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Obama, Romney Debate Foreign Policy; Seattle Wins on Controversial Call; Romney Gives Big Foreign Policy Speech; Coverage of Mitt Romney's Speech at CGI; Controversial Call Ends NFL Game

Aired September 25, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. And good morning to you.

Happening now in the NEWSROOM, tension in the Gulf, Iran claiming overnight that it test fired four missiles designed to hit war ships. The U.S. Navy on guard closely watching Iran's next moves. The breaking details straight ahead.

Controversial view. The White House defending President Obama's appearance on the daytime talk show. Republicans saying he's choosing showbiz over foreign policy. Obama sending Hillary Clinton to the U.N. for face-to-face meetings.

Seattle stunner. The call everyone is talking about this morning. Packers/Seahawks. Clock ticking. The zero and then this happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who did they give it to? Touchdown.


COSTELLO: Two refs, two different calls. And one huge upset.

And the $200 million refund. If you've got a Discover card you might be getting some cash back. The Feds saying the bank tricked people into signing up for payment protection plans. We're watching your money.

NEWSROOM starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: And good morning. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Carol Costello.

We begin with that breaking news from the Persian Gulf. Iran has reportedly test fired anti-ship missiles in the waters off of the southern coast. Iran regularly holds such drills. Both to test its military readiness as well as showcase it to the world.

This video is from a similar test back in January. But this maneuver is significant and possibly troubling for several reasons. And I'll tell you why. According to -- according to Fars, an Iranian news agency, the drill was close to U.S.-led naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. The test comes amidst spiking tensions with Israel and mutual threats of military action. And it comes on a day when both President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are delivering key speeches on U.S. foreign policy.

In fact, Mr. Romney is about to speak in minutes.

Governor Romney just spent yesterday attacking Mr. Obama for international crises from the killing of Americans in Libya to the anti-American uprising in much of the Muslim world. So is this missile test a new talking point?

Mark (INAUDIBLE) is the former chief speechwriter for then President George W. Bush and his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He joins us from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington where he writes on foreign policy and defense issues.

Good morning.


COSTELLO: I'm good. Thank you so much for joining us. This is a chance for Mr. Romney to look presidential at a time when polls show strong support for Mr. Obama's foreign policy is slipping. You are a former speechwriter. What does Governor Romney need to say today?

THIESSEN: Well, it is interesting because President Obama -- just a few weeks ago in Charlotte President Obama was boasting about his foreign policy achievements and mocking Mitt Romney for how little foreign policy experience he has. It's amazing what a difference a couple of weeks makes. And as you point out the polls show that the support for President Obama's foreign policy is dropping particularly among independents.

"Wall Street Journal" poll in August showed that they supported Obama's foreign policy -- approved of his foreign policy by a margin of five points. And today they disapprove, independents disapprove his foreign policy by a margin of 10 points. So foreign policy has become a central issue here in this campaign and it's not hard to see why the support is following.

I mean the Middle East is on fire. We've got an American ambassador killed in Libya who -- and the administration is not only -- has spent days denying that it was a terrorist attack but then attacked you on CNN when you reported that it was a terrorist attack and that the ambassador was in fact worried about an al Qaeda attack on his life.

You've got the flag of the United States being torn down from embassies across the Middle East and replaced over sovereign U.S. territory with the flag of al Qaeda. You've got tens of thousands of people being killed in Syria and the administration is doing nothing about it.

So we -- it looks like -- it looks like Tehran 1979 across the entire Middle East. So this is a moment for Romney to cease on. COSTELLO: And that's what -- that's what -- that's what many Republicans are saying. You know, the Democrats and some Republicans say Governor Romney stumbled badly when he criticized Mr. Obama after the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. But in the end, could you argue that Romney's tactic proves successful? Because it did change the conversation. At least about Libya.

THIESSEN: Yes. I find it fascinating that so many people are talking about Romney had a gaffe when it turns out he was right. That one that it was wrong to put out a statement -- criticizing the -- apologizing for the video which the administration has continued to do and apparently Obama is going to do again today in his U.N. speech. But also, you know, who's had the foreign policy gaffes? It's been President Obama. President Obama went on "60 Minutes" this weekend and -- and called what's happening in the Middle East bumps in the road.

And -- first ambassador killed since 1979 is a bump on the road? The American flag being torn down --


THIESSEN: -- from embassies and replaced by the flag of al Qaeda?

COSTELLO: Mr. Obama -- Mr. Obama came back and said bumps in the road meant, you know, there's going to be problems in the Middle East that you have to deal with.

THIESSEN: Yes. I'm sure --

COSTELLO: I'm just trying to be fair.

THIESSEN: I'm sure he tried to spin it. Well, no. But I mean, the thing is no one is fair when Mitt Romney supposedly makes a gaffe that turns out not to be a gaffe. But when President Obama comes out and says something like that, then everybody is busy explaining it away for him. This is -- this was a major foreign policy gaffe. In that same interview, he said that Israel -- that the complaints from Israel were just noise. He referred to Israel's complaints about Iran's nuclear program -- he's in New York right now. He has time to go on "The View" but can't meet with Bibi Netanyahu?

COSTELLO: OK. Well, let's -- let's center our conversation about Governor Romney right now.

THIESSEN: That's not noise.

COSTELLO: Because he is about to speak before the Clinton Global Initiative.


COSTELLO: And you know the audience is full of leaders from around the world and leading business people. People who can really effect change to the world. So what should Mr. Romney say to prove to not only them but to voters that he can handle foreign affairs, that he does have the answer to the problems that you're talking about? Specifics. Should he mention specific?

THIESSEN: Well, I think -- well, I think he's actually putting forward specifics today. He's laying out a vision for major reform of U.S. foreign aid to take -- that he's going to put condition -- U.S. foreign aid to countries on their opening up their markets and moving barriers to trade and investment and making free market reform.

So I think he's going to very -- lay out a very positive vision today. But, you know, again, I know we're talking about Mr. Romney. But whenever Mr. -- whenever Mitt Romney supposedly makes a gaffe, I mean, that whole trip to the -- to Israel everyone said what a gaffe fest it was, he didn't make any gaffes.

He called Israel the capital of Jerusalem which by U.S. law it is.

COSTELLO: Well, let's go -- let's go back --

THIESSEN: But when president Obama comes out --


COSTELLO: Let's go back and talk specifics about Mr. Romney's speech.


COSTELLO: I think he's about to speak in just a couple of minutes.


COSTELLO: We did get a few excerpts from his speech.


COSTELLO: That his campaign sent out. And you're right. He's going to talk about his vision to bring our foreign assistance strategy into the 21st century and harness the power of free enterprise to spur development. A very kind of businessy speech.


COSTELLO: Should there be more emotion in there, I'm wondering?

THIESSEN: Yes. Well I think --

COSTELLO: More passion?


THIESSEN: I think he's got plenty of passion. You saw a lot of passion yesterday when he was talking about President Obama's bumps on the road comment. I think he's brought a lot of passion to this. I think this is a different forum. This is the Clinton Global forum. He is being hosted by a man who's endorsed his opponent. And it's not a campaign rally. It is -- this is going to be a substantive speech laying out a clear vision and I think he's going to look very presidential. I think he's got a very serious proposal that he's putting forward. And we're going to see him -- I don't think you're going to see a lot of direct hits on President Obama the way you did yesterday in this speech. Just as President Obama is going to give a speech and there's a lot to testify for what he's going to say at the U.N. General Assembly today.

COSTELLO: Will this kind of speech, though, resonate with voters out there? It may resonate with the audience. But will it resonate with voters? Because I'm sure that's on Governor Romney's mind, too.

THIESSEN: Sure. Well, you know, and one of the things I think you're going to see him doing today is trying to pivot this debate about foreign policy back to jobs and trade and opportunity. I think he's going to make the argument that when we -- when our aid program should be built towards developing free market partners around the world, helping -- nations embrace the free market, embrace trade. And that in the long run helps American prosperity and creates jobs here at home.

The man who's hosting him, President Clinton, when he came into office, one of the first things Bill Clinton did was join with Republicans to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement over the objections of Democrats. He actually worked with -- got a majority of Republicans and minority of Democrats in a coalition to pass that.

President Obama has not passed a single free trade agreement of his own making since coming into office. So there's -- I think you will see a subtle distinction being drawn between his host president --

COSTELLO: What do you mean of his own making? Because he -- because he has passed trade issues dealing with Colombia. That one comes immediately to my mind.


THIESSEN: Those were -- all of those were negotiated by President Bush. He has not -- he has not signed and enacted a single free trade agreement of his own making?

COSTELLO: So President Obama doesn't get any credit for pushing that through Congress? Which has been difficult to work with.


COSTELLO: But President Obama gets no credit for that?

THIESSEN: Well, he took a long -- yes, some credit for it but he dragged his feet on it. He had to be pushed into it. This was -- you know, when President Clinton came into office, he actually had a -- his first months in office, he invited former President Bush, former President Ford, former President Carter, all the former presidents, to the White House to stand together and say let's pass the North American Free Trade Agreement.

President Obama didn't do that. President Obama didn't make this a priority. And he certainly -- President Clinton challenged protectionists in his own party from the White House saying that don't stand in the way of prosperity. You've never seen President Obama challenge his own party in that way. So I think -- Bill Clinton was a champion of free trade. Barack Obama has been a reluctant supporter of free trade agreements that already were approved -- already in place before he came into office and he hasn't come up with any of his own.

COSTELLO: OK. We're going to -- we're going to move on to other news. But stick around, Marc, because Governor Romney is a little late in starting his speech. And then we want to get your impressions.


COSTELLO: After Governor Romney wraps up.

THIESSEN: Sounds good.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much.

About three hours from now President Obama will also speak at the Clinton Global Initiative. But first he'll address delegates and other world leaders at the United Nations. The president will speak -- be speaking in about an hour. He's expected to challenge the world to confront what's causing Muslim rage and he'll tell world leaders the United States will do what it must to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

In an excerpt from the president, President Obama's prepared remarks, he specifically mentions the violence in Libya saying, quote, "There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an American -- or an American consulate building or embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon or destroyed a school in Tunis or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

Of course again, the president will begin speaking in two hours here at the Global Clinton Initiative but he'll be speaking in the next hour of NEWSROOM before leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly.

I know this pales in light of what is happening in New York right now. But it is what much of America is talking about. Green Bay and the catch that was or wasn't. The NFL's replacement refs have been under a lot of scrutiny this season. After Monday night it's about to get worse. Of course you've seen this by now. It was decided on a very controversial touchdown.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Bowden Tate and Green Bay Packers safety Andy Jennings both come down with the ball at the end of the game. There you see it. In the end Tate was award the touchdown but many believe Jennings should have been given the interception. Seattle wins 14-12. The Packers are not happy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE MCCARTHY, GREEN BAY PACKERS HEAD COACH: Don't ask me a question about the officials. All right? So we'll just cut though the chase right now. I've never seen anything like that in all my years in football.

AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: Just look at the replay. And then the fact that it was reviewed. That's awful. That's all I'm going to say about it.


COSTELLO: As you may imagine this is getting huge reaction on social media. Packers guard T.J. Lang tweeted just got F by the embarrassing. Thanks, NFL.

His team mate wide receiving Greg Jennings tweeted this. "NFL, come on, man. Can't even be upset anymore. All I can do is laugh. Laugh at the NFL for allowing America's game to come to this. Wow."

We'll have much more later in the newsroom.

And for the second time in a week, an Atlanta Falcons' football player has been arrested. Falcons defensive end John Abraham was accused of obstructing police and firefighters at the scene of an attempted suicide last night.

Investigators say he refused orders to leave. The victim, a woman, did not jump and was taken to the hospital just last week running back Michael Turner was arrested on DUI charges.

And there you see Governor Romney coming out. Bill Clinton introducing him. Let's listen.

BILL CLINTON, CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE: Good morning. I want to begin by thanking Governor Romney for coming here today. I think this is really important. If all of you who are there last night know if we can't find ways to cooperate over these issues, we can't find it anywhere.

This is really important. And I thought I would introduce him by giving you an example of one personal experience we had together. When I passed the AmeriCorps legislation and signed it through Congress, the model for me was a program based in Boston called City Year which -- a lot of you know about it. It is a great program.

When I left the White House, there were some discussion about whether AmeriCorps would be defunded and by that time, the largest affiliate in the United States was Citi. And the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, was on the board. And had sent me a letter saying -- Michael Brown is nodding his head -- has sent me a letter saying with 49 other -- 48 other governors, we should continue this. This is important.

So I called him. And I was out of the White House. I said, Governor, I love City Year. That's what Americans all -- AmeriCorps is all about. I hope you'll help me save it. And he urged the Republican Congress to continue to support City Year and he urged the White House to do it. And they did. I just visited the City Year program in South Africa in Johannesburg where the youth unemployment rate exceeds 40 percent. But 80 percent of the City Year volunteers in Johannesburg have a job the day they leave City Year.

So it turns out to be good economics as well as good for the society. All of you should know that and I wanted you to know it.

And, Governor, I thank you for being here. The podium is yours.



CLINTON: Welcome.


ROMNEY: Thank you, Mr. President. It is an honor to be here this morning. And I appreciate your kind words. And that introduction is very touching.

If there's one thing we've -- we've learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good.



All I've got to do now is wait a couple of days to wait for that bounce to happen.

As you know, since serving as president, President Clinton has devoted himself to lifting people around the world. One of the best things that can happen to any cause, to any people, is to have Bill Clinton as its advocate. That's really true for a whole series of causes but particularly important the needy and neglected causes. If he gets behind them, it makes a real difference.

And it's that kind of work that brings us here together today. And I appreciate your willingness to spend time and to listen to those that are coming with their messages.

Now, there are a number of things that impress me about the Global Initiative. One is that -- as I have seen it from afar, I have been impressed by the extraordinary power that you have derived by harnessing together people of different backgrounds, institutions of different backgrounds and persuasions. You have been able to fashion partnerships, if you will, across the traditional boundaries, public and private, for profit/not for profit, charitable, commercial.

And a smaller scale, by the way, I have seen the power of the partnerships like this work before. In Massachusetts, Bill Clinton spoke about City Year. I have right over here, Michael Brown, one of the founders. This was an effort where two social pioneers, Michael and his friend Alan Khazei, brought corporations and government, together with volunteers to form this entity, and it was the model as the president said for AmeriCorps.

And I -- I actually happened to be there at the first time he visited City Year. He was there investigating the life-changing successes which were being reported by -- in the lives of these young people who've come together for a year of service, and as they were linked with corporate teams that worked with them.

I also saw the power of this kind of partnerships in 2002 when I was asked to be the head of the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. I saw what could happen when very disparate elements of a community were willing to join together in extraordinary unity. And we were able to overcome challenges that many thought would be impossible for an organization like ours to overcome.

The Clinton Global Initiative has also demonstrated the effectiveness of entrepreneurship and social enterprise. You endeavor not only to comfort and assuage the pains of the afflicted but also to change lives -- to change lives through freedom, through free enterprise, through entrepreneurship and to the incomparable dignity that's associated with work.

Free enterprise, as we know, has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system. Not only because it's the only system that creates a prosperous middle class but also because it's the only system where the individual enjoys the freedom to guide and build his or her life. Free enterprise can not only make us better off financially, it can make us better people.

Ours is a very compassionate nation, as you know. You look around the world and we see withering suffering. Our hearts break. Though we make up 4.5 percent of the world's population, we donate nearly a quarter of all global foreign aid, more than twice as much as any other nation on Earth.

And Americans give more than money. Pastors like Rick Warren lead mission trips that send thousands of Americans around the world, bringing aid and comfort to the poorest places in the planet. American troops are the first on the scene of the natural disaster. An earthquake strikes, in Haiti and care packages come from all over the world but they come first from America. And not for behind, Presidents Clinton and Bush.

Too often our passion for charity as a people is tampered by our sense that our aid is not always effective. We see stories of cases where American aid has been diverted to corrupt governments. We sometimes wonder why year after year after year of aid and relief seem to never extinguish the suffering and hardship, why it persists decade after decade. Perhaps some of the disappointments are due to our failure to recognize just how much the developing world has changed.

Lot of the foreign aid efforts that we put in place years ago were designed at a time when government development assistance accounted for about 70 percent of the resources flowing to developing nations. Today, 82 percent of the resources that flow to developing nations come from the private sector. Not the governmental sector.

If somehow foreign aid can really leverage that massive investment by the private sector, it may be able to exponentially expand the ability to no only care for those that are suffering but also to change their lives in a permanent basis. Now, private enterprise is having a greater and greater impact actually on its own in the developing world.

Example that John Deere Company embarked upon a pilot project in Africa where it developed a suite of farm tools that can be attached to a small tractor. Then the company worked to expand the availability of capital to the farmers there so they can maintain and develop their own businesses. The result has been a good investment for John Deere and a greater opportunity for African farmers who are now able to grow more crops and provide for more plentiful lives of their own.

For American foreign aid to become more effective, it's got to embrace the principles that you see in these global initiatives -- the power of partnerships, access to the transformative mate of free enterprise, and the leverage of the abundant resources that can come from the private sector.

Now I believe that there are three quite legitimate objects of our foreign aid in this country. First, of course, is to address humanitarian needs. Such as the case with PEPFAR, given to medical treatment to those suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Second is to foster a substantial United States strategic interest, perhaps as military or diplomatic or economic.

But third, there is another purpose. And one that I think has to receive much more attention and a much higher priority around the administration. And that is aid that elevates people and brings about lasting change in communities and nations.

As an example, a lot of Americans, including myself, are developed -- excuse me, are troubled by developments in the Middle East. Syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of people. The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Our ambassador of Libya was assassinated in a terrorist attack. Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability.

We somehow feel that we are at the mercy of events rather than shaping events. I'm often asked why. What can we do about it to help lead the Middle East to stability and to ease suffering and the anger and the hate there, and the violence?

Obviously, religious extremism is part of the problem. But that's not the whole story. The population of the Middle East is very young, as you know, particularly in comparison with the population of the developed nations. And typically, these young people as the president indicated a moment ago, don't have a lot of job prospects. The levels of youth unemployment across the region are excessive and chronic.

And nations that have undergone a change in leadership recently, young people have greater access to information and the past that was being carefully guarded by tyrants and dictators. But now it's available. They see the good as well as the bad in surrounding society. They can now organize across vast regions, mobilizing populations, idle, humiliated by poverty, and crushed by government corruption, their frustration and their anger grows.

In such a setting, for Americans to actually change lives, to change communities and nations in the Middle East, foreign aid must also play a role. And the shape that role should play was brought into focus by the life and death of Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia, the street vendor who self emolliated and sparked thereby the Arab Spring.

You probably know the background. But it touched me. He was just 26 years old. He provided for his family since he was a very young boy. He worked a small fruit stand selling to passers-by.

The regular harassment by corrupt bureaucrats was elevated one day when they came in and took cases of his fruit and then they took away his weighing scales, his only real capital equipment, away from him. On the day of his final protest, witnesses say an officer slapped him and he cried out with these words: "Why are you doing this to me? I'm a simple person. I just want to work. I just want to work."

Work. That has to be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs, young and old alike. Work builds self-esteem. It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding.

Work does not long tolerate corruption. Nor will it quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hard-working men and women.

To foster work and enterprise in the Middle East and other developing countries, I will initiate something I'll call Prosperity Pacts. Working with the private sector, program will identify the barriers to investment and trade and entrepreneurship and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. And in exchange for removing those barriers and opening markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages, focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law and property rights. Focus our efforts on small and medium-sized businesses.

Microfinance has been an effective tool of promoting enterprise and prosperity but we've got to expand to small and medium-sized businesses as well. They are oftentimes too large for micro finance and too small for traditional banking.

The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America's own economy. And that is that people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.

When I was in business, I traveled to a number of other countries. I was often struck by the vast difference in wealth among nations that were sometimes neighbors. Some of that was, of course, due to geography, rich countries, often had natural resources like mineral deposits or access to waterways for transportation.

But in some cases, all seems to separate a rich country from a more poor one was a faint line on the map. Countries that were physically right next door to each other, in some cases economically worlds apart. You think of North Korea and South Korea. I became convinced the critical difference between these countries wasn't geography.

I noticed that the most successful countries shared something in common. They were the freest. They protected the rights of individuals. They enforced the rule of law. They encouraged trade and enterprise. They understood that economic freedom is the only force in history that's consistent lifted people out of poverty and kept people out of poverty.

Look, a temporary aid package can give an economy a boost. It can fund projects and can pay bills and employ some people for a time. But it can't sustain an economy. Not for the long term. It can't pull the whole cart, if you will, because at some point the money runs out.

But an assistance program that helps unleash free enterprise can create enduring prosperity. Free enterprise is based on mutual exchange or rather -- millions of exchanges, millions of people buying, trading, selling, building and investing.

Yes. It has its ups and downs. It isn't perfect. It is more reliable, however, and more durable. And ultimately, as history has shown, it's more successful.

By the way, perhaps the best example of the good that free enterprise can do is by looking at the example on the developed world itself. My friend Arthur Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute, he's pointed out that before the year 1800, living standards in the West were appalling. A person born in the 18th century lived as his great- great-great grandfather had. Life was overwhelmed with disease and danger, and early death.

Starting in 1800 the west began to two centuries of free enterprise and trade. Living standards rose. Literacy spread. Health improved.

And our own country between 1820 and 1998 real per capita GDP, real per capita GDP, increased 22-fold. As the most prosperous nation in history, it's our duty to keep the engine of prosperity running to open markets across the globe, and to spread prosperity to all the corners of the Earth. We should do it because it is the right moral course to help others of our brothers and sisters.

But it is also economically the smart thing for us to do. In our export industries, the typical job pays above what the capital workers make and other industries. And more than one-third of manufacturing jobs in this country are tied to exports. Sadly, we've lost over half a million manufacturing jobs over the last four years.

As president I intend to reverse that trend by ensuring we have trade that works for America. I want to negotiate new trade agreements and ask Congress to reinstate Trade Promotion Authority. I want to complete negotiations to expand the trans-Pacific, and create what I call the Reagan Economic Zone, where any nation willing to play by the rules of free and fair trade can participate in a new community committed to free and fair trade.

I laid out a new approach for new era. We're going to couple aid with trade and private investment and partnerships to empower individuals, encourage innovators, and reward entrepreneurs.

Today, we face a world with unprecedented challenges and complexities. We should not forget and cannot forget that not far from here, a voice of unspeakable evil and hatred has spoken out, threatening Israel and the entire civilized world. That we come together knowing that the bitterness of hate is no match for the strength of love.

In the weeks ahead, I will continue to speak to these challenges and the opportunities of this moment presents us, I go beyond foreign assistance and describe also what I believe America's strategies should be to secure our interests and ideals during the uncertain time.

A year from now, I hope to return to this meeting as president, having made substantial progress towards achieving the reforms I outlined.

But I also hope to remind the world of the goodness and the bigness of the American heart. I never apologized for America. I believe America has been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known. We can hold that knowledge in our hearts with humility and unwavering conviction.

God bless and you this great work and God bless my country and yours. Thank you so very much. It's honor to be with you.


COSTELLO: All right. Governor Romney wrapping up his speech before the Clinton Global Initiative, that's taking place in New York City. That's Bill Clinton's organization. He was speaking to an audience of global leaders, global business leaders. Telling them of his plans, you know, in the case he is elected president of the United States.

Marc Thiessen is a former chief speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush and his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He joins us now.

As does CNN contributor and "Daily Beast" contributor, and what else do you have? "Newsweek" contributor, John Avlon, who does it all. He joins us, too.

John, let's start with you. Was Mr. Romney's speech more for an international global audience or domestic one?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was international audience. It was very strikingly a foreign policy speech focused on laying out his vision for foreign aid. Governor Romney produced something called the Prosperity Pact, trying to tie U.S. trade policy to development aide. It was admirably specific of a vision. Governor Romney hasn't always put forward specific policies beneath his campaign rhetoric. But this speech really did. It was geared toward international audience but laid out a specific vision for foreign aid.

COSTELLO: Marc, I thought it's interesting when he talked about this Prosperity Pacts, he said he wanted to work with private enterprise. You know, not government, right? He talked about micro-finance and that's usually taken care of by U.S. aid, which is government agency, but Mitt Romney has a different vision.

THIESSEN: Yes, he does. I think it was a as if mating speech. When I first saw what the subject of this speech was going to be, I was thinking why -- you know, five weeks or so before an election is he giving a speech on foreign aid. It's probably nothing has less support in the United States right now on -- left and right than foreign aid.

But I thought it was fascinating what he did here. The first thing he did is yesterday, he spent a lot of time criticizing President Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East. Today, he laid out an alternative vision. He talked about the challenges of radicalism in the region by helping the, you know, youth unemployment rate in these countries, that drives people to radicalism, hopelessness and all of that.

So I think -- I think he laid out today was the code of yesterday which was what is my vision for this region.

And the second thing is that there -- was subtle attack to his domestic agenda. He told the story of the young man in Tunisia who sparked the Arab spring. And he said that the officials were bothering him and slapping him. He said all I want to do is work.

And that's true across the Middle East. That's also true across the United States. All peel want to do is work. Unemployment rate is above 8 percent important 43 months. People want to work here.

And he gave a very eloquent speech about the power of free enterprise and he was talking about foreign aid and how aid can only help created jobs for a certain amount of time but the money runs out. That's a very subtle but effective critique of the stimulus.

And Obama is -- domestic agenda. I think he was talking -- delivering a very eloquent defense about how his domestic and foreign policies are intertwined.

COSTELLO: And, John, he also touched on Iran. Although, he didn't mention Iran by name. But he talked of an unspeakable evil. I found that interesting.

AVLON: I mean, this -- you know, I think Marc makes a great point in the way this speech while being about foreign aid, and foreign philosophy, and philosophic vision, does connect to a lot of domestic philosophic goals Governor Romney set out.

And certainly, Iran has been one of the consistent themes he hit on foreign policy since early days of his campaign. This has been a core critique, a core pitch. Not only to consolidate his base but to try to say the president failed because Iran continues to make progress towards the nuclear bomb.

But I think the key part of this speech, it was not a saber-rattling speech. It was an alternate vision connecting foreign aid to economic liberalization. And to that extent it hit a lot of the themes and including Governor Romney's obviously very heartfelt philosophical belief in the transforming power of work both at home abroad and home.

COSTELLO: All right. Jim Acosta, he's our CNN national political correspondent. He was front and center for Governor's speech. He's live with us now.

How did Mr. Romney's speech go over?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, I can tell you that the joke that he opened up with at this event went over very well with the crowd. We don't hear Mitt Romney telling a whole lot of jokes on the campaign trail. He opened up with that remark that, you know, being introduced by Bill Clinton can do a man a whole lot of good, referenced obviously to the Democratic convention. Bill Clinton's speech there on behalf of President Obama and went on to say that he can expect a bounce any day now. So that went over very well.

Now, I will tell you, Caro, this was a serious speech. This is not the speech you see Mitt Romney give on the campaign trail in terms of going -- really to a nonpartisan message. Not only to people in the United States but around the world. And he -- unveiled what he described as Prosperity Pacts, which is really sort of a window inside his ideas for foreign aid in a future Romney administration, as you heard John Avlon saying just a few moments ago. Mitt Romney would tie some of that foreign aid, some of that foreign assistance, to opening it up trade barriers in countries across the world. So, that was some of what he talked about.

But there was also some politics involved in this speech as well. He mentioned the fact that manufacturing jobs have gone down in the last few years. That was a dig at the president. He talked about some of the recent problems on the world stage. The assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens -- that was also mentioned in the speech.

And then at the very end, Carol, it was striking. He went right after the leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying at -- calling him basically a voice of unspeakable evil in the world and someone that's threatening the state of Israel. That's something that fits neatly into Mitt Romney's foreign policy work on the campaign trail. He talks about Iran all the time. He did not let that opportunity go by today.

COSTELLO: I know. It reminded me of that evil empire thing. You know what I'm talking about.

Jim Acosta reporting live for us. Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: Yes, thank you so much.

Marc Thiessen, John Avlon, thanks to both of you.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be back with more on the NFL and replacement refs and the trouble ahead.


COSTELLO: Forty-one minutes past the hour. Checking the markets now.

The Dow is up 20 points. It could be a bumpy ride, though, on Wall Street today. Stocks are expected to have a mixed day because of Europe's continuing debt crisis. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown rang the opening bell.

Now to some breaking news on home prices. Sit back. They are at their best level in nine years. That's according to a new roar just out.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

OK. We are excited to hear this.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, more and more good news in the housing market. The price of a typical home went up again in July. This report coming from S&P Case-Schiller saying home values in 20 of the biggest cities across the country rose 1.6 percent. And this happens to be the third month in a row of gains.

This is good news for the housing sector, especially since when you think about it, it was the housing sector that got us into the financial mess so it's s nice to see a recovery really taking hold. Also, there is a -- positive side effect of this these rising home prices, falling foreclosures. Because as the value of your home increases, you have more equity and that means, fewer borrowers are underwater.

Also, this may push potential home buyers off the fence. They see these prices going higher and they think, you know what? I better buy a house soon before these prices go even higher -- Carol.

COSTELLO: OK. Also some good news for Discover cardholders. They are going to get some money.

KOSIK: Some money, exactly. So, what happened here is Discover's telemarketers made people think that they were getting certain products for free when they weren't. These are known add-ons. You can buy these add-ones when you open a credit card and you can get -- identity theft protection, credit score tracking, that kind of thing.

So, what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did, and the FDIC did, in this investigation, they actually listened in on a bunch of recording sales calls and they found that the discover reps spoke unusually fast when explaining the cost and product terms to these consumers.

Isn't that funny? Pulling the wool over.

So regulators say Discover's telemarketing reps complied the consumers wouldn't be charged when actually there was a fee attached. And get this, sometimes the reps even processed and charged the consumers for these add-ones and the customer never agreed to them in first place.

So, Discover says for its part says it's going to stop these deceptive sales tactics and it's going to pay up. It's going to pay $14 million to regulators on top of these customer refunds -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So, I ask you this question really fast. Do customers gets the refund and will they get the refund really fast?

KOSIK: Well, it's going to wind up being $57 a person.

COSTELLO: What a weird tactic. But it worked. I'm sorry.

KOSIK: That's OK. So, yes. The average refund a person is going to get is about $57. If you still got your Discover card, it will be credited to your account. If you done away with your Discover card, they'll send you a check. These refunds will be going out at the beginning of next year -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Alison Kosik, many thanks to you.

The calls heard around the sports world. Final play of the Seahawks/Packers game (INAUDIBLE) on-field officials and angers many, many NFL players and fans. We'll talk about what's next.


COSTELLO: In the history of Monday night football, there has never been a final play game-winning touchdown until last night. Unfortunately for NFL fans, the thrilling feat has been overshadowed by the most controversial call yet by this season's replacement refs.

You've seen it by now. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson launches a Hail Mary pass and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, Green Bay (inaudible) Jennings, they fight for the ball in the end zone. One official signals touchdown. The other, time-out an indication he would call a touchback by interception.

Replays appear to show Tate pushing off and Jennings holding the ball to his chest. But the refs ultimately awarded the touchdown and the game to the Seahawks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you push off?

GOLDEN TATE, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS WIDE RECEIVER: I don't know what you are talking about. I don't know what you are talking about.

AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: And then the fact that it was reviewed, it's awful. That's all I'm going to say about.


COSTELLO: Oh, but other Packer players were not so reticent. T.J. Lang tweeted "Blank it NFL." And I mean, that is an (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at NFL. "Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs."

And the opinion around much of the league was the same, 49ers running back Frank Gore had an outrageous tweet. Quote, "Who's worse? The dude who directed that anti-Muslim movie or Roger Goodell? I think old Roger", end quote.

Wow. Let's talk to NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca. He's on the phone, hi, Mike.


COSTELLO: What did you think of that tweet?

PESCA: I think that he's wrong. It was the director but still it indicates some of the outrage that's occurring throughout the league.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about what's next. So what does Roger Goodell do now?

PESCA: You know this -- last night with the moment where the NFL replacement refs situation went from farce to shame. And it's decided by the commentaries and fans and people with vested interest in game that it's gone too far. And that is a pretty uniform opinion except among the 32 people who matter which are the NFL owners, really 31 because Green Bay Packers are collectively owned. And that's an irony. The one team that was most hurt by the referees' decision.

So yes it may be that every commentator in the world can go crazy and say that this was an awful call and it certainly was an awful call, but that might not sway the owners.

COSTELLO: Ok so what will sway the owners? Will it take someone getting hurt? Because that appears to be the way it's going.

PESCA: Well, it might. It would be some -- somewhat hard to draw a direct line between referee incompetence and injury. Here is the -- here is the scenario. I agree with, I think, the general consensus that it's a $9.5 billion game over about $3 million, maybe $6 million in a pension dispute. You're jeopardizing the whole game.

However, there is a school of thought that says the owners do not want to negotiate with the referees because they want to show that they have backbone. They want to stand up to the referees for the next time they negotiate with the players where the real money is at stake. And it wouldn't really show that they're implacable, that they will never bend just if even after this they say no way, we're not compromising at all.

COSTELLO: So they're using these refs, who make relatively little money in comparison to what these players do, as an example? I mean, some people might call that crass.

PESCA: Yes. Well, you know, I don't know if they're really using it as an example. It's possibly a negotiating ploy, but if you look at the numbers, like I said, NFL is almost a $10 billion enterprise. They play 267 games a year up through the Super Bowl. That means on average if you parse is out for every game, $40 million a game is what's generated by the NFL.

We're talking about the teams spending, you know, a couple hundred thousand dollars to get the regular refs back.



PESCA: It doesn't from a business perspective make that much sense.

COSTELLO: Yes, ok. Let's -- let's take it from -- from the other way. I mean, the players are angry, and they're saying owners, you got to do something and get these replacement refs off the field but if the players would stop playing for just one game, those refs would be back on the field, don't you think? Why not -- why don't the players put their money where their mouth is?

PESCA: Yes because it's a lot of money, and that's never happened in the history of pro sports. There are umpire and referee disputes and there is just no crossing of that picket line. That -- that doesn't -- I mean, there's always crossing of that picket line. That never happens where the players actually take off a game.

Perhaps a symbolic gesture, you know one play where at the beginning of the next week's game every quarterback takes a knee on the first play or something to really signal their displeasure. And it's -- I don't know that -- that maybe is thinking a little -- I'm not going to say farcically. Because (inaudible) is the word farce hit my mind thinking about the referee. Maybe that's a little bit of a work of fiction.

But yes tweeting is one thing but they could do a couple -- they could conduct a couple of actions that would underline their displeasure.

COSTELLO: Mike Pesca from NPR Sports, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We appreciate it.

We'll be back with much more. Thanks, Mike.


COSTELLO: It's 56 minutes past the hour. Checking our "Top Stories".

Today is the deadline for Todd Akin to drop out of the U.S. Senate race but the embattled Missouri congressman insists he's in it to stay. Republicans urged Akin to step aside after he spoke of, quote, "A legitimate race, saying the female body has ways to try to stop an unwanted pregnancy." Banks are smacking customers with a one-two punch. reports that ATM fees have hit record levels while the percentage of free checking accounts is dropping. On average the fees you're charged from your bank and another bank for using their ATM is more than $4 a pop. That's up seven percent from just last year.

And you're looking at a live picture of the United Nations General Assembly. The President -- President Obama, plans to speak about the violent protests of that anti-Islam trailer saying there is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. That's expected to start in about 15 minutes. We'll have live coverage of President Obama's address when NEWSROOM continues after this quick break.


COSTELLO: Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

Live to the United Nations, President Obama getting ready for a global address. In just a few minutes he'll speak to delegates and fellow world leaders at the United Nations. At the top of his mind, the rising violence in the Middle East.