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THE SITUATION ROOM
Rep. Akin Stays In Senate Race; No Face Time With Obama; Replacement Refs; Interview with Mitt Romney; Interview with Senator Dick Durbin; First Kiss
Aired September 25, 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 SITATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Obama gives his speech to world leaders, but he's not giving them any face time. So what's behind the lack of meetings over at the United Nations on this day?
Former president Bill Clinton warns that he doesn't trust Iran's leader. He tells us why in a special CNN interview.
And after a blown call decides a game, players and fans are saying they've had enough of the NFL's replacement referees. Now, even the president of the United States is weighing in.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: President Obama gave a major speech today before an international audience. World leaders gathered at the United Nations and millions of viewers around the world were watching. Comes exactly six weeks before the November election and that means President Obama's words are also aimed at domestic viewers, in other words, American voters.
CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is over in New York watching all of this unfold. Jill, update our viewers on what happened.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know President Obama wasn't here in New York very long. The highlight of his U.N. appearance, that speech, or maybe you could call it two speeches.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): In his speech to the United Nations, President Barack Obama faced two audiences, citizens of the world, some of them skeptical Muslims, and his own fellow Americans who soon will decide whether or not to keep him in office.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.
DOUGHERTY: Chris Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya killed two weeks ago in an attack in Benghazi. Obama's message to Americans end the world we're in this together.
OBAMA: The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America, they're also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.
DOUGHERTY: The president, one White House official tells CNN, put a lot of personal time and effort into crafting and editing the speech. And when he spoke of the video that sparked violent demonstrations in Libya and other Muslim countries, the president had a delicate balancing act between his international audience.
OBAMA: There's a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.
DOUGHERTY: And his domestic audience.
OBAMA: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence.
OBAMA: There are no words that excuse the killing of innocence. There's no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.
DOUGHERTY: Not all countries he admitted agree on protecting freedom of speech.
OBAMA: I know there's some who ask why don't we just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws. Our constitution protects the right to practice free speech.
DOUGHERTY: Then, a line lifted right out of the presidential campaign.
OBAMA: I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day. And I will always defend their right to do so.
DOUGHERTY: Addressing the United Nations, an institution some Republicans criticize, Mr. Obama couldn't afford any hint of weakness.
OBAMA: Understandm America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends and we will stand with our allies.
DOUGHERTY: But he showed some tough love to Mideast protesters, too.
OBAMA: Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child an education. Smashing apart a restaurant does not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an embassy won't create a single job.
DOUGHERTY (on-camera): And that's the message other U.S. officials are trying to get across too, including secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, that freedom of speech sometimes can go too far, but controlling speech isn't the answer either -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jill, thanks very much. Kate Bolduan is here. She's watching what's going on as well -- Kate.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As well. In domestic news, also, we're talking a lot of foreign policy, but a big day also in the fight for the balance of power in the Senate. Since his shocking comments about women and rape, many key Republicans have kept Congressman Todd Akin at arms length urging him to quit his U.S. Senate run in Missouri.
Today was the last chance, really, for him to do so. CNN's senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has been following this. So, Dana, what's the latest on Todd Akin?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is, Kate, he's not going anywhere. He's staying in this race. He's hoping to prove the GOP establishment wrong and win the support of the robust evangelical community in his state of Missouri.
GOP sources, however, say, they don't think it's going to happen and with other Republican Senate candidates falling behind, they're worried about retaking the Senate majority that seemed so within reach not so long ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the next senator from the state of Missouri, Congressman Todd Akin.
BASH (voice-over): Instead of giving in to fellow Republicans desperate for him to drop out, a defiant Todd Akin launched a campaign bus tour.
REP. TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: I have one purpose going into November, and that's replacing Claire McCaskill.
BASH: The reality is senior GOP sources tell CNN Republicans gave up on pushing Akin out some time ago after he refused to bow to intense pressure last month from top Republicans.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The best thing for Todd to do for his own campaign and for the country is not to run.
BASH: All of this, of course, heard by Akin's now infamous statement about women and rape.
AKIN: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
BASH: Now, party leaders who had counted on beating Missouri's endangered Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, have all but given up. They won't give Akin a dime. But he can still has support from some high-profile conservatives like Newt Gingrich who is helping raise money, and this week, chastised the GOP establishment for abandoning Akin.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If saying something dumb would disqualify you, Joe Biden wouldn't be vice president.
BASH: Akin's advisers insist polls show he is still competitive, but national GOP strategists say that's because McCaskill, who sees Akin as beatable, has intentionally withheld her attacks on Akin until the deadline passes for him to drop out. She's limited her ads to touting her own moderate credentials.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because right in the middle is right for Missouri.
BASH: Republican strategists who've written off Missouri admit it has put GOP chances for seizing the Senate majority at major risk. Take a look at the math to help explain why. Republicans currently hold 47 out of 100 Senate seats. To win outright control of the Senate, Republicans must pick up four seats that are currently held by Democrats assuming they lose no seats currently held by Republicans.
Now to the map, the most likely place for a GOP win is the open Democratic seat in Nebraska. Other states in the tossup column Republican strategists say they're hoping to snatch, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Connecticut, Virginia and Ohio.
What makes the GOP road to the Senate majority even tougher is that polls show Republicans do risk losing two of their own seats, Scott Brown's in Massachusetts and the one left open in Maine by retiring GOP senator, Olympia Snowe.
BASH (on-camera): Now, the key according to Republican strategists I talked to is not losing those Republican seats, but they also say that that is going to be very difficult. And if they don't keep those Republican seats, they really are going to have to run the board on the tossup seats that are now held by Democrats, and they say that is going to be a big, big challenge.
BOLDUAN: And also a big, big challenge is something a lot of people are talking about is Romney and maybe his trouble in some of these key states and how that could potentially hurt down ballot. What are you hearing?
BASH: Republican strategists who I talk to who are really in charge of taking control of the Senate say it is a problem, particularly if you look at the states of Wisconsin, Virginia, and even Ohio where Mitt Romney is simply not doing as well on the presidential level. They think it really is really dragging down their candidates.
In the words of one source I talked to, it is pulling them down and making them fall behind. Ironically, it is Missouri of all the battleground states on the presidential level -- (CROSSTALK)
BASH: -- right. Romney's actually doing the best. It's not even much of a contest there on a presidential level. So, the irony of all ironies is that if there is a correlation between the presidential ticket and the Senate ticket, Mitt Romney could help Todd Akin, the guy who he and his running mate try to get out of the race.
BLITZER: This must make Mitch McConnell crazy in the Senate.
BOLDUAN: Oh, I can't even imagine.
BASH: Yes. cracking state by state.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.
The former president Bill Clinton is sounding off on one of the key international issues of this election campaign, what to do about Iran and the claim by Iranian leaders that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon. He spoke with CNN's Piers Morgan today. Listen to this.
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BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What they're really saying is in spite of the fact that we denied the holocaust (ph), that we threatened Israel, and we demonized the United States, we do all this stuff, we want you to trust us.
In spite of the fact that we won't cooperate with the international regime set up to avoid an arms race in the Middle East and set up to avoid nuclear proliferation, we want you to trust us. So, they don't have a tenable position. The reason nobody believes them is they don't have a tenable position.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you trust Ahmadinejad?
CLINTON: Not on this I don't.
MORGAN: His argument is -- why should America be allowed nuclear weapons? Why should Israel who've never admitted they have them, why should they be permitted to have them? Why should many countries be allowed nuclear weapons and not Iran?
CLINTON: Well, then, why isn't he going for some bigger non- proliferation initiative? Instead of acting like what he really wants is a nuclear bomb because that will help to get everybody to get rid of their nuclear weapons. No serious person believes that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Piers is joining us now New York. Another good interview, Piers. Looking forward to the full interview later tonight, but give us your sense right now. Is there any daylight that you discern between, let's say, President Obama and Bill Clinton when it comes to dealing with Iran and the potential threat from that country? MORGAN: No, not in the race (ph). And he was very careful not to step on the shoes of his wife, Hillary. He's obviously going to make some of these big decisions.
I mean, the key decision, I guess, for America and for Barack Obama and I put this to President Clinton, but he wouldn't respond directly because of the reason I just said is what happens if Israel decides to do some kind of preemptive strike against Iran because they just don't believe Ahmadinejad and believe he's working to build a nuclear weapon.
That is a great unanswered question. Will Israel do that? And how does America respond? And you know, just listening to the language of both sides are using, you know, you've got to think we could be confronting this issue within the next few months.
BLITZER: Certainly could be. You heard Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, say the other day he thought there was a six or seven-month window right now before that clock is really finished ticking, if you will. So, these next six or seven months could be critical, indeed.
On a much lighter note, when I say lighter, to those of us who are American football fans, Piers, it's not light at all. You did get around to speaking with President Clinton also about the NFL and the so-called replacement refs. And it was an awful, awful call, as you know last night.
MORGAN: A terrible call. I mean, just seemed to me all these big guys jumped up and all grabbed the bull and no one could work out what the hell was going on.
MORGAN: And blame the refs, poor guys. But I understand that for all NFL fans in America, a hugely contentious issue. And I did put this to the president along with another big sporting event coming up, of course, the Ryder Cup where he took the America's camp, I took the European camp and we struck a bet. So, watch this clip.
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MORGAN: Final question, Mr. President, very quickly. Two huge talking points (INAUDIBLE) detected. One is the Seattle Seahawks and the Hail Mary pass, did you think that that was a touchdown? And if it wasn't, should we get these referees back?
And the second thing I keep hearing is and I don't understand this, confidence amongst the Americans that you're going to win the Ryder Cup. And as a European, do you fancy a bet?
CLINTON: Well, on the football game, no, I did not think it was a touchdown. I thought the pass was intercepted. I thought the defender hit the ground before there was joint possession. And, yes, it means that we need to get the strike over and get more experienced people in there. And, yes, I'll make a bet with you on the Ryder Cup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: About that Wolf, he responded to the NFL scandal with even more seriousness and intensity than he discussed the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world, which just goes to show how serious this touchdown is.
BLITZER: It's very serious. You're a great sports fan. I'm a great sports fan. And he's a great sports fan. I can testify personally, Piers, and you'll identify with this, I was with him in South Africa at the USA-Ghana for the world cup soccer games, and he was watching that. He takes it very, very seriously. Unfortunately, the USA lost to Ghana in that particular game, but he's a great sports fan.
MORGAN: The other thing, Wolf, I thought you would find really fascinating because I know you're a stickler for this kind of thing and history was when I got round to the 22nd amendment, which of course, rules him out from running for president again, and he did indicate in the interview that he can see a time coming when that is changed.
So, that somebody can do two terms, maybe have a break and come back later, which would of course be what many people would love to see happen with Bill Clinton.
But here was the rub, he can actually technically, because of his Irish heritage, run to be president of Ireland or if he prefers because he's from Arkansas, which is part of the Louisiana purchase, any person anywhere in the world who was born in the place that was ever part of the French empire can if they move to France for six months and speak French run for president in France.
Bill Clinton could be the French president within the next five years.
BLITZER: Yes. He would do well in France and in Ireland. No doubt about that. I think much more realistically though, Piers, his wife, Hillary Clinton 2016, did he give you a hint?
MORGAN: No more than he's given anybody else. I think the reality is I would be stunned if Hillary Clinton doesn't run. And you've got to say that given the impact that we have seen on Barack Obama's poll fortunes since Bill Clinton stood up at the Democratic convention and made that incredibly powerful uplifting positive speech, really articulating for Barack Obama the best defense I've heard of why he should be re-elected.
You've got to say, if he brings the same charisma and political smarts that he has to a campaign by his wife, Hillary, then I think, I think you could see the first woman president that America's ever had, and what a moment that would be.
BLITZER: I thought she's going to run in 2016, myself, for a long time myself. All right. Piers, good work as usual. Thank you. Bill Clinton made the case for President Obama. He's tackled the world's biggest problems. Tonight, you'll hear the and watch the full interview with Piers Morgan. That airs Piers Morgan tonight 9:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN. Recommend you watch it. President Obama gives a speech to world leaders, but he's not giving them any meetings. So, what's behind the lack of face time?
BLITZER: Our own Jim Acosta has just interviewed Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee. The full interview will air momentarily here in the SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for that. Jim Acosta interviews Mitt Romney.
President Obama may have addressed world leaders at the United Nations today, but in a stunning departure, he's not meeting with any of those dozens upon dozens of world leaders. Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar.
Brianna, this is pretty extraordinary to go to a general assembly and not meet with world leaders one-on-one for substantive get togethers, what's going on here?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think the key is substantive get togethers. We did just get word from the White House that he had what they're calling courtesy call meetings with a couple of leaders.
The head of the U.N. as well as the head of the general assembly and then he stopped by a meeting that the president of Yemen was having with his top counterterrorism advisor. But that's right, no official meetings, what we call bilateral meetings, these one-on-ones. And to say just how unusual this is, all you need to do is look to his predecessors and what they did at the U.N. as they campaigned for re- election.
KEILAR (voice-over): 1996, the last time a Democratic incumbent was fighting to stay in the White House. Violence in the Middle East had hit a fever pitch, and Bill Clinton took a quick break from campaigning to head to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. There, he met with the prime minister of Japan, the prince of Saudi Arabia, and the foreign minister of Russia.
Then it was right back on the campaign trail to rally voters in New Jersey. Eight years later, George W. Bush was facing a re-election battle. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in full swing and public sentiment was souring. But he kept a full schedule at the U.N., meeting with leaders of Japan, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
OBAMA: I want to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu both to the United States.
KEILAR: And one year ago in New York, President Obama kept very busy meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian authority President Abbas, President Karzai of Afghanistan and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey. Those were just some of his eleven meetings with world leaders last September. Of course, that wasn't an election year. And President Obama was flying high on foreign policy successes. Osama Bin Laden had been killed months before and the demonstrations of the Arab spring brought hope that Democracy was blossoming in the Middle East.
KEILAR (on-camera): So, why no official meetings with world leaders? Well, Wolf, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, says that the president has had extensive consultations with world leaders, and so, really sort of pointing to the fact that there is this open dialogue. But, obviously, when you look at this, you know that part of this is election year risk management.
That these meetings between leaders can sometimes create political liabilities. The president and his campaign are trying to minimize that, especially as Republicans like Mitt Romney are hitting him on foreign policy, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. They can also make him look even more presidential, if you will, by having these one-on-one meetings with world leaders. So, there could be a positive political spin-off as there was, I think, for George Bush in 2004 and Bill Clinton in 1996, but that's going to be subject for debate. Brianna, thanks very much.
Good report, Kate --
BOLDUAN: That's a great report, and it gives a lot of great context. I do want to remind our viewers that we are with Mitt Romney on the campaign trail. We'll hear from him in a one-on-one interview that is still ahead. You do not want to miss that.
Also coming up, Apple replaced Google maps with its own app leaving users frustrated. What Apple's chairman has to say about the move?
BLITZER: Kate's back with more of the day's top stories. Violence in Turkey mounting right now. What's going on?
BOLDUAN: Yes. This is a story (INAUDIBLE). The targeted attack on a military vehicle in Southeastern Turkey left at least four people dead. You're seeing some pictures right there. Officials say at least three Turkish soldiers and a passerby were killed in a highly Kurdish area. International crisis groups say fighting between troops and the militant Kurdistan workers' party has escalated raising casualties to a level not seen in more than a decade.
Some good news back here at home though, home prices showed a rebound this month to a level not seen since 2003. Analysts say record low mortgage rates and a smaller supply have helped to buoy prices, and investors used low mortgage rates to buy up foreclosures. In contrast, fed official's comments that the central bank's latest round of stimulus measures likely would not help growth were followed by the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P all dropping. And you should have kept our maps is apparently the word from Google after Apple's iPhone 5 decided to discontinue the map program. If you have the iPhone, then you know what I'm talking about. Despite healthy sales of Apple's newest phone, major criticism from users and Google have swarmed the gadget's new map app. Say that 12 times fast.
BLITZER: No, I can't.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney's campaigning in a key battleground state. We're about to hear from him. His one-on-one interview with Jim Acosta, that's coming up.
BLITZER: All right get this, with only seconds left in the game there's a long pass into the end zone and two referees make two different calls. The wrong call unfortunately decided last night's National Football League game and I was heartbroken.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everyone has been -- heartbroken -- and everyone has been talking about it. And everyone seems to have had enough really of the replacement refs hired when the league locked out its regular officials. Brian Todd has been looking into this. Everyone I mean from the president on down --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone.
BOLDUAN: -- has been talking about this catch and the calls.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Kate and Wolf. You know there's a huge outcry on this today, millions talking about it, tweeting, Facebooking about it. It's gone viral after something that many feared might happen this season actually did happen.
TODD (voice-over): After three weeks of controversy and complaints, the NFL's replacement referees literally decide the outcome of at least one game.
TODD: On a desperation pass into the end zone, M.D. Jennings (ph) of the Green Bay Packers appears to catch the ball for an interception, but the refs rule the Seattle Seahawks Golden Tate (ph) also has possession. By rule the tie goes to the offensive player, Tate (ph). After a replay review --
UNIDENTIFIED REFEREE: The call on the field stands, touchdown.
TODD: Seahawks win. Packers fume.
MIKE MCCARTHY, GREEN BAY PACKERS HEAD COACH: Don't ask me a question about the officials, all right? So we'll just cut to the chase right there. 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. It was awful. That's all I'm going to say about it.
TODD: Tame compared to the tweets which went viral. From Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang (ph), "got (EXPLETIVE DELETED) by the refs, embarrassing. Thanks, NFL." Even President Obama tweeted "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs' lockout is settled soon." This is after a disputed field goal gave the Baltimore Ravens a one- point win over the New England Patriots and a series of botched calls and misapplied rules that have driven coaches, players and fans crazy. All this because of a labor dispute between the NFL and its regular referees that began when the league locked out the refs in June.
(on camera): The referees want more money, asking for more than the NFL's offer to increase their average salaries from $149,000 a year to $189,000. Compare that to the median NFL player's salary, $770,000 a year. It's important to remember the average NFL playing career is only three and a half years. And most of the refs have other careers. So these aren't full-time jobs for them.
(voice-over): The NFL wants to make the refs full-time and to add more refs so the average referee would make less money. The league also wants to move them from a pension system to a 401(k). But in the context of a business that brings in $9.5 billion a year, it seems relatively solvable. Red Cashion, an NFL referee for 25 years who worked two Super Bowls told me he doesn't blame the replacement refs who had been pulled from small colleges, high schools and lower level pro leagues.
(on camera): What were they really not ready for at this level of the game?
RED CASHION, FORMER NFL REFEREE: Well, it's a combination of speed of things that happen. These folks are not used to these million-dollar athletes. They're not used to 70,000, 80,000 people in the stands or plays that happen with quickness and severity and the talent that these guys have.
TODD: Red Cashion says it takes about two years to get used to that speed to see the game in slower motion. The NFL did issue a statement today on the Seahawks game saying it supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling but a key point of that also as the league also said there should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference against that Seahawks receiver, Golden Tate (ph), which would have ended the game in Green Bay's favor, Wolf, that was a key botch too at the end. BLITZER: Yes and you know what also makes me crazy and obviously bad officiating is bad enough, but I'm worried about the safety of these NFL players. And a lot of folks are as well. When you've got bad refs out there they may be trying their best, but they're not ready for prime time and could really endanger some of these players.
TODD: A lot of people are worried about that. The NFL Players Association actually sent a letter to the NFL late last week saying quote "we believe there's substantial evidence that you have failed in your obligation to provide a safe working environment as possible." They say the NFL has flat out jeopardizing players' safety. The NFL doesn't respond directly to that. They say consistently that they're always looking out for players' safety. But you have to say in the same breath that while this is going on, the players are also trying to get away with as much as they can. You watch these games; they're taking some cheap shots. They know the regular referees --
BOLDUAN: You can blame it on --
TODD: -- would catch -- that's right --
BOLDUAN: You can blame it on the ref though --
BLITZER: Too dangerous --
TODD: It's like a substitute teacher being there --
TODD: And they're trying to get away with it --
BLITZER: Yes -- yes. They got to end this and they got to it right away. Brian thanks very much.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian.
BLITZER: Up next, Mitt Romney goes one-on-one with CNN, the interview that's coming up.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Jim Acosta reporting from Vandalia, Ohio, where we just wrapped up an interview with GOP nominee Mitt Romney. We talked with Mitt Romney about why he's trailing in this critical battleground state, also about the subject of foreign policy and of course those refs. That's coming up after the break here on THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta just spoke one-on-one with Mitt Romney in Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Governor Mitt Romney, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
ACOSTA: I wanted to talk about that "Washington Post" poll that came out that shows you trailing the president by eight points here in Ohio. Obviously this is a critical battleground state. You said recently that you've spent just as much time at fundraisers as you have in swing states since the convention. Looking back, was that a tactical error, do you think?
ROMNEY: You know part of a campaign is to go out and meet people across the country and also to raise money so you can have ads on TV. We keep very busy. There's no time off. It's around-the-clock kind of work. We're taking our message to the people of Ohio and across the country. And polls go up and down. But frankly you're going to see the support that I need to become president on Election Day. People recognize that we don't want a government getting larger and larger and more intrusive in our lives. And we have a question about what course America's going to take. I represent one that will create more jobs and more take home pay. The president represents more of the same.
ACOSTA: And it seems that your main message in this campaign has been about the economy. But that message is not resonating at least not here in Ohio. And I wonder how much of that is self-inflicted. What would you say to Americans out there who wonder if that videotape that came out last week is the real Mitt Romney?
ROMNEY: I'm overwhelmingly committed to helping every American. That's what this campaign is about. From the very beginning of my campaign I spoke about the need to help get people out of poverty, the need to get the 23 million people that don't have good jobs, struggling to find work, to help those people get good jobs. My whole campaign is about getting the economy going. People at the top are doing fine. They'll probably do fine whether Barack Obama were re- elected or not. It's the people in the middle and at the bottom that are struggling in the Obama economy. That's why I'm running, is to help them.
ACOSTA: And you criticized the president for referring to recent events in the Middle East as bumps in the road and you talked about the death of Ambassador Stevens and basically said that these aren't bumps in the road, these are human lives. Do you think the president intended to refer to Ambassador Stevens' death as a bump in the road?
ROMNEY: Well, he was asked about the developments in the Middle East. And he said the developments in the Middle East are bumps in the road. And those developments include 20,000 people being killed in Syria, a Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, Iran on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power and of course the assassination of our ambassador in Libya. I'm not sure whether any of those qualifies as a bump in the road. They certainly don't in my view.
ACOSTA: Do you think the president meant to say that -- ROMNEY: Well that's -- he was asked about the developments in the Middle East. I'm not sure which developments in the Middle East he would consider bumps in the road. I consider the developments in the Middle East a very troubling development, a very troubling course. I believe also that the White House's failure to acknowledge that the assassination of our ambassador was a terrorist attack, a terrorist event suggests that they're trying to paper over the seriousness of the -- of what's happening in the Middle East.
ACOSTA: And the president said at the United Nations that the United States will do what we must to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. If you had been at the United Nations, what would have been your message to the Iranians?
ROMNEY: Well we've heard the president now speak at the United Nations in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 each time showing his commitment to keeping Iran from becoming nuclear and yet Iran gets closer and closer every year to having nuclear capability. It's very clear that his policies with regards to Iran have not dissuaded them from becoming nuclear by one iota in the words of Prime Minister Bebe (ph) Netanyahu, so the president is not effective in being able to take them on a different course. I would be.
ACOSTA: What would be your message though to the Iranians?
ROMNEY: Well words are words. You need to show the kind of action that suggests to them that we're serious about what we're saying. And those kinds of actions would include and should have included from the very beginning of this administration, crippling sanctions, indicting Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention for incitation to genocide. Treating the diplomats of Iran like the pariah they are, the way we treated the diplomats of South Africa under apartheid. These are the types of things that the president could have done, should have done from the very beginning, which he did not.
ACOSTA: And just the other day you said the president has been trying to fool people with his ads and his speeches about your record. But fact checkers have also taken issue with your ads. Haven't you also played fast and loose with the facts from time to time?
ROMNEY: We've been absolutely spot-on. And any time there's anything that's been a miss we correct it or remove it. The president on the other hand --
ACOSTA: Even the welfare ad?
ROMNEY: The -- absolutely. Look, it has been shown time and again that the president's effort to take work requirement out of welfare is a calculated move. The same thing he did with regards to food stamps. He took work out of welfare -- excuse me -- work out of the food stamps requirement. What was the result? The study shows that twice as many people went from having food stamps to those that are able- bodied to -- as a result of that change.
ROMNEY: Taking work requirements --
ACOSTA: (INAUDIBLE) calls it pants on fire and "The Washington Post" gives it --
ACOSTA: They're wrong? Is that what you're saying?
ROMNEY: There are -- you look at the facts. Did he take the work requirement out of welfare?
ACOSTA: I think what the Obama administration has said is that no, they're trying to give governors the flexibility to increase the amount of work that goes into receiving welfare benefits. You're saying you don't buy that.
ROMNEY: No, no. No, no. You always have the capacity to add work. There's never been a requirement that you can't have more work. The requirement that they're waiving was saying that people don't have to work to get welfare. That's the change that they proposed. I disagree with that direction. I think the president has also -- I disagree with the direction on the work requirement as it related to food stamps. Look taking work requirements out of government assistance is in my opinion a very bad course to take and creates a culture of dependency. We help people who need help. We want to help people that need help. But the idea of removing work requirements I think is a mistake.
ACOSTA: African-Americans have a tremendous sense of pride that there's the first African-American president in the White House. If you were to somehow beat the first African-American president, what would you say to the black community to assure them that you would be their president also?
ROMNEY: I want to be the president of all the people of America. I want to help all the people of America. You don't get into a race like this with myself and my family and do the kind of work and commitment that we've put forward without the passion to help all of America. And the people who really need the help right now are the people in the middle class. People who have fallen into poverty. I know how to get them help. The president doesn't.
ACOSTA: What would you do about those referees in the NFL?
ACOSTA: Would you order them back to work?
ROMNEY: I'd sure like to see some experienced referees with NFL experience come back out on the NFL playing fields.
ACOSTA: Paul Ryan called those refs out today. Are you glad that he did that?
ROMNEY: That's just fine. Paul was very angry that the Green Bay Packers he believes won and the referees took it away from them.
ACOSTA: All right. Very good. All right and thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.
ROMNEY: Thank you.
ACOSTA: Good talking to you.
ACOSTA: And, Wolf, Mitt Romney will be waking up tomorrow morning here in the state of Ohio to travel across this battleground state with a lot of ground to catch up if you look at those latest polls here in Ohio. And then after that he'll be heading off to the battleground state of Virginia and then preparing for that debate, the first debate with the president coming up one week from today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes and six weeks to the election (INAUDIBLE) from today as well. Jim Acosta, good work as usual. Let's turn to a key Democratic lawmaker right now, Senator Dick Durban of Illinois. He's the Democratic Majority Whip. He's also on the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks very much for coming in. Quickly, your reaction. I haven't heard Mitt Romney say in the past that Ahmadinejad should be charged with espousing genocide, which in effect mean he shouldn't even be allowed to come to the United Nations. What do you make of that?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY WHIP: Well Governor Romney ignores the obvious. Under President Obama, we have established the strongest international coalition against Iran's development of nuclear weapon in history. We have imposed the crippling sanction he's speaking of, and we have invested in an iron domed (ph) defense system to make certain that both Iran and Israel know that we're going to do everything in our power to stop the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb. It is easier for Governor Romney to come up with these ideas, but President Obama has the record. He's made this a clear part of our American foreign policy. There should be no doubt in the mind of anyone, including the Iranians.
BLITZER: But do you agree with Romney that Ahmadinejad should be charged with in his words, espousing genocide, which I assume refers to his suggestions in the past that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map?
DURBIN: Well, I'd like to hear the particulars of where Governor Romney is going. He's trying to think of something that we could do that might give him a headline here. But the bottom line, the president has been working behind the scenes, decisively, with strength, with our allies, creating the largest global coalition against the Iranian development of a nuclear bomb that we have seen and enforcing sanctions that are working.
BOLDUAN: And Senator Durbin, you also heard in Jim Acosta's interview with Mitt Romney that the governor really doubled down on his harsh criticism of President Obama and his bumps in the road remark that he has made recently. Did the president mess up there when he referred to recent events in the Middle East as bumps in the road?
DURBIN: Well, I think that if you take a look or listened to President Obama's speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, you would have seen the seriousness in his tone and in his message when it came to the killing of our ambassador and the violence in the street. The president made it clear that the Americans believe, for the world, that we should be rewarding people with the values and courage of Ambassador Chris Stevens and not those with the basic cowardice and ignorance of those who killed him. It was a very decisive statement.
The president took it seriously, the night it was announced, and if you'll remember, Governor Romney was holding press conferences, trying to find some campaign advantage here. The president has taken this very seriously from start to finish. What he said today at the General Assembly in New York really spoke for the values of this country. We are telling the leaders around the world join us in putting an end to the violence and extremism in the streets.
BOLDUAN: So did the president misspeak then in reference to the bumps in the road comment?
DURBIN: Well, I think it is wrong for Governor Romney to suggest that the president was in any way minimizing the loss of life of our great ambassador. From the start, and even again today, he has said how seriously he has taken that, and he has appealed to the leaders throughout the Middle East, with constant communications during this upheaval that they've got to step up and restore order in the streets and protect our embassies and the embassies of other nations.
BLITZER: You're a very strong supporter of Israel, Senator Durbin. I've covered you for a long time. Was it a mistake not to invite the prime minister of Israel for a meeting with the president? They're both in New York this week.
DURBIN: It's ironic that when that criticism came up the president had just spent one solid hour on the telephone with Netanyahu, discussing some of the developments and relationships between our two countries. It's unfortunate that their schedules did not mesh and they couldn't meet at the same time in New York, but it doesn't diminish in any way whatsoever our commitment to the security and future of Israel and the strong commitment the president has made to the people of Israel. The ongoing relationship between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be diminished in any way because they're not meeting in person.
BLITZER: Senator Durbin thanks very much for coming in.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Senator.
DURBIN: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you. And talk about a Kodak moment, why one boy's milestone was so camera worthy.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The moment most people remember for the rest of their lives.
BOLDUAN: It sure is. But one boy's first kiss is especially unforgettable. CNN's Jeanne Moos explains why.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How does a 12-year-old manage to get a country music star to give him his very first kiss ever, sign language from the front row.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says, "Carrie, be my first kiss."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say we make that happen?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MOOS: Next thing you know, Carrie Underwood was holding Chase Carnick's (ph) hand on stage at this Louisville, Kentucky concert, but even before he came up he had an inkling she'd noticed him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She saw me and she winked at me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve years old. He's got the jump on me. I was 14 when I had my very first kiss.
MOOS (on camera): Just between us, was this really the first time you kissed a girl?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this was my first kiss.
MOOS (voice-over): But how?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are we going to do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lip to lip.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MOOS: Chase cuts to the chase.
(on camera): This being his first kiss, Chase needed a little instruction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Close your eyes.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MOOS (voice-over): A first kiss never, ever to be forgotten, especially since it was captured on YouTube from so many angles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God.
MOOS (on camera): Well, what did you learn?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I learned to close my eyes and determination.
MOOS (voice-over): He later exchanged tweets with Carrie Underwood, hashtag #liptolip. His friends called him "the luckiest dude in the world. So not fair that you got to kiss her. How was it?"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just amazing. I -- words can't describe.
MOOS: The words on his sign were outlined by his dad. Chase colored them in. The Carnick (ph) family needed a fun distraction. Right before Memorial Day, they got burned out of their house when lightning struck.
(on camera): Now a spark of a different kind, Carrie gave Chase a taste few other men have had, let alone 12-year-old boys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I learned something else too.
MOOS: What's that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wears cherry lip balm.
MOOS (voice-over): Carried away by Underwood and no matter how many country music awards she kisses, she'll never forget his first.
(on camera): Are you never going to wash your lips again or brush your teeth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I brushed my teeth, but not my lips.
MOOS (voice-over): Not after they've been brushed by hers.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go, Chase!
MOOS: -- New York.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.