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Rick Perry Falling; Final Moments for Doomed Air France Plane; Revealing Transcript From Air France Crash; Interview with Senator John McCain; Jon Huntsman Boycotting Nevada GOP Debate; Limbaugh: Romney Not A Conservative; Selling Military Technology to Civilians

Aired October 14, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now: declining support after a series of major stumbles. Will a critical speech help turn the tide for Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry?

Also, the chilling final seconds of a doomed Air France flight. Controversial new transcripts reveal panic and disbelief in the cockpit.

Plus, drones just like the ones used by the United States military, should anyone be able to buy them? Guess what? It turns out they can. But what's going to prevent terrorists from buying and using them?

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

He entered the race at the top of the polls, but Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has been watching his numbers slide and slide, his momentum rather slow. Now, with a closely watched speech, the Texas governor is trying to reverse his declining campaign fortunes.

CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us now. He has got the story.

Jim, he delivered what his campaign described as a major speech today.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The speech was called the Energizing American Jobs and Security speech, Wolf, but it was also designed to energize his campaign.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Looking to jump-start a campaign that's been stalled for weeks, Rick Perry laid out a Texas-sized energy plan that the governor claims will create more than a million jobs.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America's the Saudi Arabia of coal.

ACOSTA: If elected president, Perry says he will push for new coal mining, natural gas production, even new oil exploration in the off- limits Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Perry would even expand production in the Gulf of Mexico to what he calls pre-Obama levels, a move that may renew environmental worries after last year's massive BP spill.

He would also curb regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency. But Democratic-leaning critics say this is all old hat cribbed from Sarah Palin. Listen to Palin '08.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: And we will drill for the billions of barrels of oil that we have right now warehoused underground including our resources offshore. We will drill here and drill now and now is when you chant, drill, baby, drill.

ACOSTA: And Perry now:

PERRY: We're standing on top of the next American economic boom and it's the energy underneath this country. And the quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy the American ingenuity to tap American energy.

DANIEL WEISS, AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: This plan is big oil gone wild. It would benefit the oil companies by giving them some of our special places we're saving for our children.

ACOSTA: Perry's poll numbers have been powering down for weeks after a series of shaky debates and the endorsement of a pastor who called Mormonism a cult.

REV. ROBERT JEFFRESS, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: A lot of people say they're Christians, and they're not.

ACOSTA: A charge Romney didn't take likely.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would call upon Governor Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor.

ACOSTA: Perry's wife says it's her family that's taking the abuse.

ANITA PERRY, WIFE OF RICK PERRY: We are being brutalized by our opponents in our own party. And I think they look at him because of his faith. And they may feel like God called them, too, but I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.

ACOSTA: The Texas governor says he can handle it.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been doing this for a long time. I understand slings and arrows. And that's a diversion, frankly. This is the big leagues. Everybody understands that.


ACOSTA: But Rick Perry has 17 million reasons why he can't be counted out just yet. Poll numbers aside, Republicans expect Perry to open up his war chest to unleash a barrage of attack ads aimed at Mitt Romney in the coming weeks, which means the brutal part of this campaign, Wolf, is just beginning.

BLITZER: In all the interviews he did today, Jim, he sort of tried to distance himself once again from the pastor, but avoided flatly repudiating, rejecting the thrust of what the pastor was saying about Mormonism.

ACOSTA: That's right. That's right. He was given multiple opportunities to reject that endorsement, to repudiate those comments.

And Rick Perry has used this line again, and he used it again today, Wolf. He said that he can't be held responsible for the comments and statements made by people who endorse him. He says those are not necessarily his comments.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

A presidential visit to Detroit with not one, but two presidents in the Motor City, the president of the United States and the South Korean president, President Lee.

For Mr. Obama, it's a chance to tout what he's done for the state of Michigan, a state that's certainly critical to his reelection.

Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar has details -- Brianna.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here at this GM plant, President Obama climbed into the rather petite Chevy Sonic, the only sub-compact made and sold here in the U.S. And President Lee was his passenger.

That was the photo-op, but the real reason for his visit was to promote the new U.S.-Korea trade agreement and to claim success in the auto bailout. Many Republicans have criticized it, but President Obama held it up as an example of the government successfully intervening to help the economy.

(voice-over): President Obama hit the road Friday touring a GM plant in Detroit with Korean President Lee.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is great to be back in the Motor City.

KEILAR: The purpose of the trip, to tout the free trade agreement between the two countries ratified this week by the Congress in a rare showing of bipartisanship.

OBAMA: If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais from Korea, then I know Koreans should be able to buy some Fords and Chryslers and Chevys that are made right here in the United States of America.

KEILAR: The trade deal, which President Obama says will create 70,000 American jobs, is an early victory as he travels the country pushing his jobs plan. The United Auto Workers union endorses the deal, but others like the AFL-CIO do not, concerned it will cost their workers jobs.

Lee, a former CEO of Korean carmaker Hyundai, donned a Detroit Tigers cap for the visit, a nod to the people here as he tried to assure them.

LEE MYUNG-BAK, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I want to give this promise to you and that is that of course FTA will not take away any of your jobs. Rather, it will create more jobs for you and your family and it will protect your jobs and this is the pledge I give you today.

KEILAR: President Obama also championed the 2009 auto bailout a month after Chrysler, GM and Ford posted significant sales increases.

OBAMA: This is a city where a great American industry is coming back to life. For every cynic that is out there running around saying it can't be done, there are a whole bunch of folks that are saying, yes, we can.

KEILAR: The auto industry as the White House sees it is a prime example of what government can do to restore the economy. Of course, there is a political significance to this trip, Obama's ninth to Michigan since becoming president.

He won here handily in 2008, but in this political climate, he's much more vulnerable and holding on to Michigan is key to his strategy of trying to hold on to a number of Midwestern states -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Brianna Keilar traveling with the president, thank you.

The Occupy Wall Street movement moved well beyond Lower Manhattan today with protests and arrests in cities across the country. Back in New York, parts of the flagship protest got out of hand this afternoon after staving off a morning confrontation with police.

Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti is joining us now from the scene.

So, what happened today, Susan?


Well, at this hour, there's a much more relaxed atmosphere and the park looks pretty much normal as you see people standing around making signs and just gathering here to hear impromptu speeches, but earlier today, there was a real nervous excitement in the air before the sun even came up as protesters were worried about the police moving in and expecting passive resistance on the part of these protesters, because they were warned that they were going to move everybody out in order to clean up the park.

But at the last moment, the word spread and people started cheering that that wasn't going to happen after all. According to the Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, he said that in the middle of the night, the park's owners got some alleged threats from a lot of people and a lot of phone calls, including public officials, unnamed, were telling the park that they better back down. Well, that's what happened. And people said here -- the protesters said that they won, called it a victory and people power. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was awesome, absolutely awesome to see the people support this in such a way that says to the city, no, we're occupying this park and we're really not going to move until we're ready to move.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really catching on and the more this city pushes back, or the owners of the park push back, the more the people will come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't expect people to be here on this cold ground with no type of covering, no type of sleeping bags and possibly survive.


CANDIOTTI: Well, anyway, as rain now starts to pour down here in the park, and people are grabbing for their tarps, there was some violence here, a scuffle at one point when some marches took place this morning.

According to witnesses, there was one man who was a legal observer belonging to Occupy Wall Street who was watching things happen and he got into the street. Somehow, he fell down and one of his feet was run over by a police motorcycle. And when the motorcyclist and the police officer moved forward, his other leg was rolled over as well.

The police pulled him out from underneath there and they arrested, well, at least took him into custody, put a baton on the back of his neck, put a knee down on his back, and pulled him out of the way. A lot of people were screaming and yelling. A lot of confusion. Right now that legal observer remains in custody. Police said that he had tried to escape.

The witnesses we spoke with did not see evidence of that as we continue to try to sort things out. You could say just another day in the park, but they're planning many more protests tomorrow, not only here, but in they're expecting several hundred cities in the United States and they say in 80 other countries as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti in the rain over at the park. Thanks, Susan. We will check back with you.

Meanwhile, an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, is it just the latest? There are new reports linking Iran to the murder of another Saudi diplomat. I will talk about that and more with Senator John McCain this hour.

Plus, new transcripts of the final seconds of Air France Flight 447, they're dramatic and chilling. They're also very controversial.


BLITZER: There's been a significant shift in the Obama administration's health care reform law.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is watching what's going on.

What's just coming in, Jessica?


The Obama administration has decided to end one piece of the health care law. It's called the CLASS Act. And it would have let Americans voluntarily pay into a plan that would give them long-term care in case of disability. The problem is that Congress knew that this is very expensive and before passing it, they required that the Department of Health and Human Services study it to make sure it would not cost taxpayers a dime for 75 years.

Well, today, after concluding that study, the secretary of HHS sent Congress a letter that says in part -- quote -- "Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for class implementation at this time."

So that means this one piece of the health care law will not be implemented, this CLASS Act. Administration officials, though, insist to CNN that this does not impact the rest of the health care law. None of the coverage aspects in the health care law beyond this one discrete part is affected -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But it does represent an embarrassment to the Obama administration, after making that earlier suggestion it wouldn't cost anything for all those years, and now, all of a sudden, they realize they were wrong.

YELLIN: Well, they're saying that this is a -- because they recognize that, they're taking it out of the legislation.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, watching the story. Thanks very much.

Meanwhile, panic stricken conversations, confused pilots -- just some of the chilling new details of the final seconds of Air France Flight 447.

They're being revealed in previously unpublished transcripts, now being condemned by French officials.

CNN's Richard Quest is joining us now from London.

Richard, take us through the final moments. Very chilling moments inside the cockpit.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Until now, we've known that it was a four-minute or three and a half minute incident from when they lost air speed to when the plane crashed into the south Atlantic. The authorities have only released little sections of the first two minutes of the final transcript.

Now, the author in his book, Jean-Pierre Otelli, in his book, has given us more insight into frankly, the disorientation, the confusion between the two co-pilots who are flying the plane and the captain, who had just come back urgently from his rest break.

Listen to the last few seconds. This is just before the aircraft does hit the ground. The captain says, "Watch out, you're pulling up." "Am I pulling up?" says the co-pilot. "You are pulling up."

"We're pulling up. We're 4,000 feet up." "Come on, pull. Come on, pull. Pull, pull."

And then you get to this last very poignant piece where it says, "Damn it, we're going to crash. This can't be true."

And there was a final comment on the tape which came from the pilot saying, "But what is happening?" And that is really, Wolf, the story of this. The pilot's flying did one thing. The captain knew they should be doing something else, but he wasn't sitting at the controls, Wolf.

BLITZER: These transcripts were not supposed to be released yet. What is Air France saying about it?

QUEST: Fume and fury. Complete disapproval is the way Air France described and the BEA, which is the French equivalent of the NTSB, says, "We strongly condemn the disclosure. It's the violation laws. These personal conversations have no bearing on the event."

Wolf, I spoke to the author of the book earlier today. I asked him, knowing it was controversial, why did he print these transcripts? He said that he did so because he believed in giving a full account of what had happened on the plane.

We're still at least six months plus from the final report into why this plane crashed. But one thing will be certain, the investigators are looking into the relationship between pilots and modern aircraft and the CRM, if you like, to make sure they are flyable.

BLITZER: Because the suggestion has been -- the charge has been the pilot in this particular case did exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do when the plane is descending.

QUEST: Yes, they did the opposition. There was some who said we should be doing this or that they were disoriented. What really it comes down to, we know why this plane fell out the sky now. We know what happened pretty much. But which needs to be investigated is the relationship between today's pilots and these extremely complicated, state-of-the-art aircraft, that cockpits, how they interact, the relationship between the men and women involved.

And that is why a special panel is being set up. It's why the FAA is looking into this and frankly, it's what's going to be the future way of training for pilots.

BLITZER: And remind our viewers, Richard, how many people died in this crash?

QUEST: More than 200 -- including the crew, 228, I think was the final death toll. And the core point to remember -- yes, the pivot (ph) tubes blocked. Yes, they lost air speed indications, but these are things that should not have brought down the airliner. This was a perfectly flyable plane with training.

BLITZER: Richard Quest in London for us. Thank you.

The latest for Alabama's controversial immigration law. We're going to tell you which part of federal appeals court has now blocked.

Plus, a billionaire heiress arrested. We'll tell you why.


BLITZER: Parts of a controversial immigration law put on hold. Lisa Sylvester is investigating that and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What do we know?


Well, a federal appeals court has blocked portions of Alabama's immigration law while letting other parts go into effect. The U.S. Justice Department had asked for the law to be put on hold. The Obama administration says immigration enforcement should be left up to the federal government.

Among other things, Alabama's law would let state and local officials check the immigration status of the public school students. That part of the law has been blocked.

And after a long wait for apple's new iPhone 4S, some owners, they can't connect. Several tech Web sites report that AT&T users are having problems activating their new iPhones. It appears the issue is too many people are trying to activate their phones at the same time. AT&T has had similar problems with earlier versions of the iPhone. So far, it looks like Sprint and Verizon users haven't had the same problems.

And speculation in the oil market could add as much $600 to your family's gasoline bill this year. One consumer group predicts this will bring household spending on gasoline to the highest level ever. The group says market deregulation is also to blame for high oil prices. Oil has been trading between $80 and $100 a barrel this year.

And a Wal-Mart heiress worth about $21 billion, well, she was busted for drunken driving on her 62nd birthday. The Texas Highway Patrol says Alice Walton was pulled over for speeding in a construction zone.

"People" magazine reports the daughter of the founder spent the night in jail. She was released on $1,000 bond the next morning. Walton's lawyer says the heiress deeply regrets this.

So, she actually spent the night in jail. That's kind of tough.

BLITZER: Yes. The law's got to be fair and equal with everybody.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

So, here's a question, how should the United States respond to the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States? We're going to talk about that and much. Senator John McCain is standing by, live.

And Republicans presidential candidate Jon Huntsman decides to boycott the next Republican debate in Nevada. So, what's really behind his decision? We'll explain.


BLITZER: Is the alleged Iranian plot to kill is Saudi ambassador part of a murderous pattern?

David Ignatius writes in today's "Washington Post" that intelligence has linked Iran to the murder of another Saudi diplomat gunned down in July in Pakistan.

Let's talk about what's going on with Senator John McCain.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So, if we believe and I do, what David Ignatius writes, he's an excellent reporter. He was here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday. It looks like a pattern is emerging.

Do you see a pattern of Iranian authorities wanting to kill Saudis?

MCCAIN: Yes, and maybe larger than that, Wolf. We've seen a pattern now of two decades of terrorist attacked orchestrated by the Iranian and the Quds Force in particular orchestrated attacks in other capitals.

They are -- obviously, they're exports of the most lethal IEDs into Iraq killed young Americans. They are supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. They are trying to orchestrate events in Bahrain as we speak and also meddling in Afghanistan.

So, there's a long pattern here of attempts to exert Iranian influence in the region and around the world and the thing that surprises me very quickly, is one, the hand-fistedness of it because they're usually pretty efficient in these activities. And second of all, to think that they could get away with it. And that's kind of disturbing when you think about it.

BLITZER: But do you have a good understanding why they would want to kill Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir here in Washington presumably as this indictment says at a restaurant and a lot of Americans could have been killed in the process?

MCCAIN: Well, there's the competition and tensions in the region between the two countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been there for a long period of time. I mean, good evidence of that is Bahrain today. But there is across the board competition and tensions between the two countries and the Iranians view Saudis, in particular their money, as a great impediment to their ability to exert their influence in the region, and they want that and they're willing to -- obviously do whatever they can to achieve it.

And by the way, what about when they get nuclear weapons, Wolf? They probably wouldn't launch one at the United States, but don't you think there's a great risk that they might provide a nuclear weapon to one of these terrorist organizations that they support?

BLITZER: What do you think the United States should do about all of this right now?

MCCAIN: I think the president should go on national television and tell the American people, give them the chronicle of the acts of terror of the -- that the Iranians have carried out, their interference in other countries, their responsibility for the deaths of young Americans.

And then I would do probably what the president is doing. I'd call General Petraeus, our new director of the CIA over at the White House and others and say what kind of covert activities can we engage in here? What can we do? And I -- and frankly, I don't know what they are, but I certainly would be exploring those options.

And, of course, going to the U.N. for the sanctions against their central banks so that anybody who does with Iranian central bank cannot do any business with us, probably, maybe expecting more from Russia and China in the way of strong action in the U.N. And it's obvious that the Iranians need to be disciplined before they achieve nuclear status in my view.

BLITZER: Here's what surprises me, Senator, I'll let you weigh in before we move on to some other subjects.

The Saudi reaction, or should I say lack of reaction, they haven't severed diplomatic relations with Iran. They still have their ambassador there. They haven't, as far as I can tell, other than issuing a statement, done anything in terms of the commercial relationship, the economy relationship. They haven't done anything assuming they believe this U.S. allegation that the Iranians wanted to kill their ambassador here in Washington.

Does this surprise you at all?

MCCAIN: A little bit. But you know, the Saudis do business in different ways than we do.

For example, they are -- financing a lot of activities in the region, which are directly counter to the Iranian -- to counter Iranian ambitions, and they have engaged in other operations which would cause discomfort or difficulties for the Iranians in the region.

So you know, it's a very kind of a Byzantine situation over there, but I am sure that they are contemplating some kinds of actions.

BLITZER: I think you're probably right, but we haven't seen anything yet. We'll stand -- we'll be on standby for that.

Before I get to jobs and some other political issues, what do you make of the Obama administration's decision to send 100 U.S. combat troops to Uganda to deal with a crisis unfolding in central Africa right now against some warlords there, ground forces, if you will. You're the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

MCCAIN: Well, the Lord's Resistance Army is one of the most atrocious and barbaric organizations in history. As you know, they have carried out unspeakable acts, and they are destabilizing the region. And it's -- you know, it's so terrible, it's hard for us to even talk about.

But so, I think that actions need to be taken to help these countries combat, particularly Uganda and its neighbors, to combat this LRA.

But I also want to be very careful that we don't get into another Lebanon or another Somalia. And I'm not saying we will, but we've got to be very careful. And I think it requires more consultation with Congress and with the American people again. You don't want to get into something you can't get out of.

And so I certainly applaud the goal. I would like to know more and I think the American people should know more as to exactly how we're going to do it. Remember, we've sent peacekeepers into places before that ended in tragedy.

BLITZER: All right, we'll have more on this story coming up at the top of the hour. Let's move on to some other issues.

As all of our viewers remember, you beat Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago. You're looking at this race from the outside right now. What's his weakness right now? What do you see?

MCCAIN: I don't know, Wolf. I think he's been running a very good campaign. I ran a better campaign in 2008 because of the experience I had in 2000. After I won the nomination in 2008, no one helped my campaign more than Mitt Romney did. He was there every time we asked him to be there.

I think he has run a very intelligent campaign. I think he has a very strong position in New Hampshire. But if you and I had been chatting two or three weeks ago and I would have said Herman Cain is up there now, ahead in some polls, you would have thought I was smoking something fairly strong.

(LAUGHTER) MCCAIN: So there's a lot of things that can happen between now and probably the Florida primary or after that to determine who our nominee is. But I think that the Romney campaign has been maintaining a steady strain and it's put him in a pretty good position. But I'm not predicting.

BLITZER: Are you ready to endorse?


BLITZER: Not yet.

All right, let's talk a little bit about the conservatives, some of the Tea Party activists. They don't think he's a real conservative. If he gets the nomination, will he be able to unit all the base of the Republican Party?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think he will. I don't have any doubt about that.

I'm very confident of that, not only because of his qualities, but the fact is, you know, this country is very, very dissatisfied and they're not just dissatisfied with the president, they're not too happy with Congress, in case you noticed the 13 percent approval rating. If we work a little harder, maybe we can get it down to single digits.

BLITZER: We've noticed that as well.


BLITZER: Let's talk about jobs.

You and some fellow Republican senators introduced legislation to create millions of jobs. Are you -- do you really believe what you introduced yesterday has a chance in this gridlock of Washington, D.C. right now to get passed?

MCCAIN: Well, I think the first thing it does is that it hopefully would remove the president's line from his rhetoric that Congress doesn't have a plan. All of the Republican senators and outside groups and House members I'm confident the overwhelming majority will support this legislation.

Second of all, the president's jobs plan is more of a same. It's stimulus two. You noticed the deficit is second highest in history was announced today, and that is another ample proof that the president's ideas of government creating jobs instead of business creating jobs is not successful, never has been and never will be.

And so as some of us said when we introduced this legislation, Senator Rand Paul and I and others said, this should be a reason for us to sit down together, at least work together to some degree, for example, reforming the tax code.

I've met no one that doesn't believe we ought to reform the tax code. Now, there's a lot of differences in how, but at least we should find common ground on some of these issues, for example, repatriating this $1.4 trillion that's overseas. There's so many -- I think there's areas we should find agreement on, and I think the American people are really demanding that.

BLITZER: Are you liking or not liking so much Herman Cain's so-called 9-9-9 plan?

MCCAIN: Well, I haven't examined it carefully, but at one examination of it it appears that it is a tax increase for some middle income or lower income Americans, and I look forward to hearing his explanation. I'm not condemning it, but I certainly wouldn't favor that.

BLITZER: Any final piece of advice as far as the next debate is concerned for Rick Perry, the governor of Texas? He seems to be having some trouble, as you well know, at those debates.

MCCAIN: It sounds rather simplistic, Wolf, but my one bit of advice to be -- two, two things to do.

One, get some rest. When you're tired, every time I made a serious mistake -- and I've made a serious politically, and I've made them, it's been when I'm tired.

And the second thing is get somebody in there who will give it a good scrubbing, who will play these individuals, who will play Romney, for example, and really put it to you so that you're prepared for any question that comes up.

I think both of those probably would help him.

BLITZER: Excellent advice. Practice, practice, practice.

MCCAIN: And by the way, since I lost, I'm not sure how good my advice is.


BLITZER: Well, you may have lost the general election, but you did win -- you came from nowhere. A lot of people were writing off your campaign, as a lot of us remember, and you went on to win the Republican presidential nomination. That's obviously rather impressive. So I'm sure he would be grateful if you had good advice for him. I don't know if you want to do that, but we'll wait and see.

Senator, thanks very much.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator John McCain joining us from Phoenix.

Rush Limbaugh takes aim at Mitt Romney. Why the conservative talker says Republican can't unit behind Romney.

Also, how to buy your own drone. We're going to tell you why some people are willing to pay the price and what the potential dangers are to terrorists. Go out and simply buy a drone.


BLITZER: Next Tuesday night, White House hopefuls will face off in the western Republican debate cosponsored by CNN. But one of the candidates won't be there -- Jon Huntsman. He says he's boycotting the debate because Nevada moved up its caucuses to January in violation of GOP rules.


JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm honored and delighted to be a candidate for president of the United States of America, and I'm happy to be here in New Hampshire, not Nevada, where they're trying to leapfrog the system ahead of New Hampshire in such a way that I think it steals a little bit from our democracy, because this is a state in which citizens get to know the candidates.


BLITZER: Our senior political editor Mark Preston is already in Las Vegas, site of next Tuesday's debate. Mark, is there more to Governor Huntsman's decision to boycott Nevada?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, sure, Wolf. You know, that's somebody who's putting all of his chips on New Hampshire. What's interesting, Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, the neighboring state, is basically dissing Nevada. He is not going to participate in the Nevada caucuses.

And we just learned this morning that he will not appear at the CNN western Republican presidential debate. He says he's doing it on principle to try to maintain the tradition of New Hampshire being the first in the primary state. There's a big fight now between New Hampshire and Nevada about who should go first, rather where they should be in the calendar. Jon Huntsman says he is siding with New Hampshire and not Nevada, Wolf.

BLITZER: Putting all his eggs right now in the Nevada basket. None of the other candidates have pulled out of the debate in Las Vegas, have they?

PRESTON: No, they haven't. In fact, all the other candidates have said they will be here. There will be seven on the stage here at the Venetian resort behind me. However, five of them say they will boycott the Nevada caucuses. Herman Cain has said he will do it. Newt Gingrich has said he will do it, as had Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Nevada was hoping to gain more relevancy in the 2012 presidential election by being able to have one of the early voting states in this presidential nominating process is really in deep jeopardy right now, Wolof, especially if these candidates decide not to come here.

BLITZER: It's a fluid situation, as we like to say. Mark Preston already in Vegas. Thanks very much, Mark, for that.

And please be sure to watch the western Republican presidential debate cosponsored by CNN Tuesday night, 8:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN. I'm be broadcasting Monday and Tuesday from Las Vegas.

Dramatic new video inside the fighting that's going on in Libya. We're taking you to the front lines. That's coming up in our next hour.

Also, hundreds, maybe thousands of shoulder fired missiles may have gone missing in Libya. What the United States is doing to keep those weapons out of the hands of terrorists.


BLITZER: So, is Mitt Romney really, really a conservative? Let's discuss in our strategy session. Joining us, Hillary Rosen, our CNN political contributor, she's a Democratic strategist and David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, also a contributor to and to CNN.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Rush Limbaugh, he doesn't like to mince any words and he said this about Mitt Romney. Listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: Seventy percent of the Republicans polled are split all over the map, but they know that they do not support Romney. The reason is simple. Romney is not a conservative. He's not, folks, but you can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn't.


BLITZER: Should have been a capital "R" for Republicans. Let me ask David. Is Mitt Romney a real conservative?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, they've changed the definition, so if you support the Republican alternative to what Hillary Clinton proposed for health care, if you support the Heritage Foundation health care plan and if you don't think it's a good idea to raise interest rates in a depression, you're not a conservative.

I don't think we should recognize the jurisdiction of this particular membership committee. The reason is true. Seventy percent of Republicans are all over the map, but the Tea Party alternative has not been able to produce a viable candidate and that is not Mitt Romney's fault. That's the Tea Party's fault.

BLITZER: Is Mitt Romney ever going to be acceptable to certain elements of that Republican conservative base?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I thought it was interesting. You interviewed John McCain earlier and you asked him this question about conservatives. It was John McCain that Rush Limbaugh set off after last election, saying he wasn't a true conservative. He'd never get the conservative vote.

In fact, that didn't prove to be the case. I think Republicans frankly are so desperate to be rid of Barack Obama that they will rally behind, you know, anyone of those candidates.

But whether or not he's a true conservative, he's clearly not somebody who can be relied upon to stick with his opinions. He has gone back and forth over the years on virtually every issue including the ones important to conservatives.

BLITZER: He's got his hands full right now, but he's been steady. If you take a look at all these months, there are some candidates Republicans that have gone up then they quickly gone down, but Romney has been a steady feature in this race.

FRUM: And that leaves behind the impression that when you look at the people on that stage, you say, do I see a president here that who here looks like the world would be in safe hands if that person had the ultimate authority.

He looks like that guy over and over again and he has taken a pummeling. He has taken all of this abuse. He never loses his temper. I think a lot of people have a reaction I do, which you get more impressed with him, the more you see him not less.

BLITZER: There's no doubt at the same time though that if you take a look at Mitt Romney right now, let's say and I think a lot of Democrats have privately said to me and I assume to you as well, Hillary, he's the one that scares them the most as far as trying to get President Obama re-elected.

ROSEN: I don't know. I'm ready to run against Mitt Romney. I think this is a guy who has consistently reinvented himself on his views. Now, we see him a little bit moving to the general. He's starting to embrace again health care reform that he was rejecting a couple of months ago.

He's been all over the place on abortion, on gay rights, on all sorts of other issues. But most importantly, this guy has no job creation record and he cannot go out there for the next year talking down the economy with those words.

BLITZER: You just heard Mark Preston reporting from Las Vegas, our political editor. Jon Huntsman has decided to boycott next Tuesday's Republican presidential debate in Nevada. At the same time, Peter Hamby, one of our political reporters is noting that as far as Huntsman's third quarter fund raising.

He's got a debt right now. He raised about $327,000. He's got an $890,000 debt. Since June, he's raised $2.26 million, but $2.25 million of that was his own money. That sounds like a campaign that's got some serious financial problems right now.

FRUM: Yes, but this whole business of states deciding who goes first, I mean, there are 50 states. Why can't they all be first? The idea that each state decides for itself where in the calendar it's going to go has been creating perverse stand ups for a long time.

And I think it's time the two parties agree, this is a national decision making process and you need to have national organizations make national decisions about who goes in which order.

BLITZER: We hear this every four years, it never changes though, Hilary.

ROSEN: It never changes, but if I was Jon Huntsman's strategist this past week, I would say, nobody's been talking about me for weeks. What can I do to get somebody on SITUATION ROOM to talk about me at the end of this week because I'm a non-subject in this presidential race. This was it.

BLITZER: We had him on the show earlier this week talking about a variety of issues, including his own Mormon faith. There are two Mormons running for the Republican presidential nomination. He's one of them, Mitt Romney being the other.

ROSEN: That's because you're a fair journalist, but nobody thinks he's really in the hunt here.

BLITZER: Do you think he's still in the hunt?

FRUM: I think he -- if Herman Cain is number two, Jon Huntsman is in the hunt because the Herman Cain balloon is going to deflate very rapidly. And at that point, Huntsman has a bigger tax cut than Mitt Romney. He's got a stronger antiabortion record, why can't he be number two?

BLITZER: Tim Pawlenty earlier in the week say, he's having some second thoughts that shouldn't have dropped out as quickly as he did. Guys, thanks very much.

Do it yourself drones. Where do buy your very own drone for less than $1,000. What's going on?

And coming up right at the top of the hour, why President Obama has now decided to send ground troops to Africa for the first time since "Black Hawk Down."


BLITZER: The U.S. military is relying increasingly on unmanned drone aircraft. One of them was used recently to take out al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki. Now, similar aircraft are available to almost anyone willing to pay the price.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has more.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unmanned vehicles are flying out of this small San Diego warehouse. They're equipped the cameras. It can hover, maneuver, even fly on their own and for under $1,000, you can buy your own.

CHRIS ANDERSON, CO-FOUNDER DIY DRONES: What UAVs offer is low cost access to the sky. LAWRENCE: Chris Anderson is a "Wired Magazine" editor and co-owner of "Do It Yourself" drones, a company pushing military technology into the civilian world.

(on camera): These things always become less expensive, but why would anyone need a personal drone hovering around them?

ANDERSON: I don't know exactly, security maybe?

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Anderson says personal drones could record crimes and alert police. Since people are already using social media to broadcast their lives 24/7, a personal drone could take that to the next level.

ANDERSON: The notion of cameras being something you hold, maybe cameras have wings.

LAWRENCE: The company imagines a UAV zooming into a burning building. As it flies up ahead of firefighters, the vehicles heat sensors tell them instantly how hot each room is as its cameras identify any obstacles that may block their way to the people trapped inside.

But even small UAVs potentially offer terrorists the same advantage the U.S. military looks for, an ability to extend its reach miles from their physical location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not everyone can use an atomic bomb effectively even if they could get one, but we have seen that groups can get and utilize these, at least, small unmanned aerial systems and utilize them pretty effectively.

LAWRENCE: Hezbollah used Iranian made UAVs during its war with Israel and just last month, an FBI sting busted a man who planned to plow modeled airplanes into the Pentagon. He had loaded the remote control planes with what he thought were explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't a model airplane in his vision. It was more like a 1970s, 1980s Cruise missile.

LAWRENCE: Analyst, Peter Singer is the author of "Wired for War." He says small mobile helicopters like the ones in San Diego are far more advanced than any model plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a danger that's providing that capability perhaps to someone who couldn't do it on their own.


LAWRENCE: Yet, so far, the company has taken 14,000 orders. It's being used in Italy on an archeological dig where the crew can't afford a full helicopter, a company is using it in Mexico to monitor the construction of an airport there, and it's even being tried out in Africa to see if they can deliver medicines effectively -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Chris, thank you.