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Craigslist Blocks Adult Ads; Future of North Korea's Leadership?

Aired September 6, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: A Florida church's plan to burn Muslim holy books will put the lives of U.S. troops in jeopardy -- that blunt warning from top U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan. I will speak Lieutenant General William Caldwell of the United States Army.

Like father, like son? New hints that control over North Korea's secretive Stalinist regime will remain a family affair.

And after much controversy, political pressure, and a CNN investigation, Craigslist blocks its adult services ads.

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

Plans by a Florida church to publicly burn copies of the Muslim Koran brought hundreds of protesters into the streets of Kabul today chanting death to America. U.S. military commanders are now deeply concerned that the planned burning of Muslim holy books will put the lives of American troops at risk in the war zone.

I spoke with Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan.


LT. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY: We're over here to defend the rights of American citizens. And we're not debating the First Amendment rights that people have.

But I will tell you is that their very actions will in fact jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we're trying to accomplish.

I would hope they would understand that there are second- and third-order -- second-, really, and third-order effects that will occur that will affect that young man and woman who's out there on point for America, serving their nation today, because of their actions back in the United States,

BLITZER: And so if -- in other words, this is causing already a big stir in Afghanistan? Is that what I'm hearing? Even the notion that someone is going to go burn the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11, this is already causing a lot of consternation there? CALDWELL: It is amongst the Afghan people. That's correct.

It is their holy book. And so when somebody says that they're going to destroy that and cause a desecration to something that is very sacred to them, it's already stirred up a lot of discussion and concern amongst the people.

And again we very much feel that this can jeopardize the safety of our men and women that are serving over here in the country.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more of my interview with General Caldwell coming up.

But let's take a closer look at that Florida pastor's plan to start burning copies of the Koran. As September 11 draws near, the controversy certainly is growing.

CNN's John Zarrella is working the story for us. He's down in Florida.

What's latest on this whole uproar? Because, literally, as you heard the general say and General Petraeus saying earlier, the lives of American young military personnel, they are in danger.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: I was going to say, Wolf, in fact, General Petraeus weighed in and said virtually the exact same thing, that the lives of U.S. soldiers could be put in danger, as well as endangering the entire mission in Afghanistan.

And it seems incredibly unbelievable because -- that this uproar over what amounts to a nondenominational church in Gainesville, Florida, called the Dove World Outreach Center, which has a membership of 50 -- that's right, 50 people -- and now this outreach center put on its Web site and on Facebook, announcing that on 9/11, they would go ahead and burn Korans, not because they have any hostility towards Muslim people, they say, but because they do not believe in what they call the teachings, the strict teachings, the radical teachings of Islam.

And they say that those radical teachings, they want to bring those to the attention of the American people. Now, an affiliate station caught up with Terry Jones, who is the pastor at this church in Gainesville, and asked him his reaction to what the generals are saying today.


PASTOR TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: If out of this, some type of retaliation should take place, we're deeply, deeply sorry for that. If people should lose their life, that would be tragic. Still, I must say that we feel that we must sooner or later stand up to Islam. And, if we don't, it's not going to go away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZARRELLA: Jones insist that he has to do this now, that he cannot back down. As he puts it, he says that it's a matter of standing up to what he calls radical Islam.

Now, I asked him. I said -- when I talked to him later this afternoon on the phone, I said, now, are you absolutely going to go ahead with this? Is the door not open based on what you're hearing from U.S. generals that the lives of American soldiers could be in danger? And he says, well, the door is still open -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What does that mean, the door is still open? He might become down and not start burning the Koran?

ZARRELLA: That's what he indicated to me, on one hand saying that, but on the other hand saying, but we have to go through with this. We still have to do it.


BLITZER: Does he need some sort of permit to carry this out?

ZARRELLA: Yes, absolutely. In fact, he applied twice to the city of Gainesville for a permit. Both times, he was turned down for a permit. He's planning a bonfire and says he's received over 200 Korans in the mail sent to him from people who have seen what's posted on both his Web site and on Facebook.

But he's going to go ahead with it, he says, at this point, even though the city of Gainesville has said, you can't do it. Bottom line is, all that would happen if he goes ahead with this bonfire would be a fine -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Zarrella on top of this story with potentially serious ramifications.

John, thank you.

Iran produced another ton of low-enriched uranium between last November and this August, that according to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency. That brings Iran's total stockpile to more than three tons. The uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear reactors, but the report says the agency remains concerned about possible efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

A CNN investigation has resulted in a major policy change over at the popular online classified service Craigslist. It's now censoring its adult services section after complaints ads that may enable prostitution, human trafficking and assaults on women.

CNN's Amber Lyon confronted the Craigslist founder about it last month. Listen.


AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you guys doing to protect these girls?

You guys say in the blog that you will remove any ad that looks like the person might be suggesting they're going to offer sex. Look at this ad. It says, young, sexy, sweet and bubbly. Clearly here, she writes, $250 an hour. I mean, what do you think she's selling in her bra and underwear, a dinner date? And she's in her bra and underwear.

CRAIG NEWMARK, FOUNDER, CRAIGSLIST: Have you reported this to us?

LYON: What are your guys doing?

But you guys say you screen all these manually on your blog.

NEWMARK: I have never -- I don't know what this is. Have you reported --

LYON: In Jim Buckmaster's blog, he says these are being screened.

NEWMARK: Have you reported this to us?

LYON: Why do I have the responsibility to report this to you when it's your Web site? You're the one posting this online. I just want to know, I mean -- OK. It's just that we've run into a lot of victims and a lot of advocates that pretty much call your site the Wal-Mart of child sex trafficking.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring in Amber right now.

Amber, Craigslist, it appears, has now made a significant change. What are you hearing?

LYON: Well, Wolf, we have not heard back from Craigslist on 100 percent if this is a permanent thing.

But one thing is for sure. If you head to any Craigslist site in the United States, you will see this black bar that says censored over the adult services section. And it appears that Craigslist may have lost this years-long battle to keep the adults services section open.

Now, critics have been saying for years that sometimes children and women are being sex trafficked under the site against their will. And they have been calling on Craigslist to do a better job to screen the ads that are posted there to make sure that there are not these sex trafficking victims.

But despite everything Craigslist said they were doing, in our investigation, we created this ad and it has code words in here that victims advocates say clearly indicate this could be a minor being sex trafficked, sweet, innocent new girl.

Also on here, we put a price. And this ad ended up posting online, even though Craigslist says they're definitely screening the ads.

Now, not every woman or man selling themselves under adult services is being sex trafficked. So we went to talk with the every side of the story, the prostitutes, to see what they think about this shutdown.


LYON: We're walking right now in an area of Baltimore called the block. And this is where a lot of prostitutes and pimps hang out. And we came here tonight to ask them about how they feel about the fact that the adults services section of Craigslist has been shut down. And frankly a lot of them are saying that the business moves. So, it doesn't really matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't care. You just to wait it out.

And a lot of the girls, business is down, because if most of your clientele comes from Craigslist, then you no longer have 90 percent of your clients.

LYON: So, you're not worried at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. And there's always strip clubs. There's always a track. I mean, somebody somewhere wants to spend some money on you.


LYON: And that woman we were just speaking with as well as others we have talked to, sources within the trade, say now they're going to start selling themselves on Victims advocates have also criticized this site, saying that that this site as well is -- there's children and women being sex trafficked on there.

And take a look at this ad I found, Wolf. This says -- I found this on It says Craigslist adult services closed permanently. Post your ads on, which is yet another site. So, it seems to be that this business is just shifting and will continue to carry on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I guess there's a lot of sites out there, Amber, that folks, if they want to do this, they can do it beyond Craigslist and even this other one.

LYON: And that's what this all boils down to, Wolf. It's the Communications Decency Act Section 230 that says that these sites are not legally responsible for what users post on them.

And it kind of creates a legal shield, saying that even if people are sex trafficking pimps -- or sex trafficking children and women, these sites aren't liable for those ads -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amber is going to stay on top of this story for us.

Thanks, Amber very, very much.

She's doing important work out there.

Jack Cafferty is off today.

But among the stories we're working on right now, she may be the Tea Party movement's biggest gamble yet. CNN's Jim Acosta goes one- on-one with Sharron Angle in Nevada. She's the woman trying to unseat the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.

And some intriguing developments are fueling speculation that North Korea's Kim Jong Il may -- repeat -- may be laying the groundwork for his successor.

And President Obama's fiery speech today in Milwaukee. He's lashing out, saying his critics are -- quote -- "talking about me like a dog."


BLITZER: The Tea Party movement may be rolling the dice by supporting a controversial Republican candidate in Nevada. Sharron Angle is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the Democratic leader, Harry Reid.

CNN's Jim Acosta has our story -- Jim.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no doubt the Tea Party is on a roll. Tea Party-backed candidates have racked up huge wins in Republican primaries all over the country. But there's one question facing this new political movement, and that's whether Tea Party contenders are too conservative to beat their Democratic opponents.

It's a question that's dogged the campaign of Nevada's Sharron Angle.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: We need to take our government back and say, Harry Reid, you're fired.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Sharron Angle just might be the Tea Party's biggest challenge yet. A conservative former lawmaker in Nevada and grandmother who doesn't mind hopping on the back of a Harley, Angle also has a tendency to shoot from the lip.

ANGLE: He's been water-boarding our economy for over a year now.

ACOSTA: With rhetoric like that, Angle came out of nowhere and snatched up the endorsements of Tea Party leaders, including Sarah Palin, and won the Republican nomination in the race for U.S. Senate. Her next opponent, the GOP's prime target...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would like to see him go away?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I would like to dump him.

ACOSTA: ... one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

(on camera): Will you be a Tea Party senator in the Senate if you get in there?

ANGLE: I don't know exactly what that means. I will be a mainstream senator. How's that?

ACOSTA (voice-over): But Democrats say Angle is far from mainstream, pointing to her past calls to dramatically reduce the size of the federal government by getting rid of the Departments of Education and Energy, the EPA, and the IRS. She has also made some white-hot comments on talk radio.

ANGLE: If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies. They're saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? And I will tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

(on camera): What was that all about?

ANGLE: Those are not the issues that people are really concerned about. They're concerned about our homes, our economy, our jobs. That's what they're concerned about.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In another interview, she agreed there are domestic enemies in the government.

BILL MANDERS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We have home-born, homegrown enemies in our system, and I for one think we have some of those enemies in our own -- in the walls of the Senate and the Congress.

ANGLE: Yes, I think you're right, Bill.

ACOSTA (on camera): Do you feel there are domestic enemies in the Congress?

ANGLE: The larger focus of that conversation was what has happened domestically here in our country for the last 18 months.

ACOSTA: Do you feel that the president or Harry Reid are enemies of the state?

ANGLE: I don't think anybody named any names during that conversation. And, of course, those weren't my words.

ACOSTA: It was their policies that you were talking about.

ANGLE: Those were not my words.

We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Angle's comments on Social Security now star in Reid's ads. She accuses Reid of taking her out of context.

ANGLE: As you speak, as we're conversationally speaking, sometimes, when you pick out words, they're not the best words that you could have used.

ACOSTA: But many in her own party worry Angle is a risky bet. A recent poll found 71 percent of Nevada Republicans prefer a different candidate. Good thing for Angle, says Las Vegas political columnist Jon Ralston, Reid is just as unpopular.

JON RALSTON, "THE LAS VEGAS SUN": Harry Reid is the most negatively viewed person in this state. And there is a hardened opposition to him. I mean, I think that Sharron Angle could be arrested on a felony tomorrow and she would still get 40 percent of the vote.

ACOSTA: We also caught up with Senator Reid who stands by his ads that paint Angle as extreme.

(on camera): She says that a lot of what she said was taken out of context. What is your response to that?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's a little hard to take out of context when somebody says they want to phase out social security, get rid of Medicare. Her words are what she is. My words is what I am. So I don't think you run from what you say and what you do.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A political wild card in the Tea Party's rise to power, Sharron Angle has two more months to convince voters to deal her in.

(on camera): Angle's campaign has spent the last couple of months trying to soften her image, running ads showing her support for Social Security. But make no mistake, she's the one candidate Harry Reid wants to run against most of all -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Jim Acosta, reporting for us, thanks very much.

Is the pendulum swinging away from Democrats in Pennsylvania?

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is in Pennsylvania. She's in Pittsburgh with the CNN Election Express.

A state once very friendly to the Democrats, House races, Senate races, gubernatorial contests, but it's a battleground right now, Gloria.


This is a state that went solidly for Barack Obama, Wolf. And the president still has an awful lot of supporters here. In Pittsburgh, we went to a parade today and spoke to a lot of them. But when I went to a coffee shop down the road here, I met with somebody who calls himself a conservative Democrat. And it was very clear that he's got a lot of concerns with the Democratic-controlled Congress. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see the Congress try to do things more to help people to get real good jobs and make them work, not look to give out more handouts or to give more extensions on worker's comp and unemployment and things like that. I want people to start working again.

BORGER: And do you think Republican control would mean that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think -- like I said, I'm Democrat, conservative. If it it's about Democrat or Republican, it's about going to work, about not being lazy. It's about getting out there and producing something, being proud of yourself and being proud of your family and being proud of telling your family how hard you work and how hard you're working to try to make things right for them.


BORGER: You know, Wolf, it's very clear that these voters believe that the change that Barack Obama brought isn't really working for them. They're concerned about big government, as you heard from this coffee shop owner, and there are lots more out there like that right here in Pittsburgh.

BLITZER: And that enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans, I take it has been pretty evident to you in Pennsylvania right now, Gloria?

BORGER: Yes. It really is.

Barack Obama's popularity right now in the state of Pennsylvania is somewhere around 37 percent. By one local poll, only about one- third of the voters who voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election say they're actually going to come out and vote in the midterms. And as you know, Wolf, the midterms are all about turnout, all about enthusiasm, all about getting your voters out there.

And if these Democrats, particularly the young voters who came out and voted for this president, decide to stay home, if labor decides to stay home, which supported this president, then he's going to have and his candidates down the line are going to have a lot of problems, even in a state like this.

So, it's very, very difficult. Democrats may have some more money to spend, but when there's a wave coming at you, it can be very, very difficult to battle that, even with more resources.

BLITZER: Even in Pennsylvania.

All right, Gloria, thanks very much. We will check back with you tomorrow.

BORGER: Even here.

BLITZER: I think you will be in Ohio tomorrow.

BORGER: Wish you were here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Next time.

Thousands more U.S. troops are reportedly needed in Afghanistan. I will talk about that and more with the commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General William Caldwell.

Plus, details of a setback to rescue 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine.



The president complains that his political foes talk about him -- and I'm quoting him now -- "like a dog." Is he starting to strike back?

And is the U.S. military command looking to add even more U.S. troops to the war zone in Afghanistan? My interview with U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Caldwell coming up.

And like father, like son -- is North Korea's dictator making plans right now to keep control of the regime in the family?


BLITZER: We reported earlier the very strong concern expressed by top U.S. military commanders that a Florida pastor's plans to burn Muslim holy books, the Koran, this Saturday, this weekend may put American troops at risk.

Meantime, the U.S. is looking to boost troop strength in Afghanistan right now.

Let's get back to the war zone for an overall picture of the U.S. mission there.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Kabul, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, United States Army. He's the commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan.

General Caldwell, thanks very much for joining us.

There's a story brewing right now. And I wonder if you could clarify a report that General Petraeus is asking the Pentagon for 2,000 more troops to help in training and combat in Afghanistan, beyond the approximately 100,000 who are already there or on the way.

Is -- is that report true? CALDWELL: Well, Wolf, you know, as we're looking to professionalize and grow the FDN national security force here, both the police and the army, there is going to be more requirements for more trainers as we continue to take them from what was very much a war fighting force now to a more specialized force, as we develop things like transportation units and medical units and logistics units and all those kind of assets.

So, yes, there will be an -- an increasing number of trainers that will be required in support of the NATO training mission over the next coming year.

BLITZER: You've been back in Afghanistan now for about a year. What is your understanding of what the July 2011 state means for the start of U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan? Because there's some confusion what that July 2011 date means.

CALDWELL: Well, what the president has recently said, and you know, our secretary of defense has said, too, is it's the beginning of a process. And based on conditions on the ground, they're going to make an assessment about how many war-fighting forces, combat formations are still required to remain here inside of Afghanistan to help their security forces.

BLITZER: So the start of a withdrawal, but it will depend on what the situation on the ground really is. I want you to listen to what the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway, said, because it's causing some heartburn over at the White House. Listen to this.


GEN. JAMES CONWAY, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We know the president was talking to several audiences at the same time when he made his comments on July 2011. In some ways, we think right now it's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself -- in fact, we've intercepted communications that say, "Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long."


BLITZER: He seems to be saying this is a mistake, because it's giving, in his words, sustenance to the enemy over there, thinking, you know, just hold on. The U.S. is about to get out. Explain how you reacted when you heard General Conway's comments.

CALDWELL: Well, Wolf, the thing I would tell you that is our secretary of defense has been very clear: we are going to be here for many years. And if the Taliban or some other insurgent element thinks that July 11 means there's not going to be a U.S. presence, they're sadly mistaken.

So what it is, is just what the secretary of defense and the president said: it's the beginning of a process. And they're going to take a look at, at that point, what the conditions on the ground are and how many war-fighting forces are still required to be here. BLITZER: I interviewed Peter Galbraith, the former U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, last week. And he had some strong words. Listen to what he said to me. And then we'll discuss two points he makes. Listen to this.


PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: It's really immoral to send troops to fight in a mission that they can't succeed at, because again, you don't have that credible partner. So what I would say is to -- is to change the mission to something that is achievable: namely, protecting the non-Pashtun parts of the country, where the Taliban is not present, and Kabul, and that you could do that with 10,000 troops instead of 100,000.


BLITZER: Do you believe, General Caldwell, that the U.S. troops, the NATO troops in Afghanistan have a credible partner in Afghanistan?

CALDWELL: Wolf, I do. And each and every day I deal with the ministers of defense and the ministers of interior. They're my partners, and I -- and I am in constant dialogue with them. And I feel they're very much a credible partner. We share the same goals and aspirations. They very much want to see their forces able to take over the responsibility for the security and the future of this government and what they're going to do for the people here in Afghanistan.

So I'm comfortable where we are and what we're doing. I see them committed to this mission. I see them dialoguing on a daily basis, to how they can do better at what they're doing and looking for us to provide support to them to enable them to take the lead and be responsible.

BLITZER: Galbraith also says -- he's a former United States ambassador -- that it's not really achievable to defeat the Taliban. Have a much more modest objective in Afghanistan and reduce -- reduce the U.S. troop presence down to 10,000 troops. What do you say to that?

CALDWELL: What I say is one of the things we have to do, we have to enable the Afghan security force there -- the police, the army, the air force -- to be able to take the responsibility and the lead for the security here in their country. And that's the major objective that we're going after right no, especially the mission that we have responsibility for.

We want to help grow and professionialize them so that they become enduring and self-sustaining and no longer require coalition support. We, in fact, have seen a tremendous amount of progress in these last 10, 11 months here that we've been in the country.

So Wolf, progress is taking place. It's going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight. But I think what most people have to understand is there is a change that has occurred here in this country, and there is a difference that's starting to be made.

BLITZER: Because a lot of Americans are getting the impression, General Caldwell, the situation is deteriorating. Corruption in Afghanistan seems to be on the rise. And the Taliban seems to be gaining strength. U.S. casualties, NATO casualties are higher than ever right now in Afghanistan. So when you talk about progress, we're getting a very different impression watching the war from this side.

CALDWELL: Well, Wolf, what I would say is I think most people tried to make sure they understood as additional coalition forces came into the country that, in fact, there would be more engagement in that there would be an increase in casualties for a period of time through this early fall and into the early winter time frame, where we would see an increase as, in fact, more engagements occurred.

So that was not unexpected at all but rather was something people had anticipated and knew would occur as additional engagements occurred.

BLITZER: Lieutenant General William Caldwell is the commanding -- commanding general of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan.

Thanks very much, General. Good luck. Be careful over there. We'll see you when we come back here to Washington.

CALDWELL: All right. Well, thanks very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Obama says his critics -- and I'm quoting now -- "talk about me like a dog." Details of his fiery campaign-style speech today. What impact will it really have? We'll talk about that and more with CNN's John King.


BLITZER: President Obama went on the offensive today, lashing out at political opponents who he says talk about him -- and I'm quoting the president right now -- "talk about him like a dog." Listen to the president today in Milwaukee.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to just about everything we've done to strengthen our middle class, to rebuild our economy, almost every Republican in Congress says no.

Even on things we usually agree on, they say no. If I said the sky was blue, they'd say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no. They just think it's better to score political points before an election than to solve problems.

So they said no to help for small businesses, even when the small businesses said, "We desperately need this." This used to be their key constituency, they said. They said no.

No to middle-class tax cuts. They say they're for tax cuts. I say, "OK, let's give tax cuts to the middle class." No. They drove our economy into a ditch. And we got in there and put on our boots, and we pushed and we shoved, and we -- we're sweating, and these guys were standing, watching us, sipping on a Slurpee. And they were pointing at us, saying, "How come you're not pushing harder? How come you're not pushing faster?"

And then, when we finally got the car out, and it's got a few dings and a few dents. It's got some mud on it. We're going to have to do some work on it. They point at it, and they say, "Look what these guys did to your car" after we got it out of the ditch. And then they've got the nerve to ask for the keys back.

I don't want to give them the keys back. They don't know how to drive.

The powerful interests who have been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time, and they're not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog. That's not in my prepared remarks; it's just -- but it's true.


BLITZER: We'll talk about that with John King. He's joining us from the CNN Election Express in Pittsburgh, out on the road.

When I heard him deviate from that speech today, John, and make that comment about his critics talking about him like a dog, I sort of jumped out and said, "Wow." But how's it playing out there?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, a lot of Democrats would say where's that guy been? The president was looser today. He was funny today. He also was very pointed in trying to make a connection with those union workers behind him. And that is critically important where he was in Wisconsin today and right here in Pennsylvania.

I'm in Pittsburgh, as you noted. This state has an open governor's race. The Republican is currently leading. An open Senate seat. The Republican is currently leading. And the Republicans think they can pick up two, maybe three congressional seats. If they do that well in this state, going east to west, you will know there's a Republican wave under way.

And one of the things the Democrats say is critical is to stop especially white blue-collar union workers -- remember the old Reagan Democrats? -- from defecting to the Republicans in this midterm election campaign. And they say one way to do that is for the president to make that personal connection. Today when he was speaking, Wolf, he said Medicare, Social Security, the minimum wage, those things all have the union label.

And the president is trying to personalize this, telling those union workers, in his view, what the Republicans would do if they get the Congress back would threaten those -- the progress the president says has been made, in part through the help of the labor unions. So the president strategically doing something many Democrats wish he had done months ago, 57 days to election day, though. The question is where will the president be welcome from here on out and where not so welcome? In this state, he is planning to appear on the east side of the state, over in Philadelphia where he's more popular. Democrats on this side of the state, they're a little bit dicey for the president here. They say former President Clinton or Michelle Obama would do a lot better on this side of the state, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're in Pittsburgh. How important is Pittsburgh for the president and the Democrats?

KING: Well, look, it's a traditional blue-collar city. This was once the capital of steel. You know, the steel industry is not as big as it used to be. The labor movement out here is not as big as it used to be.

But this will be a key test of whether the Democrats can close the intensity gap. We know right now it was the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 who had all the energy at the grass roots. When you talk to people here, and the union guys will tell you this privately. The Democratic candidates will tell you this privately. The energy is on the other side right now.

Can the president help gin up vote? Maybe. Can those labor unions maybe help gin up the vote? They are going to get involved in a multimillion-dollar effort here. I spoke to the president of the Allegheny County AFL-CIO today. He says eight or 12 times between tomorrow and election day, every union household will hear from the union. They'll cold call. They'll visit them at work. They'll knock on their doors. And they're trying to convince them, do not vote Republican.

We'll see if it works. And we'll know, Wolf, in this part of the state and in others by, again, two or three. There's a congressional seat right near Pittsburgh the Republicans have targeted.

There's another one up to the northwest corner of the state up in Erie the Republicans have targeted. And a couple over the east side, as well. Whether labor can turn that tide is critical. This city is one of the big laboratories on election day.

BLITZER: And John will have a lot more on what's going on, top of the hour. "JOHN KING USA." He's got a road trip, on the road this week.

John, we'll be watching.

All in the family as North Korea's powerful leader now taking steps to pass control of the Stalinist regime to one of his sons. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: North Korea may be about to take the first steps toward a change of leadership. There are hints that control over the secretive Stalinist regime will remain a family affair. Brian Todd has been looking into this. You're doing some serious reporting. What are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was reported a couple of weeks ago that Kim Jong-Il took his third son to China, possibly to introduce him as his likely successor. It's not entirely clear whether the son was actually on that trip, but western intelligence agencies are clearly watching this and are concerned about the potential new leadership in North Korea.


TODD (voice-over): It's the biggest political gathering in North Korea in decades: the so-called Workers Party Congress where the regime's unpredictable, hermetic leader, Kim Jong-Il, will announce changes at the top. That may well mean he'll lay the groundwork for his third son to take his place, a transition that has many in western intelligence worried about what comes next.

Not much is known about Kim Jong-Un, seen here in a rare picture from his teens. I spoke about him with Victor Cha, who dealt with Kim Jong-Il's regime as a member of President Bush's National Security Council.

VICTOR CHA, FORMER MEMBER, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: His third son, who is only in his 20s, is the designated successor but clearly does not have the -- have the party credentials behind him nor the leadership credentials that either his father or his grandfather had.

TODD (on camera): And given that, could there be some real upheaval there? Could there be a military coup? Could military leaders step into the breach here?

CHA: You know, it's a very difficult question to answer, the internal politics of North Korea.

On the one hand, objectively speaking, this looks like a situation that would be rife for some sort of elite-elite actions, elite-elite coups between the military or the party.

On the other hand, people have been predicting the collapse of North Korea for 25 years now, and it still hasn't happened.

TODD (voice-over): Still, analysts asked whether older, entrenched military leaders will accept orders from someone who's not even 30.

For now, intelligence services from Seoul to Washington are scrambling to learn more about Kim Jong-Un. The best we can get from analysts, that like Kim's older songs, he's been pampered; went to boarding school in Switzerland. They say he likely wouldn't change North Korea's ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, but they say other details about him are a tightly-held secret, even inside North Korea.

RICHARD C. BUSH III, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I'm sure that the Korean people knew about absolutely nothing about young Mr. Kim until the propaganda apparatus started recently to sing his praises. I suspect that a lot of the people in the elite didn't really know much about him.

TODD: And there may not be much time to find out. The father, Kim Jong-Il, is believed to be still suffering the effects of a stroke he reportedly had two years ago.

Analysts say one of his biggest mistakes as a leader was waiting until after that to start paving the way for his son.


TODD: Analysts tell us that by waiting, Kim Jong-Il didn't give his son enough time to build his own power base with the most powerful elements in North Korea, the communist party, the military and the security services. Wolf, that could be a crucial breach there while he's waiting to build up that power.

BLITZER: I'm curious. He has two older sons. Why would he pick the younger one?

TODD: Analysts tell us that the oldest son, Kim Jong-Nam, is a bit of a playboy and a hedonist who has brought shame onto the family. He got caught sneaking into Japan a couple of years back with a false passport, trying to go to Disney World there. They're very embarrassed by him.

They also say that the middle son, for whatever reason -- very little is known about him, but for whatever reason, the father sees him as weak and unsuitable for the job.

The third son also, to take into consideration here, is said to look most like the patriarch, Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather, who was the founder of the country. That's a strong consideration, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch, because the ramifications are significant. Thanks very much, Brian.

Some people following a popular diet may face a higher mortality risk, details. We'll have details of a study just released.

And a hurricane watch is up for part of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Details of the storm named Hermine and where it's heading next.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Kate, what else is going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf. We've got several things for you.

First a hurricane watch is up for the south Texas Gulf Coast into northern Mexico, as Tropical Storm Hermine closes in. The storm is expected to strengthen before making landfall possibly tonight. Right now it's packing 60 -- 60-mile-an-hour winds and could dump up to a foot of rain in some areas. Forecasters are also warning of a storm surge up to four feet. And a new study is raising new questions about the low-carb/high- protein diet known as the Atkins Diet that everyone knows so much about. Researchers followed 130,000 people for at least 20 years and found those who got most of their protein from meat had higher mortality rates than those who ate mainly plant-based protein, meaning vegetables. The study is just out in the new issue of "Annals of Internal Medicine."

And actor John Travolta, he says he wants to stop the retrial of two men accused of blackmailing him. Travolta says the case has taken a heavy emotional toll on his family, and they want to put it all behind them.

The two men are paramedics who allegedly tried to blackmail Travolta, threatening to release details about the death of his 16- year-old son in 2009.

And this one, Wolf, it's going to make you laugh. Two Montana teenagers sending text messages, but -- they always do this -- these two teenagers sending text messages in search of marijuana, well, they got the wrong number. Instead of texting a dealer, they accidentally texted the local sheriff.

A sting was set up at the 15-year-old and 16-year-old. They were not arrested or charged. The sheriff says the boys' parents are handling the punishment. Uh-oh.

BLITZER: Yes. I think those boys are in trouble.

BOLDUAN: A little bit.

BLITZER: Make sure you get the right number when you're texting.

BOLDUAN: No, Wolf, the message is to not smoke marijuana here.

BLITZER: That is -- you're absolutely right. I stand corrected. Thank you very much, Kate.

THE SITUATION ROOM, by the way, is on Facebook. You can go to Click on the "like" button to become a fan. You get the latest show updates, exclusive behind-the-scenes material.

It's one of the biggest battleground states in the upcoming midterm election, and John King is in Pennsylvania with the CNN Election Express. Among his guests coming up at the top of the hour, the governor, Ed Rendell. "JOHN KING USA" begins at the top of the hour. We'll be back in just a minute.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."

At a mosque in Pakistan, Muslim man stand for a special prayer during the holy month of Ramadan.

In Australia, members of the Australian Airborne Combat Team parachute out of a plane during an exercise.

In China, fireworks fill the sky to mark the 30th anniversary of reforms that accelerated economic growth.

And in India -- check it out -- a peacock, which is also India's national bird, displays its colorful feathers.

"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.