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THE SITUATION ROOM

Pentagon OK's Openly Gay Recruits; Are Tea Partiers Ready for Office?; Angle Under Fire for Comments About Latinos; Disconnect Between States and Federal Government; U.S. Feels China's Economic Power

Aired October 19, 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, dramatic news -- a major change in Pentagon policy. Openly gay recruits are now being welcomed in the United States military. An officer who was booted under the "don't ask/don't tell" policy is now asking to get back in to the United States Army.

Growing concerns about whether Tea Party favorites are prepared for elected office. This hour, Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's head-turning comments about what's in the First Amendment.

And are U.S. funds indirectly being used to help protect Osama bin Laden?

Tough questions for Pakistani officials heading to America right now with her hands out.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, the Pentagon is making a major new break from its "don't ask/don't tell" policy on gays serving openly in the United States military.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

He's got the new directive for military recruiters -- Chris, what are we learning?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the Pentagon is now telling its recruiters that if a re -- if a candidate comes into the recruiting office, as long as he or she meets all the normal guidelines, that candidate can openly admit that they are gay and lesbian and their application will be processed. That is a major shift from what has gone on before. It is essentially a reflection of the fact that because of a recent ruling by a judge, "don't ask/don't tell" right now is no longer the law of the land.

Now, the recruiters are also being told to manage these candidates' expectations. By that I mean the government is fully expected to appeal this ruling. And so they're telling candidates right up front, you know, that this "don't ask/don't tell" repeal may not stay in effect -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So this -- this new policy for recruitment may not have that much of a life until Congress takes formal action. But right now, the -- the recruiters are saying if you're gay, that's not a problem, you can still sign up if you meet all the other requirements. And I take it one high profile West Point grad who served in the military, who is gay, is now trying to take advantage of this new policy.

LAWRENCE: That's right. Lieutenant Dan Choi was -- came out on -- on national television. He was even arrested for chaining himself to a White House fence in opposition to this policy. He has said that he's going down to the recruiting office to try to -- to reenlist or -- not necessarily reenlist, since he was an officer. He said he went down to the Marine Corps, found out he was too old for that and he Tweeted that he will now try the Army, to try to get back into the United States Army.

But he's not alone, Wolf. You know, we -- we spoke with the person of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay activist group in California. He told us, once a Marine, always a Marine. He was honorably discharged three years into a four year enlistment. He said it's a feeling of not having completed that enlistment and that he also was going to try to get back in.

Of course, on the other side, there are some Marines, some soldiers who feel that "don't ask/don't tell" should not be repealed. Even the -- the man who was nominated to be the commandant of the Marine Corps has said he feels that changing the policy now would be bad for morale, it would not reflect well and it would not be easy to implement, especially while engaged in two wars.

A lot of moving parts to this. And probably the most ironic thing is the Obama administration, if it does appeal this judge's ruling, is setting itself up to, you know, sort of fight a policy that it does not -- that it does not agree with.

So a lot of moving pieces to this story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But a major development today.

Thanks very much, Chris Lawrence.

Let's get to the mid-term election now, exactly two weeks from today. These Tea Party candidates are hoping to defeat the political establishment and lead a new Republican revolution in Congress. But right now, two of the most prominent faces in the movement are under fire for major new gaffes.

We begin with the Delaware Senate candidate, the Republican, Christine O'Donnell, and what she knows and doesn't know about the United States Constitution.

Today, she debated her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, at a law school in Delaware. During a discussion of whether creationism should be taught in public schools, O'Donnell questioned Coons' statement that the First Amendment calls for the separation of church and state.

Listen to some of the key mon -- moments from the exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WDEL)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?

CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: It's an...

(LAUGHTER)

COONS: -- no, an excellent point.

(LAUGHTER)

COONS: Hold on.

(LAUGHTER)

COONS: Hold on. Please. Please.

I also think you've just heard, in the answers from my opponent and in her attempt at saying, where is the separation of church and state in the Constitution, reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is, how it is amended and how it evolves.

O'DONNELL: You're telling me...

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: -- that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment.

COONS: Government shall not make an establishment of religion.

O'DONNELL: That's in the First Amendment.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: All right. O'Donnell's spokesman later said she was not questioning the concept of church and state subsequently established by the courts, she simply made the point, he says that the phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution, separation of church and state.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. I want to read for our viewers the precise language which says this, of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peace -- peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." So when her spokesman says the words "separation of church and state" specifically are not in the First Amendment, they're not. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: He's absolutely right. They -- they do not appear. And in fact, the phrase "wall of separation between church and state" first came to light in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson while he was president. It has subsequently been referred to many times in Supreme Court opinions referring to the nature of the relationship between the separation of -- the relationship between church and state. But it is true that the word "separation" does not appear in the Constitution.

BLITZER: So it -- if she is -- if she's suggesting, though, that there shouldn't be separation of church and state, is she on solid legal ground with other conservative jurists -- members of the Supreme Court, like John Roberts and Samuel Alito or Scalia?

Do they -- do they say there shouldn't be separation of church and state?

TOOBIN: Well, I -- I think, certainly, O'Donnell is in line with a lot of conservatives, who feel like there has been too much division between church and state. There have been rulings -- some, you know, very controversial, like no prayer in public schools; no organized prayer at -- at football games; whether students can pray in off hours at schools.

These are very controversial issues. And conservatives, by and large, believe that religion has been kept too far out of public activity.

But is there separation of church and state?

That's a pretty mainstream idea. And her -- her statement suggested that she didn't believe any separation of church and state. But it is true that a lot of conservatives believe that there has been too much separation established by the courts over the years.

BLITZER: She was also asked her position on the 14th and the 16th Amendments to the Constitution during this debate in Delaware this morning.

This is what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WDEL)

O'DONNELL: I'm sorry, I didn't bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately, senators don't have to memorize the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, is that a good answer?

Do Senators need to memorize the Constitution?

TOOBIN: They certainly don't. And it's funny, those two amendments are actually very different, the way most people think about them. All three were passed right after the Civil War. The 14th is really one of the most important amendments. It relates to equal protection of the laws, the right of everyone to due process. The 15th and 16th come up less often in -- in modern courts, but the 14th is a -- is a pretty big deal.

BLITZER: Don't go away. Stand by for a moment. We want to continue this conversation.

But we want to get to another misstep by a Tea Party favorite hoping to topple the Senate majority leader. That would be the Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, Sharron Angle.

Her camp is downplaying a remark to a group of Latino students that some of them look -- and -- and I'm quoting her now -- "a little more Asian." One of those students had asked Sharron Angle why her television ads appear to portray all illegal immigrants as Hispanic.

Listen to her response that was caught on video and then posted online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FACE TO FACE WITH JON RALSTON," COURTESY KSNV)

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: So that's what we want is a secure and sovereign nation and, you know, I don't -- I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a lot more Asian to me. I don't know that. What we know about -- what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country.

My -- my grandchildren are evidence of that. I'm evidence of that. I've been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada state assembly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, just a little while ago, her Democratic opponent, the Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, was speaking out, responding to her.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is covering this race for us.

What did the majority leader have to say?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you just saw on CNN a few months ago, the Senate majority leader started his campaign rally in Las -- Las Vegas with a dig at Angle.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I really don't know what my opponent was talking about because you all look like Nevadans to me.

(APPLAUSE)

REID: I'm getting a little political here, folks.

Have you noticed that every time my opponent screws up, which is quite often, she goes into her bunker?

She's now canceling public events again. I guess it was her appearance at Rancho High School that kind of put her back in her bunker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, a source inside Harry Reid's campaign told me first thing this morning, they had decided to use this previously planned event to jump on Angle's latest comments. And I say latest comments, because Angle has been caught on tape making controversial comments many times about a host of issues -- things that the Reid campaign had hoped would help sink her campaign, everything from abortion to wanting to abolish Social Security.

Yet still, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, is neck and neck with her in the polls.

Now, I've talked to several Reid advisers today, though, who are hoping that this is different because of the subject matter, Wolf.

It is about Hispanics and Hispanics make up about a quarter of Nevada's population. It's the fastest growing group in that state, with new voters that Reid advisers hope he has a chance to sway. Now, I can tell you that an Angle spokeswoman insists that she was just trying to make the point that the country and the state of Nevada, in particular, is a melting pot. And she says that the fact that Reid is jumping on this is proof that he's worried, that she is neck and neck with him in the polls and that she might beat the majority leader two weeks from today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, stand by for a moment.

Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, is here, as well.

Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell -- they're both strong Tea Party backers, supporters, if you will.

But is there another common thread here that we're seeing?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Really inexperienced candidates. You know, even Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, said in a recent interview that they're not very sophisticated, that the Tea Party movement is not a sophisticated movement like Ronald Reagan's movement was. Ronald Reagan had a governing philosophy. These folks essentially are outsiders.

And what folks may be voting for when they're voting for Christine O'Donnell or Sharron Angle is they're voting for somebody who's -- who's not an insider and/or not a Democrat.

So that's what they have going for them. But when you take a look at the mistakes that these candidates are making, you can see that they're a little rough around the edges and that they haven't been part of the political process on this kind of a level before. So they're making a lot of mistakes.

BLITZER: These kinds of questions, though, Gloria, when -- from the 14th Amendment to the 16th Amendment...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- to a lot of average folks out there, these seem to be like gotcha kind of questions...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: -- which could actually help these candidates that seem more real to a lot of voters out there.

BORGER: Right. I mean it could, because you could think, uh-oh, you know, people in the media are just trying to trip these -- these folks up. And you know it works very well, Wolf, to run against the media when you're in this kind of a -- of a neck and neck race. And so I think that -- that this could help her with her base.

The question is, who is she trying to appeal to, particularly like in the state of Delaware?

She's got to try and appeal to moderate Republicans and Independent voters. And this may help her with neither of those groups.

BLITZER: And the difference -- the big difference, Dana, between these two women, in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell is way behind, whereas in Nevada, Sharron Angle is neck and neck...

BASH: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: -- and maybe even slightly ahead in some of the polls.

BASH: That's such a good point, Wolf. I can tell you, in talking to Republicans on a national level in Washington, they both gave them heartburn today with these comments, there's no question about it.

But the difference is that in the state of Nevada, they're sort of shrugging their shoulders on a national level, these Republicans saying, well, you know, so far, it seems to be working. I mean she is still in -- in their internal polls and in polls that we've seen publicly, she is still neck and neck with the top Democrat in the United States Senate. So perhaps she is tapping into something that -- that -- that people may be interested in, you know, who...

BORGER: But it...

BASH: -- who knows?

But it is absolutely fascinating to see her still out there.

BORGER: You know, it may be more of a referendum on Harry Reid in -- in a way than, of course, than it is on Sharron Angle, right?

BASH: Right.

BLITZER: And, also, the economy in Nevada is so much worse than the economy is in Delaware right now -- Jeffrey, I think a lot of Senate wannabes and House wannabes right now, they're reading the Constitution and learning about those amendments to the Constitution, don't you think?

TOOBIN: What could be better? This is so great. A little example of public education on -- you know, you read the full text of the First Amendment a couple of minutes ago. What an uplifting experience for us all.

I think the line everybody is trying to draw here is how do you appear informed and knowledgeable and able to do your job as a senator and how much is simply gotcha meaningless knowledge? I think knowing what's in the First Amendment and 14th Amendment is probably closer to like basic knowledge that you need to be a citizen.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much. Good discussion with three of the best members of "The Best Political Team on Television."

Stock prices took a considerable hit at the closing bell today and you can blame it, at least in part, on China. America's biggest lender is giving us some economic grief again. We'll assess. David Gergen is standing by.

And the NFL now says it will suspend players behind some flagrant hits, especially to the head. Will it be a game-changer for football?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: State issues and the federal government are on Jack Cafferty's mind and he's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The legalization of marijuana, immigration reform, and health care. These are three hot-button examples of how the states and the federal government seem to be increasingly out of step with each other.

Starting with California, the Justice Department's vowing to keep prosecuting people who possess marijuana there even if the voters approve a ballot measure that would legalize recreational use of the drug. Attorney General Eric Holder says the administration strongly opposes Proposition 19 and will vigorously enforce federal drug laws should the measure pass.

Now whether or not you approve of marijuana, California is bankrupt and in desperate need of money and taxing pot might be a way to raise some cash.

Meanwhile, the federal government is going after states like Arizona which is trying to do something about illegal immigration since the federal laws go all but unenforced. The Obama administration is suing Arizona saying the state's immigration law is unconstitutional. A federal judge has put some of the most controversial parts of that law on hold, but Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer is vowing to take her state's case all the way to the Supreme Court.

And then there's President Obama's signature issue of health care reform. It's been the law of the land for several months now and yet dozens of states are fighting it. A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by 20 of these states can go forward. He says the states can challenge the constitutionality of the law's requirement for all Americans to buy health insurance.

So, here's the question -- Why does there seem to be a growing disconnect between the states and the federal government?

You can go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment.

BLITZER: All right, jack, thank you. Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File."

Let's get to the economy and jobs and Wall Street right now. The Dow lost 165 points, stocks suffered their worst day in two months following news that China raised its interest rates. Let's talk about that with the senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, I remember in the old days when the United States burped a little bit, the rest of the world reacted big time. Now China raises the interest rate, it burps a little bit and it has a huge impact on what's going on, not only here but around the world. I think it's a sign of the times.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure is. The world is changing in front of our eyes, Wolf.

For most of the years since World War II, the United States has been the locomotive of the world economic growth. We were the engine in the front pulling everyone along. But coming out of the financial crisis, China has displaced us. It's now the locomotive of world growth.

And today, the Chinese engineer slammed the foot on the brake. And when they did that to slow down the locomotive, all of the cars behind, and that included us, they got a real jolt and our markets went down.

BLITZER: You know, look at the numbers. In the second quarter of this year, China's gross domestic product, China's gross domestic product went up 10.3 percent in the second quarter. The U.S. GDP went up 1.7 percent. Wow, what a difference?

GERGEN: Absolutely. And those differences, Wolf, are not only translating to what we saw today, but they're translating to growing economic tensions between China and the United States. We had one more development on that front today.

The "New York Times" has just been reporting on its website that according to three sources, China has retaliated for what we did last Friday. Last Friday, we announced, the U.S. government announced that we were going to investigate their renewable energy industry to see if they were violating world trade rules.

Now they've come back. They were angry about that and apparently, according to these sources, they have slammed restrictions on, they have curbed the shipment to the United States of vital minerals. They're something called rare earths. Not many of us understand them, but they're used for high-tech kind of things, like guided missiles.

They're also used in the renewable energy industry, and China controls 95 percent of this industry. They control 95 percent of this industry and these rare minerals. Most of what we had in the United States has moved to China and here they're using that as a lever against us to retaliate.

And of course, already we've got all these the tensions over currency rates. So these rising tensions between the number one and number two countries -- we're number one in the largest economy, but they're, as those number you just put up, Wolf, illustrated, they're coming up fast.

BLITZER: And they still have nearly a trillion dollars in U.S. T-bills as well. So they have a lot of sway with the U.S.

David, thanks very much.

GERGEN: They're our creditors.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are. They have a lot of money right now, the Chinese.

We're following some other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM including a new report showing that shoplifters could be costing us hundreds of dollars, individual families. We'll explain why.

Plus, a popular Tylenol medication is being recalled. We'll tell you which one ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Including, Kate, a new over-the-counter recall again. What's going on?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately another recall we have to tell you guys about. Tylenol now is recalling 50 count, 8- hour caplets cold in the United States and Puerto Rico. There even been complaints that the product has a musty or moldy odor. But the drug maker calls the risk of serious side effects remote. The company has already issued recalls this year for other Tylenol, Benadryl, and other Motrin medications. This is a good one. You're next trip to Starbucks could soon give you a lot more than a coffee buzz. The company is now experimenting with beer and wine sales at one of its learning lab locations in Seattle. It says the mood is in response to customers who have requested more options for relaxing in the afternoons and evenings. So see if that's coming to a store near you.

Shoplifters, though, they're costing all of us hundreds of dollars. A new report shows that this year U.S. retailers lost $40 billion in stolen goods. That's about $423 in losses that get passed along, then, of course, to other consumers. Among the biggest problems for merchants, organized crimes which involve gangs of people stealing entire shelves of products from stores.

I have to say is what? What? Shoplifting? I don't understand the concept of shoplifting.

BLITZER: It's not just the shoplifting from individuals going and lifting something, but it's the big ticket items that employees steal at warehouses and all of that is part of the --

BOLDUAN: I was amazed to hear about the organized crime.

BLITZER: A lot of organized crime, and they call it in the business shrinkage.

But let's get back to Starbucks, cause I'd like to get a venti skim latte and a pinot grigio combo. Can we do that?

BOLDUAN: I don't know if that's going to be a popular item. Are you combining those tow?

BLITZER: No, but get the pinot grigio and then the venti skim latte.

BOLDUAN: So you're going to spend -- we could spend all day there.

BLITZER: We could have beer --

BOLDUAN: We could do the entire THE SITUATION ROOM there.

BLITZER: Very cool. Wi-Fi too.

BOLDUAN: And it would be a lot more fun. Just kidding.

BLITZER: Thanks.

The U.S. is poised to give Pakistan another big shot of financial help, but here's the question -- is the money getting lost in the violence and the chaos in the country?

And a close encounter between a jumbo jet and -- look at this -- the Golden Gate Bridge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The increasingly tumultuous relationship between the United States and Pakistan is taking center stage here in Washington these days. This month, NATO supply troops in the region were blown to pieces in a series of deadly insurgent attacks. Meanwhile, a senior NATO official now tells CNN members of Pakistan's intelligence service are likely harboring -- at least protecting -- Osama Bin Laden. Now the Obama administration is preparing to offer the country another $2 billion in military aid that comes on top of the $7.5 billion in nonmilitary counterterrorism aid that Congress has approved. Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is monitoring all of this for us. The critics, as we know, are suggesting that the United States is just throwing good money away.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, okay. You can look at it in another way. You could say this is a way for the United States to call the bluff of Pakistan. Here's why. Essentially, there are two issues. One is political will. Do they, the Pakistanis have the political will to go after Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists? Traditionally, they have ties to the Taliban. Their focus has not been on terrorists so much as the threat they perceive coming from India. That's the political will. Then you have the military capability, the capacity. And then they have the traditional army of big tank-type of army. But they do not have that fleet of foot, you know, nimble army that can go in to the mountains. And actually, the U.S. agrees. They didn't have the capability until now. So, essentially what the U.S. says is here, you've got the money, you're going to get -- you're going to have this equipment. You can go into the mountains. Now do it or not. But this will be proof that you have to put your -- your money where your mouth is and go after the terrorists.

BLITZER: I spoke yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. He's saying, look, they don't know where Bin Laden is. He denied any elements of Pakistan's intelligence or military is protecting Bin Laden. Here's the question, what exactly is Pakistan doing to help the United States in searching for Bin Laden going after the terrorists?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you'd have to say, number one, the situation with their political will, the United States says, is changing. It's not where they want it. It's changing. They have more political will to do this. They realize the threat. The next thing would be they've carried out in the swat valley, they carried out attacks. That's another 1,000 people. The most important would have to be the drones -- I think you have it, the drone strikes. The Obama administration is carrying out more drone strikes than ever before. They're quite effective. And you can believe that they wouldn't be doing it if they did not have the cooperation and the agreement of the Pakistanis.

BLITZER: The head of the Pakistani military is in Washington this week. He and others will be meeting not only with the secretary of state, but others with the Pentagon. What's on the agenda right now?

DOUGHERTY: This is the big picture -- this is what's called the strategic dialogue. They'll have everything, agriculture, a trade, the security, and the floods. But it's very important to point out that this is a very delicate time, that the government -- the president is fragile. He's under attack politically. He's in confrontation with the Supreme Court. And also the floods, how the government has carried out the protection of the people during the floods. There's a lot of criticism on that front. So, the fragility of the government is a big thing that is overriding all of this.

BLITZER: It's an enormous relationship with a lot at stake Jill. Thanks very much.

A university that's educated presidents now caught up on a controversy over a fraternity's threatening chant aimed at women. And the story behind the picture caused quite a scare today -- not necessarily today, but this week at the Golden Gate Bridge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Kate's back. She is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Kate, we lost one of our favorite TV dads today.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. I was sad to hear this Wolf and I know that you were too. Actor Tom Bosley has died. He was the father of the popular 1970s sitcom, of course you remember, "Happy Days." Director Ron Howard who played Bosley's son Ritchie Cunningham is remembering his TV dad for his talent and comedic timing. He died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 83 years old.

Here's another one for you. A Yale fraternity under fire after chanting pledges seemed to promote violence against women. Listen here really briefly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No means yes.

BOLDUAN: What you heard them chanting right there no means yes -- on campus. And it's in the dark of night and shot from a cell phone while you can't see them. The Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity has apologized for the chanting pledges. The Yale chapter is asked to suspend activities. Some on campus including women's groups are urging for disciplinary action now.

And check this out. Jumbo jet flying uncomfortably close to the Golden Gate Bridge. Just look at that. It was part of a recent military air show. Critics are wondering the flyover and why a private airplane was involved in a military performance. Most of the uproar over the stunt comes down to this -- and I'm sure I don't need to tell you, it conjures up some painful images of the 9/11 attacks. I just wanted to note that United Airlines, that's the airline where the plane is from. They did send us a statement saying that the flyover was conducted as part of a very well publicized air show and done with the utmost consideration with the safety of the public and everyone involved. They're also responding to this.

BLITZER: Look at the video, it looks really close to the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm sure it was further away. From the angle we've seen, it looks dangerous and people were scared. BOLDUAN: People on the video are saying, whoa.

BLITZER: OMG.

BOLDUAN: What am I going to do with you?

BLITZER: President Obama is making a special appeal to African- American voters. Why he's telling them -- I'm quoting him now, "I need you to stand with me".

Plus, the NFL has just announced new suspensions for dangerous hits that take place on the football field. Stand by for details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist Ed Rollins. Thanks for coming in. I'll play a little clip of the new ad that the Democrat National Committee is putting out. The president is addressing Americans and African-American radio stations in urban areas. Listen to this clip, Donna.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP(

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Two years ago you voted in record numbers and we won a victory few dreamed possible. I know so many across the country are hurting and think change isn't happening fast enough. On November 2, I need you to stand with me and vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, here's the question, Donna. Are African- Americans going to stand up and vote on November 2?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely, Wolf. Not only will they stand up and vote, they will bring the members of their family, their congregation, their friends and co-workers to vote as well. African-Americans are the most reliable and loyal Democratic voters. 91 percent of African-Americans approve of the job President Obama has done in the last year and a half, I think Democrats are poised to get a large black turnout and this is why it's important. Twenty of the most competitive Congressional district, many of them down in the south. African-Americans comprise more than 15 percent of the population. You turn out African-American voters, Democrats can keep the house. Also in the Senate, if you look at the competitive Senate races, African-Americans are poised to help also Democrats in 14 competitive states, New York, Pennsylvania, I can name more, Illinois. Lastly, Wolf, I think this is very important. For gubernatorial races and other valid races, African-American races can make a difference. Yes, President Obama can rally those voters. African-Americans can and will help Democrats take control of the house and the Senate.

BLITZER: As you know, Ed, African-Americans voted in huge numbers in 2008 for President Obama and they still have an enormously high in the 90s approval of him. But do you agree, Donna, they're going to show up and vote in big numbers and make a difference in the midterm election?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know if they will or they won't. They voted almost equal with white voters in the percentage the last time. It was mainly driven by 69 percent of African-American women turned out. If you look at Congressional races, it's hard to get the same kind of coalition. It's a 30 percent to 40 percent dropoff. You talk about the southern districts, a lot of them are suburban rural districts where there's not large African- American populations. I think the president has to be careful too. There is going to be a bigger white vote than there was for McCain in 2008. And I think to a certain extent, what you don't want to do is make sure you don't cross the line. He's the president of all the people and he should encourage all voters to participate. Where he's losing the coalition that he had in 2008 of the young voters and the independent voters who are now independents are two-to-one against him. So to a certain extent, the strategy he's pursuing may be the only strategy he has, but he has to walk a thin line.

BRAZILE: You know, the president's message is very universal -- stand with me -- stand with me on health care, stand with me on preventing the Republicans from privatizing social security and attacking Medicare. Stand with me on making sure we have a fair wage, a living wage, and stop outsourcing jobs. I think that message will resonate with white voters, Spanish, Asians and anyone who will tune into those urban stations who like to get their electoral groove going on real early this electoral season.

ROLLINS: Donna please. If you and I could predict who's turning out, we would make a lot of money in Las Vegas. We could bet on Harry Reid or we could bet on Angle. At the end of the day, it's not a bad strategy. It's the only strategy he may have at the point in time. He's not going to get the college students because they're going to turn out.

BRAZILE: Don't be down on the college --

ROLLINS: I'm not down on them. I'm simply --

BRAZILE: African-Americans turned the Senate back to Democratic hands when President Reagan was in office and 1998 African-Americans won in large numbers. A great report ad -- surprised about African- Americans and other Americans can do when they turn out on Election Day.

ROLLINS: I hope all Americans turn out. At the end of the day, back here in two weeks and we can see the trends right now are basically working to our side.

BLITZER: Historically, and maybe this is a different time, historically, the older you are, the more likely you are to vote, especially in a midterm election, not a presidential election year. Thanks very, very much. Shots are fired at the Pentagon. We're getting new information right now about what could have triggered this dramatic event. Stand by.

And the NFL is doing some tackling of its own. We'll have the details of a tough new action -- a new decision today. That's being taken on the football field.

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BLITZER: When Americans think of football they think of hard tackles and close contact, but the NFL is cracking down on the players who cross the line with flagrant and dangerous hits. They will be suspended and fined and we could see some players punished as soon as this weekend. Let's bring in our CNN contributor Max Kellerman. What is your understanding of these new rules?

MAX KELLERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is interesting, because it is not just flagrant and dangerous, it is devastating hits. So a devastating hit can be one that is legally technically in the rules okay, but results in injury, and a player seems to be defenseless, and perhaps another player tackles him too hard. You know the fear among football purists is a situation like that can result in a suspension. The most interesting thing about this to me, Wolf, is that Ray Anderson, the VP of football operations for the NFL is behaving in a way that you don't normally see officials in the NFL behave. Normally the league is not perceived as being forthcoming or labor friendly. Here, Ray Anderson is quoting football analyst Rodney Harrison saying he admits the suspensions would be helpful in eliminating injury and flagrant hits. He is doing things like admitting that part of football's appeal is the violence, but they are trying to control that level of violence. Just kind of speaking in a way that you don't normally hear people from the NFL often speak.

BLITZER: Well, they want to really stop using the helmet to basically almost knock that person out, but how do you do that, because they have been using the helmet forever in the NFL?

KELLERMAN: Well, it is already unnecessary roughness if you launch yourself at another player and your helmet or face mask hits them in the head or the neck, and that is unnecessary roughness. The change here would be it wouldn't just be a fine or penalty, but you could be suspended for that, so it is kind of further, it is buttressing what is already there.

BLITZER: Is this going to change the popularity of the sport?

KELLERMAN: No, I don't think so. I think purists will complain, but we saw it in boxing when they went from 15 to 12 rounds and in mixed martial arts in order to get sanctioned in various states they added rules to the sport and in the NFL as more kind of comes out and we're more sensitive to the kinds of risks and physical injury that these athletes subject themselves to, we continually I think as a culture insist to have rules there to protect the players and the participants from the sport, itself, and themselves. And in order to be special a contact sport you have to risk yourself and we want to minimize them as a culture.

BLITZER: It is a dangerous sport as we all know. Thank you, Max. We will watch this weekend to see what happens.

Jack Cafferty asks, why is there a growing disconnect between the states and the federal government?

And extravagant gifts at the center of an alleged foreclosure scam. Were they perks or scams to force people out of their homes?

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BLITZER: Jack's here with the Cafferty File. Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is why does there seem to be a growing disconnect between the states and the federal government?

Carla says, "This disconnect is far more serious than that. The real disconnect is between the people and the U.S. government. The states are only trying to follow the collective will of their people, their residents. Frankly one nation indivisible has been divided for a long, long time and the gulf is getting wider each day and the founding fathers would not recognize of what they started."

Mark writes, "The American people are a diverse bunch. There are differences in philosophy among the regions. The federal governments are a one-size-fits-all organization. The feds can not dictate social behavior for the entire country without causing unrest. I think this is one reason the founding fathers set up state's rights, gave the federal government limited powers."

Matt in Illinois, "Because there's a disconnect between those who govern and those who pay the bills. States are tired of having to pay the bills for the unfunded federal mandates and federal officials tying their hands. Citizens are tired of no one listening yet expecting them to pay the bills. It is broken and needs fixing now."

Gino in New Orleans writes, "Historically there has always been a disconnect between federal authority and those rights relegated to it states. Recently, it seems that the states are places of polarization where a state like California is becoming more and more increasingly liberal, my home state of Louisiana is becoming ever more conservative. I think the federal government is stuck in a balancing act of states pulling further and further apart from one another in the ideology of what they think constitutes freedom."

And finally Bud writes from Washington, "This is high drama, Jack, just what the doctor ordered for cleaning out the system. I look forward to the showdown. We have always fought this battle of federal versus states rights. From the very beginning of the republic it has been argued too much federal government versus too little and every 50 years or so, we have to clear the air."

If you want to read more on the topic, you will find it on my CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, bullets slam into the Pentagon. A shooting incident shatters windows prompting a security sweep and a highway shutdown. We have the latest on the investigation.

The deadly bombing of an intelligence base in Afghanistan, did the CIA know it had a double agent in its midst?