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Forces Surrounded in Libya; Gitmo Trial; Michael Jackson Trial; Interview with Mayor Bloomberg; Listeria Outbreak

Aired September 28, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Good evening everyone.

Tonight, at least 13 deaths in eight states and scores of illnesses because of a stubborn listeria outbreak, we'll explore whether the supplier or the government should have discovered the problem before infected cantaloupes went to market.

Plus a big retreat from GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry. He now says he's sorry he said critics of his immigration views don't have a heart. So why the apology? Here's why. One new poll out tonight shows a 10 point Perry drop into second place. And it won't help much with Republican primary voters, but the Texas governor draws praise from a big city mayor who says most politicians are cowards when it comes to immigration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bottom line is Romney is wrong on this one. This is the future of America. And Perry is right on this one.


KING: The dicey politics of immigration and our exclusive interview with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in just a moment. But let's begin a busy news day with a look at what you need to know right now. An important warning tonight from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. The Embassy says it's received information about a terror plot to kidnap westerners in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The warning urges U.S. citizens to mix up their normal routines and to keep aware of their security at all times.

However, the State Department says there is no reason for U.S. citizens to leave Saudi Arabia. This afternoon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated the United States will soon formally declare Pakistan's Haqqani network a terrorist organization. The al Qaeda- linked group is considered a major threat to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're going to continue to struggle against terrorism and in particular against those who have taken up safe havens inside Pakistan.


KING: Also today, in an interview that will air on CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS", the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff repeated his accusation that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, supports the Haqqani network.


ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It's been there for a long time. And unless the Pakistani leadership takes action it will continue to be there and that support will continue to be there. I don't -- I don't try to make the case that this is a light switch you can throw on and off. There are elements, I think, of the ISI, very active with Haqqani.


KING: In Libya tonight, the interim government's priority on the battlefield is Moammar Gadhafi's birthplace. The military tonight has surrounded the city of Sirte where some 5,000 pro Gadhafi fighters are holed up. CNN's Phil Black is right there outside Sirte for us. Phil, the big question, do the interim government troops, do they think they'll find Gadhafi there?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They don't think they're going to find Gadhafi just in this location, John, but I think there is a very good chance that his son (INAUDIBLE) could be hiding here. They think there is a senior former regime figure in this city because the opposition they're coming up against is so well organized, so well motivated.

They have said, the National Transitional Council here that they believe that Gadhafi is near the town of Gadamas (ph) near Libya's western Algerian border. They haven't said why they believe he's there and they have said in the past to have known where he could possibly be without those claims proving to be true. So we still don't have any firm idea, really, no evidence leading us to believe just where Gadhafi could be at this time -- John.

KING: And, Phil, gaining control of Sirte would be a huge, both a tactical and a moral victory for the rebels. How long do they think before they have control?

BLACK: Well, after two weeks of fighting and making slow progress here, John, but they believe their efforts have finally reached a crucial point. They believe for the first time they are now surrounding the city on all sides at its outskirts. It is under siege. They believe that from here they begin -- can begin to advance and squeeze the pro Gadhafi forces inside and they say they're going to launch a major operation in the next few days to end this. But they have advanced into the city before; they have come up against very strong opposition. They have been beaten back, suffered heavy casualties. There is no reason to believe the next time they have a go is going to be any easier -- John.

KING: Phil Black on the front lines for us tonight, Phil, thank you.

The Obama administration is downplaying, in fact essentially mocking Iran's new threat to set up what it calls a quote, "powerful presence" by stationing Iranian warships off the Atlantic Coast. Listen here, the president's spokesman.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think we don't take these statements seriously and given that they do not reflect at all Iran's naval capabilities.


KING: The accused ringleader of the attack on the "USS Cole" is next in line to face a military trial at Guantanamo Bay. Today's announcement comes nearly 11 years after the bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr working her sources on that story tonight. Barbara, what took so long?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, good evening. This is now the next step in bringing this man to trial for what the military says is the murder of 17 U.S. sailors in 2000 in Yemen. He was captured the next year in 2002, held for a number of years in secret locations. Water-boarded, according to the U.S. government, then transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006.

In 2009, they tried to bring him before military justice proceedings, but the whole process was such a mess, that they had to basically drop the charges as they started over with a whole new effort to try and establish a military justice system for those being detained at Guantanamo Bay. So today bringing the charges the next step in starting all of this, getting this guy to trial. This is a real effort to try and bring some of these high value targets that are at Guantanamo Bay in front of military judges -- John.

KING: Barbara, you mentioned the waterboarding and you mentioned the complexities here. The suspect has said he confessed only because he had been tortured by his interrogators. How does that complicate the proceeding now?

STARR: Well, this will be very interesting indeed. His lawyers are going to make the case, we believe, that the waterboarding was torture. That he was tortured as he was held by the United States, and that so many years have passed. That in addition is a torture in its own and that they should take the death penalty off the table -- John.

KING: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, an important case. Barbara, thank you.

The FBI has arrested a 26-year-old Massachusetts man accusing him of plotting to fly drones filled with C-4 explosive into the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. A posting on the "USA Today" website shows remote controlled models of U.S. war planes -- look at that -- that were seized at the suspect's home. The Justice Department today asked the United States Supreme Court to hurry up its consideration of the Obama health care reform law. Twenty-six states are challenging that law. Some appeals courts have ruled it unconstitutional. Others have said it is just fine. Today's ruling a petition -- today's petition -- excuse me -- could bring a final Supreme Court decision by next summer.

In politics today, still lots of buzz about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's speech at the Reagan Presidential Library last night. The governor did not jump into the 2012 presidential race and in fact gave fresh indications he would not. Yet in New Hampshire today, Mitt Romney said it would be just fine if he did.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris is a great friend, great guy, colorful character. He is a governor I would love to see in more political settings. And who knows, maybe he'll get in. It would be fun if he got in.


KING: Who knows? At the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray today the jury heard an insider's version of the day Michael Jackson died. CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Los Angeles covering the trial. Ted, take us inside the courtroom today.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it was a fascinating day of details for the jurors getting inside Jackson's house through his personal assistant and the head of security. They talked about when things went wrong, when they were first alerted by Dr. Conrad Murray that there was trouble. Both testified that they were never instructed to call 911, and both told a similar story that Dr. Murray, after Jackson had been pronounced dead, about an hour afterwards, he came up to them at the UCLA Medical Center and wanted a ride home to the Jackson mansion.

And he told them that he wanted to retrieve some cream that he said that Jackson wouldn't want the world to know. Well, prosecutors want jurors to connect the dots and they want people to -- the jurors to think that it was that Propofol that they were really -- that he was really after.

KING: And Ted, we also heard today, a witness testifying that Murray requested a CPR machine and he wanted more money from the Jackson team to hire a second doctor for the singer. Tell us why that matters.

ROWLANDS: Well, this was from a lawyer who drafted up his working contract, Murray's working contract and it matters because prosecutors want jurors to know that if he really needed a CPR machine in there and he really needed a doctor because he thought that he couldn't provide the care that was needed to Michael Jackson, well, then he was rolling the dice in doing just that without that machine and without that doctor.

KING: Ted Rowlands -- Ted Rowlands at the trial for us out in Los Angeles, Ted, thanks so much.

Here is something you don't see every day. Take a look. The top of the Washington Monument, inspectors spent the day hanging outside, literally hanging outside, hundreds of feet in the air, checking for cracks and other damage from last month's earthquake. Wow.

When we come back, the dicey politics of immigration, you see it playing out every day in the Republican presidential race. President Obama got involved today too. Up next, an exclusive conversation with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who says to politicians of all parties, enough posturing on immigration reform.


KING: Texas Governor Rick Perry today apologized for saying at a recent presidential debate that those who disagree with giving college tuition benefits to the children of illegal immigrants don't have a heart. Many conservatives took offense as evidence it's hurting the governor in the polls and so Governor Perry backtracked in an interview with the conservative website "Newsmax".


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For people who don't want their state to be giving tuition to illegal aliens, illegal immigrants in this country, that's their call. And I respect that. And I was, you know, I was probably a bit over passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate.


KING: President Obama also faced heat on immigration today from Latinos who say he has failed to keep his promise to push for comprehensive immigration reform back in his first year in office. The president never submitted a formal proposal, but says he's not the one to blame.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The most important thing for your viewers and listeners and readers to understand is that in order to change our laws we've got to get it through the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Republicans, and we've got to get 60 votes in the Senate.


KING: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls the debate insane and told the Chamber of Commerce event (ph) here in Washington today that in his view, the politics of immigration are causing long-term lasting damage to the American economy.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Enough with the posturing. There's a time for a political campaign, but there is also a time to save America.


KING: After that speech, we sat down for an exclusive conversation.


KING: Mr. Mayor, thank you for your time. You talk in there of what you see as a national suicide --


KING: -- the country's failure to deal with this issue. I came to your city half a dozen years ago; the politicians wouldn't deal with this issue. When you watch what is happening now we have a Republican debate playing out for president, and Rick Perry is losing steam because he doesn't support a border fence and because he supports in-state college tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants --

BLOOMBERG: He happens to be right on both of those things. But I think you've got to differentiate between what may be good politics within the beginning of a primary race as opposed to what happens when the biggest states get involved in the primary race or what happens in a general election. And then there is another minor problem here. Whether it is good politics or it is bad politics, you're an American. And what -- questions what's right for the country, even if it doesn't help or hurt your career.

KING: You talk that way. But do you see evidence that the national debate is coming your direction, even Governor Romney, somebody who a few years back I think you might find closer to Senator McCain and then President Bush or Senator Kennedy now just about every day puts out a press release that says immigration imitation saying that Rick Perry is just the same as Barack Obama, just the same as this Democratic governor or this Democratic mayor.


BLOOMBERG: Bottom line is Romney is wrong on this one. This is the future of America. And Perry is right on this one. I'm going to agree with Perry on other things, but on this one, he's right.

KING: But if you go to a Tea Party group, I moderated a luncheon in Florida around their debate. There was a Tea Party group. They're standing up. They still make the case they're coming across the border by the tens of thousands.


KING: So how do these guys stand up to them --

BLOOMBERG: Well but that --

KING: Why won't they stand up to them -- BLOOMBERG: That's the job of your network to tell the truth. Your job is to inform the American public what's really going on. And the truth of the matter is the number of people crossing the border has gone down to the minimus (ph) number of people and in fact it is going in the other direction and we're getting hurt. And I would argue it is Romney and Perry and whomever's job to lead from the front, to tell people what is really going on, and to get them to understand what's in their best interest. That's what leadership is all about. And if all you do is follow what the -- is the general zeitgeist if you only do the things you think are politically correct, I don't think you should be leading this country.

I'm not picking sides here between the Republicans and Democrats or any one of the candidates. I think all of them are afraid to go out and say what they really believe and I think that's the way to get elected president of the United States. The public wants people who are honest and I think if you go back and look, we have had presidents that have gotten elected without being all that popular, but people look them in the eye and they thought they had beliefs. Bush was that -- Bush 43 was that person.

KING: And you think they're flat out afraid of the Tea Party or those elements --

BLOOMBERG: Well you'll have to ask them why they're doing it, but Perry obviously isn't. He's saying what he believes. He also -- this is a vaccine that is going to cure -- prevent a bunch of cancers. He's in favor of using it and people against this, this is insanity.

KING: You call it insanity, but it is the driving force in American politics. It was the driving force in the Republicans taking back the House and therefore when you talk to a Republican privately they might tell you something about I don't like these guys or don't like what they're doing to the party, but publicly that's the momentum of the party right now. How do they stop that if you think they should?

BLOOMBERG: I don't know whether that's their job. I think their job first and foremost as Americans is to stand up and do what's right and there are plenty of people in this country that have profiles and courage that do the right thing, say the right thing. Some of them win. Some of them lose. But at least they can look themselves in the mirror.

KING: Do you see the leadership on the other side? President Obama promised he would have comprehensive immigration reform bill in his first --

BLOOMBERG: I'm not picking sides here. I don't think either end of Pennsylvania Avenue or either side of the aisle has distinguished themselves on immigration or a lot of other things in this country. I think they all should be -- have more of a courage of their convictions, should be consistent.

KING: Jobs, immigration, taxation, deficits --

BLOOMBERG: They're all tied together.

KING: Then they're all the subject -- they're all tied together in terms of their impact on the economy and the society. They're also all tied into this broken Washington, D.C. and gridlock --


KING: And they're issues we've talked about for years and you sense your growing frustration. I think you see in the polling data, the growing frustration of the American people. Where is the circuit breaker? How do you change it?

BLOOMBERG: Well, it is probably not done overnight. It is probably done with an awful lot of work from a lot of people who really try to make the case rationally and explain. It is done by quality journalism that explains rather than sensationalist journalism that promotes things that just aren't true and hurts democracy. There is a catalyst --


KING: -- things that just aren't true and hurts democracy?

BLOOMBERG: Oh I think a lot of the sensationalist press, for example, used to talk about some people believing that over the border tens of thousands of people a minute are streaming. That's not true. You know, maybe it is time that the cameras went down there and the reporters went down there to look and report from there as what is actually going on. It might not make for great theater, but it is -- when you see nobody coming across, but that is, I've always thought the responsibility of the fourth estate, to explain to the public what actually is happening, not what people think is happening or what somebody would like to have happen.

KING: When you look 15 percent, we have a new poll out today, 15 percent of the American people trust their government to do the right thing. That's pretty depressing.

BLOOMBERG: Pretty depressing, pretty damning and you should really worry. If you have kids it is -- they're talking about your children's future and if you want to leave them a better world, you'd better do something about that. Now some of it is incidentally the way the question is asked and most people would say I don't like Congress, but I like my senator or my Congress person. It's like I hate the Post Office, but I love my postman or whatever. So it's -- you can -- numbers lie and liars use numbers. But nevertheless, the public is clearly frustrated. They don't see either end of Pennsylvania Avenue or either side of the aisle standing up and getting things done.

KING: Mr. Mayor, thanks for your time.

BLOOMBERG: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Still to come, one governor's very un-Democratic idea to fix our broken government. And contaminated cantaloupe is blamed for more than a dozen deaths in eight states. We explain listeria and what the government can and cannot do to protect your food.


KING: Welcome back. Here is the latest news you need to know right now. On CNN's "SITUATION ROOM" this afternoon Republican presidential-candidate Herman Cain said African-Americans vote Democratic because they're, quote, "brainwashed".


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative. So it is just brainwashing and people not being open minded.


KING: CEO Jeff Bezos today showed off the company's brand-new tablet, the Kindle Fire. It doesn't have a camera or a phone and doesn't do as much as Apple's iPad, but it costs less than half as much, $199.

Union workers today approved a new four-year contract with General Motors. GM says it is the smallest increase in labor costs in four decades.

Bloomberg reports Ford may add up to 4,000 jobs by moving production of its Fusion sedans from Mexico to the United States.

Tainted cantaloupe linked now to the deaths of 13 people in what is now the country's deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness since 1998. Let's take a closer look at this listeria outbreak. Want to walk over and break it down for you here.

If you take a peek at it, we now have this report, 18 states have been affected, 72 illnesses, 13 deaths. These are the states where the deaths have occurred, the darker orange states, 18 states in all against 72 illnesses, the latest count. Those numbers will go up.

Why does this happen? Here is one of the reasons. This listeria, it can stay in still pools of water. You see those at a lot of agricultural settings like that. Also, gets into the soil, very persistent, hard to get out. And this is significant. If it gets inside an animal and the intestines, it is such a survivable disease it can hang forever and live for a long time in animal intestines.

One of the reasons listeria is so tough because it can survive both in extremely hot or extremely cold temperatures. That is why it is tough and it is dangerous. In the case of the cantaloupes, this is what makes it especially dangerous. Like many fruits you have a porous skin.

There is some concerns that if it's in the skin and then you cut the cantaloupe and slice it you can actually drive the listeria into the meat of the fruit. Let's dig deeper now with our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Gupta, you spoke to the director of the CDC a bit earlier today. He tried to explain just how this happened and a bit more about what the government and others can do about it. Let's listen.


DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: They can take a week to three weeks after you eat a contaminated product before you become ill, and it can take as much as two months to become ill. Furthermore, some people may still have the Jensen Farm cantaloupe in their refrigerators. If you have a cantaloupe that's labeled as something other than Jensen Farm then it's OK to eat. But if the label looks like this, that's what the Jensen Farm label looks like. Then it is not safe to eat. Throw it out.


KING: This is one of those terrible things that raises questions about the food safety system. Should the farm, should the supplier, or should the government have been able to detect this sooner and keep the cantaloupe off the shelf?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know it is interesting, probably not at the governmental level, but there are independent farms or places where they grow these kinds of crops that do their own independent testing to make sure that the bacteria is not in the soil. It's not contaminating their produce. Most of what Dr. Frieden went on to say was that they do a lot more aggressive patient surveillance.

So if they start to see clusters of illness, they try and hone in on those clusters quickly to try and figure out is there something in common among those people, and they're trying to increase that part of the capacity more so. But, you know, John, to your point, this is the worst or deadliest I should say food outbreak in more than a decade and there have been 12 multi-state outbreaks this year alone so far.

So while some of that may help in terms of, you know, figuring out the outbreaks sooner, the food safety, whether you could say that food is actually safe, that's probably harder to say. One other question I asked him as well was that after it leaves the farm or it leaves the field, this food, is there something else that can be done in terms of radiating it, sterilizing it, something to get the bacteria out and he said that's being looked into right now by the FDA, but there is no clear plan in place for that right now.

KING: Dr. Gupta, who is most at risk?

GUPTA: Well, the people who have weakened immune systems. So the elderly, the young and pregnant women are most at risk as well. And you know in the United States any given year you have about 1,600 cases of what is called listeriosis (ph), the bacterial infection from listeria. And about 10 to 20 percent of those people don't survive it. But in healthy people, people who have not had any of those risk factors, they get the infection, they may have a couple of bad days, but they're, you know, likely to not even need to go to the hospital.

KING: And what are the symptoms? If someone is out there maybe thinking, could this be me, I'm not feeling terribly well, what should they be looking for?

GUPTA: Well I thought about this as well. I think the best way to think about it -- first of all, the symptoms can be vague and they can be flu-like symptoms. You might have some gastrointestinal symptoms. I think -- and it can take a while, I should point out as well, John, for these symptoms to develop, something Dr. Frieden said. So even though we're looking at the number of deaths that you mentioned, the number of illnesses, they could go up despite the fact that none of this -- more of this cantaloupe is being consumed because there is a little bit of a latency period.

But people who have some of these symptoms and fall into that high-risk group and have eaten cantaloupe that they suspect may have been contaminated, those are people who are probably most at risk. Those are people who may need to see their doctor to get checked to see if they have the bacteria within their body.

KING: Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- Doc, appreciate your help. We keep in touch.

When we come back, could we fix Washington's gridlock by skipping an election cycle?


KING: Hardly breaking news for me to say Washington is broken, with gridlock far easier to find than progress when it comes to the nation's big challenges.

Still, this is a stunning number: 15 -- as in only 15 percent of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time. Much of your frustration is aimed at Congress.

A North Carolina governor, Beverly Perdue, is pushing what I call a pretty novel idea. She says lawmakers might make tough decisions if they were allowed to skip an election cycle. But keep their jobs.


GOV. BEVERLY PERDUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I think we ought to suspend perhaps elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, just let them help this country recover.


KING: In other words, fix our democracy, or try anyway, by suspending our democracy. Good idea or is that a joke?

Let's start there with our Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

Gloria, can you fix a democracy by --


KING: -- by having, you know, by stopping democracy?

BORGER: No, I think it's -- honestly, I think it's a ridiculous idea. If you don't like the way members of Congress are performing, you should vote them out of office. And that's what voters, in fact, have been doing the last three elections, swing elections, and the next one might be a swing election. You know, they're paid to go do a job. If they don't do it, vote them out.

KING: But, David, Gloria makes a very important point, and this is something you wrote about today, the voters have been doing this. The voters, as frustrated as they are with Washington, need to spend time looking into the mirror because they are responsible for divided government. Maybe we should have redistricting reform, maybe we should have more competitive House districts, but with what we got, the voters are sending what we get.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, John, I think there is a tendency to blame the politicians for everything. And we treat them like they're jackasses. And a lot times, they have screwed up and it's not working.

But to a considerable extent, I think that the people that go to Washington represent the people back home. And what's happened over the years as you know and -- is that the middle in American politic has begun to disappear. A lot people who saw themselves as moderates or saw themselves in the middle of the road have gone more -- drifted more and more either to become strong conservatives or strong liberals.

And there is no sort of working middle at the grassroots, a lot of reasons for that. But what is done is that the -- the politicians who go to Washington, you know, we get the politicians we deserve in effect.

KING: And if you look historically this is depressing, if you took the historical numbers up. Now, 15 percent trust their government, always or most of the time to do the right thing. Back in 2000, it was 42 percent. 1990, it dipped. 1980, it dipped. Back to 1958, 73 percent, the good old days.

With only 15 percent trusting the government and you look at the dissatisfaction with both parties, you would think it's the perfect climate for somebody to emerge as a big independent. A few years ago, Mayor Bloomberg in New York, Governor Schwarzenegger in California were talking about when they were both out of office, starting a new think tank to help support maybe independent minded candidates.

But listen to Mayor Bloomberg. I talked to him today and he seems now resigned to the fact that we've got the Ds and the Rs, and that's it.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Well, if somebody ran as an independent, I wouldn't have a problem. And if they espoused the views that I think are right for this country, I would support them as well.

But I think from a practical point of view, we have a two-party system, it's going to stay a two-party system for as long in the future as I can see. And both parties just have to make sure they open enough for all different ideas. And I think that's one of the problems here, both of them have narrowed the volume of the tent or the expanse of the tent that they have. And that's not good.


KING: He says that's not good. But if a guy like Bloomberg is not ready to bankroll some new independent moment, Gloria, to you first, it's not going to happen.

BORGER: No, it's not going to happen. Look, campaigns have become more partisan because members of Congress have become more partisan, because of the way we redistrict in this country is set by state legislatures, and that's become more partisan. Primaries are partisan events.

There is really almost no benefit to a politician anymore to going to the middle because it's not going to help them get re- elected. Yet, when it comes to the general election, who are the people the candidates have to appeal to? Independent voters, people who might be more in the middle.

So, it's kind of become a dysfunctional system.

KING: So, there's 2012 break the tie, David Gergen, is it that just independents again?

GERGEN: We're going to keep on going.

But, listen, Bloomberg looked at running. I'm reliably told four years ago he thought about this very seriously. But he concluded he could win the popular vote but he could not win the Electoral College, the election would be thrown in the House and the Ds or Rs would then control the outcome.

But I would not discount the possibility of a third party movement starting up in this country and taking traction, taking hold, because there is a disgust level in the country now with politics as is, that somebody could breakthrough here before -- before -- not in this election cycle, but maybe the next few years.

KING: It takes a lot of money, as Ross Perot proved. It takes a lot of money. But we will see. You're right about the climate, though.

David, Gloria, thanks so much.

Will he or won't he? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he's not running for president. But friends say he is listening to their entreaties. Some believe -- some believe he might just lean into it.


KING: Coming up at the top of the hour, "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Let's check in with a preview.

Hey there.


We got breaking news tonight -- a U.S. citizen arrested, charged with planning to bomb the Pentagon and the U.S. capital. The plot is bizarre. The plan was to fill oversized model airplanes like these with C-4 explosives, use a remote control to fly them into the target. We'll tell you how the plot was foiled.

Also tonight, keeping them honest, a stunning story, dozens are dead including a U.S. border patrol agent after the ATF gave guns to Mexican drug traffickers. Now, there are new allegations of a cover- up going high up the food chain in Washington.


COOPER: Do you think the ATF have been accomplices to murder?


COOPER: So, you're saying what they were doing is criminal?

BABEU: Absolutely. Not just these individual agents, but people up the chain of command who have made the decision, the U.S. attorney for Arizona just resigned. And this is a big deal. Now, it's one step away from Eric Holder. This is his Department of Justice, and there are people who have lost their lives.


COOPER: We'll have more with Sheriff Babeu ahead.

Also, we'll speak with Drew Griffin who has new details on how this ill-conceived operation was even more poorly executed and may have caused that border patrol agent his life.

Also, tonight, Michael Jackson's personal doctor on trial for involuntary manslaughter. We're going to hear from our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta some inside information on the defense strategy. We'll also talk to Mark Geragos and Marcia Clark.

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

Back to you, John. KING: We'll see you in just a few minutes, Anderson. Thank you.

Now, we woke up today thinking the presidential campaign voting kicked off 130 days from now, the Iowa caucuses. But now, a bold and controversial move by Florida could shake up the calendar and move Iowa and other states up to much earlier dates.

Let's take a look. This could affect shall we say holiday campaigning. Here is what it was supposed to look like.

If these states had gone according to their party rules and the deal with the Republican National Committee, Iowa would go here, early February, then New Hampshire, then you have Florida, Nevada was planning to go here, South Carolina here -- relatively orderly process. South Carolina, Florida, a little grumbling there, but it would look something like this.

But Florida today decided, no, we want to go here. We want to go right over here. See? Florida moves over to January 31st. Well, Florida can't go first because Iowa and New Hampshire, they think that's their territory.

So, if Florida goes here, guess what? All these guys are going to move somewhere in here. Which means candidates spending Christmas time, Christmas time out in those states.

So, as we scramble the calendar, some new battleground state polls tonight also offers proof of the tough re-election climate out there for the president.

Let's check in with conservative editor Erick Erickson, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who works for the 2008 Obama campaign.

Erick, to you first. If all of your Republican states want to skip around, jump out, we're going to have the first vote maybe next month in Iowa?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: God only knows. And then why do we have to go with an Iowa caucus first, which for both parties in the past has typically been representative of who is probably not going to be the nominees for the parties. I mean, let's remember that none of the above beat Jimmy Carter and someone beat Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush beat Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the list goes on and on and on.

I -- can they just pick something and stick to it? The calendar doesn't change. There is still 366 days in 2012. They -- why change?

KING: I like to say life is the fifth grade. That's why they change.

ERICKSON: It's true.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: John, this is actually where it's sort of strong party chairman comes in and is tough on this. You'll remember back when Michigan and Florida tried to jump ahead and our primary season, and according to the rules, everyone voted on in the Democratic Party voted on, that they would lose their delegates.

Now, someone has got to -- for this not to be a train wreck, a strong party chairman has got to come down and say if you move, there's going to be punishment for it because this is just chaos on their side. And believe me, I always root for chaos on their side. But this is chaos on their side.

But to one other point about what Erick said. Iowa is actually an important state. It really is an important state for organizing and for getting in. You know, if Barack Obama had not done well in Iowa, he may not very well be president right now. It sort of catapulted him.


ERICKSON: Another reason to discount the Iowa caucus. The Republican convention is in Florida. So, they're going to have a hard time disqualifying Florida delegates to the convention held in Florida if they actually want to show up and not have the doors barred.

KING: You never know. They might close the bars early and we couldn't have that.

Here is something to look at tonight. We showed our poll earlier in the week showing Rick Perry starting to at least plateau, if not dip a little bit in the Republican primary field. There's a new FOX News poll out tonight, it's few days later than our poll that shows even a bigger drop.

Look at this. Mitt Romney now in the lead in the FOX News poll. Just a few days ago, Governor Perry was at 29 percent. Now, he's dropped down to 19 percent. You see Herman Cain picking up some support there among conservatives.

Erick, what -- to what do you attribute this? Shaky debate performances in general or specifically conservatives when they hear him on immigration, when they hear him on the HPV vaccine saying, oh, not our guy?

ERICKSON: Two things. Primarily the debate performance, but also immigration. Although if you look at some of the other poll numbers in there for example, they ask you who have most in common with and the majority of the people, I shouldn't say majority, but most of the people say Rick Perry at 17 percent followed by Herman Cain, Mitt Romney down at 12 percent there.

So, my guess is reading those two together, it's that people want to find someone who can beat Mitt Romney in the primary. Romney is capped out, he was at 22 percent last month, 23 percent this month. And so now, people looked at Perry and are thinking, hmm, this guy is terrible in debates, let's go with Herman Cain now and vet him.

KING: I'm not going to let you play t-bone on the Republicans. I'm sorry. Maybe next time. Two big battleground state polls out today that show the tough climate for the president. Quinnipiac University polls -- do you believe the president deserves to be re-elected?

Here's Pennsylvania voters. Yes, 44, no, 51.

Here's Ohio voters: yes, 43, no, 51.

Now, a long way to go, 13 months or so. But when you see in a state like Pennsylvania, which has been a Democratic state for a long time -- Michael Dukakis carried Pennsylvania. It was one of the 10 -- that tells you, that tells you about the climate.

BELCHER: Well, it's a horrible climate for any incumbent. And I'm willing to bet you right now, you know, tickets to the Boston -- next Boston game if they make the playoffs that there is probably not an incumbent in either one of those states who has a re-elect above 50. I mean, it's just a really tough climate right now.

However, at the same time, given that tough climate right now and both the polls, Barack Obama is leading the Republican candidate in those polls.

KING: If they make the playoffs. Cornell is making a play on me here because while we're on tape, I said this is the only day in my life I'm going to say these words, take those pictures down, I'll say them on camera: go Yankees. It's the only day in my whole life I'm going to say those words, go Yankees.

Erick and Cornell are staying with us. That was: go Yankees.


KING: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says go to the videotape. Chris Christie says go to the videotape if you want to know if he'll run for president.

No, no, no is the message if you watch the highlight reel. Yet there are still some who see hints of a late entry into the Republican race. Erin Burnett joins our discussion of the Christie factor, next.


CHRISTIE: At the Reagan Presidential Library last night, a polite question for the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: please reconsider.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need you. Your country needs you to run for president.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I hear exactly what you're saying and I feel the passion with which you say it and it touches me.

(END VIDEO CLIPS) KING: The governor went on to say he was very flattered but suggested he still didn't feel a burning desire to run.

Still on the trail today, other Republicans couldn't avoid the Christie question.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris is a great friend, great guy, colorful character. He is a -- he is a governor I'd love to see in more political settings. Who knows, maybe he'll get in. It would be fun if he got in.


KING: Maybe it would be fun, maybe not.

So, do we take Governor Christie at his word or is there still a chance -- still a chance -- he might join the race?

Cornell Belcher and Erick Erickson are still with us. And we're thrilled to have with us to join the conversation, Erin Burnett, whose new program "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" premieres Monday night.

Erin, let me start with you. If you talk to folks up your way -- you're in New York tonight. Some money people on Wall Street, money people in New Jersey, they say, we need this guy and we still think he might listen to us. Will he?

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Well, you know, it's amazing, they really want him to run. And, John, I mean, I have to say, it started this summer at some of the conferences I was at. It's continued in recent days with big CEOs of big banks and big media companies who said I'm a lifelong Democrat, but I'm going to vote for Chris Christie and I'd give him money.

First of all, would they really do it or are they just talking? I think there's skepticism there. But, you know, as you've talked about, it's pretty hard when your whole M.O. is being an honest, genuine guy who says what he means and means what he says to be so clear and then go back on your word. It just doesn't seem like Chris Christie.

KING: I think you're right in that he is a straight shooter and that's how he wants to be remembered and he says no, no, no.

And yet, Erick Erickson, he gives this speech last night at the Reagan Library. It's actually a nice speech to read, Democrat, Republican or independent. It's a very upbeat speech. It steers clear of the most part of the politics for the moments, which leads you to think, OK, he's just laying out a big platform.

But then the guy who says he's not running has this to say about immigration and the Texas governor, Rick Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I want every child who comes to New Jersey to be educated, but I do not believe that for those people who came here illegally that we should be subsidizing with taxpayer money through in-state tuition their education.


CHRISTIE: And let me be very clear from my perspective, that is not a heartless position. That is a common sense position.


KING: That's a left hook.

ERICKSON: Yes. You know, Perry used to expect this, most Republicans disagree with him on it. And it was interesting that -- I suspect Chris Christie will not be endorsing Rick Perry for president. Although, John, I got to tell you, I feel like we need to go back to the late 1980s ABC after school specialist where the school counselor brings in all the kids and talks about how no means no. He's done this repeatedly, no means no.

And, frankly, I think it's like the snowstorms and weather that hits New York City, the media covers them a lot more than those that hit the flood plains and the Midwest because that's where the media is. He's a governor in the media market in the New York/D.C. area. So people are fascinated by it up there. And a lot of those people are on Wall Street and the media.

KING: And he took the shot at Governor Perry there. I do want to note Chris Christie is on the record saying that he thinks immigration reform should include a path to citizenship. So, he would not have an easy time with conservatives either.

ERICKSON: To the left of Perry on that one.

KING: But, Cornell, what is the appeal of Chris Christie?

BELCHER: The appeal of Chris Christie is the other field. When you look at the rest -- I mean, sticking to baseball now, this is deja vu all over again. We heard this with Romney, they all wanted Romney, they wanted Bachmann. Oh, my God, we can't wait until Rick Perry gets in and they take a look at Rick Perry. Now, they want Chris Christie.

Chris Christie, it was interesting, he took a shot at Perry on immigration because, quite frankly, if you look at where he's been in the past with the far right of the Republican Party, he's caused a lot of the Tea Party's crazies around the environmental protection as well as around the Muslim -- the whole Muslim thing. So, he's got some work to do with the far right of that party.

KING: Maybe he could be on independent candidate, Erin? No? Yes? No?

BURNETT: Yes, I know. You know, it's interesting. You bring up immigration, though. I mean, he does have -- he's a very Northeastern Republican, if you want to use that word, right? I mean, second strictest gun laws in the country in New Jersey.

He's well aware that those issues on social policy would not play in his favor to the Republican base and those early primaries -- maybe in the Northeast but certainly not in the South.

KING: Erick and Cornell, thanks for coming in.

I want to spend our last minute -- I'm going to cut you off -- I'm going to spend the last minute with our new colleague, Erin Burnett.

Erin, you're going to take over this time slot Monday night. A lot of viewers know you from your expertise on the economy. But you've also spent time as you're getting ready for the show going out around the world, because not only is it a global economic challenges, but there are a number of other big issues around the world.

Tell us what you learned in getting ready and hitting the road.

BURNETT: Well, it's been amazing. And John and I were joking during the commercial, everyone -- John was saying, all right, are you dead yet getting ready? Go out and get a drink in your last few nights, right?

So, it has been a little bit crazy. But we did go out, because, John, when we named -- you know, when we named the show "OUTFRONT," we do mean it. We want to physically go out and we want to go out there in terms of traveling around the world. So, we traveled literally around the world from China through the Middle East, all the way back to New York. It was a circumnavigation.

But issues like China matter a lot -- the biggest economic relationship the United States has, perhaps its biggest military threat. It's children. We actually spent some time with Chinese children this summer. We'll work on this so-called "tiger cubs." So, we're going to be spending time there and also in the Middle East where we spent some time with women in Pakistan.

So, we're going to be out there. I guess that's the way to say it. But we're looking forward to it and we're looking forward to coming right after you here in the rundown on CNN.

KING: We are looking forward to it as well.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts Monday night at 7:00 p.m. in the East. That means we slide back to 6:00 in the East. My friend Wolf Blitzer nudges back a little bit as well.

We're proud and excited to have Erin join our lineup. Erin, thanks for coming here tonight.

We'll see you Monday. That's all for us tonight.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.