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Ex Slams Clarence Thomas; Nuclear Bases Lose Power; Chemicals Pose Danger to Children; Obama's Last-Ditch Analogy

Aired October 26, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: In this, the final campaign week, debates bring drama and danger. In Florida, a Democratic aide is fired for texting advice to his candidate. In Kentucky, a Republican volunteer now facing charges for violently stomping a woman protester. Stand by for news.

A CNN exclusive: An ex-girlfriend says that the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was a binge drinker with a pornography habit. Why she is speaking out now, two decades after sexual harassment allegations nearly sank his nomination?

And as violent storms carve a path of destruction here in America, a volcano and a tsunami wreak havoc across the Pacific.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

With just seven days left, the scramble is on to drum up votes in the critical midterm elections. In some of the most closest Senate races, big names, big-name guests are dropping by to help with the final push.

In West Virginia, Republican candidate John Raese got a visit from Senator John McCain, who easily carried his state in the last presidential election. In Nevada, one of the Senate's newest Democrats, Al Franken, joins AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at a rally for embattled Majority Leader Harry Reid. And former President Bill Clinton gave a boost to the Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias Governor Pat Quinn, all the big guns out on the campaign trail right now.

And the first lady, Michelle Obama, she is using her star power to help Democrats in California. But there have been some awkward moments.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. She is joining us from Los Angeles.

I think that every Democrat wants the first lady out there campaigning for them. What is going on right now in L.A.?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly, a lot of Democrats clamoring for her attention and really this was the perfect opportunity, the perfect setting for her to show a softer, more vulnerable side.

That is exactly what she did before 4,000 women at a conference in Long Beach, California. It was also the perfect opportunity, Wolf, for her to reach out to a critical voting bloc for midterm elections and that is the female voters.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): It was the perfect set up for a candid confession, the first lady offering her initial feelings about what it was like jumping into a campaign.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I was scared. I was worried that I would say the wrong thing. I was nervous that someone might ask a question that I didn't know the answer to. And I have a tendency to do that thing a lot of women do, where you get 99 things right, but you stress and beat yourself up over the one thing you mess up.

MALVEAUX: Mrs. Obama is seemingly putting aside her fears of messing up to try to save the Democrats from losing their majority just days now before the mid elections. Mrs. Obama's West Coast swing is grabbing headlines, arguably the most vilified Democrat by conservatives sharing the stage with the one who has become most beloved. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi basked in Michelle Obama's light and popularity.

The first lady implored female voters to come back into the fold, vote for the Democrats in trouble who are supporting Obama's agenda.

OBAMA: When I was in the campaign trail beforehand, I looked many of you in the eye and I said, if I give my husband to you, you have got to have his back.



MALVEAUX: The unique Democratic duo proved together they could bring in the cold cash. Their San Francisco fund-raiser netted $1.6 million for Democratic candidates. Several dozen attendees paid more than $30,000 each for some private time with the first lady.

And Mrs. Obama is sticking to the script, highlighting the plight of struggling military spouses to implore women to get involved in the political process.

OBAMA: As women, I know that we can all relate to everything I have described today. We get it, that feeling of being pulled in all directions, that nagging sense that you're falling short both at work and at home, that tendency to worry about and care for everyone but yourself. These things are universal.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, we are going to be following every step of the way Michelle Obama's West Coast tour, her trip.

The latest stop, the next stop is going to be a taping on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." You know, Wolf, you have been on that show before, a fun show. It should be a good time. Obviously she is trying to reach out to that critical group and we're talking about those female voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is she going to dance when she goes on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"?


MALVEAUX: I can only imagine. I think she is. She's probably going to dance. I mean, everybody has got to dance on the "Ellen" show, don't you think?

BLITZER: I danced.

MALVEAUX: Even saw you dancing.


BLITZER: And even President Obama danced. Only Anderson Cooper didn't dance, but everybody else likes to dance.

All right, we will watch to see if the first lady dances on the "Ellen" show.

MALVEAUX: You could call it dancing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

One of the more unusual moments at the women's conference had the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the same stage as the two candidates who are trying to replace him, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown. Both have been very critical of Schwarzenegger and each other. Listen to this.


JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: If she takes her negative ads, as reasonably defined, I will take mine off, no question. If we do it together, no problem. I pledge that right now.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": That's what I'm asking.

Governor Brown pledges he will take the negative ads off of the air, Ms. Whitman, if you will take your negative ads off the air, and let's say, what are we, on Tuesday, by tomorrow evening.


MEG WHITMAN (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: So, here is what I will do. I will take down any ads that could even remotely be construed as a personal attack, but I don't think that we can take down the ads that talk about where Governor Brown stands on the issues. I just think it is not the right thing to do.


BLITZER: Meanwhile, a pair of final campaign debates led to some serious drama. Look at this. During a break in last night's Florida gubernatorial debate seen here on CNN, the Democrat, Alex Sink, was shown a text message. That was a violation of the debate rules.


RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: So, we can get notes? We can have people that work for us come and give us messages?


SCOTT: First, Alex, you say you always follow the rules. The rule was no one is supposed to give us messages during the break. And your campaign did with an iPad.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring in CNN's John King. He moderated the debate for us.

All right, there has been fallout, John, from that move by the Democratic candidate, Alex Sink, to go through that. Texting during the break in the debate, that was a violation of the rule.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": It was a violation, Wolf. There has been fallout.

Number one, within an hour or so after the debate, candidate Sink fired the aide who sent her that message. Today, she said she was not sure what it was when the makeup artist handed her the phone. She thought it might have been a message from a daughter who she said was in college in England.

But we listened very closely to the audio. And the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said, I have a message from the staff.

And at that point, they looked at -- it was on a cell phone. It was two sentences. It was essentially after the last segment of the debate telling her, if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you. Two sentences.

It was clear that she looked down and read it. Mr. Scott called her out on that, if you will. His campaign says it's proof essentially that she cheated in the final exam. This was the final debate between the candidates in a three-way race. Will it become a big issue in the final week of the campaign? We don't know, but certainly, there has been a big buzz in Florida politics in the hours since that debate last night.

BLITZER: And even Rick Scott, the Republican candidate, wasted no time with a new campaign commercial. Let me play a little clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mean when CNN caught her breaking the debate rules getting a note from her coach?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cheating. Hilarious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, here's what is not funny. Alex Sink's debate coach is a lobbyist. The same guy who gave her the note in the debate, he's a lobbyist for the insurance industry that Sink is supposed to be regulating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is who is pulling Alex Sink's strings? Lobbyists?


BLITZER: All right, they didn't waste any time with that.

I can't help but notice you have got a pretty amazing wall behind you over there, John. Talk a little bit about some of the new technology, what we're going to showing our viewers one week from today.

KING: Well, Wolf, we're going to unveil more of this at the top of the hour, so I'm going to be not be so nice and not completely answer your question and ask you to tune in at 7:00.

But this is the CNN matrix. You see here the CNN 100. These are what we believe to be the 100 most competitive House races. The Republicans need a net of 39 to pick up control of the House. With the matrix here, we will be able to break down all of these races, put them into historical context, go back in time.

If you lean over this way a little bit, you might see a familiar sight right here. This wall has been updated. It looks familiar, but it's also very, very different, some new high technology added in. So with the help of the wall and then back over here to the matrix, we can go back in time, Wolf. We can look at these key races. We can do a lot of fascinating things with our technology. That's the only hint I will give you for now, but we are going to have a lot more at the top of the hour.

BLITZER: And I know what is coming and what is in store for our viewers. They will certainly like it when they see it. It will make our coverage really spectacular.

Appreciate it, John. See you at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING, USA."


BLITZER: Remember, CNN is the place to be on election night. Join me and the best political team on television for up-to-the-minute vote results, analysis of the outcome, what happens next, only -- only here on CNN, one week from today. Our coverage will begin at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

Here is a question. How tough might it be for the Democrats on Election Day? We are taking you to Louisiana, where a Democrat is hardly making a dent against a Republican a sex scandal in his past. What's going on? We will show you.

And a billionaire throws his support and money behind a move to legalize marijuana -- why he says it would be good for the economy.


BLITZER: Budget cuts certainly on Jack Cafferty's mind. He is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Take a good look at what's going on in Europe these days, because we might be next.

As France tightens its fiscal belt, protesters continue to take to the streets.

Earlier today, the French Senate passed the final draft of a bill that raises the minimum age for retirement from 60 to 62, and the full retirement age from 65 to 67.

This pension reform measure, which is expected to become law next month, has drawn more than a million protesters.

Unions have walked out on refineries, choking France's oil supply. There have been strikes at major ports, disrupted train service, garbage collection, 9,000 tons of rotting garbage piling up in the streets of Marseilles alone.

Students have come out by the tens of thousands to demonstrate against government cutbacks. In all, it's estimated the strikes are costing France's economy more than $500 million a day.

And it's not unlike what we saw last spring and summer in Greece, where tens of thousands protested sweeping reforms there, including cuts in pension benefits and increasing that country's retirement age to 65.

Union protests disrupted plane, ferry and public transport service and public offices were shut.

Meanwhile, despite all the budget -cutting, it probably still won't be enough. Experts say that Greece is likely to default some time in the next three years. There's a lesson in all of this for the United States. If our leaders want to get serious about this nation's staggering deficits, they're going to have to make some tough cuts to things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. And they're going to have to raise taxes, maybe a lot, and perhaps raise the retirement age some more. In other words, it could get very ugly.

Here's the question: Will spending cuts in the United States lead to the kind of things we're seeing in France?

Go to and post a comment.

BLITZER: They have got to start cutting some spending if they want to deal with this deficit, Jack, as you appreciate more than anyone.

CAFFERTY: Yes, well, sure. That will happen.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jack, thank you.

Only seven days to go until the election here in the United States. Let's go to Louisiana right now.

Charlie Melancon, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, he is facing a very, very tough fight with the incumbent, the Republican who has a sex scandal to deal with, but is doing very, very well.

David Vitter, we are talking about him.

Brianna Keilar is joining us now from Louisiana.

Where in Louisiana are you right now, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are in Houma, Louisiana, not too far outside of New Orleans, where we caught up with Vitter's challenger today, Charlie Melancon.

And Louisiana is so interesting, because this is a place where you can ask, it is worse to be a Democrat here or a family values Republican who has been linked to a prostitution ring? And the answer to the question may surprise you.


KEILAR (voice-over): Just how tough of a year is it to be a Democrat? Take a look at the Senate race in conservative Louisiana. You have got Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon, who touts his votes against Democratic priorities, including health care reform and the cap and trade energy bill.

He also opposed President Obama's moratorium on drilling off the Gulf Coast. Melancon is challenging incumbent Republican Senator David Vitter, who you might remember from this 2007 press conference.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I want to again offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions from my past.

KEILAR: That was his vague apology after being linked to a prostitution ring run by the so-called D.C. madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Three years later, Vitter is up in the polls over his Democratic challenger, even as Melancon takes Vitter to task for alleged indiscretions.

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D-LA), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: It is hard for me to believe, because I grew up in a house with three sisters, no brothers, that those same women are going to go to the poll and pull the lever for David Vitter, who is the antithesis of what they're preaching to their children every day.

KEILAR: The ad Melancon is running features a New Orleans prostitute who alleges Vitter was her client.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He went in, took a shower, spoke very little to me at first. He did his thing. He was not there 15, 20 minutes at that. I was $300.


KEILAR: Pretty shocking stuff, but talk to Louisiana voters, and many of them just don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is between him and his wife.

KEILAR (on camera): Even though he ran on family values, it does not affect how you feel about him at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, his opinion might be on family values, but he just did not follow it, but it is between him and his wife.

KEILAR (voice-over): Many who past Vitter's apparent hypocrisy told us they can't see past Melancon's party affiliation.

Stephen Sabludowsky is a political blogger here in Louisiana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charlie Melancon is wearing the albatross of President Obama around his neck. It is just going to be and is an uphill battle.

KEILAR: Vitter, who denied multiple requests from CNN for an interview, is running ads that tie Melancon to Obama.


NARRATOR: Charlie Melancon, he has voted for Obama's endless bailouts, reckless budgets and trillion-dollar stimulus.



KEILAR: And in line with that, Wolf, Senator Vitter did say in a written statement about Melancon's ad that it is just an act of desperation and he's trying to distract from his voting record.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thanks very much.

Brianna is watching the race in Louisiana.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, right now. We will dig a little bit deeper into what is going on.

Only seven days until the election, Gloria. We know a lot of Democrats are trying to distance themselves from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, but some Democrats are going one step further.


Democrat Gene Taylor of the state of Mississippi told a local newspaper over the weekend -- and I quote -- listen to this -- "I did not vote for Obama. I voted for Senator McCain. Better the devil you know."

Now, Wolf, funny how these things come out this close to an election. He is in a very conservative district, where a majority of the voters in that district actually voted for McCain. He is getting a lot of trouble, though, because while he is conservative, he also voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House. And he says that won't happen again.

BLITZER: How much of a problem is Nancy Pelosi for some of the moderate conservative Democrats, the so-called Blue Dogs, many of whom are in danger, potentially endangered species right now?

BORGER: She has turned out to be a huge, huge problem for them, Wolf.

We found this ad run by a Democrat -- remember that -- Democrat Jim Marshall of Georgia. Take a listen to this ad about Pelosi.


NARRATOR: Georgia is a long way from San Francisco. And Jim Marshall is a long way from Nancy Pelosi. Jim Marshall does not support Nancy Pelosi. He voted the same as Republican leaders 65 percent of the time. And Jim Marshall is endorsed by the NRA, Right to Life, and the Chamber of Commerce. They wouldn't have anything to do with a Nancy Pelosi supporter.


BORGER: So, Wolf, is that clear enough?

I mean, this is a huge problem for these moderate conservative Democrats. I spoke with a Republican pollster today who has done polling in 70 battleground districts for Republicans. And Nancy Pelosi's approval rating in those districts is an average of mid-20 percent. And he said the most effective question that we can ask is, would you support Congressman X if he voted with Nancy Pelosi 80 percent of the time?

And the answer to that always is no, which is why you see these ads popping up over and over and over again from Republicans saying that members voted with Nancy Pelosi. So, it is a big winner for the Republicans a big loser for the moderates and conservatives Democrats.

BLITZER: What a difference two years in American politics makes.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: It's unbelievable.

All right, thanks very much, Gloria, for that.


BLITZER: Explosive allegations are being leveled against the United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A former girlfriend claims he was a binge drinker who watched pornography on a regular basis. She told her story last night to "LARRY KING." We have the highlights and follow-up. Stand by.

And another shooting here at a U.S. military building here in the Washington, D.C., area. This is the third one in just over a week -- details coming up.


BLITZER: Binge drinking, a pornography habit. In a CNN exclusive, a one-time girlfriend of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas makes some extraordinarily harsh accusations.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us. It is a really eye-opening series of allegations.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was some incredible TV last night, you know, Wolf, and a lot of this may never have happened if Clarence Thomas' wife had not called Anita Hill a couple of weeks ago and asked for an apology. But she did do that.

That phone call set off a chain of events that has now led to a woman named Lillian McEwen coming out and talking about her experiences as Clarence Thomas' girlfriend.


TODD (voice-over): They were allegations so incendiary, it was hard to believe Lillian McEwen was talking about a sitting Supreme Court justice.


LILLIAN MCEWEN, FORMER GIRLFRIEND OF CLARENCE THOMAS: He was not stable. He drank to excess when I first met him. I did not pay much attention to him when he talked about the porn.


TODD: McEwen was Justice Clarence Thomas' girlfriend in the 1980s. He was not married between 1984 and 1987.

McEwen has been silent for nearly two decades, since Thomas' explosive confirmation hearings.

In an exclusive network interview, McEwen told CNN's Larry King she believes Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment, was telling the truth when she said this.


ANITA HILL, FORMER THOMAS AIDE: He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films.


TODD: Thomas vehemently denied those allegations. Larry King asked McEwen about Thomas and pornography.


MCEWEN: I suppose I would call it a fetish or a hobby. It was on that kind of a level. It was something that was very important to him.


TODD: McEwen, a former prosecutor and administrative judge, has written a memoir and is shopping it to publishers. She said this about Thomas and Anita Hill.


MCEWEN: I assumed at the time when I met Anita Hill and during the time that she was working at the EEOC, and during the time that she was at Education, working with Clarence there, that they had a sexual relationship.


TODD: CNN reached out to Justice Thomas through the Supreme Court to respond to all of McEwen allegation. We have called and e- mailed his wife, Virginia Thomas, and we have contacted a representative for Anita Hill. We have gotten no response and CNN is unable to independently confirm McEwen's allegations.

McEwen also said Thomas does not have the intellectual curiosity or the attention span to be a justice.

David Rivkin, a former White House counsel for the first President Bush, who did an extensive interview in 2008 with Justice Thomas for "The Wall Street Journal," says this: DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: She is utterly wrong.

TODD: I also asked Rivkin to response to this allegation from McEwen regarding Thomas' Supreme Court decisions.


MCEWEN: He is rewarding those people that he thinks are his friends. He is also punishing those people he thinks are his enemies.


TODD (on camera): That may be the most serious allegations she makes as far as it relates to the Supreme Court right now. What do you think of this?

RIVKIN: This is utterly untrue. This is a justice who believes that it is a Constitution and the Constitution only that informs his opinions. His personal policy preference, his predilections, absolutely not in play.


TODD: Now, to back that up, Rivkin said when he asked Justice Thomas who his favorite justice of all time was, Thomas told him it was John Marshall Harlan, the one that served in the 1800s.

He said that, Thomas says, because Justice Harlan was a racist who puts aside his racist beliefs to side with minorities in the United States against segregation. And Rivkin said Thomas pointed out that is the way an impartial justice should behave. So, Rivkin really refutes what McEwen says about that part.

BLITZER: And Lillian McEwen, she has got a very distinguished background, a former administrative judge, a former U.S. prosecutor, a distinguished lawyer. She is not just some woman without a history there.

TODD: That's right. True. That's true. She has all those credentials. And she says, as far as why she is coming out now, she says, look, I asked if they wanted me to testify. She said she reached out to then Senator Joe Biden's staff in 1991, reminding that staff -- he was the head of the Judiciary Committee then -- reminding them that she had a relationship with Thomas and saying that she would testify.

She said that she was never called to testify, doesn't know why. We tried all day to get a response from Vice President Biden's office. We have heard nothing on that.

BLITZER: Because if she had been called to testify before the Judiciary Committee that Joe Biden then chaired, presumably, she would have corroborated what Anita Hill was saying about Clarence Thomas.

(CROSSTALK) TODD: Very well might have.

BLITZER: That could have made a difference.

Brian, thanks very much.

Let's go deeper with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's the author of "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court," the best-selling book.

Was this as eye-opening to you as it was to me, Jeff, this interview that Larry had last night?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. This woman was very well known as Clarence Thomas' girlfriend during that period of the mid-'80s, but during the whole Hill controversy, when everybody, including many of us were reporting on this story, she kept her silence.

The fact that her story lines up so well with Anita Hill, I think, is of great historical importance. I don't think it's going to have any effect on Justice Thomas or his status on the court, but it sure is interesting.

BLITZER: The point that maybe, as Brian said, the most significant allegation she makes is that he and all of his decisions, simply rewarding his friends on the conservative side and punishing his enemies on the liberal side. If true, that's a very serious charge.

TOOBIN: Yes, I think that seems like hyperbole to me. I mean, Clarence Thomas has a very long-established judicial philosophy. He's very conservative. It lines up almost exactly with Virginia Thomas' political philosophy. They are both very conservative. Their interests are very much aligned, but that's been true since Thomas went on the bench. That's been true throughout his public career.

I don't think you can pin any sort of transformation or any sort of improper motivation to Thomas' philosophy. This is what he thinks. This is what his wife thinks, but I don't -- I think that's largely unrelated to the whole Anita Hill controversy.

BLITZER: There will be some of his critics who will say, you know, he lied under oath during his confirmation hearings, and it would be time to impeach him or get him off the bench. What I heard you saying is that's virtually impossible?

TOOBIN: Well, it's certainly not impossible in theory. I mean, the only check that Congress has on a Supreme Court justice is the power of impeachment, and it is worth noting that when you look at all the subsequent investigations of the Hill/Thomas story, whether it's Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson's book "Strange Justice," other people coming forward who had similar experiences with Thomas, I mean, virtually all of the subsequent evidence backs up Anita Hill's story.

But is it enough to generate impeachment in the House? I think the answer to that is absolutely not. This story is over. It's of interest historically. It's of interest to people who want to follow the court, but I don't think there are going to be -- no consequences to this.

BLITZER: And why his wife left that voice mail on Anita Hill's phone recorder the other day still is baffling, but that's a story for another day we'll pursue.

TOOBIN: Count me as baffled, as well.

BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey. Thanks very much.

We're following a developing story just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM involving America's nuclear arsenal. We'll have that when we come back.

Also, ferocious winds near hurricane force march across the Midwest and the south. We're keeping track of the damage and the danger.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news involves a power failure that shut down a major part of the U.S. nuclear-missile arsenal. Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

Wow, Chris. What do we know?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this happened out in Warren Air Force Base out in Wyoming, and bottom line is this. For less than an hour, about an hour on Saturday, the base lost primary communication with about 50 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The bottom line, the U.S. has about 450 of these missiles. Fifty, they lost primary communication with. So, for about an hour, 1/9 of the U.S. stockpile was out of primary communication.

Now, backup systems kicked in. That allowed the people at the base to still monitor the missiles, and we're told that they could still be launch capable. They still could have been launched. They may have had to have been controlled by another entity; not the actual people down in the bunker who would normally be in touch with those missiles.

Now we're also told here at the Pentagon that the highest levels of military leadership were notified immediately when this happened, including the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "Atlantic Monthly" is reporting President Obama was also briefed on the situation.

Right now at this moment, we're told that engineers are looking into the cause of this, although we're told no malicious action is suspected at this point. But again, serious enough that the highest levels of the military leadership and possibly even above that had to be notified, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the "Atlantic" -- the "National Journal," which is part of the "Atlantic," they say the president was notified this morning, which raises the question, why was he only notified this morning if this happened over the weekend?

LAWRENCE: On Saturday.

BLITZER: Yes, on Saturday. We'll dig deeper on that.

Chris, thanks very much.

Tornadoes, rain, and hurricane-force winds all in one storm, and all of it hitting a huge section of the U.S. right now. We'll have details coming up.

And a nasty confrontation outside a political debate. A woman -- look at this -- a woman was stomped on.


BLITZER: A storm of historic proportions slammed into the Midwest and south. It's a nightmare combination of torrential rains, tornadoes and hurricane-force winds. The winds in some areas were even greater than a hurricane.

The storm is massive, as well, stretching over -- look at this -- 1,200 miles from the Great Lakes south to the Gulf Coast. Homes were damaged. More than 100,000 people lost power. The storm is creating heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions in North Dakota, and it is not over yet. The storm is pummeling the region tonight.

CNN's own Dr. Sanjay Gupta went before a congressional committee today to discuss the dangers of thousands of chemicals which can prove especially poisonous to children.


BLITZER: And joining us now from New Jersey, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

Sanjay, tell us about your testimony; why you were called to testify today.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was interesting, Wolf. This -- this particular hearing was really about the -- the interplay between environmental toxins and children's health.

Chairman Lautenberg, who's the chairman of committee, this particular committee on the environment, basically wants to reform a very antiquated law in this country, looking at the way that we look at environmental toxins, how they are tested, how they are shown to be safe.

And as you know, Wolf, we did a year-long investigation into this issue for a documentary for CNN called "Toxic America." We talked to people all over the country. We talked to government and private- sector scientists and read the data and basically created this two- hour documentary.

Senator Lautenberg watched it and felt it had a significant impact, and that's the reason I came to testify. Not as a toxicologist, not as a chemist, but as a reporter and a doctor and also as a father of three, given that this was very much about environmental toxins and the impact on children, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sanjay, you're getting ready to head back to Haiti, where there's been a horrendous outbreak of cholera. Little kids are dying. You reported months ago when you were down there, this was your fear. It was totally preventable, but it's coming about, why?

GUPTA: Well, it's embarrassing, Wolf. That's why. I mean, I don't know. It's embarrassing, because people are on their hands and knees for a clean glass of water, Wolf. And you're right. I mean, you know, out of all the progress, and some was made over the last ten months. Not as much as most people would have liked. Many people would have liked a lot more. This was preventable.

As much progress as we make in the world of medical technology and scientific development, people dying for a glass of water, people dying for lack of a 50-cent rehydration packet, and people dying even though we all knew this could possibly happen.

So I think there's a venting of compassion after a disaster like this for people who want to give, and they did in large numbers. Unfortunately, a lot of money still hasn't made its way to Haiti. That's a problem.

But also I think the compassion, the attention starts to dry up over time, and where you think they should have had clean water, they simply didn't. So they're drinking out of contaminated riverbeds. They get cholera, and they spread like wildfire through their villages and camps. It's an absolutely embarrassing situation that did not need to happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll look forward to your reporting, even though it's a horrible, horrible development. Sanjay, be careful down there. We'll check in. Thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thanks, Wolf.


BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting for us.

Much more coming up, including what's going on in Indonesia. A tsunami village is wiped out. We're going there. Stand by.


BLITZER: An unexpected health problem for a candidate trying to unseat Senator Barbara Boxer out in California. Kate is back. She has that and other top stories. This is a sad story right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a sad story, Wolf. We're all thinking about her right now. This has to do with California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. She's in the hospital. A statement released by her campaign says she's being treated with antibiotics for an infection related to reconstructive surgery related to breast cancer. The campaign says doctors expect Fiorina will make a full recovery, and she'll be back on the campaign trail soon. We all wish her well, obviously.

Other stories we're watching, fallout for this nasty incident outside last night's debate between Senate candidates Rand Paul and Jack Conway. You see it right here. Video of the incident shows a woman working for the liberal group being assaulted. Several men are seen ripping off the woman's wig and pushing her to the ground. And one of the men, wearing a "Rand Paul for Senate" T- shirt, is seen stomping on her shoulder.

The campaign volunteer has been identified by police and has been issued a summons to appear in court. The Paul campaign says -- says they will no longer accept the volunteer's help.

Also, billionaire philanthropist George Soros is throwing his support and money behind Proposition 19, California's controversial initiative to legalize marijuana. Soros says regulating and taxing marijuana would save taxpayers billions of dollars in law enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing billions of dollars in yearly revenue.

He's donated $1 billion to the Prop 19 campaign. Californians will vote on the initiative Tuesday. Legalize marijuana, Wolf, that's what they're talking about.

BLITZER: It's amazing what's going on out in California. The polls show it's -- it's not going to win, but we'll see. Still got a week to go.

BOLDUAN: Well, a lot of money behind it.

BLITZER: Well, George Soros has got a lot.

BOLDUAN: Got money to go around.

BLITZER: Billions here, billions there. He can spend that money.

BOLDUAN: I could use some.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

A volcano erupted at least three times in Indonesia today. At least 15 people were killed, including journalists who are trying to get close to the volcano. Thousands of nearby residents now evacuated the area. This comes after a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck on Monday. At least 112 people were killed. Five hundred and two others were missing after that quake, and a tsunami that hit the Indonesian islands, officials said today. We're praying for all of those folks.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next. He's got his question and this: is it time for the president to ditch one of his analogies?


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Will spending cults in the United States eventually lead to the kind of things we're seeing in France?

Eric writes: "Whatever the solution to our economic woes may be, one thing for sure is that it will be painful to many people. None of the politicians running for election will talk about this upcoming pain, which I find incredibly interesting. On the flip side, the American people don't even see it coming and think the solutions will be easy. Won't they be surprised? I appreciate you bringing this up."

And Marie in Pennsylvania: "Once something is given, it's almost impossible to take away. Political pandering to voting blocs and misguided liberalism have made us weak and dependent. Very soon we'll be asked to accept the burden of sacrifice, as Americans used to do. Patriotically, without resorting to French-style hissy fits. The ultimate reaction to that request will depend on the inspiration of the leader doing the asking."

Don in Canada: "No way. The politicians in France and England have guts. They really do have the best interests of their countries apart so they make the tough, cost-cutting decision, despite their unpopularity with so many voters. American and Canadian politicians are gutless wonders, concerned only about offending no one and getting re-elected. They'll be no general strikes or other civil unrest in America. Just eventual bankruptcy."

Paul in Hawaii: "If you ask people in the street what our national debt is, 1 in 100 would know it's $13.6 trillion. The other 99, completely clueless. What does that tell you about the problems we'll face in the future? It tells me we're in deep, deep trouble."

Mike in Florida: "It's not spending cuts that will lead to the kind of things we're seeing in France and Greece. It's the entitlement society we have created. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare. And the eventual takeover of health care by the feds are all what will eventually lead us to violence in the streets when the government finally goes bankrupt. Socialism doesn't work. Show me a list of great socialist nations brimming with a healthy middle class and unemployment rate under 7 percent, and a government running a surplus."

And Faye in Pennsylvania says: "I don't think it will make a difference to the average American, as long as there's 'Monday Night Football,' a case of beer, and a credit card for the wife to go to the mall, then all is right with the world. Sad to say but true." You want to read more on this, check my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. Thanks very much. See you tomorrow.

Should President Obama ditch -- key word, "ditch" -- his favorite campaign line? Jeanne Moos is next.


BLITZER: Cars driving into ditches, the metaphor certainly getting a lot of play on the campaign. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you want to see cars going into ditches, watch YouTube. But if you want to hear about them...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They drove our economy into a ditch.

MOOS: ... listen to the president in speech after speech. Rescuing the car he says the Republicans crashed.

B. OBAMA: We put on our boots...

It's muddy down there.

It's dirty and dusty.

Bugs everywhere.

We're down there pushing, pushing.

Uh, shoving it.

MOOS: The Secret Service may not let the president drive more than a few feet, but he's been driving home this metaphor for months.

B. OBAMA: The Republicans are up there looking at us, sipping on their Slurpees.

MOOS: It's the big laugh line.

B. OBAMA: Sipping on a Slurpee.

Fanning themselves. Sipping on a Slurpee.

Saying you're not pushing hard enough.

MOOS: And we in the media are sucking it up.


MARK KNOLLER, CBS WHITE HOUSE RADIO CORRESPONDENT: President Obama is portraying a Slurpee as the official beverage of obstructionist Republican leaders.

MOOS: The folks at 7-Eleven, who sell Slurpees say, "We really appreciate President Obama giving the Slurpee free publicity." But they note the Slurpee is bipartisan.

(on camera) The next thing you know, the president changed gears by changing drinks.

B. OBAMA: You'd see the Republicans standing there, having a latte.

MOOS (voice-over): Then comes the president's punch line about the Republicans.

B. OBAMA: And then they got the nerve to ask for the keys back!

No! You can't have the keys back! You don't know how to drive.

MOOS: Critics say it's President Obama who's digging a deeper ditch: "I don't care if Bush drove you into the ditch. Stop digging!"

They say he's driving his analogy into a ditch. That he's driving the country off a cliff, as in "Thelma & Louise."

Lately, the president has embellished his story by telling Republicans...

B. OBAMA: We'll give you a ride if you want, but you got to sit in the back seat!

MOOS: As for what's on the Republicans menu...

(on camera) Slurpees, lattes, what's next?

(voice-over) A campaign condiment perhaps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: Love Jeanne Moos.

That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.

KING: Thanks, Wolf. And good evening, everyone from the CNN Election Center and from the core of our new CNN Election Matrix. It is one week now 'til Election Day.