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JOHN KING, USA

Romney vs. Perry; Libya's Death Toll; Atrocities under Gadhafi's Command

Aired August 30, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Gloria Borger. John King is off today. Thanks for joining us on what turns out to be a very significant day on the campaign trail.

Mitt Romney who has been taking a rather low-key approach to his Republican opponent so far today decided to take some jabs at the man who's replaced him as the official front-runner, Texas Governor Rick Perry. And he did it in Perry's home state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: During a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in San Antonio, Romney pointed to his own business resume and then took a shot at people he called career politicians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a conservative businessman. I spent most of my life outside politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don't know how to get us out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Get ready for even more Romney versus Perry. Late this afternoon we learned Romney has changed his mind, and now has decided to attend a candidate forum on Monday in South Carolina. Rick Perry, of course, has already announced he'll be there.

And here to talk over the latest developments, CNN political contributor and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos who advised the Romney campaign in 2007 and 2008, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher who worked for the Obama campaign in 2008 and David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and now editor of FrumForum.com.

Well folks, I think it's game on. There was just a tweet minutes ago from @MittRomney, saying I've spent most of my life outside politics dealing with real problems in the real economy. So, let me start with you, Alex, has he decided that it's time to start taking on Rick Perry?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think he's decided it's time to start framing the election a little bit. And this is a gentle jab, you know, it's not certainly the kind of vicious, ruthless, negative attack ads that, oh, I used to make, but no beginning to define the race as a choice. I mean right now there's so much anti-Washington sentiment, anti-political sentiment and drawing that line between the business world and the political world, who do you count on to make jobs is probably a very effective strategy.

BORGER: But --

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Sort of just a quick in -- as sort of a campaign sort of insider who does this for a living, that line I guarantee you was tested. I mean, somewhere there was some polling going on and sort of the way he framed it --

BORGER: Do you have to test that line --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I spent most of my life outside politics?

BELCHER: No, but here's the thing, here's the thing, somewhere along the line they tested a lot of sort of initial opening attacks on Perry and this one probably registered best with some voters that they have to move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cornell would have charged him for it.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Well and let me -- and let me just show you and we'll go to David on this, why the Romney camp is starting to get a little concerned. They had been anointed as a front-runner by those of us in the media of course and our CNN/ORC poll just recently showed that Republicans' choice for nominee in 2012 -- this is without Giuliani and Sarah Palin in the race -- has Perry at 32 percent, Romney at 18, Bachmann at 12 percent. So clearly Perry takes from Bachmann, but Romney is way down there.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Yes. The career politician line has a little bit more of a hook in it than it first appears. Rick Perry has been in politics full time since 1984. When he started he was a panelist person depending on his wife's salary --

BORGER: People used to call that public service, remember.

FRUM: Somehow over that time he has managed to accumulate a very considerable fortune through land speculation. And that is the barb and hook that it sets up the question. This guy who is a career politician, how did he get so rich? But I like what Mitt Romney said, though, was the second part of the statement. Career politicians don't know how to get us out and I do. If he is willing to close with Rick Perry on some of the reckless things that Rick Perry said about the Federal Reserve, about the things we need to do to make the economy recover, then Mitt Romney can truly be a jobs-recovery Republican.

BORGER: But do you do it now or do you give him enough rope, as some people are saying, or advising Romney to do, to let Perry just get out there and make his own mistakes as you're pointing to -- Alex?

CASTELLANOS: You do both very effectively, because when you plant a couple of seeds like this in the media, then you have programs like this and other commentators who will talk about it and carry the rest of the load, you know, the rest of the distance for you on something like this, so I think that -- it's effective. And, remember, they have seven debates coming up now between September 7th and December 10th I think not counting this South Carolina forum, so they're going to be plenty of instances where they're going to be tested, and that's when we're going to really see who is the alpha dog, who's the strong leader I think over these next couple of months. And now is right before those debates begin is a good time to plant those seeds.

BELCHER: A couple quick points here is -- one is you can't as a pollster you can't look at how he's gaining and sort of distancing himself from the pack and not actually take a swipe at him, because you just can't allow that to happen. However, I do want to sort of throw some caution on the national numbers because quite frankly it's not a national election, it's going to be a state-by-state election so right now what's happening in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina is important. And the interesting thing is -- we talk about alpha dogs -- I think you guys are counting out Michele Bachmann way too early in this and I think she's going to do really well in Iowa and she's going to do really well in South Carolina.

BORGER: I think there's an issue, though, of toughness when you talk about a presidential candidate, and at some point you have to get comparative if you're in a -- if you're in a large field. And so the question is, does Romney have to prove that he's tougher by taking on Perry directly at --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

BORGER: -- some point or should he sit back and say I'm the electable one?

FRUM: The winners don't do that. Especially in Republican primaries, George W. Bush didn't get tough with his opponents in 2000 and Ronald Reagan Certainly never got tough with his opponents. He pushed back in various ways with that kind of face-to-face confrontation. What Mitt Romney I think needs to keep doing is pounding away on this point that he has workable ideas for jobs and recovery, and Rick Perry's ideas will make things worse. When you start tightening the money supply now and the various kinds of approaches he's talked -- nostrums he's talked about it is going to make things -- BORGER: Well Social Security, for example, a huge issue. Rick Perry wrote about Social Security in his book. There's lots of talk that he may be opposed to it or at least for means testing which means making the wealthy pay more, I mean, that could be a real Achilles' heel for him.

CASTELLANOS: I think the Republicans have decided this year that if we lose to Obama, we lose the country, so we want an electable candidate. We want somebody who can beat Obama. That's the imperative. And if Rick Perry begins to scare seniors and independents by attacking Social Security, if he begins to scare soccer moms by going off the rails and saying somewhat irresponsible things now and then, if he begins to look like a candidate who can't compete in the general, that's a risk for him.

But to your point, Gloria, about getting tougher, sometimes you don't have to get tougher. You just have to be stronger and more mature. One of the things Romney has to do in these debates coming up is he has to be unflappable, cool Mitt Romney, because right now the country is in a crisis. It seems like Washington is coming apart at the seams. If he can go through these next debates and not flinch and hold his ground, let Perry run a little bit and see if anger beats maturity.

BORGER: Well, there is something to the question of these debates because candidates -- people look at candidates in comparison to the people they're standing next to, and Cornell, you know, this happened with Barack Obama, right? I mean, when he got into those debates, he started out not doing so well. Then he found his footing, and then suddenly people saw him as presidential. That could happen with Rick Perry. We haven't seen him --

BELCHER: I don't think you -- I don't think you can win it in a debate, but I think you can certainly lose it in a debate. And I think Tim Pawlenty was this year's showing of that where he didn't at all look strong and decisive in that debate. I think (INAUDIBLE). I think a lot of campaigns we go into it thinking don't get hurt in this debate, you know, don't -- the last thing you want to do is to get hurt in this debate.

I think Romney is going to go into these debates when he's down. It will be interesting to see if he goes in with that philosophy of don't getting hurt like I thought he went to the first debate with. I don't -- I just want to come out here not getting hurt and he'll be fine. But with Perry rising in those numbers like that, I think he's probably going to have to take on a different strategy.

BORGER: But what does this quick rise tell you? I mean obviously the media is talking about Rick Perry all the time. Obviously this is an unsettled, a very unsettled, race, but is there something else in these --

FRUM: It tells me that there has been throughout a large gap for the job of not Mitt Romney. That Mitt Romney who has -- who has -- was a -- the alternative last time, was the second-place finisher, the classic Republican, the second choice for next time. There is this gap for somebody who is not him, because he supported extending health care to everybody, because I think a lot of Republicans sense he may not fully believe all of the things that Republicans didn't used to believe but have convinced themselves of the past three years. Of course, that makes him probably the strongest general election candidate, but are Republicans in the mood for that or do they want to express some intense emotions?

CASTELLANOS: And the reason I think, though, is that there's been that vacuum, that gap is because a lot of voters still don't think they know who Mitt Romney is and what he's for and does he have --

BORGER: Well they don't.

CASTELLANOS: And does he have that strength. That's why Perry in a way may be a godsend for Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney needs to beat someone to become someone --

BORGER: Yes, but let me --

CASTELLANOS: -- and that's going to -- if he can do that, he'll be stronger in a general election and if he can't Rick Perry --

BORGER: OK, so what do you think -- and let me ask all of you folks because you've been involved in campaigns and worked with politicians. Let me just show you this bar graph. We were looking at it today, so interesting. Lead newsmakers between the week of August 22nd to 28th compiled by Pew Research, Gadhafi, 58 percent, Barack Obama, 39, Steve Jobs, 19, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, still in the news, 15, and Rick Perry, right there with 14.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Beyonce?

BORGER: Where is Beyonce? And so -- and where's Mitt Romney? So, is this something at this stage in the campaign where you're saying Rick Perry is sucking all the oxygen? Is that good or bad?

CASTELLANOS: The worst thing Mitt Romney can do right now is demonstrate weakness by flailing around and changing everything he's doing. He's beginning to draw some nice subtle differences planned for these debates, but he's -- so far be the jobs maker. David is exactly right. Be the jobs maker and explain that the people who got us into this mess can't get us out.

BORGER: So it doesn't bother you? It shouldn't bother Romney?

FRUM: He's working the back rooms. He's raising a lot of money and Rick Perry is going to have to do that all over again in an environment where campaign contributions are restricted unlike Texas.

BELCHER: And it's a long haul. I mean this thing won't be decided in the next couple of months --

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: It is a long haul. BORGER: You bet it is.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And you'll be with us for it.

BELCHER: I will be with you.

BORGER: OK and you're going to be with us for the next block, so stay with us. Because while Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have certainly started going after one another, we've been talking about, there's one thing that they actually agree on, and that is what they really don't like about Barack Obama. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: A new CNN/ORC poll shows a majority of Americans approve of the president's handling of the crisis in Libya. That number certainly does not include the Republican presidential candidates. Today, for example, Mitt Romney accused the president of believing America should become a, quote, "lesser power".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: And that flows to the conviction that if we're weak, that other tyrants will decide -- or that the tyrants will decide to be weak as well. That if we could just talk more, engage more, pass more U.N. resolutions that peace would somehow break out. That may be what they think at the Harvard faculty lounge, but it's not what you know from the battlefield.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: And Republican consultant Alex Castellanos, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and former Bush speechwriter David Frum still are with us. Ouch, not so veiled reference to Barack Obama. But can Republicans have it both ways, Alex? Let me start with you on this, because they're saying we need to cut spending even on wars, but on the other hand, the strategy of working with other countries, working through the United Nations, spending less money is not good enough?

CASTELLANOS: There's -- there's a schism in the Republican Party right now. There's an element of the party, a nativist (ph) element that thinks we're overextended and we need to pull back, and then there's another element that believes Barack Obama waited way too long in Libya, that he turned a 10-minute problem into a multi-month problem when freedom is under assault anywhere in the world, we should go in there --

BORGER: That would be John McCain.

CASTELLANOS: And we should have fixed it. And that is actually attention (ph), but it doesn't matter because we're all united by something else. Nothing unites the people of earth like a threat from Mars, that's Barack Obama. That's spending and that's an economy in a meltdown. BORGER: Does it matter in the Republican Party?

FRUM: This is really not a promising line of attack for Republicans. I mean the truth is there's a lot more continuity than discontinuity --

BORGER: Right.

FRUM: -- between the foreign policies of George Bush and Barack Obama. Ironically I think this is a problem for him on his left flank with disaffected liberals who say started with two wars and now we have three, Guantanamo still open. Almost all of the measures that were instituted by the Bush/Cheney administration for domestic security, all still there, it's a left flank problem and in many ways if Republicans wanted to canny (ph), the more you congratulate Obama for recognizing the error of his campaign and for having the wisdom to come around to endorse the wisdom of what George Bush and Dick Cheney, the more you drive a wedge between him and --

BORGER: Cornell that hurts him with his base.

BELCHER: Well I mean certainly on the left there's the idea that it's been problematic because you know we still are in Afghanistan to a certain extent, we're just beginning to pull out of the war in Iraq, so it has been a problem on the left. You know I'm with David on this. If this is what the Republicans want to talk about, so you know, bring it on, because every time they are talking about this, they're not talking about unemployment and they're not talking about --

BORGER: OK, well, OK, but quickly --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Very quickly, I want to go to something that Rick Perry said at that same convention in Texas because it gives you an idea of trying to have it both ways. Just listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism. We should only risk shedding American blood and spending American treasure when our vital interests are threatened. At the same time, we must be willing to act when it is time to act. We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multilateral debating societies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASTELLANOS: Hello, I must be going.

BORGER: Right.

BELCHER: That's having it both ways. It really is.

BORGER: So when is it time to act?

CASTELLANOS: Well, that's what he left open here, you know he -- Republicans --

BORGER: Is this a new candidate or is it just an unformed foreign policy or is this just a mistake or --

CASTELLANOS: No, that's trying to have everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CASTELLANOS: And that's -- and you know Republicans have the same luxury Barack Obama had last time, when you're running against an unpopular president all you have to do is be the alternative. You put the spotlight on him and that's what Rick Perry is doing --

BORGER: Not when you're in a primary though --

FRUM: That's also being mesmerized by the mother lode of Ron Paul voters who are probably the most compact nugget of voters inside the Republican primary process, and they may not be big but they are there. They are intense. So far they're bound to Ron Paul, but if anything were to happen to him or as the primary process goes forward, I think that is a dog whistle to that group of voters. Perry wants them. They're not going to go to Mitt Romney for sure.

BORGER: So but is this something that Romney could or should pounce on right now?

BELCHER: Well let me step back and take a broader look at this. This -- when you talk to American voters about why they are so cynical about politics and what's going on in Washington I think that's a prime example of the clip, because there you have a politician who is saying both things, and that's why so you can't trust what's going on in Washington, you can't believe -- they will say whatever they need to say and whenever they need to say it and that is a prime example of it.

CASTELLANOS: Which is where Romney started the debate today, I'm a business guy, I'm not a politician who's been part of the problem, but I think you're going to see Romney talk a whole lot more about economics than foreign policy.

BORGER: Well you're going to hear all the candidates trying to talk about that including Barack Obama, but, again, it's his story that he's got to turn into a good one.

BELCHER: Well I think he's got a --

BORGER: OK.

BELCHER: -- a pretty good story, three dictators going down without Americans spending billions of dollars and losing thousands of lives. That's not a bad story.

BORGER: OK, thanks. FRUM: But where's my job?

BORGER: Right. That's right. Well thank you, all, for being with us. And we'll have you back again soon to talk about this.

And tonight there's a new deadline and a new death toll in Libya. We'll get the latest in a minute, as well as meet a teenage girl who says she was forced to become one of Moammar Gadhafi's executioners.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: Today a Libyan rebel commander told CNN at least 50,000 people, civilians as well as fighters have died in Libya's six-month civil war, and the death toll may go even higher soon. Today, the rebels set a Saturday deadline for pro-Gadhafi forces to give up or else. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Misrata for us tonight. Fred, what does or else mean? What would they do if there's no surrender?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was on the front line quite close to Sirte, Gloria, earlier today, and folks there who are on the front line on the rebel side were telling us that all-out would mean an all out assault on the town of Sirte, and it would come from two sides. It would come from both here from west of the town of Sirte and from the eastern town of Sirte. Those of course are forces that are coming from Benghazi.

So you have I would say about 100 gun trucks at least on this side that are ready to advance on the town of Sirte if in fact these negotiations don't come through. Now the latest that I am hearing from the Transition National Council, that is of course, the rebel government as they say at this point there are negotiations going on with the tribes of Sirte, including the tribe of Moammar Gadhafi himself, and that those negotiations at this point in time don't seem to be getting anywhere -- Gloria.

BORGER: So, do they think that at some point they're actually going to search and find Moammar Gadhafi if they defeat enough of his forces?

PLEITGEN: Well, it's certainly something that they're hoping for, but they're not really certain that they're going to find him in the town of Sirte. Many of the guys that I spoke to on the front line believe that he didn't actually flee to Sirte, that he might be somewhere else, sort of southeast of Tripoli. Some also believe that he might be outside the country, but really at this point in time it is anybody's guess. But that certainly still is their main focus is to try and find Moammar Gadhafi, but at the same time of course at some point in time they're going to have to try and pull this country together again.

And a bloody invasion of the town of Sirte really wouldn't do very much to forward that -- what they're trying to achieve there, so certainly that's something that the guys on the front lines are telling me as well. They say they really don't want to invade the town of Sirte. They say they've had enough bloodshed so far. They've had enough of their own guys die. They've had enough of their own guys lose limbs or get maimed. They want all of this to be over as fast as possible and they really hope that these negotiations move forward. But at the same time they say if they get the order, then they're going to move forward on Moammar Gadhafi's hometown -- Gloria.

BORGER: Thanks very much, Fred Pleitgen in Misrata. Thanks for being with us.

And every day brings new details of atrocities committed by the Gadhafi regime. Today CNN's Arwa Damon met a 19-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted by one of Gadhafi's commanders and then forced to become an executioner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Masoud (ph) now lies in a hospital bed with an armed rebel guard out front. She doesn't want us to show her face. She admits she murdered 11 rebels, all prisoners of the Gadhafi regime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: "They brought one person in at a time, and they said shoot him," she tells us. "There was someone on either side of me and one behind, and they all said if you don't shoot, we will shoot you."

She speaks haltingly, often falling into a tortured silence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DAMON: "I would turn my head away and shoot. And then I saw the blood dripping. It just kept flowing."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BORGER: Arwa Damon joins us now from Tripoli. Arwa, that's such a horrific story at all levels. Are her captives at all sympathetic to the fact that she was doing this after being raped and upon threat of death?

DAMON: You know, Gloria, a number of the rebels who were there at the hospital did appear to be taking pity on her, as did many of the doctors, believing that she had been manipulated by the Gadhafi regime, that she was just a victim of this horrific government that they had been subjected to for decades. That being said, the rebels do plan on having her stand trial.

BORGER: And so what could happen to her, Arwa, if they did put her on trial?

DAMON: Well, for that to first of all take place, of course it would mean that the entire justice establishment would need to be rebuilt, as do many of the institutions here. But the rebel leadership has been saying that they will be holding fair trials for those who they do choose to take to court. They have also been speaking about the need for reconciliation and forgiveness, so when it comes specifically to her case, it could potentially go either way. The doctors say that for her to overcome this kind of a trauma, she's going to need severe psychological help. She's going to need emotional and family support, and those are things that are currently lacking for her right now, but it just gives you an indication of the many problems and issues facing this country in the future because hers by no means is an isolated case -- Gloria.

BORGER: And, Arwa, I have to ask you about the situation in Tripoli. U.N. secretary general today said 60 percent of Tripoli is without water and without sanitation. How desperate a situation is it there?

DAMON: Well, it's pretty serious. I mean it could potentially cause a severe health crisis. The issue is that Gadhafi loyalists appear to have shut off one of the main water supplies to the capital. And it's a problem that's being compounded by the ongoing fuel shortages. Now the U.N. is planning on sending water to the capital. The government is going to try to get fuel to the various pumps to try to get it up and going. And it's not just a water shortage that is proving to be a problem. It is a food shortage as well. So there are a number of international agencies that are trying to rally to get basic commodities to the capital, before this really spreads into something that could potentially be quite, quite severe.

BORGER: Arwa Damon thanks so much for being with us tonight.

And up next, who would control Syria's large stockpile of chemical weapons if the government fails? We'll have the details in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: What should have been a day of festivals and celebration turned bloody in Syria today. Activists in several cities report security forces firing on crowds that gathered for prayers marking the end of the Ramadan fast. At least seven people were killed.

There's also a complication in the international effort to push Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad out of power, his chemical weapons.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is here to tell us more.

Chris, just how large is Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Gloria, by most estimates Syria has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world, if not the largest. Whereas we were concerned about Libya having maybe 10 tons of mustard gas, most experts believe Syria could have upwards of thousands of tons of these chemical weapons, things such as V.X. and sarin. These are such viral agents that even just a few drops can kill a man -- sarin, for example, was used in that 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway, killed 13 people, made about 1,000 more people sick.

So, these are very, very vile agents and there's a lot of them in Syria. BORGER: So, Chris, what's the major fear here, that President Assad will use it on the protesters, or that the protests are actually occurring near where the stockpiles are?

LAWRENCE: That's it. Some of the location of the protests, places like Hama, Latakia, these are sites where some of the chemical weapons are stored.

I spoke with a U.S. official who says, look, Syria has no incentive to sell the chemicals to terrorists. They see it right now as a deterrent to Israel's nuclear capability. They've never used them and given them to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that they've been affiliated with. The fear from U.S. officials is that if the Assad regime collapses, that -- you know, unrest and the confusion that criminals or even desperate elements, rogue elements of the Assad regime, may take advantage of that to try to take some of these weapons.

You know, recently President Barack Obama called on Bashar al Assad to step down. But the harsh reality of this is the chemical weapons have been safe while they've been in his control.

BORGER: Yes. And we don't know whose hands they could get into next.

Chris Lawrence --

LAWRENCE: Yes.

BORGER: -- thanks so much.

LAWRENCE: You're welcome.

BORGER: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming up at the top of the hour and Anderson is here with a preview.

What do you have, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Yes, Gloria.

We're tracking the breaking news on the aftermath of Irene. We're still talking about Irene, because this thing is still affecting millions of people. Several communities in New York, New Jersey and Vermont still have not seen the worst of the flooding. And the flooding has been bad in those areas as rivers continue to crest after the storm.

Late word this evening that residents in at least two towns in New Jersey were given mandatory evacuation orders today. CNN's Mary Snow was there, watched as dozens of residents were forced to evacuate. We're going to bring you the very latest from New Jersey.

Plus, you were talking about Syria. We are tackling Syria, where Syrians were supposed to be celebrating the end of Ramadan. Instead, a lot found themselves caught up in peaceful demonstrations -- demonstrations that quickly turned deadly. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

COOPER: We'll speak to one man inside the country who tells us his people are suffering and he wants the world to know what's happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DARAA, SYRIA RESIDENT (via telephone): We are suffering from -- from the army and the security force and from the arresting, from the killing.

We don't need food. We don't need water. We don't need money. We only need freedom. We are looking for our freedom and we are demonstrating peacefully to get our freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We'll also talk to Professor Fouad Ajami about Syria.

And new details out of Aruba. CNN's Martin Savidge is there, digging on the latest in a disappearance of this 35-year-old woman, American woman, Robyn Gardner. This is the last known photo of her. There's a new report from ABC that the prime suspect in her disappearance, Gary Giordano, had a cut on his throat shortly after she disappeared. We'll try to sort all the latest details.

We'll also talk to Congressman Ron Paul about his belief about the problems with FEAM and why FEMA should be eliminated. Is that the right thing to do?

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist," Gloria, at the top of the hour.

BORGER: Yes, I think there are a lot of Republicans who might disagree with Ron Paul on that. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say. Thanks, Anderson.

And tonight here in Washington, we're getting new details about the jobs program President Obama is getting set to announce. Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: The White House is dropping hints about the jobs program President Obama's getting ready to reveal. And today, the president himself turned up the heat on Congress, which is going to have to pass it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to break the gridlock in Washington that's been preventing us from taking the action we need to get this country moving.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: That's why next week, I'll be speaking to the nation about a plan to create jobs and reduce our deficit. A plan that I want to see passed by Congress. We've got to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is picking up new details about the president's jobs push.

Jessica, what are they saying over there? Are they going to go big or are they going to go small?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in their view it would be big because it would be a true effort to stimulate jobs growth. So, the kinds of ideas I'm hearing about, Gloria, include measures that would, for example, extend the payroll tax cut that already exists for employees. So, that we already have. But then also extend a payroll tax cut for employers to encourage them specifically to hire new workers, maybe even give them a new tax break if they hire people who are currently unemployed for six months or more, for example.

One idea that a lot of Democrats and outside policymakers really like is this idea of creating new funding to re -- to renovate dilapidated public schools across the country. So, that's sort of investing in some of our infrastructure in a sense, rebuilding in your community, creating jobs at the same time and helping education. And then there's some talk about jobs training programs for the long-term unemployed that lets them keep their unemployment insurance at the same time that they're getting some jobs training.

I should make clear: all this comes from outside the White House. Those who were talking inside, they won't confirm anything on the record.

BORGER: Well, and, Jessica, of course, there's the question of what Congress is going to do.

YELLIN: Right.

BORGER: Because they don't want to spend any money -- or at least Republicans are very reluctant to spend money.

YELLIN: Right. So, there are two things. One is the Democrats are making it clear, they're not going to take this as one big package, introduce it and try to vote on it. They would individually take pieces of it and do what they want with it, if they do anything at all.

The other is what you just said. I mean, there's not a lot of expectation in this town that this will pass. The White House says that what they plan to do is separately recommend spending cuts as part of the president's recommendation to the supercommittee, spending cuts that would offset any new costs in the jobs plan, so it would ultimately be revenue neutral. But you can just see Republicans rolling their eyes at that already, which is one of the reasons a lot of people don't see this getting a lot of traction in town, Gloria.

GLORIA: Exactly, Jessica, thanks so much.

And just how dire is the country's jobs picture? In July, just over 63 percent of the men in this country had a job of any kind. That's full or part time. "Bloomberg Businessweek" reports that's close to the lowest point since 1948.

And with us now: former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in Bill Clinton's administration and is now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

And in New York: John Fund, senior editor of the conservative magazine, "The American Spectator."

Bob Reich, let me get right to you. I know you think the president needs to go big. You just heard what Jessica Yellin was saying that it's unlikely big could get passed. So, why should he do anything at all?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Well, very good question, Gloria. The real choice -- and this has been the debate in the White House is my understanding. The real choice is a bunch of policy initiatives that sound completely reasonable such as Jessica was talking about a moment ago, that may one or two particularly if they're tax cuts have a chance of getting through a Republican Congress. But really are small compared to the magnitude of the problem.

Twenty-five million Americans right now who are unemployed or underemployed who are looking for full-time jobs, and as you said a record number of men who are not employed, or alternatively go big and maybe say to the Congress, the Republican Congress, that's OK, I don't expect you to go along with this. I'd like you, I'm going to fight for this, but I'm going to take this to the American people and run on this as part of my platform in the election. We do need -- at least in the short term -- a major jobs program and it is consistent, entirely consistent, with long-term budget deficit reduction.

That's the choice it looks like from what I've heard and from what Jessica's reporting, the president is choosing the former.

BORGER: Well, John Fund, let me ask you. Is there any area in which the Republicans and the president can actually work together? One would think it might be in their own self-interest to get something done and create jobs?

JOHN FUND, SENIOR EDITOR, AMERICAN SPECTATOR: Sure. And I think we can learn from the four previous failed stimulus packages, one from President Bush, three from President Obama.

And I think what we can learn is, that the president is getting part of the message. For example, the payroll tax cut. He may, if this report is accurate, actually recognize that the payroll tax cut on employers does retard job creation. That's been something conservatives have been saying for a long time.

For the other components, look, the president admitted there were no shovel-ready jobs -- which was one of the reasons the stimulus program failed. Now, apparently, he wants to go back and refurbish school buildings. That may be fine, good public policy, but it's not going to create jobs in the short term.

And lastly, job training programs. Look, Secretary Reich presided over something like 190 job -- federal jobs programs in the Labor Department. Some of them may be good. But that doesn't necessarily convince me that any new job training programs that may be unproven are going to really solve problems in the short term.

BORGER: Bob Reich, what do you say to that?

REICH: Well, John Fund has a very good point. We've obviously not tackled the jobs problem. It's much bigger than any of us thought. The stimulus program of 2008-2009, it was far too small relative to the size of the falloff that we now know, and consumer demand and the contraction of the economy and -- plus, the fact that states and localities were busy cutting their budgets and cutting their payrolls at the same time.

BORGER: So, are we doomed? Are you saying we're kind of doomed to doing nothing until after the election?

REICH: I hope that's not the case, Gloria. I think that the real question is, if the president does anything, shouldn't he do something that is up to the size and magnitude of the problem? And if it is up to the size and magnitude of the problem, how in the world does he get it through Republican Congress except by mobilizing the public, using the bully pulpit, and basically rounding up enough votes? I think that is what he needs to do.

FUND: There is one other option. The president has created a lot of uncertainty in the economy. The National Federation of Independent Business, the Business Roundtable, says the single biggest reason we have $2 trillion in capital sitting on the sideline not creating jobs is the regulatory uncertainty we have. Whether it's health care mandates, whether it's Dodd-Frank, whether it's a whole range of things that people aren't sure about what the economic future is going to be.

We have a big fight --

BORGER: But you can't do it right now --

FUND: You can. The president can say, in addition to creating these jobs programs, in addition to the payroll tax cut, we're going to have a regulatory freeze and I'm going to revisit every one of these regulations. I'm going to try to inject some certainty in the economic decision-making process companies face.

BORGER: OK. Bob Reich, what about that? You give a little on regulations?

REICH: Well, undoubtedly, you know, we should get rid of regulations that don't work. After we have seen a year of the BP oil spill and mining disasters and Wall Street, you know, two years ago, three years ago exploding. I don't think we want to get rid of all health, safety, environmental and small investor regulations. I don't think John is suggesting that --

FUND: Then why mention it?

REICH: Let's absolutely get rid of --

BORGER: So you give on regulation --

REICH: Wait a minute, if I can just finish the point. Businesses are not hiring and they're sitting on $2 trillion of cash because there are not customers. Consumers are workers. Workers are consumers. If workers are worried about their jobs, if their wages are dropping --

BORGER: OK.

REICH: -- if their benefits are disappearing, they're not going to buy.

BORGER: Bob Reich, you're going to have to get the last word. Robert Reich and John Fund, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

REICH: Thanks, Gloria.

BORGER: And in his new book, Dick Cheney writes political battles are messy, shrill and sometimes cruel. Next, does his new tell-all go too far?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: The latest must-read for political junkies is out today. And by mid-afternoon, Dick Cheney's "In My Time" already was Amazon.com's number two best selling book behind the help.

By the way, Cheney says he wrote it without help from former President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I did not cooperate or coordinate on our books. He wrote his book. I wrote my book. I felt strongly that I wanted to write what I remembered about these events and that's the way both of us functioned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: And in another interview, Cheney predicted his book would have heads exploding all over Washington.

CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen has seen plenty of explosive tell-alls during his time, advising four U.S. presidents.

David, thanks so much for being with us.

Are you surprised that former Vice President Cheney has written a book with such candor, describing how he disagreed on policy with people in the Bush administration? Criticizing some of his former colleagues?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm surprised -- I'm not surprised at one thing, Gloria. I'm not surprised at all that he was candid because Dick Cheney, that has been his trademark now for a number of years and he wanted to tell it straight.

I am surprised that he took some shots at people around him, the high up. The Condi Rice, Colin Powell, George Tenet, for example. And that's typically not done by vice presidents or presidents. It's not a time for score settling and I think that he's -- you know, the only thing you can say in his defense is he had a lot of scores to settle. I mean, he's been beaten up a lot.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: So I guess there is a reason why Liz, who worked with him, his daughter, probably persuaded him to do some of that. But I'm not surprised at the candor. I am surprised at the shots.

BORGER: Well, let's talk about that score settling for a minute, because I want to read you something that he wrote about Colin Powell. He said, quote, "I was particularly disappointed in the way Powell handled policy differences. Time and again, I heard he was opposed to the war in Iraq. Indeed, I continue to hear it today. But never once in any meeting did I hear him voice objection."

When President Bush after his re-election in 2004 accepted Powell's resignation, I thought it was for the best.

So, does Colin Powell have a right to be pretty upset at Dick Cheney?

GERGEN: Yes, absolutely, of course. I mean, he basically, the vice president accused the secretary of state of basically playing outside the lines. And, you know, that he was taking his criticisms of people outside, undermining the president.

And from Colin Powell's point of view, he would interpret that as an accusation of disloyalty. There have been a lot of accusations about Colin Powell playing on a separate team, but, you know, he did have honest differences and did he express them to the president. On one occasion -- by Colin Powell's own account -- he did go to the president to make an argument about, do you really want to do this?

But, you know, listen, I think this is obviously selling books. There were huge differences and there were some poisonous relationships. It is said that that very close relationship that Colin Powell once had with Dick Cheney did deteriorate so badly. BORGER: Well, it isn't only Colin Powell, for example. He also talked about his policy differences with the president of the United States, particularly regarding the pardon of Scooter Libby, his former top aide.

And we knew that there were differences, but to hear it from Dick Cheney himself about the president takes it one step further. I want you to listen to something he said on the "Today" show this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I felt very strongly that Scooter was not treated fairly. I don't think an indictment was appropriate. Scooter was the one ultimately who was charged, not with leaking but with allegations about misconduct during the course of the investigation.

So I really think he was badly treated. I thought he deserved a pardon. The president disagreed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: So, is there a difference between a memoir and a kiss and tell?

GERGEN: Gloria, on that one, I don't think that was kiss and tell. It has been widely known. I think he was being candid about it.

And let me just -- and full disclosure, I worked closely with Dick Cheney in the 1970s in the Ford administration. Liked him, respected him and continue to believe he is an honest man. We have sharp policy disagreements today as we've each gotten older.

But I thought on that one, about Scooter Libby, he just had flat out a disagreement with the president. He was honest about it. He didn't take any shots at the president. He just said we disagreed.

BORGER: But he also recounted a story, David, in which he said that, you know, he wanted to bomb Syria. And everybody else, nobody else around the table raised their hands. Are those kinds of discussions, things, that he ought to be talking about? Particularly if the president did not talk about it in his memoir?

GERGEN: That's an interesting hard question. Look, I -- Bill Safire took me under his wing a long time ago and convinced me, as a lot of historians have since, that there does come a time for historical purposes when insiders should be permitted to and should be encouraged, in fact, to tell us what happened so historians can, and others can learn from both mistakes and from triumphs.

The issue is not whether you tell the issue. It's how soon you tell it. Do you allow a discreet interval to pass.

And on that one, I think enough years have passed. We're in a sort of speed it up world, after all that I think it is OK to be telling those stories. I think the issue here is not what stories he's telling. I think the issue is whether he took cheap shots. As Colin Powell is arguing against some of his colleagues and whether that was unfair or not and score-settling.

BORGER: Well, that's all from us tonight.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.