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Erin Burnett Outfront

Shocking New Poll; Influencing Voters; Student Visas

Aired October 18, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next stunning numbers in a poll about abortion and how crucial it is in the race for the White House, but does the poll add up. Plus another secret recording of Mitt Romney; tonight what he told some business leaders about their employees and an alleged Islamic extremist charged with plotting to blow up a Manhattan building came to the United States on a student visa. Tonight an OUTFRONT investigation into just how easy it is to get one of those.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a shocking new poll. Women in the swing states in this country rank abortion as their number one issue in this election. Now Gallup asked female voters an open-ended question. Literally this, just name the most important issue for you in 2012, and topping the list was abortion with 39 percent of the women responding. Nineteen percent of them said jobs and then you can see health care, economy and equal rights. During the biggest economic crisis of this generation, in fact of the past few generations, the biggest issue to 39 percent of women is abortion.

Not that abortion isn't a crucial issue and it certainly is a polarizing one, but so far this year we've seen almost every poll rate the economy and jobs as the top concern for all voters. But then we said you know let's go look at recent polls. I mean let's find what they said and this is what we found. Pew gave women a list of issues and asked so which of them are very important to your vote. Fifty- four percent of them said abortion. Granted, that's not nearly as high as the 89 percent who said the economy or even the three-quarters who said education, but it's still more than half. And there's this from "CBS News".

Thirty-eight percent of women said they will not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on abortion. That's a similar number to the 39 percent who say abortion is their top issue. Now here's the thing. We don't know if these women are pro-choice, all in and support President Obama, who are anti-abortion and support Governor Romney. But we do know it's clearly a big issue for a whole lot of women, and women matter. In 2008 women made up 53 percent of the electorate, 56 percent of those women voted for the president, 43 percent for John McCain. The president is having a harder time courting women this time around.

After the first debate, Romney was running dead even with the president among women voters. He had had an 18-point deficit the prior month. So this morning Ann Romney tried to shore up support for women during an appearance on "The View," and she also talked about abortion.


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I am pro-life. I'm happy to say that. Mitt has always been a pro-life person. He governed when he ran as pro-choice.


BURNETT: But that may not have helped her husband, because frankly, it's a little confusing. As has been Mitt Romney's position on abortion through the years. Here he was in 1994 running against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.


MITT ROMNEY (R), MASS. GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE 1994: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate.


BURNETT: OK, now fast forward to just last year. Here's Mitt Romney trying to capture the GOP presidential nomination.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I'd like to see happen would be for the Supreme Court to say, look, we're going to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states the authority to decide whether they want to have abortion or not in their state by state. That was the way it was before Roe v. Wade, so I am firmly pro-life.


BURNETT: OK, Mitt Romney though wasn't quite subtle (ph) there either because less than two weeks ago he spoke to the editorial board of the "Des Moines Register" and he seemed a little more unclear on the issue. He said and I've got to quote him here -- it wasn't on camera -- "there's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."

So, if Mitt does win and he does set an agenda, what will it include with regards to abortion? This literally could turn the entire election. Barbara Comstock is a Romney campaign senior adviser. Barbara good to see you again. I appreciate your taking the time.


BURNETT: So you know you obviously have just heard Mitt Romney, three different points of view here on abortion. Which Mitt Romney is the one that's running for the White House? BARBARA COMSTOCK, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Listen, I think you've seen in the past two debates and the focus groups that you've watched in the first presidential debate and the one just this week that Mitt Romney is very much focused on the economy, and that's why the gap in the women's vote has closed and getting much closer. Actually, the men's vote is Governor Romney's leading in double digits and his focus on the economy because that is the number one issue of everybody --


COMSTOCK: Women have been affected by unemployment. You know over half a million women have lost their jobs. We're at the lowest rate of unemployment. And we know there are good people on both sides on the social issues that support us, and so those are difficult issues but they're good people of good faith on both sides.

BURNETT: All right, but can you answer my question? Which Mitt Romney is going to show up? Because we have here on the Gallup poll the number one issue for women is abortion. Thirty-eight percent of women will not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on abortion. So what is his point of view? What is the president -- what would President Romney do?

COMSTOCK: Well he has stated he's pro-life, but as you pointed out, that poll did not say which side women are on.


COMSTOCK: Oftentimes when there are polls what it shows is that it kind of cancels out somewhat the people who are single-issue voters and that's their deciding vote, but we do know that obviously there are people who feel strongly on both sides of that issue. But a lot of that -- the Supreme Court decides a lot of these decisions, and what we're dealing with and what Congress deals with and what states deal with are some of the economic issues on -- (INAUDIBLE) funding and those are things where we want to have funds, limited funds go to things like you know science and math education, things that we support, getting jobs for women.


COMSTOCK: Having jobs for our kids when they come out of college, which they don't have now. Half of these kids -- those are the issues that women are concerned about, so --

BURNETT: They are concerned about those, I mean but they're also concerned about this and I'm really trying to get a hard answer, because I know whether you're pro-choice or pro-abortion -- pro-life, you care about this answer. So you talked about the Supreme Court. There's going to be vacancies on the Supreme Court in the next administration. If it's a President Romney, will he put forth a Supreme Court justice who would uphold Roe v. Wade and there be exceptions for abortions or would he go with the Republican Party platform which allows for no exceptions in any case, something with which 75 percent of American voters disagree with? COMSTOCK: Well having worked on Supreme Court nominations and having worked at the Justice Department previously, I can tell you Republicans don't put a litmus test on judges. What we say is we want someone to interpret the law, not to make it and that's the only test that we ask for. So we don't know what a Supreme Court justice is going to do. We obviously want a Supreme Court justice that won't be making new law, which is often the case with more liberal justices. But you can see from the Supreme Court case on the health care bill recently, we never can predict what the Supreme Court is going to do and I would -- having worked on those I will not -- and knowing Supreme Court justices, I will not predict what they're going to do, and I don't think any Democrat or Republican -- I think maybe perhaps you can predict Democrat nominees a little bit better than Republicans. But you know, the issues are going to -- are going to drive the economy and that drive women are these economic issues. You've seen that in the focus groups you've done.


COMSTOCK: You've seen the polls, and that is why the polls are closing because they understand Mitt Romney, who had a cabinet that was half women, wants to put women in senior positions, wants them to have a good working situation --

BURNETT: He does --

COMSTOCK: That's in fact his record --

BURNETT: He does have a --

COMSTOCK: He you know walked the walk.

BURNETT: He does -- he did a record of course of having women in his administration, which brings me though to what happened at the debate the other night, a moment that the Democrats are trying to make hay of, the binders full of women. Obviously, Mitt Romney was trying to say there are binders full of women's resumes because they were a lot of qualified people, but I have to say at the least it came out awkward. Let me just play it.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented driven young women who can learn and excel.

JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Governor Romney was asked a direct question in the debate about equal pay for women, he started out by talking about binders -- binders.


BURNETT: All right they're trying to make hay with this and if they succeed, this could cost Governor Romney the election. Are you worried about their making inroads on this? COMSTOCK: No, not at all because you should have shown your focus group, because I was watching it with the lieutenant governor who served with Mitt Romney, a woman, Kerry Healey, and we watched your focus group and that answer that Mitt -- when Mitt Romney talked about he had put women in senior positions, how he sought them out, how he had a family friendly work environment polled very high in your own focus group. And I would point out that it's interesting to see the president and vice president talk like they are, because it was Anita Dunn, the communications director of the Obama White House who said the White House -- this White House was a hostile workplace, and that it met all the legal requirements of a hostile workplace. And you had Christina Romer, who said she felt like a piece of meat. So I hope you would show those clips too instead of just showing the president and the vice president really ignoring the reality of their own administration and how they treat the women who worked for them. And I think Mitt Romney having worked with him, worked for him and know so many of the women, I hope you would show that ad that's up right now. Women, Democrats and Republicans --


COMSTOCK: -- who he had in senior positions, they talk about how great he was to work with. He put a woman in charge of his vice presidential vetting things --

BURNETT: All right.

COMSTOCK: -- something Democrats usually give to an old-gray- haired guy.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. We appreciate your taking the time.

And still to come, getting bossy, there is a new audiotape out tonight that we have obtained of Mitt Romney telling business owners that they have to go out and tell their employees who to vote for. Did that cross the line?

Plus, President Obama's ever-shifting portrayal of al Qaeda and the attack in Libya. Does how he portrays the terrorist group and his record add up? And whoops, someone hits the wrong button and embarrasses Google.


BURNETT: Our second story, should your boss influence your vote? That's the question tonight after this audiotape of Mitt Romney surfaced. We have it for you and here is who he's speaking to a group of business owners and this is actually in the month of June.


ROMNEY: "I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees. Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business."


BURNETT: John Avlon and Reihan Salam are OUTFRONT tonight and Reihan, let me start with you. I mean he did made it clear you could agree with me or the president, but pass it along. So in other words, it wasn't just go tell them to vote for me, but obviously he's the one doing the recording. That's the hope. Is this fair and square?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it is, because I think that employees and employers have free speech rights. And I think that it's fair enough to be able express that view. It's also fair enough if you're an employee to be able to tune out that view, which I think is really important particularly for someone like me who has worked for plenty of people of very different political views.


SALAM: I hear about them all the time and I'd say I'm going to tune that out. I had a secret ballot and I can vote however I want.


SALAM: So I think that that's really key. But again, yes, you have every right to talk to your employees about what you think is best for the enterprise if that's voting for President Obama, Mitt Romney, or you know Gary Johnson --


SALAM: -- whoever else.

BURNETT: I remember at a company I'm not going to name that I worked for once getting an e-mail saying, hey, donate to our PAC and our PAC gives to this person.


BURNETT: And I'm thinking wait, but isn't that the same thing? I mean they're sort of trying to influence you, John. I mean Paul Callan --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It happens all the time --

BURNETT: -- our legal contributor says there's nothing wrong with this, but you are not loving it?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not loving it -- I'm not loving it for the common sense reason. The question you pose at the outset. Should your boss help determine your vote? Of course we have free speech rights and you know it comes into narrow definitions, I mean voter intimidation, coercion, those are very strict standards.

BURNETT: Yes. AVLON: The question is all of a sudden when that wall gets broken down, when it's no longer a matter of secret ballot, when entrepreneurs are -- as we're seeing we have three cases that we know of including the Koch brothers and two Florida based companies writing letters to their employees, saying look we -- you know you have the right to vote for who you want, but let me tell you what we think is in your best interest. In one case, this is David Siegel, the founder, CEO of Westgate Resorts in Florida. He wrote his employees this.

He said "the economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another four years of the same presidential administration." He goes on to say "I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best. However, let me share with you a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest." So that's playing fast and loose. That's maybe consistent with the letter of the law but not the spirit. He's saying look the economy is fine. It's not about the economy. But your job could be threatened by a second Obama administration term. That doesn't pass the smell test for most Americans I think.

BURNETT: How is this different though Reihan from what unions do?

SALAM: I don't think it's very different at all. I mean unions are organizations. They are voluntary associations. Sometimes, sometimes (INAUDIBLE) a closed shop. But again they're allowed to express what their broad view is of you know how their craft or how their industry is going to be impacted. And so you sure as heck --

BURNETT: Those union leaders are --


BURNETT: -- television all the time saying what they think is best for their people --

SALAM: Yes, absolutely.


SALAM: -- do want to make clear though is that what John described that letter that David Siegel sent out to his employees, I think that's pretty obnoxious and likely to lead to some kind of a backlash from your employees, OK. So employees in a tight labor market (INAUDIBLE) other places to go --

AVLON: Well --

SALAM: -- they have the right to say stuff it and I think they should.


AVLON: But it's not that type of labor. Let me just (INAUDIBLE) the union point. I'm not a fan of union involvement in politics to the extent it is when you know card check and all these things that actually -- you know where they take money and they funnel a portion of the paycheck to political contributions. That's -- there's a fundamental difference. Unions can't fire people. Unions can't threaten to fire people directly for not doing what they say politically. We all know that unions make endorsements overwhelmingly Democratic. We also know that union members don't vote the way their unions endorse. It's been around a two-thirds split in recent elections -- 60 percent tend to vote Democrat, a third vote Republican. Reagan Democrats were classic, union household that voted for Ronald Reagan, so that's a very, very important fundamental distinction it seems to me.

BURNETT: But who knows who anyone votes for? How is it any different, right?

SALAM: Absolutely.

BURNETT: You can go --

SALAM: Absolutely.

BURNETT: -- your boss --


SALAM: And look, if there was ever a situation in which someone said I'm going to fire you because of how you're going to vote I think that would be absolutely unacceptable.



BURNETT: That would be voter intimidation --

SALAM: Right -- absolutely --

BURNETT: And that would be against the law.

SALAM: Absolutely. And fortunately Mitt Romney very clearly said look you know it could be and there are a lot of small business people out there who strongly support President Obama, but he said look, you know you have the right to express your views, and I hope that you do that.

AVLON: But let's be real. This is a time of enormous economic insecurity and that letter in particular and the other letters you see are doing is preying upon that insecurity. And saying -- in that saying the economy is OK, but if President Obama is re-elected then that -- you should -- (INAUDIBLE) worrying about your job. That preys upon that insecurity --

BURNETT: To be clear though that was not Mitt Romney.


BURNETT: That was a CEO of --


AVLON: No, absolutely not --


AVLON: And a Florida-based company in a state where every vote matters.

SALAM: And I think David Siegel's letter was a big mistake.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to both of you. We appreciate it.


BURNETT: And everyone let us know what you think about that one and the whole union issue. We want your thoughts. Take to Twitter and Facebook.

And still to come, a man in the United States on a student visa charged with plotting to blow up the New York Fed building an act which men, women and children would have been killed. Was it too easy for him to get into this country? And an accidental move by Google that caused a massive shockwave today.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, the alleged extremist Islamic student who tried to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. His foiled plot is raising a lot of questions about America's student visa process. The 21-year-old Bangladeshi who came to the United States on a legitimate student visa first attended Southeast Missouri State University -- that was this spring -- but then he transferred very quickly to the ASA (ph) Institute of Business and Computer Technology in New York City. That move did not trigger a red flag, and that, according to elected officials, is a problem.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: But we do know that the student visa program in the hands of a few wrong-doers, so-called sham universities around the country, are serving as a back door for foreign nationals to enter our country improperly.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight Susan Candiotti who has been reporting on this from the start. And Susan you found out just how easy it might have been for this young man to get a student visa.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I talked to another student who attended that same university in Missouri, and this happens to be a student from Bangladesh. He told me that the process he thought took a really long time. I said how long? He said a month and a half. I don't think that's that long. BURNETT: Wow.


CANDIOTTI: Right. But he said he was asked three questions and three questions only in an interview in Bangladesh. The three questions were, number one, how did you get to know about this school? OK, easy enough for him to answer. He read about it on the Internet and he figured he could afford this place. Number two he said, he was asked what do your parents do for a living, and the third question is your grades aren't particularly good, in fact he admitted to me that they weren't. Why do you want to go to school in the United States? And the student told me that he told the interviewer I thought maybe if I worked really hard I could do better in the United States.

BURNETT: And that was the simplicity with which he answered those simple questions and then that was it?

CANDIOTTI: That along with an application he said that his father took care of, so he really didn't know much about it, a written application.

BURNETT: That's incredible. Now what else have you found out about the family of the Bangladeshi student who tried to blow up the Fed?

CANDIOTTI: Well perhaps not surprisingly but the family was tracked down in Bangladesh, and they said we don't buy what the federal prosecutors are saying about our son. They maintain that he was very studious, religious, and only wanted to go to the United States to study computer technology, and that's what he was doing. And in fact, they suggested the possibility that someone might be out to get him and set him up.

BURNETT: And that's their version of it. But in terms of these visas, I mean I guess it's hard to say how these -- how this goes from student to student, college to college or country to country, right?

CANDIOTTI: That's true and for example, you heard Congressman Schumer say that there are sham universities out there. No one is suggesting in this case that the university in Missouri is anything of that kind, but he is calling for an investigation into the process to see whether it could be improved.

BURNETT: All right, well Susan Candiotti, thank you very much. Sounds like something we need especially given the fact that we supposedly want so many more foreign students in this country.

Still OUTFRONT President Obama's evolving language about al Qaeda while on the campaign, what he's been saying, then he stopped saying, and then started saying again today after people said he stopped saying it. Plus the Romney campaign pulling staff out of a key state, why are they doing it, could it backfire?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We'll start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we're focusing on our reporting from the front lines. Jerry Sandusky's lawyers are appealing his conviction. According to court documents, his lawyers claim they didn't have enough time to prepare for trial and they add that the statute of limitations had expired on some of the charges. Sandusky was sentenced to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Well, sources tell "Reuters" that the man who allegedly organized the shooting of a Pakistani teen was captured in 2009 but release three months later due to a lack of evidence. Malala Yousufzai was shot last week by members of the Pakistani Taliban because she spoke about girls' rights to education.

Malala is currently in stable condition in a British hospital. She was flown there by the United Arab Emirates, the Muslim country which wants to show the Islamic faith and other countries in the Middle East are supporting rights for women.

In a statement obtained by OUTFRONT, Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, says, "The attempt on Malala's life was an attack on her and every girl's right to a future unlimited by prejudice and oppression. Her assailants must be universally denounced and brought to justice."

Well, the CDC and the FDA have confirmed the presence of fungus in unopened vials of a steroid produced by the New England Compounding Center. The agency it further links the center to the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis. The CDC says there are 257 cases that are linked to contaminated steroid injections. There's now a confirmed case in New York, and that brings the total number of states affected to 16, and 20 people have died.

Well, Google had an odd day today, so it has to come out with its quarterly numbers and they actually came out with them before they were supposed to. And what that meant was that everybody got to see their disappointing numbers three and a half hours early. And they came in pretty much below everybody we spoke to, what they were expecting.

And that sent Google shares plunging. They plunged 8 percent. That's a lot in a very short amount of time. Obviously, putting that out early while the market was still open was a mistake.

As a result, this is what was posted on the SEC's website. You can see it says "pending Larry quote," a reference to Google CEO Larry Page who has to make a comment to that report. Google blamed the company responsible for filing the document, saying they filed the draft without authorization.

Well, it's been 441 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, right now, it's getting dicey. There are more concerns tonight about the fiscal cliff. That's all the automatic budget cuts that are coming at the end of the year, along with the tax hikes that will go into effect in January.

Today, JPMorgan economist Michael Feroli said cliff-related fiscal issues could take a full percentage point away from economic growth next year.

And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: we have breaking political news. Our Peter Hamby is reporting that Mitt Romney's staff is starting to pull out of the state of North Carolina. You say why? Is this because they're failing? Well, no, apparently, the campaign is so confident of a win there that they're shifting resources to battleground Ohio instead.

And the latest polls appear to back them up on that, showing Romney in the lead even before the first game-changing debate. His team says the numbers have only gotten better since then.

Here's the current CNN electoral map. This assumes that nine states are toss-ups, one of them is the state of North Carolina. If Mitt Romney wins there, he's 15 electoral votes closer to election. But if you add in Florida, Colorado and Virginia, he's still not at 270, which is the number required to win.

Now, if he can pick up Ohio in addition to those, he'll be the next president and his team thinks the move out of North Carolina did help him do that, shift those resources north to Ohio.

But Obama and the DNC are determined to stop him.

OUTFRONT tonight, Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

Brad, what's your take on this? Are they too confident?

BRAD WOODSHOUSE, COMM. DIR., DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Look, I don't think it's really, Erin. It's one of the most transparent head fakes I've ever seen. Remember what happened today in North Carolina. Early voting started in North Carolina, which we have a huge advantage in, which propelled the president to victory in 2008.

So the day that we're turning Democrats out to the polls, the Republicans say, race is over. No need for anyone to vote. It's over. We're leaving.

It's just not true. I mean, the race there is close. If you eliminate one outlier poll that showed Romney up by nine points, the race is virtually within the margin of error. And we've got a great ground game there, and we had great turnout on our side for early vote today.

BURNETT: So -- all right. Let me ask you this, though, because the president did carry North Carolina in 2008. It was a razor-thin margin, though, 14,000 votes over John McCain.


BURNETT: But he was the first Democrat to actually win the state of North Carolina in 32 years. That was a significant achievement. There's no question about that.

But -- so you really think now that the polls at the Romney campaign are pointing to are wrong. So, do you think they're wrong, they're being stupid, or I mean what's the reason they would do this or do they think they're losing to you and that's why they're pulling out?

WOODHOUSE: No, no, no, not at all. The race is close. I think they have a small advantage there right now in the most recent polls, most of which have been Republican-leaning polls.

No, I think this is a head fake. I think they're pretending like they're leaving North Carolina. They're sending one person out of state, because they're trying to depress our vote during the early vote period. They're trying to send the signal, they're trying to get new stories placed that the race is over.

We've registered, Erin, over 100,000 new voters in North Carolina this year alone, and the Romney campaign is very concerned they can't match us in the early vote. We've seen how the early vote is going in Ohio and Iowa and Wisconsin where we're way ahead in votes that already been cast.

I think they're just trying to depress the vote, try to convince our voters that it's over, no reason to vote. The game is over.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you this, because the president has vastly outspent Governor Romney in North Carolina, $21.5 million to Governor Romney's $15.9 million. According to the president's Web site, 53 campaign offices in the state and Mitt Romney only has 10.

Given all of that, are you disappointed it's only as close -- even by your own admission, it's incredibly close, it's razor-thin. I mean, you've put a lot more money and effort than he has for that.

WOODHOUSE: Well, on the other side of the ledger, the super PACs, the outside groups that have been spending money on Romney's behalf has spent a lot more in North Carolina than outside groups on our side.

BURNETT: Fair point.

WOODHOUSE: I don't think our advantage is nearly as strong as the campaign-to-campaign spending would indicate.

But, look, we won this state by 14,000 votes in 2008. It is going to ill be very, very close.

Now, a ground game, you mentioned the number of offices. We have more volunteers. Ground game in the state can make up three to five points. So, if we're within a few points on Election Day, we can certainly pull it out in North Carolina. I predict that we will. I mean, look, we got a bus tour going on right there. Our party chair was there. The first lady was there on Monday.

If they are pulling out, we certainly aren't. We intend to win North Carolina.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brad. We appreciate your time.

And now, al Qaeda on the run, or maybe not. It depends on the day and it depends on whom you ask.

President Obama has consistently said al Qaeda is on the run until recently. As we reported last night, the president dropped his reference to al Qaeda in his campaign speech yesterday. Today, though, it suddenly reappeared. Here he is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said that we'd end the war in Afghanistan, and we are. I said that we'd refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11, and today's al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is dead.


I said we'd focus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have and bin Laden is dead.


I said we'd refocus on the terrorist who actually attacked us on 9/11, and we have.


And today a new tower rises above the New York skyline, and al Qaeda's on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.



BURNETT: We broadcast this show from the border of Mali this summer where we saw how al Qaeda-linked militants are in control of part of Northern Africa and gaining strength. The very night we were there, the president at a fund-raiser said al Qaeda was on the run.

OUTFRONT tonight, Peter Brookes, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, and Nick Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Appreciate both of you taking the time.

And, Peter, I want to start with you.


BURNETT: In one week's time, the president has dropped a reference to al Qaeda. He actually left it out twice. We only played one of the sound bites, but he left it two times. Now, he's put it back in.

BROOKES: Well, I mean, this is related to Libya, Erin. You know, we're al confused about what happened there other than the fact that four Americans are dead and our consulate was attacked, we still don't know much about the time line. There's breaking news every day. And I think the president is concerned about talking about defeating al Qaeda and seeing what's going on, what happened in Libya, what's going in North Africa, that you talked about in Mali, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in Syria. I mean, Al Qaeda is in nearly 20 countries around the world.

So, he talks about Afghanistan and going after the people that attacked us there, that al Qaeda core, which is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the fact of the matter is that the real problem in Afghanistan is the Taliban.

So the message is very, very mumbled and mixed. And I increasingly get confused what he's trying to tell us.

BURNETT: Nick, what do you think happened here? I mean, the reference is in the speech consistently. I mean, they've been saying this ever since Osama bin Laden was killed. And then they took it out. It got noticed not just by us, by others I'm sure.

Do you think the administration felt pressure to put it back in today?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: You know, I think the president is being consistent here, Erin. The president has been relentless, this administration, in going after al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

The United States has made major inroads in both the Bush and Obama administrations in weakening al Qaeda on the Afghan/Pakistan border, which is where al Qaeda, of course, was when they attacked us on September 11th, 2001.

And that's a great victory for the United States. But it's also true, of course, that there are these al Qaeda affiliates or offshoot groups --


BURNETT: -- or groups that have been inspired by al Qaeda in places like Somalia, Yemen and now in Mali, in west Africa. So, the battle against those groups certainly continues, but I don't think diminishes the considerable success that President Obama has had in reducing the main threat to the United States.

BURNETT: So, Peter, let me follow-up on that point that Nick makes, because the White House national security spokesman said today, I want to quote him, "Our assessment that we have decimated al Qaeda leadership is unchanged."

And that is true. The top leadership is decimated. Osama bin Laden is dead. To many Americans, Osama bin Laden equaled al Qaeda. Those two things were the same.

Has the administration underestimated the new al Qaeda? I guess, let's call that. All these people linked or affiliated or inspired by?

BROOKES: Well, they have made great gains again al Qaeda's core, the group that attacked us on 9/11. Osama bin Laden is dead. There's no doubt about that.

But we do have these other offshoots, these other affiliates and one of them probably attacked us on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in Libya.

So, I mean, I think there's a real concern about this. And this Libya thing keeps going on and on, and we're not getting the answers that we need.

So, I mean, I'm really confused how the president is actually using this, but, you know, we have to be -- we have to focus on this -- the continuing proliferation of al Qaeda and the threats that it brings to the United States and our interests overseas.

BURNETT: Nick, let me ask you. Since Osama bin Laden was killed, the administration has been saying al Qaeda is on the run. It started immediately thereafter when Leon Panetta was talking.

Do you think officials feared that disclosing the fact that al Qaeda-linked group were responsible in their estimation and they knew this very early on within 24 hours for the attack in Benghazi, they didn't want to talk about that because they feared it would hurt their credibility on the broader claim that al Qaeda is dead, is on the run?

BURNS: I don't think that charge, Erin, is credible. You know, as you know, I served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, including the George W. Bush administration. You know, I think what happens in national security crises like this, let's take the attack on Benghazi, that you can't really trust the first reports that come in, but it did appear to a lot of people that the initial demonstration in Benghazi might have been inspired that video from California. It then became more clear sometime later that was not the case, and that this probably was a terrorist attack.

So, I find credible and believable based on my own experience in government that sometimes reports change, and your understanding of a complex matter does change over time. So, I think this attack on the president is politically inspired. I don't think it has much merit at all.

BURNETT: I mean, all fair points, Peter, final word to you though, a lot of these points about who was responsible --- at least the fact al Qaeda-linked groups were, was known within 24 hours by the intelligence community. It was not shared with -- I mean, we didn't know about it, but they knew.

BROOKES: I mean, that's what we understand today, and yet, five days afterwards the U.N. ambassador was telling us that it was inspired by a video and demonstrations in Cairo. So, once again, Congress has to get on top of this, has to give us some answers here. I think the American people are just generally confused about the terrible tragedy that transpired in Benghazi almost six months ago.

BURNETT: Peter and Nick, thank you.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Benjamin Netanyahu's power and influence over who will win in a few weeks in this presidential election. It could affect the vote in the most -- could be the most important state of all, Florida.

And it has been called geeks on the water. It's a big "I.D.E.A.".


BURNETT: Now, let's check with Anderson Cooper. He has a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."

Hey, Anderson.


Yes, we're keeping them honest tonight on the program. What do women want out of the election? It's an important question for both candidates because it could decide our next president. New polling suggesting the number one issue for women in this campaign is abortion. It's an issue with a real distinction between the candidates. We'll speak with representatives from both campaigns.

Also we have a "360" exclusive. The award winning creator of a number of controversial and frankly disgusting web forums on the site Reddit sits down with our Drew Griffin about why he created forums where users can anonymously post pictures and comments about topics like jailbait, incest, rape jokes. It's a pretty stunning interview. We'll tell you what happened to this person since his name has been discovered.

Those stories, and also the slaughter in Syria and how a fiscal face-off could throw this country back into recession. That's all next in the hour and tonight's "Ridiculist", Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Anderson, looking forward to seeing you in a few minutes.

Our fifth story OUTFRONT, a new million dollar political ad airing in the critical swing state of Florida starring the prime minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.

I think Iran must understand that there is a red line so they stop advancing on their program to produce atomic bombs.

NARRATOR: It's time to stop Iran and stand with Israel with no apologies.


BURNETT: And there's a very clear reason why that ad was airing in the state of Florida.

Fareed Zakaria is with me, the man who knows the most about the Israel/Iran situation and what the U.S. is going to do about it. Jewish voters in Florida is 4 percent of the electorate. Some people watching say, oh, well, that's not very much. And to them I say, the difference that separated Obama and McCain in 2008 was smaller than that. The Jewish vote in Florida could turn Florida, could turn the entire election.

How much can an ad like, Netanyahu's words, sway that vote?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS: I think that in general, you're talking about such small numbers this may not apply, but in general, Jews in America vote more along lines that have to do with the economic with economic policies, with issues like religion, they are more secular than they are religious. They don't vote with the religious right. They have very different values than specifically on Israel.

While they are very -- they care a lot about Israel, they are passionate about it, they are not single issue voters.

BURNETT: Even in this situation where at least given the recent speech that Prime Minister Netanyahu gave, of course, at the U.N., with the literally red line that he drew around the bomb where Israel at least -- at least the prime minister made the argument that Israel's very existence is right now called into a question in a way it never has been before.

ZAKARIA: How can they explain the United States to draw a line which he is not willing to draw? Obama has been tougher on Iran that George Bush has. That's a simple fact.

BURNETT: And let's talk about that, because even though the prime minister of Israel is being used in an ad in Florida to vote for Mitt Romney, they're saying, look, Mitt Romney will be tougher on Iran. The president and governor have sounded very similar on Iran. Here they are.


OBAMA: I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon, because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon. Iran as a nuclear nation is unacceptable to the United States of America.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: President Obama said exactly the same thing. He said it's unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. So, your red line is the same as his.

ROMNEY: I laid out what I would do to keep Iran from reaching that red line.


BURNETT: So, are their read lines the same or would a President Romney be more likely to use military action than has President Obama?

ZAKARIA: Interestingly, in his big foreign policy speech last week, Romney actually walked back in previous incarnations, not in that ABC interview, but in previous incarnations. He has said Iran can't get a nuclear weapon capability. Now, he says a nuclear weapon, which is pretty much what President Obama says. It's a small distinction, but it actually -- Romney has softened a bit on Iraq.


ZAKARIA: Look, I think there's very little difference between the two of them. There is one issue which is -- and Ehud Barak, the defense minister of Israel, brought it up. He said Romney may have more trouble acting, because a new president is always reluctant to engage in a major military adventure. Remember, Romney will have to get confirmed as secretary of state, secretary of defense, deputy secretary.

Is he going to actually initiate a military strike before all that is in place? So more likely than not, if the Israelis are being smart about it, they realize that a new Romney administration will be less more -- will be less likely to act against Iran.

BURNETT: Now, in terms of sanctions, whether they are working on Iran and obviously, there's all sorts of work has been done on this, the E.U. is calling for tighter sanctions agreeing to another round. How much of an effect are sanctions really having on energy?

ZAKARIA: Look, it's having a huge impact on Iran in general. The currency is down 50 percent. The economy is in shambles. You can see in 100 different ways.

But Iran has a lot of oil. I mean, five years ago, the second largest exporter out of OPEC. So, you know, it's still going to have money.

BURNETT: Right. It's still selling a lot. There are still people buying it. ZAKARIA: And you can't change that. The Chinese, Indians, Africans, everybody needs oil.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Fareed, thank you. Good to see you.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

BURNETT: And be sure to watch Fareed's special "Global Lessons: The GPS Road Map for Powering America." It's Sunday, at 8:00 Eastern, here on CNN.

And OUTFRONT next, a boat off the coast of California that is full of entrepreneurs circumventing American laws.


BURNETT: And now OUTFRONT, a big "I.D.E.A": bring smart people from around the world to Silicon Valley without the red tape of American laws. Who needs those, you know? So you do it on a boat.

Dan Simon has the story.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Got a cruise ship for sale? This man would like to buy one. He is not looking for the world's most expensive yacht. He is looking for office space.

DARIO MUTABDZIJA, PRESIDENT & CO-FOUNDER, BLUESEED: We have clients around the world that are kind of knocking on our doors to come here.

SIMON: Those clients, entrepreneurs from all over the world.

Dario Mutabdzija is president of a start-up company called Blueseed.

SIMON (on camera): How did you come up with Blueseed?

MUTABDZIJA: Blue represents water and seed represents growth.

SIMON: The concept behind Blueseed is to park a cruise ship in international waters. In this case, about 12 miles from where I am in Half Moon Bay near San Francisco. By doing so, it would allow foreign workers to live and work near Silicon Valley.

MUTABDZIJA: Our goal is to help high-tech entrepreneurs to access Silicon Valley ecosystem, amazing Silicon Valley ecosystem, so they could in the best case scenario move their operations to Silicon Valley without having to deal with the very difficult problems associated with visas.

SIMON (voice-over): Mutabdzija, an immigrant himself from the former Yugoslavia, calls Blueseed an entrepreneurial solution to the problem foreign entrepreneurs have in securing visas to work in the U.S. an issue that has been tangled up in the political impasse over comprehensive immigration reform.

MUTABDZIJA: By not having a good system for these smart people, I think the U.S. economy is kind of undermined.

SIMON: So, Blueseed is a clever way to work around the status quo. These are some of the mock-ups. It would be home to 1,000 workers or 200 to 300 start-ups. Residents would be fairing ashore with tourist or temporary business visas, much easier to get.

MUTABDZIJA: Our goal is to flag them into the system legally.

SIMON: And being close to Silicon Valley, they'd be able to meet with investigators or potential partners.

Josef Dunne is a tech entrepreneur from Britain. He says the commute from boat to land would be just a minor hassle.

JOSEF DUNNE, CO-FOUNDER, BABELVERSE: To go on a helicopter, that would be cool, like land, you know, go down to Palo Alto.

SIMON: Yes, a helicopter is in the plan, too. It sounds like a far-fetched idea but Blueseed has at least one big-time backer, billionaire, Peter Teal, Facebook's first big investor. The company says it would make its money by charging tenants rent, anywhere from $1,200 a month for a shared cabin to $3,000 for a top-tiered single. It would take in revenue by getting an equity position in each of the start-ups.

MUTABDZIJA: We need only a few huge success to make this not only profitable but feasible.


BURNETT: Pretty interesting story.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.