing it coming up.

Still ahead for us, though, the mayor of New York is on the defensive a bit for giving New York schoolgirls a controversial form of birth control. That's next coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: The Obama campaign says Mitt Romney is politicizing the death of the United States ambassador to Libya.

Romney's foreign policy is standing by to respond.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now: The Romney camp responds to the president's suggestion that the Republican wants to start another war.

Romney says President Obama sees Middle East bloodshed as merely a bump in the road. I will ask the president's deputy campaign manager about that.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger opens up about the day his wife, Maria Shriver, confronted him about his affair and secret child.

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

Mitt Romney is hammering President Obama today, accusing him of downplaying deadly violence in the Middle East during a televised interview.

BOLDUAN: Here's a clip of Obama's remarks on "60 Minutes" and also Romney's attack on the campaign trail today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road.

ROMNEY: Bumps in the road? We had an ambassador assassinated. This is time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East, not just be merciful or be at mercy of the events in the Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The campaign released an angry response to Romney saying this -- quote -- "He's purposely misinterpreting the president's words and making reckless statements about the deaths of four Americans in Libya apparently for the sole purpose of his own political gain."

It goes on to say, "Using this incident to launch political attacks should be beneath someone seeking to be our nation's commander in chief."

A pretty sharp criticism right there.

BLITZER: Yes, very strong.

So let's talk about that with a top Romney foreign policy adviser. Richard Williamson is joining us from Chicago.

Mr. Williamson, thanks very much for coming in.

You want to respond to this serious accusation that Governor Romney is politicizing some very, very serious and obviously very disturbing news coming out of the Middle East?

RICHARD WILLIAMSON, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Well, there are disturbing news out of the Middle East. The problem is the president's not responding in a bold way, which is necessary. He's allowing events to play out. He's saying they're just a bump in the road. The assassination of an ambassador, the first since Jimmy Carter's administration, is a big deal.

The fact that there are demonstrations around 20 embassies is a big deal, the fact that in Cairo and other embassies there was breach of U.S. property. So, I think it's President Obama who wants to downplay it because his policies are failing.

BLITZER: Well, very quickly, what do you want the president to do?

WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, he should stop the stonewalling about what happened in Benghazi.

For five, six days, they said it was spontaneous result of this film. It's clear -- it came out. It was a planned attack. Intelligence Chairman Rogers talked about that yesterday. Even the press secretary at the White House has had to back off.

The American people want to know what happened, what did the administration know, when did they know it and why wasn't there adequate protection? So, that's one thing they have to do. And, secondly, they have to show some constancy and firmness with the Middle East, as opposed to going around apologizing.

BOLDUAN: And I also want you to respond specifically to this charge that the Obama campaign makes that he's politicizing -- that Governor Romney is politicizing this very, very sad event that happened in Benghazi.

I mean, just last night Governor Romney, on his campaign plane, was criticizing the Obama camp for taking his views out of context. Isn't Governor Romney doing the same thing here?

WILLIAMSON: Well, look, I knew Ambassador Chris Stevens when I was the president's special envoy to Sudan and did some negotiations in Tripoli. I had a chance to work with him. He was a great public servant, a decent man. We all have sympathy to his family and friends, as for the other four.

But there's a fundamental policy issue, and I think this is kind of a classic political two-step when you don't want to deal with the substance. Either you stonewall, which was the first approach to Benghazi, or you try to dismiss it by saying, "Oh, they're politicizing it." That's an interesting charge of a president who ran principally on the attacks on President bush's foreign policy in 2008.

The American people have a right to know that two different visions. One, peace through strength, is Governor Romney's view. A different view is that of President Obama's. It's Obama and Carter have The View of engagement in what appears to us to be inconsistency and weakness. Truman through Reagan to Romney is peace through strength. There are fundamental differences. The American people should know it. BLITZER: Where's the president apologizing, Mr. Williamson?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I think the $70,000 spent on this commercial in Pakistan that goes out of its way to condemn this video, as opposed to standing up for free speech and that there should be an understanding that free speech is tolerated and important in the United States, is a mistake. I think that the embassy...

BLITZER: That's not an apology. That's not an apology. That's explaining that the U.S. government, in the face of these accusations, had nothing to do with that ugly, stupid 14-minute trailer. It's just an explanation, a public service announcement, if you will. A commercial that they put out there in Pakistan.

WILLIAMSON: Wolf, you're -- you're entitled to your interpretation. It looks to me like someone who's not standing up for free speech and pluralism and explaining to the Pakistanis and the Muslim world that they have their laws. We have our laws. We have our Constitution, and people can speak out and express their views.

BLITZER: I wonder...

WILLIAMSON: ... and we shouldn't try to...

BLITZER: Yes, I was just going to say -- I want to move on and sounded like an explanation of free speech, as opposed to an apology. But we don't have to -- we don't have to get in to that. Go ahead, Kate.

WILLIAMSON: We can -- we can agree to disagree.

BLITZER: We can. Go ahead.

BOLDUAN: We actually want to -- I want to play you something that Paul Ryan said today in a town hall in Ohio. Let's play part of it, and he's here talking about the protests in the Middle East. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN (R), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, turn on the TV and it's not -- it reminds you of 1979 Tehran, but they're burning our flags in capitals all around the world. They're storming our embassies. We've lost four of our diplomats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: He's obviously referring to the Islamic revolutions. We've talked, actually, about this a lot, I mean, in kind of bombastic language that's been used on the campaign trail. Do you think that you can actually relate these two events, or is Paul Ryan going too far here?

WILLIAMSON: I don't think he's going too far. As I said earlier, you have different approaches to U.S. foreign policy, and the approach that President Truman began after World War II and was carried out through Kennedy to Reagan and beyond, was an approach of peace through strength. America never got in to a war because it was too strong.

And accommodation and apology invites challenges, and that's what's happened. And that's a policy that Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have had, and it's failed. It's failing in the Middle East. We think there should be a discussion about that, as opposed to trying to divert, deny and run away from a discussion of it.

BLITZER: But I like you, Mr. Williamson, I lived through those 444 days during the Jimmy Carter administration when American diplomats were held hostage in Tehran. And that was a brutal, brutal period. You're not suggesting that what we're going through right now is at all equivalent to that, are you?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I'm suggesting there are challenges to U.S. interests. There are those who are violently opposed to the United States and its values that are challenging us.

And, Wolf, I also was through it and, as you know, I served, worked with President Reagan on the senior staff. And I well remembered that those hostages were freed 20 minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president.

BLITZER: I remember that very vividly. I'm just saying that 444 days of Americans held hostage is obviously a brutal, brutal experience, one of the reasons Jimmy Carter was defeated in that election in 1980. I'm just saying that right now, at least based on what I see and what I remember from then, it's not similar. Paul Ryan may have gone a little bit over the top in making that accusation, but on this I suspect we'll agree to disagree, as well.

WILLIAMSON: Well, Wolf, you -- Wolf, you well remember, it's way back in 1979, the last time during Jimmy Carter, that we had an American ambassador assassinated. We had one assassinated in Benghazi. This is not a bump in the road.

BLITZER: Right. Well, it's not a bump in the road. I agree with you.

WILLIAMSON: It's not a bump in the road, it's not a bubble (ph) in foreign policy.

BLITZER: That's a bad phrase. I'm sure if the president had a chance, he'd like to take that back. On that "bump in the road" phrase, you're right. But, you know, we'll see how this unfolds in a couple weeks.

WILLIAMSON: But let me just -- but, Wolf, let -- Wolf, let me just say. A president who has time for Whoopi Goldberg today but not time to meet with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, as has been the practice of presidents for decades is also disappointing, and it shows a lack of seriousness about U.S. interest in foreign policy.

BLITZER: We're going to -- we're going to discuss that with our next guest, from the Obama campaign. Stephanie Cutter, she's standing by. We'll get a very different obvious perspective from her. Rich Williamson, as usual, thanks for coming in.

WILLIAMSON: Thanks, Wolf. Have a good day.

BLITZER: All right. Stephanie Cutter is standing by. We'll get her take when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Romney campaign is pouncing on President Obama's admission that sometimes his campaign goes too far.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And it's another dust-up stemming from those dueling interviews Romney and President Obama gave to "60 Minutes" that aired over the weekend. This particular remark, though, by President Obama did not air on TV, but CBS News posted it on its Web site. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do we see sometimes us going overboard in our campaign? Are there mistake that is are made, you know, areas where there's no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things? You know, that happens in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're joined by the president's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter. Sounds like he was criticizing your own campaign, Stephanie, for going too far and sometimes making these kind of accusations. I wonder if you agree with the president.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I do agree with the president. We take fact checking very, very seriously. We spend a lot of time making sure that the facts up on the air are -- we're able to back them up.

And, you know, just think about the contrast with the Romney campaign. Their chief strategist, Neil Newhouse, said that they weren't going to be beholden by fact checkers. There's a big difference. We take fact checking very seriously.

BLITZER: So Stephanie, listen here to this little sound that we have. This is from Governor Romney, who was talking to reporters last night about some of the ads that have been put out by your campaign and supporting super PACs. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he says I was in favor of liquidating the automobile industry, nothing is further from the truth. Or he says, I'm in favor of lowering taxes on wealthy people. No, I'm not. I'm not going to reduce the taxes on the wealthy at all. And then, of course, his -- his ads on abortion. He says I'm opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest and the life of the mother. That's wrong.

One ad after another of his and statements has been determined to be factually inaccurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You just said that fact -- you take fact checks very seriously. So do you stand by all of these ads sent out by your campaign?

CUTTER: Absolutely, absolutely. And 'm happy to walk through them. Just because Mr. Romney disagrees with his own record doesn't mean that what we're saying isn't true.

Let's take the automobile industry. Everybody knows, across the board, that the automobile industry wouldn't have survived if the government didn't give it a bridge loan, and that's what it came down to. It wasn't about, ultimately going into bankruptcy. It's about giving it a bridge loan so that it can survive in order to go into bankruptcy.

Mitt Romney criticized the government in a widely read op-ed that -- with the title, "Let Detroit go Bankrupt." Criticized the federal government for giving that bridge loan. Even Bain Capital wouldn't step up at the time and give the automobile industry a bad loan, because it was a bad financial deal.

But the president stood up and said, "I'm not going to let this industry go under." So that's No. 1.

No. 2, on lowering taxes for the wealthy, it's his tax plan. He wants to lower the tax rate for everybody, and you're lowering the tax rate for everybody, then you're lowering their taxes.

Now, he'll say he's going to close deductions and close loopholes so that it's revenue neutral, but he has yet to name those deductions and loopholes.

So independent analysts have looked at this and said the only way he could cut taxes by $5 trillion -- that's his tax plan. Not ours. The only way he could cut taxes by $5 trillion is to actually raise taxes on the middle class, because he has to get rid of the number of deductions that it would take to pay for it.

BLITZER: What do you make about...

CUTTER: And on abortion, you know the problem with -- on abortion is he's taken both sides of every issue. He is on the record...

BLITZER: He does -- his current position is that...

CUTTER: ... as being against exceptions. BLITZER: But his current position...

CUTTER: OK. That's his current position.

BLITZER: ... is, as he -- as he stated it, and I think that's, you know, at least a last position he's had on abortion, that he does favor these exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

But I want you to react quickly to the latest accusations coming from the Romney campaign. Paul Ryan, in particular, saying, "What we're seeing now unfold in the Middle East is reminiscent of what happened in 1979 when Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days. Do you want to respond to the Romney campaign, the vice- presidential nominee?

CUTTER: Well, I would say a couple of things. I think it's sad that this is the Romney campaign is spending the last days of the campaign, launching fictional attack after fictional attack.

You know, each day that goes by, they talk about a reboot. That this is the day they're going to start talking about where Mitt Romney wants to take the country. This is the day that they're going to lay out details of what he's going to do to improve the economy and help the American people.

But each day that goes by, they pick a fictional attack, and they spend the entire day on it. Now, on this particular one, you know, it just reminds me that, in the now-infamous secret videotape of Mitt Romney behind closed doors with donors, he said that he was going to look for an opportunity like the Iran hostage crisis and take opportunity of it.

You said opportunity. Well, you know what? If there's one thing he's done well in this campaign, it's that. He's taken a very tragic event over in Libya that cost, you know, our ambassador his life, and he's made it pure politics.

I mean, as the president said a few weeks ago, he shot first and he aimed later, and he's still doing that. And now his vice president is going that.

I think we all need to take a step back and understand that, you know, America still faces threats in the world, and we need to approach these threats responsibly. I think that's what you'll hear from the president tomorrow before the U.N. General Assembly.

BLITZER: You know, the other accusations that you hear them making is that the president has time for Whoopi Goldberg on "The View" and doesn't have time to meet with world leaders in New York as he addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

We did some research back in 2004 when another incumbent president was running for re-election. That was George W. Bush. He went to the U.N. in September just before the election, and he did meet on that day, the same day he addressed the General Assembly, with a whole bunch of world leaders. You can see right there, the Indian prime minister, the U.N. secretary general, the Iraqi prime minister, the Japanese prime minister, the Afghan and Pakistani presidents.

And I would argue, Stephanie, that that was probably politically smart. It shows he's the world leader. He's meeting with world leaders. And why didn't the president use this opportunity in New York this week to meet with various leaders who were there, instead of just giving his address and then going ahead and appearing on "The View"?

CUTTER: Well, Wolf, I'm not going to get into the details of his schedule. I'm going to leave that to my -- my White House friends. I'm on the campaign side now.

But I will say when you're the president of the United States, you're always talking to world leaders. You're always working with world leaders. Just in the last couple of weeks, a half dozen of them, in talking about the unrest in the Middle East and what we're going to do about it and getting to the bottom of the attack in the Libya. It's a constant conversation.

And then I think that, when the president speaks before the U.N. General Assembly tomorrow, he'll come to that speech from that place of credibility, as someone who has restored our alliances, who has increased, you know, the world's view of the United States. Who has crippled al Qaeda and ended the war in Iraq. Is drawing down the war in Afghanistan.

And he'll say, you know, he'll talk about the unrest in the Muslim world, and he'll put what's happening in the Middle East in context of a long Democratic transition.

But he'll also make clear to every -- the world watching that the United States is not going to retreat. When Americans are harmed, then we will bring that person to justice. And we will bring peace through strength -- I heard your interview before with the person before me, and that is what peace through strength is. And I think you'll hear that from the president tomorrow.

BLITZER: I'm sure we will, 9 a.m. Eastern. That's when the president addressing the U.N. General Assembly. We'll have live coverage, of course, here on CNN.

Stephanie Cutter, thanks as usual for coming in.

CUTTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, Mr. Olympian, The Terminator, the governor, whatever you want to call him, he is master of reinvention. Arnold Schwarzenegger is at it again with an autobiography that holds nothing back.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new tell-all autobiography coming out. CNN's Casey Wian has some details. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the inauguration of the USC Public Policy Institute bearing his name. He wanted to talk about the institute's plans to tackle health care, global warming and the economy in a nonpartisan way.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: But I learned the old way of doing things just didn't work, so I broke the rules.

WIAN: But more interesting, even to many the academics in the audience...

NANCY STUADT, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, SCHWARZENEGGER INSTITUTE: Professor Schwarzenegger has just published a book. He'll be involved in classroom activities, and he's hosting its inaugural symposium. He might already be ready for a promotion.

WIAN: The salacious details leaked from his soon-to-be-released autobiography...

SCHWARZENEGGER: If my life was a movie, no one would believe it.

WIAN: ..."Total recall."

SCHWARZENEGGER: This story you know. So are you ready for the story you don't?

WIAN: Maria Shriver waited until the day after Schwarzenegger left California governor's office to confirm her suspicion he cheated at a couples therapy session, according to "The New York Daily News." The paper says it obtained an advanced copy of "Total Recall," and Arnold wrote, "The minute we sat down, the therapist turned to me and said, 'Maria wanted to come here today and to ask about a child, whether you fathered a child with your housekeeper, Mildred.' I told the therapist it's true."

Schwarzenegger told "60 Minutes" in an interview to be aired Sunday Maria has not read the book.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But she knows you're discussing...

SCHWARZENEGGER: She knows it's about my whole life and that I would not write a book and kind of leave out that part and make people feel like, "Wait a minute, are we just getting a book about his success stories and not talk about his failures?" And that's not the book I wanted to write.

WIAN: Back at USC, Schwarzenegger was joined by several leading politicians known for crossing party lines.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm trying to meet someone in that 11 percent who would approve of us, because I'd like to ask him or her what they approve of. WIAN: Schwarzenegger left California's governor's mansion with similarly low approval ratings, but judging by early reviews by those who have read his book, he may recapture his popularity as an author.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Now one former high-ranking California elected official tells me he's read portions of the book and says it's a very revealing, very funny account by a great storyteller. And I should point out, that elected official is a Democrat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Casey Wian reporting for us. Thanks very much. I suspect, Kate, that book is going to do well.

BOLDUAN: Very, very interesting. Many people would like to read that story.

Still to come, a story involving a yard sale, a space launch and a bobble head. What more could you need?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A space launch, yard sale and a presidential bobble head doll. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one thing to send your 4-year-old son's favorite toy train into the stratosphere, attached to a weather balloon and a camera. The balloon eventually pops. The train falls back to earth. But what will they think of next...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off.

MOOS: ... to launch into space?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President's here.

MOOS: It's bobblehead astronaut Obama in a wild dissent 20 miles above California.

(on camera) You added a little extra glue to make sure his head didn't fly off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. It's not presidential to lose your head in space.

MOOS (voice-over): Actually, he did lose it once, on impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama lost his head.

MOOS: He found it there on the mud flap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, got down into the boxer shorts. Got a little muddy. MOOS: But Sean Navel (ph) isn't a mud slinger against Obama. A group of around eight supporters launched the presidential bobblehead to raise money for him, putting the flight to the music from "E.T."

The idea was to promote yard sales for Obama. Note the bobblehead's picket fence. The yard sales, where supporters sold their stuff, raised only a few thousand dollars, but bobblehead Obama was raised 100,000 feet.

A helium balloon lifted a platform, which held the cameras and the bobblehead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woo-hoo!

MOOS: Up they went above the Golden Gate Bridge, through the clouds and then with the earth's curvature behind him, the helium balloon burst as expected at that altitude. A parachute deployed, and the bobblehead floated to earth, landing 30 miles from the launch site.

(on camera) Five times they launched bobblehead Obama. Several missions were flopped. One landed in the Pacific ocean.

(voice-over) Naturally, they made modifications to add buoyancy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are just pool noodles that we got.

MOOS: Presidential pool noodles.

The final video is a compilation of the best footage from the five flights.

(on camera) Bobblehead Obama returned to earth with one visible nick on his neck, the result of excessive bobbling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there, you can kind of see that his head as it banged into it...

MOOS: The president got dinged, but candidates tend to become experts at nodding and spinning.

Jeanne Moos, CNN. New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That was great. The bobblehead. Have you ever seen my Wolf Blitzer bobblehead?

BOLDUAN: I have seen it, Wolf, I've been waiting for one as a gift for the holidays.

BLITZER: There's only one. It's a limited edition. Wolf Blitzer bobblehead.

BOLDUAN: Now, you see how important I am to Wolf. I don't get the Wolf Blitzer bobblehead. BLITZER: There's only one. I'll let you look at it some time.

That's it for me. Thanks very much. That's it for Kate, as well.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" getting ready to start right now.