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Interview With Walter Mondale; Roller Coaster Campaign

Aired October 9, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: A new jobs report rubs salt in the wounds of angry voters. This hour, the bottom line on unemployment, the economy and the possible backlash on election day.

Also, a former vice president's surprising advice to President Obama to get rid of what he calls those idiot boards. Standby for my interview with Walter Mondale. He's worried the top Democrat just isn't connecting with the American people.

And how vulnerable is America's rail system to terrorist attacks right now? We're taking a closer look at what's being done to ramp up security and the element of risk that may never want to go away.

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


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the damage left by this recession is so deep that it's going to take a long time to get out. It will take determination, persistence, and most importantly, the will to act. All elements that the American people have in abundance. And if we summon that spirit now, if we keep moving forward, I'm absolutely convinced we will rebuild our economy, we will put our people back to work, and we'll come through these tough days to brighter and better days ahead.


BLITZER: President Obama acknowledging the painful realities for so many Americans driven home in the big jobs report numbers just coming out. The final numbers before the midterm election. It shows an overall loss of 95,000 jobs in September, worse than many economists had expected. And the jobless rate is holding at 9.6 percent. Republicans are pouncing on those numbers.

Democrats, though, they're seizing on this figure. Private businesses added 64,000 workers in September. The ninth straight month the private sector added jobs.

Joining us now, Robert Reich, former Labor secretary during the Clinton administration. He's a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. And Steven Moore, he's a senior economics writer for "The Wall Street Journal."

Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for coming in.

Now, 9.6 percent unemployment. Once again, Professor Reich, what is the single most important thing President Obama can do right now to start creating jobs?

ROBERT REICH, UNIV. OF CA. BERKELEY: Well, the most important thing, Wolf, is to get customers, consumers buying again. And the way to do that, well, there are a number of things he could do. For example, exempting the first $20,000 of income from the payroll tax and maybe making it up by subjecting the payroll tax top income earners to the payroll tax, incomes over $250,000. Or he could expand the earned income tax credit, which is waive subsidy up to the middle class, and pay for it with a carbon tax. That's what I suggest in my new book.

There are a lot of things he could do, but until we get consumers back buying again, there's no way we're going to actually get jobs back again.

BLITZER: Stephen Moore, same question to you. What do you believe the single most important thing the president can do right now to create jobs?

STEPHEN MOORE, ECONOMICS WRITER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": He should make an announcement tonight at 9:00 East Coast time saying he's going to extend all of the tax cuts, that now is not a good time it be raising taxes on anyone. This, officially, Wolf, this recession is over according to the economists, but most Americans, and most families, don't believe that. I think these new numbers really reinforce that.

You know, I'm in Dallas right now, Wolf. And I've been talking to a lot of small businessmen here. Just to give you an example of some of the things they complain about. The health care costs. They are telling me-I ran into a restaurant owner who has 1,200 employees. He says the new health care bill is going to cause him $1,200 in higher health care cost per worker. Those are real costs that reduce employment. So there is a lot we could do to bring down regulation and taxes to get businesses hiring again.

BLITZER: A lot of companies, Professor Reich, are saying they're sitting on a lot of money now but they're reluctant to hire people because of the uncertainty. They don't know what the taxes are going to be next year and beyond. They don't know what the health care costs are going to be. Instead of hiring people, they're sitting on a ton of money they have right now. So Steve Moore makes a fair point, right?

REICH: Well, I think Steve Moore makes a point. I don't think it's a fair point, though. Look, no business is going to hire without customers. Look, I hear this every time there is a Democrat in the White House. Again, the business community, particularly Republicans, say, oh, uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty. But everybody time there's a Republican in the White House I hear uncertainty is good for business. That's what drives entrepreneurialism. No, the real problem right now and every mainstream economist will tell you this, is that there are not enough consumers out there with enough money in their pockets to actually buy the things that businesses could create. Look, Steve Moore, I agree that tax cuts should be extended for 98 percent of Americans but there's no reason to extend it for the top 2 percent because they don't spend nearly as much as most Americans spend. Why give them $36 billion?

MOORE: But you know what, Bob? It may be true that they don't spend. Although rich people do spend. You know what, Wolf, those people in those highest income brackets do? They hire people. They're employers. You keep punishing the employer in this economy you're not going to get a lot of jobs created.

Bob, I have to give you credit. You were one of the architects of that $800 billion stimulus plan. It was almost like you had the backbone connection with the White House. The truth is that program hasn't worked. And I think we do need a change in direction. That's why, wolf, I think we're going to see, you know, change in this election because people just don't think what Washington has been doing for the last two years has worked to make the economy better.

BLITZER: Before Robert Reich responds, I'm going to play this clip. The president shortly after the unemployment numbers were released Friday morning, he said the stimulus package has worked, and he cited these numbers. Listen to this.


OBAMA: We've now seen nine straight months of private sector job growth. In all, more than 850,000 private sector jobs gained this year, which is in sharp contrast to the almost 800,000 jobs we were losing when I first took office.


BLITZER: All right. What about that? Nine straight months private job growth. Albeit modest, but significant in the fact that you're not losing jobs in the private sector, you're gaining jobs.

REICH: Well, look it is true --

BLITZER: Let Steve Moore respond.

MOORE: All right. What Bob Reich and I both know is true, Wolf, is it is good. We've had private sector job growth. It's just been very anemic. We need about 150,000 new jobs per month just to keep up with the increase in the -- increase in the workforce. It's not that we're not creating jobs. It's we're not creating enough jobs to get Americans back to work.

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond to that.

REICH: I certainly will agree with that. The stimulus, though, according to the Congressional Budget Office, according to most economic analysis, did save or create 3 million jobs. We'd be much worse off today without that stimulus. I don't think it was big enough from the beginning. I don't think the political winds are behind any larger stimulus. But I do think there are things the president can do to bring down taxes for the middle class, not for the top. But to bring down taxes for the middle class, and also to thereby create more money in more people's pockets.

BLITZER: Do you want another huge economic stimulus package, Professor Reich? Another $800 billion, or $1 trillion, that the federal government should shell out right now to try to create jobs?

REICH: Well, when you talk about another $800 billion or $1 trillion and shelling it out, no, I don't think we can afford that much. I do think, Wolf, the state and local governments do need help. There's no excuse for laying off a lot of teachers now and firefighters and police officers. There's no excuse for having bigger classrooms. If anything we ought to be investing in education, we ought to be investing in infrastructure.

Right now our infrastructure is crumbling all around America. We can get money very cheap. Everybody around the world is buying dollars. It is very, very easy for us comparatively speaking to get on with what has to be done in terms of infrastructure development. We can thereby hire a lot of Americans.

BLITZER: The president makes the point, Steve, that a lot of government jobs, federal jobs, whether with the census, those were temporary jobs, but local and state jobs, teachers, firefighters and others, yes, there were a lot of job losses in the government sector. There would have been even more had it not been for the stimulus package.

MOORE: Wolf, you know, we could avoid -- states and localities could avoid these layoffs, they could actually be hiring workers, if they would simply bring state and local salaries and pensions and health care benefits in line with what private sector workers are making. You saw that "USA Today" study a couple weeks ago, that the average state and local government employee is getting twice what a private sector worker is getting. You could have a lot more if we brought those wages down.

I believe, you asked that question of Bob Reich, should we have another stimulus? I do think we should have a stimulus but we should do what Ronald Reagan did, and Jack Kennedy did, and other presidents when we've had tough times. Cut tax rates. Make it easier for businesses to hire workers. Look, I don't think this $800 billion stimulus bill has created anything but more debt. If we got something for the money, Bob, I would have been in favor of it. But I just don't see lasting consequences.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Robert Reich.

REICH: Let me respond to that. First of all, teachers and firefighters and police officers, there's no corresponding group in the private sector. If anything we ought to be paying teachers more if we want good teachers and talented people to choose teaching, over, say investment banking. We ought to pay them more. MOORE: Bob, you're just saying that because you're a professor.



BLITZER: I'm going to cut both of you off. I think he's saying it because he obviously believes it.

Steve, I know you're saying what you're saying because you believe it as well. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

Robert Reich, Stephen Moore, guys, thanks for coming in.

REICH: Thanks, Wolf. Have a great weekend.

MOORE: Thanks.

WOLF: Robert Reich has a new book just out entitled "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future."

Coming up, he's trailing his Tea Party-backed opponent by double digits. What can Florida Governor Charlie Crist do to turn his Senate campaign around? I'll ask him.

Also, my special interview with former Vice President Walter Mondale. He has some specific advice for President Obama. Ditch what he calls the idiot boards. You're going to find out what he means. That's coming up as well.

Keeping U.S. railways safe from terrorists. We'll show you a new effort to keep trains safe.


BLITZER: New poll numbers out on Florida's closely watched, three-way Senate race. They don't necessarily look all that good for the Republican turned independent Governor Charlie Crist. He's joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about what's going on in the Sunshine State.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

CHARLIE CRIST, SENATE CANDIDATE, FLORIDA: Wolf, always good to be with you. I hope you're having a great evening.

BLITZER: We are. Let's talk about this Mason Dixon Research poll. Likely voters, Marco Rubio, your Republican opponent, 42 percent. You're at 27 percent. Kendrick Meek, Democratic nominee, 21 percent. How do you turn this around in these final three and a half weeks?

CRIST: I think, you know, polls are going to be all over the place. There was a Florida Chamber poll that came out last Friday had the split between Marco Rubio and myself at 7 points. Then Zogby, a very respected poll, came out a couple of days ago, had the spread at only 6 points. The reality is I think that it is closing. I really do. And you're going to see these things bounce back and forth. What I think it is important to do is to directly talk to the people of Florida, talk about a common sense candidate, instead of a far-right extreme Tea Party candidate which, really, Marco Rubio is. I mean he was on the cover of "The New York Times" magazine earlier this year, "Would he be the first Tea Party senator?"

I think when you start to analyze the issues here in Florida, issues like Social Security, where he literally talks about raising the age of eligibility, changing the COLA benefits and cutting benefits for our senior citizens in Florida. He also talks about, in terms of women's rights, that he wants to overturn-overturn Roe v Wade, and take away a woman's right to choose as it relates to personal decisions about her body.

You know, you talk about these kinds of common sense issues and will get a different result on election day.

BLITZER: I want to go through some of those issues in a moment.

But let me read to you from a story in "The Wall Street Journal" on Friday. Republican leaders in the Sunshine State are fretting that a deal may be in the works to get Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek out of the Florida Senate race in order to boost Charlie Crist's flagging chances of beating Republican Marco Rubio. Do you believe that's true?

CRIST: Well, number one, I think we're going to beat him anyway because of the issues I just talked about. And as you know, Wolf, those are issues that are incredibly important to senior citizens in Florida, as well as women.

But beside that point, I think what they really want in Florida, and frankly America, is a common sense, you know, person, who wants to have consensus be able to be made, make progress in Washington, D.C., you know, cut through the partisan fog, if you will, that exists between the Republicans on the hard right, the Democrats on the hard left, and really come and say, you know what, Republicans have good ideas about cutting taxes, reducing our deficit. And I embrace that and I always have. But also recognize and be big enough to say that Democrats have good ideas, too. About creating jobs by making, you know, investments in clean and green energy and creating a new source of job creation that our people need.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the joint criticism you're getting from Kendrick Meek on the left, Marco Rubio, on the right that you're flip-flopping on a lot of issues. Andy Stern, the former president of Service Employees International Union wrote this on "Huffington Post" about you. He said, he was against health care reform, before he was for it, before he was against it. Crist claims he fights for workers while promising to continue tax breaks for corporations that ship Florida jobs overseas. He has switched his stance on wide-range important issues from gay marriage and to immigration reform and from a woman's right to choose to offshore oil drilling. Why would voters and people in Washington not think he wouldn't just switch on anything else, if he thinks it is to his political advantage? Do you want to respond to Andy Stern?

CRIST: I'd be delighted to. You know when it comes to the important issues to the people of Florida, people in Florida know where Charlie Crist stands. And I just cited a couple of them. Let's talk about education for a second. The far right wing of the Republican Party in Florida wanted to literally punish teachers in our classroom. I used my veto pen, put my foot down, and said no. It's too far to the right, it is not right for the people of our state.

We talked about women's issues a few minutes ago. Again, the hard Republican right in the Florida legislature just this year said they wanted to force a woman to get an ultrasound, force her to pay for it, force her to be lectured on it, after taking the ultrasound. And really stripping her of the opportunity to make a decision about her right to choose. I use the veto pen, as the governor of the state of Florida to stop it.

BLITZER: Do you support a woman's right to have an abortion?

CRIST: Yeah, I'm pro-life, Wolf, but I also believe it's not right to impose my will on other people. I mean, I've always been a live and let live kind of guy on these issues. I'm a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. Always have been. If you ask me, you know, what about tax cuts? Hell yes. What about government in the bedroom? Hell no. I think most of the country is right there. They are fiscal conservatives, social moderates, they really want us to rein in spending. We have done that in Florida. I have reduced spending as governor of the state more than any other.

BLITZER: I want to just be precise. Personally, you oppose abortion, but you think women should have the right to have an abortion if they want to have an abortion. Is that what you are saying?

CRIST: I'm saying I would not impose my will on women. As I said when I ran for governor of Florida I would rather change hearts than change law. My Republican opponent, Marco Rubio literally says he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade if he gets to the United States Senate and has a chance to confirm those nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I think that's dead wrong. And I think most women in the Sunshine State feel that way, too. I also think it's wrong, what he wants to do, to raise the age of eligibility for seniors in Social Security and cut their benefits. It's just not the right way to go. Kendrick Meek, my Democratic opponent, wants to punt that issue, Social Security, to a commission. And we all know what happens when you punt it to a commission. They raise the age of eligibility and they cut benefits.

What they want is a common sense U.S. senator that understands we've got to stop this partisan bickering, we have to work in a bipartisan way to move America forward. I'm the only candidate in this race who can offer that. My two opponents are in clubs that they're locked into the talking points from the party bosses. BLITZER: Let's wind it up with a lighter note. The opening pitch you had the other day, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays. We'll show it to our viewers. It was a little, shall we say, high and outside. You're getting some grief, a "Washington Post" headline "Charlie Crist first pitch strong on comedy if not accuracy."The Broward Palm Beach New Times", the headline, "Charlie Crist sends pitch sailing in giant metaphor of his campaign. Politico's headline, "Charlie Crist tosses wild pitch". You had a good arm, but it was a little wild.

CRIST: Well, I'm an old quarterback. I never did play baseball. But I sort of felt like, what's that movie, Major League with Bob Euchre and Charlie Sheen? A little outside to the right. Probably more symbolic of my Republican opponent than going right down the middle which I'm trying to do in Florida for my fellow Floridians.

BLITZER: At least you didn't do what a lot of people do, they have a one bouncer or two bouncer to home plate. You made it sail all the way.

CRIST: There are plenty of heat behind it.

BLITZER: All right. Charlie Crist is the governor of Florida, he wants to be the next senator from Florida.

Thanks very much, Governor, for coming in.

CRIST: Great to be with you, Wolf. Thanks so much. Please say hello to mom again.

BLITZER: Will do.

What would happen if the worst case scenario for America's rail transport system became reality? We'll show you a major anti-terror exercise. Stay with us, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Millions of Americans ride trains in this country every day, making mass transit a prime would-be target for terrorists. What if, what if, a major attack were launched on the rail system in the United States? Our Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is taking a closer look at efforts to prevent that from happening.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, terrorists have hit mass transit before, and there is every expectation they will try again.


MESERVE (voice over): There were more police, more bomb-sniffing dogs and random bomb screenings at many AMTRAK stations Friday part of an AMTRAK security exercise called Operation Rail Safe. It was scheduled long before the European terror alert, but concern about possible transit attacks here is always high.

CHIEF JOHN O'CONNOR, AMTRAK POLICE: The longer we go without an attack, we may be possibly getting closer to an attack. So we need to build up our capability and we need to make sure we're partnering with other agencies to help protect the rails.

MESERVE: Each weekday in the U.S., more than 12 million passengers use rail transit, and the crowds make it an inviting target. There have not been any successful attacks on U.S. systems, but overseas the record is grim. With large-scale lethal attacks in India, Britain, and Spain. Exercises like Operation Rail Safe are intended to improve U.S. law enforcement capabilities and deter anyone casing the system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More power to people that protect us. I have no problem with it at all.

MESERVE: But one passenger picked at random for screening was skeptical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're going to do security you need to screen everybody, if you are going to go through a metal detector, you have people just like at an airport, or some other technology. To pick one person out of a crowd I just don't think is really effective.


MESERVE (on camera): But some experts say if mass transit is going to do what it is supposed to do, which is move a lot of people quickly, airline-style security measures simply will not work. There are other critics who say mass transit has not gotten its share of security funding and attention and they fear it will take a tragedy to change that focus.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne, thanks very much. Jeanne is over at Union Station here in Washington, D.C.

My interview with former Vice President Walter Mondale. He has some advice for the president of the United States on how to avoid being a one-term president.

And Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is running for U.S. senator. He's being attacked in campaign ads for supporting the president on some controversial legislation. I'll ask him if he's rethinking any of his votes. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Walter Mondale had a front row seat to five decades of political history. The former vice president writes about that in his new book "The Good Fight." Stand by for my interview with Walter Mondale. But first a few things you should know about him.


BLITZER (voice-over): He made the vice presidency what it is today, taking an active role in shaping Carter administration policies.

He was the first VP with a west wing office and to have weekly lunches with the president. He delivered one of the most memorable debate lines ever.

During his 1984 bid for the Democratic presidential nod, Mondale took a shot at rival, Gary Hart, using a phrase from a popular Wendy's commercial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the beef?

BLITZER: He put the first woman on a major party presidential ticket. Mondale tapped Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, setting the stage for Sarah Palin two decades later.

He had unexpectedly tried for a Senate comeback. Mondale was asked to replace Paul Wellstone on the ballot when the Minnesotan senator died in a plane crash just before the 2002 election. But Mondale lost the Senate seat he once held.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In what is obviously the end of my last campaign, I want to say to Minnesotans, you always treated me decently.


BLITZER: And joining us now the former vice president of the United States, Walter F. Mondale. He's got a brand new book out entitled, "The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics."

Mr. Vice president, thanks very much for coming in.

WALTER MONDALE (D) FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Wolf, nice to be with you again.

BLITZER: I want to get to the book shortly. Let's go through current issues right now. You were vice president. Jimmy Carter was a one-term president. How worried are you right now, if you are worried, that Barack Obama will be a one-term president?

MONDALE: I think he's going to be a two-term president, but there's a lot of problems weighing on this administration. I think it depends on how he handles all of them, but I think he's going to make it through the second term. It looks that way to me now.

BLITZER: What does he need to do to avoid having the same fate as Jimmy Carter, being a one-term president?

MONDALE: He's got to connect with the American people. The American people have to feel that the president senses the suffering they're going through and wants to be a part of the solution. He's got a lot of strengths, but that connectivity, that ability to transmit the fact that he feels for people, I think is something that needs to work on.

I notice he's doing more of these backyard events where he gets in close with a small group of people. I think that's part of what he should do.

BLITZER: He's not feeling people's pain the way Bill Clinton was capable of feeling -- empathy factor. Why is that? Why do you think he's not capable at least so far of really doing that?

MONDALE: Well, I've seen places when he's done it. The Milwaukee speech I thought was terrific. I think some of these backyard events are terrific, but I think -- he's very bright.

As a matter of fact, brilliant and I think he tends to and he uses these idiot boards to read speeches on television, and I think he loses the connection that he needs emotionally with American voters.

BLITZER: You're talking about the teleprompters that he always has when he's delivering a formal speech and reading it basically from the teleprompter. You don't think that works. Is that what you're saying?

MONDALE: Yes. I think, you know, if you're looking at the teleprompter, you're here, you're here, you're here, and your audience is right there. And I think he needs to do more of that.

BLITZER: A fair point. There's certainly an angry atmosphere across the country right now. The Tea Party Movement, clearly, is gaining strength. What in your opinion is causing this anger?

MONDALE: I think people are terribly frustrated. I think they don't see big issues being resolved. A lot of people are hurting, unemployed, danger of losing their homes and all the rest.

And they -- it shows up in part with Tea Party, which is really a protest movement in my opinion.

BLITZER: How worried are you about this protest movement?

MONDALE: You know, I -- this idea of protesting, of having third parties, is an old American experience. It's entirely appropriate. These things flair up when the nation is having problems.

What I don't like is the kind of rigid, polarized harsh rhetoric, my way or the high way approach. I don't think we'll ever solve our problems by shouting at each other.

BLITZER: Here's what Ben Stein, who's well known to our viewers, former speechwriter in the Nixon administration, what he told me the other day. I want to play this clip, Mr. Vice President, for you.



BEN STEIN, FORMER NIXON SPEECHWRITER: I think many Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, are still uneasy with an African- American president.

I don't think that America lives in a post-racial world entirely. A lot of it does, but I don't think a lot of it does. And I think there is still some undigested feelings about that.


BLITZER: Do you agree with Ben Stein?

MONDALE: You know, I lived in this country at a time when we had segregation. I was in the middle of all the civil rights fights in the '60s and the '70s, and thank God we've got rid of official discrimination.

In other words, governments can't do that to each other. Thank God, but it's always a possibility that some of that feeling in people's hearts still is there. It doesn't make it laudable, but the law can't go there. So could it be true?

In some cases, possibly, but I would never accuse somebody of being a racist, but I do believe there must be some lingering residue from those old days in which some people find it hard to accept -- I think the president, ironically, you know, he has a white mother and a black father, should make those people think about that.

BLITZER: I guess what Ben Stein is saying is that there are some people who just can't stomach the fact that we have an African- American president. And I wonder if you think that's a significant number or just a fringe element.

MONDALE: See, I don't know. I think it's out there, but I have no idea, and I've not seen any polls or anything else that would help me answer your question.

BLITZER: Let's get to your book, "The Good Fight" because there's a huge debate unfolding right now on taxes, whether to let the tax rates increase or let them stay the same.

A lot of people remember your campaign in '84 against Ronald Reagan when you were challenging him and you said these words. I'll play the clip.


MONDALE: Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you, I just did.


BLITZER: All right. Was that a mistake to say those words at the convention back in '84? MONDALE: It was accurate, and it was honest, may not have been politically smart. I notice no one has done that since I did it, but the fact was that Reagan did have a tax increase bill.

We were running into huge deficits, and he -- after he got re- elected, adopted two or three big tax bills. So if I can get some credit for telling the truth, I'd like to take that.

BLITZER: You did tell the truth. There's no doubt about that. I'm giving you credit. Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States. Here's what he said the other day. He's got a new book that's out as well. I'm going to play this clip and we'll discuss.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT: I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents primarily because of the activism and the ejection of working to international affairs and to some degree domestic affairs.


BLITZER: He's rather blunt saying as an ex-president his work has been superior to other ex-presidents. You know Jimmy Carter well. Do you agree with him?

MONDALE: I think Carter was a very good president. In my book, I spell out why I think the case is strong both domestically and internationally.

He's certainly demonstrated those talents and that spirit in his post-presidential years as well. I would not use the word "superior," I don't think, even though I think he was extraordinary.

He is extraordinary because I don't know quite how to weigh the difference between some of the other really strong presidents.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "The Good Fight." The subtitle "A Life in Liberal Politics." You don't shy away from using the word liberal. They like to call themselves a lot of liberals progressives now, but you're still proud to be a liberal.

MONDALE: I was a liberal when I started and I'm a liberal now.

BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, we hope you'll be a liberal for many, many years to come. Thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for writing this book.

MONDALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Democrats are circling the wagons after a roller coaster campaign that put them at odds with his party's leadership. I'll talk about it with the Pennsylvania Senate candidate, Joe Sestak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A Democrat who helped prove incumbents are in jeopardy this election year season on shaky grounds, himself. That would be the U.S. Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, Congressman Joe Sestak.

Sestak broke ranks with party leaders to challenge and defeat Republican turned Democratic Senator Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary.

But now Sestak is trailing his Republican opponent Pat Toomey in the polls. So the establishment Democrats he defied are circling the wagons around him.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Why are you behind in a state, which is normally should be pretty Democratic at this point?

SESTAK: You know, Wolf I've never been this close this far out. I was 20 points behind Senator Specter at this point, and I was 23 points behind Congressman Weldon.

Now, we're in a dead heat. We know that and this race is going to be different. Pennsylvanians are pretty cautious people because we've all had the wolf at our door. You can see, beginning to discriminate right now.

Next door in Delaware, we've got Miss O'Donnell all of a sudden there. Now, Wolf, this race is going to come down to who do you want on your side? Someone who actually believes we should take social security as Congressman Toomey does and plunk it into Wall Street where he came from to gamble?

Or someone who stood up and bucked his own party and said, I'll always be on your side, even at the risk of my job, I'll fight for them. That's the choice we have so I feel very, very comfortable.

BLITZER: Even though you're a little bit behind in these polls, the margin of error may show that you still have about three and a half weeks to go.

Arlen specter who was your opponent, he's the incumbent senator. He's going to be at an event with you, at a fund-raising event, I take it, in the coming days. Do you feel he's trying to help you? Is this just for show?

SESTAK: It's a very nice gesture and he's been gracious. Look, when he called me the night of the primary, here I am a wet behind the ear guy in politics.

And he called me and said, look, Joe, congratulations. I'm going to support you and frankly, he's coming to this event to do so. Look, I want to work with everyone. I grew up in the military, and we don't breed liberals or conservatives, but problem solvers. Heaven forbid a congress down there that Washington, D.C., just doesn't tend to work together.

So I think that as well as Senator Hagel who is a Republican, as well as Mayor Bloomberg who's an independent, coming in kind of says let's have someone who's going to resolve our problems.

That's why you're going to see this election go the way that God willing I am the senator for Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Do you want President Obama to come in and campaign for you?

SESTAK: He's actually coming in this Sunday, and look, yes, I stood up and I always will remember what John F. Kennedy said once. Sometimes the party asks too much. I'm not a yes man, but I do want to work with everyone.

Yes, I like it when people come in, but the end of the day, Wolf, in Pennsylvania, I mean, we are -- we're all sons and daughters of coal miners and steelworkers. We've all had that wolf at our door.

For me it was my daughter when she had, you know, brain cancer, and I was fortunate. We're going to make a very cautious decision here that will be the right decision in the end.

They're going to make it on me versus Congressman Toomey, someone who sides with as he wants to eliminate all corporation taxes or someone fighting for them. It's not going to be about outsiders coming in. It's going to be about a choice Pennsylvanians make.

BLITZER: Here's an ad, a little clip from an ad that former Congressman Toomey is using in Pennsylvania right now. Saying you're basically 100% behind everything that President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Washington stand for. I'll play this little clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's sad what's happened to Joe Sestak. He served our country well. Then he went to Washington, where he's voted in lockstep with the extreme agenda of bailouts, debt, government health care and job killing energy taxes. He took an ethics pledge then broke it. Say it wouldn't so, Joe.


BLITZER: All right. Where do you disagree with President Obama?

SESTAK: Well, I disagreed with President Obama on a number of areas. For example, I really do believe that what we should have done is had small business tax cuts and guaranteed community bank loans in the recovery bill.

I argued vociferously for that. Now, I would have had that within there because it is the private market. Since small businesses lost the majority of all the unemployed that would regain you and get you going again.

BLITZER: He is supporting small business tax cuts now.

SESTAK: Yes, now, but remember, I also, as I put out in my first -- his first years, I would have had a cap of discretionary spending of all the discretionary spending.

I would not have had any caveats as we did for the pay as you go requirement or mandatory spending. Look, the issue here is not just the policies, but how you shape those policies.

And therefore, my first two years in congress I actually was -- passed more pieces of legislation than any other freshman member by working across the aisle, the first funding for autism in 12 years. The issue is, my vote is in the middle of the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Let me just precise there, on these points, in this Toomey ad, did you vote for the bailouts, the government health care, the Obama proposed health care and the job killing, as they call it, energy taxes? The cap and trade. Did you vote for those three pieces of legislation?

SESTAK: Yes. You know as well as I do, Wolf, well actually you don't, but I when I went to Congress I arrived the year of recession.

It reminded me on my first job of a warship in the Vietnam warrior. I was damage control officer. I had to go help control the damage when we had been torpedoed. By policies - by policies of Congressman Toomey and President Bush had actually implemented with a threw out the window of pay as you go.

Congressman Toomey shape legislation that let the Wall Streeters actually gamble their savings. So those were tough decisions, Wolf. I took them because they had to be done.

I have now voted to be put into place pay as you go. I think it should be more stringent as you said. I take a vote as an independent that happens to be a Democrat.

You know as well as I do, we are losing 700,000 jobs a month when that first month of January happen Mr. Obama came in. The previous six months, our GDP was minus 6 percent with three million jobs lost.

I took those votes because they were necessary. Look, it's what a public servant does. Regardless of their job, he does what's necessary and as you know, Mark Zandi and other economists, John McCain's economic adviser said we would have had 8 million more unemployed.

But Congressman Toomey says, we would have had a harder down if we had done nothing. What's harder down than what we had and so yes, leadership means actually doing what's necessary for the middle class, not Wall Street.

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

SESTAK: Wolf, it's been a pleasure, again.

BLITZER: Here come the brides, dozens of them. Hot Shots, coming up next.


BLITZER: Here is a look at some of this week's Hot Shots. In Vietnam, villagers leave their flooded homes by boat.

In Taiwan, servicemen gives flowers to their brides in a mass wedding of Air Force officers.

In India, performers display parts of their costumes for religious festival.

At a zoo in Germany, check it out, a baby tiger growls at the camera. Hot Shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

We leave you here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton this week at a "Fortune" magazine conference, she was asked some personal family-related questions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in South Africa at the Fortune Global summit with your husband. He looked so trim and he said, that's because you and Chelsea were forcing him to eat tofu. Is that true?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, no, it's not true but -- but there's truth in it. I don't know. Somebody would say it's got truthiness.

I think he decided that he wanted to really get in shape for the wedding, and so he, in response to our urging, you know, really embarked on what became a very successful diet. But, it also was good for his heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he cry going down the aisle?

CLINTON: He, well, if you saw the picture, you could tell that he was trying very hard not to cry. It was a very emotional moment for all of us, but especially for Bill walking our only child, our daughter down the aisle.

I have had so many people come up and say, I felt so bad for him. I said I felt so good because he actually didn't cry. He kept it in check until the very end.


BLITZER: The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks for joining us. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern, every Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.