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The Situation Room
How Did Wisconsin Gunman Die?; Romney's V.P. Pick?; Interview with Bill Burton
Aired August 08, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now authorities say the Sikh temple gunman killed himself. Now we're learning why he may have come to this Wisconsin town.
Egyptian forces do battle with militants in Sinai and the bloodshed could hit Americans.
And tough questions for an Obama supporter behind an inaccurate ad attack on Mitt Romney.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We now know that the Sikh temple gunman's deadly rampage turned out to be a suicide mission. The FBI revealing today that Wade Michael Page killed himself after the shooting that left six people dead in Wisconsin. Our Brian Todd is joining us now from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, right outside Milwaukee, with more on what's going on and the arrest of Page's former girlfriend. Brian, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we do have new information now about the woman in the shooter's life and dramatic new details about his final moments.
TODD (voice-over): In the crucial moments when police were trying to neutralize him, we now learned suspect, Wade Michael Page, was first shot in the stomach by a police officer. Then --
TERESA CARLSON, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: It appears that Page died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
TODD: Officials say they still can't find a motive. No specific clues on why Page went on a shooting rampage killing six worshipers at the Sikh temple of Wisconsin. But they do have an idea of what brought him to the Milwaukee area.
CARLSON: He was probably here because of his relationship with her. I'm not going to get into why they broke up.
TODD: That's Misty Cook, identified as Page's ex-girlfriend. She was arrested this week on an unrelated weapons charge. Law enforcement officials are looking at connections that Cook, like Page, had with white supremacist groups as these pictures provided by the Anti- Defamation League show. But on the Sikh temple shootings -- CARLSON: We do not believe that she had anything to do with it.
TODD: But the hate group connection to this case has police on edge.
(on camera): We went to the home of the police officer who shot Wade Michael Page seeking an interview. He declined. And as we were pulling away from his house, we were quickly surrounded by police vehicles.
They ran background checks as two officers stood by our vehicle hands on holsters. We later learned police are concerned about possible retaliation against that officer from white supremacist groups.
(voice-over): The police tell us they don't have information on any specific threat to that officer. I spoke with the head of Wisconsin's biggest police union.
(on camera): Will this officer have to move? Will he have to change his phone number?
JIM PALMER, WISCONSIN PROFESSIONAL POLICE ASSOCIATION: I'm not aware that anything like that would occur at this time. Obviously, this event is going to continue to unfold and we're going to learn more about Wade Michael Page and the people with whom he was affiliated.
TODD: But how long do you think this officer will have to be protected?
PALMER: That's a good question. The more we know about Wade Michael Page and the more we learn about him and his background, I think that would determine what kind of cautionary measures are taken going forward.
TODD: We felt that the concern by the police over this officer's safety was an important angle to bring out. But because of the sensitivity of this situation, we are not identifying the officer nor giving any other specific information about him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, I understand there is some newly disclosed video of the actual incident. What are you hearing?
TODD: That's right.
Police are now telling us that they have dash-cam video from one of the police vehicles that was right there, and this video apparently captures the confrontation between Wade Michael Page and police.
The police tell us that they want to release the video. They were going to try to get that to us. They can't do that at the moment, because they're still analyzing it, they're still reviewing that video as part of the investigation. But one of the FBI agents, Teresa Carlson, did say that she saw the video and it kind of captures a very dramatic moment when the officer shot Wade Michael Page. She called it something like an incredible shot.
MATTHEWS: And then you see him shooting himself in the head. All right, Brian, we will be anxious to see that video together with you. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: The top contenders to be Mitt Romney's running mate are campaigning very hard for the job as he gets closer to announcing his pick. The former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, has been a loyal surrogate for his former Republican primary opponent. He is on the campaign trail for Romney in Michigan today.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us now with a profile of Tim Pawlenty.
You actually had a chance, John, to catch up with him in Ohio?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I sure did, Wolf. I was out on the road in Ohio, I saw Governor Pawlenty. We hear Governor Romney say all the time that President Obama doesn't keep his promises, he ran on lofty promises, hasn't kept them as president.
Well, Tim Pawlenty's a little different. He put it this way in an Irish pub. He says the president of the United States, Wolf, is all foam and no beer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING (voice-over): Tim Pawlenty wants you to know he likes beer.
TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: What did you guys have for lunch? Corned beef?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).
KING (voice-over): And corned beef. And he is more than happy to go pub to pub, Ohio and elsewhere, making the case against President Obama.
PAWLENTY: Have you had enough of sky-high unemployment across America? Have you had enough of runaway federal spending? Have you had enough of Obamacare?
KING (voice-over): Why might he share the ticket? Well, policy wise, he is very much in synch with Mitt Romney. And personally, he is the anti-Romney, his economic views shaped not by personal wealth, but by a blue-collar upbringing on the streets of South St. Paul.
PAWLENTY: The dominate focus economically for the town back in the '60s and '70s were these mammoth meatpacking plants. They all suddenly shut down. And as a young boy, I saw this massive job loss, economic dislocation, heartache, worry. It is one thing to talk about it; it is another thing to have lived it and experienced it.
KING (voice-over): Friends who shared the ice with young Tim Pawlenty, or walked the halls of South St. Paul High in the late 1970s say what you see is what you get.
PAUL VOIGHT, PAWLENTY CHILDHOOD FRIEND: He woke up in the morning and delivered papers before school. He bagged groceries to get through college. He has been working hard for a long time.
LAVERNE MEYER, PAWLENTY CHILDHOOD FRIEND: Everybody worked hard in this community; everybody lived moderately, but not excessively.
KING (voice-over): Blue-collar roots are just one Pawlenty asset. Other pluses: a Catholic turned evangelical Protestant; like Romney, a GOP governor who had to deal with Democrats; a record of holding the line on government spending and no Washington baggage.
His former chief of staff says Pawlenty's skills and interests hit the moment.
CHARLIE WEAVER, FORMER PAWLENTY CHIEF OF STAFF: By the time he left, I think the average increase in state spending over his 8 years was 1 percent. When he talks about education that challenge this country, keeping up in the global economy, he gets fired up around that.
KING (voice-over): And the downsides? He raised cigarette taxes, which angered conservatives at the time. Like Romney, he has limited foreign policy experience. There's zero evidence he would put deep blue Minnesota in play and a rap that national ambition led to a cautious course as governor.
R.T. RYBAK (D), MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS: People thought he could be kind of a breakthrough figure, who could bring moderate voices from different sides together. He got into office and became deeply partisan, unable to get much done and, in this case, spent most of his time running for national office.
KING: He said Tim Pawlenty is a nice guy, Tim Pawlenty talks a great game, but Tim Pawlenty did nothing, wasted eight years as governor.
PAWLENTY: Well, Mayor Rybak, of course, is a leading spokesperson for the Obama campaign, so I would expect nothing less of him.
KING (voice-over): Comfort level is a big reason Pawlenty is on the short list. Yes, Pawlenty and Romney sparred at the start of this campaign.
PAWLENTY: If it was Obamneycare on "FOX News Sunday," why is it not Obamneycare standing here with the governor right there?
KING (voice-over): But when his bid stalled, Pawlenty was quick to endorse Romney.
PAWLENTY: Are you ready for Mitt Romney to be the next President of the United States?
KING (voice-over): They were governors at the same time and they share a disappointment from the 2008 vice presidential search.
KING: It left a bit of a mark on you. Has that impact how you viewed it this time through?
PAWLENTY: Well, we don't talk about the vetting process in the Romney campaign, but in general, I have been through this before, so it's -- you've done something before, it is easier, more casual, more relaxed a second time. So I don't want to say it's no big deal, but it's a little bit of deja vu, familiar, and I think it just comes a little easier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Comes a little easier, Wolf, you heard Governor Pawlenty saying there. He was asked in Michigan about all this. He said, do you find this flattering or is it annoying? And he replied, "All of it."
He wants the decision, just like everybody else on the short list.
BLITZER: Yes, he was, I think, the first runner-up four years ago. We'll see how he does this time. He is certainly one of the top contenders; I think he's one of the top two or three contenders.
Do we know Governor Romney's top criteria, John, as he narrows his choice?
KING: Wolf, we know his past nominees, he has said, number one, is that person ready to be president if, God forbid, something were to happen to me?
We know, number two -- and I am told that the former vice president, Dick Cheney, stressed this point in a conversation with Governor Romney, he said, "Find somebody who you never have to worry they will put their own agenda above yours." So find somebody you trust and somebody you're loyal. That's the comfort factor.
And if you look at the short list that we know of, geography seems to play a role. You have Governor Pawlenty from Minnesota, Senator Portman from Ohio, Congressman Ryan from Wisconsin. What does that say? The Midwest. Governor Romney knows Ohio, perhaps Michigan, perhaps Wisconsin, maybe even Pennsylvania, all key to his electoral math.
So he seems to be looking, Wolf, first at a person, but geography must be playing highly on that list as well.
BLITZER: And we should know fairly soon, right, John?
KING: Some people say it could come this week. Most people who's close to the process say, look for next week, Ann Romney will make her way back from the Olympics, the closing ceremonies or this weekend. Most people close to the campaign say by this time next week, we should have that pick. Could come this week. The smart betting is on some time early to mid-next week.
BLITZER: Yes, that's what I'm hearing as well. All right, John, thanks very much.
And, by the way, John is going to profile some of the other Republican vice presidential contenders in the days ahead.
Tomorrow, it's Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Friday, it's the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan. You will see John's reports right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Our fact-checkers found big holes in a pro-Obama group's new ad attacking Mitt Romney. I'm going to ask the co-founder of that super PAC behind the ad, Bill Burton, if he can defend it. He will be joining us live this hour.
Egyptian forces firing back at militants in bloody clashes on the Sinai Peninsula. We are going to have a live report from a region on fire.
And Hillary Clinton's dance moves remind us of some other political figures who have shaken up the dance floor.
BLITZER: Fierce clashes in Egypt's northern Sinai, Egyptian forces launching deadly airstrikes against militants after a series of attacks by masked gunmen at military checkpoints.
This is a huge foreign policy test for Egypt's new president, who fired his intelligence chief today because of another militant attack in Sinai in recent days, an attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.
Sinai is on fire now. And I suspect most of the viewers don't know that the United States has hundreds of troops serving in Sinai right now. They're part of what's called the Multinational Force and Observers mission. The mission was part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty that was signed back in 1979.
Originally, the United Nations was supposed to operate this peacekeeping force, but the U.N. refused to meet the challenge, so American troops moved into Sinai back in 1982 to reassure Egyptians and Israelis. And they have been there ever since.
Their mission over the years has been largely uneventful, since Sinai was quiet. That's why most people have never heard about the U.S. military presence in Egypt, but that's probably going to change right now, as Egypt goes after what it calls armed terrorist elements in Sinai.
Listen to this exchange I had in Jerusalem last week when I interviewed the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Al Qaeda in Sinai, there have been some suggestions that that's happening. Is that happening?
EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: Certain elements, but I hope that a full control of Sinai will be resumed by the Egyptian authorities once the situation in Cairo and main cities is settled to rest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As of last year, the multinational mission in Sinai had 1,656 troops, and 693 of them are from the United States.
Other countries, including Colombia and Fiji, also participate in the mission.
My fear now is they're about to become a big-time target, and this could get really, really ugly.
Let's go to Sinai now. We're joined by our correspondent Ian Lee. He's in El-Arish in Sinai.
What are you hearing about this mission, this multinational force in Sinai right now? Are they stepping up their security? Are they worried they will become the focus of attacks, Ian?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that these observers are on high alert at their bases.
And I have been to Sinai quite a few times. I have been to where these bases are located. And while they're fortified, they are in some of the most dangerous places in Egypt. And these groups, these militants have threatened to attack these bases if the foreign troops don't pull out.
And if we look at the past, just the history, these bases have been surrounded before by angry bedouins with a list of demands. So it is not unusual to see people surrounding these bases and using them as a political tool to get what they want from Cairo, Wolf.
BLITZER: Where is the current fighting taking place now in Sinai?
LEE: Wolf, we talked to some security forces.
And they say there's an area called Jabal Halal where the army is currently having an operation against militants. But they say this is an extremely dangerous place. There's only one way to get in there. They say it makes it easy for ambushes. But, right now, they tell us that they're using airstrikes to help root out these militants that are in this area.
BLITZER: Ian Lee on the ground for us in Sinai. It's going to heat up there, I suspect, big time. Thanks, Ian. Be careful over there. We keep hearing reports of Syrian officials defecting -- 42 minutes past the hour, we will show you the regime's true insiders. When they start to go, you're going to know the end is near.
Up next, though, want a cup of coffee? Say your name. We're taking a look at some of the stories trending right now on CNN.com.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here is a look at some of the stories trending right now on CNN.com.
Did you by any chance think July felt a little hotter than normal? Well, that's because it was a record-breaker. The government's latest numbers show July's average temperature here in the U.S. beat the 1936 record by three degrees.
On this map we're showing you, the darker the color, the higher you were above normal. But you probably knew that without me even showing you.
Also, more trouble for country singer Randy Travis. He was arrested just before midnight. And Texas authorities say he was found naked, smelling of alcohol and lying on a remote stretch of roadway. That isn't all. Officials while Travis was in custody, he threatened to shoot and kill the troopers working the case. That's unfortunate.
And Starbucks has a new way to take your money, no, not a new drink, a new technology that makes it easier than ever to pay.
CNN's Dan Simon explains.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You simply would pay by saying your name. You go into say a retailer or coffee shop like Starbucks, and a photo of you will appear on an iPad screen.
And then you go and do all your shopping. Then you go up, and you want to pay, and you just say your name, and then they will compare your actual face to the photo. You don't have to take out your phone. There's no credit card, there's no signatures. That is it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Pretty amazing. The other headline here is a business one. Starbucks is investing $25 million in the technology's developer, a company called Square. You may know it. The CEO is the co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, one of his projects as well.
BLITZER: So, in other words, you just go into a store. They take a picture of you. Later, you say, my name is Wolf Blitzer, and they have my credit card number?
BOLDUAN: I have seen Square used in taxicabs. They swipe your card, though. It is kind of an app type of a thing. But it seems that this is taking it one step further.
BLITZER: I am a little nervous about it, yes.
BOLDUAN: I knew you were going to say that. I could see your face. You know what? It's the way it is going.
BLITZER: What if you have somebody who looks like you?
BOLDUAN: There are a lot of Kates out there.
BLITZER: Somebody could look like you and say, I'm Kate Bolduan. And they get free venti skim latte.
BOLDUAN: How did you know?
BLITZER: Could happen.
Stay right here. At 32 minutes past the hour, Bill Burton is here. He's here in the THE SITUATION ROOM to defend his pro-Obama super PAC's new ad that links, at least indirectly, a woman's death to Mitt Romney and his work at Bain Capital. A CNN fact-check -- we showed it to you yesterday -- shows us that ad is inaccurate. We have got lots to discuss with Bill Burton. Stand by.
BLITZER: Happening now: the truth about a harsh ad attack on Mitt Romney. I will press the co-founder of a pro-Obama super PAC about the inaccuracies.
A medical emergency at the end of the Earth, in the dead darkness of the Antarctic winter.
And the dancing diplomat -- Hillary Clinton gets down.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The White House is trying today to further distance itself from a controversial new ad by a pro-Obama super PAC. The ad appears to blame Mitt Romney and his work at Bain Capital for the cancer death of a former steelworker's wife.
BOLDUAN: That's right, Wolf.
And it turns out the spot by the group Priorities USA Action hasn't actually run yet as a paid TV commercial, though the group says it will run soon.
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in the co-founder of Priorities USA Action. We're talking about Bill Burton, a former deputy White House press secretary. Bill, I want you to take a closer look right now at the fact check on this, on your group's ad that our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, prepared.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Soptic worked at GST Steel in Missouri for almost 30 years. He was laid of after Bain Capital acquired the plant, eventually closing it down. Now Soptic is featured in a new ad by Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting President Obama's reelection.
JOE SOPTIC, FORMER EMPLOYEE OF COMPANY OWNED BY BAIN CAPITAL: When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that, my wife became ill.
And then I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia, and that's when they found the cancer. By then it was stage four. There was -- there was nothing they could do for her.
KEILAR: It's a heartbreaking story, but the ad does not tell all of it.
In 1999, Mitt Romney leaves Bain for the Salt Lake Olympics, stopping day-to-day oversight of the company but remaining CEO.
In 2001, Joe Soptic loses his job when Bain closes the plant. His wife still has insurance, though, from her employer, Savers Thrift Store.
A year later, Romney formally leaves Bain, and it's that year, 2002 or perhaps 2003, Soptic tells CNN that his wife leaves her job because of an injury. That's when she became uninsured without fallback insurance from her husband.
A few years later, in 2005, she goes to the hospital, is diagnosed with cancer, and dies just days later.
Soptic, an Obama supporter who has appeared in another ad back in May for the Obama campaign, blames Romney for the loss of his job and his insurance.
SOPTIC (via phone): That's the way that I feel. I mean, he -- Mitt Romney, he's a very rich man. I mean, it's obvious if you watch him on television, that he's completely out of touch with the average family, you know, middle-income people. I don't think he has any concept as to how, when you close a big company like that, how it affects families, the community; you know, it effects everyone.
KEILAR: The Romney campaign is blasting the ad, a spokeswoman saying, "President Obama's allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration's deplorable economic record." The Obama campaign and the White House are keeping their distance from the debate. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he has yet to see the ad.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Simply saying that I have not seen this, so how could I possibly assess it without...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you can -- will you assess it later?
CARNEY: If you ask me tomorrow, sure.
KEILAR: And Wolf, tomorrow is now today, and Jay Carney has been asked about this ad repeatedly by a number of reporters. No assessment from Carney.
The White House as well as the campaign distancing themselves from this super PAC ad. Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the campaign, saying they have no knowledge of Soptic's personal story.
But we do know, Wolf, that Soptic actually told his personal story on an Obama campaign call in mid-May. That was a call that Stephanie Cutter, the deputy manager of the campaign, was on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna, I want you to stand by, because Bill Burton is here. He's the co-founder of Priorities USA Action.
You're responsible for this ad, is that right?
BILL BURTON, CO-FOUNDER, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: That's right.
BLITZER: You stand by it?
BLITZER: You make a serious allegation, in effect suggesting that the Republican presidential nominee, in effect, is responsible for the death of this woman.
BURTON: That is absolutely not true.
BLITZER: We've gone through the timeline, and clearly, he's not responsible.
BURTON: Absolutely not. You're absolutely right, he's not. And that's not what the ad suggests.
BOLDUAN: What is the message of the ad? Because that's clearly missed then, Bill.
BLITZER: Anybody watching that ad...
BURTON: Well, it's clearly missed by that fact check. There's no doubt. The point of this ad is that -- it's to tell the story of one guy, Joe Soptic, and the impact on his life that happened for years, and to this day, as a result of decisions that Mitt Romney made.
This is -- this is one of a series of ads in which we talk about the very long-lasting impacts that Mitt Romney's decision had on these communities, on these individuals and their families.
What that fact check did was it presupposes that, if Joe's wife had gotten sick right after he left that company, after he was fired from that company, then somehow Mitt Romney would be culpable. That if she hadn't had health insurance for a short time in that intervening period, somehow Mitt Romney would be culpable.
We're not saying Mitt Romney is culpable for that. What we're saying is that Joe Soptic was fired from his job, and as a result of that, he wasn't able to get -- he wasn't able to hold onto health-care benefits that were promised to him. And as a result when his wife got sick, he didn't have health care.
BLITZER: His wife was diagnosed, I think, six years after Mitt Romney effectively left Bain Capital. He effectively left in 1999.
BURTON: Well, he was the CEO until 2002.
BLITZER: Yes, but in 1999, he went to run the Olympic games in Salt Lake, and he worked full time on that.
BURTON: When you're the CEO, you're responsible for the organization.
BLITZER: Yes, but most people -- in terms of day-to-day operations, he had no role.
BURTON: He was the CEO. He was the sole shareholder. He was responsible for the decisions that were made.
BLITZER: But he had already been gone from the day-to-day operations.
BURTON: Well, his name -- he signed his name to...
BLITZER: But the bottom line, I want -- I want Kate to move on. You're standing -- you stand by this ad. You haven't placed it any place yet, have you?
BURTON: Well, we shipped it. So it's -- it will show on TV soon.
BLITZER: How much are you spending to promote this ad, and where are you going to promote it?
BURTON: Well, it will be up in battleground states around the country. It's part of a $20 million project that we're using the tell the story...
BLITZER: What part of that 20 million?
BURTON: Well, you know, it depends. Every ad is a little bit different. Sometimes you think that you want to keep an ad on longer, and so you do.
BLITZER: Even though so many fact checkers says it's inaccurate, it's not responsible, it's misleading, you're still going to go ahead and play it?
BURTON: Well, Wolf, just like we just talked about, what we are -- what this ad does is it tells a story of one guy and the impact Mitt Romney had.
BLITZER: But it's misleading in the tell.
BURTON: Well, this is your opinion. But none of...
BLITZER: Most independent fact checkers, and we're independent.
BURTON: No fact in that ad is wrong.
BLITZER: The impression that you get that he killed her.
BURTON: So you're saying -- you're saying there's impression. You're saying that there's an impression.
BLITZER: Anybody that watches that 60-second ad comes away and says Mitt Romney is responsible, at least indirectly, for this lovely woman's death.
BURTON: I just don't think that's true, and we would never make that case.
BOLDUAN: That's the message you take away from it, Bill. Because whatever message was intended in this commercial is not what we hear.
BURTON: It's clearly -- it's clearly lost on some folks, but make no mistake about that. But the truth is, what this ad is about is what Mitt Romney wants the campaign to be about. He says that his central...
BLITZER: Hold on a second, because I want to bring Brianna into this, because she did the fact check.
BLITZER: Brianna, you're still with us? Right?
KEILAR: I am.
BLITZER: Now, he's questioning your fact check. I want you to tell Bill Burton how you did this, how you came into this, and what your thoughts are based on. He's saying that they never wanted to suggest that Mitt Romney was indirectly responsible for the death of this woman.
BURTON: Look at what you're saying, Wolf. Of course -- of course that's not what we're trying to say.
BLITZER: You're not?
KEILAR: If I may.
BLITZER: She did the fact check. She worked hard on it.
BURTON: Fact check your questions.
BOLDUAN: Bill, let Brianna have a say.
BLITZER: Listen to Brianna.
KEILAR: If I -- if I may, because we were the only ones who were able to speak to Joe Soptic, who obviously is the voice in the ad, and it was Joe who in the ad -- well, yes, as of yesterday, we had spoken to him in the afternoon. And it was Joe who says in the ad that his family lost his health -- lost health insurance when he was laid off from Bain.
But it was Joe himself that told me that his wife did have primary health insurance, that she was secondarily covered through the health insurance at GFT Steel.
So it just seemed like there was very much an incomplete picture in this ad, painted by Joe Soptic's word, put out there by the super PAC, and that when you put it out to a reasonable person, they took away the conclusion that Mitt Romney was tied to her death.
And I just think that if you were to have told the complete story, a person watching this might have drawn a different conclusion, and for that point, I think it is inaccurate.
BURTON: Well, I appreciate your opinion on how we could have made the ad, but Brianna, frankly, I talked to Joe today, as well. And we had a conversation about, you know, what he thought of the ad and how he thought it was playing. And his opinion is that...
KEILAR: He stands by it.
BURTON: He does stand by it. Because his opinion is that Mitt Romney is not culpable for his wife getting sick, but when she got sick, when their family needed health insurance, they didn't have it.
And if he was able to stay in his job, if he was able to keep health insurance that was promised to him by Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney and Bain Capital when he was there, even before this period that Wolf lets him off the hook for, 1997, they made a contract with the workers, said no matter what happened to the company, they would be able to keep their health insurance. He wasn't able to. They canceled their health insurance.
KEILAR: And also, she -- she also -- she remained insured after that. She hurt her rotator cuff. The insurance that she had was her primary insurance through Savers Thrift Store there in the Kansas City area. That is when she had to leave her job, and she lost that health insurance.
So there's also this element of if she hadn't been injured, she would have been able to keep the health insurance. I just think that there are a number of factors not mentioned in the ad.
BURTON: The point that -- the point here that if she didn't -- if for some reason she didn't have health insurance during that time to take care of her shoulder, that then Mitt Romney might be more culpable, that's not the point that we're making. And I just don't think that that's the right conclusion to draw.
BOLDUAN: Now I think -- I want to jump in real quick.
KEILAR: I think she had -- she had health insurance. I think maybe I missed your point. But she had health insurance at that point.
BURTON: Right. No, my point is that, even if she had not, that wouldn't make Mitt Romney any more culpable for her getting sick or what happened to her. Because that's not the point that we're trying to make.
We're trying to say that, for thousands of people, when Mitt Romney came to down, they lost their jobs and their health insurance. The impact of that is still felt. That community where that plant was is still run-down.
BOLDUAN: Bill, I want to jump in real quick, because a big part of the story is how the campaign itself seems to be running away from this. I think we have...
BLITZER: The Obama campaign.
BOLDUAN: The Obama campaign, I apologize. They've been peppered with questions about this since the time that the ad has come out. Listen to what the reaction has been.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: This is an ad by an entity that's not controlled by the campaign. I certainly don't know the specifics of this man's case.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You do know that we don't have anything to do with Priorities USA, that by law, we're not allowed to coordinate with them, and by law we don't have anything to do with their ads. I don't know the facts of when Joe Soptic's wife got sick or when she died.
JEN PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: We can't speak to the super PAC ads. We don't have anything to do with them. So I don't have anything further on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You know -- you've worked at the White House. You know all of these folks very well. Are you -- are they backing you up? I know you guys cannot coordinate or talk about...
BURTON: This is funny.
BOLDUAN: Let's be honest. If there's an inaccurate ad that could even be perceived as deceptive coming from a Republican- supporting super PAC, you guys would be lighting your hair on fire.
BURTON: The thing I -- the reason I think this is so funny is you just showed three clips of folks who are affiliated with the president's campaign or are at the White House saying what is just basic fact, which is of course they had nothing to do with this ad. Of course we don't coordinate our message or strategy.
BLITZER: There's nothing wrong. They don't have to coordinate. But there's nothing wrong with them saying, yes, it's a factual ad or it's a distortion. They're just saying, "We don't know anything about it."
BURTON: Actually, they -- they can't say whether or not they like or don't like an ad.
BLITZER: Yes, they can.
BURTON: They can't because -- well, I mean...
BLITZER: When the Romney campaign -- Bill, and you know this -- when they put out a distortion or when a super PAC supporting Romney puts out a distortion, you're all over them, and you're raising serious questions.
The last hour, we had one of these pro-Romney -- a Romney campaign ad on welfare reform which was a distortion. We pointed that out, as well.
BURTON: That was a distortion of fact. Absolutely.
BLITZER: One of the reasons that the American public loses confidence in politics and in presidential candidates is when -- you don't have to do that. You don't have to distort. You can just get into a serious debate. There are serious issues. You guys disagree. The American public's interest...
BURTON: There are serious issues in this race.
BLITZER: Yes, there are.
BURTON: And one of them is Mitt Romney's business experience. He says that should be the central focus of why...
BLITZER: There's going to be ads... BURTON: What this ad does, and what our other ads do, we've got Dolores (ph). We've got Donny (ph) on our Web site, who talk about the impact that Mitt Romney had on their lives.
When people look at those ads, what they take away from it, isn't any of this stuff that you guys are talking about. It's that Mitt Romney thinks that his business experience ought to be, why he should be the president of the United States. But they see those ads and they say no, that guy should not be president of the United States, because the impact that he has on people's lives, the impact that he has on lives...
BOLDUAN: Let's hold on -- let's hold -- let's go to break.
BLITZER: Kate is holding on.
Brianna, don't go away. We'll take a quick break. Bill Burton is here. He's nice enough to stick around, defend this controversial ad. We're going to continue this conversation right after this.
BLITZER: We're back here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Bill Burton. He's the co-founder of Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC. We're going to continue our conversation on this rather controversial ad. But Brianna, our White House correspondent, she wants to make a point.
Go ahead, Brianna.
KEILAR: Well, I was just going to say, Wolf, I think it is interesting, because today we heard from the campaign that they're not familiar with the personal story of Joe Soptic, but we know there is this conference call, so there at least is some familiarity.
Joe Soptic appeared in a campaign ad back in May. And when I spoke to him yesterday, he told me that he was asked by the campaign to appear at events in battleground states.
And it seems like until now, with this super PAC ad running, the campaign has not run away from Joe Soptic's story. So it just makes me wonder how well the president is really served by this ad that's supposed to be helping him.
I'm here following him in Colorado. He was talking about women's issues today. The campaign, the White House was trying to make a case about a Romney ad on welfare that they say is very unfair, and a lot of fact checkers have agreed. And instead this is what we're talking about. So it just makes me wonder if it really does serve the president well and how widely it's actually going to air.
BLITZER: All right, Bill, go ahead.
BURTON: Well, I mean, what Brianna is suggesting is that there would be some sort of coordinated effort by which we would run an ad... KEILAR: I am not. I am not suggesting a coordinated effort.
BLITZER: She's not suggesting coordination.
BURTON: No, no, no, no. Listen to my whole point. Listen to my whole point.
And that after we run an ad, maybe the president would go campaigning with Joe Soptic. And she's surprised that she hasn't seen him out on the trail today. That would never happen obviously.
We've got our own program. We're working very hard to make sure that the American people know the truth about Mitt Romney's business experience. The campaign is doing what the campaign is doing. And to suggest that we would be mixing those two, I think, is a distortion of what the campaign finance laws are and what would possibly even happen here. So...
BOLDUAN: One point I think Brianna makes -- it's a very important, very good point here -- is doesn't this -- what this ad is effectively done, doesn't it do exactly what you don't want it to do, which is, No. 1, it's getting your -- the campaign you support completely off message. The president was talking about women's issues today. And the campaign is being peppered about questions about an ad -- about an ad that has been found to be deceptive, inaccurate. We can debate that in and of itself.
But the fact that...
BURTON: We have.
BOLDUAN: We -- I enjoy it. But it's getting him off message. And that's not what your intention is. Do you regret that at all?
BURTON: Well -- no, I think what we have been able to do is extend this conversation about Mitt Romney's business experience, and what it's meant to the thousands of people whose lives that he had a profound impact on.
BLITZER: What about the hundreds of thousands who have jobs today because of the -- the capital that he invested in Sport Authority and Staples and some other companies that are hugely, hugely successful.
BURTON: What's interesting is that you actually give him credit for more jobs than he himself would take.
BLITZER: Say 100,000.
BURTON: He has said all sorts of different numbers.
BLITZER: Those are pretty successful companies.
BURTON: There's no doubt that there are places where he was successful. There's a reason that he made so much money. But the point here is he says that it's his business experience why he ought to be president of the United States. Well, let's look at some of the decisions he made and when he forced companies into bankruptcy and made all that money...
BLITZER: Fair -- it's a fair point, if you look -- if you look at the failures and you look at the successes and you add up. The American people can say he's a good business man, he's not a good businessman. That is all fair.
But as I get back to the point, we're not going to belabor it longer, because we have already, when you do an ad that seems to leave the impression that he was at least indirectly responsible for a woman dying from cancer, that is so powerful, that is so tough, that goes beyond what you guys should be doing. I'm not saying you shouldn't argue and debate. That's the impression any reasonable person seeing that ad, you get that impression.
BURTON: In these thousands of stories, some of them are truly heart-breaking, and they're really sad. And that doesn't mean that they should necessarily be off limits. But he had a profound impact on found impact on people's lives. And if you go into those communities, you've got thousands of people who know the impact that he had in their lives, but he walked away.
BLITZER: You're standing by this ad? You're going to play this ad?
BOLDUAN: The ad is running in Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia. It should start...
BLITZER: It will start.
BOLDUAN: It will start this week.
BLITZER: Bill Burton, it was good of you to come in and talk about it.
BURTON: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
And go Buffalo Bills. Bill Burton and I are both from Buffalo.
BOLDUAN: Now you're going to fight with me over my Colts. So it will start now.
BLITZER: Still ahead, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, cutting loose and engaging in some dance diplomacy. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're learning that the Wisconsin temple massacre gunman was once interviewed for a study on extremism. CNN's Erin Burnett is going "OUTFRONT" on this story. Erin, what are you finding out?
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: What's pretty amazing, Wolf, is he was interviewed and wanted -- apparently was very open to being interviewed, wanted to be asked all kinds of questions. Was proud of what he was doing.
The man who did the interview and spent a lot of time, actually, with him in his home is going to be our guest "OUTFRONT" tonight. We'll find out what he really knew about Wade Michael Page.
And also, you've been talking a lot about the negative ad blitz. But you know, the Obama campaign sent around an e-mail today, I'm sure you saw it, Wolf, about this son of boss tax shelter that Marriott International used while Mitt Romney was the chief of its audit committee.
This is an op-ed written by two extremely respected tax experts. We reached out to our attack strike team to -- well, to find out if Mitt Romney should really be held to blame for this. By the way, Wolf, their comment was this was an abusive tax shelter known today as the most abusive in American history.
So we're going to get to the bottom of that. Obviously, without having Romney's taxes himself, more and more of these sorts of stories and allegations keep coming out.
BLITZER: Good stuff. We'll see you right at the top of the hour, Erin. You've got a good hour ahead of you. Thanks so much.
BURNETT: Thanks, Wolf.
BOLDUAN: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," top of the hour.
That's absolutely right. So next, coming up, dancing with a political star, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
BOLDUAN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton let a little loose while at a dinner in South Africa today. She's by no means the first national figure to shake and shimmy in public.
Remember when Barack Obama appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show in 2007 during his first campaign for president? If that image didn't stick with you, this one might have.
President George W. Bush got his groove on with some African dancers in 2007 dancing and drumming to the beat.
BLITZER: Dancing with the stars. Takes on new meaning.
BOLDUAN: Yes, I -- I will never criticize someone for dancing.
BLITZER: I love those pictures. Take more. Kate a look back at something very, very important. Huge. Happened exactly seven years ago today. It was the very first time in television history that I told viewers, "You're in THE SITUATION ROOM."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive in one place simultaneously. On these screens behind me, data feeds coming in, CNN.com, other information crossing it in real time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Happy anniversary, SITUATION ROOM. Seven years ago today.
BOLDUAN: You don't look a day over four.
BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.