Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Struggling To Survive In A War Zone; Training For Race War In The Army?; Obama Cutting Welfare Reform? Interview with Newt Gingrich; Pictures from Mars

Aired August 08, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, skinheads in the United States military, did the Wisconsin temple gunman use his army career to train for a race war?

Also, the controversial ad accusing President Obama of gutting work requirements from welfare reform. We're going to do a reality check this hour.

And we'll talk about it with one of the architects of welfare reform, the former speaker, Newt Gingrich.

Plus, an Olympic mystery. Seven athletes from one country go missing.

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

Just weeks ago it was a bustling city of more than two million people and historic center of commerce and education, but now, Aleppo is the main battleground of the Syrian civil war. Opposition groups say hundreds of government troops launched a ground assault on one neighborhood today but were pushed back by rebel fighters.

At least 30 people were killed in Aleppo today according to the opposition. And many residents have already fled the city and those who haven't are struggling to survive. CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, has seen it all firsthand in recent days.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Muafak (ph) has retrieved what he could from the ruins of his home in what's left of Aleppo's Salahuddin neighborhood. There's little time to ponder one's loss.

"The situation is terrible," Muafak (ph) tells me. We're taking everything we can. We don't know where we'll go. We've lost everything so we're leaving. His family of seven is just one of thousands of families who have fled Salahuddin. Now, one of the main battlefields between government forces and the rebels.

Seventeen-year-old Hamzi (ph) has been fighting here for the last two weeks. He says several of his comrades were killed by Syrian army snipers earlier in the day. These lightly armed fighters have managed to hold of the army. Their most potent weapon is not in their enemy's arsenal, says this elderly fighter who identifies himself simply as Alexander.

ALEXANDER, REBEL FIGHTER: We believe in God and this (INAUDIBLE). We can fight with them and we will win because we have Iman faith. We have faith. We believe in God. They don't believe in god. They believe in God he don't pump his vehicle (ph).

WEDEMAN: The death and destruction is not restricted to the front lines. Government jets regularly bomb targets around the city. The rebels fire back with their light machine guns. The rebel-held district of Shikari (ph) further removed from the fighting provides its inhabitants with the illusion of normality, a few shops and street vendors are at work. But prices are up. A kilo of tomatoes costs four times what it did a month ago, and that's if you have money to buy it.

There's little work to be had as the city turns into a battleground. Tama (ph) the baker is prepared date-filled cakes for the breaking of the Ramadan fast. He says he's too busy to worry about the fighting.

(on-camera) It's an odd feeling here in the parts of Aleppo occupied by the free Syrian army. People are out. They're buying vegetables, the bakeries are working, but all the while occasionally, you hear blasts like that as the area comes under bombardment.

(voice-over) This man shows me his son, Mustafa, born 10 days ago to the sound of fighting. "He cries and is terrified during the bombings. The bombardment appears to be random. I was told this house was hit in an air raid two days before killing two of its inhabitants. There are no rebel positions in the area."

Cut off from the rest of the city, Shikari (ph) residents have turned a public park into a temporary graveyard. Abu Hamud (ph), a fighter, explains that the latest grave contains three bodies no one could identify because they were so severely mutilated. The shelling goes through the night. The explosions and the uncertainty about where the next round will fall makes sleep difficult.

Early in the morning, around 100 residents of Shikari (ph) line up for bread. This is the only bakery that makes bread in the area. Bread has become the main staple here. Each family member is allowed one flat loaf a day sold at a symbolic price. The flour is provided either by the free Syrian army or wealthy benefactors.

Even if more food was available, cooking is a problem. This part of Aleppo has run out of cooking gas. Umad Nan (ph) explains she cooks for her extended family of 16 on firewood she collects in parks and in the street. And for the children, there's a sense of bewilderment as war turns their lives upside down.

"We're confused," says 11-year-old Nana (ph). We feel they want to attack us. We left this area before then we came back. Now, we want to leave again, but we can't.


With an all-out Syrian government offensive looming over the city, Nana (ph) and others like her can do little but wait and hope the next bomb falls far, far away.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Aleppo, Syria.


BLITZER: Other news we're following, the FBI now says the gunman who killed six people at that Sikh temple in Wisconsin was not killed by police but shot himself. Investigators are taking a closer look at Wade Michael Page's military service. Fellow soldiers say his White supremacist beliefs were evident even then.

So, was he preparing himself for racial warfare while he was in the army? Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is working the story for us. What are you finding out, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're finding out that neo-Nazi groups and skinheads have been encouraging their followers to enlist in the U.S. military for years to get combat training paid for by American taxpayers. And when the military lowered its standards and started allowing more moral waivers about six years ago, it may have allowed more of them in.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Wade Michael Page's belief in White power was tattooed all over his body as his MySpace photo shows. But back at Fort Bragg, you couldn't tell by looking at him.

CHRISTOPHER ROBILLARD, FORMER SOLDIER: He didn't have the tattoos when he was in the army.

LAWRENCE: But fellow soldier and friend, Chris Robillard, says Page wasn't shy about sharing his views and ranted against non-White people.

ROBILLARD: He would often mention the racial holy war that was coming.

LAWRENCE: A criminologist who interviewed Page said he started identifying with the neo-Nazi movement while he was in the army, because he thought African-American soldiers got preferential treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specifically what he told me at one point was that if you join the military and you're not a racist, then you certainly will be by the time you leave.

LAWRENCE: Well before pictures like this were posted on Facebook, the FBI had identified hundreds of veterans involved in White supremacist incidents. And federal investigators say small numbers of White supremacist have infiltrated most parts of the military.

While Page was at Fort Bragg in 1995, three soldiers were caught and convicted of murdering a Black couple outside the banks, all were identified as neo-Nazi skinheads. The army cracked down on racists in the ranks and kicked out dozens of soldiers. But the problem goes way beyond one base.

T.J. LEYDEN, FORMER MARINE AND SKINHEAD: Every major military installation, you'll have at least two or three active neo-Nazi organizations actively trying to recruit on-duty personnel.

LAWRENCE: T.J. Leyden would know. He's a former marine and skinhead who says some military unit ignore over racism.

LEYDEN: I used to hang a swastika flag in my wall locker. And everybody in my unit all the way up to my commander knew it. The only time they ever asked me to take it down was when the commanding general would come through just so they wouldn't get in trouble.


LAWRENCE (on-camera): That's not to say that happens across the board. In fact, Leyden admits in his brother's unit the commander was very, very cautious about that. In fact, any time he saw it, that commander in his brother's unit would make sure that the troops got rid of it immediately.

Also, some of this may be self-correcting in that now that the military is getting smaller and much more choosier, you're not going to see quite some of the people who may have gotten in in 2005, 2006 when that Iraq war was brewing. Some of those people probably wouldn't qualify for the military today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty shocking, though, when you think about it that a soldier would hang up a swastika, a Nazi flag, on a locker in front of everyone else. Are there no rules in the U.S. army that would bar that?

LAWRENCE: There are rules, wolf, but it's what the commander enforces. Like you saw there, one commander in one unit immediately makes sure it gets taken down, another commander may look the other way. The military has strict rules about tattoos. There can't be anything racist or anything offensive in that tattoo, but, again, it's got to be checked before action can be taken.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence on top of this story for us. Thank you. It's a shocking story.

President Obama, meanwhile, is on a campaign swing through Colorado right now. Polls show he has his work cut out for him in that critical battleground state. Just a few hours ago, in Denver, he was clearly reaching out to one key block of voters. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is traveling with the president tonight. Brianna, what did the president say in Colorado?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this event was all about women. He talked about how he'd appointed two female members of the Supreme Court. He talked about his wife. He talked about his mother and the hot button issues of women's health and birth control. Something that's normally just a liner tune in his stump speech was really the focus of his remarks here.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.


OBAMA: And Colorado, you've got to make sure it does not happen.


KEILAR (voice-over): In Denver, President Obama's first of four stops on a two-day swing through the battleground state of Colorado, his normal stump speech gave way to talk about women's issues like mammograms and birth control.

OBAMA: I don't think politicians should control the care that you get. I think there's one person to make these decisions on healthcare, and that is you.

KEILAR: The visit comes as Obama has lost ground with both men and women in Colorado. A new poll by Quinnipiac University, CBS News, and the "New York Times" shows Obama with an eight-point lead among women here and a 17-point deficit with men. Compared that 2008 when Obama carried women by 15 points in Colorado and lost male voters to John McCain by just a point.

Hoping to shore up the women's vote, the Obama campaign is running this new ad in Colorado and other battleground states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not the 1950s. Contraception is so important to women. It's about a woman being able to make decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't remember anyone as extreme as Romney.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

KEILAR: And in Denver, Sandra Fluke appeared to rile up the crowd. The Georgetown University law grad went before Congress in February. She became famous when her support for the Obama's administration requirement that health insurance companies provide coverage for birth control earned her this rebuke from Rush Limbaugh.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: It means you're a slut, right? It means you're a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

KEILAR: Fluke had this message for the predominantly female crowd.

SANDRA FLUKE, CALLED A "SLUT" BY RUSH LIMBAUGH: We have a candidate, President Obama, who understands the importance of women getting access to the care they need when they need it.


FLUKE: And we must remember that we have another candidate, Mr. Romney, who wants to take all of that away.


KEILAR (on-camera): And the Obama campaign, Wolf, is downplaying those poll results that show overall President Obama's trailing Mitt Romney by five points here in Colorado. A spokeswoman for the campaign says they think that Hispanics will play a larger role on election day than they did in this poll and that seniors will play a lesser role.

Hispanics, as you know, a key constituency for President Obama, seniors not so much.

BLITZER: Under three months to go before the election, so every day is critical. Brianna, thanks very, very much.

Thousands of tourists evacuate as the storm called Ernesto churns across parts of Mexico. We're getting new information from the National Hurricane Center.

Also, the one thing Newt Gingrich and President Obama agree on when it comes to Mitt Romney. Gingrich is standing by to join us live this hour. We're going to talk about that and more.

And an American gymnast makes a surprise statement at the London Olympics.


BLITZER: Tropical storm Ernesto is battering parts of Mexico this hour with heavy rain and wind. Only moments ago, we got our hands on the National Hurricane Center's latest advisory. Let's bring in our meteorologist, Chad Myers. What does it say, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It says now that the winds are down to 50 miles per hour and we knew that they would begin to come down, it was a hurricane, a significant hurricane, category 1, but it smashed the eastern coast there of Mexico, moved across the northern section of Honduras and now into the bay of Campeche.

Let's kind of take you look at what's going on here. Here's our Google map. Take you all the way down to actually a port that I've been to on a cruise ship, Costa Maya. Maybe you go there, too. It's in a small little town, but it really took the brunt of this. About an 85-mile-per-hour storm, Costa Maya right there.

Take a look at that spot right there. That would be where the cruise ships docked. If we get a little bit closer there, we can actually see the cruise ships even on the map. There's the port, there's little town and there's little places that you go shopping and such.

This is a small storm now and it's not going to get bigger. When storms get over land, they die. When they get over warm water, they get bigger. There's not much more water for this storm, Wolf. It's just about done.

BLITZER: All right. So, what's the forecast for some of the other potential hurricanes that may be brewing out there?

MYERS: There is much more to this season. Now, September 10th is the peak of hurricane season for a number of storms on average in the water, September 10th. We're still a month away from that. The water is extremely warm. We have more storms on the horizon. More little disturbances coming off Africa right now that could be in our waters in about ten days.

BLITZER: Has it been, so far, a lighter season or a heavier season as far as hurricanes are concerned?

MYERS: You know, it seems like a lighter season because not much has happened and all of these storms have kind of been fish storms that kind of hit the water and don't hit land, except for Debbie that hit Northern Florida and parts of Georgia. But we are above normal for the season right now, and we still have three months to go.

BLITZER: Three months is a long, long time. Let's hope it stays light. Thanks very much for that, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: A new twist in the case of an alleged tweet threatening a popular New York City theater. Up next, why Twitter's role in the investigation is now changing.

Plus, it's the secretary of state like we rarely see her. Hillary Clinton struts her stuff out there on the dance floor. Check it out. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Twitter now identifying a user who allegedly posted threats against the popular New York City theater. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on here, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the social media site initially refused to disclose to authorities the user's personal information but changed course after being served with a subpoena. Authorities say the post mentioned an attack at a theater where boxer, Mike Tyson, is performing, but they aren't revealing further details.

Police are taking the threat seriously after the deadly attacks in Colorado and Wisconsin. No comment, so far, from Twitter.

And a forecast of more than 300 housing markets is predicting we won't see a real recovery in housing prices until spring with numbers dipping another one percent between this year and next. Analysts say it won't be until March 2013 before prices begin to gain momentum. They also warn any additional drop in consumer confidence could further delay the recovery process.

And country music star, Randy Travis, was arrested and charged with retaliation and driving while intoxicated after being found lying naked on a remote Texas roadway. Authorities say Travis was involved in a one-vehicle accident and allegedly threatened to shoot and kill the troopers working the case. He was later released on bond.

And you got to take a look here. This is Hillary Clinton as we rarely get to see her, strutting her stuff on the dance floor. The secretary of state, she wowed cheering guests with her moves during a dinner in South Africa. She looks like she's having a grand old time there. She is currently touring the continent.

I love seeing this. It's Hillary Clinton unplugged. And we saw her, what was it a couple of months ago? She was in a bar, Wolf, having a couple beers, do you remember those pictures, too? Love these pictures of her.

BLITZER: Those pictures in Cartagena (ph). I remember those.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: She obviously likes to dance. She likes to party a little bit. In our next hour, we're going in depth on this story. We've got a lot more. Just want to tease our viewers. Hillary Clinton dancing in Africa. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

He helped implement welfare reform more than a decade ago here in the United States. So, does the former speaker, Newt Gingrich, now defend the controversial Mitt Romney ad accusing President Obama of gutting welfare reform? Newt Gingrich, he's here in the SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk with him next.


BLITZER: Certainly landmark legislation well more than a decade ago when President Bill Clinton and House speaker, Newt Gingrich, hammered out a deal to reform America's welfare program. Now, Mitt Romney's accusing President Obama of trying to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.

We're going to talk about it with the former speaker, Newt Gingrich, in just a moment. But first CNN's Lisa Sylvester's here with a fact check. Lisa, first of all, how accurate is this Romney ad?

SYLVESTER: Well, in a word, Wolf, it's not terribly accurate. The Obama administration, what they're doing is granting states flexibility when it comes to the welfare to work program. But that is very different from saying the administration is quote/unquote dropping the work requirements. Let's take a look at the ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it, by requiring work for welfare. But on July 12th, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job.

They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain on (ph) welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: But the question is, is this fact or fear mongering? Well, here is the July 12th letter from the Obama administration, and what it does is it actually allows for states to seek waivers to have more flexibility under this program. And the underlying goal, though, of ending dependence of needy parents and getting them back to work, well, that remains.

The independent research group, PolitiFact, they are calling this Romney ad, quote, "a drastic distortion of the plan changes." And in fact, they have given it its lowest rating. It's the pants on fire rating. And there's one other point to add to all of this, Wolf, and that is despite the fact that in 2005 it was actually the Republican Governor's Association -- we have a letter here, they actually asked for this waiver authority.

And the letter requests that states have this flexibility in granting such work activities including granting partial work credit and coordination of state programs. And if you take a look at the page here, this is the signature page, at the very top of this here you can see that it's actually Mitt Romney then Governor Mitt Romney who is at the top of the governors actually requesting flexibility and requesting these waivers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pants on fire, that's what they say about this ad. All right thanks very much, Lisa, for that background. Let's discuss what's going on with one of the architects of welfare reform. We're talking about Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and former Republican presidential candidate. Mr. Speaker, welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: All right, so you agree that that ad is obviously wrong and that it's misleading, it doesn't tell the truth?

GINGRICH: No. I actually think that this is a determined effort by the Obama campaign to avoid reality. One, it's Robert Rector (ph) at the Heritage Foundation, the leading expert on welfare reform who said it was gutted, it is his language. Two, the letter in 19 -- 2005 rather was signed by the governors to the Senate on behalf of a bill that increased the work requirement from 50 to 70 percent. And at that time as governor of Massachusetts Romney was actually working to get the state legislature to increase the work requirement in Massachusetts --

BLITZER: What's wrong with the federal government letting states who are closer to the welfare recipient's problem, normally you want the federal government out of these issues --

GINGRICH: Normally I do. Absolutely.

BLITZER: You want to give the states the authority to do so. That's what the president has done. GINGRICH: So let me explain why Section 407, which is the work requirement of the original bill, allowed for no waivers. What we had discovered was that particularly in liberal states, going through drug rehab counted as work, getting a massage counted as work, testing out your bed by sleeping counted as --

BLITZER: But, Mr. Speaker, you know those are wildly, wildly you know distorted --

GINGRICH: Look I'm giving you -- this is from --


GINGRICH: This is from a governor report --

BLITZER: But if you take a look at who asked for this -- these waivers, governors, including Republican governors. They asked the Obama administration, please --


BLITZER: -- let us have these waivers so that we can deal with welfare reform making sure people work instead of just receiving a check.

GINGRICH: The two governors that Obama claims wanted this have both come out publicly and said that's not true. That what they've done at Health and Human Services is very different from what they were asking for. And I would simply say everybody should go to Heritage Foundation site, look at what Robert Rector (ph) said. He is widely believed to be --

BLITZER: Here are the two governors.


BLITZER: These are -- Gary Herbert, Republican governor of Utah.


BLITZER: Brian Sandoval, Republican governor of Nevada.


BLITZER: They both asked the federal government in the Obama administration let us have a waiver so in Utah and Nevada we can more effectively deal with welfare.

GINGRICH: Right and they both came out and said they were against what the Obama administration's done.

BLITZER: So why would they ask for that waiver to begin with if they later changed their mind?

GINGRICH: They weren't asking for the kind of waiver --

BLITZER: They asked for a waiver --

GINGRICH: But if you'll notice, Section 407 it is illegal under the law to waive Section 407. Obama used a totally different part of the bill to fudge what I think is probably an illegal action. The Congress made it illegal to waive this because our experience with states, particularly liberal states, was that they would redefine work --

BLITZER: All right.

GINGRICH: -- to mean virtually anything.

BLITZER: You were at the White House when welfare reform was signed into law, is that right?

GINGRICH: Yes. Right.

BLITZER: You remember who the president of the United States was? That would be Bill Clinton. You worked very closely with him.


BLITZER: There was (INAUDIBLE). I was the White House correspondent for CNN. I remember those days. You disagreed with him on a lot but on this issue you came to an agreement.

GINGRICH: We came together.

BLITZER: He knows a lot about the subject, right?


BLITZER: Bill Clinton, he's a smart guy. Here's what he says about this ad that the Romney campaign has put out. "The recently announced waiver policy was originally requested by Republican governors of Utah and Nevada to achieve more flexibility in designing programs more likely to work in this challenging environment. The administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only, only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach." So does Bill Clinton -- is he making that up?


BLITZER: He knows the subject.

GINGRICH: But first of all Bill Clinton I'm sure was contacted by the Obama White House or the Obama campaign --

BLITZER: But you know Bill Clinton --


BLITZER: He wouldn't make --

GINGRICH: No. BLITZER: -- put a statement out if he didn't believe every word of it.

GINGRICH: Well, but he may believe it. That doesn't mean it's accurate. As I just reported to you a second ago, both those Republican governors disagree with being used by Obama as a defense for what he's doing. The fact is Obama does not have the authority to waive this requirement. It was very specifically written into the law that it could not be waived.

And the reason was candidly we and the conservative Republican Congress did not trust the president. And we did not trust the liberal governors to actually keep a work requirement if they had a chance to do away with it. And look at everything Obama has done. Look at all of his commitment on food stamps, all of his commitment on increase dependency. Every effort he's made to get --

BLITZER: But on all those issues you want the states to be in charge more than the federal government --

GINGRICH: That's right.

BLITZER: -- except when it comes to welfare reform, you don't trust the states.

GINGRICH: On the issue of a work requirement, we felt deeply and I think accurately and I think Robert Rector (ph) at Heritage would absolutely reinforce this that unless you made it a mandatory work requirement, it would get waived to a point where it became a joke. And I think this is a very real issue. The American people overwhelmingly believe in the work ethic and they overwhelmingly reject dependency --

BLITZER: So food stamps on Medicare and other issues, you don't want the state -- do you want the federal government to dictate to the states also --


BLITZER: -- what they can do or is it just on welfare?

GINGRICH: We're talking about a very specific question. I mean there -- look there are places --

BLITZER: But this is a matter of principle for someone like you who believes in states' rights.

GINGRICH: OK, but there are places I would say for example on honesty and paying for Medicaid where New York State has more than a 10 percent fraud rate, the federal government ought to have something to say about that. That's your tax money being thrown away by an incompetent state government. So I do think you want to require certain things. In this particular zone there's a fundamental question, are we going to favor the work ethic, or are we going to favor dependency? And I think this is a very fundamental disagreement with Barack Obama. BLITZER: I think it's a good substantive issue to debate and they will argue and I'm sure they'll make a strong case they want to make sure that people just don't get a free ride. They don't get a check. They either look for a job or they are trained for a job but they just don't stay on welfare. Nobody wants that and you deserve a lot of credit and President Clinton deserves a lot of credit for working together in the '90s to achieve that. We'll see where it goes from here.

Don't go away. We have more to discuss. We're going to continue our conversation with the former speaker of the House. Up next, we'll talk about the role of Super PACs backing Mitt Romney before they were attacking President Obama. We're going to go through what happened. Stand by.


BLITZER: We're back with the former Speaker of the House, the former Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, listen to this. This is you at one of the CNN debates back in January. It seems like a long time ago. But listen to what you said then.


GINGRICH: I wish you would calmly and directly state it is your former staff running the PAC, it is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC. And you know some of the ads aren't true. Just say that straightforward.


BLITZER: You and Mitt Romney had a rough time as I remember in Iowa --


BLITZER: -- South Carolina, Florida. It was -- and now you're on conference calls supporting him as you were today. How does that feel? How does that happen because some of the words that the two of you expressed then were pretty nasty.

GINGRICH: Look, it was a real slugging match. You were covering it. I remember after one of the debates (INAUDIBLE) came over and did reaction with your show. It's painful at times and I'd have to say we threw the kitchen sink at him and he threw a bigger kitchen sink at us. I mean it was a very tough campaign.

BLITZER: He tried, and correct me if I'm wrong, I think you'll agree, he tried to really (ph) with those super PACs and he says he wasn't directly responsible for the Super PACs. They were autonomous, if you will --


BLITZER: -- but they really tried to destroy you. In Iowa, if you remember, it was brutal. GINGRICH: Oh yes. It was -- look it was tough. It was brutal. Part of my hope is that his campaign will be equally tough this September and October with Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Because on this issue you and Barack Obama have something in common, you were the target.

GINGRICH: Oh yes --

BLITZER: He's now the target of that Romney machine, if you will.

GINGRICH: And there's no question it's tough. I mean I would say, however that Obama has as big a machine as Romney, so there's a bigger parody between the two of them. But the other part of it is pretty simple. I was with my two grandchildren who you know Maggie and Robert, over the weekend, now Robert just turned 10, Maggie is 12 and you look at their lives. And you say to yourself, what kind of future do you want for them? And it's pretty easy for me to support Mitt Romney in that setting. Because I genuinely believe not just as a partisan matter but as a grandfather and as a historian, I think Obama in a second term would be very dangerous for the future.

BLITZER: So no more -- no more bad blood, if you will. No more animosity.


BLITZER: You don't hate this guy, is that what I hear you saying?

GINGRICH: No -- look he's got scars from the big brawl. I have scars from the big brawl, but we're both committed to doing what we can to help America --

BLITZER: Do the two of you ever talk?

GINGRICH: Oh sure. We're not -- you know we're not enemies. We were opponents. We slugged it out. We did the best we could.

BLITZER: It was tough.

GINGRICH: It was a very tough campaign. At times it was very personal and it wasn't a game. We weren't --

BLITZER: Who do you think he should pick as his running mate?

GINGRICH: Oh I think he's got four or five good choices.

BLITZER: Who do you like?

GINGRICH: Look I like Portman. I like Paul Ryan a lot. I like Marco Rubio a lot. I think that there are some people like Senator Kelly Ayotte (ph) who would again give him a broader --

BLITZER: Do you think she's qualified already? Do you think she's got enough experience? GINGRICH: Well she's been a very successful attorney general. She has been a very good senator. There are also some governors who are terrific people. But I think the most important thing about who he picks and this will tell us a lot about Mitt Romney, it has to be somebody he's comfortable with. I mean these two people have to be a team hopefully for eight years.

BLITZER: Have they invited you to speak at the convention yet?

GINGRICH: We're going to -- actually working with them right now on a project that I think you will love that has a lot more time than just an evening speech --

BLITZER: What does that mean?

GINGRICH: It means we're going to probably have something -- a very large amount of time working with the delegates and doing things --

BLITZER: But not delivering a primetime speech --

GINGRICH: Not delivering a primetime speech --

BLITZER: A lot of people would like to see you in primetime --

GINGRICH: Oh sure --

BLITZER: -- delivering --

GINGRICH: I think --

BLITZER: You would rouse up that crowd --

GINGRICH: Trust me, anybody who wants to see me will have more than enough opportunity during the convention. We'll probably have more total time than anybody thought possible.

BLITZER: But not necessarily giving speeches --

GINGRICH: Not necessarily --

BLITZER: But behind the scenes.

GINGRICH: Oh no, no, in public settings. We're putting together a series of workshops that will be announced in Tampa in the near future. And I think they have a tremendous opportunity to really set a stage. It is something I've done at different conventions starting in 1984.

BLITZER: And what about your wife Callista? Is she going to be speaking --

GINGRICH: I think that's -- I don't want to preempt anything and --

BLITZER: Is that possible --

GINGRICH: They have to talk to Callista about that. BLITZER: Have they done that yet or anything?

GINGRICH: I wouldn't be at all surprised but I think they've got to make any announcements that involve that.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a question about Michele Bachmann and some other Republican congressman who wrote a letter questioning basically the loyalty of some patriotic Americans who work in the United States government including one of the top aides to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin (ph) whom I happen to know rather well. She's married to a former congressman, as you well know. You said this and I'll put it up on the screen.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is a serious worldwide organization dedicated to a future most Americans would find appalling. Seeking to understand its reach and its impact in the U.S. government is a legitimate, indeed a central part of our national security process. Bachmann, Franks, Gohmert, Rooney and Westmoreland -- all congressmen -- are showing a lot more courage than the defenders of timidity, complicity and passivity." You know the criticism that's been leveled against her and these other congressmen, especially with Huma Abedin (ph), who is a wonderful, wonderful person. Have you ever met her?

GINGRICH: I may have met her in passing. I don't know her.


BLITZER: -- to start raising all these issues of McCarthyism to say she's not really loyal because she's Muslim, if you will.

GINGRICH: Let me -- OK -- it's not -- this is -- this is baloney, Wolf. We've known each other a long time.

BLITZER: Tell me why it's baloney.

GINGRICH: First of all behind McCarthyism there were real spies. People tend to forget this. There's a new book coming out on Reagan and Hollywood in the '40s and the book is --

BLITZER: There are a lot of innocent people who suffered --

GINGRICH: And there were a lot of guilty people --

BLITZER: -- because of baseless charges.

GINGRICH: But there were a lot of guilty people who would never have been uncovered if some people didn't have the courage to take them on. There's a brand new book coming out on Reagan and Hollywood in the late '40s and it is appalling the number of hard core communists that were working in the movie industry. There has been an enormous effort to rewrite history, so --

BLITZER: But in this particular case --


BLITZER: -- with Huma Abedin (ph), Huma Abedin (ph) -- you don't know her. I know her --

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) my question.

BLITZER: You know she's married to a Jewish guy, a congressman --

GINGRICH: All right.

BLITZER: -- Anthony Weiner and you know she is not in a part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy or anything like that. That's ridiculous to even put her -- to raise her name like that.

GINGRICH: OK. She is very high up in the State Department.

BLITZER: That's correct. She's --


BLITZER: -- deputy chief of staff to the secretary of state.

GINGRICH: And presumably has some influence.

BLITZER: A lot of influence.

GINGRICH: OK. So to ask the question, this is a question, why have we had a series of decisions and Andy McCarthy (ph), who was a prosecutor in the first World Trade Center terrorism (INAUDIBLE) and has worked on this issue for 20 years lays out case after case after case where this State Department has been amazingly pro-Muslim Brotherhood. Now, whose advice is that? I don't know him. I can't tell you. I'm not accusing anybody of anything. I am saying American citizens have a right to have their members of Congress ask the question --

BLITZER: Here's my point. Here's my point and you and I will disagree on this. Here's my point, you can raise all sorts of questions about the Muslim Brotherhood, whether the Obama administration should have recognized the new president of Egypt, who is obviously a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, all that is legitimate. But to take a woman who is a wonderful American patriot and to start throwing her name out there as if she's some sort of spy, if you will, or some sort of insider --

GINGRICH: Nobody -- nobody suggested --

BLITZER: -- because -- because maybe you know some distant relative or whatever may have done I mean that's ridiculous.

GINGRICH: Well, I think it was mother and father, so I don't know how distant --

BLITZER: Well I don't think her mother and father were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

GINGRICH: I'm just saying but I think that was the allegation --

BLITZER: Yes. GINGRICH: So let's not get into distant relatives --

BLITZER: I have a problem questioning the role of the Muslim Brotherhood making sure that there's no one --


BLITZER: But to start throwing out names --

GINGRICH: So let's agree -- well --

BLITZER: -- of wonderful American citizens without the evidence, without any background, that goes beyond.

GINGRICH: One leading figure said, I don't know her but I'm sure she's OK. Now, I just want --

BLITZER: I know her and I'm sure she's OK.

GINGRICH: OK, I'm just suggesting to you that's when you get into a group thing that says don't even ask these questions.

BLITZER: I don't -- you can ask the questions, but I don't think you should smear somebody's reputation unless you have --

GINGRICH: I'm happy to say --

BLITZER: -- you know you have the smoking gun.

GINGRICH: OK. OK. I'm willing to say they probably should have written the letter with no specific name --

BLITZER: That's better --

GINGRICH: But the question in the letter it is totally valid and shouldn't be avoided by hiding behind one person.

BLITZER: On that note we'll leave it.

GINGRICH: All right.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, we'll see you at the convention.

GINGRICH: See you there.

BLITZER: See Callista at the convention, too.


BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, by the way in our next hour my interview with a man behind a rather controversial attack ad linking Mitt Romney to a woman's death from cancer. We've checked the facts. We've found that ad inaccurate. How does he defend it? Stand by, you'll see.


BLITZER: Here is a look at this hour's "Hotshots". In the Philippines, soldiers rescue a group of people from heavy rain. In India, women protest against on-going tensions between the local population and immigrants. In Germany, wind turbines spin as a dark storm looms in the distance. And in London -- look at this -- Brazilian dancers perform in front of Westminster Abbey. "Hotshots", pictures coming in from around the world.

Scientists and space fans all over the world are combing over the amazing images the rover named Curiosity is sending back from the surface of Mars. And many of the pictures are thanks to one photographer who's so dedicated to the Martian mission, he is actually paying what NASA won't and he spoke to CNN's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mike Malin is the first to admit he is not real animated, except when he is talking about his cameras, more precisely his Mars cameras.

MIKE MALIN, PRESIDENT, MALIN SPACE SCIENCE SYSTEMS: You can take this camera higher than that camera and do a sweep from up there, you can look down on the rover.

ZARRELLA: From NASA orbiting satellites, Malin's cameras have taken hundreds of thousands of pictures. Remember the famous face on Mars? Here it is close up. This heart shaped mound Malin calls "Love from Mars". This one, happy face, it is actually a crater. Here is a gulley on the red planet. Evidence water once flowed there.

But Malin's crowning achievements may well be on the Curiosity rover. Four of the rover's 17 cameras are his, two on the mast, one on the arm, and some of the mission's first pictures sent back from Mars came from his descent imager. It captured these stunning pictures as Curiosity came through the Martian atmosphere, pictures we almost never saw.

To cut mission costs NASA dumped the camera it had already spent $1 million on. To finish the project Malin got some of the money he needed from extra funds in another Mars project and picked up the remainder of the tab himself.

MALIN: So the -- I paid for the camera. The Phoenix Project (ph) paid to put it on the MSL (ph) rover, and NASA headquarters said OK, under those circumstances, do it.

ZARRELLA (on camera): How much did it cost you out of your own pocket?

MALIN: About $80,000.

ZARRELLA: Do you think it was worth it? (voice-over): This Mars photographer says, no, he promises the pictures we'll see from all his cameras the next two years will be worth it.

John Zarrella, CNN, Pasadena, California.


BLITZER: An American inside Antarctica believed to be in need of emergency medical help coming up in our next hour, the daunting challenges of a rescue in a place that won't see daylight for months.