Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Libya Deputy Prime Minister; Reviewing the South Carolina GOP Candidates Forum; Labor Day Campaign Focus: Jobs; Huge Wildfire Racing Near Texas Capital; Tropical Storm Lee Heads for Gulf Coast; Fires Threaten Hundreds of Homes in Texas; Pakistani Authorities Arrest Senior Al Qaeda Leader; The Hunt for Gadhafi; Rick Perry's New Line of Attack; James Hoffa Takes on Tea Party

Aired September 5, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And that's it. The South Carolina Republican forum, hosted by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

We want to welcome our viewers.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John King is standing by.

Will Cain is standing by.

Also, Donna Brazile, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us.

Let's get some immediate reaction from -- to what we heard from these five Republican candidates over the past two hours -- Donna, let me start with you.

You're a good Democrat. You heard from these five Republicans. They're pretty much, on most of the issues, on the same page -- a page being very different than the page that the president of the United States is on.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: South Carolina will hold the first primary in the Deep South next February. It's a very important state for the Republicans.

And what you saw today is Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, of course, and Herman Cain, present the ideas to Jim DeMint. That's because Jim DeMint is a heavyweight. He's a Tea Party favorite.

And what they were running today for was not president of the United States, but president of the Tea Party.

BLITZER: All right.

Let's get a different analysis, I assume, from Will Caine.

What do you think, Will?

What did you see? What what did you like?

What didn't you like?

WILL CAIN, CONTRIBUTOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": You know, Wolf, when I first turned -- tuned into this deal, I was kind of skeptical. I thought here's going to be friendly questions from the same side of the aisle.

But I was wrong. And, by the way, it's good to expose your views to people who believe the opposite of you.

But this was questions of do you understand what you're out there selling?

Do you understand the values of your philosophy?

CAIN: The best example of that is federalism. It's an important concept to conservatives, that which is not granted to the central government, the federal government, goes to the states.

Michelle Bachmann, whether or not it's abortion or gay marriage, always, whenever she's opposed to it, she's ready to use the federal government. And she talked about it with Mitt Romney's health care mandate, said it was unconstitutional.

Deposit that against the very interesting debate that Paul, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney had with Robbie George over the 14th Amendment and federalism. I think you see two very different types of candidates there.

BLITZER: And John King, you're there. You were -- you were anchoring our coverage around these two hours of this forum down in South Carolina.

Let's just review for our viewers, basically, the moderators -- the questioners had the same questions for all five of these Republican candidates, more or less. But they were in a sequestered room. They couldn't hear what the competition was answering.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": They could not hear. And Will makes a very important point, especially to remember, Wolf, we're still in the Republican primary season here. And to Republican primary voters, these views on the role of the federal government, whether it be on military policy -- and you heard Ron Paul stake out his libertarian get Washington out of these overseas interventions -- whether it's on military policy or on these social issues -- gay rights, abortion rights, individual freedoms -- it's an important issue to many Republican voters. There may be some watching this coverage who say this doesn't matter to me, but it does mater to Republican voters.

It thought it was very interesting, Mitt Romney made the decision at the very end to attend this forum. And at the very, very end, with 55 seconds left, Senator DeMint told him, he got to address his biggest obstacle to becoming the Republican nominee. And that is the Massachusetts health care plan.

He welcomed that opportunity today, to appeal to these conservative voters. I think this event was defined by differences on the role of government among these five Republicans and also defined by the very last minute decision of sixth candidate, the Texas governor, Rick Perry, to return to Texas because of the wildfires. A Perry appearance on the stage -- the same stage as Romney, in this critical state, would have added some prestige to this event, if you will, some of the stakes to this event.

But still, an interesting opportunity to watch these five candidates, on Labor Day, outline some pretty stark differences.

BLITZER: What -- what was the reaction in South Carolina, among the Republicans, John, to Rick Perry's last minute decision to go back to Texas and deal with the wildfires there?

There's obviously a crisis going on in his home state and he -- he's got a full-time job as governor of that state.

KING: Senator DeMint, the big organizer of this event, said that he wished Governor Perry would stay, that if he had stayed, he would have let him speak first then perhaps go back then. But he also said very much that he understood, that as the chief executive of Texas, the wildfires are spreading, including near the Austin area, that, of course, he has his primary responsibility is to be the governor of Texas.

Governor Perry just entered the race, Wolf, just a couple of weeks, as you know, and is already viewed as the frontrunner here in South Carolina. And you know the history of South Carolina. It believes that Iowa and New Hampshire winnow the field, South Carolina picks Republican nominees. And the last five times there have been contested Republican races, that has certainly proven the case.

So it would have been interesting to see Governor Perry on that stage for the first time in such a pivotal state.

The other candidates say they understand, as well. Three debates coming up, including our CNN Tea Party debate, Wolf, which you'll be moderating coming up this month. So there will be plenty of chances to watch them go back and forth.

But I think a missed opportunity for Governor Perry here today. And just for those of us watching this race, to see what differences he would have outlined on those key issues, whether it be the social policy, whether it be military, foreign policy, or the big question, jobs and the economy.

BLITZER: That is certainly the big question.

John, thanks very much.

We'll see you later on "John King USA" in two hours. That's coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Donna and Will will be back with us in a little while.

And let me just once again point out, one week from today, I'll be the moderator when CNN hosts the Republican presidential debate, along with the Tea Party Express, several Tea Party groups in Tampa, Florida, Monday night, September 12th, 8:00 p.m., only here on CNN. Governor Perry will be attending that debate, as well.

On this Labor Day, President Obama warmed up for his critical jobs speech. That's coming up on Thursday night -- in a state struggling with very high unemployment. We're talking about Michigan. He spoke to a very friendly audience at a union event in Detroit.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is there -- Jessica, he was pretty warmly received in Detroit.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He really was, Wolf. And, you know, Labor Day is traditionally the kickoff to campaign season. The president came to Detroit and delivered a campaign-style speech.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As long as I'm in the White House, 'm going to stand up for collective bargaining.

YELLIN (voice-over): For a moment, it seemed like old times.

UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Four more years. Four more years.

YELLIN: Before a friendly crowd of union activists, the president took his sharpened jobs message out for a test drive.

OBAMA: We've got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding. Labor is on board. Business is on board. We just need Congress to get on board.

YELLIN: If they don't act, he all but threatened to campaign against a do-nothing Congress.

OBAMA: The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now. No more manufactured crisis. No more games. Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs. Now is the time for them to worry about your jobs.

YELLIN: In this city, help can't come soon enough.

KEN WADLAND, MICHIGAN UNION MEMBER: The people in Michigan really need a hand. I think we -- we need work. We want work. That's all. We don't want a handout. We want jobs.

YELLIN: In Michigan, unemployment statewide is 10.9 percent. In the greater Detroit area, it's 15.7 percent. And the picture for African- Americans is even worse -- 40 percent in Detroit are unemployed.

The president's closing message seemed to have meaning both for them and for his own team. OBAMA: I don't know about you, but I'm not scared of tough times. I'm not scared of tough times because I know we're going to be all marching together and walking together and working together and rebuilding together. And I know we don't quit.


YELLIN: Wolf, you might recall, in 2008, the president won this state, Michigan, by 17 points. But right now, the latest statewide polling shows that his job approval is at an anemic 34 percent. He needs this state if he is going to win. And so it is no surprise he is here today. And we should expect to see him here a great deal in the coming year.

BLITZER: Yes. It's one of those states like Ohio and Pennsylvania that he's going to be visiting a lot -- Florida, presumably, in the coming months, as well.

Did you get a sense -- you've covered a lot of these presidential events. And you could call this almost like a campaign style event. The crowd was there and the big numbers he used to get four years ago, shall we say?

YELLIN: No. It wasn't the same kind of crowd, Wolf. It was crowded, but it wasn't teeming with -- teeming and filled for blocks and blocks and blocks. It just wasn't that same kind of vibe. These -- these folks were excited to see him. These are strong supporters. But it wasn't that same kind of energy he used to get.

BLITZER: He's going to be doing a lot of traveling, I'm sure.

What's next?

Do we know where he's going after this?

He's coming back to Washington, but he's got some other events the day after his big speech Thursday night.

YELLIN: Yes. He is going to be campaigning in the -- closer to the Washington area after his event. And we know, Wolf, that he's going to be kicking off a series of events, not just right after the speech, but in the weeks after, to continue pushing his jobs message.

And I said in the piece that if this Congress doesn't pass it, he's going to campaign against this -- essentially, a do-nothing Congress. You are going to hear him pushing that message, that if they do not pass this, it's on them, it's not on him. And you'll hear him across the country pressing this theme, that Congress has to act and push -- pitting himself against this Congress in Washington to get the jobs picture improved.

BLITZER: Yes. I heard he's going to Virginia on Friday, the day after his speech...

YELLIN: Yes. It's Virginia. BLITZER: -- to Richmond. And he's going to be at least in or near Eric Cantor's Congressional district in Virginia, a state he carried in 2008, a state he obviously needs if he's going to be reelected, as well. He's working hard in Virginia, Michigan, all these states.

And -- and Jessica will be working hard, as well, covering him in all of these states.

Jessica, thanks very much.

When President Obama lays out his new jobs plan to a joint session of Congress Thursday night, CNN, of course, will carry it live. Don't miss our special coverage. Our coverage will begin right here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And stand by to see for yourself the reason Governor Rick Perry missed the Republican presidential candidates' forum in South Carolina today. We're going to go live. We'll have a report on the raging Texas wildfires. There's a massive blaze. It's now spreading closer and closer to the state capital. It's destroying lots of homes along the way.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The Texas governor, Rick Perry, says unchecked wildfires are having a devastating effect on his state right now. Perry rushed back to Texas today, deciding to skip that Republican presidential candidates forum in South Carolina. He's due to speak about the wildfires this hour. More than 35 fires are burning across Texas, including a massive blaze near the state capital of Austin.

CNN's Jim Spellman is joining us now with more on what's going on -- Jim, it looks pretty ominous, even behind you.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Take a look at this. We just arrived here about an hour ago to this just epic wall of smoke here coming across from this firefight -- from this wildfire here. It's grown today, 25,000 acres.

And, Wolf, just a few minutes ago, we learned from authorities here, 476 homes have now been destroyed.

Driving in, it -- it's just amazing to see this huge wall of smoke. Helicopters everywhere, airplanes trying to get a handle on this. I spoke to a firefighter earlier who told me that this could be a week long battle.

And I got a chance to speak with a family, a mother and son who are pretty convinced that their home is destroyed.

Take a listen.


SPELLMAN: Usually people something like this in the movies or on the news.

What's it like to go through it firsthand?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like we're still in shock. We -- it's hard to believe right now. I am told nobody got hurt, which is wonderful. We're very desperate and we just have to wait then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never -- you never know what it is -- what it's like until it actually does happen to you. It's -- it is -- it is a bit of an downer right now. (INAUDIBLE). (END VIDEO TAPE)

SPELLMAN: We know Governor Perry is being briefed right now. We expect to hear from him within the hour. He's pledged all the necessary resources and, indeed, tomorrow, Wolf, a federal firefighting team, what they call a Type 1 team, will be here to take over this fire. It's growing fast. They want to try to do whatever they can to contain it. But it's going to be very difficult until these drought conditions, until they get some relief from that, Wolf.

BLITZER: One quick question, Jim. How does this fire compare to previous wildfires in Texas?

SPELLMAN: Well, the real thing that you don't want is a wildfire that matches up with a populated area. And unfortunately, this is stunning -- 476 homes destroyed in just over a day of fire. That's the real thing is when it lines up like that. I covered a luge fire in Arizona just a few months ago, Wolf. But it was mostly just in wooded areas, very few structures damaged. And this is really the worst case scenario when you have these horrible drought conditions, heat, high winds, fire meeting up with a populated area. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jim Spellman for us, thanks.

The tropical storm, meanwhile, that fanned the flames in Texas also causing severe flooding in Gulf Coast communities right now. Tropical storm Lee has weakened to a tropical depression, but it's still packing heavy rains, possibly -- get this -- tornadoes as it moves east. Our meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is on the scene for us in Jackson, Mississippi. So what happened in Jackson, Reynolds?

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the biggest situation we had in Jackson, Mississippi, Wolf, has been a bout of flash flooding that took place earlier in the day. There was one apartment community with 28 families who were evacuated as the waters came and began started to rise. Thankfully the waters began to drop fairly quickly. People were allowed back in with some minimal damage.

However, there was a fatality, someone driving through a flooded roadway. The car got picked up and moved downstream. So one fatality.

Although the flooding here has been flash flooding, there's been additional flooding a bit farther to the south. We have video for you out of Louisiana. To be more specific, Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, where there was some coastal flooding. A lot of that came in, water that actually rose up to some of the doorsteps of many of the communities. Some people were ready for this. They did have the sandbags in place and they were able to stem back some of the water, which is a great move, obviously.

But some people weren't quite as lucky. Reports of flooding not only in parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, but also into Alabama. Gulf Shores, Alabama, got up to seven inches of rainfall. And now, Wolf, we're beginning to see this begin to kind of change, shifting from a little bit of a wind event to, of course, the flooding event, and now again, you have the threat of tornadoes moving deeper into parts of the southeast, especially into Alabama and of course, Georgia. Perhaps even the Carolinas and Tennessee before the evening ends.

BLITZER: From wildfires to floods to tornadoes, hurricanes, we have earthquakes -- I don't know what's going on right now. All right, Reynolds thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. Tropical depression Lee is doing damage. Our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is over at the CNN Weather Center with more, just update us a little bit, Jacqui, on the forecast.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The forecast we're real concerned about tornadoes. And they are producing damage. Lee has lost its tropical characteristics and now we're starting to get support in the upper atmosphere. So we're getting tornadoes stay on the ground for a longer period of time. In fact, look at this video in our affiliate in the Atlanta area. Some tree damage. We've had at least two confirmed reports of tornadoes.

We also have damage of at least one person injured in Woodstock, which is also a northern suburb of the Atlanta metro area. About 100 homes have been destroyed. Mostly roof damage, but we are getting word that a couple of homes were demolished and one man was safely rescued from his basement.

Tornadoes will be an ongoing threat through the night tonight. In fact, we have multiple warnings still in effect, including over here into Athens. Now, we will see the winds stay strong through Texas tonight on the backside of this thing. But those should weaken off later on tonight, so better conditions for firefighters out west by tomorrow.

Here's the latest in terms of forecast rainfalls. We've seen upwards of a foot of rain already in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama. Look at the big bullet in Tennessee and throughout the Appalachians, more than five inches. We do get concerns in the higher elevations, too because we do have a threat then of mudslides.

The northeast, we've got a cold front moving here. That's moving in an additional one to three inches of rainfall. And that is going to stick around and causing a lot of travel problems in Atlanta, Hartsfield, Jackson International Airport, and a lot of delays all the way up the east coast.

Last weather headline here for you, Wolf, is hurricane Katia has intensified and now becoming a major hurricane. Maximum winds around 115 miles an hour, not really bothering anybody out there right now. But we're going to get some big waves from this thing. This is going to be approaching the U.S. coast by the end of the week and so they'll be a strong threat of rip currents and also some big waves. But it looks like it's going to make a nice big curve. So a swing and a miss on that one. At least a little bit of good news to end on that.

BLITZER: Well, when you say it looks like, I'm always a little skeptical. Are we sure it's not going to hit the east coast of the United States? Are the experts saying it's definitely going to do a miss?

JERAS: It really looks that way at this time, Wolf. You know, the cold front that moving through the northeast right now, there's a series of them that are going to move through, and we think that's going to enough to hold it off the coast.

BLITZER: Jacqui Jeras, let's hope and pray for the best, thanks very, very much.

Pakistan reports the arrest of a top Al Qaeda leader said to have been planning attacks on the United States. We're going to give you details.

And are anti-Gadhafi forces closing in on the former Libyan strongman? I'll speak to a top official in the country's new transitional government. Wait until you hear what he has to say. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A small plane crash sparks a brushfire in California. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. That plane went down about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, killing at least one person and sparking a brush fire that is now growing. Residents of one area have been ordered to evacuate, and well over 1,000 acres have been burned.

Pakistan is reporting the arrest of a senior Al Qaeda leader. According to a statement from the country's military, he was involved in planning attacks in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Among the reported targets, oil and gas pipelines, dams and oil tankers. The White House is hailing the arrest as an example between the cooperation of the United States and Pakistan.

And less than a week before the kickoff of the NFL season, one of the biggest names in the game may not be on the field Sunday. The Indianapolis Colts issued a statement that quarterback Peyton Manning will be held out of practice this week and probably will not play week one against the Houston Texans. Manning is rehabbing from an off- season neck surgery, but his recovery has been a little slower than expected.

I was talking to our producer and she was saying this is really going to hurt the folks in the fantasy football league. All those people who had Peyton Manning as their quarterback are probably saying ouch right now.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

Ten years after 9/11, Al Qaeda sympathizers have their sights on battle-scarred Libya right now and stockpile of weapons still in that country. I'll ask the deputy prime minister of the country's transitional government about the enormous challenges after Gadhafi.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour.

Sarah Palin swings through some pretty early primary and caucus states. Is she getting ready to join the Republican race for the White House?

U.S. Postal Service in dire straits and on the verge of defaulting on a $5 billion payment to a retiree fund.

And a prototype of Apple's yet to be released iPhone-5 goes missing. Wait till you hear what happened to it. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Well, let's go to Libya right now, where anti-Gadhafi forces are trying to consolidate power. In some locations commanders are trying to avoid more bloodshed by negotiating with former Gadhafi loyalists to lay down their arms.

Meanwhile, one of biggest challenges for Libya's new leadership is tracking down Gadhafi himself.

And joining us now from Tripoli, Ali Tarhouni. He's the Deputy Prime Minister, also the Minister of Oil and Finance of the new government in Libya.

First of all, congratulations, Mr. Tarhouni. I know this is an exciting time for you, but you still haven't captured Gadhafi. Do you know where he is?

ALI TARHOUNI, LIBYAN INTERIM DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We have a pretty good idea of where he's at, yes.

BLITZER: Where do you think he is?

TARHOUNI: He's inside Libya. That's all I can tell you. And he has nowhere to go.

And I think I mentioned this before. It's amazing how much time he occupies from my thinking. He's not really a major concern for me. There are many other pressing issues, not only just the daily life of the country, but also starting to think about the rebuilding of the country.

But that thug, that killer, that clown has nowhere to go. So we will get him.

BLITZER: And what are you going to do with him when you get him? I guess you could either try him, you could execute him, you could send him abroad. What are you going to do with him?

TARHOUNI: We will try him. The one thing that I'm making sure -- and not only just myself, but just about everybody in the executive office, just about everybody in the TNC -- we want to do this right, Wolf. And to do it right means that no matter how much hatred that we have, and no matter how much losses that we suffered, that we want to do it the right way, and the right way is the legal way.

And we want to bring him to court. And actually, we'll hire good lawyers for him, and we will bring international observers. So that's how we're going to do it.

BLITZER: So you want to try him inside Libya. You don't want to send him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, in the Netherlands, where he could be tried for war crimes. You want to try him inside Libya.

TARHOUNI: We want to do that first. And then after that, yes, we will send him to the international court --


BLITZER: What do you mean? You want to try him in Libya first, and then send him for another trial in the Netherlands?

TARHOUNI: Definitely. Why not?

BLITZER: I guess the answer is, if he's found guilty in Libya of war crimes, presumably you could do to him what they did to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. You could execute him.

TARHOUNI: I'm not really sure. I think this is a matter of what the new constitution is.

Do we have a capital punishment or not? These are issues for the future. But the idea of -- or my preference would be to try him here, and then try him internationally.

And just for that legitimacy of the law, so to speak, that we want to see the rest of the world agrees. And I know that the rest of the world agrees, but it would be kind of nice to see him somewhere in a cage, and a verdict of the world that he's a thug and he's a killer. I think that would be nice.

BLITZER: I assume the same goes for Saif al-Islam, his son, the other sons if you capture them. You want to treat them the same way?

TARHOUNI: Yes. I think not only that, we already have a lot of other prisoners. We have a lot of people from the regime already. And I expect that we would have a lot more.

And I think just about everybody, if not everybody, will be brought to court. And I don't think there would be any exceptions.

I hope that we don't go for that personal revenge, which I carry in my heart. I hope that we're wise enough to start the new Libya based on the rule of the law, no matter how much we dislike sometimes the outcome of that.

BLITZER: Some American officials, including Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, they've expressed concern about the security of Gadhafi's chemical weapons and other weapons, that it could get into the wrong hands.

Are you dealing with that issue? How concerned should we be?

TARHOUNI: I don't think we should be concerned. I think we're dealing with it as much as possible.

But as far as I know -- and maybe there are things that I don't know -- there's really not a lot of chemical and mass destruction weapons as far as we know. So I'm not really too worried about this.

What I'm worried about is actually much less than weapons of mass destruction. I'm worried about the arms, the personal arms and the proliferation of arms. And I think that would be a serious challenge and a serious issue for the future and for the rebuilding of the country, not as much as chemical or nuclear weapons.

BLITZER: And let me just button up the issue of the sons, because Saadi, one of the sons, suggests that maybe he's involved in negotiations with the transitional government.

Is that true?

TARHOUNI: No, it's not true. You know, you negotiate with whoever it is that you negotiate with have something to offer. And that baby killer has nothing really to negotiate with.

I'm glad that he thinks that he's important enough. He would be happy that we captured him alive and we bring him to court, which he didn't really offer to the Libyan people.

BLITZER: So give us an assessment, Minister. How much longer do you think the fighting in Libya will go on? How much more internal violence will there be before you can get to work rebuilding your country and trying to get elections, a stable democracy? Give us a little look ahead.

TARHOUNI: That's really something that is concerning, it's exactly that. Every life counts.

We paid dearly for this freedom, and we're still paying. So my hope is that it's, you know, tomorrow. But realistically, I think we're looking at a week to two weeks before we can say finally that this episode, this part of the history of Libya is over. BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, Minister. The convicted bomber of Pan Am 103, I don't know what his health is like now. We saw pictures of him. He looks like he's in dire straits right now.

Any chances you might be willing to extradite him to the United States, or the U.K., or some other country?

TARHOUNI: I'm not really sure what the outcome is. I think this is an issue that you need to discuss when things settle down and we have some due process that we're comfortable with. And then we'll definitely be happy to discuss this issue among many other issues.

BLITZER: Ali Tarhouni is the deputy prime minister, also the minister of oil and finance of the new government in Libya.

Good luck to all the people of Libya. Good luck to you, Mr. Tarhouni. We'll stay in close touch.

TARHOUNI: My pleasure. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: As we near the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush is opening up like he never has before. Stand by to hear his new and candid recollections.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, Donna Brazile, our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist.

Donna, thanks very much.

And Will Cain, another CNN political contributor from "The National Review."

Will, thanks for joining us as well.

Let me play this little clip of Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate, from earlier today, before that Republican forum in South Carolina which he had to skip to get back to Texas to deal with the wildfires there. But earlier in the day, he took a direct swipe at Mitt Romney, arguably his main challenger for the Republican nomination.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And there's going to be some that get up and say, well, I've created jobs. And that's true. There's, you know, one in particular that's created jobs all over the world. But while he was the governor of Massachusetts he didn't create very many jobs. We cannot elect some -- we cannot choose a nominee -- let me put it that way -- that is going to blur the lines between this president and our nominee. It has to be someone who has a very stark difference between the president of the United States and our nominee. And I will suggest to you I'm that person.


BLITZER: Are you surprised at all, Will, that Rick Perry is now directly going after Mitt Romney on those two issues, outsourcing of jobs when he was in the private sector, for example, or his health care plan in Massachusetts which the president says he modeled the national health care plan on?

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, I'm not surprised, because Romney and Perry are the two front-runners, and they're both trying to paint themselves as sort of the anti-Obama. But I'd say this Wolf -- what does that mean, to be the anti-Obama?

From a conservative's perspective, it means not just that you understand constitutional limits on government, but you understand the relationship, the philosophical relationship between government and its people. And I'd say this -- Rick Perry, in 2007, mandated that all sixth grade girls in Texas be vaccinated for HPV.

Conservatives would be skeptics of the government's role in economics. And Rick Perry has used the Texas Enterprise Fund to bribe businesses to come to Texas. that's taxpayer dollars.

So what I'd say is, you can't just point out the flaws in your opponents to be the anti-Obama. You have to actually have the substance as well. And look, Perry may have it in the end. He might have the right convictions, but his record is not sterling.

BLITZER: I assume it's going to get pretty tough between now and Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, Donna. You've seen this on the Democratic side four years ago, but it looks now like the Republicans, they're going to have their own little food fight, shall we call it.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the pre-season is over with, Wolf. We're now into what I call real time with the Republican nomination. And Rick Perry is going to run to the right of any candidate in the field right now.

He's going to run as the anti-Obama candidate, the anti-Romney candidate. He's going to run as the jobs candidate, the guy who can create the jobs using his executive experience. The truth is, is that as many people know that in Texas, 19 percent of the growth in jobs came from the public sector. So Rick Perry has a record to run on, Mitt Romney also has one, too.

BLITZER: Who do you think, Donna, is a potentially bigger challenge to the president's re-election?

BRAZILE: Right now I think we have to fear everyone on the Republican side, because the country is in a foul mood, and of course the economy is the number one issue. So I think Democrats are running as if one of the top three, top four candidate, including Michele Bachmann. And who knows? Sarah Palin, if she decides to get in, might be the nominee.

BLITZER: I assume, Will, for most Republicans, electability in a general election against President Obama is the key right now. They could go ahead and nominate somebody who has got enormously great conservative Tea Party credentials, but if that person is going to lose, you know, what good is that from the Republican perspective?

CAIN: Yes, Wolf, I have to say. But I have to say, like as you said about a food fight earlier, this is the time to have the food fight. This is a healthy debate amongst conservatives about who should be leading the movement and hopefully leading the country.

I do think Romney and Perry have a legitimate debate between them. And I think both of them have a good shot at beating a very vulnerable president.

The numbers for Obama are historically bad for re-election potential. And I think Donna just pointed to that.

So I think both of these guys are electable. Perry has a greater likelihood of shooting himself in the foot between now and Election Day, but we'll see how that plays out.

BLITZER: All right. Let me move on to another sensitive issue. It came up today on this Labor Day.

James Hoffa, one of the labor leaders, obviously, of the Teamsters, he was out speaking and he said these words. And it's causing a huge uproar. Listen to this.


JAMES HOFFA, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS: We've got to keep an eye on the battle that we face, a war on workers. And you see it everywhere.

It is the Tea Party. And you know there's only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They've got a war with us, they've got a war with us, and there's only going to be one winner.

It's going to be the workers of Michigan and America! We're going to win that war!

President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march.

And President Obama, we want one thing: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs!

That's what we're gong to tell him. And when he sees what we're doing here, he will be inspired.

But he needs help. And you know what? Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and we keep an eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to where America, where we belong.


BLITZER: All right. That last line is causing a huge uproar, a lot of reaction, including from the Tea Party Express chair, Amy Kremer, just issuing a statement.

"Jimmy Hoffa's remarks are inexcusable and amount to a call for violence on peaceful Tea Party members, which include many Teamster members. We have called on President Obama to condemn this inappropriate and uncivil rhetoric, which has no place in the public forum. He should chastise Mr. Hoffa, his vice president, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Andre Carson and the other Obama supporters who have been outrageous in their comments."

Donna Brazile, you're looking at me and you're getting ready to -- what do you think about this? Was James Hoffa over the line in saying those words, "Let's take these son of a bitches out and get America back to where we belong"?

BRAZILE: You know, every time the Democrats or the progressives throw a punt, the Republicans cry, they whine, they say stop beating us, stop hitting us.

Jimmy Hoffa was talking about his members, his workers, the unions. They're under attack. They're under attack each and every day with their jobs, with their health care and their pensions. And what he was doing was rallying them to say we're going fight, we're going to continue to fight.

He wasn't personalizing the battle. This is a battle over ideas, and that's what he was talking about.

BLITZER: You think Donna is right, Will?

CAIN: No, I don't. You it was, what, only about a year or so ago that we had a call for civility and a new tone? I just don't know how you rationalize that with what we just heard.

I will agree with Donna that Jimmy Hoffa probably had some substantive statements there in his critique. When the Congressional Black Caucus had to say so many rough and tumble things about the Tea Party a week ago, there was no substance behind that. Today, you know, Hoffa has some substance, because I can tell you as a conservative, we're not very happy with the state of unions in the country right now, and we would like to see some reform there.

BRAZILE: But organized labor is not happy with the state of American working people, the middle class. And that's why they're going to fight.

And let me just say this. I listed to the Black Caucus. They had a lot of substance to talk about. They talked about what we could do, both the private and the public sector, to create jobs in this country. And they were talking about 17 percent of African-Americans being unemployed.

So they had a lot of substance. It's just, unfortunately, the Tea Party and many others are not listening to members of the Black Caucus.

BLITZER: We'll continue this discussion down the road.

Donna, Will -- guys, thanks very, very much.

Don't forget, one week from today, I'll be moderating that CNN/Tea Party Express debate. The Republicans will be in Tampa, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Monday night, September 12th, only here on CNN.

Much more news coming up, including Sarah Palin. What's she up to on this Labor Day?

Much more of our coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM when we come back.


BLITZER: On 9/11, it could have been a U.S. military fighter pilot who downed Flight 93 in Pennsylvania instead of the heroics actions of the passengers.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence spoke with a U.S. Air Force colonel who took off that day fearing -- fearing he might have to shoot down fellow Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scramble. Scramble.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment the siren sounds --


LAWRENCE: --- flight crews are off and running. Within seconds, fighter pilots have climbed into cockpits. The jets are armed, ready to fly. The squadron's sole mission is to protect the air space around Washington, and it can scramble any time from Andrews Air Force Base.

But 10 years ago, these planes were not part of an air defense squadron. No pilot had ever been trained to take down a commercial airplane.

COL. DAN CAINE, AIR NATIONAL GUARD: I clearly remember hearing on the emergency channel, "Attention. Anybody in Washington, D.C., stay away outside of 30 or 40 miles, or you will be shot down. I say again, you will be shot down."

I remember thinking, man, I don't want to go out there. And then the somber realization that, man, I'm the shooter here.

LAWRENCE (on camera): You're the one who is going to be doing the shooting.

CAINE: Yes. That's not going to be a good day for team America if it goes that way.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Colonel Dan Caine was chief flight instructor that day and watched the twin towers attacked in the Andrews flight lounge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have unconfirmed reports this morning --

LAWRENCE (on camera): You get a call from the Secret Service, the White House. What did they say?

CAINE: Get anything you can airborne right now. The nation's under attack

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The first two Air Force jets launched with no missiles, just their guns.

CAINE: Running down the long sidewalk to our airplanes and seeing the acrid, black smoke rising over the tree line coming from the Pentagon.

LAWRENCE: Dan was third up after crews had to go get the missiles from the other side of the base.

CAINE: The munitions loaders hang missiles on the airplane with a fear but determination in their eyes.

LAWRENCE: He lit the after-burner and took off, flying 500 feet off the ground through Washington.

CAINE: We were aware of several possible targets -- or targets of interest.

LAWRENCE: The primary target was a 757 that had suddenly turned around in Ohio and started to fly back towards the Capitol. Dan and the other pilots may have had to intentionally kill dozens of Americans to save thousands.

(on camera): Were you all prepared to stop a threat?

CAINE: Yes, absolutely.

LAWRENCE: Even using your own plane, if you had to?

CAINE: You bet, yes.

To answer the question, to cut right to the chase, do I think we could have done anything? I'm always careful to say I don't know. I don't know whether we would have been able to detect them. I don't know whether we would have been able to position ourselves in a place to stop them and effectively execute an intercept.

LAWRENCE: Ultimately, you didn't have to because of the actions of the passengers aboard United 93.

CAINE: Absolutely. There's not a day that goes by that we don't remember that sacrifice.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: And this note. The former vice president Dick Cheney will join me tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll have an in-depth interview on a lot of issues, including his recollections of what led to the invasion of Iraq, the war on terror.

Much more tomorrow , :00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

We're also following tornadoes right now hitting near Atlanta. New images are just coming in. We're going to show them to you when we come back.


BLITZER: Want to quickly check in once again with our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. She's following some enormous damage.

What, in the Atlanta area? In Georgia? What's going on?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. This is in the northern suburbs, Wolf.

We've had a couple of tornadoes that have moved through here, and they have produced some damage. And at least one person we know has been injured.

Take a look at the pictures that we've been getting in. This is just coming in. You're taking a lack at it with me for the first time, as we take a look out of those from Woodstock.

One of our producers here at CNN, Victoria Kennedy (ph), lives near where this damage was, and about 100 homes have received some of that damage. Now, this has been mostly tree damage, a lot of rooftops. We're hearing that maybe two homes have been flattened in this, and at least one man was rescued from his basement at this time.

So this is still a developing situation. Power is out across the area. And, of course, a very busy time of day when a lot of people have been out and about. A rainy day here in Atlanta as well.

Now, there is still a warning in effect very near where this damage occurred. That does include Cherokee County.

This is maybe about a 30, 40-minute drive at best, say, from the downtown area. And there you can see a few warnings also in eastern Georgia, and then on into the Carolinas.

So this storm system, you know, this is from the remnants of Lee, Wolf. And it has lost its tropical characteristics, and we're starting to get some port from the upper levels of the atmosphere. And that's why we're seeing tornadoes that are a little bit stronger today, that are staying on the ground for a little bit longer period of time.

We'll show you where those watch boxes remain in effect, and this is until 11:00 tonight. So this is going to be ongoing for a while. And as people go to bed tonight, they need to make sure they have their NOAA weather radios on so that they do wake up and are alerted when those warnings go off.