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Trump for President in 2012?; Pakistan Strike Linked to Europe Threat?; Democrats' New State of Crisis

Aired October 4, 2010 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Brooke.

Happening now, the Democrats' new state of crisis -- will President Obama be to blame if his party loses Robert Byrd's long time Senate seat in West Virginia?

This hour, campaign survival strategies less than a month before election day.

Also, what do you need to know about the terror threat in Europe right now and the alert for American travelers -- we're reading the fine print, looking at exactly what the U.S. is doing to protect you.

And a high voltage accident paralyzing one of the nation's busiest ports and it's costing the economy millions and millions of dollars.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But up first this hour, a fresh target of the exploding violence and chaos in Pakistan, with enormous ramifications for the United States. Today, attackers struck yet another convoy carrying fuel to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan -- suspicion falling on the Taliban.

Brian Todd is working this story for us.

What are you learning -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two critical security situations regarding the convoys that supply U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

First, what Wolf just mentioned, four attacks in the last four days on convoys bringing supplies to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Those trucks -- those trucks that were carrying those supplies were heading toward the border. They were all attacked over the past four days. Several people have been killed.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for at least two of the ambushes and says it's created a special squad to target NATO supply operations in Pakistan. Three of the attacks have been in areas where the Taliban normally operates. But one of them, in the Southern Pakistani region of Sindh, that's unusual. Sindh is where the port city of Karachi is. And the Taliban usually doesn't operate around there.

Our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, told me that attack in Sindh Province a message from the Taliban to Allied forces, we can hit you anywhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There's another situation, the Pakistanis, our allies over there, they're blocking some convoys that are supposed to be helping the U.S. and Afghanistan, as well?

TODD: Yes, they are. And that has been going on since last week. The border gate called Torkham is closed and has been, as we just said, since last week. Pakistani officials have blamed NATO cross border helicopter fire for the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers last week. Since they, they have prevented NATO supply convoys from crossing that gate into Afghanistan. Pakistani officials say it's to protect the convoys and their drivers. They tell us local citizens in that region are still very angry over the NATO attacks. They say these areas are not under the full control of the Pakistani government. They're working the situation, they say. And a Pakistani official just told me they hope to be able to let those convoys pass through within a few days. But right now, a very, very tense situation in that border area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And based on all your reporting, everything you're hearing, how are these actions affecting the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan right now?

TODD: A Pentagon official told us today they're not affecting them so much yet.

This official said they have a lot of stockpiles of supplies in Afghanistan -- NATO and U.S. forces all have those supplies stockpiled. But what we're told, also, is that Khyber Pass region where that gate goes to, is critical. Most of the supplies that go to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan go through there. They may not be able to take much of a blockade for too much longer before they really start hurting.

BLITZER: It's a delicate moment, indeed.

Brian, thanks very much.

Also right now, a lot of questions surrounding another deadly attack in Pakistan, this one a suspected drone strike in the northwest.

Was it linked to a new U.S. travel alert in Europe and deep concerns about a possible new Al Qaeda plot?

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Pakistan.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this alleged drone strike happened in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, which is, of course, a place where the Taliban and Al Qaeda tend to be and also other militant groups, as well.

Now, we have two independent Pakistani government sources who tell us that the eight people killed in this drone attack were, in fact, German citizens. They say it was three missiles that hit a compound. And they said all of those killed in that compound were, in fact, German citizens.

Now, we do have to be very careful about this information, because anyone who's ever been at the site of a missile or drone strike knows that it's often very difficult to determine who was inside a building or a car or whatever was hit there. And in many cases, it's actually only DNA evidence and then later shows who was actually inside that area.

Now, one of the things, however, if this is, in fact, true that is interesting is whether or not these eight Germans were, in fact, related to that possible European terror plot that we know now originated in Germany. So that's something that we're currently looking into, to see whether or not the extremist group that these people were apparently a part of is, in fact, related to that possible terror plot.

We know, of course, from American intelligence officials, that increased drone strikes have been happening in the North Waziristan area because, in part, in relation to that possible European terror plot. So far, however, we have to be careful with this information. We're still looking at the details of what's going on there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frederik Pleiten -- Pleitgen -- reporting for us.

Thanks very much.

Much closer to home right now, many voters are just starting to pay attention to the battle for Congress, with the election only 29 days away. Democrats are scrambling to hold onto their majority in the Senate. They're trying to prop themselves up in places they had hoped to be feeling rather strong right now. And a surprising, vulnerable spot happens to be West Virginia, where the late senator, Robert Byrd, was unbeatable for five decades.

The fight for his seat is considered a toss-up right now.

Our senior correspondent, Dana Bash, is in Morgantown, West Virginia with more.

What are you seeing there -- Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT:

You know, this was supposed to be a shoe-in for the Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, Wolf, to take Robert Byrd's old seat. But the Republicans, on a the latest level, have decided to pour millions of dollars here, because they think that Manchin is now beatable. Look, he is one of the most popular governors, Democrat or Republican, in the whole country. But his problem is that the president is decidedly unpopular here. Republicans are trying to tie the two together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Walk with West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin in Milton's Pumpkin Day Parade and it's obvious...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hi Mr. Manchin.

BASH: -- voters really like him.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Okie- dokey.

Boy, everybody is out, huh?

BASH: But do they want to send Manchin to Washington as their senator?

A stunning number say no.

DAVID RIDEL, WEST VIRGINIA VOTER: I think he does a great job here and I voted for him both times he's ran here in West Virginia. But going to Washington, that scares me to death.

BASH: Frustration with Democrats in Washington is making the popular governor's race for Senate surprisingly competitive.

(on camera): They like you as governor and they're not sure they want you, a Democrat, to be the one they send to Washington, DC...

MANCHIN: Yes.

BASH: -- because they're so mad at Washington.

MANCHIN: They're mad. And the Democrats in Washington are in control. So, absolutely, it resonates to them. The bottom line is, is that people don't want governments on their back and they want them out of their pocket.

BASH: How much is the president, in all honesty, dragging you down and making this race difficult competitive for you, for the Senate?

MANCHIN: I think it is -- it has made a big difference in my race. It truly has made a difference in my race.

BASH: In what way?

MANCHIN: Well, President Obama is not on the ballot.

BASH (voice-over): His Republican opponent is trying to convince voters otherwise. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM POLITICAL AD, COURTESY WWW.RAESEFORSENATE.ORG)

JOHN RAESE (R), WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm John Raese and I approve of this message because I won't be a rubber stamp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH (on camera): Luckily for you, this fits on a bumper sticker.

RAESE: Absolutely. No rubber stamps. That says it all.

BASH (voice-over): John Raese is a wealthy GOP businessman who's run and lost three statewide races.

RAESE: I always kid the Tea Party they're a little bit left of me. But when we look at what I've said over the past three elections...

BASH: Now he says people are more receptive to his anti- government views. He wants to abolish the Departments of Education, Energy and the IRS and wants to end minimum wage.

RAESE: Because minimum wage is something that Fra -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in during the Depression. It didn't work during the Depression. It certainly hasn't worked now.

BASH: Manchin argues Raese is out of step with West Virginia. Still, the governor is now trying to distance himself from his own Democratic Party.

MANCHIN: In Washington, there's an expanding entitlement mentality that we don't adhere to in West Virginia.

BASH: Take health care reform. Earlier this year, Manchin said he supported it. Now, he wants to repeal all but a handful of provisions, like no discrimination for preexisting conditions.

MANCHIN: That's a pretty good start.

Why don't you start with that?

Repeal the rest of it. Start with what you agree on.

BASH: And the stimulus bill?

(on camera): Had you been in Washington then and a senator, would you have voted against it?

MANCHIN: That -- you know what?

The expansion of -- of that, that's not who I am.

BASH: His challenged -- convincing conservative voters in this state that the governor they like is the senator they want. (END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: Now, we should note that the state of West Virginia was allotted about $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money. And the governor, Joe Manchin, didn't take it all and promised to use what he did take judiciously. But one of the reasons he didn't take it, Wolf, is because this state is actually not in as dire financial strait -- straits as others around the country. The deficit has gone down since he has been here; unemployment is lower than the national level.

Those are all issues he is using in a big way on the campaign trail, pleading with people to send him to Washington.

Republicans say that they really have their sights here. They are hoping that this is one of those seats across the country that are in -- that's in Democratic hands that they can make Republican in November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana.

Thank you.

Dana in West Virginia covering that race.

Democrats, meanwhile, are even more anxious about the fight to keep control of the House.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

You've been speaking with some of those Democrats...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: -- who are trying to make sure that the Democrats remain the majority in the House of Representatives.

Do they see evidence that maybe things are tightening or getting worse for them right now?

BORGER: Well, of course, they say, that things are tightening. Look, they understand that this is a tough environment for them. They -- they were on the other side of this in 2006 and 2008, where the Democrats picked up 55 seats.

But in talking to them this morning, they said, look, the Republicans have clearly not closed the deal here yet. And even Republicans admit they need 39 seats. Republicans admit they've only got about half of those, they think, in the bag. So the others are up for grabs.

What Democrats said to me this morning is, look, the numbers on the enthusiasm gap are tightening. The more Barack Obama is out there, the better it is for us. They also say they've got better quality candidates. When they were recruiting their candidates, the environment was really -- looked good for Democrats. They got a lot of really good candidates out there. They say the Republican candidates have not been as vetted as theirs. And they also say their district by district polling, which they're doing now almost every day, is looking better and better.

But, again, that's their spin on it, you know...

BLITZER: Turnout will be critical, right?

BORGER: Oh, absolutely. You know, they are spending an awful lot of money on turnout. And the way to turn out your voters is not only to do it door knocking -- they knock on 200,000 doors every weekend -- but also to start getting those ads up that motivate your base.

Today we learned that the House Republicans are going up with ads in 45 districts. The Democrats told me today they're going to start going up in 36 districts; could spend about $50 million on that, Wolf. That's an awful lot of money. And it's going to be real hand to hand combat. They told me they have barely begun. And I was told -- here's the quote from a senior Democratic campaign official, "that there will be an intensity to our ads."

So you can expect a lot of negative, targeted campaigning out there. People are going to be sick of this stuff by the time the election is over.

BLITZER: Four weeks -- a long time to go there. A lot can happen.

BORGER: Yes. But this is when the intensity starts. In a week or so is when. You're going to see these ads come up. And you're going to be seeing a lot of folks showing up at your door, telling you to get out and vote no matter what party.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: The father of a fallen U.S. Marine is about to get his day in court -- the United States Supreme Court.

Did anti-gay activists have a right to protest at his son's funeral?

Kate Bolduan spoke with him about this red hot case. It's about to become -- it's about to come before the high court.

And Donald Trump speaks out about a mysterious poll that has people wondering if -- if he'll run for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP: Tom and Alex, they've been terrific partners. And Zenith (ph) is going to get married.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was over at the White House today. Could she have an office there one of these days? Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Think about it as Ali-Frazier II, the rematch. The first fight was good, thus, could be even better. What if Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, decided to challenge Obama for the Democratic nomination in a couple of years? Gallup is out with an interesting poll looking at that very hypothetical match-up. 37 percent of Democrats say they'd support Clinton while 52 percent say they will support Obama, add in the margin of error, four points, and it's not that far apart.

The poll shows President Obama does better with college graduates, liberals. Clinton has a stronger showing among less well educated Democrats. She also scores higher than the president among conservatives and does slightly better among women than men. History shows that presidents with relatively low job approval ratings headed into re-election are more vulnerable to challenges from within their own party.

It happened when Ronald Reagan went after Gerald Ford and when Ted Kennedy and Jerry Brown both challenged Jimmy Carter. Right now, President Obama's approval rating is in the mid 40s, but we got a couple of years before the election and two years from politics a long time. Depending on the economy, the president's policies and the variables, we don't even know about yet. It's possible that his approval rating could sink further.

As for Clinton, it's not likely that she'll challenge the president. She has said on the record that she's absolutely not interested in running again for president. Although, she has suggested that she doesn't envision serving as Secretary of State in a second Obama term -- if that happens. May not.

Here's the question. If Hillary Clinton challenges President Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012, whom would you support? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and cast your vote.

BLITZER: And intriguing question indeed, Jack. Thank you.

President Obama sure to face a major challenge in 2012, and likely not just from Republicans. Some are now suggesting there could be a serious third party candidate in the works. Let's talk about that with our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Thomas Friedman writing in "The New York Times" yesterday said this, "I continue to be astounded by the level of disgust with Washington, D.C. and our two-party system. So much so that I am ready to hazard a prediction. Barring a transformation to the democratic and Republican parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012 with a serious political movement behind him or her, one definitely big enough to impact the election's outcome."

Do you agree with Tom Friedman, David? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's certainly possible, Wolf. It would take a lot to overcome traditions. As you know, we haven't had a new third party, a major third party, in over 150 years since the Republican Party was formed back in the middle of the 19th century. It's hard to do. The system discourages it. We get insurgencies such as the tea party that do influence our politics, but they tend not to become third parties.

But there is a difference this time, Wolf, and one with serious respect. There are millions of Americans who sort of consider themselves moderate, who do not find it comfortable to be associated with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi on the left nor John Boehner and Sarah Palin on the right, and they sort of feel like the people without a party. If there was a vehicle that came together, and Mike Bloomberg is often mentioned in this regard, it might have a chance of success under certain conditions.

BLITZER: Well, he's a billionaire. He's a multibillionaire, I should say. Certainly, he could self-fund it. The last time we saw that, as you remember, was Ross Perot. And at one point, he was doing remarkably well if you remember back in 1992.

GERGEN: Back in 1992, there was a time when he was actually ahead of Bill Clinton. He was actually ahead of the Republican nominee. And it looked like -- and then for whatever reasons, his effort fell apart. He got dropped out, got back in. Still had an influence, I think, in moving the country toward dealing with deficits. It was a positive influence. But let's go back to Bloomberg just a second. You know, he looked at this in 2008 and decided not to run.

He thought maybe he could win the popular vote, I'm told, by people close to him. Thought maybe he could win the popular vote. Couldn't win the Electoral College. People, someone very close to him, said one circumstance under which he might run and he might do it in 2012 is if the economy is still in a real hole and Barack Obama continues to be unpopular, in fact, even more unpopular with the weak economy.

And if the Republicans nominate somebody on the extreme right like Sarah Palin. That would open up the middle in a way that Bloomberg -- Mike Bloomberg who's extremely well respected in New York might take a shot at it.

BLITZER: Yes. If they were Obama versus Palin, that would really create an opportunity for a third party candidate. That's what you're saying?

GERGEN: Right. That's exactly right.

BLITZER: David, thanks.

GERGEN: If the economy doesn't come back.

BLITZER: And if the economy were still in a mess with job numbers around 9 percent or 10 percent. GERGEN: Right. Exactly.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch. We'll see if Michael Bloomberg -- he had a tough time getting himself re-elected the last time around. Only won by a few points. We'll see if he wants to spend a few hundred million of his own money.

GERGEN: But he could also change the conversation, Wolf. He could pull the conversation to the national dialogue more back to the middle as opposed to having it on the sides -- on the wings.

BLITZER: Good point. David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Could Donald Trump be considering a run for president in 2012? You're going to want to hear how he's responding to some new rumors out there.

Plus, new hope for the thousands of patients suffering from the same type of brain cancer that took the life of Senator Ted Kennedy. We have details just out. A major new study. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will have a report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the other top stories in the Situation Room right now, including Donald Trump, rumors of a potential presidential run in 2012. Kate, what is going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I knew this got your attention, Wolf. Businessman, Donald Trump says he knows nothing about a mysterious New Hampshire poll reportedly naming him as a possible presidential contender. According to "Time" magazine, residents received phone calls last month about several potential GOP candidates for 2012, and Trump was one of them. He tells CNN a presidential run is not something he considered, but he says, somebody has to do something to help the country.

And the man overseeing the claims related to the massive BP oil spill, he says the location of those affected will not prevent them from being compensated. Ken Feinberg responded to concerns from Florida officials that this bets the distance from the spill site would determine eligibility for the claim. BP has pledged $20 billion in compensation funding, about $1 billion of that has been paid.

And screen legend, Tony Curtis, has been laid to rest today. At a memorial in Las Vegas, Curtis was eulogized by the likes of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. His daughter actress, Jamie Lee Curtis teared up as she remembered her father saying, quote, "We are all evidence of him." Curtis starred in more than 150 films. He died yesterday at the age of 85. Quite a career, Wolf. Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, "Some Like It Hot." I love that movie.

BLITZER: Yes, what an amazing actor.

BOLDUAN: Amazing actor.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Kate.

The Supreme Court is starting its new term, and one of its first cases is charge with emotion. Do anti-gay activists have a free speech right to protest at military funerals?

And former lawmakers more in the (ph) men and women who are still in Congress that they are their own worst enemies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, escalating attacks paralyzed NATO supply convoys heading from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Could the deadly violence signal the Taliban's rising influence?

Plus, foreclosures from three major banks come to a stand still after new questions about how the paperwork was handled. Now, thousands of cases are in limbo.

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

Imagine seeing protesters and signs like this when you're about to bury a son or daughter killed in the line of duty. It's been a harsh reality for some military families. And it's at the center of one of the first cases for the new term of the U.S. Supreme Court that begins today. Kate Bolduan is working the story for us. Kate, tell our viewers what's going on.

BOLDUAN: Wolf, this is a case of free speech versus the privacy rights of grieving families highly emotional and has played out across the country at funerals of fallen soldiers. We should note that some of the material here may be disturbing to some viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was 20 years old when he was killed in Iraq.

Tell me about March 3, 2006, the day you found out that he was killed?

ALBERT SNYDER, FATHER OF FALLEN MARINE: It was probably the worst day of my life. If you lose a parent, you're an orphan. If you lose a spouse, you're a widow or a widower. But if you lose a child, there's not a word to describe it.

BOLDUAN: After all of this time, the pain is --

SNYDER: It's still there. It's still there. It's no different.

BOLDUAN: Albert Snyder said that was only the beginning of the nightmare for his family. SNYDER: Members of the Kansas-based Westboro Church led by Fred Phelps picketed outside of Matthew Snyder's funeral as they've done at military funerals hundreds of times before. The church believes soldiers are dying because god is punishing the country for, quote, the sin of homosexuality. Matthew Snyder was not gay.

FRED PHELPS, FOUNDER, WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH: I'm sorry they raised their son for the devil in hell. I'm sorry they let him have anything to do with the [ bleep ] army.

BOLDUAN: The funeral was held here, St. John Catholic Church, Albert Snyder preparing to bury his only son. Here, nearby, on this public street is where the Westboro church members gathered for their angry protest, triggering this constitutional battle.

SNYDER: It comes down to dignity. No one -- I don't care if you're not military, no one should be buried with what the folks did to him.

BOLDUAN: Snyder sued for defamation and invasion of privacy.

SEAN SUMMERS, ATTORNEY FOR ALBERT SNYDER: All they're doing is harassing a family so they can hijack someone else's private event.

BOLDUAN: The Phelps family argues they're protected by the rights of free speech and religious freedom. The Phelps family declined to be interviewed about the case but told the court they weren't targeting Matthew Snyder personally saying, "The church's speech was public issue speech, highly disliked and needing protection."

SHIRLEY PHELPS-ROPER, WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH: What they want to do is they want to litigate our religious doctrine. Well, you don't do that in America.

BOLDUAN: The Phelpses have the support of free speech advocates and some media groups. Albert Snyder has the support of 48 states and members of Congress.

You and your family have suffered so much. Why do you want to take this fight on?

SNYDER: So other people don't have to go through the same thing that we went through.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Several state efforts nationwide have attempted to impose restrictions on protests targeting military funerals. They have so far though failed in federal court, judges citing free speech. The justices will now weigh in.

BLITZER: It's not going to be easy for them to come up with a decision on this. Kate thanks very much. Good report.

Let's turn back to the capitol and a very stern message to members of Congress right now from people who used to be in their shoes. Our Congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. These former members of Congress, they're not very pleased right now, are they?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is kind of the old guard telling the newer guys that they should behave, Wolf. You have this bipartisan group of 130 plus members of Congress. They sent this letter to every senator who's up for re-election, every member of the House of Representatives and their opponents. It implores them to, quote, conduct campaigns for Congress with decency and respect toward opponents, to be truthful in presenting information about self and opponents, to engage in good faith debates about the issues and each other's record, to refrain from personal attack and, if elected, to behave in office according to these same principles. You can imagine this is asking a lot of candidates in the hotly contested election season. But the two men spearheading this, former Congressman David Skaggs, a Democrat from Colorado and John Porter, a Republican from Illinois say these times call for bipartisanship. I spoke with former Congressman Porter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN PORTER (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: The problems are as bad as anyone I think in this country has ever seen them for the future of our country, and certainly the tactics are so much political posturing, so much character assassination. All of the wrong things at a time we need to come together and address these problems as one.

KEILAR: A lot of people will look at the letter and say, okay, here's the reality check. What kind of difference do you expect to make in this climate?

PORTER: I can only raise the issue and hope that people understand that we are not getting the job done. That Congress is not getting the job done. And these problems are very, very serious for the future of our country and for our children and grandchildren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Both men are pointing at voters and the media to call for and expect actual debate from candidates and not to settle for the name calling and the nastiness, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they going to specifically go after the members of Congress, call them out when they suspect some bad behavior there?

KEILAR: I asked them that. A lot of this can even come to mind for us. I said to the former Congressman, are you going to highlight it and put them on the hot seat. He said that's not our role. That's the role of the media. He pointed a lot to the media as did some members on this letter that were on a conference call today saying you can't just focus on the squeaky wheel. You can't accept insightful language, you have to hold the candidates' feet to the fire.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens. Thanks, Brianna.

New corruption case unfolding right now called nothing less than astonishing. Korans destroyed in a fiery revenge attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is back. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including a major victory for the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. What do we have here, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Listen to this one, Wolf. Governor Schwarzenegger is praising a California Supreme Court ruling upholding his furlough order for state workers. The furlough required workers to take three unpaid days off per month to save the state millions of dollars. Several employee organizations sued on the grounds that the order was unconstitutional. Schwarzenegger said the furloughs are necessary to keep the state functioning.

Federal officials in Alabama are charging 11 people in connection with a corruption scheme that's being called, quote, astonishing in scope. The suspects who consist of, get this, lawmakers, lobbyists, and business owners allegedly bribed members of the state legislature for votes and influence on proposed state legislation. Among other things, charges include conspiracy, extortion, obstruction of justice, and wire fraud.

The Palestinian government is condemning what it calls an attack by Israeli settlers on a mosque in the West Bank. Palestinian witnesses say four people tried to set fire to the mosque burning carpets and Korans. The words revenge and price tag were reportedly sprayed on the walls. Israel has denounced the vandalism and is conducting an investigation.

And just days after being released from the hospital, former President Jimmy Carter is swinging his hammer. The former president participated in a housing project here in Washington to help mark World Habitat Day. Carter was hospitalized for two days last week with a stomach virus. He now feels perfectly okay. He is if he's out doing hard labor, Wolf.

BLITZER: He had a viral infection, let's hope he's completely back to normal. Appreciate it very much, Kate. Thank you, glad to see the president is feeling better.

By the way, I'm interviewing the former vice president, Walter Mondale. He was Jimmy Carter's running mate, former vice president, in the next hour. I think you're going to see this interview with Walter Mondale.

Allegations of lying just hours before the candidates meet each other face-to-face. You're going to see why this question is at the center of one of the country's most contentious Senate races.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Four weeks to go to the election. The ads are getting tougher and tougher. Let's discuss in our strategy session. Joining us, two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist Ed Rollins. Let's talk about Connecticut first. And we'll show this ad, Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate is running against her Democratic opponent, Richard Blumenthal, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you lie about serving in a war?

DICK BLUMENTHAL: We have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lied about Vietnam. What else is he lying about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let me go to Donna first. He served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. But he never served in Vietnam. "The New York Times" broke the story a few months ago. How poignant, how impressive could this ad be in helping her? This race in Connecticut is a lot closer than a lot of folks thought it should be.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: As you know, Wolf, the story has been out for several months. And Mr. Blumenthal has a terrific record of public service has been able to weather the storm. Ms. McMahon had some terrible weeks. First, she suggested we should lower the minimum wage. Then there are allegations that she's been a lobbyist when she said she's not. And there's another with the association with the porn industry with Girls Gone Wild, which, by the way, I have no idea what that means. And the fact of the matter -- I hear you laughing, let's not reveal anything here tonight. But the truth is Ms. McMahon cannot buy her way out of some of the controversy she's created by running the attack ads. Mr. Blumenthal will do well to debate. The voters know his record and I think they're poised to elect him as the next senator from the nutmeg state.

BLITZER: She's doing well in the polls in a Democratic state like Connecticut.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This issue and why Blumenthal came out and he didn't do it once, he did it on numerous occasions, basically, talking about when he was in Vietnam, he wasn't. And he certainly served his country by being in the marines. It's an exaggeration. Why people exaggerate the resumes when they're running for office is one of the great absurdities to me.

BLITZER: He didn't really have to. He served for six years in the Marine Corps reserves honorably. That should have been enough.

ROLLINS: No one cared. It did raise some issues and some judgment issues and integrity issues. When it first came out in "The New York Times," it did close this race up and I think to a certain extent reminding voters of it one more time will make a competitive race more competitive. You have to understand, voters are now starting to vote in these states. Not four weeks from now. Many of the states the people start voting early. BRAZILE: After all of the revelations and all of her slick ads and everything else, she's spending his personal approval rating is at 53 percent. So I don't think these kind of attacks will work against someone who's known in the state as having a strong record of public service. You can talk about the issues. She's trying to distract voters from recent negative press on the minimum wage in the Girls Gone Wild video.

BLITZER: It's a powerful ad that she has. Let me get you to weigh in on what we're calling the headlines of the day. Donna, talk a little bit about what you saw today as the headline that you want to discuss.

BRAZILE: "Washington Post" -- we've known for several weeks that there's been some outrageous spending by the third party troops and after citizens united, the recent Supreme Court case, we've seen an uptick in the amount of money being spent mainly by conservatives funding all of the races across the country. So "The Washington Post" had a strong headline today warning us that these organizations have been increasing their spending and they're likely to try to change the outcome of some of the races in the country. Spending is up by $220 million. That's up by $135 million this same period two years ago. So I think it's time for these organizations to disclose their donors and let the American people know who's behind the funding of these campaigns.

BLITZER: What headline jumped out at you, Ed?

ROLLINS: The speaker today in a "The New York Times" piece talked about the Democrats getting down and dirty in the campaigns. The Democrats have bragged about all the things they've done to the American public. That hasn't worked. They're going back to the old attack themes. Opposition research going down -- doing the kinds of things that Ms. McMahon was accused of there. At the end of the day, it's not a very honorable way to try to hold the majority. What happens is when you throw spitballs late, often times the negatives come back on your own side.

BLITZER: What I hear you say is as ugly as it is right now, the next four weeks, guys, it's going to get even uglier. You know what? We'll watch it together with both of you. Donna, Ed, thank you.

Jack Cafferty is asking if Hillary Clinton challenges President Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012, who would you support also?

Thousands of bank foreclosures now on hold because paperwork fell into what's being described as a black hole.

And a teetering electric tower at the center of a paralyzing port accident. Stand by to find out what's happening there right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack is back with "the Cafferty file." Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If Hillary Clinton challenges President Obama for the nomination in 2012, who would you support?

Brian in Louisiana says, "I'd support Hillary. She's a fighter, which is why the Republicans hated her and called her names. Obama is too weak and unwilling to fight for what he believes in although the man can give a great speech and just before he gives the Republicans everything they ask for."

Sandy in Arizona says, "That's a tough call for an extreme Hillary backer who would love to see her become the first woman president of the U.S. but I think President Obama deserves a second term. So I'd have to support him. It's truly a moot point, however. Hillary will not run against him in 2012."

Paul writes, "To be honest, whoever shaped up better against the competition. In this hyper partisan, anti-incumbent fever that's infected the country, I'd say Hillary. She's poised, smart, and hasn't done anything to tick off the electorate."

Janice in Arkansas says, "I doubt Hillary Clinton will challenge the president, however, I would enjoy a debate between Clinton and Sarah Palin if they were the nominees. Clinton would show Palin no mercy."

Chris writes, "The answer is "c," the Republican who is running against either one of them."

Sarah in Denver says, "I'm disappointed enough with Obama to consider Clinton. I've already started looking around. So far, I don't see a moderate Republican I like."

And Marcia writes, "In 2008 I was torn, but I voted for Obama. In 2012, Clinton. Absolutely. She's shown her mettle beyond a doubt and Bill has behaved himself."

If you want to read more, you'll find it on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, a lot of people don't think she'll challenge President Obama, but a lot of people do think she might replace Joe Biden as the president's running mate in 2012 because she might strengthen that ticket. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that.

CAFFERTY: Actually, I don't.

BLITZER: None?

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: All right. Think about it then. We'll discuss later.

CAFFERTY: I'll do that.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

It's the first day on the job for the Supreme Court's newest justice, but Elena Kagan could end up sitting out many of the cases. You'll find out why.

Plus, there's hope for patients with brain cancer that took the life of Senator Ted Kennedy. We're getting new information. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some hot shots. In Egypt, a car waits at the starting line of an off-road vehicle rally near the pyramids. In Australia, entertainers perform at the anniversary of an amusement park. In India, fireworks are displayed at the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games. And in Switzerland, elephants from the circus bathe in Lake Geneva. Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

A new study just released today could spell new hope for thousands of those suffering with the same form of brain cancer that took the life of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. It involves a new treatment, a type of vaccine that can actually prolong survival. And when the preliminary results were made public in June, the benefits were dramatic. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been following this trial for a while and met with patients and doctors nearly two years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard you also volunteered to do a spinal tap today for us.

KAREN VANEMAN, CANCER PATIENT: Yes.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Karen Vaneman. She's bracing for another painful procedure. You see, she's got cancer. Brain cancer. A killer tumor called glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma, multi form of GBM, this is typically thought of as the worst type of tumor. Why?

DR. ALLAN FRIEDMAN, PRESTON ROBERT TISCH BRAIN TUMOR CENTER: Oh, because left untreated, the -- the patient succumbs to disease quickly.

GUPTA: Even with aggressive treatment, average survival is barely a year.

VANEMAN: Oh, good to meet you.

GUPTA: How are you?

VANEMAN: I'm fine. Thank you.

GUPTA: Here at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, Karen found hope, an experimental vaccine. The vaccine has a futuristic name. It's named CDX-110. It uses the body's own immune system to attack tumor cells. It won't work on every GBM patient. Just the 40 percent or so whose tumors make one particular protein. In those patients, it goes off like a smart bomb. Now Karen gets a shot, a painful one, every month. But look at the results. We were able to pay her another visit, a full year later. Remember, most patients don't even live that long.

VANEMAN: It's been about a year and a half. As long as the vaccine works, then I'll be getting the monthly shots. And when it doesn't work, then I'm in trouble.

GUPTA: Dr. John Stampson helped develop the experimental treatment. What can we say about this vaccine now, in terms of educating a patient about it? What do you tell them in terms of what it promises?

DR. JOHN SAMPSON, PRESTON ROBERT TISCH BRAIN TUMOR CENTER: We're always careful not to overpromise what something can deliver. This is still in an experimental stage. Patients are living two to three times longer with the vaccine than we would have expected.

GUPTA: Preliminary study results made public in June were slightly less dramatic, but still on average compared to standard therapy, the vaccine nearly doubled survival time. As much as six years in some cases with no signs of returning cancer.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a German mosque with ties to the 9/11 terror attacks now linked to a possible terror plot that's prompted a travel alert for Western Europe.

Also, the second largest port in the United States shut down right now as a massive high-voltage tower leans precariously over the shipping channel.

And Elena Kagan makes her Supreme Court debut and promptly disappears. Why is the newest member of the high court opting out of hearing two dozen cases?

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