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THE SITUATION ROOM

Who Won Vice Presidential Debate?; President Obama's Next Debate; Biden's Style: Smiling, Smirking, Interrupting; What to Look for in Obama-Romney, Round Two?; Saving Six Americans in Iran; Shuttle's Slow Ride to Resting Place

Aired October 12, 2012 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Joe Biden isn't the only one who's smiling today. We're looking ahead to the next round in the presidential debates, including what lessons the president might want to take from his running mate's performance.

Also, fooling Iran. We're taking you inside the real-life CIA thriller in movie theaters right now.

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

We begin with today's double declarations of victory after the vice presidential debate, first, the Republicans. In a little bit Mitt Romney teams up with Congressman Paul Ryan in the swing state of Ohio. And you're going to see their rally live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Already today, Romney's called his running mate's debate performance thoughtful, respectful, steady, and poised.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has more now on the Republican's post-debate spin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even though Paul Ryan said he saw it coming, Republican strategists I talked to in the post-debate spin room said they were not expecting Joe Biden's repeated interruptions and laugh-out-loud style. If the vice president's performance could be summed up as LOL, the Republican response was OMG.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel great.

ACOSTA (voice-over): At breakfast after his fiery debate with Vice President Joe Biden, Paul Ryan still had his sunny side up.

RYAN: No. It's what I expected.

ACOSTA: Ryan offered no complaints about Biden's aggressive performance, which appeared to be designed to put some sorely needed points on the president's scoreboard, whether it was on Ryan's past request for stimulus money.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sure he did. By the way...

RYAN: On two occasions we -- we -- we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. That's what we do.

ACOSTA: Or Ryan's attempt to compare the Mitt Romney tax plan to Jack Kennedy's.

RYAN: Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan...

BIDEN: Oh, now you're Jack Kennedy?

ACOSTA: Ryan was able to fire back with a few zingers of his own.

RYAN: Mr. Vice President, I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground.

I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA: Republicans in the post-debate spin room tried to make the case Biden failed, not only on style.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Quite frankly, I was embarrassed for the vice president. I mean, the laughs. We counted 82 times that Joe Biden interrupted Paul Ryan.

ACOSTA: But also on substance, pointing to the vice president's response on whether there was adequate security before the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

MARTHA RADDATZ, MODERATOR: And they wanted more security there.

BIDEN: Well, we weren't told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: We just had a major hearing on this. That was one of the heart -- the heart of the point was these requests went unheeded. And obviously the vice president's not paying any attention.

ACOSTA: Declaring victory for his running mate, Romney seized on what his campaign has dubbed Biden's Benghazi bungle.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because the vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials. He's doubling down on denial. And we need to understand exactly what happened.

ACOSTA: Back in the spin room, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Biden proved it was Ryan who was unprepared.

JIM MESSINA, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He got past Paul Ryan's index card talking points and got into the details. And that's exactly what the American voters wanted.

ACOSTA (on camera): Both campaigns concede what happened here in Kentucky may not have a lasting effect on the polls, but may have set a combative new tone for the race that could well carry into the next presidential debate on Tuesday -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's go to the Democrats now. They're also declaring victory, insisting Joe Biden's "in your face" performance is just what Obama campaign needed. Only moments ago, the vice president wrapped up a triumphant rally in of all places Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I'm sure you observed last night we had a little bit of a debate.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: With a gentleman -- and he is a gentleman -- a gentleman from Wisconsin, Congressman Ryan, who...

(BOOING)

BIDEN: No, no, no. I hardly agree with anything he says, but I want to tell you I think he's a decent guy. And he has a beautiful family. And he's a great husband and father. And for that I have great respect for him.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: But anyone who watched that debate, I don't think there's any doubt that Congressman Ryan and I, Governor Romney and the president, we have a fundamentally different vision for America, and quite frankly a fundamentally different values set.

And the fact is that the differences that we have about the future of this country are quite frankly profound. They're as profound as any difference as any presidential campaign that I have observed, that I have been involved in. And the truth is that I think people were listening. And if they were, they know what some of those differences are. And they know how those differences can fundamentally affect the direction of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's dig a little deeper right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Are you surprised that they're pounding, the Romney campaign, on Libya right now, the whole issue of the Obama administration and Libya, as opposed to focusing in on issue number one, the economy? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're going to try and do both. I think the reason they're pounding at the Libya issue is that they think there's an opening there.

They found a chink in the armor. Presidential elections are about leadership. Mitt Romney right now is kind of tied with the president in the last poll we looked at on the leadership issue. They want to get an advantage. What they're trying to say about what Joe Biden said yesterday is that if he didn't know, he should have known. The buck stops there. This is a question of who's in charge.

What we did hear at the State Department hearing is that there is an explanation for this from the State Department, which is that they felt they wanted the Libyans to take charge of their own security. And, of course, the president and the vice president are not involved in every security matter when it comes to embassies.

But this being a political year, Mitt Romney is saying, you know what, by implication if I were president, I would have known about the security problems or the security problems would have been fixed on my watch.

BLITZER: But you agree that Joe Biden helped President Obama going into next week's second presidential debate?

BORGER: Yes, I do. I think that he righted the ship as we were talking about last night, that there are lots of members of the Democratic base who were very upset by the president's lack of passion.

And Joe Biden had a lot of passion last night. And take a look at this, because he particularly talked from the heart about Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Look, folks, use your common sense. Who do you trust on this -- a man who introduced a bill that would raise it 40 -- $6,400 a year; knowing it and passing it, and Romney saying he'd sign it, or me and the president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: So that's what presidential elections are about. They're about trust. Who do you trust?

And on the particular issue of Medicare, where they believe they have an advantage, particularly because of Paul Ryan's budget, Joe Biden perhaps was the best person to deliver that message to the American public. We're the guys you can trust. We like Medicare. They don't.

BLITZER: Yes. As long as they were talking about Medicare or Social Security...

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: ... the Democrats had an advantage. Biden had an advantage over Ryan. When they got to some other issues, maybe not. Did this vice presidential debate though really change the overall dynamic of which way this race is probably going?

BORGER: Probably not.

You saw our poll last night. People watching this were kind of split. The Democratic base got excited again. The Republicans felt that Paul Ryan passed an important threshold. And that is plausibility as a vice president who could potentially become president of the United States.

And the fact that he did well for himself really says that Mitt Romney's judgment in choosing him was a good judgment for Republicans. And so I think that they found that to be validating that he could go toe-to-toe with Joe Biden. And so I think for each party, it's kind of, OK, we did it, and now, of course, to Candy's debate next week.

BLITZER: Next Tuesday night. Our coverage, by the way, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

BORGER: Be there.

BLITZER: Of course.

What was impressive is that they didn't only go toe-to-toe on domestic issues, but on national security and foreign policy issues, which is Biden's strength and supposedly Ryan's weakness. They were pretty much toe-to-toe on that as well.

BORGER: Yes. He exhibited a lot of fluency on foreign policy, which I think surprised a lot of people. And, by the way, Wolf, it was a great debate.

It was one of the most substantive debates we have seen in this entire presidential contest, so most welcome viewing. Right?

BLITZER: Yes. I thought it was excellent. Thank you.

Let's go to the focus. It turns now to the second presidential debate next Tuesday night and whether President Obama learned any real lessons from Vice President Biden's performance. I will ask his campaign's press secretary, Jen Psaki. She's standing by live.

Also, why is a space shuttle moving through the streets of Los Angeles?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's no doubt we saw more verbal fireworks in the vice presidential debate last night than during last week's showdown between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: But it shouldn't be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives.

I know he had no commitment to the automobile industry. He just -- he said, let it go bankrupt, period.

These guys haven't been big on Medicare from the beginning. Their party's not been big on Medicare from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. He came out swinging, obviously.

Jen Psaki is here, the campaign press secretary, the Obama campaign press secretary.

Jen, thanks very much for coming in.

JEN PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN TRAVELING PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: You're the traveling press secretary.

PSAKI: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. Just want to be precise.

So, what lessons did President Obama learn from Vice President Biden, his performance last night?

PSAKI: Well, I watched the debate last night with the president on the plane. A bunch of staff did. And we were all rooting and cheering for the vice president. The president was too.

And I think the American people saw a really passionate and fired-up vice president last night. And the president's fired up and excited about the debate next Tuesday. We saw once again that facts matter, that that's an important part of this. And there's no question going into next Tuesday the president will keep that in mind.

BLITZER: We saw that picture, that still photo that the White House released, the president watching on Air Force One.

You know what channel he was watching.

PSAKI: I will take all credit. I don't know if I deserve it, but we were watching CNN on the plane.

BLITZER: Good taste, as I said last night on the air. You saw that little squiggly line at the bottom.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: He was a lot tougher than the president was in the first debate. Can we expect President Obama to come out -- it's a town hall meeting format, which is a little bit more complicated.

PSAKI: It is.

BLITZER: A little bit more feisty, assertive this time around?

PSAKI: Well, look, the president's audience is still the American people next Tuesday, just like it was last week.

And it's still the audience that will be interacting in the town hall. But we have seen last night in the debate with Paul Ryan, last week in the debate with Mitt Romney that they're both willing to say and do anything to become president and vice president. And they're a little fast and loose with the facts.

And that's a lesson we've learned. We've been holding their feet to the fire over the last 10 days. And we're going to continue to do that. The president included.

BLITZER: Because the president says he was a little too polite last time. Maybe he'll be less polite this time.

Here's another little exchange that the vice president had with Paul Ryan. I'm going to play some of these clips.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Seven-point-four million seniors are projected to lose the current Medicare advantage coverage they have, that's a $3,200 benefit cut --

BIDEN: That didn't happen. More people --

RYAN: These are from your own actuaries.

BIDEN: More people signed up for Medicare advantage after the change.

RYAN: It's a plan I put together with a prominent Democratic senator from Oregon --

BIDEN: There's not one Democrat that endorses it. Not one Democrat who signed the plan --

RYAN: Mr. Vice president, I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think we would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Interrupting each other. Smirking, laughing, you saw the exchanges. The criticism now is that the vice president went too far. What do you say?

PSAKI: Look, I know many people in this town have known the vice president for 20, 30 years, Republicans and Democrats included. There's no guy who's more likable and more passionate about what he does and his job he's had for the last four years and the last 30.

Look, I think he was having fun up there. He was expressing his passion for the middle class and continuing to fight for them. He was holding Paul Ryan's feet to the fire about things that weren't exactly true. Whether that was Medicare or his inability to explain how the middle class wouldn't be hurt by the $5 trillion tax cut package.

BLITZER: Some people who say he was coming across as rude.

PSAKI: Listen, I have to say, if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan think they're going to talk tough to China, but they can't handle a little humor by the vice president, they need to toughen up a little bit.

BLITZER: Let me clarify for you this point. We heard it from the vice president a couple times last night. I'll play the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The middle class will pay less and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Million dollars a year more, they'll pay a little more in taxes than people making less than a million. It used to be $200,000 for individuals, $250,000 for couples filing jointly, families. Now, he's talking about a million dollars or more. What's the point there?

PSAKI: No. The point that the vice president was making is that this tax cut package that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support absolutely makes no sense because people making over $1 million would benefit by about $800 billion.

We still, the president, the vice president still absolutely believe that people making over $250,000, their taxes have to go up. We just can't -- we can't afford it. So that position hasn't changed. He was just highlighting how the highest income benefit from their tax cut package.

BLITZER: Is John Kerry still playing Mitt Romney in the debate preparation leading up to next Tuesday for the president?

PSAKI: John Kerry is, was -- still remains a key part of the debate prep team. He did an amazing job. And we think he will moving forward as well.

BLITZER: But he's still playing Mitt Romney.

PSAKI: He is.

BLITZER: You have total confidence that he's doing a good job?

PSAKI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Have you been watching some of those? PSAKI: I haven't been. I've been a little busy with a lot of other things. But I know that everybody appreciates all the hard work Senator Kerry's put in, everybody thinks he's been doing a fantastic job. And we're looking forward to next Tuesday. The president's psyched up for it.

BLITZER: Jen Psaki, thanks very much for coming in.

PSAKI: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll be watching next Tuesday night obviously.

By the way, coming up here in THE SITUATION, during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a strong Romney supporter, he'll talk to us live about what the Republican nominee is preparing to do for the debate Tuesday night.

We're following other stories as well. More cuts from American Airlines, this time with a direct impact on passengers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The European Union is the surprise winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Big win for the E.U.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it came as a surprise to some people, Wolf. The Nobel Committee cited the E.U.'s work to promote peace, democracy and stability in Europe since World War II. The prize committee also cited Greece, Spain and Portugal, all three had dictatorships and now have democratic governments.

The prestigious award comes as the 27-nation body faces criticism of its handling of a massive debt crisis.

And the nuclear plant meltdown following last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, turns out it could have been avoided. That's according to a stunning admission from the operator of the crippled Fukushima plant. Tokyo Electric Power Company says it downplayed safety risks out of fear it would lead to a plant shutdown. The March 2011 disaster knocked out power to the nuclear plant, leading to meltdowns and forced evacuations.

And American Airlines is canceling more flights through mid-November as it continues to deal with operational problems. The new cuts mean the elimination of about 31 flights per day. That is about 1 percent. The airline says it will not affect holiday travel however. The slowdowns coincide with several instances of seats becoming loose and ongoing financial and labor issues.

And nearly three dozen passengers and crew stranded on a ferry in Lake Erie are finally headed for dry ground. The boat was pulled free from a sand bar this afternoon. Eighteen passengers and crew members, they had been stuck on the ferry since it ran aground yesterday. Strong winds and rough waves delayed rescue efforts.

Authorities say though they had plenty of food. And good news is everyone is OK, Wolf.

BLITZER: Key words, everyone's OK.

SYLVESTER: Yes.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa.

With just four days until the next presidential debate, should President Obama and Governor Romney take a page from their running mates' debate last night? Our special panel getting ready to discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour:

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan out there on the campaign trail together. We're going to bring it to you live.

Also, the one misstep by Paul Ryan during last night's debate which could cost his ticket some votes.

And CNN has learned the company at the center of the meningitis outbreak in the United States has a deadly past.

Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, they played to their strengths last night. Now looking forward to next week's debate, President Obama and Governor Romney might want to follow their lead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: One person on stage last night who was thoughtful and respectful, steady and poised.

RYAN: If we're hit by terrorists, we're going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: If the president had no passion, Joe Biden had all passion all the time.

BIDEN: I've had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent -- it's about time they take some responsibility here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president on Tuesday is not that aggressive in a Biden fashion. And, two, he wants to talk a lot more about the general optimism on the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: All right. Let's get straight to CNN contributor and Sirius XM Radio host Pete Dominick. He's got a special panel -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Wolf Blitzer.

Well, next week is the big debate in Hofstra, in Long Island. We've got to talk about what can be learned from the bottom of the ticket? What can be learned by the performance last night by Paul Ryan and Joe Biden? What can they do differently?

Ross, I'll start with you.

ROSS DOUTHAT, NEW YORK TIMES: With me. I mean, I think, you know, the president needs some of what Biden brought to the table last night, right? I mean, I think Democrats and liberals were very excited, enthused to have a candidate out there who actually seemed to be showing some passion, who seemed to really believe that a second term for Obama/Biden was, you know, a genuinely good idea. And so on.

So, he needs to channel some of that without, you know, rolling his eyes, saying malarkey, interrupting Mitt Romney and all the stuff that, you know, maybe Biden can get away with because it's a vice presidential debate, but you can't do if you're the president.

But it's also tricky because the next debate is a town hall format. So, it's a completely different format. And you're interacting with the audience in a way people weren't last night.

DOMINICK: Right, yes, yes.

DOUTHAT: So there's that layer, too.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Pete, I think President Obama has nowhere to go but up. He's got to show up.

DOMINICK: Yes, that's for sure.

NAVARRO: He's got to show up, speak up, cheer up, and look up. Or if not, he's going to have to pack up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The big lesson to be learned is that the president leads with facts and follows it with passion. The American people are going to get it. I think Joe Biden demonstrated that last night.

MARGIE OMERO, PRESIDENT, MOMENTUM ANALYSIS: Yes, I think one thing that was interesting was you can have a debate that talked about a lot of dense issues and serious issues, but still was engaging and lively and really connected with the audience on both sides. I think that's a lesson for both candidates going forward.

DOMINICK: But President Obama needs to learn how to make his points and he needs to learn how to make them concisely and quickly. Joe Biden did it, Paul Ryan did it, and Mitt Romney did it. President Obama has passed some good policies. He needs to know how to sell them and explain them in a sound bite in a way people can understand. Like, I don't know, Bill Clinton does it. Is it that hard for him to learn how to explain?

NAVARRO: Yes, it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's done it before.

NAVARRO: He's been in elected office now for an awfully long time and he hasn't done it. You'll remember when he started listing back before he changed his mind when he listed one of his biggest failures or the first was not being able to sell his story. And part of it is, is that he can't speak in the short answers and sound bites.

OMERO: This is rare now to have Republicans saying that the president's main failure is that he doesn't know how to speak clearly and talk about serious issues.

NAVARRO: No.

OMERO: In telling stories in a narrative. And I think in a debate, I think he had an off night clearly. He admits that. Lots of people admit that. One thing we know for sure about this president and one thing he's been able to do all along is to provide clarity for complicated issues people disagree on but bring people together through clear language.

REPRESENTATIVE DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: The president is resilience. He has to be resilient to have gotten through --

DOMINICK: Competitive.

EDWARDS: And competitive, but to have gotten through this kind of an economy where the Republicans, you know, previously were deep sixing the economy and the president brought us out. He'll be able to communicate.

ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": That's true. Obama resilience in the face of 8 percent unemployment is an inspiration for all. I'm sure all unemployed Americans --

DOMINICK: Let me switch gears a little bit. What can Romney learn or not learn from Paul Ryan? We focused so much on the president's awful performance last time and what he can do better. What does Mitt Romney need to change if anything?

DOUTHAT: I think most of what Romney needs to change just has to do with the format, right? You're going to be in a situation where both Obama and Romney are trying to sort of connect and sell themselves both to the audience at home, but also to the people they're talking to in the room.

And that's a completely different situation from the first debate. So Romney I think overall most people would say, you know, Romney overall had a better debate than Ryan did. I thought Ryan was fine. DOMINICK: Those who were watching.

DOUTHAT: Cleared the bar and so on. But I don't think Romney looks at the Ryan performance and says I need to model myself after that. I think Ryan was very clearly just trying to sort of establish, you know, sort of keep the momentum going. Deliver a sort of solid calibrated performance and not give the Democrats some big sound bite that they could latch onto.

EDWARDS: In fact, he did give them some things. I mean, I think this is a problem on substance, not on form but on substance with Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney need to reconcile their positions with respect to abortion.

That's really clear that they have to do that. They have to reconcile where they are in terms of saying where it is that their $5 trillion is going to come from if not on the backs of middle class Americans. A lot of substance --

NAVARRO: -- needs to reconcile their position on where they are on Benghazi.

DOUTHAT: Right. I mean, Joe Biden -- we spent today listening to the White House say everything Joe Biden said about Benghazi, he wasn't speaking for the administration. He was speaking for Joe Biden.

DOMINICK: Do voters -- I mean, I think we can criticize the administration quite a bit on how this has been handled and the confusion and maybe dishonesty.

Do voters care about their reaction to Benghazi in this election because I'm not sure that that's an issue that voters care? They should. They absolutely should, but I'm not sure that's something --

NAVARRO: We're not through flushing out this issue. This issue is continuing to get more complicated.

DOMINICK: And Republicans --

NAVARRO: This is not about Republicans. Come on, guys. There are four dead Americans.

EDWARDS: It's an evolving security situation. One can expect one thing true in the beginning is different in the end. I think we have to take the politics out of this. What voters care about, they may not care about Benghazi, but they care about Bin Laden.

OMERO: Yesterday, Obama had a six-point advantage on handling foreign policy and a four-point advantage on handling terrorism. That's a Fox News poll that came out yesterday.

So I think people are looking at the total record on foreign policy and looking for someone who's not going to be rash. Mitt Romney in the wake of the crisis was incredibly rash. That's something that got lost a little bit in Ryan's explanation yesterday. DOUTHAT: I agree the president has had an advantage on foreign policy throughout the election. But it's striking that 6 percent lead is down from a 10 percent lead.

NAVARRO: Now the polls aren't rigged anymore, aren't they looking pretty good?

DOUTHAT: Thank God I don't need to unskew the polls today.

DOMINICK: Nobody here thinks the polls were rigged, right?

EDWARDS: The polls weren't rigged. The BLS numbers weren't rigged.

DOMINICK: The other thing though is this town hall format is way different. A lot of people say it plays to President Obama's advantage. President Obama's got to change gears, take a lot of different tactics.

And he's ready for this, quote, "moderate Mitt" and Mitt Romney knows that President Obama as you said is competitive and is going to try to come back. And that changes the game.

NAVARRO: You know, one advantage that President Obama has this time frankly is that the expectations game has gone topsy-turvy. Last time, the American people were all expecting him to do extremely well to win that debate.

This time I think if he's just to show up and is able to articulate a sentence, maybe smile every few minutes, he's going to do better than he did last time. The expectations have changed.

DOUTHAT: But the challenge for Obama and this goes back to the point you were making, right. I think it's true Obama has great communication skills in certain settings in certain days. But he's always struggled more than a Bill Clinton did with this personal connection.

EDWARDS: I do think the president does quite well in a town hall format, I think much more so than standing behind the podium.

DOMINICK: I think you're right. Generally, it does, but we'll see what happens next Tuesday. We'll see if he shows up again. All right, we have to take a quick break.

We're going to come back and we're going to give some unsuspecting targets our unsolicited advice. You do not want to miss this part of our segment. We'll be right back here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOMINICK: Welcome back to Wolf Blitzer's "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'm Pete Dominick. We have hijacked the room with our brilliant panel because right now we want to give our unsolicited advice, not that anybody asked. Ana, I'm going to start with you. Looks like you have a ballot there of some sort. NAVARRO: Well, regardless of what it may look like, this is not Donald Trump's pre-nup. This front and back legal size pages full of legalese is my Florida ballot.

The Florida legislature in its infinite wisdom decided to put the entire language of all the constitutional amendments on it. My advice for Florida voters, this is going to be a long hard complicated ballot, study your sample ballots, pack a lunch, wear comfortable shoes, this could take some time. And to the Florida legislature, couple of words, fix it.

DOUTHAT: It's a good thing there's never been any problems with Florida ballots in the past because otherwise, this might be actually a concern for the rest of the country as well.

NAVARRO: I actually do think this is going to turn into a problem that affects every county's going to have longer more complicated ballots.

DOMINICK: Who runs the legislature at the state house in Florida?

NAVARRO: Good people elected by the voters of Florida.

DOMINICK: Is it Republicans or Democrats? I mean, who wins in this? I mean, who wants this? This can't be good. I'm falling asleep looking at that.

NAVARRO: I'm telling you, this cannot be good and I think it's going to end up in long lines. It's going to open up a problem. God knows we had a hard time handling Chads. I don't know how we're going to handle 10 pages of legalese.

DOMINICK: Congresswoman?

EDWARDS: Well, Ana, they also need a magnifying glass in addition to lunch. My unsolicited advice is for the women of America as they're watching the debates come up is that they should listen to their heads, but they need to pay attention to their bodies.

NAVARRO: Well, I think they should also listen to their pocketbook. Pay some attention to what's going on there. We need jobs. We need to be able to feed our families. We need to be able to put food on our table.

EDWARDS: That's true. But they need reproductive freedom to make sure they have the ability to make all those choices. The choice is actually really clear between one direction or the other, and so they need to listen, pay attention to their head, listen to their --

NAVARRO: Post debate the gap with women has also narrowed. It's narrowed with practically every demographic group and every geographic area.

OMERO: Women and men move the gaps the same. I was watching the CNN dials last night. When Paul Ryan was talking about abortion, women were flatlined. They were not responding to what he had to say. DOUTHAT: Actually, his lines went up I think when he was talking about the ultrasound of his first child. If I'm remembering the CNN --

DOMINICK: I agree with you, Congresswoman. We can either talk about the abortion issue forever or we can get to Ross --

DOUTHAT: Not about the abortion issue. I know you're desperately disappointed.

DOMINICK: All right.

DOUTHAT: Mine is for the people of the European Union. First of all, congratulations on being awarded the Nobel Peace prize. It's wonderful. I've been e-mailing all my friends in Europe asking where they're going to put it on their mantelpiece or somewhere else.

But also beware of Norwegians bearing gifts. This prize was awarded by a Norwegian committee. Obviously the point was to say the EU has been great, it's encouraged peace and security and probably we need further integration and so on.

The thing is that Norway itself is actually not a member of the European Union and is not a member of the euro and Norwegians are probably feeling pretty relieved about that right now.

And Norway in spite of not being part of the EU has managed to resist the temptation to invade Sweden for the last 20 or 30 years.

DOMINICK: To be fair, they have a huge plot of oil there too.

DOUTHAT: Well, they do. Good reason.

NAVARRO: Ross, the question is who's going to get the cash money? God knows there are enough countries in the European Union that need it.

DOUTHAT: Right. It's all going to Greece.

DOMINICK: Right, Margie.

OMERO: My advice would be to Republican elected officials all over the country. We know about Todd Akin and his outlandish remarks on rape. There have been a whole host of other elected officials who have made similarly outlandish comments.

A Republican elected official in Wisconsin who said something horrible and double downed and repeated said what I meant to say was this horrible thing about rape. An elected official in Arkansas wrote a book saying slavery could have been a good thing.

He wrote a letter to double down on that position. So if you find yourself wanting to talk about rape or slavery and you are a Republican elected official, my unsolicited advice would be just hold on a moment, take a break, step outside. Pretend you have a phone call and just maybe you want to avoid it. You will make national news.

DOMINICK: Or just don't ever speak on those issues because it's not going to go well. No one's defending these idiots.

EDWARDS: Those are comments that no matter what never go the right direction.

DOMINICK: No. And also comments that shows how little men understand about women and their bodies. It's ignorant and ridiculous.

EDWARDS: Back to my unsolicited advice.

NAVARRO: We all agree on this though. We all agree that men don't understand women's bodies.

DOMINICK: Thank you, Ana. Do you want to expand on it? All right, all right, my unsolicited advice is for debate watchers and for the media who talks about style over substance. This is not a fashion show.

We're not voting for "American Idol" or voting to root somebody off the island. It's not about, he rolled his eyes, he threw his hands up. He cocked his head to the side. He got a little sweaty. You should get sweaty. There's a lot of pressure.

It should be about substance. It should be about policy. We should have as much of that and listening for that as voters. We know we're not going to get everything we want to hear, but last night's debate we got a lot more I think substance.

And we got a lot of style from Joe Biden and there was a lot of focus on it, but substance matters. And Americans need to stop worrying about how someone looks and what tie they're wearing and how they look and how they stand.

That's not going to affect their lives, substance over style. Hands in, do we agree? Yes, no?

DOUTHAT: Don't you think Joe Biden's style was part of his substance? Part of the point of the Biden performance was --

NAVARRO: It's part of his character. It's part of his personality.

DOMINICK: I care a lot more about what he said than how he said it.

EDWARDS: I care that he made it really clear we don't need malarkey.

DOMINICK: That's right.

NAVARRO: I will not go in with you because I think it will unemploy, it will lead to the unemployment of the body language experts and I will not do that to the American body language experts.

DOMINICK: I say malarkey. Thank you, guys and right back to Wolf Blitzer right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Pete, thanks very much. Thanks to the entire panel.

Up next, fooling Iran. We're talking to the former CIA agent behind a real life spy thriller turned Hollywood movie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Six Americans trapped in Iran at the height of the revolution. Now Ben Affleck's thriller "Argos" revealing the incredible mission to save their lives.

CNN entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter sat down with the former CIA specialist who concocted a fake film and went undercover in plain sight in Iran to get them out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Only with Hollywood's help could a real life high stakes scene this outrageous, this dangerous, actually works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six hostages went out a back exit.

WYNTER: A covert plan by a cunning CIA agent to rescue six American diplomats trapped in Iran. They escaped from the U.S. Embassy on the day of its takeover by Islamic militants during the country's chaotic 1979 revolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to take a miracle to get them out.

WYNTER: Oscar-winner Ben Affleck's nail biting espionage thriller "Argo" isn't just the stuff of movies, it's based on real life events and the actual spy who Affleck portrays is Tony Mendez.

We sat down with the former CIA specialist who took a page out of Hollywood to pull off a risky mission, sneak into Iran disguised as a filmmaker on a location scout, rendezvous with the diplomats and safely get them on a plane out of Tehran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all fly out together as a film crew.

TONY MENDEZ, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: All about magic and illusion, Hollywood magic, CIA magic.

WYNTER: With heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, over 52 Americans held hostage by Iranian revolutionary guards at the U.S. Embassy, the fake scenario had to look real.

MENDEZ: We got office space on the old sunset lot in Hollywood. Got a hold of Michael Douglas who was vacating that premise at that time and that was the beginning of our cover legend.

WYNTER (on camera): Looking back now, it was a crazy idea, Tony.

MENDEZ: We always had to sell our product. Just like anybody else. So we put our sign on the door, Argo Studio 6 Production. WYNTER (voice-over): Studio six, a coded reference to the six Americans Mendez would rescue on January 28, 1980, after they had spent nearly three months hiding at the homes of Canadian diplomats.

MENDEZ: The last thing we did is we went down to Hollywood reporter and took out full-page ads with our logo on it.

WYNTER: Mendez spared no detail to prevent his cover from being blown.

MENDEZ: Everybody in the world knows what Hollywood is. We distracted people all along the line and got them to help us rather than to harm us. And it worked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, here we go. Standby.

WYNTER: Mendez provided long classified information to Director Ben Affleck about the mission whose name came from Greek mythology's impossible quest for the "Golden Fleece."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to make a movie about real people who sacrifices for their country when they do these missions were more kind of grounded and realistic. The quiet uncertainty, will I ever come back? Will I die overseas?

WYNTER (on camera): The six American diplomats whose lives you saved, they worked closely on this film as well. What do they say to you today?

MENDEZ: When are we going to get paid here? It's extended family.

WYNTER (voice-over): Life is different now for this accomplished author, painter and doting grandfather. But the former spy reminds us "Argo" was one of the CIA's best kept secrets and there are many more.

MENDEZ: Well, I'll take these ideas to my grave and nobody will know. That's cool.

WYNTER (on camera): Other ideas?

MENDEZ: We have more ideas, of course.

WYNTER: Are you itching for another operation, something top secret?

MENDEZ: Absolutely.

WYNTER: You would do it in a heartbeat again today.

MENDEZ: Argo.

WYNTER (voice-over): Kareen Wynter, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: "Argo," by the way, was made by Warner Brothers, which is owned by CNN's parent company, Time Warner. I'm looking forward to seeing this film.

You heard it here on CNN at last night's debate Joe Biden said the White House didn't know about extra security requests for Libya. Did he misspeak? What's going on? We're fact checking. That's coming up in our next hour.

Also, the space shuttle "Endeavour" joins the L.A. commute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's hard to tell but that is the space shuttle "Endeavour" actually moving through the streets, yes, of Los Angeles right now. Not moving very quickly I should say.

It's a very, very slow journey. The retired shuttle is only going about 12 miles, but it's expected to take two days to get there. Yes, two days.

John Zarrella's on the scene for us. He's following "Endeavour." He's joining us in L.A. John, two days, 12 miles, what's going on?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Well, just now left this holding area where it's been for the last nine hours and it is heading up. And you're right. It's going to take two days because they're moving very, very slowly like I said, nine hours here alone where it stopped.

What the reason of that because they had to move it very early in the morning in the overnight hours from LAX about three miles from this location. They wanted to do that before rush hour traffic.

And then they sat here for nine hours until they got later in the day they had to take some power lines down, move some power lines that are further down the road. And then they're going -- now they're continuing on the journey.

But all during the day today, Wolf, hundreds and hundreds of people showed up here to get really a close up look at the shuttle. A view that, you know, unless you were an astronaut, you never got that close. Something a bit controversial, I mentioned the moving of the power lines, they had to cut down 400 trees in order to get the shuttle from LAX to the California Science Center.

Now that caused quite a stir. Science center says, look, we will in fact replant two trees for every tree that was cut down. So that at least settled things down a bit.

But the folks at the science center, Wolf, also told us that tomorrow particularly there are some places along the route even with all the work that they have done that there will be a clearance of no more than two to three inches on either side of the space shuttle's 78-foot wingspan.

So they've got to do some real, real delicate maneuvering. And they will take those spots even more slowly than the 2 miles an hour they're going now on to the next location. Wolf, you know, later tonight, they're actually going to be crossing the 405.

And they're going to be transferring from the tow system they're using now to a pickup truck because that's lighter. And that will tow them across the 405 bridge -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Zarrella on the scene for us in Los Angeles. John, thanks very much.