Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

ISIS Advancing; Ebola Worries; Obama Sees 'Long-Term Campaign' Against ISIS; Mitt Romney's Wife Reacts to 2016 Talk

Aired October 14, 2014 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We are following breaking developments in two major stories.

A Dallas hospital just gave us an update on the nurse who is fighting Ebola. She is also breaking her silence, saying thank you for the outpouring of concern.

At the same time, there are now new worries about Ebola spreading, especially to health care workers.

Just a few hours ago, the CDC warned that every hospital in the country needs to know how to diagnose and safely treat Ebola.

President Obama says the United States is surging resources into Dallas, but he also says the world isn't doing enough to stop the Ebola virus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of us are going to have to do more because unless we contain this at the source, this is going to continue to pose a threat to individual countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president spoke at a meeting with his anti-ISIS coalition.

We are also bringing in dramatic new pictures from the front lines in the war with ISIS.

Our correspondents and newsmakers are standing by to go in-depth on all of the breaking news this hour.

Let's begin in Dallas with our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. She's got the very latest -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm glad to say that Nina Pham condition has been upgraded to good. She's the nurse who contracted Ebola while taking care of Thomas

Eric Duncan. Now, this just goes to show what can happen when a patient with Ebola gets care quickly. She was admitted to the hospital within 90 minutes of first feeling ill and she got a blood transfusion within two days of going into the hospital.

BLITZER: Announced new procedures today, and I guess the question is, what are those procedures? Are they enough? Will they work?

COHEN: Right.

CDC Director Tom Frieden was very candid in a press conference today and he said, look, I wish that we had sent a larger team from the very beginning two weeks ago. That larger team includes people who are going into this hospital and training doctors and nurses how to use good protective gear.

Now, that happened, of course, after Pham got infected. He said it could have been before. It might have been prevented her infection.

He also said something about the feedback he's been getting from health care workers all over the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: I have been hearing loud and clear from health care workers from around the country that they're worried, that they don't feel prepared to take care of a patient with Ebola.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Now, it's interesting, because clearly having a bigger team here is a good thing. They can help out. They can help.

But he says he wants to do it again if this were to happen again. But what if there are many Ebola cases in the U.S.? Does the CDC have enough teams to spread out? That's had many safety experts telling me, look, they ought to just designate a few hospitals to be Ebola hospitals in the country and train and drill those teams rather than trying to help everybody out all around the country. Many people think that is just impractical -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In other words, if somebody comes down with Ebola, just airlift that person to one of those handful of hospitals that really can deal with it? Is that what you're saying?

COHEN: Right. That is what many safety experts are telling me they think should happen.

They say, look, what happened at Presbyterian is proof that not all hospitals know how to deal with this as well as other hospitals do. First they sent the patient away. Then the patient died and then a nurse got infected. That's not a great track record. BLITZER: We have a map. I'm going to show our viewers the map.

There's really only four hospitals in the United States that are fully capable of dealing with Ebola, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, outside of Washington, Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula, Montana.

Not a whole lot of places that have all the specialized equipment, Elizabeth, that you need right now to deal with this virus, right?

COHEN: I would say, Wolf, that while those are four designated hospitals for dealing with these biohazard issues, there are other large hospitals that drill for biohazards and that practice putting on and taking off protective gear.

While those four hospitals indeed are special in some ways, there are other large hospitals that would be able to have a better chance with an Ebola patient than say a smaller hospital.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen in Dallas, thanks very much.

Today, for the first time, we heard from Nina Pham. She's the Dallas nurse only 26 years old who became infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient from Liberia who died in Dallas last week.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is watching this part of the story.

Victor, tell our viewers what she is now saying.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an upbeat statement from Nina Pham.

It comes through the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital here. We have the statement and let's put it up on the screen here.

She says that: "I'm doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers. I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital here Dallas."

No official prognosis from the CDC during their news conference today and no official prognosis from the hospital here, but this is of course an upgrade from stable to good condition and an optimistic statement from Pham herself.

BLITZER: It's all very, very encouraging. I'm glad she is in good condition right now. Let's hope shall says that way.

Victor, you also had a chance to speak with her family pastor. What did you hear?

BLACKWELL: Yes. I took a drive about 35 miles West to Ft. Worth and spoke with the pastor. His name is Jim Khoi. He is the leader of the parish at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. And the Pham family has been member there, they have been members for more than a decade.

He says initially of course they were frightened, but now they are very calm and they're very religious people. They believe that God will take care of Nina Pham and here is what else he told us about their communication.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: How are the two communicating, mother and daughter, right now?

PASTOR JIM KHOI, OUR LADY OF FATIMA CATHOLIC CHURCH: They can talk via Skype and phone, so they know for sure what happens to one another. And I think Nina and her mom are doing well and feel comfortable with...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: And one other thing that the father shared with us, he said that he now has to educate the parish there, the congregation because he said there was a party that was scheduled in their multipurpose room.

And after the announcement to the connection to this church, the family canceled that party, saying they didn't want to be involved with possibly catching Ebola. Of course, we know it can only be transmitted from a sick person through body fluid, but he says that is now the effort that he will have to undergo with the people there at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Ft. Worth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Victor Blackwell in Dallas, thank you.

The CDC says every hospital in the United States needs to be ready to diagnose Ebola and their workers need to be trained in how to treat patients without spreading the virus.

Joining us now, three guests, tropical medical specialist and CNN medical analyst Dr. Xand van Tulleken, Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former CDC disease detective who now writes for "The Dallas Morning News," and Dr. Leslie Lobel of Israel's Ben-Gurion University, who is working on an Ebola vaccine.

To all three of you, thanks very much joining us.

Dr. Yasmin, let me start with you. You're in Dallas. Here's a blunt question. Are the medical workers there safe?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, DALLAS: We are hearing so much concern from local residents about this question, Wolf.

The sad thing is that with one nurse having become infected, there is always the chance that other health care workers in that setting may have also been exposed,. Because we haven't identified one particular thing that she did that could have exposed her to the virus, that means that we have to cast the net really wide. Others could be at risk. But I also, Wolf, have to speak to this issue about these four

biocontainment units. There are only four of them, and combined, they have fewer than 20 beds. I spoke to one of them this morning at the Nebraska biocontainment unit and they said, sure, we're the biggest one. We have 10 beds, but Ebola is a very difficult disease to treat. We would not be comfortable having more than two or three patients with Ebola here.

This really speaks to the fact that every hospital has to be prepared, has to be ready to deal with Ebola patients.

BLITZER: But, Doctor, that can take a long time to prepare these hospitals, God forbid if there was some sort of pandemic or epidemic or a huge number of cases in the United States.

YASMIN: That's possible, but let's look at New York City as a case example, Wolf. They started preparing on July 28, very shortly after CDC issued an alert.

They got together between the health department and local hospitals and they said let's work together on this and let's have conference calls and let's meet in person and say how we're going to deal with the situation. Other cities, other places really need to look to that as an example of starting very early on to prepare in case there is a case of Ebola.

BLITZER: Dr. Lobel, you're working to try to develop an Ebola vaccine. How close are you and your team?

DR. LESLIE LOBEL, BEN-GURION UNIVERSITY: Well, we are actually developing monoclonal antibodies as passive vaccines and also as a therapeutic.

Actually, we are working on strains of Ebola virus that are different from the strain than in West Africa. And I would say we are about three to five years out from having something that could be put into human beings.

BLITZER: Three to five years out?

LOBEL: Which is very similar...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: To deal with a virus in West Africa, is that what you're saying?

LOBEL: Well, no.

What we are working on, we are working is therapeutics for the other strains of Ebola. We actually work in conjunction -- we are part of the consortium that MAP Pharmaceuticals is part of. And they work on the strain that is in West Africa. We work on all the other strains. So, together, we want to actually have -- go ahead.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: I'm sorry for interrupting, but why hasn't there been a

vaccine discovered yet, though? People have known about Ebola since the '70s.

LOBEL: Well, there are experimental vaccines that do work in monkeys. They just haven't been tested on a large number of people yet.

Actually, my close colleague in the U.S. military Dr. John Dye has been involved with that for many years. So I do think we will have a very good vaccine soon.

BLITZER: Soon. You think within a few years? Is that your definition of soon?

LOBEL: Yes, I would say. And they started testing, I believe, this year.

BLITZER: Let's hope they can speed this up because clearly this is a huge, huge problem globally.

Dr. van Tulleken, is there any evidence that the Ebola crisis in West Africa is being contained or slowing down in any way?

DR. XAND VAN TULLEKEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's really difficult evidence to gather, Wolf, because clearly a large number of these cases still are not being reported and we are still not testing everyone.

It does seem, from what the WHO have been saying over the last couple of days, that at least in certain areas it's being rolled back. We probably have a decrease -- the sense I have is we have a decrease in the total number of cases, but we are still seeing new regions of rural Africa being affected, which is really, really concerning.

So, by no means under control, and it's really important to say that the nurses here are our front line. Whatever airport screening we do, whatever preparedness we have got, we are going to see more Ebola in the U.S. unless we roll it back.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The World Health Organization now says, what, 9,000 cases in Africa. More than 4,000 people are already dead. And it seems every two or three weeks to be doubling. Is that accurate?

VAN TULLEKEN: That's what seems to be happening at the moment, so we are seeing what you would call exponential growth.

So, rather than just going up by a bit each week and increasing, in fact, it is doing something like doubling and that is where we get this terrifying 1.4 million people dead in 2015 number from the CDC. That is the worst-case scenario projection.

I think we are now beginning to see the first hints of something like an adequate international response. The U.S. has absolutely led the way. We have had the first kind of large corporate public statements over the weekend talking about the chocolate industry and its effects, and the first few celebrities really getting on board, David Beckham for UNICEF.

I think we will see a groundswell both of money available and of organizations committing. But this should be of huge concern. We don't need any more cases of Ebola in the U.S. to have this severely affect us. The chocolate is kind of a catchy example. Chocolate crisis in the U.S. makes everyone sit up and pay attention.

But those are the kinds of things, trade with West Africa, closed airports and huge effects on the economy, not to mention if we don't look after the nurses, hospitals that are poorly staffed. We have every reason to really be working hard in West Africa.

BLITZER: I hope the world gets its act together and deals with it.

I want all of you stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, many questions coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We are following the breaking news on Ebola, Dallas hospital upgrading the condition of the nurse infected from the virus from stable to good. That is obviously good news.

Also, President Obama today said the world still isn't doing enough to stop Ebola from spreading.

We are back with our panel of doctors.

Dr. Yasmin, the World Health Organization said today that the Ebola death rate has risen to 70 percent. That' up from the previous estimate of 50 percent. Is Ebola more deadly than previously thought?

YASMIN: We have always known this is a very deadly disease ever since we discovered it in 1976. We have known, Wolf, that the death rate is between 50 to 90 percent.

However, that's not just contingent on the virus itself. It's contingent on us as human beings and what kind of response we have to outbreaks like this. Certainly, the death rate can be lowered if we don't have any delays in diagnosis and don't have any delays in treating people.

We need to do that as quickly as possible. So I disagree with what Dr. van Tulleken said earlier about perhaps now we are seeing an adequate response. I don't think that looking back on this in years to come, we will ever be able to say that anything about this response was adequate. And that is why we are seeing this increase in the death rate.

BLITZER: Let me let Dr. van Tulleken respond.

Go ahead. VAN TULLEKEN: No, no, I completely agree with Yasmin.

The point I was making was that we are seeing something like what needs to be done. We are seeing, for the first time, large-scale military deployment of resources, but there's no question at all -- basically, one private organization has shouldered the burden of almost all the care. That's Doctors Without Borders.

So, no, no, she is absolutely correct in that. And I think we will look back on this as a total catastrophe. We should be learning massive lessons about global public health.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Dr. Lobel.

Where is the rest of the world? We know the U.S. is now deploying about 4,000 troops to go over there to Liberia and try to building some hospitals, deal with this issue. But where is the rest of the world, Dr. Lobel?

LOBEL: Well, I know that in Israel also they are going to be sending a team to I believe Liberia and Guinea to help out also.

But what I think we are seeing is that to make -- to sum it up in brief, this is the 9/11 of the infectious disease world. And I think the world is ill-prepared to understand the magnitude of a disease like this, a deadly disease like this, on an unprepared population.

And so I think the world has not responded in the way it needs to. We need a massive outpouring of aid and support for the people of West Africa to really stem this deadly disease.

BLITZER: Is it fair, Dr. Yasmin, to say that we really don't know much about Ebola?

YASMIN: That is fair to say, Wolf.

We have only discovered this in 1976, had about 20 or so outbreaks since then, but we have to question, why don't we know more about this disease? Is it because of the people that it affects? Is it because of the countries that it affects and why have we seen such big cuts in medical research funding over the past few years?

Now we're suddenly scrambling for a vaccine. The NIH has been looking for a vaccine and developing one since 2001. Had they not had those consistent cuts in funding, we may have been many years ahead. We may have even had an Ebola vaccine to use right now.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask an expert on the vaccine, Dr. Lobel. Do you agree with Dr. Yasmin on that?

LOBEL: Yes, I agree. The funding is not there.

I don't think that academia does not have enough virologists. I think we need to do a lot more in terms of the infectious disease community as a whole. And we just need to put a lot more resources into infectious disease. We lost a lot of capacity over the ages because we thought we conquered many diseases, but in fact we haven't.

The world has slept on infectious disease, but as I like to say, viruses don't sleep.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And I was going to ask Dr. van Tulleken. There is a real nightmare scenario out there that this virus could evolve into even more dangerous capacity, right?

VAN TULLEKEN: Well, I think it's very reasonable to ask whether it's already evolved.

I mean, it does seem to be a strain that is more transmissible between people than previous strains, which -- there are other factors as well. I think this is a product of poverty and of neglect of that region. But we do wonder already if this is a new kind of strain.

I think the idea that it may become airborne, which a few weeks ago looked like a very ridiculous question -- no virus has ever changed its mode of transmission before. In the context of nurses with personal protective gear on getting infected and with the very high numbers of infected health care workers we have seen in Africa, at least worrying about large droplet infection and proximity infections does seem to be a reasonable thing to be concerned about right now.

Even if you're not worried about Ebola going airborne, what you should be worried about is the inability of the global system to control a disease that should be relatively straightforward to control. What we are seeing is a total inadequacy of our ability to manage pandemic disease.

BLITZER: Dr. Yasmin, you're in Dallas. You're an expert on infectious diseases. What caused this 26-year-old young nurse to be infected with Ebola?

YASMIN: Wolf, in my previous experience of investigating infectious outbreaks in hospitals, sometimes you never find the answer to that question.

And that is concerning, particularly in this instance. Because we haven't found that one incident that caused the infection, it means we have to cross that net really wide and it means that other health care workers may have made a similar mistake, if a mistake was made, or may have been under the same situation, and they could also potentially become victims of the very virus that they are trying to treat.

BLITZER: Dr. Lobel, do you believe it is possible there will be more Ebola cases in the United States?

LOBEL: I'm pretty certain there will be because as the number rises in West Africa, there will be spillover.

And it's not because people are not trying. It's just things happen, and it's very, very difficult to keep everything out of the United States. But we do need better screening certainly at the airports, which I think is inadequate at the present time.

BLITZER: The screening at airports.

And let me let Dr. van Tulleken weigh in quickly on that.

More screening needs to be done to keep people out of the United States? Is that what you believe as well, Dr. van Tulleken?

VAN TULLEKEN: I think it's very important screening people to stop them from getting on planes if they are at risk having of having Ebola, because what we don't want in that closed environment is for large numbers of people to get infected on a plane.

We don't want people to be worried about that either. So, we need air passengers to be confident they can get on a plane without Ebola. But screening when you get off a plane is massively time- consuming. And as we know from other epidemics like SARS and MERS, it doesn't catch very many people. In those epidemics, it didn't catch anyone.

So, my feeling is the resources are better deployed in West Africa. I cannot see how we will stop having more cases in the U.S. unless we can roll this back. And I think, as the other two have said very, very clearly, we are not doing nearly enough. People should be giving their own money and people should be supporting government efforts very, very strongly.

BLITZER: Dr. van Tulleken, Dr. Yasmin, Dr. Lobel, guys, thanks very, very much. Excellent information.

Unfortunately, it's a horrible, horrible situation that we are covering right now. And we will stay in close touch with all of you.

Just ahead, plotting a long-term strategy to defeat ISIS, but as President Obama huddles with key members of his global coalition, a desperate battle against ISIS fighters is under way in Syria in full view of the cameras.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Explosions rock the Syrian border town of Kobani, as the U.S.-led coalition tried to help Kurdish fighters hold the line against an ISIS onslaught.

But the jihadists, they are advancing in Syria, as well as in Iraq, where security sources now say they have surrounded an Iraqi air base.

President Obama met with coalition defense leaders today, made it clear it will be a very difficult fight.

We have full coverage, beginning with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's here with me -- Jim. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We're

getting our first readout from the president's meeting today. The defense chiefs from 22 countries involved, agreeing that ISIS has tactical momentum, though they believe that the coalition has strategic momentum. They also say that while ISIS is the most pressing terror threat, it is not the only one.

The president has convened a coalition of some 60 countries, 22 of them represented today, but so far no visible victories when you look at Iraq, another Iraqi base coming under attack; and Kobani holding, but only tenuously.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Raining down from coalition war planes, precision-guided weapons, 23 airstrikes over Iraq and Syria yesterday and today. The busiest period of the air campaign so far, as it convened a meeting of military chiefs from 22 coalition countries at Joint Base Andrews, president Obama learned of a tough fight.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be a long-term campaign. There are not quick fixes involved. We're still at the early stages.

As with any military effort, there will be days of progress, and there are going to be periods of setback; but our coalition is united behind this long-term effort.

SCIUTTO: Twenty-one of the strikes centered around Kobani and expanding punishing efforts to save a down the administration has described as strategically unimportant.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We certainly do not want the down to fall. At the same time, our capacity to prevent that town from falling is limited by the fact that air strikes can only do so much.

SCIUTTO: Priority No. 1 for the coalition? Arming and training the moderate Syrian rebels to provide the missing ground forces in Syria.

Turkey has now agreed to join Saudi Arabia in the training program. What more it will contribute, however, remains negotiable, after an embarrassing public disagreement between Turkish and American officials over whether Turkey is granting the coalition the use of its military bases.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Turkey has agreed to host and train and equip people. It certainly has allowed the use of certain facilities. And we don't need to get into specifics, except to say that I don't believe there is any discrepancy with respect to what they will or won't do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: A senior U.S. military official tells me that, in fact, the coalition and Turkey are still negotiating exactly what Turkey's role will be, what facilities will be used and how those facilities will be used. I'm told that part of those discussions include the Incirlik air base in Turkey which would, of course, be a tremendous advantage for running airstrikes in Turkey if you're this much closer, as opposed to carrying them out from the Mediterranean or the Arabian Gulf or from bases in the Persian Gulf.

BLITZER: And Incirlik air base, that's a NATO (ph) air base. And originally, the U.S. was giving indications that the Turks had agreed to let U.S. and other coalition jets to take off from Incirlik but then the Turks said not so fast.

SCIUTTO: Not yet, and I'm told the reason it didn't is they're still working that out, but the Turks have not agreed officially to allow that to happen. It's on the table, but it hasn't been signed, sealed and delivered yet.

BLITZER: We'll see if it happens. All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that.

Meanwhile, a massive explosion caught on camera in northwestern Syria. Activists say rebel -- look at this. Rebels -- activists say rebels blew up a tunnel in an attack on a Bashar al-Assad regime military base. Look at that. Wow!

CNN's Arwa Damon is not very far away. She's on the Turkish/Syrian border. Arwa, give us some perspective. You heard the crying, the screaming that was going on there. Tell us what's going on.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty dramatic footage there, Wolf. This is rebels attempting to take over via use of tunnels and then explosions. One of the regime bases in the northwestern part of Syria. Now, this is not the first time that we have seen rebel fighters attempting to tunnel underground and place explosive underneath regime locations that they have been trying to take over.

What's unclear at this stage is just how successful they were. This is a strategic base that has been fought over for quite some time now.

With all the focus on Kobani, Wolf, people perhaps not paying that much attention to the fact that the war, when it comes to the rebels fighting the regime, most certainly is ongoing, as is the regime's ongoing bombardment and use of barrel bombs against various different civilian targets in the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa, we know that there's been a lot of pressure on the Turks to launch airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria or Iraq, for that matter. But, all of a sudden, we're getting word that Turkish airstrikes did take place but not against ISIS but against Kurds inside Turkey. What's going on there?

DAMON: Well, this is down to the ongoing tensions between the PKK, the Kurdish separatists and the Turks. The Turks say they were fired on from PKK bases located along the southwestern border between Turkey and Iraq, and they say that they responded with available fire power and eliminated the threat.

But this most certainly does not bode well at this junction, given the increasing tension between the Kurds and the Turks because of what is happening in Kobani. The Turks feel the end game is see the demise of the Kurds.

And we are also at a stage where there is some sort of peace agreement that is trying to be hammered out on the table between Turkey and the PKK, but we have this ongoing situation that is seeing tensions escalate.

Turkey very worried that, because of the rising tensions with the Kurds, because of what's happening in Kobani especially, that they could very well see war erupting within their own borders and that is definitely something that Turkey wants to avoid at this stage and cannot afford any sort of unrest.

Arwa Damon on the border between Turkey and Syria. Be careful, as I tell you all the time.

Let's go in-depth right with our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, along with our CNN counterterrorism Philip Mudd, a CIA official. Philip, what do you make of these reports that Turkey has started to bomb PKK Kurdish positions inside -- inside Turkey? There was a cease-fire for a couple years.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN ANALYST: You know, Wolf, you just can't make it up. Let me give you a couple bookends.

Twenty-five years ago, I'm at the CIA. We're trying to get the Red Army out of Afghanistan and we have unity of effort across Saudi Arabia, the Pakistanis, others groups. You had a strong leader in Pakistan, Muhammad Zaihok (ph), committed to the fight over the course of years. And you had the U.S. behind the scenes, ultimately degrading the Soviet military and forcing them to depart.

Fast forward 25 years. You've got the fighting Islamists in Syria, trying to oust Assad. You've got the Americans fighting the Islamists but refusing to commit to ousting Assad. And you've got the Kurds standing on the sidelines, bombing -- the Turks bombing the Kurds.

Bottom line, Wolf, the lack of unity of effort will prolong the program to eliminate ISIS. This is all to ISIS's advantage.

BLITZER: Why is ISIS, Peter, so strong? In the face of the U.S.-led air strikes, ISIS seems to be gaining strength in both Syria and Iraq.

PETER BERGEN, CNN ANALYST: Well, they've been in this business for a long time. Iraq and al Qaeda, ISIS's predecessor organizations, have been around for a decade, so the leaders of this group, many of whom, by the way, were in Saddam's army and still have military expertise. These are people who know what they're doing.

And the tactics they use, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with suicide attacks, that's not something that's available to other players, and then they're up against pretty weak opponents. It's not ISIS is so strong. It's they are functioning in an environment their opponent is so weak, it's not -- there is an analogy to Ebola that it was doing well in very weak states. And they're seeing the same thing with ISIS. ISIS is not, you know, the perfect military machine, but it's up against some relatively inept enemies.

BLITZER: Which raises the next question. Do you, Philip, why is the Iraqi military, several hundred thousand troops, trained, financed, armed by the United States for more than a decade, why are they so inept?

MUDD: I think what we're seeing is, you know, they don't have a commitment to the Iraqi state. As they get into areas where they're not comfortable -- that is Anbar province -- areas where fighting is heavy, they don't have a commitment to the fight, I think that may change over time, Wolf.

We've seen in the past 24, 48 hours there have been car bombs in Baghdad. The further the Sunnis -- that is ISIS, get into the Shia territory including Baghdad, the tougher the fight is going to get, because the Iraqi security forces are going to start to say this isn't just a fight for uniform. It's a fight for my homeland. That's going to get bloody.

Last thing I'd say is the risk of that, obviously, the advantage is the Iraqis may fight. The risk is increasingly you have Sunni on Shia fighting, and you have the risk that the Iraqi state will continue to fall apart among Kurds, Sunnis and Shia.

BLITZER: Yes. Looks like that is about to happen. But let's see what happens.

Peter, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, he said today that, yes, ISIS poses a significant threat to the U.S. homeland, but he's more worried about what they call these individuals, these lone wolves. To which you say?

BERGEN: I think that's right. Because if you look at the dozen Americans who have joined ISIS or a similar group in Syria, A, they're pretty well known to the U.S. government. B, some of them have gone over there and died. It's the people -- the lone wolves are not communicating with anybody. So people who might be inspired by ISIS. We saw in Australia sort of home-grown types who, you know, were planning some sort of beheading and saw something similar in Britain.

So I think it's the home-grown people who may see ISIS as a role model but not actually be in any way affiliated with them. That is potentially problematic.

BLITZER: Very problematic, indeed. Peter Bergen, thanks very much. Philip Mudd, thanks to you, as well.

And stay with CNN for the latest breaking news on ISIS, on Ebola, including the increasing anxiety in the healthcare community. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Midterm elections are three weeks from today, but the political world is buzzing about the possibility of Mitt Romney making another try for the White House in 2016, and now his wife, Ann Romney is weighing in.

Let's talk politics with our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. How real is this possibility?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Of Mitt Romney, as we say in THE SITUATION ROOM, Wolf -- not happening now, OK?

I think, from my reporting and you see Ann Romney going back-and- forth and back-and-forth on this. You never say never but I'm told by sources very close to Romney that this is all in the realm of the truly hypothetical that Mitt Romney is very skeptical and as this source says if Romney were to run he would be the last guy in the race. So, what that means, if drafted, he might do it late in the game, but that doesn't seem --

BLITZER: Let me play a clip from Ann Romney. She was on NBC earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: We are having no serious conversation about it because we said at the end, we will never do this again. It was hard. We've done it. We have had our turn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: To which you say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I believe her. I believe that Ann Romney. I guess there are more other recent Ann Romney's -- she spoke to "The Washington Post" late today something not as definitive. But, look, we know that the Republican Party, it is in their DNA to let people have another chance -- but usually just second chances.

BORGER: Maybe not third?

BASH: Third chances, not so much.

But the thing I think is really interesting is maybe the reason why Romney, his name is out there so much and that is about the midterm elections in three weeks. Almost all of the competitive races are in red states where Romney did really, really well. Kentucky is a great example. He won by like 24 points. That's why he's out on the campaign trail because he can be an asset in states where it matters right now.

BORGER: And, you know, a lot of Romney supporters including Ann Romney love the fact that Mitt Romney seems relevant again and important in these Senate races. And when I interviewed them as a couple back last June she had, you know, it's hard to watch the news and not be a part of it. She wasn't enthusiastic about this last race but she came on board and became his biggest supporter.

I think what you heard her say today is, look, I don't really want him to do it. I don't really expect him to do it. We're not having conversations about it, but if drafted, I'd be with him, right?

BLITZER: Because, you know, there are big money Republicans, some establishment Republicans who think he is moderate, he's electable, and potentially could carry states like Ohio or Florida, some of the other more conservative Republicans might have trouble in states like that. That's why they're saying, they are holding out hope he might change his mind.

BASH: Right. But we've seen that movie before. We saw that exact same thing in 2008. We saw it in 2012. And the big problem with Romney is, you know, we can rehash all of this all day long, is not so much his positions, it's the way he describes them, it's the wrap on him as he is out of touch. You can go, you know, again on and on and on. That is not something many Republicans have forgotten.

BLITZER: Let's talk Kentucky for a moment. Last night, there was a big debate. Alison Lundergan Grimes, she's challenging the incumbent, Mitch McConnell, who wants to be the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. She is still refusing to answer this question, did she vote for Barack Obama in 2008, and/or 2012.

BORGER: Yes, I just talk to a source very close to the campaign, who first of all said, she voted, because there were those of who are asking questions about whether or not she voted.

BASH: If that was the reason why she wasn't answering.

BORGER: Right. And he maintains that this is some inviolate principle that she has, that, you know, she believes when she was secretary of state that you should not have to tell people who you voted for, that it's sacred and that, you know, and that -- exactly, give me a break, that it's not a strategy of theirs. You know, come on.

BASH: I don't want to be that skeptical or cynical, but I mean --

BORGER: No, it wouldn't be.

BASH: But give me a break. You know? We know the reality of ground in Kentucky. We just said that President Obama didn't do well in there when he was popular and now, he is completely underwater when it comes to popularity. I am told that they knew very well the kind of reaction that would come if she uttered the words I voted for Barack Obama in a red, red state like Kentucky.

But on the flip side, you have some Democrats who I've talked to privately who say that they are really bummed out about that because it completely overshadows the fact she had a very strong debate performance last night and they are scratching their heads thinking, OK, Republicans have already spent like $11 million on TV linking her to Barack Obama. What difference would it make?

BLITZER: Didn't she tell us who she voted for in the Democratic primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Didn't she say she voted for Hillary Clinton?

BORGER: We knew that she had been -- you know, that it was a matter of public record that she was a publicly pledged Clinton delegate.

BASH: And there's report out of Kentucky that she is going to say that in an upcoming report.

BORGER: And can I also say that this question came up, I'm told in debate prep, so she was prepared for it. It wasn't as if it was something she did off the cuff. They know that Obama is dangerous for them in that state.

BLITZER: His job approval numbers in Kentucky, as in several in these other states, a lot lower than they are national.

All right, guys. Thanks very, very much. Three weeks from today is the midterm elections in the United States.

Much more ahead on today's breaking news, late this afternoon. We've got an update of the condition of 26-year-old Dallas nurse who's infected with the Ebola virus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A moment of tremendous panic lasting seconds but changing lives. It has been 25 years since the San Francisco earthquake of the 1989 devastated the Bay Area and for some the wounds of that day still have not healed.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside Candlestick Park, where the world is watching the quake live, the players and the fans are oblivious to the severity of the damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Giant is awake!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The game will be postponed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no way to know what the damage was outside of the stadium. It is not like ballparks where you can see downtown or outside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Randi is joining us now. Randi, it's amazing to remember those days. A lot of us do.

That was Al Michaels at the end of the clip. He was calling the game that night.

When he told you what happened after the quake, what did he say to you?

KAYE: Well, Wolf, first of all, he told me that he called his top boss right away, Bob Iger. And that who was first actually tell him that a piece of the Bay Bridge had fallen from and he said he couldn't see any damage and the blimp camera came up on the monitor that was right in front of him at the booth and he could see the five alarm fire in the marina district and the collapsed bridge, and he actually kept asking the blimp to turn this way and that way and he stayed on the air, Wolf, through the next morning, 15 hours or so.

But here's the interesting thing I asked him if he was scared when it started to shake and there's a funny story because his co- worker that night said that Al had grabbed his leg first out of fear, and but Al Michael swears that it was his co-host to grabbed his leg for dear life. He joked with me that he actually still has the mark on his leg to prove it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure. There was a good decision for many years down the world.

So, do they consider the 1989 quake, the big one, or that still one that they think is coming?

KAYE: Well, the 1989 quake was 6.9 magnitude. Sixty-seven people died, $10 billion in damages, but the experts say that was not the big one.

And keep in mind, the Bay Area is the urban area with the most active fault system under it, including the Hayward Fault, as you probably know, which last ruptured back in 1868. So, if you do the math, that was 146 years ago, and these faults produce earthquakes every 150 years or so. So, clearly, we are due, and on top of that Hayward Fault, Wolf, you have houses, you have hospitals and the stadium at Berkeley. So, it could be pretty bad.

BLITZER: It could be indeed. So, give us, briefly, the other stories, the characters you feature in this excellent new documentary?

KAYE: Well, we focused on four stories. We talked to a guy who was caught on the Bay Bridge when the Bay Bridge -- the piece of that collapsed. He was caught right there in the crevice. And we share a story of people caught on the Cypress Freeway which actually pancaked on top of hundreds of cars. We talked to a very brave firefighter who risked his own life to try and save a woman in the marina district and another couple who were also fighting for their lives in the marina district.

BLITZER: Thanks so much for doing it. Randi, thanks for everything you are doing. And this important to our viewers, Randi's "San Francisco Shaken,

25 Years Since the Quake", airs later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

And all week, CNN (INAUDIBLE) "Roots: Our Journey Home". CNN journalists have traveled across the continents finding details of our family histories. My own journey took me to Israel, to Poland, and to my hometown of Buffalo, New York.

Here's my preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I feel like I was robbed of my grandparents. Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and I saw the documentation there, place of extermination, if you will, whatever it was called, Auschwitz, it really hit me, and I know that was where I wanted to go.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The meaning was that was a place for working, which it was not.

BLITZER: It was for slave laborers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It was this kind of camp. That work was an instrument of extermination of prisoners here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And you'll see my rich journey tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Remember you can follow us on Twitter, just go ahead and tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can certainly tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

Please be sure to join us again tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can watch us live. You can always DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Please stay with CNN throughout the night for the late-breaking news on ISIS, on Ebola and a whole lot more. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.