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THE SITUATION ROOM
X-Rated Pic Adds New Twist to Scandal; Fresh Al Qaeda Warning to U.S.; Massive Oil Strike In Gulf Of Mexico
Aired June 8, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They certainly are. Jack, thanks very much.
And to our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a shocking new photo leaves nothing to the imagination. It's now all over the Internet. Can Congressman Anthony Weiner remain in Congress as more and more Democrats are demanding his resignation? Stand by.
Senator Rand Paul handicapped the GOP presidential field beginning with his own father. I'll have a wide ranging interview with Senator Paul.
And al Qaeda's longtime number two leader shows up in a new video, paying tribute to the late Osama Bin Laden and issuing threats against the United States.
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 and you're in the SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with pressure on Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign. It's growing by the hour, and it certainly a stepped-up several notches with the leak today of an x-rated picture allegedly showing the embattled New York Democrat. CNN has learned exclusively that Democratic colleagues are privately urging Weiner to step down, and I'm quoting (ph) some of them now to preserve his own dignity in the wake of the scandal over his sexually charge online relationships with multiple women.
Our own Lisa Sylvester is working the story for us. Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent, is here as well. Dana, let me start with you, because the calls in Congress right now -- not just the Republicans but from Democrats. They are growing louder and louder.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Just since and you I spoke last hour, Wolf, we have had about four of Anthony Weiner's fellow Democrats come out and say that he should resign. I was told by a Democratic lawmaker who I talked to about this effort to push him out earlier that this would be changing by the hour. Boy is it. It is.
Now, we have Congresswoman Niki Tsongas from Massachusetts. We have Joe Donnelly from Indiana. We have Mike Ross from Arkansas, and this is really changing minute by minute. I'm told by this Democratic lawmaker who I spoke to who is talking about the calls that were being made, not just the public ones I just told you about, but private ones to Anthony Weiner, that he is now being told, look, it's time to go. It's time to resign.
As you just reported, this Democratic congressman said to me he's being told to do it to preserve his own dignity. They're fed up. They are fed up in his party. You know, until now, they have heard a lot of silence. We haven't heard a lot of calls like this for him to resign. That's changing big time now, and they're fed up because of the fact that he just talked about that x-rated photo. That's one example.
And primarily, the fact that they feel on the Democratic side that they simply cannot get their message out. The message that they felt that they were doing very well on, on Medicare, on the Republican budget, and -- they're just done with it. And Democratic congressman I talked to said that Weiner, from his perspective, is truly conflicted, and the people around him are conflicted. No one knows whether or not this effort to get him out is going to work.
BLITZER: John King is joining us as well. John, what are you hearing? Can he survive this uproar?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a great question, and no one can answer that. The best person who can answer that question is Congressman Weiner tonight, however, the mounting pressure, the signals to the democratic leadership tell you that they are ratcheting up the pressure on him. Why? Because they know this is now a question in almost every campaign across the country.
You know, Tim Kaine, got to mention the former governor of Virginia, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he's trying to run in a very tough state. He has to mention this. It's also coming up increasingly Republicans trying to put pressure on the Democrats saying why won't you call for him to resign. You should return any campaign contributions. Listen to this exchange I have with one of the seven Republican candidates who will be in our debate Monday night in New Hampshire.
Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania. He is, of course, someone who appeals to social conservatives. I asked him if he were the president today, what would he say to Congressman Weiner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Santorum would say none of my business. This is an issue that's a tragic one. It's one that, frankly, I would have handled differently if I was in Congressman Weiner's place, but I don't think this is for the president of the United States to speak out on. This is an internal matter of the House, and they should deal with it.
KING: You said you would handle it differently. How?
SANTORUM: Well, I -- if I was -- if I had done what Congressman Weiner had done, I'd be worried about my family and getting my life back together and not trying to go out and be a congressman and try to profess to be a leader of this country. I think that, you know, I would have taken different steps. I would have stepped down and -- done what's best for the people that I love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Quick interesting things. I spoke to the chairman of the New York State Democratic Party today who said he understands, he agrees with Democrats. This is a national distraction. He said, give Congressman Weiner a little bit more time to deal with this (INAUDIBLE). We'll also interview tonight David Axelrod, the president's top political adviser, who said this is up to Congressman Weiner, but then, he also said interestingly at the end of that conversation, I think this will all be resolved, quote, "fairly soon."
BASH: And just add to that the -- this Democratic lawmaker who I talked to who's very familiar with this strategy to try to get Anthony Weiner out said to me that he believes that this needs to be dealt with by the end of the week. That Congress -- particularly the House, I mean, is home, that they're not in Washington, that they are back in the district, and that there's a growing feeling that they just want this dealt with and done by the end of the week.
He's been very clear that he wants to stay, that he doesn't want to resign. Whether the pressure is going to change, that we don't know.
BLITZER: Stand by, guys, because Lisa Sylvester is doing some other reporting for us on this very, very new development, this graphic picture that came out. X-rated. Lisa, tell us what we know about this.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first off, this picture is way too graphic to show, but it has gone viral. It is all over the internet. And it is adding a new dimension to Weiner's problems.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): An X-rated picture purportedly of Congressman Anthony Weiner is making the rounds on the internet. Weiner asked on Monday whether such a picture even existed, couldn't deny it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say that is not true?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK: No, I cannot. I regret not being honest about this. This was -- a big mistake to -- to -- I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. I'm still to this moment.
SYLVESTER: Conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, said he received the picture as part of a series of racy e-mails and texts between Weiner and a woman in Texas, Meagan Broussard. Breitbart appeared on the "Opie and Anthony" Sirius XM radio show. During that time, a cell phone picture of what appears to be a man's penis was passed around. Take a listen as the host spatter (ph) back and forth with Breitbart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who did he send it to?
ANDREW BREITBART, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: To a gal down in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good angle, though. Smart guy, but I think he's in very good shape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can say is from seeing that picture, I want that guy as mayor.
SYLVESTER: Breitbart reiterates on the show he is not going to make the photo public. A promise he made earlier in the week.
BREITBART: By the way, I'm not releasing it. I'm not releasing it. I can't think of any other publication that wouldn't. I can probably get a gazillion hits off my page. I'm not doing that to him and his family. That's my stated position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're awesome for that. Thank you.
SYLVESTER: Opie first tried taking a picture of the photo on the cell phone, but it came out blurry, but here's what Opie says happened next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A short time after that, we came to realize that one of the video cameras that was on during the show today captured what was on Andrew Breitbart's phone as it was making its way around the room. One of our faithful listeners capped what was on his phone and sent to it Anthony, and Anthony now shows me. At that point, I took a picture of the picture that now is on Anthony's phone, the screen cap that the video camera picked up. I had it. Anthony had it on his phone.
SYLVESTER: The photos on the internet add to the pressure on Representative Weiner. There is a House ethics investigation to see if he might have violated any laws.
SYLVESTER (on-camera): Now, Weiner's office has not responded to calls in the last few days. We've reached out for comment. We also tried Megan Broussard, but our calls were also not returned there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. "The New York Times," by the way, is now reporting that Congressman Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, is pregnant. We're going to have more on Huma Abedin. She's traveling with the secretary of state today in the United Arab Emirates. They're on a trip to the UAE and then on to Africa over the next several days. So, we're going to have much more on this woman coming up, Huma Abedin. What a story we're watching right now.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got the "Cafferty File." Jack, you can't make this kind of stuff up. I got to tell you. It's so sad. It's so painful, especially for those of us who know Huma. She is just a wonderful young woman, and what she must be going through right now is awful.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's just disgraceful. I mean -- it was a bad enough story, but now, I mean, you just got to feel very sorry for his wife. She is apparently in the early stages of her pregnancy according to "The Times." I was reading it in my office. This is a woman who doesn't seek the spotlight. Very low profile and does her job. Classy. Top down. I mean, just, you know -- and to be humiliated by this clown that she's married to, pathetic.
Other stuff, been about two weeks since the former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, formally entered the Republican presidential race. So far, he's talked bluntly, forcefully, but not very specifically about issues like gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security, overhauling Medicare, phasing out ethanol subsidies, those kinds of things.
Yesterday, though, in what's being called the first major policy speech on the economy, Pawlenty talks specifics. He is calling now for what he calls a simpler, fairer, flatter tax system, and major cuts to federal spending. The proposed reforming of the individual tax code would go like this.
There would be only two rates. Ten percent tax for the first $50,000 of income, $1,000 for married couples, and 25 percent on all money above those levels. All incomes above that. He said that would allow lower and middle income families to save more by being taxed to the lower rate and would spur investment and job creation by cutting the top rate as well. Now, his plan would also end the capital gains tax, interest income tax, I'm sorry, the dividends tax, and the estate tax.
Pawlenty also would cut the business tax rate back from 35 percent to 15 percent, but he didn't just talk about taxes. He also called for major spending cuts to many government services. In fact, interesting idea. He suggested if you can find a sector or service on the internet, then the federal government doesn't need to be doing the same thing. Not a bad idea. Critics are already calling the proposals unachievable, but it's a more ambitious and specific plan than we've heard so far from any of the other Republican potential presidential candidates.
Here's the question then. Tim Pawlenty wants only two income tax rates, 10 percent, 25 percent. Is that a good idea or not? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post comment on my blog.
If there ever really simplified the tax code, it will lay waste to that army of not just the IRS but all the tax accounts and lawyers, and there's a whole cottage industry, of course, build around this --
BLITZER: Yes, it's a good idea to try to simplify. They've been trying for decades. So far, no success, Jack, as you well know.
CAFFERTY: Check is in the mail.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Thank you. A eulogy for Osama Bin Laden from al Qaeda's number two leader. Details of a new video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking out for the first time since bin Laden's death.
Also, new details emerging right now, the serious rift inside Iran's leadership, pitting the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against the country's powerful religious leader.
Plus, my interview with the outposken Republican senator, Rand Paul. We'll get his take on the GOP presidential field, including his dad, Congressman Ron Paul who's running for president.
BLITZER: Al Qaeda's longtime number two leader appears in a new video with a poem, eulogizing his late boss. He's also issuing new threats against the United States. Let's bring in our Homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's tracking the story for us. What's going on here, Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the video about 30 minutes long is the first from Ayman al-Zawahiri since the death of Osama Bin Laden.
MESERVE (voice-over): The video is in large part a tribute to Osama Bin Laden.
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA'S NUMBER TWO LEADER (through translation): He went to his God martyr because he said no to America.
MESERVE: Ayman al-Zawahiri does not proclaim himself Bin laden successor, but with the tape, he appears to be positioning himself.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He wants to show to the al Qaeda membership around the world, supporters, that he is the power mount leader of al Qaeda, that he is the one that's delivering the eulogy for Osama Bin Laden.
MESERVE: In the video, Zawahiri cheers on the uprisings in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translation): They need to continue their struggle, their rage, and their sacrifices.
PHILIP MUDD, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Al Qaeda doesn't like these movements, but they recognize they have no option but to say, if we want to be relevant, we better stick with the population, and the population has spoken. So, let's pretend like we're with him.
MESERVE: In the tape, Zawahiri pledges support to Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, urges some Muslim masses to rise up against what he calls a treacherous Pakistani regime, and he makes repeated but unspecific threats against the U.S. AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translation): I called for jihad, my beloved people, to fight those who fight Islam.
MESERVE: Since the raid that killed Bin Laden, U.S. counterterrorism officials have assumed Zawahiri was in deep hiding, afraid for his safety. Analysts believe he must have been very anxious to be seen and heard because releasing this video involved risks. For instance, using a courier like the one that led the U.S. to Bin Laden.
MESERVE (on-camera): Intelligence analysts have pored over previous al Qaeda videos, trying to determine where they were taped. This video does not provide any obvious clues, but the background is pretty nondescript -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I guess, it's official confirmation -- more confirmation from al Qaeda now, from Ayman al-Zawahiri, himself, that Bin Laden is dead, Jeanne. Thanks very much.
A serious split has opened up between Iran's president and the Islamic republic's conservative cleric. He is now finding out there is a reason why Iran's top Ayatollah is called the supreme leader. Our own Brian Todd is following these developments for us. Fascinating what's going on in Iran.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as you know, has made some powerful allies in his six years as Iran's president, but he's now crossed the country's top religious leader, the real power there. And now, many are watching to see if these fractures could take a serious turn.
TODD (voice-over): For six years, they've been a formidable duo in Iran, working together to undermine the U.S. and its allies, but there's recently been a rift between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the power behind his throne, Iran's supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
How serious has it gotten?
KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: It's very serious in that senior aides to President Ahmadinejad have been routinely threatened. In some cases, they've been in prison. So, Ahmadinejad has definitely issued a smackdown, and he's been humbled in a way which he hasn't since becoming president in 2005.
TODD: Karim Sadjadpour and other analysts say this got started because Ahmadinejad simply tried to wield too much power, seeking to fire the intelligence minister who Khamenei supported. Experts say conservatives loyal to Khamenei accused Ahmadinejad and his allies of undermining the stability of the regime. Contacted by CNN, an Iranian official at the U.N. dismissed these reports as gossip, and Ahmadinejad played down the split in public. PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translation): We have bee following on the one same path. We are sticking to the same principles.
TODD: Analysts say that's a clear sign Ahmadinejad has lost this internal battle with the man considered within Iran to be God's representative on earth. Former CIA analyst, Clare Lopez, is now with a think tank that takes a hard line on Iran.
Is the rift something the U.S. and its allies can benefit from, take advantage of?
CLARE LOPEZ, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: As the regime closes ranks now, for the United States, that just simply means right now temporarily a stronger regime. That is not necessarily a good thing for the United States or the west, but what it does mean is that the rift occurred, and it had to be papered over and fixed, if you will, in public. And that is kind of a first for the regime in Iran.
TODD: Still, Sadjadpour says, don't expect Ahmadinejad to be tossed out.
SADJADPOUR: Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have increasingly become like Siamese twins, and they finally (ph) recognizes that if he tries to separate himself from Ahmadinejad and cut him loose, that he, himself, could perish in the process.
TODD (on-camera): Sadjadpour says Khamenei needs Ahmadinejad to use as a bludgeon against his own domestic opponents like the opposition, like reformers. He also needs Ahmadinejad to be the lightning rod that he already is for international rivals to deflect attention away from Khamenei's own problems. So, it does help him to keep Ahmadinejad around at least for now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Still, though, Brian, could this fracture be the start of this whole regime crumbling?
TODD: It could possibly be. We have to keep an eye on that. Sadjadpour says, for hard line regimes like this to fall, three boxes have to be checked. You have to have a popular uprising, you have to have internal fissures. Well, in Iran, those two boxes are now checked, but he said the third box is critical. You have to lose your appetite for crackdowns, for, you know, being brutal with people in public who are protesting. The regime has not lost their appetite to do that yet, we know. So, we'll see what happens.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you. Thanks very much.
New poll numbers that could mean serious trouble for President Obama. There are significant changes in just the last two weeks. Stand by. We're crunching the numbers with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Plus, film of President John F. Kennedy just months before his assassination. It's never been seen by the public before. We're going to tell you why. That's the way Kennedy wanted it.
BLITZER: There's a major discovery of oil to tell you about. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's this all about?
SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, ExxonMobil says it made an oil strike in the Gulf of Mexico. That's among the largest found in the last decade. The company says it could yield as much as 700 million barrels of crude as well as natural gas. This is ExxonMobil's first oil strike in the gulf since the moratorium on deep water exploration was lifted following the gulf oil disaster.
And the bizarre and deadly accident near Ottawa. Police say a car traveling eastbound on a rural highway struck a bear which hurdled into the air and smashed through the windshield of a westbound SUV killing two people inside as it flew through the vehicle and out the back window. One officer says the bear was like a 300-pound bullet. The animal also died.
And we have rare film of President John F. Kennedy playing golf that has been discovered out of presidential library. It shows him, here you see it there, pink pants, blue shirt, practicing his swing and putts at the high-end sport club near the Kennedy compound back in August of 1963.
Now, JFK seldom let the public see him playing golf since the game was so closely associated with his predecessor, Republican Dwight Eisenhower, but he did allow these images to be recorded because he wanted golf legend, Arnold Palmer, to watch them and to critique his game. Forty-eight years later, Palmer recently saw this footage and he said you know, the president's setup is solid but his swing, apparently, needed a little bit of work.
And yesterday, CNN along with other media outlets reported that at least 20 bodies were found on a property in Texas, but it turns out that was not the case. Police converged on the property and searched, but no bodies were ever found. The search started with a tip, and there was some confusion about what was happening on the property. Federal official gave incorrect information to CNN, and other officials gave the same misinformation to other media outlets. So, we apologize for the mistake. So, just trying to clear that all up.
BLITZER: I'm glad we always do that. When there's a mistake, we should fix it. Thanks very much.
My interview with Senator Rand Paul. Does the Republican think Democrat Anthony Weiner should resign?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Approval ratings are very low, and I don't think his behavior is becoming to the body of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Ron Paul and Rand Paul, they're the only father/son combination in Congress, but is there a chance that after 2012, one of them could be in the White House?
BLITZER: And joining us now, Republican Senator Rand Paul. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
PAUL: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: I want to get to presidential politics. First, subject very close to your heart, your dad once again is running for president of the United States. Can he get the Republican nomination this time?
PAUL: I think the field is wide open this time, and he starts out at a much different level than he did. You know, in 2007, 2008, most people didn't know his name, and his name recognition was 1 percent to 2 percent. He now starts out with name recognition that may be as high as 70 percent to 80 percent of America knows who he is. So it's still an uphill battle, but he starts out with a real chance this time around, I think.
BLITZER: He certainly has an enormous ability to raise money, which will come in handy in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina. Tell me why you think -- I assume you think -- he's more qualified to be president than, shall we say, Sarah Palin.
PAUL: Well, you know, one of the things that -- I think it was a CNN poll not too long ago showed that, when you stack him up against Barack Obama, he actually did better than any other candidate in the field right now. He actually was right up there.
And I think one of the reasons he does well is he attracts a lot of independents, and he attracts a lot of people who are disgruntled with both parties. And so I think that would be his main advantage over the whole entire Republican field, is he attracts independents.
BLITZER: Because Mitt Romney does really well in that head-to- head matchup, potentially, against President Obama, as well. In fact, Mitt Romney among registered voters in this ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that came out this week, he's three points ahead. Is Mitt Romney as qualified as your dad is to be president?
PAUL: Well, I think the main thing is, is that they'll have to be a debate and a discussion. You know, whether or not Mitt Romney is going to continue to defend the individual mandate that we must force people to buy certain types of insurance, he says yes, he still does defend it at the state level.
I think most of us from the Tea Party think that the government shouldn't tell you what kind of insurance to buy. So I think that's going to be a difficult sale, because Romney care really is a lot like Obama care. BLITZER: Is it a problem that he's a Mormon?
PAUL: Not for me.
BLITZER: Is it a problem, though? Do you think -- put on your analysis hat, among, let's say, evangelical, Christians, others, Tea Party activists, is that an issue at all?
PAUL: I haven't heard of it from anybody in the Tea Party being an issue.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about some policy issues. Raising the nation's debt. You've heard all the fear out there, including from the Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and -- if you don't do it in the Senate and in the House, if you don't do it, it's going to be an economic disaster. The interest rates are going to go up. Unemployment is going to go up. You had an initiative today. And I'll play a clip. And Barbara Boxer, the Democratic senator from California, and her response. And we'll go in depth.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Because I really want to get along and go along and I want to make this vote available for those who would like to raise the debt ceiling. I will vote no.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Let the games begin. That's what's going on around here. I have full respect for my colleagues. And you can tell from the tone and tenor of Senator Paul that he -- he finds it amusing, that he's offering a clean debt ceiling increase that he's voting against.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What was the point of your initiative today?
PAUL: Well, you know, the Democrats have a budget. President Obama has a budget that's going to spend $46 trillion over ten years. Just to borrow enough money for the president's budget until the election is about $2.5 trillion. If they want to spend the money, they need to be honest with the American people and say, "We've got to borrow $2 trillion, because that's what we want to spend."
I don't want to spend that much money. I want to balance the budget, and I want to be conservative with our resources, so I'm going to vote no on it. Many of the Democrats, over 100 them in the House, said they wanted a clean debt ceiling vote. They wanted to raise the debt ceiling with no encumbrances on it. So I'm going to give them a chance. And I think it's a serious issue.
BLITZER: What would it take for you to vote yea, in favor of raising the debt ceiling?
PAUL: A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is the only way I'll consider it. We tried statutory caps, and I'm in favor of statutory caps. But we break our rules every time. Gramm-Rudman- Hollings was broken many times. Pay as you go was broken 700 times. So really, they're just not to be trusted up here with money. They don't spend it wisely.
So I say don't give them any more. Let's make them balance their budget.
BLITZER: And if that doesn't happen, are you afraid of the economic -- the immediate short-term economic consequences for average folks out there?
PAUL: I think it's interesting because I think this has all been a false argument. They make it either/or. Either you raise the debt ceiling or we have financial Armageddon.
Our interest payments are about $20 billion a month. Our tax revenue is about $200 billion a month. So we're bringing in $200 billion. We've got plenty of money to pay our interest. We would never have to raise our debt ceiling, and we could continue to pay our interest.
What the president should do is he should come on national TV and say, "I will not default." That would make all the financial markets calm down. And he says look, "I will pay for it out of tax revenue." In fact, I've co-sponsored legislation with Senator Toomey that tells the president pay interest as a primary function out of our tax revenue, and you'd never have a problem with default.
BLITZER: You can save about $100 billion a year, maybe $130 billion a year if the U.S. were to just pull out -- pull its forces, 100,000 troops out of Afghanistan. Are you in favor of that?
PAUL: I think what we have to do is at least debate it. Actual troop deployments, I think a lot of times the president does get to make those decisions. But we need to debate whether or not, after a decade in Afghanistan, it's still in our national security interest, after...
BLITZER: What do you think?
PAUL: After killing bin Laden, is it still in our national security interests? I want the Afghan soldiers to do a lot more and the American soldiers to do a lot less. And I think that would mean drawing down the troops. And I will bring that as part of the debate.
But the big thing up here is -- we haven't debated Afghanistan in a decade. Let's debate it. Let's debate whether it is or isn't. If those people here who believe it's in our national security interests, let's have a full-throated debate on it.
BLITZER: Should the U.S. do anything to stop the slaughter in Syria right now?
PAUL: Well, you know, if we decide to do something in a foreign country we should do it constitutionally, which means that Congress should vote on it. We're already involved in three wars, including the latest war in Libya where we had no congressional vote. That's not what our Founding Fathers wanted. They wanted Congress to be a check on the executive. They were very worried that our president would become a king with unlimited war-making powers. So they gave the power to declare war to Congress.
So I don't want to go anywhere without a vote in Congress, and I would really argue strenuously that two wars is enough. And that, really, we need to be talking about winding down the two wars before getting involved in more wars.
BLITZER: One final question, Senator, on a very different subject. Anthony Weiner, should he resign?
PAUL: Well, you know, 14 percent of the American people think we're doing a good job up here. Our approval ratings are very low. And I don't think his behavior is becoming to the body of Congress. Nor is it helping our approval ratings any. So I think he needs to decide how much embarrassment he can endure.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think? Should he resign?
PAUL: ... decision and his family. You know, I think only -- I don't know how much embarrassment he can endure. And I really think that -- the calls are going to become stronger and stronger. When his own party is now calling for his resignation, I think it's going to be very tough for him to stay.
BLITZER: Senator Paul, thanks very much for coming in, as always.
PAUL: Thank you.
BLITZER: They're not the numbers a president fighting for reelection certainly would want to see. We're taking a closer look at brand-new CNN poll numbers that could mean serious trouble for President Obama.
Plus, the wife of Congressman Anthony Weiner reportedly pregnant. We're taking a closer look at Huma Abedin.
BLITZER: President Obama's approval rating has now dropped below 50 percent. In our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 48 percent now say they approve of the way the president is handling his job. That compares to 54 percent only two weeks ago. Forty-eight percent now disapprove of the president's job's performance. A bit higher than our previous survey.
Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, who's joining us.
Looks like that bump he got after bin Laden was killed has gone away.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. When you talk to people at the White House they said, "We never expected the bin Laden bump to stay with us," but they also have to admit that there are obvious reasons for these poll numbers for the president. It's all about the economy.
You have a 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Remember, Wolf, when the president's chief economic adviser said that unemployment would be below 8 percent? Well, that's not the case.
Also, rising gas prices, a record number of mortgage foreclosures.
And so the economic anxiety out there is really palpable. We asked this really interesting question in our poll about another Great Depression. And if you take a look at these numbers, is it likely in the next 12 months? Now 48 percent; 2009, 41 percent.
In 2008, at the height of the economic crisis, it was only 38 percent. So you really do get a sense of the -- of the anxiety out there. When I talked to people at the White House about this and I said, "Well, look at these terrible numbers. What are you going to do?"
And they said, "Look, we have a very delicate political problem here, which is we need to remind people that when President Obama took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month."
But people say, 'You know what? Enough of George W. Bush. You can't blame it on him any more."
So they have a very difficult problem, because they're saying, "Look, it was bad when we got here. It's getting better." But the public can think, you know what? That's a little whiney, because you can't blame the previous president anymore.
BLITZER: Yes, if the voters out there are that depressed and that worried...
BLITZER: ... about another Great Depression...
BLITZER: ... that spells huge problems for the president.
BORGER: And even though they say they've added 2 million jobs and all the rest, if you look at these numbers, not a very good picture.
BLITZER: You know, as we look forward, though, the state of the economy, that's by far issue No. 1. Everything else is second and third and eighth. BORGER: Right. Of course. Absolutely. And, you know, the big thing for the president right now is to try and appeal to those independent voters who are going to be so important to him in the next election.
And take a look at this. Because we asked independents how they feel about -- how the president's handling his job as president. Now 42 percent; in May, 47 percent. Those are the key voters. That number is going in the wrong direction.
In the 2008 election, Wolf, the president won over 50 percent of independent voters. Independents trended towards Republicans in the midterm elections. Those are the people he has to make feel more secure about their economic...
BLITZER: But as far as their personal attitudes towards the president, Americans seemed to like him, even if they're not necessarily encouraged by what's going on.
BORGER: You know, and this is what is interesting because this is clearly what Barack Obama has going for him. We asked people how you feel about the president as a person? And look at those numbers. Seven in ten say they approve of him as a person. And so, you know, independent voters approve of him, 7 in 10. And even Republicans. Half of Republicans say they like him.
But when you ask Republicans whether they like him as president of the United States, his approval rating is only 14 percent. So -- he's not going to get a lot of those Republican voters in 2012.
BLITZER: No, I don't think he is.
BORGER: Not at all.
BLITZER: Thanks, Gloria. Thanks very much.
We're learning more about the wife of the embattled New York congressman, Anthony Weiner. We're taking a closer look at what she is going through, how she's coping. That story coming up.
BLITZER: "New York Times" now reporting that the wife of embattled Congressman Anthony Weiner is expecting a child. The paper cites three sources as saying Huma Abedin is in the early stages of pregnancy.
CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now with more on this woman. What do we know about Huma Abedin? I know her personally. She's a wonderful young woman. But tell us a little bit more now.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, she's both very popular but very private. And as the fallout over her husband's scandal continues, she is thousands of miles away, in the United Arab Emirates, and will then head to Africa.
SNOW (voice-over): As Congressman Anthony Weiner was home alone in New York Tuesday evening, his wife, Huma Abedin, was working, heading overseas with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The 35-year-old Abedin, one of Clinton's top aides, was noticeably absent from her husband's side when he admitted having sexually explicit communications with several women and lying about it.
But "Washington Post" national political reporter Nia Malika Henderson quotes friends of Abedin as saying don't read too much into her absence.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, her friends say obviously that this is obviously a bump in the road for her marriage. She's very much committed to her husband. She loves her husband, and she wants to work it out.
SNOW: Abedin is a Muslim who grew up in Saudi Arabia. Weiner is Jewish and raised in Brooklyn. He has a reputation for being brash and relishes the spotlight. Abedin shies from it and is described as very private. A rare exception was in 2007 when "Vogue" magazine profiled her.
She's most often the person in the background, constantly at the side of Hillary Clinton and the person who has her ear. Abedin started as a White House intern in 1996 and has worked in several capacities since then. She was on the campaign trail with Mrs. Clinton in the 2008 presidential election and now serves as deputy chief of staff to Secretary Clinton. And she's become more than a trusted aide, says a longtime friend of Abedin's and the Clintons, who describes her as a second daughter to the Clintons and a sister to Chelsea.
The former president even officiated at the ceremony when Weiner married Abedin last July. And while Abedin hasn't sought the spotlight, she has made a name for herself in Washington.
HENDERSON: She comes across as very alluring and glamorous. You know, in a town, you know, like Washington that is very conservative, she brings these almost Hollywood glamorous good looks in a Rolodex that is filled with celebrities and political titans across the globe.
SNOW: And a friend of Abedin's who asked not to be identified, to respect her privacy, said that people around her will do everything they can to protect her.
And Wolf, as you heard only this week, Democratic strategist James Carville said she's very popular in Democratic circles, and he said a number of people have called him saying they were livid at Weiner for putting his wife through this. That, of course, all before today's "New York Times" report saying now that she is pregnant.
BLITZER: Yes, I know. I've known her for many, many years. I traveled with the secretary of state not that long ago to Paris, to Cairo, to Tunis, and she was there, Huma. She really has an important job working for the secretary of state. And we wish her, of course, only, only the best.
Mary, thanks very much for that.
Let's get back to Jack right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, wants only two income tax brackets, 10 percent, 25 percent. Good idea?
David in Florida writes, "In theory, it would be. Practically, it will turn into as big a disaster as the incomprehensible tax code we have now. Two questions come to mind. One, it's a Republican idea, so who do you think will be the primary beneficiary of this new plan? Answer: it won't be the poor or the middle class. And two, how long do you think it will be before it's overloaded with the write- offs and deductions primarily advantaged for large campaign donors? Answer, long before it gets out of the subcommittee hearings."
Dave in Florida writes, "He's either a moron, as are most Tea Party lunatics, or he's trying to start a class war. This country and everyone in it was in much better shape on all points large and small during the Eisenhower years, when the wealthy were taxed at upwards of 80 percent. If Pawlenty ever became president, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon would all turn over in their graves."
Tom in Texas writes, "What he means is to lower already minuscule tax rates for the rich. This way, the shrinking middle class will become serfs and toil on the land to grow food for those deserving. That would be their wealthy masters."
Jane in Minnesota: "A simpler, fairer tax system is a good idea, but T-Paw's idea of that is more trickle-down economics, a theory that, frankly, results in upward wealth redistribution. I live in Minnesota. I've seen Tim Pawlenty, the ex-governor, in action. The rest of the country can look at the shape that Minnesota's in: billions in deficits and all this economic genius did was kick the deficit can down the road to the next governor and legislature to deal with."
Ken in New Jersey writes, "Ten and 25 percent tax rates sound good, but they don't solve the $63 trillion unfunded federal liabilities. Getting elected and solving problems are two different things. If politicians want to solve the debt problem, they need to go after Wall Street. A simple 1 percent tax on the $700 trillion derivatives market, a penny tax on all stock transactions, and a 90 percent tax on broker bonuses would be a good place to start."
And Kevin writes this: "Tim Pawlenty just got a whole lot more interesting."
You want to read more on his ideas, go to my blog: CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jack, before you leave, I want our viewers to remember, Monday night, the big CNN Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire. Stand by for that. Eight p.m. Eastern.
But Jack, a quick question: you're in New York. The whole Anthony Weiner story, we know how it's playing out nationally, even internationally. But give us a little flavor, how's it playing out in New York City?
CAFFERTY: Well, up until the developments that we've seen in the last day or two, the more explicit photograph that's now on the Internet and the news that his wife is in apparently the early stages of pregnancy, some of the -- some of his constituents, the people in his district, were coming across as being protective of him and voicing support and saying, "He's our congressman and he's been a good congressman for us. And we like him, and we think he should stay in his job." He's been adamant, of course, that he's not going to resign.
My guess is that two things are going to happen. One, he's going to resign. And two, those people who are voicing support may be rethinking that support, with the news that his wife is expecting their first child. That puts a whole new spin on this story, and it ain't pretty.
BLITZER: No, I think you're right, Jack. Thanks very much. See you back here tomorrow.
"JOHN KING USA" coming up right at the top of the hour for our North American viewers. But up next, Jeanne Moos on Congressman Weiner's scandal and the raciest picture of them all.
BLITZER: ... a scandal and now the raciest picture of all. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How bad are things for Anthony Weiner? So bad that Congressman Weiner could pick up a newspaper and see himself nestled in a bun with the headline "Stick a Fork in Him." So bad that Donald Trump said of Weiner...
DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: He's a psycho.
MOOS: So bad, Spirit Airlines is running a Have You Seen Our Weiner? Sale, with fares too hard to resist. So bad, a condom maker was putting out a line of Protect Your Weiner condoms.
(on camera) Just when you think things can't get any worse for Anthony Weiner...
(voice-over) ... this happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A picture of Weiner's wiener got out there. MOOS: A naked picture that we can't show you, though the Internet will. A picture we can't confirm is Weiner. A photo conservative Web site owner Andrew Breitbart said he had but wouldn't release to spare Weiner's family.
ANDREW BREITBART, BIGGOVERNMENT.COM: I'm trying to do the decent thing here and not release the photo.
MOOS: But when Breitbart went on the Opie and Anthony shock jock radio show, he had the photo on his phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We begged. We pleaded. We prodded.
MOOS: And Breitbart finally agreed to pass it around. It was a photo Breitbart says he obtained from one of the women to whom Weiner sent intimate photos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To a gal down in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's an angle, though. Smart guy, but...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's in very good shape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can say is, from seeing that picture, I want that guy as mayor.
MOOS: And while everyone was chortling over the photo ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the video cameras that was on our -- that was on during the show today captured what was on Andrew Breitbart's phone as it was making its way around the room.
MOOS: Breitbart says he didn't know an image was taken, and he says, "I regret that this occurred." Next thing you know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a race to see who could tweet the picture the fastest.
MOOS: Opie won that race, with this tweet, and the photo went viral.
(on camera) Huh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Andrew Breitbart's not too happy with us right now.
MOOS (voice-over): If he thinks Andrew Breitbart's not happy, imagine what Anthony Weiner must be thinking outside the bun.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.