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From Campaigning to Governing; Prince William Engaged

Aired November 20, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: He's thinking about running for president in 2012. Ahead, GOP Congressman Mike Pence weighs in on a potential run in his party's sunning return to power on Capitol Hill.

Her self-declared miraculous victory, deals a potential blow to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party machine. I'll speak with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski about her dramatic write-in candidacy and much more.

And it's going to be a royal wedding for the history books. Prince William and his longtime love Katherine Middleton are revealing firsthand their emotional road to engagement, and the dramatic role the late princess Diana played in the moment.

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

Republicans are preparing to take the reins in the House of Representatives following sweeping mid term election victories. Come January there will no shortage of critical issues facing the party. And joining us now, Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R) INDIANA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congratulations on your re-election and congratulations on the Republican wins.

PENCE: Oh, thank you. It's a very humbling thing to see what the American people did on November 2nd, and the Republicans are determined to turn a willing ear to the American people and really focus on creating jobs and putting our fiscal house in order.

BLITZER: You want to cut that deficit, you want to cut the national debt. That's critically important to you, right? I want to go through some specific cuts where the money is in domestic spending and tell me if you're willing to cut spending for Social Security?

PENCE: Well, let me say, I think everything has to be on the table.

BLITZER: So, you are willing to cut entitlements.

PENCE: I think it's absolutely imperative that we-

BLITZER: What about Medicare? PENCE: I think it is absolutely imperative whether it is Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid?

BLITZER: So, you're willing to cut in all three of those areas?

PENCE: Let me say, I believe if we act in the near future that we can, through responsible reforms in the long term, we can put our nation on a pathway towards fiscal solvency, with regard to entitlements, we are going to have to take some deep cuts in domestic spending.

BLITZER: National security, too?

PENCE: We'll have to look at defense spending and procurement, and look for efficiencies there as well. We have great challenges mount around the country. We have to meet those, that is the first obligation of the national government.

BLITZER: Let's go through some of these specifics.

PENCE: Everything's got to be on the table.

BLITZER: I appreciate what you're saying. Because or new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, that came out today, we asked which is more important, reducing the deficit or preventing, for example, cuts in Medicare? 19 percent said reducing the deficit; 79 percent said preventing cuts in Medicare. Similar question. Which is more important, reducing deficit, or preventing cuts in Medicaid? 69 percent said don't cut Medicaid. Which is more important, reducing deficits, preventing cuts in Social Security? 78 percent say don't cut Social Security. So in these three areas, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security the overwhelming majority of Americans say don't touch it.

PENCE: Well I don't know if -- I don't know if they're saying don't touch it. I think they're saying, for people who are on Medicare or in Social Security or depending on Medicaid today, let's keep the promises we've made to seniors. Let's keep the promises we've made to people that are near--

BLITZER: What about people approaching?

PENCE: Let's keep the promises for people near the age of retirement. I've said many times I believe personally that we ought to draw the line at the age of 40. Anyone over the age of 40, we'll keep you in the same deal that you've been promised in Social Security and Medicare all of your life. But for Americans under the age of 40, I believe it's absolutely imperative, in addition to taking strong steps to put our fiscal house in order on the domestic side, it's absolutely imperative that we reform these programs.

BLITZER: Give me example of the reform in Social Security for people under 40? Would you raise the retirement age?

PENCE: Well, I think-I'm an "all of the above" guy. We need to look at everything on the menu for people under the age of 40. It's not about giving younger Americans less of a deal in the New Deal. It's about giving them a better deal. It's about saying to younger Americans, if you will accept changes in the system, whether it's retirement age, or whether it's the structure of the benefits, that we will create new vehicles for you to engage in private savings, and begin to create the kind of personal reserves-

BLITZER: You're saying everything is on the table right now?

PENCE: Well, but what I'm saying is you replace the New Deal program for people under the age of 40, with a butter deal.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get to some specific issues involving taxes. The Bush tax cuts, all of them expire the end the year unless new legislation is passed in this lame-duck session.

PENCE: That's right.

BLITZER: The compromise that is on the table , right now, apparently, according to all the reports, extend them all for two years. Are you ready to do that? Would you vote yes for that?

PENCE: Well, Senator Jim Demint and I just introduced legislation today that would make all the current tax rates permanent.

BLITZER: The Democrats won't accept that. The president won't accept that.

PENCE: I think the American people will accept that.

BLITZER: The president won't accept that.


PENCE: Well-

BLITZER: He might accept it for two years.

PENCE: Well, we'll see.

BLITZER: The question is, would you accept it for two years, or let them all lapse?

PENCE: Well, how about a vote? Here's an idea. I know we've been pretty much a beleaguered --

BLITZER: You think the lame duck, the lopsided Democratic majority in the House would vote for a permanent extension for millionaires and billionaires, all those taxes?

PENCE: Look, I don't know. I don't get invited to the Democrat caucus meeting.

BLITZER: But you know, you're a smart guy.

PENCE: Look, there were at least three dozen Democrats who said they were prepared to extend all the current tax relief. I'm saying if they want to vote on their plan, to raise taxes in two years, on small business owners and family farmers, as opposed to raising taxes in January. And we are allowed to bring the Demint/Pence bill to the floor of the House and the Senate, that says, how about this? How about let's keep all the current tax rates where they are. I've got a feeling we'd pass that bill.

BLITZER: Might pass it in the house. We'll see what happens in the Senate. I doubt if the president would sign it into law, and I don't know if you have the two-thirds majority to override a veto. Specifically, if it comes down to a two-year extension for all tax rates including people making more than $250,000 a year or nothing what would you do?

PENCE: Look, I don't like dealing in hypotheticals. I think you know that. What I want to tell you is that higher taxes won't get anybody hired. It would be a bad idea to raise taxes on any American, in January.

BLITZER: There wouldn't be any raising of taxes for two years.

PENCE: Well, look, Wolf, come on. The small business own, the family farmer, an entrepreneur out there, this says OK, so you're going to raise my taxes in two years? How do you make long-term investments? How do you hire people?

BLITZER: That doesn't necessarily mean-you can have another vote in two years. You might even have a bigger majority.

PENCE: Well, come on. We've got $ 2 trillion in sidelined assets and corporate profits in this economy because after years of borrowing and bailouts and takeovers and mandates, business is pulling back. We're saying --

BLITZER: I know what you want and what a lot of Republicans want, but you've got to deal with what is realistic, too.

PENCE: What's realistic is that the American people on November 2nd engaged in a historic rejection of the Obama-Pelosi agenda. And I think we ought to give Democrats and Republicans and this administration a chance to fundamentally change direction. Hope springs eternal. Maybe the president will listen and sign it. Then we can get on with talking about growth and the kind of reforms that will really get the economy moving.

BLITZER: When are you going to announce whether or not you'll run for president?

PENCE: Well, look, let me tell you, we've talked about this before. And now that I've stepped aside from some leadership duties on Capitol Hill, my wife, and little family are going to listen to the encouragement we have received from people back in Indiana and a little bit around the country to consider higher office. And in a couple of months, we'll make the best decision we can where we make the best difference for the values that have called us to public service.

BLITZER: We look forward to your decision.

PENCE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congressman, thank you very much.

PENCE: Good to be with you.

The Tea Party is certainly a new force here in Washington. How much will it actually be able to accomplish, when it comes to governing though? My interview with a major icon in the movement. That is coming up later.

Plus, her self-proclaimed victory deals a potentially crushing blow to Sarah Palin. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is here. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There's a move now by number of Republicans to try to delay a Senate vote on the nuclear arms treaty with Russia, until the next Congress convenes in January. Backed by former secretaries of State and Defense, from both parties, President Obama wants the Senate to ratify the START Treaty now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot afford to gamble on our ability to verify Russia's strategic nuclear arms. And we can't jeopardize the progress that we've made in securing vulnerable nuclear materials, or in maintaining a strong sanctions regime against Iran. These are all national interests of the highest order.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She has claimed a re-election victory after a dramatic write-in campaign against the Tea Party challenger, the Republican nominee Joe Miller. Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst is here, for the questioning as well.

Senator, let me get your quick reaction. Are you going to vote to ratify the START Treaty during this lame-duck session?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, (R) ALASKA: Well, I think I share the same concerns as many that the time schedule that we have in front of us in this lame duck is going to be very, very limited. I would like to speak to not only Jon Kyl, but also Senator Lugar about where we are with the negotiations and discussions and really make sure we're ready to go.

BLITZER: Does that mean you're undecided or you've decided to vote against it right now?

MURKOWSKI: No. I have not decided to vote against it. I have been a little bit preoccupied in these last two months. And we just finished that up last night. So now I'll be able to focus fulltime on my responsibilities in the Senate. I'm looking forward to doing that. And part of that will be figuring out exactly where we are with the new START Treaty.

BLITZER: Gloria's got a question.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Senator, let's talk about the national implications of your race for a moment. Because as you know, Sarah Palin , I don't have to tell you, did not support you in your race for re-election. When were you asked about your win earlier today on the "TODAY" show you said, quote, "We don't want governance based on anger or fear." Is that the way you believe that former Governor Sarah Palin governs or campaigned?

MURKOWSKI: No. My comments were not directed towards Sarah Palin. My comments were really directed towards what I think we saw in this Senate race here in Alaska. Alaskans are really focused on what will the future of our state be? How does the inner section of what's going on in Washington, D.C. impact here in our state. What kind leadership do we want?

And the campaign that was run by my opponent, primary opponent, Joe Miller, was one that really kind of focused on that fear and that anger. And that was not the direction that I took my campaign, and I think that's one of the reasons, a very strong reason, why the numbers have pulled in my favor from the day one, when we started counting and when we finalized this yesterday. Why the outcome was so favorable for me.

BLITZER: Would you support Sarah Palin if she were the Republican presidential nominee?

MURKOWSKI: I have been asked the question on numerous networks and I have indicated that Sarah Palin is not the person that I'm looking to right now for my presidential nominee. We are still very early into this. I think it's way too premature to suggest that Sarah Palin will be the Republican nominee. We'll see how things unfold.

BORGER: You have also said that you don't believe she has the intellectual curiosity that allows for building good policies. What do you mean by that?

MURKOWSKI: Sarah Palin was the governor here in the state for almost two years. I had an opportunity working at the federal level to work with her at the state level, and I don't -- I've said this-I don't believe that she actually enjoyed governing. She is very good at the campaigning, she's very good with her people skills and the relationships that she builds in a campaign. But I don't see that her focus is on the policy side of it, the governing side of it. And I think that's important.

BLITZER: What advice do you have for other Republicans who are up for re-election in 2012? Republicans specifically, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, who potentially-we don't know if they will-could be targeted by the Tea Party Movement, as you were? MURKOWSKI: The advice I would give not only those colleagues, but any of my colleagues, Republicans or Democrats. Make sure that you are listening to all of your constituents. To just listen to one group for purposes of getting through the primary is going to be problematic.

Now, I obviously took the far more difficult path to return to the United States Senate, but here in the State of Alaska, I think Alaskans were looking at the options that they had before them. And decided that they wanted to send back to the United States Senate someone that was a consensus builder, someone that was going to work across party lines, somebody that would represent all Alaskans, not just those in one segment of the party.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Senator. Very quickly, if you can give a yes or no. I'm curious to know where you stand. Will you vote to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for the U.S. military?

MURKOWSKI: I don't know how that's going to be presented in this upcoming lame duck. In terms of that Defense authorization bill, and whether or not we will get to that. It's indeterminate at this point in time.

BLITZER: Will you vote to repeal the Obama health care law?

MURKOWSKI: I've already voted to repeal the Obama health care law. I think we will probably have other opportunities in this upcoming Congress to do just that.

BLITZER: But you are going to fight for continuation of earmarks for Alaska?

MURKOWSKI: I'm going to do what I need to take to represent my state when it comes to federal revenues and federal dollars to make sure that the interests, not only of Alaskans, but of the entire nation are served. Whether it's through ensuring that our military installations are sound, whether we are taking care of our veterans, whether we are taking care of Alaska Natives or First Americans. The responsibility is there, and I'm going to be working very, very hard to ensure just that.

BLITZER: Sarah Palin is making it clear she thinks she can beat President Obama in a potential 2012 matchup. Details of the new interview, that's ahead.

And we are getting new information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden from someone who knows him personally.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Sarah Palin is sending out new signals she may run for president in 2012 and makes it clear she thinks she can win. Our Brian Todd take a closer look at her latest comments.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): She joked about it with someone who sang the national anthem.

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Would you like to sing that at an inauguration?


PALIN: Not necessarily mine.

TODD: She was more deliberate when asked what it would take for her to run for president.

PALIN: It would be prayerful consideration and getting a good lay of the landscape, too. The political landscape, because I'd be in it to win it.

TODD: Now the most serious indication yet that Sarah Palin will challenge for the White House in 2012. Asked if she's weighing a run, she tells "The New York Times" magazine, I am. Saying, I'm engaged in the internal deliberations candidly, and having that discussion with my family. Asked by ABC's Barbara Walters about her plans.

PALIN: I'm looking at the lay of the land now and trying to figure that out, if it's a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it's a good thing.

BARBARA WALTERS: If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?

PALIN: I believe so.

TODD: Palin has established a team of advisers. Some young and untested, but also veterans like Randy Shunamen (ph), John McCain's foreign policy adviser in 2008. Shunamen (ph) told me he's advising her not in relation to running for president, but for her speeches and writings on issues.

When we called and e-mailed several other advisers and her political action committee we got no response. That's part of the Palin paradox.

(On camera): And that is part of the Palin paradox, while Sarah Palin is undoubtedly a major media star on several platforms, she and her staff often don't respond to request for comments on stories. At least from those she calls the mainstream media.

(voice over): But Sarah Palin has charted her own very effective course into medialand. She's a fixture in "People" magazine, on Facebook. She has some of the most influential Tweets in politics.

As for what is called Palin, Inc., between her book deals, and TV gigs, and speeches, Palin has reported to have earned at least $12 million. Her new TLC reality show recently drew 5 million viewers, a basic cable bonanza. But Republican heavyweight strategist Karl Rove told a British newspaper, "I'm not certain how that fits in the American calculus of, that helps me see you in the Oval Office."

I asked David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network about that.

TODD: Does the reality show hurt her chances for the presidency?

DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: No, not at all. It strengthens them, for a lot of reasons. Think about it. She's in Alaska scaling mountains, for goodness sake. She is in Alaska, fishing with brown bears all around her. When we see things like this, when we see impressions like this as Americans, we think, you know, that person's pretty impressive. She's pretty tough.

TODD: Brody says he's met recently with other prospective GOP contenders like Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty. He believes Palin not leaning as heavily towards running as Gingrich and Pawlenty, but he says if she does run, she'll shoot straight to the top. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Osama bin Laden, alive and well and still giving orders to Al Qaeda. We'll get the latest on the world's most wanted terrorist from a man who once knew him. The Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal.

Plus, details of a royal engagement revealed. The proposal, the ring, and much more, all in my interview with royal biographer Mark Saunders.


BLITZER: Osama bin Laden is healthy, moving around, and very much in charge of Al Qaeda. That's according to a man who knows bin Laden personally, and also who has inside knowledge of Saudi Arabia's fight against terror.

Joining us now, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, he's the former Saudi ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom, also the former chief of intelligence in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Turki, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Always good to see you. Walk us through what happened, because U.S. officials are giving Saudi Arabia lot of credit for thwarting that parcel bombing attempt in Dubai, and the United Kingdom. The information you provided stopped it. Walk us through what happened.

AL-FAISAL: I'll tell you what I read in the papers, because I'm not in the official loop, but from my previous experience, there's continuous exchange of information between the CIA and Saudi security agencies. The general intelligence directorate, and the Mubahi (ph) and the ministry of the interior, and I'm assuming that in the course of the usual exchange of information that a blip came on the radar of Saudi security agencies.

BLITZER: Supposedly it was an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist who was cooperating with you and provided the information.

AL-FAISAL: That's what I read in the paper, but I would suspect that it's more than that. It's a whole range of procedures, and processes, that the Kingdom has developed since I left the intelligence service and to meet the present challenge of the terrorist threat to the Kingdom.

BLITZER: How good is the intelligence cooperation right now between the United States, the Obama administration and the Saudi Kingdom?

AL-FAISAL: It is excellent. It's really excellent and has been growing over the years, and because we face the same challenges and the same threats from these people, the corporation is very close.

BLITZER: How powerful is al Qaeda and the in the Arabian Peninsula? We've heard a lot about this American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. How significant is this group in Yemen right now?

AL-FAISAL: It seems to be able to do things that they're not able to do in Saudi Arabia and so from that context, their threat is not only on Yemen itself but even on us and on you and the rest of the world.

BLITZER: Do they have -- they have bomb-making capabilities. We know that. How good are they?

AL-FAISAL: They seem to be quite good. What I heard described as these parcels that they sent on the airplanes, were so disguised that in England, for example it took them some time to discover it.

BLITZER: As we're speaking, Germany has gone on a higher state of alert right now. Do you have inside information what's going on?

AL-FAISAL: I don't, but I'm sure there is cooperation as well between Germany and the kingdom and other countries in the area.

BLITZER: How close is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to the original al Qaeda led by Bin Laden, wherever he is right now?

AL-FAISAL: I believe all of the so-called al Qaedas, whether in Yemen, in Iraq, in North Africa, in southeast Asia, Turkey and so on, all have links to the original leadership in al Qaeda.

BLITZER: And you're one of the few leaders who's actually met Osama Bin Laden?

AL-FAISAL: I did. I met him when like you, he was good guy.

BLITZER: This was in the '80s?

AL-FAISAL: In the mid-80s when we were all fighting the soviets in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Did you continue having a relationship with him in the '90s?

AL-FAISAL: The last time I saw him was the end of 1989 or the beginning of 1990, when he came to me way proposal at that time that he wanted to bring his army as he called it to fight against the communist regime in south Yemen, which later on became united with north Yemen.

BLITZER: Why is it so hard to find this guy?

AL-FAISAL: You tell me. I'm surprised that it is hard, because I know that in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the tribes people there are, when I was working in the intelligence at the time, were very cooperative and would provide information, if they feel that that information will get them reward.

BLITZER: Do you think he's someplace on the border of Pakistan, probably?

AL-FAISAL: I think he moves from both sides. When he feels threatened in Pakistan, he goes to Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Do you think he's still giving orders and commands?


BLITZER: How does he do that?

AL-FAISAL: Well, by messenger sometimes. Sometimes they use one of -- digital message.

BLITZER: And this notion that he's a sick man, has got kidney problems.

AL-FAISAL: No, no, no. It's all notions. He's in good health.

BLITZER: And he's still on the loose, and nobody really knows, but you think they'll find him?

AL-FAISAL: I think they should find him and I think the United States should call the countries that are, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, and set a plan in motion to capture or eliminate him.

BLITZER: You and I have known each other many years. I know you're a very blunt, candid man. Do you think the U.S. strategy in what's called the war on terror is working?

AL-FAISAL: Well, I think the whole world's strategy is still a work in progress.

BLITZER: That means it's not working?

AL-FAISAL: It's not working to the fullest extent in the sense that it has not eliminated the threat of terrorism.

BLITZER: Is the Obama administration strategy in Afghanistan going to be successful?

AL-FAISAL: I hope so.

BLITZER: But you think it will be, is it working right now?

AL-FAISAL: The president announced that he's going to start removing troops next year.

BLITZER: Is that a good idea?

AL-FAISAL: In my view, the less American troops there are in Afghanistan the better.


AL-FAISAL: Because they create an inside resistant from the population.

BLITZER: Aren't you afraid the Taliban and al Qaeda will come back and take over?

AL-FAISAL: The Taliban are not popular in Afghanistan. The Afghan people experienced them for five or six years, and they continue to want them back, but because of the presence of foreigners, and it's not just Americans.

It's Europeans, it's other countries as well. So I think they should go after the terrorists, and once they eliminate them and capture them, then they can declare victory and move out of Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, Prince Turki, thank you so much for coming in.

AL-FAISAL: It's always good to see you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: She's the leader of the Tea Party Movement, at least one of the main leaders of the Tea Party Movement and she's fresh off her own re-election victory. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, she's here to talk about what's next.

Plus, the story behind that dazzling ring and Diana's influence on her son's wedding. My interview with a royal biographer, Mark Saunders, that's coming up as well.


BLITZER: The Tea Party Movement had an extraordinary move on the on Election Day, but it remains to be seen if it could be a major force when it comes to actually governing.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. She's one of the leaders of the Tea Party Movement. Thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Congratulations on your re-election.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Tea Party. Our brand new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll just out today shows this. In October, the unfavorable number for the Tea Party Movement was 37 percent. It's now gone up to 42 percent. A slightly bigger number as far as unfavorable attitudes towards the Tea Party, what's your sense? Why is this happening?

BACHMANN: Well, it's interesting, because they were so wildly successful at the polls just a couple of weeks ago. I think they'll continue to be. I think it really depends upon how they're being portrayed in the media.

I think that will affect polls, but clearly, people who are part of the Tea Party recognize it's not a political party. It's really just a set of ideas that have more to do with limited government, making sure taxes don't go up and making sure that government lives with its mean. That's essentially the Tea Party.

BLITZER: It was by all accounts widely successful although significant failures in Delaware, Nevada and some other states where there was a real strong Tea Party candidate who lost.

BACHMANN: You can't win them all, but they are phenomenally successful, considering they are not a political party. They have no money behind them. There's no organization, no hierarchy. It's a brand and group of people coming together.

BLITZER: Do you think it will change?

BACHMANN: In what way?

BLITZER: If the Republican establishment doesn't do what the Tea Parties wants it to do, do you see the possibility as the Tea Party emerging as real political party, as opposed to a movement?

BACHMANN: I think if the Republican Party decides to big government, big spenders then you'll see a significant shift away from the Republican party. I don't that right now.

The vibrancy and the verve in the last election was energized from the Tea Party and that energy was infused into the Republican Party. The people who are disaffected Democrats and Independence voted for the Republican, because they didn't - they were rejecting the big government policies that were coming out of Washington.

BLITZER: Because some have already suggested, you know what? Looking lady to 2012, a Tea Party candidate as opposed to a Democratic candidate or Republican candidate is a possibility. In other words, a strong third party.

BACHMANN: I doubt it. I really doubt it. I think you'll see the two-party system intact. It just two years from now, the presidential - the clock has started ticking on that race.

I don't think we'll see -- you'd have to have a rise of an entire political party in infrastructure. There's so much that goes along with that. I just don't think that we're going to see that happen.

BLITZER: Listen to what you told "Politico" and I'll read it and put it up on the screen. I have been able to bring a voice and motivate people to in effect put that gavel in John Boehner's hand so Republicans can lead going forward.

Explain how you, Michele Bachmann, the congressman from Minnesota enabled John Boehner to become next speaker of the House.

BACHMANN: Well, I wasn't claiming sole responsibility. I was saying that I was a part of that effort and I'm very proud to have been a part of that effort. I helped candidates across the country. I probably gave away $1.5 million to be able to elect other people.

BLITZER: From our own money --

BACHMANN: Whether it's my leadership pack or out of my congressional campaign and so I was generous in helping others get elected. I also spoke all over the country helping other candidates.

But during my time here as a member of Congress, I actively worked to point out the fallacies and in the stimulus spending and government takeover of health care.

I also helped organize and bring energy to bringing tens of thousands of people to Washington when they demonstrated against the government takeover health care. That was significant.

BLITZER: But they refuse to give you a seat at the leadership table.

BACHMANN: Well, it isn't that they refused. This was an open election. So in the process of -- I was not the leadership pick but in the course of canvassing I saw my election would not be the one that prevails.

BLITZER: Were you disappointed?

BACHMANN: Well, I would have loved to bring my energy and ideas, but I'm not disappointed. As a matter of fact, I called Jeb Hensarling, my competition on the day that I announced that I was going to run.

I said, Jeb, my opinion is this. Whoever wins, whether you or whether it's me, the GOP conference will win. Both of us have great strengths. I think he has strengths in areas. I have strengths in other areas. So I told him, this would be the friendliest contest you'll ever be in.

It was positive going in. I ran a positive campaign and it was positive when I left, because I really believe from what everything I've seen from leadership so far, they get it. They want to make sure we have limited government and attack this out of control spending. I have real confidence in what the conference will report.

BLITZER: Last time, the Republicans had that power in the White House and legislative branch, they didn't get it from your perspective. BACHMANN: and the American people understood they didn't get it. That's why they were slapped, you might say, by the American people. Now they've been given the confidence, because people rejected out of hand speaker Pelosi's policies and quite frankly President Obama's policies.

So now the question is, will Harry Reid listen to the results of the election night and will the president listen to the results of the election night? Now it should stop being about politics. Now it needs to be about getting America's financial house in order.

BLITZER: Where, if any place, can you find common ground with President Obama?

BACHMANN: I think we can find great common ground with candidate Obama. When President Obama was running for the presidency, he abhorred deficits. Well, so do Republicans. Let's have agreement on attacking the deficit. Let's start there.

That would be positive. Also, I think we could agree with candidate Obama. He wanted to drive down costs in health care. Unfortunately, his prescription for Obama care is driving costs up. That's why this weekend it was reported that the White House is giving out over 111 waivers for companies and unions and universities so they can get out of a combined with Obama care.

That's an admission of failure. If you have -- also picking winners and losers. It's also a denial of equal protection under the law. Clearly, this isn't working and we can agree with candidate Obama, and we can attack the cost drivers on this.

BLITZER: Give me one big ticket cut that would you make, $1 billion, $5 billion, $100 billion. Where would you find the money available to deal with the deficit?

BACHMANN: Well, number one, just go back to spending levels of '08.

BLITZER: Give me a specific example.

BACHMANN: That's 25 percent of the federal budget. Remember, the federal budget was no lean, mean machine when President Obama took over. In his tenure, less than two years' time, he has driven up the size of the federal budget almost 25 percent.

BLITZER: There's a specific cut you would make?

BACHMANN: Take every --

BLITZER: Department of Education?

BACHMANN: Every increase that he took, go back to the --

BLITZER: Department Of Energy? Give me a specific.

BACHMANN: OK. But go back -- I am. Go back specifically to where we were with the budget in '08. That was not a paltry budget. Go back exactly where we were, that solves a lot the problem.

BLITZER: No specific cut you would prose right now other than go back to the 2008 levels?

BACHMANN: Back to the 2008 level, because one thing -- we can do across the board cuts, but I don't think that's prudent, because there are legitimate projects that have to be done.

Bridges have to be built. Water treatment systems built. I think we don't want to cut off our nose to spite our face, we have to be smart about this.

BLITZER: You're basically saying, just have an across the board cut to the 2008 levels?

BACHMANN: No, no. Go back to where the spending priority was in 2008. Start there to begin with because we have to check the driver of spending. Go back to '08, from there, then we can take the time to go through the budget and find out which priorities we want.

BLITZER: Is there a priority you want to cut?

BACHMANN: That I want to cut?

BLITZER: From 2008, is there something from 2008 that you would cut beyond that 2008 level?

BACHMANN: I'll give you one example going back to when President Bush was in office. I disagreed with President Bush on no child left behind. I thought it was a failure, and it failed, a failed opportunity. In that bill the federal government ramped up spending more than we had ever seen.

BLITZER: For the Department Of Education.

BACHMANN: Department of Education.

BLITZER: So you would cut that?

BACHMANN: You could start there.

BLITZER: That's a specific cut.

BACHMANN: Start there.

BLITZER: More cuts down the road to discuss. Michele Bachmann, thank very much for coming on.

BACHMANN: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: The memory of Princess Diana hangs over this week's news that Britain will soon celebrate the royal wedding of Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton. But there are indications that Middleton is different indeed from the woman who would have been her mother-in-law. A royal biographer is here to explain.



DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We're looking forward to their wedding and we must give them plenty of space to think about the future and what they are about to do. But a great day for our country, a great day for the royal family and obviously, a great day for Prince William and for Kate.


BLITZER: The British Prime Minister David Cameron. Many of us certainly remember that iconic royal wedding of Prince Charles to Princess Diana.

Now almost 30 years later, the world is once again captivated this time with the engagement of their eldest son Prince William to Kate Middleton.

Joining us now from London, the royal biographer and former royal reporter, Mark Saunders. Mark, thanks very much for coming in. They gave a joint sit-down interview today. I want to play this little clip. They talk about how they first met. Listen to this.


PRINCE WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM: We met at university, at St. Andrews. We were friends for over a year first and it sort of blossomed from then on. We spent more time with each other, had a good giggle and realized we shared the same interest. She has a really wonderful sense of humor, which helps me because I have a dull sense of humor.

KATE MIDDLETON, PRINCE WILLIAM'S FIANCEE: I'm bright red when I met you and scuttled off being very shy about meeting you. Initially he wasn't there for quite a bit of the time. It takes a bit of time for us to get to know each other. We did become very close friends from quite early on.


BLITZER: Mark, they've been dating obviously for many years. This is not a huge surprise. What has been the immediate reaction from the people in Britain?

MARK SAUNDERS, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: The reaction here has been tremendous. In fact, it has been tremendous all over the world. It is almost like a breath of fresh air is swept across the country. Already the talk is moved from the engagement to the wedding, where it's going to be. This is just what the country need in terms of a really good news story, which everybody can enjoy.

BLITZER: Does it make any difference at all she is not royalty, at least not yet?

SAUNDERS: Well, no, I don't think so. It is a very modern relationship. It looks like it is going to be a very modern royal wedding. Everybody, you know, they have been dating for some time now.

We've become quite familiar with Kate Middleton being with William and unlike Diana who suddenly seemed to appear from nowhere, Kate has been part of the William package for some time now. It is not a surprise they are getting engaged, it is just a surprise it happened today.

BLITZER: Yes, just the timing this right now. They got engaged a few weeks ago on a trip to Kenya, but today they announced it. Listen to this other exchange they had in this joint sit-down interview today because the pressure on her is going to be enormous right now the paparazzi and everything else. So listen to this exchange.


PRINCE WILLIAM: We talked about it a lot. It is something we have had a good chat about. Both of us have come to the decision pretty much together. I chose when to have it and how to do it and being a romantic I did it extremely well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kate, coming to a close, people have placed criticisms of you about your work and so on. How do you respond to people who say those things?

MIDDLETON: I know I have been working very hard for the family business. Sometimes those days are long days and I think if I know I'm working hard and pulling my weight both work and playing hard at the same time I think everyone who I work with can see I'm there pulling my weight. That is what matters to me. They feel you are doing the right thing you can only be true to yourself and you sort of have to ignore a lot of what is said.


BLITZER: How much is Princess Diana hovering over this upcoming wedding?

SAUNDERS: To begin with today she wasn't really. It was about Kate and William, but once everybody saw the ring and realized it was the one Prince Charles had given Diana, the news shifted towards Diana. It is such a terrible shame she isn't here.

She would be the perfect person to guide Kate through the next few months at least, but the presence of Diana, it's always been there throughout William and Harry's life.

I think it will now become en greater because Kate is going to be compared at every turn. We are supposed to call her Katherine now. Katherine will be compared to Diana constantly, it will never go away.

BLITZER: That ring - spectacular ring indeed. It brings back a lot of memories. Mark, thanks very much. We will stay in close touch with you. The build up to the wedding is going to be enormous I suspect. Appreciate. Mark Saunders joining us from London.


BLITZER: Perhaps gearing up for what is predicted to be a very, very modern royal wedding. Queen Elizabeth is going a bit modern herself. The queen goes 3D that and more in our "Hotshots."


BLITZER: Here is a look at some "Hotshots." In England, Queen Elizabeth wears a set of 3D glasses to watch a presentation during her visit to a university.

In Sydney, Australia, light projects off the historic town hall to begin Christmas celebration.

In New Delhi, India, the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama receives the Mother Teresa Award for social justice.

In Hong Kong, check it out. Look at this, two parrots nuzzle each other on their perch at a market.

There is "Hotshots," pictures worth a thousand words.

Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN and every weekend on CNN International.

The news continues next on CNN.