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Republican Presidential Race Heats Up; U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan Attacked; Interview With Jordanian Foreign Minister

Aired September 26, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Political news, breaking news, headlines, Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

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

Though he's taken a pounding for his performance in the Republican presidential debates, our latest poll finds the Texas governor, Rick Perry, still in decent shape. But that may not be enough for so many Republicans.

Let to go CNN's Jim Acosta. He is taking a closer look at what's going on.

Jim, what are you finding out?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after turning in a shaky debate performance, losing two straw polls, and getting spoofed on "Saturday Night Live," you would think Rick Perry was in serious trouble, but our new CNN/ORC poll indicates, you would be wrong.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our best days are ahead of us.

ACOSTA: The Beltway establishment stuck a fork in Rick Perry last week and called him Texas toast. This wee, it might be non-stick Rick.

PERRY: There may be slicker candidates and there may be smoother debaters, but I know what I believe in. And I'm going to stand on that belief every day. I will guide this country with a deep, deep rudder.

ACOSTA: Perry's sometimes rudderless performance in the last GOP debate had little effect on the latest CNN/ORC poll, which finds the Texas governor out front, a sign some in the country are cutting him some slack.

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: I think it is way to early to know or to issue, to pronounce last rites over one performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman Cain. ACOSTA: But as the results from two nonbinding straw polls among activists in Florida and Michigan revealed, Republicans are shopping for alternatives.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is when you normally get tired and confused.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well, not tonight.

ACOSTA: Perhaps a contender with more staying power than the Perry spoofed on "Saturday Night Live."

BALDWIN: He was before -- border control.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And he's asleep.


(on camera): He did start a conversation about whether he can be the guy.

BRENDAN STEINHAUSER, FREEDOMWORKS: Sure. There is definitely some doubt out there.

FreedomWorks, with the Tea Party organizer FreedomWorks sees the race between Mitt Romney and somebody else.

STEINHAUSER: There is clearly room for an alternative to Mitt Romney still. And we're trying to figure out who that be. It could be Rick Perry. It could be Herman Cain. It could be Ron Paul.


ACOSTA: That may explain why the Perry campaign is still attack Romney for deleting this line from the paperback version of his book.

ROMNEY: We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country.

ACOSTA: Accusing the former Massachusetts governor of flip- flopping on whether he would bring his state health care plan to the rest of the country. Team Romney called that a tall tale.

Perry can also point to the attention he's getting from President Obama who warned his donors at a weekend fund-raiser, you have got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.

PERRY: How are you?

ACOSTA: Perry might also brag he had his gate the Donald first. Romney somehow evaded the cameras after his meeting.


ACOSTA: But our new poll finds Mitt Romney stacks up much better in a head-to-head matchup with the president. So Republicans have something to chew over. Do they go with the candidate they like or the one who may have better shot at beating the president? -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Herman Cain, all of a sudden, he is getting some, I guess, some strength from that straw poll in Florida. But when all is said and done, how significant is it, Jim?

ACOSTA: These straw polls, you know, I think folks have to decide for themselves whether or not they are credible. Keep in mind, and I know a lot of Ron Paul folks will not like hearing this, Ron Paul has won several of these straw polls, and he is pretty much stuck at 10 percent in a lot of these national polls. Look at Michele Bachmann. Winning a straw poll last month in Iowa, she is now at about 6 percent in the latest CNN/ORC.

So while Herman Cain has a lot of people revved up about his message right now, it is an open question as to whether or not this is really going to have some legs long term, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta, thank you.

All week CNN is going in-depth on the question of why the U.S. government is so broken. The latest example, the congressional standoff over disaster relief funding that is threatening, guess what, another government shutdown.

After dozens of natural disasters, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is almost out of money.

Lisa Sylvester is looking into the impact all of this is having on disaster victims.

What is that impact, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, to keep it into perspective, these are folks who have had their homes destroyed, they have lost their belongings and many of them are counting on federal government disaster relief assistance. But now FEMA's disaster funds are dwindling down to zero. And the agency could run out of money some time this week.

And Congress has failed to act.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): From severe snowstorms hitting New York to devastating tornadoes touching down in Joplin, Missouri, to record flooding in the Northeast, there have been more than 80 natural disasters declared in the United States this year, straining the disaster relief coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

West Pittston, Pennsylvania, once a victim of Hurricane Irene, now a victim of gridlock. The entire first floor of Charlene Maroni home was destroyed by flooding. She received $1,300 from FEMA to cover emergency housing, but is still waiting on FEMA for help to rebuild.

CHARLENE MARONI, FLOOD VICTIM: There's a lot people that were affected that have no flood insurance. They have no flood insurance. They had very little warning to get out of their houses so they have nothing. So they're the ones that they really need to step in and do something about. They have got to stop worrying about shoveling money overseas for different things and worry about what's going on in this country.

SYLVESTER: FEMA is scheduled to run out of cash by the end of the week. Congressional Republicans and Democrats are wrangling over a short-term spending bill. The major holdup, funding for FEMA. Republicans want to offset additional emergency aid with spending cuts, which Democrats oppose.

Irwin Redlener, with the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, says, flood victims shouldn't be used as a political football.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Why Americans and American communities are being held hostage by political wrangling which is so far beyond their ability to comprehend. My heart breaks for these people. And I don't understand how the people representing these American communities in Congress, or the administration for that matter, is allowing this to even transpire.

SYLVESTER (on camera): FEMA originally said that it would run out of money on Tuesday. But now the agency says it actually has a little bit more money than it thought it did, $114 million, enough to carry it through the end of the week. And that is significant, because on October 1, it is a new fiscal year and the agency will be receiving additional funding, which could make this entire fight in Congress moot.

(voice-over): Residents here in West Pittston were reeling from Mother Nature. They're still dealing with a second blow, uncertainty.


SYLVESTER: There are variables on exactly what day the agency would run out of money, including the number people seeking assistance. And it also assumes that there are no additional disasters in the next few days.

The Senate was scheduled to vote at 5:30 on a spending package this evening. You can see the Senate floor right there, right now. It doesn't include additional FEMA money. The senators, as I said earlier, what they're trying to do, Wolf, they're hoping that this agency can essentially limp along, make it to the end of the week and the start of the new fiscal year when additional funding will kick in.

That vote was supposed to happen at 5:30. It has now been delayed. We don't know exactly what the holdup is. But you can see that there is a lot of people who are really counting on them to do the right thing, at least in this case, and make sure FEMA has enough funding.

BLITZER: They need a couple hundred million dollars for FEMA. They never seem to run out of that $2 billion a week that the United States is spending in Afghanistan. That's another story. But a hundred million dollars to help these victims of earthquakes and flooding, all of that money up in the air, $2 billion a week, more than $100 billion a year the United States is still spending in Afghanistan.

And there are a lot of questions whether that will have any positive outcome when all the dust settles. I want to move on, Lisa, to that story right now, because there has just been a new attack, yes, another attack at the United States Embassy in Afghanistan, this time from within. Shots rang out last night at the embassy's CIA annex. A United States citizen and the attacker are dead.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She is getting more information.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is beginning to look like it possibly was a lone gunman shooting from the outside into one of the most secure areas in Kabul.


STARR (voice-over): It was an attack in the heart of CIA operations in Afghanistan. An Afghan employee armed with a gun inside the heavily guarded CIA compound shot and killed an American employed by the CIA. U.S. officials tell CNN the shooter believed to be part of the local guard force was firing indiscriminately before security guards killed him.

Just yards from the main embassy, the CIA building has its own security. All Afghan employee get an initial background check. They pass through metal detectors every day. Once inside, only Americans typically carry guns, officials tell CNN.

It was the third high-profile incident in days. First, NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy were attacked. Then a suicide bomber killed the lead negotiator in the Taliban peace process.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You wouldn't have imagined a year ago something like this could happen. And I think these three incidents so close together, regardless of whether or not we find their link, what it does say is that there is not this sense of confidence in the security situation in Kabul.

STARR: Much of the latest violence is tied to the Haqqani Network based in Pakistan. U.S. officials have strongly criticized Pakistani intelligence for turning a blind eye and sheltering the Haqqanis in the mountainous border region. For its part, Pakistan said Monday it wasn't going to change any time soon.

STEPHEN BIDDLE, SENIOR FELLOW IN DEFENSE POLICY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: They believe that in the event that chaos returns to Afghanistan, they need some sort of safety net, some kind of reasonably supportive, reasonably sympathetic group that could establish control.

STARR: The U.S. insists Afghan forces are trying to maintain fragile security, even in the once relatively safe capital.

LT. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY: They are learning from each incident. And they're adapting.


STARR: U.S. military official insist that the Afghan forces are getting better. But, look, this is not even the first time the CIA was attacked. You will remember, back in December 2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a remote base in Eastern Afghanistan, seven CIA officers killed in that attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, I keep hearing these U.S. military officers saying, the Afghan security forces are getting better. It's been 10 years now that the U.S. has been training them, hundreds of billions of dollars spent. When are they going to be able to protect themselves and allow U.S. troops to start leaving?

As I pointed out, $2 billion a week in U.S. taxpayer money being spent in Afghanistan right now, and a lot of Americans are increasingly getting frustrated and outraged by that.

STARR: Well, you know, when you ask someone at the Pentagon what they will tell you is, a determined attacker, a determined suicide attacker can always get through any defenses.

But, look, Wolf. We're now talking dozens of attacks by the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan order the last several months. What they have proven is they can penetrate those defenses, make the Afghan people feel very uncertain that their own government can even look after them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I can imagine what $2 billion a week could be used for here in the United States right now. And people increasingly, Barbara, are asking that question. So we're going to continue to focus on it in the days and weeks to come. Thanks, Barbara, very much.

As the death toll mounts in Syria, we have a heartbreaking report coming up on the savage torture and killing of a young woman allegedly abducted by the Syrian regime to trap her activist brother. Stand by for that.

And is there room for one more Republican in the 2012 race? Jack Cafferty is standing by.

And inside the Washington Monument just as the nation's capital is hit by an earthquake. We have the video, the extraordinary images coming up.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has said no just about every way imaginable when it comes to running for president next year.

But with a splintered Republican field and a lack of enthusiasm, a lot of donors are hoping, hoping that no might means yes.

And this time it might, in fact. Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean has told "The National Review" that Christie is -- quote -- "very seriously considering running."

Politico reports that he will decide in about a week.

As Rick Perry seems to be fizzling out, supporters think there's a rare historic opportunity for Christie to jump in.

Here's the thing: Chris Christie is a rare politician who does what he says and speaks in plain English.

As New Jersey governor, he's made tough budget cuts and taken on teachers unions and other entrenched interests.

Christie is pro-life -- but he's not an ideologue -- and he doesn't engage in the more extreme rhetoric of the Tea Party.

As one top Republican who watched Rick Perry's debate performance put it, Christie -- quote -- "can string a sentence together" -- unquote.

Christie's aides tell "The Wall Street Journal" the governor has received a relentless stream of calls over the last week urging him to run, but they insist that his answer is still no.

There are several reasons that Christie could decide to sit this one out: He has no national fund-raising apparatus. He's been governor less than two years, and that limits his record. Christie himself has said he doesn't feel in his heart that he is ready to be president. And Politico reports a source close to Christie says the governor doesn't think he's prepared on all the issues and is leery of learning on the fly, unlike some of his Republican counterparts.

Anyway, here's the question: Should Chris Christie join the Republican race for the White House?

Go to Post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

I wish he would get in. I think and he Ron Paul would make a delightful ticket.


BLITZER: He says he's not getting in and I believe him when he says that.

CAFFERTY: Well, he's backed away from that a little bit now. And Kean says he is thinking about it.

BLITZER: That would be the former governor of New Jersey Tom Kean. Let's see. We will watch very, very closely. Jack, thank you.

Let's move on to some other important news we're following right now, including the death toll. It is now said to be close to 3,000 in the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown on dissent. Today, Syria tried to make its case at the United States General Assembly blaming foreign intervention. But at the same time, there are new accounts of violence in the western province of Homs.

Activists report tanks and machine gun fire in one town as mourners held a funeral march in another. All of this coming in the same general area where horrifying and heartbreaking reports are emerging of a young woman tortured and killed by Syrian government security forces.

Let's go live to CNN's Arwa Damon reporter. She is watching all of this unfold in Beirut.

Arwa, these are horrible, horrible stories. Tell us the latest.


In fact, the story is amongst the most chilling that we have heard come out of Syria. Despite the fact that the foreign minister continues to insist that the Syrian government is simply targeting these armed gangs, activists point to stories like this one as an indication that this government they say is quite simply lying.


DAMON (voice-over): July 27, the last time Zainab Alhusni's family says they saw her alive. They claim she was abducted off the street by Syrian security forces. She was just 18 years old.

"My mother received her body from the hospital on September 17," her brother Yousif Alhusni says, in a statement posted to YouTube. "Her body was chopped into four parts, her head, two arm, and torso."

(on camera): We have viewed pictures of what was done to Zainab's corpse. And they are simply too gruesome to air. Not only was her body dismembered and decapitated. Bits of her flesh are charred. Most of it appears to be melted or burnt down to the bone. The pictures are among the most horrifying images we have seen come out of Syria.

(voice-over): "They killed the rose, Zainab," read the placards carried by dozens of women in the city of Homs, protesting her slaughter and chanting for the downfall of the regime.

Her crime? Zainab's older brother Mohammed was an activist, well-known for leading demonstrations and treating the wounded in Homs. For months, he had been evading the authorities. The family says that the security forces demanded Mohammed in exchange for Zainab.

On September 10, the family says Mohammed was wounded in a demonstration. He came back to his loved ones a corpse, tortured to death, they believe.

"There were three gunshots in the chest and one to the shoulder," Yousif states, "a gunshot wound to the mouth that exited through his head. His arm were broken. There were cigarette burns to his face."

The family had just collected Mohammed's body from the hospital when doctors told them there was a young woman name Zainab's body in the morgue. A few days later, they received her mangled remains. CNN cannot independently confirm the family's account of what happened and repeated calls to the Syrian government were not returned.

Philip Luther with Amnesty International said in a statement -- quote -- "If it is confirm that Zainab was in custody when she died, this would be one of the most during disturbing cases of a death in detention we have seen so far," and, if confirmed, a chilling indication this regime will stop at nothing to crush those who dare oppose it.


DAMON: And, Wolf, a family friend and neighbor tells CNN that this was a very impoverished family. And perhaps that is why it is to a certain degree appropriate that they are now at the forefront of this revolution, because they have suffered such social injustice and now of course, they are continuing to suffer even more.

BLITZER: Clearly the unrest is continuing, Arwa, and there were reports of children in a demonstration today. What are you hearing?

DAMON: That's right, Wolf. There's video that has been posted to YouTube that appears to show some schoolchildren partaking in a demonstration, that happening in the province of Daraa. And if you will remember, it is in that very province where this entire uprising began.

We have in the past seen children taken to the streets, their parents saying that they are fully willing to have the entire family take on the risk of what is becoming an increasingly deadly crackdown. In this particular clip, we are hearing people calling for the president to be hanged, an increasingly harsh tone being taken by the demonstrators.

Activists that we have been speaking to throughout the country, especially in Damascus, saying that it is growing increasingly harder for them to go out and demonstrate because of the security crackdown, because it is so widespread, and because so many of them have been detained or forced to go into hiding. But they say they're determined -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And amidst all of this, mounting calls potentially down the road for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, his top political leaders and military commanders to be tried at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes, if you will. That movement is gaining strength. Arwa, we will check back with you tomorrow. Thanks very, very much.

Meanwhile, as change sweeps across the Middle East, is now the time for a Palestinian state? A potential showdown looming at the United Nations. We will talk about that and much more with Jordan's foreign minister, Nasser Judeh. He is standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: It looks like the Senate has apparently reached some sort of an agreement to try to avert a government shutdown over disaster funding.

Let's go back to our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, announced a series of votes this evening. This is a change from what had been previously announced.

But as you and I had spoken just an hour ago, it seems that the Senate has reached an agreement on how to avert, how to avoid a government shutdown. And it has to do with the fact that FEMA announced today that it appears that they have enough funding, they can stretch their disaster relief funding to make it through this week which gets FEMA through the end of this fiscal year which was where there was a big battle over, whether or not if additional funds were needed this year, whether or not they should be paid for, whether or not they should be offset.

The fact that FEMA can extend their funds through the end of the fiscal year takes that issue off the table. So this evening, the Senate will be voting not only on the compromise -- the previous measure that is supposed to be voted on very shortly. They will also be voting on a clean, as we like to say up here, a clean continuing resolution, a clean short-term spending bill that will take us through the time period that was previously agreed to, through November 18.

But the Senate will also be passing a one-week clean continuing resolution, as there are concerns that the House will not be able to quickly pass this same measure, the extended measure on a voice vote. It might have to get them through this week while the House is away, because they will likely not be coming back so they can deal with this and have a final vote at the beginning of next week.

Complex legal language, legislative language, if you will, but it appears a very big breakthrough this evening as the Senate is expected to vote this evening on an agreement to avert a government shutdown -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That would be excellent, no government shutdown. And they could move on and get on with some serious business, instead of avoiding the serious business for the country right now.

Kate, thanks very much for that. We will follow that story together with you.

But we will move on to some other important news, including the Palestinian quest for statehood. It moved to the United Nations Security Council today, first a closed-door meeting later this week, a formal session. The United States, the Obama administration has vowed to veto the move, backing Israel's argument that statehood should be tied to a peace deal. Negotiations have been stalled, as all of our viewers know, for a very long time.

Jordan, which already has a peace treaty with Israel, is watching all of this very closely.

Joining us now from New York is the Jordanian foreign minister, Nasser Judeh.

Mr. Minister, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: No one watches this closer than Jordan. I know you're watching it very closely. Is the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, for all practical purposes, dead?

JUDEH: In your previous report in your breaking news, you were talking about avoiding a government shutdown here. And in your earlier report, announcing this segment, you were talking about a possible showdown at the United Nations. I hope to deviate from the rhyme and tell that you perhaps this is a call to action by everybody. If I go back to the rhyme I will say we're all required to get down to some serious work.

No, the peace process is not dead. But I think that we've had too much process and not enough peace, as his majesty King Abdullah II said. I think that there is a call by the General Assembly to try, on the one hand, as the Quartet statement said right after the announcement of President Abbas, that they took note of the Palestinian application for statehood. But at the same time they set a time frame for negotiation.

And for the first time, we see a clear-cut Quartet statement talking about a preparatory meeting between the parties within 30 days, immediate discussion on borders and security within three months, progress within six months, and an end to discussion by the end of 2012.

So I think we have to work on multiple tracks, and at the end of the day, I think there's a world consensus out there that the Palestinians deserve their statehood. And that the Middle East, Israel and the Arabs deserve to live in peace and security.

BLITZER: At least so far, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, says until Israel stops building settlements on the West Bank, they're not going to accept that recommendation from the so-called Quartet, the U.S., Russia, the E.U. and the U.N. They're not going to go along with it.

JUDEH: Well, let me answer this question in a different way. If you go back to the Quartet statement, you're talking about a beginning of a discussion on borders and security within -- within three months. And clear progress within six months.

When you talk about borders and security, Wolf, and you're an expert on the region, having lived this conflict with all of this over many decades. When you set the borders, when you agree on the borders, then the settlement issue is retroactively resolved.

Settlements are illegal. They are illegitimate. That's the consensual world position. But at the same time, I think we have all final status issues around the table. Refugees, Jerusalem, borders, security, water, everything. I think settlement is part of that.

Provocative action. Unilateral provocative action, particularly by Israel in settling in Jerusalem is, of course, there's something that's going to happen in negotiations. And I think if we are going to enter into this -- this process of negotiating in earnest, then we should avoid these provocative actions.

BLITZER: We recently, foreign minister, saw the Israeli embassy in Cairo looted and stormed. You're familiar with that.

We also saw some massive demonstrations in Amman at the Israeli embassy there. Israeli diplomats weren't there at the time. Apparently, they were evacuated. What's your relationship with Israel like today?

JUDEH: It could be better, but we have diplomatic relations. And we of course, abide by the Vienna Convention, just like we expect all the countries that we have diplomatic relations with to abide by that convention.

But at the same time, the pressure -- the pressure is on in the entire Middle East. I think if you look at Israel today, it is becoming more and more isolated. Look at the tensions, as you mentioned, with the region. Look at the tensions with Turkey. Look at the tensions with the Palestinians.

And I think at the end of the day, you know, you can read between the lines. We're committed to our peace treaty with Israel. But at the same time, we need to see serious tangible progress on giving the Palestinians their inalienable right to statehood. And I think, as part of a comprehensive settlement, certainly to that of Israeli conflict, so Israel can be part of the region, not just in the region.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your neighbor to the north, Syria. Obviously, nearly 3,000 people have been killed. Peaceful demonstrations. The Syrian regime is cracking down brutally, as you just saw. I don't know if you saw Arwa Damon's report but it's horrendous. Do you agree with the United States and so many other countries. It's time for Bashar al-Assad to simply go away? JUDEH: Wolf, we in Jordan don't call on leaders to step down. That's something that's entirely up to the Syrian people.

However, I mean, the picture that we just saw are gruesome. We've seen many others, gruesome pictures. Our position in Jordan is one of our example that we set in Jordan in terms of dialogue and allowing peaceful protests. It's something that we are very proud of. We don't export that. However, we think it works on the ground.

And since you and I last talked in January, I think you've seen the time line and the bench marks and the milestones that we've set for ourselves in the political, social and economic reform program that's led by his majesty, the king. And we've done everything that we said.

So at the end of the day, what I want to say is our position is clear. Serious reforms are needed in Syria, and everybody knows that. There's an Arab League position that we adopted. And there were two meetings Syria in the recent weeks, and I think that what we're seeing is a continuation of what we all don't want to see.

BLITZER: It's a mess, obviously. And as I said, cries for war crimes potentially against Bashar al-Assad at the international criminal courts. Crime against humanity. We're hearing more and more about that possibility.

We're going to have another report tomorrow on what's going on in Syria. You're going to be fascinated, maybe deeply aroused and concerned by what's going on.

Foreign minister, as usual, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

JUDEH: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: The foreign minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh. Appreciate it you very much.

Taliban suicide bombers have a gruesome new weapon. We're going to tell you what it is.

Also, will cracks discovered in the Washington Monument after last month's earthquake keep it closed to visitors?


BLITZER: We're getting a first look inside the Washington monument when a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck in August. The monument has been closed ever since. Brian Todd is back, taking a closer look. We finally got some video, as well, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amazing video, Wolf. They're not going to know exactly when the time line is for reopening until they finish the external assessment. That starts tomorrow. Another dramatic development today. Take a look at the video that the National Park Service released. Very dramatic from inside the Washington Monument. As the shaking starts, you see the park ranger there. Very dramatic shaking. She looks up. Tries to assess kind of what's going on. Clearly, you can tell something is happening.

And then you'll start to see debris fall. Now, there was one park ranger and about 12 tourists, we believe. There you see the debris falling and someone getting knocked down. It appears to be a woman getting knocked clearly right off her feet there. One park ranger, 12 tourists inside that top compartment in the building when it started shaking. They all got out. Nobody seriously hurt.

But you did see that woman there get knocked off her feet by the debris. And look, the shaking goes on. We kind of timed it out. When we felt it here at the D.C. bureau over CNN, we thought it might have been 20, 30 seconds. By this camera, it lasts clearly much longer than that. The shaking is still going on there, as you -- as you see there.

Now, the way park service officials describe it, when they begin that external assessment, probably tomorrow, it's going to look like some kind of a commando raid. Listen to this description of what the engineering firm WJE is going to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Climbers will rappel all four faces of the Washington Monument to perform a close-range survey of the exterior surfaces.

A trained ropes engineering team from WJE's difficult access team will install climbing ropes and safety lines on all four sides of the monument, then clip on to those lines and exit the monument from the windows at the observation level, climb up the Pyramidian and then descend the length of the monument to complete a close-range survey of the exterior.


TODD: So if you're in Washington or you happen to see some video of this tomorrow, it may look like a commando raid on the external part of the Washington Monument.

The good news is the Washington Monument is structurally sound. The bad news is that it got some significant damage, cracks of up to an inch and a quarter wide at the mortar and other joints at the very, very top of the Washington Monument, where mortar is missing there. A substantial amount of water also getting into the monument. Because we can see, apparently, some sunlight and water creeping in, Wolf, from that damage to the internal part.

They're assessing the external damage tomorrow, and they're going to be rappelling off this thing. It's going to be dramatic in and of itself. BLITZER: We'll have cameras rolling, but it's indefinitely closed. At least, you know, going forward.

TODD: They won't know until mid-October even when they can start.

BLITZER: They'll keep it closed until they're sure it's safe.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

Suicide bombers in Afghanistan have found a disturbing new way to hide their explosives. We're going to tell you what's going on. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Taliban suicide bombers have a gruesome and deadly new weapon, the turban bomb. It's taken the lives of several key Afghan leaders in recent months. CNN's Reza Sayah has been digging into this part of the story for us along the Pakistani border in the city of Peshawar.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): July 14. A suicide bomber kills a senior Afghan official at a funeral for President Hamid Karzai's slain brother.

July 27, a suicide bomber assassinates the mayor of Kandahar City.

August 19, a suicide bomber targets a government building in Helmand province.

September 20, another suicide bomber assassinates Burhanuddin Rabbani, the man leading the peace talks with the Taliban.

(on camera) Four suicide bombings in a little bit more than two months, all of them targeting some of the most important leaders in Afghanistan, and they all had one very unusual thing in common.

(voice-over) In all four attacks, assailants hid their bombs underneath their turbans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he's coming here to embrace you, well (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SAYAH: Tabasan Sahir (ph) is head of the police bomb squad in Islamabad, Pakistan. His office decoration: decapitated heads of suicide bombers, pictures too graphic to show. Sahir (ph) says turban bombs seem to be the newest weapon in the fight for Afghanistan, because asking to search the Islamic head dress is often viewed as disrespectful.

(on camera) Would you be comfortable asking tribal elders to remove their...


SAYAH: It's not that easy.

(voice-over) With powerful explosives like this C-4, turban bombs can weigh as light as a tissue box and nearly impossible to detect.

(on camera) You're telling me all you need to make a bomb that fits in a turban is this little bit of C-4, this detonator, and this detonator cord, that's it?


SAYAH (voice-over): The power of those explosives on display in this police training video. Last month, President Karzai called on clerics to condemn turban bombings, calling them an affront to Islamic values.

"The bomber was not a follower of God," says this man.

"I condemn all bombings," says this Malik Mohammed Rafik (ph). "Whether they're in shirts, trousers or turbans."

Explosives experts say the Afghan government will have to use more metal detectors, search people and clothing they may not have in the past. Until then, they say turban bombs could remain the Taliban's most effective new weapon.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Peshawar.


BLITZER: So could turban bombs be a threat to air travel here in the United States? U.S. airport security rules already require all passengers to either pass through a detector or get a pat-down. The TSA says it does not conduct ethnic or religious profiling, and all travelers are permitted to wear head coverings through the security checkpoints. But head coverings are subject to further searches in private, if necessary.

Jack Cafferty is asking, should Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, join the Republican race for the White House? Jack and your e-mail, coming up.

And when TV technology goes haywire. Jeanne Moos has a very close look.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring news in THE SITUATION ROOM. What is going on?


Well, it is a legal setback for Michael Jackson's doctor. One day before he goes on trial for involuntary manslaughter, a Los Angeles judge says lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray will not -- they will not be permitted to show a video of Jackson from March of 2009.

The defense says the video shows Jackson's mental and physical condition, but prosecutors say it is irrelevant, because it took place four months before his death.

Take a look at this video of Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry. There you see them dancing with rabbis. Well, this is apparently creating quite the stir on the Internet. It's from the ceremony to mark the first day of Hanukah last year.

So you might be wondering remember why is this video from last year just making the rounds now? Well, I guess, Wolf, it kind of proves the point that everyone likes to see politicians dancing. So dancing Governor Perry.

BLITZER: Yes. That was a while ago, Hanukah. The video is just emerging right now. All right. Thanks.

SYLVESTER: He's a popular guy now.

BLITZER: Popular with those rabbis, I'm sure. Thank you.

All right. Time to check back with Jack with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Ricky and the rabbis. That's pretty good.

The question this hour: "Should Chris Christie join the Republican race?"

John writes, "I don't think he'd fit in. He doesn't seem to be a racist. I think he may be a reasonable guy. He can get a whole sentence out without his mouth filling up with crap, and he sounds intelligent. Nope, doesn't fit in."

Tom writes, "This election belongs to the incumbent. Serious candidates will protect their image and show up in 2016, rather than take on Obama next year. That includes Jeb Bush and Governor Christie. That's why this field of candidates stinks."

Jeff in Borger City, Louisiana: "I'd vote for him, and I'm a liberal Democrat."

Rachel in Fresno, California, on Facebook: "I think it would be a great strategic move for the Republican Party. I believe Christie's the only Republican who has a shot at winning. I'm a Democrat, and I would certainly consider giving him my vote. I'm sure other Democrats feel the same way."

Dennis in North Carolina writes, "I'd say no, because he needs more experience. He's young enough that a future race with all the experience that he'll gain will eventually give him a good shot. Running the state versus the country is a big step." I don't need to finish that.

Annie in Atlanta writes, "You're in a better position to answer this than I am. Isn't he your governor? From the little exposure we've had to Christie, I'm not sure how that Northeast tough-guy attitude would play out nationally. Personally, I find it refreshing, but Chicago is my hometown. Southern women may get the vapors."

And Rex in Oregon writes, "Oh, please, Chris, join. Please. The Libertarian fringe is represented. The lunatic, narcissistic frumps are represented. The holy-roller Bible thumpers are represented. The rich business tycoons are represented. Us fat people need a representative, too. So go for it."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love our viewers out there, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Aren't they great? They're just terrific.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

So here's a question. What happens when TV graphics simply go out of control? Jeannie Moos will report.


BLITZER: So what happens when television technology turns amuck? Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos to tell us all about it.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes, those pesky weather graphics escape from the weather segment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A loading ramp fell off of a flatbed trailer headed northbound on I-15. I'm sorry.

MOOS: And shine where the sun ain't supposed to, giving anchors doing serious news the giggles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. We're trying to figure this out, folks. A jeep had stopped at the crosswalk to allow pedestrians to cross the street.

MOOS: So what if it turns out the blooper was two years old, that the anchors don't even work at KIDK in Idaho Falls anymore?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. This is a serious story, folks.

MOOS: Once Ellen DeGeneres played the clip on her new "Local Focal" segment, and Ellen came out of it dodging her own graphics.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: Dr. Drew is on the show. That's not Dr. Drew. MOOS: The weather graphics run amuck went viral.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-year-old Lincoln High School student Jas Bosser (ph) was hit by a vehicle at 9:33 Monday morning during the school...

MOOS (on camera): But even more aggressive than the weather graphics are the robotic cameras. The robo cams, you really have to watch your back. Excuse me.

(voice-over) You never know where they will go. Especially in the old days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! Whoa. Wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lost against the Yankees. The Bluejays -- uh-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One merely let's you get a motorcycle rocking chair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. Where's one going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the other gets you nothing but heart ache. Way over there, folks.

MOOS: Push a wrong button, toggle the wrong way...

(on camera) Down, boy, down. Up, up, up.

(voice-over) Next thing you know...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An amendment that is now part of the Florida constitution, and like it or not, local governments say...

MOOS: Like it or not, the floor manager is stuck on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to find a way to make it work. Checking in with Leon Sunday (ph) and take a look.

MOOS: On Danish TV, the camera attacked.


MOOS: But if you really want to see a TV camera on a rampage...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the heck is wrong with that camera?

MOOS: Don't let the laugh track fool you. This really happened on New England cable TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to hit us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, it's going to hit you.

MOOS: Anchors away!

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Watch out for those robotic cameras. They're very, very dangerous.

We have an important programming note to share with all of our viewers, beginning one week from today, next Monday. For our viewers in north America, THE SITUATION ROOM will air one hour earlier, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern on CNN. CNN International will continue at this hour, same time, same place for our international viewers.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.