Return to Transcripts main page


P.R. Wars over "Obama Wars"

Aired September 22, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thanks very much. Happening now, Donald Trump shares his serious doubts about President Obama and his surprising fondness for the tea party. Does he think the commander in chief will be fired by voters in 2012? We cover a lot of topics in my interview with Donald Trump from tax cuts to the power of the 'Apprentice".

Also, the public relation's war over Obama's wars. That's the name of the new book. Does the new Bob Woodward book help or hurt the administration just weeks before the midterm elections? We'll discuss the revelations and the possible fallout.

And a new and controversial political star tries to escape the national spotlight. This hour, new evidence that Republican, Christine O'Donnell's Senate bid may be suffering. We're just moments away from releasing brand new poll numbers.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, President Obama appears to be losing the confidence of a powerful voter with a huge personal stake in the U.S. economy on a huge platform, a national television. We're talking about Donald Trump, the business tycoon and TV personality who knows more than most Americans about hiring and, yes, firing. I sat down with him today inside Trump Tower here in New York City. We spoke about the economy, politics, and much, much more, including President Obama's fate in 2012.


BLITZER: You're not convinced he can win re-election?

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESS TYCOON: I don't know if he can win re- election. And I just see such hatred at this, such animosity at this. You know, when we see the taxes just going up, we see wars that we shouldn't be in. We see roadways going into Manhattan that are falling apart, and yet, we're rebuilding Afghanistan. I don't know that it's going to work out for him.


BLITZER: Just a little taste of our wide ranging, lengthy, and I should say provocative interview. Stand by to hear the complete interview, Donald Trump's take on the Bush tax cuts, the tea party movement, and more. That's coming up here in the SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for all of that. But let's get to the new book entitled "Obama's wars." The White House today is putting a spin on the soon-to-be released book by the veteran journalist, Bob Woodward. A senior administration official says Mr. Obama is portrayed as the commander in chief who is, quote, "analytical, strategic, and decisive in developing a strategy in Afghanistan." Some excerpts of the book are surfacing in the news media.

Woodward reportedly writes that Mr. Obama offered this take on winning the war. I think about it more in terms of, do you successfully prosecute a strategy that results in the country being stronger rather than weaker at the end? But the book also underscores the political calculations behind the president's demands for an exit strategy. He's quoted as saying, let me quote again - "I can't let this be a war without an end. And I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He's working the story. We talk, Chris, about another key point in this brand new book reporting that the CIA has a covert army in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What do we know about this army? How big is it, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're talking about the fact that the CIA has literally built a local army. It is a 3,000-manned paramilitary force, all local Afghans, and it's called the counterterrorism pursuit teams. A U.S. official describes them to us as elite forces saying, quote, "these are some of the finest Afghan fighting forces. They made a major contribution to security there."

A Pentagon source says there is a level of cooperation between these units and U.S. military forces in that area. He says at a minimum, knowing what units are doing when and where so you don't have friendly fire mistakes. Now, a former senior intelligence official says these units were formed about eight years ago, initially focusing on Afghanistan.

He said the CIA was recruiting people who can blend in to Afghan's society and do clandestine missions, but they eventually started doing missions over the border in Pakistan. He said that area is very tribal and Afghans can easily cross back and forth over the border in the Pakistan.

BLITZER: Chris, what's the risk now that they've been exposed?

LAWRENCE: Wolf, just today, the Pakistani army spokesman said, quote, "we don't have any reports of foreign troops operating inside our border, but should it happen, our troops will fire on them." A former counterterrorism official says, you know, one of the Afghan force's missions has been to pursue intelligence and targeting information within Pakistan, so not just chasing terrorists over the border from Afghanistan.

He says only a select few Pakistani officials were kept in the loop about what this Afghan team was doing, but now that they have been exposed, he said that they keep operating there. He said it could put them at tremendous risk now that Pakistani authorities know they're there.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence working this story. Thanks very much. Later this hour, I'll speak with the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. We'll talk about some of the headlines of the new Bob Woodward book, including deep concerns apparently in the U.S. intelligence community that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai is manic depressive and is on medication right now. We'll ask her about that. Stand by.

We're also unveiling right now a new round of poll numbers in some of the hottest U.S. Senate races in the country, including the Delaware showdown featuring the controversial Republican nominee, Christine O'Donnell. CNN and "Time" magazine, our sister publication, were partnering to bring you snapshots of these contests as we close in on the midterm election November 2nd.

We're joined now by the Washington deputy bureau chief for "Time" magazine, Michael Crowley. Thanks very much. Let's go through some of these new numbers. We'll start in Delaware first. Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate with 55 percent in our brand new poll, Christine O'Donnell, 39 percent. She got a struggle ahead of her.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, TIME MAGAZINE: She definitely does, Wolf, and although, Democrats were quite cocky when she won the primary the other knight, knocking off Mike Castle who is assumed to be the strong favorite, and therefore, a lot of Democrats felt like Republicans have just blown the seat. I know there were some Democrats who thought you never really know. And she has been raising money pretty quickly and sometimes people rally to an underdog.

This poll suggests that she's not leaping forward. This is about where she was just before the primary, just before she kind of became a national star. And I think Democrats are, you know, cautiously optimistic here, but they're still feel like they're dealing with a little bit of an X factor not sure exactly what to make of it. Particularly, she raises so much money, but this, they do feel like could be the thing that prevents them from having to really worry about losing control of the Senate this fall.

BLITZER: She's apparently raised more than $2 million in the last week alone. She'll have plenty of money and a lot of tea party enthusiasm.


BLITZER: No doubt about that. Let's go to Colorado right now. The Republican candidate, Ken Buck is another tea party favorite. He got 49 percent in our brand new CNN "Time" magazine poll. Michael Bennett with 44 percent.

CROWLEY: Yes, Colorado is a tough escape (ph) for Democrats. I know that President Obama's approval ratings there have really been quite low in the past several months, you know. And this is one of a few races where you see Christine O'Donnell notwithstanding. Tea party nominee, a few (ph) Democrats are kind of made fun of when they were nominated, actually holding their own or doing well. Last week, Wolf, you and I talked about Sharron Angle who's a little bit ahead of Harry Reid in Nevada in some polls. Same thing. They can't dismiss these people. They really are holding their own in the polls. Right now, that race is revolving around some basic issues. Cap in trade and health care has Bennett on the defensive.

He's coming back with some shots at Buck for social conservatism, his position on contraceptives and abortion, for instance. And there are also outside groups coming in. Karl Rove's group, American Crossroads, attacking Bennett, really makes it hard for the Democrat an uphill (ph) battle on that state.

BLITZER: There's another battle in Pennsylvania in our brand new poll. Pat Toomey, the Republican, he's a former congressman with 49 percent. Joe Sestak, current Democratic congressman with 44 percent. Toomey, five points ahead at least right now in this poll.

CROWLEY: Yes, Wolf, you know, I had a Democratic operative tell me they think that race is really neck and neck, not necessarily as wide as five points. However, again, that's one where you heard that Toomey was a perfect target for Democrats. They said this guy has ties to Wall Street and a lifetime to spend in Washington. So, they'll attack him not only as a Washington insider but a guy whose -- all of his friends are in Wall Street in high finance.

And those are two pretty big villains right now. It's not really working out that way. Again, Toomey, a very conservative candidate. In other years in Pennsylvania, you might not expect him to do as well as he is, but he's definitely holding his own there and may well have a real lead.

BLITZER: And there's another important poll number in Wisconsin. The longtime incumbent Democrat, Russ Feingold. He's struggling right now, 45 percent to his challenger, Ron Johnson with 51 percent. This could be serious trouble for Feingold.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I think Democrats are a little surprised and disappointed by this one. Feingold has been around for a long time. Democrats felt like the voters knew and trusted him. And the particular frustration if you're Feingold is that here's a guy whose whole career has been about staking out his independence.

He's often one of the lone no votes kind of annoying the rest of his Democratic colleagues. In fact, he was the only person who voted against the patriot act quite famously in the fall of 2001. It was 1991. I believe he also opposed the TARP bailout. So, in a lot of issues, he can say, well, I'm the independent of this Democratic Party that everyone is so frustrated with.

They want to kind of cast the protest vote against not good enough. He's now actually running an ad that excerpts his first campaign ads in 1992 when he looks a lot younger and was really much more of an average Joe trying to say to people, I haven't changed. I haven't been corrupted by Washington. We will see that, unless, he can turn things around for him and save him. BLITZER: Let's see next Wednesday when we release more poll numbers with "Time" magazine. Now, Michael, thanks very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still more allegations against an Atlanta-based mega church leader. We're going to tell you how Bishop Eddie Long is fighting back against the lawsuit accusing him of having a sexual relationship with young men.

And women and children killed in Iran. We're going to tell you what happened.

And the Democratic candidate for New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, gets a new endorsement, but he may still be feeling sort of vulnerable. We'll tell you why.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here in New York. Actually, I'm here in New York with Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm in here every day.

BLITZER: I know you are.

CAFFERTY: This is an unexpected pleasure to have you among us here in the Big Apple.

It feels like Sarah Palin all over again. That's what we need. Delaware Republican Senate nominee, Christine O'Donnell burst on to the national stage with her upside win in the primaries, and suddenly, everybody can't seem to get enough of her. This is despite the fact that O'Donnell has some big question marks on her resume, just like Sarah Palin. She's come under fire for allegedly misusing campaign funds for personal expenses, just like Sarah Palin.

O'Donnell has also been in the spotlight for saying that years ago, she dabbled in witchcraft and had one of her first dates with a witch on a satanic altar. She really said that. And she's used her views on abstinence to rule out masturbation. After her last cancellation of two Sunday show appearances this past weekend, O'Donnell suddenly announced that Sarah Palin has advised her now not to do anymore national media interviews and instead focus just on local media.

Based on Sarah Palin's interviews with Katie Couric, that's probably not bad advice. Those were disastrous, remember? I wonder if it means that O'Donnell is poorly informed on the issues as Sarah Palin was. It all sounds so very familiar, doesn't it? Palin's resume littered with goofy comments like saying that she could see Russia from Alaska or not being able to name a single newspaper that she read on a daily basis.

Sarah Palin quit as governor of Alaska midway through her first term. She often refuses to talk about a lot of the issues with the media unless, of course, it's with the F-word network. They pay her. But none of that seems to matter. Sarah Palin has become this huge celebrity who is seriously being talk about as a possible presidential contender, which is just what we need, remember the McCain campaign.

So, here's the question. Why do people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell attract so much attention? Go to and please enlighten me because I don't have a clue.

BLITZER: You're going to be interested when we play the interview I taped earlier today at the Trump Building with Donald Trump. We get into this at length.

CAFFERTY: This subject?

BLITZER: We're going to tell the next hour.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by for that. Get some thoughts.

CAFFERTY: I'm going to go in and set my recorder in the office right now.

BLITZER: No, no, you'll see it live.




BLITZER: You got no choice.


CAFFERTY: Captive audience.

BLITZER: The viewers can do that but you can't.


BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Kate, what else is going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. Well, some of the first provisions in President Obama's landmark health care reform legislation take effect tomorrow.

The president today visited the home of a chronically ill patient who administration officials say will benefit from the law's repeal of lifetime coverage limits. Also starting tomorrow children can remain on their parents' plans until age 26, insurers will be required to cover children with pre-existing conditions and various preventative care services will be covered.

And in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is getting behind Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the state's tightening race for governor. The endorsement comes in the wake of a surprising new Quinnipiac University survey which shows Cuomo leading his Republican opponent Carl Paladino by just six points.

Paladino, a Tea Party favorite, won the state's Republican gubernatorial primary last week. Bloomberg is an independent.

And the luxury car company Bentley Motors is recalling hundreds of vehicles due to faulty hood ornaments. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the Flying B that we all know so well and admire -- that ornament poses a potential threat to pedestrians because it doesn't allow -- doesn't always retract on impact as it should.

The recall, which is said to be strictly preventative, involves models from 2007 to 2009. The starting price of a Bentley these days you ask? Nearly $200,000 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Buy a few of those. What do you think?


BOLDUAN: If you buy a few of those, I would like to have a ride.

BLITZER: $200,000. Way too much. All right, thanks very much, Kate. Thank you.

An explosive new book reportedly alleging that the top U.S. general in Afghanistan does not think the war there is winnable. Now the United States ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice is responding. My interview with her. That's coming up.

And would you want to take a cruise with the same doomed itinerary as the infamous Titanic? You can get the chance. We'll tell you how.


BLITZER: We're learning much more now about the months of bickering within the Obama administration at the very highest levels over the president's strategy in Afghanistan.

The new Bob Woodward book entitled "Obama's War" offers a detailed account of the disputes, behind-the-scenes name calling at the highest levels, and serious doubts over whether the president's strategy can even succeed.

We're joined by our senior political analyst David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

One of the things, Gloria, that we're learning from this book is that the president's advice was sort of rejected by the military but he had to overrule them.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, it was sort of astonishing to me. And, David, you know you would know more about this in many ways than I would because you've been inside the White House.

But it's astonishing to me that the president had to actually write his own memo, his own six-page memo, put it on the table, and say, OK, guys, is this clear enough for you? Because he wasn't hearing what he wanted to hear from either his advisors or the military.

This is a president -- I spoke with lots of folks inside the White House who were in these Afghanistan reviews. They made it very clear to me, this was a president very concerned about mission creep. Wanted to learn the lessons from Vietnam. Didn't want to let his generals dictate either the timing or the size of his policies and the troops.

And so he had to write it down himself. And I think that's really quite extraordinary.

BLITZER: How extraordinary, David, is that?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I've never been aware of any president doing that.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: Six-page memo saying here's the policy, guys.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: Kind of -- it usually settled, you know, a level below you. You say here's the general direction, write it up, I'll approve it. And I do think that this book does show a lot of quarrelling. And any time you deal with Bob Woodward, you invite him inside the White House, it's a two-edged sword.

BLITZER: He gets unbelievable access, the president, the vice president, everybody speaks to him in preparing these books. Let me add to David's response, because you worked with him, I'm sure, when you were advising presidents.

GERGEN: I do. And I give Bob Woodward enormous credit. I have seen him time and time again come up with inside accounts that are unparalleled by anybody else. He's the best.

But, Wolf, I must tell you. When it comes to national security, the tradition for a long time as you well know has been that the president of the United States protects the secrecy of the deliberation so that they can be candid and frank. And what I find distressing and then objectionable in a time of war, for the White House to engage in wholesale dumping verbatim accounts of what's being said in national security meetings about the war in Afghanistan is to me is -- it damages the process and I think it undermines national security.

BLITZER: Gloria, is this a liability -- political liability?

BORGER: Well, I think --

BLITZER: This moves up to the president.

GERGEN: I think -- I think it could be to a -- to a certain degree. Obviously they made a decision to cooperate with Bob Woodward because if you don't cooperate with Bob Woodward your side of the story isn't going to get out.

But I do think there is a liability here because the president is seen to be such a reluctant warrior. And many would say with good reason. Then you're tempted to ask the question, why did he do it? Did he send the troops because he was fulfilling a campaign promise which he made?

Because remember, he said we were fighting the wrong war? That we should have been fighting the war in Afghanistan, not in Iraq? Or -- and so I think it gives folks who don't like him the opportunity to raise questions about his motives here because there's also a line in this book about, well, I can't lose all of the Democrats. And --

GERGEN: I think also -- what Gloria just said, I think that's the line that people are going to think of. We don't know the context yet. But the accounts suggest -- he said I can't lose all the Democrats. I've got to get out before the election because I can't lose all of the Democrats.

That is not the way we use to go to war.

BLITZER: Yes. He's worried about his base.

GERGEN: Yes. Exactly.

BLITZER: At least in that section. All right, guys. Thanks very much.

All right, just ahead, I'll ask the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, if the new book by Bob Woodward gets it right. Some sensitive questions coming up.

Also, can the Senate candidate in Delaware Christine O'Donnell shut down the national news media frenzy surrounding her?

And my interview today with Donald Trump who thinks President Obama may pay a huge price for the bad economy.


TRUMP: I don't know if he's ever going to recover. I mean look at him as a president that really is in trouble.



BLITZER: President Obama has just completed an address over at the United Nations on global development. His main speech before at the U.N. General Assembly is tomorrow as his administration plays defense at the same time against an explosive new book revealing some stunning details about his overall strategy in Afghanistan.

And joining us now from the United Nations is the United States Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice.

Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us. I know it's been a very busy week with the United Nations General Assembly in town. Let me get to a couple of questions on Afghanistan. Then I want to move on to some other U.N.-related issues.

The new book by Bob Woodward -- this is in "The Washington Post" today. I want to read a line from story.

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai was diagnosed as manic depressive according to U.S. intelligence reports. He's on his meds, he's off his meds. Woodward quotes U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry as saying."

Based on all the intelligence reports you've read, is that true? That Hamid Karzai is on meds as a manic depressive?

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Wolf, let me begin by saying I haven't read the Woodward book. And I have met President Karzai on multiple occasions. I have not read anything to suggest that he's a manic depressive on meds.

I can't -- I can't vouch for the origin of Woodward's quote. But that doesn't comport with my experience.

BLITZER: He also quotes General Petraeus as saying this. And I'll read it to you.

"You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually. Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq, but there are also horrific attacks in Iraq and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

Is that assessment of the war in Iraq your assessment as well?

RICE: Well Wolf, let's remember what we're doing in Afghanistan. We're in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda a renewed safe haven to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and ensure that the Taliban's momentum is reversed. That is vital to our natural security interests as unfortunately al Qaeda retains an ability to attack and attack the homeland. And we can't allow that to happen. Now there's no question that this has been a long war and it's a difficult fight. But the president announced last year a new strategy that is designed to enable us to build up the Afghan national security forces so that they can ultimately secure their own country to build with the partnership of Afghanistan so that it is governing and delivering services to its people in a responsible fashion. That's our objective. And the president's strategy anticipates and indeed plans on beginning a responsible conditions-based drawdown of U.S. forces next July.

So this is not something that's going to be going on in my children's lifetime. This is, indeed, an effort to put first of all additional resources in, to secure broader swaths of the country. We're making progress in that regard. And the aim is to transition authority and security responsibility to the Afghans as we have done in Iraq.

BLITZER: The situation involving Iran and North Korea, one Harvard University nonproliferation expert says the past year has been wasted, basically, that nothing really has been achieved in terms of dealing with Iran's nuclear weaponry or nuclear capability if there is a capability down the road, or North Korea's, which already has, we believe, some sort of capability. Has anything been achieved as far as Iran and North Korea over the past year?

RICE: Absolutely, Wolf. You may recall that the president came to the United Nations General Assembly last year and said we had sought engagement and negotiation with Iran. That door remained opened. But if, in fact, that was not to be the case, then there would be consequences. We have worked in a very methodical and effective fashion with members of the United Nations Security Council to impose -- just this past June -- the toughest round of sanctions against Iran ever to be on the books.

Indeed, we have a very tough set of sanctions now, also against North Korea. The results of those sanctions, coupled with the additional actions that our Congress has taken and that the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and others have taken is that Iran is under more economic pressure than ever before. It is feeling that pressure.

The indications are multiple and varied. And now Iran is having to factor this new pressure into its calculations. We remain ready and willing to engage at the negotiating table but Iran has to be prepared to resolve very legitimate concerns about its nuclear program in a serious way and peacefully. And the pressure on it is mounting and that's a major accomplishment over the last year.

BLITZER: Would it help if the president of the United States sat down with the president of Iran, who's in New York right now? The president's here in New York, or at least on the way. Would it help for the two of them to sit down?

RICE: I don't think, Wolf, a meeting at head of state level makes any sense. Absent Iran, very seriously. Being willing to give up its nuclear program through serious negotiations. We are part of a group called the P5 Plus-1. The permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany. Through our shared envoy, Cathy Ashton of the EU, we have reiterated again, recently, that group's readiness to sit down with the appropriate authorized Iranian interlocutors to talk about their nuclear program and to have a serious negotiation to get rid of it.

They have not responded to that request and that's the venue in which we are looking to pursue discussion of the nuclear program and to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear capability that would threaten the region, threaten its neighbors, threaten Israel, and destabilize international peace and security.

BLITZER: Ambassador Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has a lot on her agenda, especially this week. Thanks, Ambassador. Good luck.

RICE: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: New CNN-"Time" magazine poll may be a wakeup call for the Senate candidate in Delaware, the Republican, Christine O'Donnell. We'll have a report from Delaware on her campaign and how controversy seems to be catching up with her.

And the megachurch leader at the center of the new sex allegations tries to get out his side of the story.


BLITZER: Delaware right now could be a punch in the gut for the Republican candidate, Christine O'Donnell and her Tea Party backed campaign for the U.S. Senate. As we told you, our brand new CNN- "Time" magazine/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows O'Donnell trailing her Democratic opponent Chris Coons by 16 points. The survey of likely voters shows that the establishment candidate O'Donnell defeated in the primary, Mike Castle, would have a double digit lead if -- huge if, he were the GOP nominee. Our Brian Todd is in Delaware right now. He's tracking the race for us. What else is going on, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Christine O'Donnell was up against it when she took on Mike Castle in the primary and beat him. She was up against him recently when questions were raised about her past and her finances. She's up against it now with these latest poll numbers, but she is still here, still fighting, still attracting more buzz than maybe any Senate candidate in the country. And not shockingly, she is not about to back down.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christine O'Donnell is playing the underdog card, and for good reason. Her latest poll numbers with the double digit deficit show that she has a lot of convincing to do to sway voters in this Democratic-leaning state.

JIM ERISMAN, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: And I think when the voters of the state start to explore her background and look what she has said and how she has said she will stand on issues, I don't think there's any reason why people would really want to support her as a serious candidate.

TODD: O'Donnell is facing extensive scrutiny over her finances and has denied improperly using campaign money for personal expenses. But her supporters are unwavering.

SHERYLE PITMAN, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Everything is changing with the voting, the people. They're tired of the old government. They want some new blood in there.

TODD: Since her upset victory in last week's primary, O'Donnell has been telling naysayers she has already proven everybody wrong once.

(on camera): Ms. O'Donnell, would you be able to talk about the specific question on the $20,000?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATE: I'll release a statement. No truth to it, though.

TODD (voice-over): At campaign events this week, she's given quick, very general answers to some tough questions. And now tells FOX News she's not going to do any more national interviews.

O'DONNELL: Delaware is my focus and the local media is my focus.

TODD: Could she be missing out on her moment to capitalize on the national stage?

SUSAN MOLINARI (R), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: There's no benefit to the maximum national exposure that she's going to get. People don't do that because it brings in money. It brings in some out of town interests. She already has that.

TODD: Meantime, her opponent Democrat Chris Coons is on the defensive himself. He's dealing with a controversy over an article he wrote in college describing himself as a bearded Marxist.

CHRIS COONS (D), DEMOCRATIC SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm just disappointed that we're talking about the title of an article written in a student newspaper 25 years ago. But I think it is important to speak to it and put it to bed. I'm not a Marxist.

TODD: Will O'Donnell be able to convert Coons's problems and her own buzz into another upset win?

(on camera): What is Christine O'Donnell's path to victory in this race?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: O'Donnell now has to pivot from the primary election to the general election and she needs to explain how she's going to represent the moderates in the state, how she's going to represent the state as a whole, not just the conservative Republicans.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Now both sides are promising that these candidates are going to go head-to-head in a series of debates including one next month on CNN. So far, Chris Coons has not gone after Christine O'Donnell for the biggest controversies. But frankly, he hasn't had to. This national Democrat Senate campaign arm is out with an ad this week attacking her for her financial questions. Wolf?

BLITZER: I'm told that she also tore into the media today -- is that right?

TODD: That's right. I just got off the phone with my colleague Gary Tuchman and he was at an event where she spoke to a women's group in Sussex County, Delaware, on the south. And according to Gary, the first words out of Christine O'Donnell's mouth when she saw my colleague and some others in the back of the room was "I'm disappointed the media is here because now I can't talk as openly as I want to." This is a loose quote from her. She said, "They record everything but twist the truth."

She did mention CNN's reporting about the group CREW and its allegations of financial impropriety against her. She said I think you've all seen the CNN reporting talking about the Soros-back liberal grouped CREW. CREW denies that, by the way. And she said what this group is saying its not true. It's distracting our winning message.

She had a couple of other words to say there about the media. Gary tried to question her after the event about her finances and said, we're giving you a chance to answer the tough questions. She said to basically go to her lawyer in Washington and then she left. So yes, she has not wasted much time since speaking last night about not talking to the national media. She didn't waste much time today in kind of tearing into the media.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that. I will be a co- moderator of an upcoming debate in Delaware between Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons. Please be sure to join the candidates, our host at the University of Delaware and me on October 13. The debate will air live right here on CNN.

A deadly attack in Iran is being blamed on terrorists. Stand by for details.

And a 100-year tribute to the Titanic. This time, hopefully, there won't be any icebergs.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Kate. She's monitoring some of the other stories in "The Situation Room" right now. What do you have, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Well Wolf, a third lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct has now been filed against Atlanta megachurch pastor Eddie Long. The suit was brought by a 23-year-old male who claims to have been a teenager at the time of the alleged activity. A Long spokesman has denied similar accusations in two other suits filed yesterday calling them without merit. Pastor Long plans to hold a news conference tomorrow.

And in Iran, nine people are dead and 20 wounded after what authorities are calling a terrorist attack in a northwestern city. An official tells state-run media that the blast occurred at the scene of a military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's war with Iraq in 1980. Most of the victims were reportedly women and children.

A legendary dancer in Cuba is inviting President Obama to visit the island nation, but not alone. Ninety-year-old prima ballerina Alicia Alonso wants the president to bring along five Cuban agents who have been imprisoned in the U.S. for more than a decade. They were convicted of spying on groups in Miami opposed to Fidel Castro's rule. Three got life sentences for helping Cuba shoot down two airplanes dropping leaflets over the country.

And the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is still a year and a half away, but have no fear, two cruises are already being organized to mark that historic day. One will follow the Titanic's exact itinerary and carry the same number of passengers that were on the doomed ship. The other will set sail from the U.S. Both will hold memorial services at the site of the sinking in the North Atlantic. So book your tickets or maybe not.

And, it's official. The hit TV show "American Idol" is revealing its new much-anticipated judge lineup. Host Ryan Seacrest announced today that rocker Steven Tyler, pop star Jennifer Lopez, and record executive Jimmy Iovine will join "Idol" original Randy Jackson for the show's 10th season. The group will replace exiting judges Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres, and Kara DioGuardi. That is of course only because Wolf Blitzer is a little busy with politics this season and he could not accept the job.

BLITZER: It would have been a fun assignment but I wouldn't be qualified to do it.

BOLDUAN: What? People at home have no idea the kind of dance moves and chops you have. So I beg to differ.

BLITZER: I do like music, though.

BOLDUAN: You do.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Kate. It's a major leap of faith for the religious community. Why churches around the country are now teaming up in a new alliance with the United Nations. We have details.

And my interview with Donald Trump, you're going to see and hear the whole thing. He's also, by the way, revealing some new details about the next season of his hit show, "The Apprentice" that is giving new meaning to the concept of reality TV. More of my big interview with Donald Trump, that's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: President Obama is here in New York. He's addressing the United Nations tomorrow, the general assembly, spoke earlier today on global development. Also before the U.N., he and other world leaders are taking a close look at the goal set 10 years ago to tackle world poverty. The U.N. isn't just relying on governments and grass roots organizations to help keep anti-poverty funds flowing. It's also reaching out to religious groups. Here is CNN's Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within these traditional four walls of a church many come to find salvation, but sometimes the real healing takes place in soup kitchens, shelters, on street corners and in missions across the globe.

ELIZABETH GORE, U.N.: Faith-based institutions, it's number one, their mission to help people and it is almost in their DNA.

LOTHIAN: So it seemed like a logical next step for the United Methodist Church to dig deep and break new ground in order to expand its reach.

BISHOP THOMAS BICKERTON, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: We, today, are the first faith-based organization to be a participant in the global fund.

LOTHIAN: Pledging $75 million over five years to the United Nations to help fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. A lot of things may pop into your mind when you think of the United Nations, but a religious organization is probably not one of them. But churches and temples are increasingly playing an important role in getting help to the people who need it most.

People like Joyce Kamwana from the southeast African country of Malawi who has been HIV infected for more than 10 years. She says some churches and their missionaries have treated people like her as outcasts for too long.

JOYCE KAMWANA, U.N. BENEFICIARY: They thought once you have, you are infected with HIV, it's like you are one of the sinners. They condemn you.

LOTHIAN: So the church -- religious organizations were condemning you?

KAMWANA: Yes, they were condemning us, being a punishment from God.

LOTHIAN: She says churches have now, quote, "come to their senses," putting money and people behind an effort to prevent a disease she says they once shunned. There is also a practical side to this new alliance. What religious organizations bring to the table is a vast network of global resources, a lot of people, and a lot of money.

BICKERTON: The church is one of the most trusted delivery systems on the whole continent. We have our foot in the door already, because we have been there for years.

LOTHIAN: Elizabeth Gore with the United Nations Foundation is a kind of spiritual social broker matching churches with U.N. causes like fighting malaria in Africa with mosquito nets.

GORE: We have to engage whether it is with Muslim communities, Christian communities, Jewish communities and so on, we need them as our partners and to lead us.

LOTHIAN: And what may come as some surprise, the tough U.S. economy doesn't appear to be a major obstacle to giving.

BICKERTON: The reality is even in poor economic times when people know the need, the human spirit kicks in and they want to make a difference.


LOTHIAN: Now Bishop Bickerton says that he is issuing a challenge to other faith-based organizations to get involved with the U.N.. He says at a time like this when so many denominations are divided theologically, this is something, Wolf, that everyone can unite behind and hopefully save a lot of lives.

BLITZER: Hopefully indeed. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian will be here covering the president's address before the general assembly tomorrow. Thanks, Dan.

Jack Cafferty is asking why do people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell attract so much attention? Jack will be back in a moment.

And Donald Trump will explain why he thinks that the U.S. is messing up big time in its economic policy toward China.


TRUMP: I have a lot of so-called friends in China and they call me and we talk. They can't believe how stupid our representatives are that they are getting away with it. I don't blame them.



BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: I always get lots of mail if you put Sarah Palin's name in the question. This hour, why do people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell attract so much attention?

Carlos in Pasadena, "The popularity of the Tea Party lies with the media because the media loves the anomaly, the weird, the extreme, and the immediate. This coupled with the quick solution, the sound bite and an audience that has a brief attention span makes the Palins et. Al popular." Andy says, "Palin and O'Donnell represent the idea Stepford house wives. The older conservative white men can fantasize about them and the older white women can emulate them. It's scary to think that candidates no longer have to talk about the issues and can hide behind slideshow bullet points. Once again, beauty reigns in the white man's world and intelligence is a negative."

Professor writes, "I don't think that the majority of the Americans like either one of them, Jack, we simply like watching train wrecks occur. These two wackos are foolish people who think the rest of us are stupid enough to fall for rhetoric and populism."

Nick writes, "It's because their rhetoric is the right place. The country is still going through a rough time economically, and while they have shown time and time again they don't have the qualifications to fix our problems, much less debate them, they still provide an accurate mouthpiece to vent frustration and anger among Americans. They are using the current situation for their own political and personal gain."

Jean writes, "Three words: pretty white woman. Looks and no brains. Who is more famous than Marilyn Monroe? They don't have to be blond to be ditsy."

Tom in Texas writes, "Harken back to some of Palin's old video plus Ms. O'Donnell's recent admissions. You've just gotta know, as the song goes, it's witchcraft."

If you want to read more on this, got a lot of e-mail, go to my blog,

Have you ever been at a date at a satanic altar?

BLITZER: Missed that one.

CAFFERTY: Me too. My life has got some voids in it, that's one.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: America at a crossroads. The U.S. economy struggling, unemployment near double digits and with a critical election only weeks away. Voters are expressing anger at lawmakers and disappointment with President Obama. But who's to blame for the current crisis and what can President Obama do to turn things around. I'll talk about that and much more in my extended interview this hour with Donald Trump. he explains why he things the U.S. is no longer respected around the world, why he doubts President Obama will get re- elected and why he says, and I'm quoting him now, "China is getting away with murder."