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GOP Presidential Candidates Debate National Security Issues; Three Americans Arrested in Egypt For Participating in Protests; Thanksgiving Holiday Travel; Chaos In Cairo Enters 5th Day; Egypt Questions American Students; New Sandusky Allegations; A No-Fly Zone Over Syria?; GOP Candidates Square Off; Breaking Down the GOP Debate; Who Stood Out, Stumbled in GOP Presidential Debate; First-hand Look at Air Traffic Controller Training

Aired November 23, 2011 - 06:59   ET



NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, that's what we'd do if we were a serious country.

CHO (voice-over): GOP candidates saying they'd be the better commander in chief, but the CNN national security debates will have all of the highlights just ahead.

COSTELLO (voice-over): American students arrested in Egypt facing more interrogation today. Their families now speaking as Cairo erupts in violence for a fifth day.

CHO: And tailspin. Incredible video of a chopper crash and more amazing pictures of the pilot actually walking away from it.

COSTELLO: Pouring rain. Avalanche warning? Happy day before turkey day. Your messy getaway forecast on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: Good morning to you. I can almost smell the turkey right now.

CHO: You've been hungry since last week.


COSTELLO: I know. I can't wait. It is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, November 23rd. Ali and Christine have the day off. I'm Carol Costello along with Alina Cho on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: Good morning to you. Good morning everybody. Glad you're with us. Today of course, is one of the busiest travel days of the year, so make sure you check out our information bar. It will be running along the bottom of your screen all morning long.

COSTELLO: But up first today, sparks flying at last night's national security debate. You saw it live right here on CNN. Eight Republicans sparring onstage, just steps from the White House, disagreeing on just about everything from the war in Afghanistan to immigration.

So who came out on top? We've got the best political team on television with us live from Washington this morning. CNN's senior political editor Mark Preston has the post-debate analysis. But first Jill Dougherty. Jill, this event, it really helped define dip divisions with the Republican Party, right?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It did. In some debates candidate just kind of trot out their talking points. But this actually turned into a real debate on competing ideas about America's role in the world.


DOUGHERTY: With eight Republicans onstage, President Barack Obama got a few nicks.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you liked what Barack Obama has done to our economy, you'll love what he's done to our national security.

DOUGHERTY: But these candidates had the knives out for each other.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you suggesting, governor, we just take all our troops out next week? What's your --

JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you hear what I just said? I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don't need 100,000 troops.

DOUGHERTY: There was heated debate on whether the post 9/11 Patriot Act should be extended.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves.

RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of rights.


HUNTSMAN: I think we have to be very careful in protecting our individual liberties. We forget sometimes that we have a name brand in this world.

DOUGHERTY: Should specific ethnic or religious groups in America be profiled for security screens?


SANTORUM: Obviously, Muslims would be someone you would look like, absolutely. Those of the folks, the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes.

PAUL: That's digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? He was a pretty tough criminal.

DOUGHERTY: In the midst of a heavy debate, a light moment.

BLITZER: Is it OK for Muslim-Americans to get more intensive pat-downs or security when they go through airports than Christian- Americans or Jewish-Americans?

HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, Blitz. That's oversimplifying it. I happen to believe that if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job, they can come up with an approach -- I'm sorry, Blitz. I meant Wolf. OK? Blitz -- Wolf.


DOUGHERTY: And what about aid to Pakistan?

MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I also think that Pakistan is a nation that it's kind of like too nuclear to fail.

RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America's best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period.

BACHMANN: With all due respect to the governor, I think that's highly naive.


DOUGHERTY: I love that phrase, "with all due respect." And there were some other top moments, like when Newt Gingrich made a plea for what he called more humane enforcement of immigration laws so they won't separate families, and the Mitt Romney shot back that amnesty is a magnet encouraging more people to come here illegally. Carol, Alina?

CHO: Jill Dougherty reporting live from Washington. Thanks, Jill.

There were no major gaffes in last night's debate, no painfully long pauses, no meltdown. So who came out on top? We want to go now to the scorecards with CNN senior political editor Mark Preston. Mark, good morning.


CHO: Newt Gingrich, who was the front-runner heading into the debate last night, took the immigration issue head-on. Let's listen to what he said.


GINGRICH: I also have a point. The party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their family.


CHO: All right from a polling standpoint he the most to lose heading into the debate last night. How is this going to play with the conservative base?

PRESTON: Well, you know, we're going to see how it plays out in the next 24 hours. But the fact of the matter is Newt Gingrich was having a very strong debate up until that moment. And you've got to look through the lends of the fact that they are trying to reach out to conservative Republican primary voters, and the issue of illegal immigration and the whole idea that we would use this catch phrase of amnesty is very, very damning to those accepting of it. Last night we awe Newt Gingrich do that.

Now, Alia, we saw Governor Rick Perry do that about a month ago and it was devastating from his campaign and he has never fully recovered are from that. So while Newt Gingrich made a great point if you're running in a general election, if he was on a debate stage, let's say, in September, that would be a great thing to do to try to reach out to some disaffected Democrats and independent voters. But for social conservatives who are conservative Republican primary voters, that's probably not the answer he wanted to give.

CHO: That's right. He's got to clinch the nomination first, right?

There was also a feisty exchange between Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney over troop levels in Afghanistan. Let's watch.


HUNTSMAN: We haven't done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today.

BLITZER: Let me let governor Romney respond.

ROMNEY: Let me respond. Are you suggesting, governor, we just take all our troops out next week? What's your proposal?

HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said? I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don't need 100,000 troops. We don't need 100,000 troops, many of whom aren't even across the wire. We need a presence on the ground more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and special forces response capability.


CHO: All right so was this a simple disagreement over troop levels or was there something more to this?

PRESTON: There's clearly something more to this. And it's really the secret between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman has gotten out, so to speak. You know, we've come to know that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman don't necessarily like each other. What we saw there was a disagreement over policy, but clearly it was a personal fight right there.

Look at how they addressed one another. Look at their body language. Look at the sharpness of their rhetoric. What we saw last night was Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman really attacking one another.

We also have to put it in this perspective as well. Jon Huntsman needs New Hampshire to win the Republican presidential nomination. He is all-in in New Hampshire. But that's the same state Mitt Romney is all-in as well. Mitt Romney's put a lot of effort and time into New Hampshire. He is leading in the polls up there. Jon Huntsman needed a strong debate performance last night, which he got. He was reaching out to those independent voters up in New Hampshire. The question is, is it a little too late for him to do so?

CHO: Quickly, I can't let you go because you were at the debate last night. I want to know, when Herman Cain called Wolf Blitzer "Blitz" instead of Wolf and then corrected himself, was it as good in person as it was on television, because we all loved watching it?

PRESTON: It was great. And the pregnant pause between when he said that, and he kept on talking, and then he stopped and said, oh, I'm sorry. The best part, of course, is when Wolf came back and said "Thank you, Cain" as opposed to saying Mr. Cain. It was very funny, a good moment in the debate.

CHO: Mark Preston, thank you so much for your thoughts.

Now, you've been hearing all morning from the Republicans. At the bottom of the hour we'll get the Democratic perspective on the debate when we're joined by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Jon Huntsman sparked some live debate last night, as you saw, when he said we need to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan right away. So we're going to ask the former Utah governor about that plan and also how to be fair about last night's debate. What does he think about that? He'll join us live at 8:10 eastern time.

COSTELLO: And does he really not like Mitt Romney? We'll ask him.

Angry protestors mobbing Cairo's Tahrir Square for a fifth straight day. Three American college students arrested during the uprising in Egypt expected to face more questioning with U.S. embassy representatives on-hand today. The students shown on Egyptian state TV are accused of lobbing Molotov cocktails at police during violent protests. Ivan Watson live in Cairo for us this morning. At last check, Ivan, the three Americans had not been questioned. What are you hearing now? IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've heard they've been questioned and they've been in police custody. And the latest is the general prosecutors office says they'll be transferred to the prosecution's office at some point when representatives from the U.S. embassy arrive to be with them during his.

And it's important to point out that according to social media and twitter feeds and Facebook that seems to be linked to at least two of the students, they seem to have been messaging that they were, in fact, participating in the protests and in some of the clashes.

I just came from where some of these street battles have been taking place now going into the fifth straight day, and it appears that the violence has spread to one of the buildings right next to the front line in the street battle between demonstrators and riot police setting fire to the old library of the American University of Cairo campus. There's a fire raging on the third floor of that building, and at least four demonstrators, young Egyptians on the rooftop, still hurling stones at the riot police below.

If the ruling general and the ruling generals who run the military council that's been governing this country for eight months thought that they could defuse the anger by pushing up elections, making that announcement last night, that has not worked. The crowd is swelling here in Tahrir Square and the young Egyptians are still flinging themselves against riot police, hurling stones at them, despite huge clouds of tear gas that are sending them back to hospitals overwhelmed by the poisonous effects of that gas every few minutes. Carol?

COSTELLO: Ivan Watson reporting live from Cairo. Thanks.

Also this morning, Pennsylvania child services reportedly investigating two new cases of alleged child sex abuse against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Authorities say the complaints were filed with the past two months and are the first allegations involving victims who are still minors. It also suggests the alleged abuse occurred while Sandusky was being investigated by a grand jury.

CHO: The three students who apparently bullied a New York teen before he took his life will not be facing any charges. Police say there's simply not enough evidence. Fourteen-year-old Jamie Rodemeyer had complained in online videos and posts about being harassed in school over his sexual orientation. He later committed suicide in September.

COSTELLO: U.C. Davis tries to make good after police were caught on tape pepper spraying peaceful Occupy protestors. School Chancellor Linda Katehi at a town hall meeting last night promising to pay the medical bills and drop all the charges against the students, who were arrested. The chancellor, who is trying to hang on to her own job, also said she wanted police to remove tents, but she did not approve of the use of force or any arrests.

CHO: Still to come this morning, preparations for a Christmas display in New Zealand hitting a major snag. Take a look at that. A helicopter suddenly goes down, a disaster with a miraculous ending. We'll show it to you.

COSTELLO: Plus, how former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine could answer in public for his brokerage firm's multibillion dollar collapse.

CHO: And it's the day before Thanksgiving, severe weather threatening to cause a few holiday travel headaches, maybe more than a few. Make sure you check our weather information bar running along the bottom of your screen.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. It's 13 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: It is 15 minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. We think we're getting travel rushes now underway. AAA says more than 42 million people will be on the move this weekend. Isn't Boston looking pretty this morning? Mother Nature is certainly serving up some trouble for holiday travelers.

CHO: We're so lucky we're working, Carol. We've got you covered on getaway day.

George Howell live at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta; Ted Rowlands on a train somewhere between St. Louis and Chicago and Jacqui Jeras is in the Extreme Weather Center.

COSTELLO: Oh, so let's head first to George Howell. He's live at one of the nation's busiest airports, Atlanta airport. Just to remind you once again. So, George, is it getting more crowded?


Well, we've been telling you about the good story out of Atlanta. Still a good story, but I can tell you by the hour we are seeing more and more traffic here in this airport. A lot of people getting to their flights.

We talked to a few passengers, and you find a mix of opinions out here. We talked to the people who beat the rush. They were happy to do that, but you also find people who are frustrated with the fees out here. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came out here this same day last year and around 2:30 in the afternoon and it took about two hours extra time than it normally would. HOWELL: So expecting easy sailing so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we're hoping for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what it looks like. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, grab a bagel and jump on a plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're starting to charge for every little option to flying nowadays.

HOWELL: What have you noticed? What charges have you run into?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's charges for priority boarding now. They want to get you for that. They want to get you for any type of little upgrades and then you can buy miles now. It's interesting how much money has become such a priority for the airline other than timed -


HOWELL: So basically you come out here, you have to deal with those fees. But for the most past, I can tell you, we checked the big board. No major delays out here. And, again, when you get to the security checkpoint in Atlanta, it is growing by the hour - Carol.

COSTELLO: George, it doesn't sound too bad, though. Thank you, George.

CHO: Right. Soaring air fares have grounded many holiday travelers. So they're riding the rails instead. It could be a banner week for Amtrak.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is onboard an Amtrak train this morning. He's heading from St. Louis to Chicago. He's been talking turkey with his fellow passengers, and Ted joins us now. Hey, Ted. Good morning.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Hey, guys. Yes, this is the busiest day of the year for Amtrak, and a lot of people are preferring the train for different reasons.

Regina Saunders (ph) here is taking the train to Chicago to visit family for Thanksgiving. And, Regina, this is all about money.


ROWLANDS: You're saving some money?

SAUNDERS (ph): Yes.

ROWLANDS: You were going to fly. Normally you say you fly, but she's doing it because it's cheaper.

And if you look at the numbers, it is a lot cheaper. We're going to go down to another car here. The trip from St. Louis to Chicago, if you take the train, we found a fare for $85. That's round trip. If you drive, it's going to cost you $100 in gas alone.

The cheapest way to get between the two cities is still by bus. We found a web-only fare for $50, but, hey, that's the bus. This is the train. And if you're going to fly it would be about $380 round trip depending on when you bought your ticket. This is the Lottie (ph) Family, Brock, Mo, Maddy and Molly (ph) over here. This is their first time taking the train. Normally, how would you guys get to Chicago from St. Louis? And you're going for Thanksgiving as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: True. Yes. We usually drive or fly. It's easier.

ROWLANDS: And why? Why the train?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Train just - spend family time together. Thanksgiving is about family, so, you know, good six hours together, and it's fun.

ROWLANDS: Six hours together at 4:00 in the morning. You can see the girls have their pajama bottoms on. Molly and Maddy (ph), quickly, what - what do you think? Is the train ride better than sitting in the back of the minivan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's really fun here, plus it's a lot of money for gas. Plus on a plane it's more money, and this, you can spend more family time on here, and it's really fun.

ROWLANDS: All right. Perfect answer.

There you have it. Spend time with family. Save some cash, and enjoy the rails. This car is pretty much empty. It looks empty. Most of the people are sleeping underneath. That's why you don't see them, guys.

COSTELLO: I like those little kids with their blanki (ph). Thank you, Ted.

Ted Rowlands, thank you. He's on that Amtrak train between - somewhere between St. Louis and Chicago, yes.

CHO: St. Louis and Chicago.

COSTELLO: Yes. Well, severe weather could cause some serious travel delays later today. Jacqui Jeras is in the Extreme Weather Center to share that joyous news with us.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. Be patient. That's all I can say, right? Just know going in that it's going to be slow for a lot of you.

We've got our first official delay of the day as being reported by the FAA right now. Philadelphia reporting 30 minute departure delays and this cold front that we have that's impacting all of the East Coast along with the low clouds is going to make things a little bit on the tough side.

Right now, we have about 2,100 planes in the air. That's up 1,000 from an hour ago. And at the peak we think later on this afternoon, there could be as many as 6,000 planes in the air. So when you have that much volume and everyone has to shoot that approach, you know, not a visual approach, it takes a little bit longer. That's why we're going to be expecting to see so many delays today.

But the good news is it's drying up already in D.C., as well as in Philadelphia, New York, maybe another hour. Then you'll just have some sprinkles after that. The snow, though, is going to continue across much of northern New England and 6 to 12 inches will be possible there.

Nations mid-section looking great. Smooth sailing for you here. No weather-related delays, anyway, but watch out for congestion. And the Pacific Northwest, our powerful storm here continues to slam you. Winds on the coast, guys, have been clocked up to 98 miles per hour. Gets better this afternoon, but a new storm moves in for tomorrow.

Now, back to you.

CHO: Six thousand planes in the air later. Wow. Jacqui, thank you so much.

There's a dramatic video this morning of a helicopter crash in Auckland, New Zealand. But that's not the best part of the story. Here's what happened. It happened during the installation of a waterfront Christmas tree. The chopper's main rotor apparently clipped a cable while it was trying to land, spun out of control and practically came apart with the tail snapping off.

Now, no one surrounding the crash site was injured. That's incredible. Even more incredible, the chopper pilot was able to walk away from the wreckage.

COSTELLO: Gees. Oh. That's crazy to look at.

You've heard of money laundering. Coming up, call it laundering and how you could already be getting fooled when you answer your phone. We'll kind of explain that and I'll say it much better the next time around. We'll be right back.


CHO: Welcome back. "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Worries about Europe's debt crisis as well as the growth of the U.S. economy are pulling stock markets down worldwide again today. U.S. stock futures are pointing to a lower open this morning and U.S. markets all closed lower yesterday.

In about an hour from now, we'll get a fresh report on the number of people who filed for unemployment claims for the first time last week. We'll get you those numbers as soon as they're made available.

Could America's biggest banks handle a stock market shock like the one back in 2008? That's what the Federal Reserve wants to know. The Fed is asking America's largest banks to show they have enough cash on hand that will allow them to keep lending to people and businesses if there's another banking crisis.

Congress wants to talk to Jon Corzine about $1.2 billion in missing money. Members of the House Committee are holding a hearing next month to look into the collapse of MF Global, a brokerage firm that was run by the former New Jersey governor until he stepped down last month.

Well, it's called call laundering. What is it? Well, a new telemarketer trick that disguises their real identities and phone numbers on your caller I.D. The FTC has seen a rise in complaints about this and they're now considering new rules to combat fake caller IDs.

AMERICAN MORNING will be back after this.


NEWT GINGRICH (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want a law that says if you try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Eight Republicans debating national security but finding little common ground on how best to protect the country on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 30 minutes past the hour. Your top stories now -- tear gas, fire bombs, hysteria. More violent clashes in Egypt, tens of thousands of protesters deeply frustrated with new military rulers. Saying promises to speed up presidential elections, not good enough. More than 30 people died since the protests re-ignited five days ago.

COSTELLO: Three American college students arrested during that uprising in Egypt expected to face more questioning with U.S. Embassy representatives on hand today.

The students shown on Egyptian state TV are accused of lobbing Molotov cocktails at police during violent protests. One of their mothers is speaking out. She says her son is the type of kid who would get involved, but who would not get violent.


JOY SWEENEY, DERRIK SWEENEY'S MOTHER: He is a very passionate person who believes in democracy, he believes in standing up for what you believe in. Standing up for what you feel is right and that's the kind of person he is, so are we surprised he would go down there and stand up for what he believes in? No.


COSTELLO: Joy Sweeney will join us live in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING with new information on her son.

CHO: Sources say authorities are investigating two new cases of alleged child sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky. The first known cases to be reported since Sandusky's arrest and the first involving alleged victims who are still minors. The former penn state coach already faces 40 criminal counts of sex abuse involving eight boys beginning in the mid-1990s. COSTELLO: And at last night's national security debate in Washington, D.C., eight Republican candidates tangled on a host of foreign policy issues like Syria and whether the U.S. needs to set up a no-fly zone that stops the government's bloody crackdown on demonstrators.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would work with our allies in the region to put pressure, to be able to try and get our allies and other nations to stop buying oil from Syria. That would be one thing that I'd do, but would not support a no-fly zone.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you have a no-fly zone over Syria, that's an act of war. What if we had China put a no- fly zone over our territory? I don't think we would like that, and I think we should practice a -- a policy of -- of goodwill to other people.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not the time for a no-fly zone over Syria. This is a time for us to use not only sanctions, but covert actions with, Syria, to get regime change there. There are people in the military that are shifting over becoming part ever the rebel effort. We should support those efforts.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're talking about Syria is a partner with Iran in exporting terrorism all across that part of the world and around the globe.

So if we're serious about Iran, then we have to be serious about Syria as well. So I think a no-fly zone is an option, one of a multitude of options that we should be using and we should be put them in place if we're serious about Iran not getting a nuclear weapon.


CHO: So you've been hearing all morning long from the eight Republican presidential candidates, their views on national security. Their disagreements on issues like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and immigration. The only thing they seem to agree on is getting Barack Obama out of the White House. Here's Mitt Romney making his case.


ROMNEY: President Obama's foreign policy is one of saying, first of all, America's just another nation with a flag. I believe America is an exceptional and unique nation. President Obama seems to think we're going to have a global century, an Asian century.

I believe we have to have an American century where America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world. President Obama apologizes for America. It is time for us to be strong as a nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHO: Let's get some perspective from the other side of the aisle. Joining us from our Miami Bureau this morning is Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Good morning to you.


CHO: I am assuming that you watched last night's debate and am a little afraid to ask you, but what are your thoughts?

SCHULTZ: Well, my thoughts are that Mitt Romney did his level best to continue to pull the field of Republican candidates as far to the right and the extreme right as possible, whether it was on immigration.

Where he said that, even family whose have been here for 25 years, as Newt Gingrich talked about, he would tear those apart. Take people who essentially have broken no laws and been working and paying taxes -- you know, no path to a future here in America for those undocumented immigrants, and on every other issue.

These are a field of Republican candidates so obsessed with one job, Barack Obama's, rather than American jobs, that they even refused to acknowledge that it's President Obama who planned and executed the attack on al Qaeda that killed Osama Bin Laden.

I mean, in a national security debate last night, the entire field had no plan, particularly Mitt Romney. No plan on withdrawing our troops from Iraq when the overwhelming majority of the American people support that. He would leave them there indefinitely. This is a field not ready for primetime when it comes to being commander in chief.

CHO: There were eight candidates on the stage, though, and you know, by my count, you've said Mitt Romney twice. You haven't named any of the other candidates by name. At least not yet, but why after -- why go after Mitt Romney so early on in this contest? I mean, the Iowa caucuses aren't until January 3rd?

SCHULTZ: Well, the reason I'm talking about Mitt Romney, I also mentioned Newt Gingrich, is because he has some really disturbing views. I mean, he's done his best to continue to embrace the Tea Party extremism.

He is someone who is focused on making sure that we do everything, but take care of the middle class and working families, and so I think he's earned the attention that he's getting, because we have to make sure that the American people understand the dramatic contrast between Mitt Romney's views, particularly because he flip- flops on every major issue, has no consistent position, no conviction, no core, and he wants to be president of the United States. People should know that.

CHO: All right, let's talk a little about this job situation. According to our polling, the president is strong on foreign policy and national security, but in that poll that really matters to American voters, 54 percent say the economy is the most important issue to them.


CHO: And their vote, unemployment is second. You know, with unemployment at 9 percent and 74 percent of people saying things are going so badly in this country, with a Democrat in the White House, how do you fight that?

SCHULTZ: Well, President Obama has been focused for his entire term on trying to get the economy turned around and create jobs. We've gone from bleeding 750,000 jobs a month before he was inaugurated to now we've had three years later 20 straight months of growth in the private sector.

A 2.8 million jobs created and a boost in the manufacturing sector. We've got a long way to go, but President Obama has been focused on getting the middle class and working families to make sure that they have some focus and attention, while the republican field is focused on the wealthiest Americans.

CHO: But, Debbie, unemployment is still at 9 percent. I mean, American voters -- the president can say all he wants. You know, we've got to be patient. This takes time, and we understand that in our minds, but in our hearts when we go out to vote, I mean, we're impatient. We want things to change.

SCHULTZ: Well, and President Obama isn't patient. That's why he's been working so hard. You've got the Republican Congress who is refusing to support the Americans Jobs Act.

They actually shutdown legislation that was proposed by the president to invest in infrastructure and put construction workers back to work, shutdown legislation to make sure we can keep teachers in the classroom and keep the first responders on the job.

You know, at least they were willing to support reluctantly, a tax break for small businesses that hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and wounded veterans, but President Obama has said, we can't wait.

So he's doing without the Republicans what he's able to do by executive order, because he knows we need to focus on all American jobs while the Republican candidates are focused on his job. That's just unacceptable and Alina, it's why President Obama in national polling beats head-to-head every single Republican candidate in the field, because they know he's fighting to get the economy turned around without their help.

CHO: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We'll leave it there, but thank you for joining us this morning.

SCHULTZ: Thank you so much, Alina. Happy Thanksgiving.

CHO: Happy Thanksgiving to you. Hope you're not traveling, because it's bad weather today.


COSTELLO: Didn't sound like she was.

So who came out on top in last night's GOP debate? Was there even a clear winner? Up next, two of the country's top political minds for their take on the debate.

CHO: And heavy traffic today at airports across the country. No surprise there. We're going to take you behind the scenes to see exactly how air traffic controllers at weren't of the busiest airports cut through the chaos to ensure that the flights are safe. It's 39 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: Wow. Not a very great day in Washington, D.C. as far as the weather is concerned. Cloudy and 57 degrees, more rain expected later today and it's going to be quite windy with a high of 64.

Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Debate number 11 is in the bag, eight Republicans tangling last night just a few hundred yards from the White House. So who stood out and who stumbled?

Let's get to the score cards now. Joining us from Washington, Republican strategist, Karen Hanretty and CNN contributor David Frum, editor of Welcome to you both.

OK, so Karen, let's start with you. These debates had a history of being game changers so any game changers last night in your eyes?

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it remains to be seen. I think the biggest takeaway that people are going to be talking, certainly inside the beltway and with political circles is Newt Gingrich's support for some form of amnesty.

Now, his campaign is already on the radio this morning doing a little backtracking saying it's not amnesty. They just want to provide a legal status for people who are not here legally who have been here 25 years and have all of these circumstances.

You know, when Rick Perry came out of, you know -- in the debate and supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who are students in his state. He tanked in the poll numbers. We'll see if this is a game changer.

COSTELLO: He did tank, although he -- I mean, he used different words in his arguments. Let's listen to -- listen to Newt Gingrich explain his stand on immigration.


GINGRICH: Once you've put every piece in place, which includes a historical program you need something like a World War II selective service ward that frankly reviews people who are here.

You've come here recently, no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period. If you've been here 25 years, two kids, three grandkids. You've been paying taxes and obeying the law. You belong to a local church.

I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot forcefully and kick you out. I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy, which destroys families that's been here a quarter century.

And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law.


COSTELLO: So, David, you heard it there. He said, how can Republicans be the party of family, unlike Rick Perry, who said, hey, only if you don't have a heart could you deny children of illegal immigration free in-state tuition. Is there a difference?

DAVID FRUM, EDITOR, FRUMFORUM.COM & CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Newt Gingrich answer is, frankly, more preposterous.


There are maybe 10 million to 12 million illegals in country. The idea of an individualized hearing for all of those people is utterly unworkable. What Gingrich was doing there was putting down a couple of markers. He was putting down a marker for his base, but he feels confident of them. Right now, there he was appealing to his donors.

The power of the immigration issue in the Republican Party is not because there are a lot of illegal immigrants who vote in Republican primary. It's powerful issue because there are a lot of people who employ either illegals or quasi-legal workers who give money in the Republican Party. This kind of labor is very important to the restaurant industry, very important to hotels, entertainment, casinos. It's very important for landscaping, golf courses. And all of those people have money to give. It is a reminder -- one of the things that is very interesting about this issue, immigration is the one issue you can serve K Street, yet get a reputation of being a humane passionate person.

COSTELLO: That is one of the most cynical things I've heard in a long time.



HENRETTY: It is accurate. Some of Newt Gingrich's largest donors for his non-campaign related businesses have been exactly the industries that David just mentioned. Now, it's also a very -- it's a general election position for him to be taking. And the question is, will he take the heat and how much heat does he take? But I think he'll be in a great deal of scrutiny. The best thing he has going for him right now is we're headed into the Thanksgiving season.


HENRETTY: And people won't be paying as close attention.

FRUM: There are a lot worse cynical things to say, if you give us the chance.


COSTELLO: It's just like, oh, my gosh.

Let's talk about Mitt Romney. Some said his performance last night was underwhelming. He's continuing to play it safe.

David, should he continue doing that or is it time to step up now that Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls?

FRUM: He needs to step up. This was Mitt Romney's worst debate. I don't mean he did anything wrong. Mitt Romney is so skilled and so ready, he doesn't make mistake. But in previous debates, there has been an effortless gravitas gap between Mitt Romney and all the other people who were a factor. Yesterday, people, like Huntsman, always impressive, Newt Gingrich, who is certainly smart, but they were not factors. There were in single digits in the polls. This time, Gingrich is a factor in many ways. In many ways, he's the front- runner. Huntsman is emerging as a factor. Those two, "not Mitts," are much better than the previous "not Mitts." Suddenly, the gravitas gap is shrinking.


FRUM: So Romney can't just be better. He has to do something.

COSTELLO: Karen, I noticed when Mitt Romney argued, he didn't agree with Newt Gingrich, let's say, he argued with Jon Huntsman or Ron Paul.

HENRETTY: Look, Mitt Romney is running a safe campaign. That's not a bad thing. He's, you know, very careful about -- and selective, about the interviews he agrees to give, which mostly he doesn't agree to give them.

You know, this is a very tight campaign. And I think -- I think he's less interested in making news in these debates than he is about maintaining a significant lead in New Hampshire, taking that victory and going on to the other states. You're not going to hear the big ideas coming from Mitt Romney. You're going to hear the big ideas, good, bad and otherwise, from people like Newt Gingrich. You're going to hear some provocative ideas from the candidates who are, you know, in single digits in the polls who need to make headlines. Mitt Romney, I think, doesn't think he needs to do that. He's going to be a safe candidate. If he wins the general election, it will be a safe campaign. And if president, he'll be a safe president.


COSTELLO: All right.

Karen Henretty, Republican strategist; and David, CNN contributor, thank you both so much for coming in this morning.

FRUM: Thank you.


FRUM: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Jon Huntsman sparked some lively debate last night when he said we need to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan right away. We will ask the former Utah governor about that plan and how he thinks he faired in last night's CNN debate when he joins us live on AMERICAN MORNING at 8:10 Eastern.

And mark your calendars. The next live debate hosted by CNN will be held January 19th in Charleston, South Carolina, co-sponsored by the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

And just ahead, morning headlines and an up close look at our air traffic controllers in action -- Alina?


CHO: That's right. We're going inside a simulation lab where air traffic controllers train on one of the busiest travel days of the year. And our own Sandra Endo learns how to land a plane. Just how hard is it? (LAUGHTER)

50 minutes after the hour. We'll show you.


CHO: 51 minutes after the hour. Here are your morning headlines.

Three American college students arrested during the uprising in Egypt expected to face more questioning today with U.S. embassy representatives on hand. We will speak to the mother of one of the students live in our next hour. Worries about Europe's debt crisis, as well as the growth of the U.S. economy are pulling stock markets down worldwide again today. U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower open. And U.S. markets al closed lower yesterday.

A wet holiday get away. Rain and snow in the east along the east and west coast could slow Thanksgiving travel to a crawl. The severe weather expected to cause numerous flight delays.

Today kicks off one of the busiest travel periods of the year, of course. According to AAA, more than 42 million people will travel at least 500 miles from home during the Thanksgiving weekend to get to grandmother's house.

And it's a time-honored tradition, granting the national Thanksgiving turkey a pardon. President Obama will do the honors later this morning during a White House ceremony. And that turkey will live its final days in Mt. Vernon.

That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this.


COSTELLO: Seven minutes until the top of the hour. Welcome back.

Thanksgiving, of course, one of the year's busiest travel times rights now. Take a live look at the flight explorer.

CHO: Wow.

COSTELLO: It shows a huge number of airplanes in the sky right now.

CHO: We're expecting 6,000 flights at once later on in the day. Heavy traffic at airports puts extra stress on air traffic controllers who have to make sure those planes take off and land safely. They get hundreds of hours of training before managing a real flight.

Our CNN Sandra Endo got a first-hand look at some of the training at one of the country's most congested airports.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in a simulation lab where air traffic controllers train. We're here to train at LAX Airport and you're going to show me how to land a plane, right?


ENDO: Or try.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC TRAINER: We're going to depart a couple airplanes.

ENDO: OK, we'll send some off.


What you see out the window is exactly what you see when you're in the tower. Once he's on the runway and you know there is no conflictions, scan your runway and make sure no traffic. Issue take- off clearances.

ENDO: Southwest 416 clear.

Is it normal that your hands are sweaty?

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC TRAINER: Yes, in the beginning it is.


ENDO: This is stressful.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC TRAINER: Each strip represents an aircraft and flight plan. The destination has a call sign on it. It's like a road map in the sky. We need to move these airplanes here across this runway because the guy on short final right here will not be able to land.

So, you better make a transmission now, Southwest 725, go around. Do it now.

ENDO: Southwest 725 --


ENDO: -- go around.

So, the poor people on that plane now are circling the airport --


ENDO: -- because I'm too slow.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC TRAINER: The runways are these lines here. And there's two lines there. And you'll also notice two lines here. The white are the actual aircraft coming in.

This is a ground radar display. And this shows the controller exactly what you se as you're looking out the window.

Did you watch him land? You should have made sure that the runway was clear when he landed.

ENDO: Well -- I was --


-- this is very hard.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC TRAINER: It's extreme concentration. It's a mental game. It does get a little tiring.

ENDO: Redwood 865 cross runway. Too far left.


We can introduce rain with lightning. You also have the capability to show snow.

Working in the dark, it adds a tremendous amount of complexity because you can't see, as well. ENDO: Paco (ph) 531 clear for take off.


ENDO: Those people are happy.


ENDO: Cactus 297, runway 24 left.

UNIDENTIFIED AIR TRAFFIC TRAINER: And we're out of airplanes.

ENDO: Yeh. That is a great feeling.


Thank you.


ENDO (voice-over): Sandra Endo, CNN, Los Angeles.



CHO: Good for her for trying. She got the hang of it, eventually.

COSTELLO: She did. She was pretty good at the end and she has a second career choice if she ever needs it.


Top stories coming your way next, including rain and snow making for travel trouble in the northeast right now. Sandra Endo knows all about that. CHO: That's right.

COSTELLO: She can help.

Plus, Republican presidential hopeful and former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman, stops by our studios.

It's four minutes until the top of the hour.