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THE SITUATION ROOM
GOP Presidential Hopefuls to Debate in Michigan; Former Penn State Coach Accused of Child Molestation; Italy's Sovereign Debt Creating Problems for Investors; IAEA Report Indicated Iran Developing Nuclear Weapons Technology; Tuesday Results, 2012 Clues; General Fired for Telling Truth; President Obama's Push to Cut Perks
Aired November 9, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a college football legend, Joe Paterno calling it quits as the Penn State child sex abuse scandal explodes. And soon, another university power player could be history.
The U.S. and its allies laid ground work for new action against Iran and its nuclear program. Israel may take matters though into its own hands. We're taking a closer look at how a military attack potentially could play out.
And President Obama enjoys his high-tech gadgets, but some government workers may be asked to hand in their smart phones. It's part of a new move to save billions of dollars.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
For so many Americans, Coach Joe Paterno is indeed the face of Penn State University. And now the football legend his coaching career are casualties of the child sex abuse scandal engulfing the university. Paterno announced today that he will retire at the end of this season. He says he's absolutely devastated by the allegations against his former assistant coach and two other senior university officials.
Our national correspondent Jason Carroll is on the campus of Penn State. He's joining us now with the very latest. What's going on, Jason?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in retrospect, Paterno says at the end of the day, he wished he would have done more. I've spoken to the players here at Penn State. They say he did what was best for himself, best the team, and best for the university. And he may not be the only one resigning. We are also hearing word that the president of the university, that his resignation might be imminent. And right now it's best just to take a look back at how this unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: The allegations of sexual abuse by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky go back to the mid-1990s. Several alleged assaults occurred on the Penn State campus, the most shocking in March of 2002.
LINDA KELLY, PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sandusky was seen committing an assault on a young boy of about 10 years of age, was reported to a university officials by a graduate assistant who happened to be in the building late one Friday evening.
CARROLL: That graduate assistant reported the incident to long-time head football coach Joe Paterno.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Paterno is 38.
CARROLL: IN his statement Paterno said in part "It was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky." He goes on to say "Because Sandusky was already retired at that point, I referred the matter to university administrators.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we believe all the pieces are in place.
CARROLL: That administrator was Timothy Curly, Penn State's athletic director. He and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business, took away Sandusky's locker room keys and banned him from having children in the football building according to authorities, but never reported the incident to law enforcement.
KELLY: Their inaction likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years.
CARROLL: Curly did however did report it to Second Mile, the children's charity which Sandusky founded and where he allegedly met most of his underage victims. The charity said in a statement, "Mr. Curly also share that had the information had been internally reviewed and that there was no finding of wrong doing." They, too, didn't report the incident to law enforcement or ban Sandusky from contact with children at that time.
According to the grand jury report, Sandusky began abusing another victim he met in 2005 or 2006. But it wasn't until November of 2008, according to the charity, when Sandusky told them he was being investigated, that they immediately made the decision to separate him from all of our program activities involving children.
That 2008 investigation finally led to explosive charges this weekend. Sandusky is accused of sexually assaulting eight boys. He maintains he's innocent.
JOSEPH AMENDOLA, JERRY SANDUSKY'S ATTORNEY: Regardless of whether he proves his guilt or innocence, people are going to think he did this stuff.
CARROLL: And Curly and Schultz are charged with failing to report abuse and lying. Their attorneys say the charges with bogus.
CAROLINE ROBERTO, ATTORNEY FOR TIMOTHY CURLEY: It is unconscionable that the attorney general's office would level such a weak case against a man of integrity like Mr. Curly. THOMAS J. FARRELL, ATTORNEY FOR GARY SCHULTZ: This is just disappointing because rather than follow the law the attorney general's fabricated a fiction.
CARROLL: So again, as a result of all this, you have Paterno who will be resigning at the end of the season. University president Graham Spanier, we are hearing the board of trustees is meeting to discuss the terms of his resignation, a man who is known as being engaging, charismatic, a man who did not live in an ivory tower, but once again falling victim to the sex abuse scandal here at Penn State.
BLITZER: All sorts of rumors that the eight boys already identified if you will. There are a lot of others who may still be out there. What are you hearing, Jason?
CARROLL: Absolutely, Wolf. A source close to the investigation tells me that police tip line has received more than a dozen calls from men saying that they, too, were victimized by Sandusky. Before they can be officially be declared victims, of course their stories have been to be vetted. They have to be interviewed.
But this falls in line with what the attorney general said on Monday. She said because he had access to young men and boys for such a long period of time, it would not be without -- not be without the realm of possibility that there would be other victims out there as well.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you, Jason. Thanks very much.
And as Jason reported, the scandal unfolds, the president of Penn State University could be the next to go. There are reports that Graham Spanier has been told to quit or he will be fired. Lisa Sylvester is taking a closer look at this part of the story for you. Tell us about Graham Spanier, what he knew about the allegations.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Graham Spanier is one of the highest paid and longest running university presidents. Some students, though, have set up a Facebook page calling for him to be fired. And there are reports that support among the board of trustees is waning.
SYLVESTER: Graham Spanier -- charismatic, friendly, engaging, a university president who doesn't live in an ivory tower. He likes to entertain students and staff with magic. He is known to occasionally fill in for the school mascot, and he hosts a monthly call-in show.
GRAHAM SPANIER, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: From the studios of Penn State public broadcasting, this is "To the Best of my Knowledge." Good evening. I'm Graham Spanier.
SYLVESTER: What Graham Spanier knew and when did he find out is at the center of an ongoing investigation. The board of trustees at Penn State University announced it is setting up a special committee to, quote, "determine what failures occurred, who is responsible, and what measures are necessary to ensure this never happens at the university again."
Spanier came to the university in 1995 after serving in positions at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and Oregon State University. He is a family therapist and the founding editor of the "Journal of Family Issues." After the grand jury's report came out, Spanier issued a statement standing by Penn State athletic director Timothy Curly and senior vice president Gary Schultz, expressing his unconditional support.
SYLVESTER: Congressman Patrick Meehan, who is also a former U.S. attorney, is now calling for a federal investigation into the Penn State scandal. Crimes that occur on campuses are supposed to be reported to the Department of Energy. Meehan says the failure to report a 2002 incident appears to be a violation of that law.
BLITZER: It's so shocking what's going on at Penn State. Full disclosure -- I gave the commencement address at Penn State University in May of this year. Graham Spanier was my host. They gave me an honorary degree. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. And just to see what's going on right there, it's shocking to get these allegations.
SYLVESTER: For the students, for alumni, this is really hard for them to take, because it's a huge blow and a huge loss of trust. People are still trying to sort out what happened, what didn't happen. And we also have to very much keep in mind the victims in this case, the alleged victims.
BLITZER: President Spanier is highly regarded, serves on an advisory panel overseeing the CIA, an outside expert foreign intelligence adviser to the CIA. It's really pretty shocking.
SYLVESTER: Yes, there are reports that the board of trustees may be meeting tonight to determine his fate. So we'll wait and see what comes out of that.
BLITZER: You'll keep us informed. What a shocking story, a sad story. Penn state university. Especially for those little boys and their families and all that's going on for years and years, allegedly. Thanks, Lisa.
Let's get to Iran's nuclear threat. Right now Britain and France are pushing today for new sanctions against the Islamic regime to prevent it from developing atomic weapons. The United States says it's considering a range of options. There is new urgency after a U.N. report documented the regime's progress for building a nuclear bomb. Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency tells CNN new sanctions won't make a difference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALI ASGHAR SOLTANIEH, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR, TO IAEA: The sanctions have not had in effect whatsoever on our nuclear activities and including enrichment. The science shares only disturbed some of the passengers because of not giving the gasoline to Iranian passenger planes and serving the people, elderly people and sick people going to see the children outside of Iran. Therefore the sanctions have not had any effect on nuclear activities. It is better to stop this childish game. Let's come to the negotiating table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Iranian ambassador says he doubts President Obama is sincere when he says he wants a world free of nuclear weapons. The United States and its allies say they've made attempts to negotiate with Iran only to be met with defiance.
At the same time, there's growing speculation that Israel might take military action against Iran to try to make sure its neighbor doesn't build nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issuing a statement today about Iran's progress. Netanyahu's office saying the IAEA report corroborates the position of international community and of Israel that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
"The significance of the report is that the international community must bring about the cessation of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons which endanger the peace of the world and of the Middle East." That statement from the Israeli prime minister's office.
Meanwhile, if Israel were to take aim at Iran and its nuclear program, how might that military attack play out? Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's been checking into this part of the story. What are you finding out, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, the Obama administration has been somewhat restrained in its comments over the last several days about Iran, but make no mistake, behind the scenes, there is deep concern about Iran's nuclear program and what Israel might decide to do about it.
STARR: As Iran progresses on its nuclear program, Israel is signaling it won't just watch from the sidelines. President Shimon Peres telling an Israeli newspaper, quote, "A military strike on Iran is growing more likely than the diplomatic option." And candor from the top U.S. military officer about Iran's regime.
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Some of their young officers who did dumb things, they promoted them to general and admiral, and eventually institutions get the behavior they reward. These guys could start a war.
STARR: The U.S. is watching to see if Iran or Israel is making any unusual military moves against each other. So far they are not. But the U.S. believes Israel is considering whether and at what point to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. What would an attack look like? Within minutes of takeoff, Israeli warplanes would enter Arab air space, quickly flying over Jordan and then possibly into Saudi Arabia and Iraq, staying at low altitude to avoid detection.
JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The Israelis have well over 100 American fighter bombers, F-15s and F-16s, that have really big fuel tanks on them that are basically designed to make a round trip to bomb Iran.
STARR: Those planes would have to get past Iranian radars and anti- air missiles. The planes could carry hundreds of bunker busting bombs to be dropped on keen nuclear sites before turning for home and awaiting world reaction.
PIKE: On the way out, I don't think the Saudis would do anything other than applaud.
STARR: The U.S. continues to press for sanctions against Iran, but for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who recently visited Israel, Iran's nuclear program is now a front and center topic of worry between both countries.
GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This has been a subject of regular dialogue in recent weeks with the Israelis.
STARR: Now, dispute the rhetoric, Israeli officials still say no decision has been made about attacking Iran. But you know, Wolf, some U.S. officials believe the stepped up rhetoric may be an effort by the Israelis to pressure the world community for those increased sanctions. That hasn't happened yet.
BLITZER: I suspect the Israelis and the U.S., for that matter, trying to send a message to Russia, China, others to increase the diplomatic pressure on Iran to avoid that kind of worst case scenario, namely a war which would result from that kind of attack. Thanks, Barbara, for that report.
Herman Cain could be vulnerable in tonight's Republican presidential debate. Will his rivals bring up the sexual harassment allegations against him? And Americans are paying a very significant price right now for Italy's enormous debt. And guess what? It may get only worse.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with the "Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Newt Gingrich says he's the tortoise and Mitt Romney is the hare. The former House speaker is comparing the Republican presidential horse race to Aesop's fable, quote, "The bunny rabbit runs by, falls asleep. The tortoise just keeps coming. So hopefully in this game, Mitt Romney will be the rabbit, I'll be the tortoise. That will all work out perfectly," unquote. And Gingrich has reason to be hopeful at this point. He's seen a jump in polls and a spike in his fundraising in recent weeks. Gingrich is now polling in double digits, and that puts him third in most polls behind Romney and Herman Cain. These are national poll. He's also in fourth place in Iowa.
Gingrich thinks there's a big opportunity for an alternative candidate since Romney seems stuck at about 25 percent in the national polls, Cain risks fizzling out with recent sexual harassment allegations, Gingrich thinks there's more in the race for him.
He's performed well in the eight GOP debates so far, acting the role of elder statesman while some of his rivals have bickered with each other. Now he'll have another chance tonight when the Republicans debate once again.
Gingrich's campaign was left for dead by many in the spring. Several of his advisers had quit after he took two weeks off to go on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the Republican race has been a volatile one to say the least, with many conservatives hoping for, quote, "Anyone but Mitt," unquote. Several candidates have seen temporary jumps in popularity only to slide back -- Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and now maybe Herman Cain. All the while other Republicans holding out hope for a candidate like Chris Christie who in the end refused to get in.
Here's the question. In the Republican race for president, is Nest Gingrich the tortoise and Mitt Romney the hare? Go to CNN.com/Cafferty file and post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on "THE SITUATION ROOM" Facebook page. Republican presidential politics as seen through the eyes of Aesop's fables.
BLITZER: Good analysis as usual, Jack. Thank you.
Let's go to Wall Street where the Dow plunged almost 400 points today amid new fears Italy could be the latest country to default on its debt. Just yesterday the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi agreed to step down as the country scrambles to head off a full blown crisis. Let's bring back Lisa Sylvester. What's at stake for the United States is a lot.
SYLVESTER: It certainly is. And Wall Street took a major hit today. The central issue is Italy. Italy is solvent, but the problem is its debt. Investors are afraid of the worst case scenario. What if Italy can't pay its bills? That would have far reaching effects in Europe, and the United States.
SYLVESTER: Italy known for its pasta, fine wines and high fashion, also is known for its staggering debt -- $2.6 trillion. That's so large it's bigger than Greece's, Portugal's, and Ireland's debt combined. It makes Italy the large elephant in the room says financial analyst Mark Chandler.
MARC CHANDLER, BROWN BROTHERS HARRIMAN: Italy is the big kahuna as far as debt to GDP ratios. It's roughly 120 percent debt to GDP, roughly $1.3 trillion euros in debt. And so in some ways, we talk about U.S. some banks being too big to fail. Italy seems to be too big to rescue.
SYLVESTER: Italy has the third largest economy in Europe. It's debt affects the rest of the world in a word because of globalization. Your 401(k) and investments in the stock market have been rising and falling in step with news out of Europe. Europe is the United States' biggest customers. If Europe tips into a recession, the U.S. could easily follow. And a weaker Europe will make it harder for the U.S. to lower unemployment. But Italy, like Greece, went on a borrowing spree, and now, the bills are coming due, threatening all of the countries in the euro zone.
J.D. FOSTER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: They have to figure out a way to get their economies to grow. All that is true, but above all, they've got to get their economies to grow, and that's where they're having the most trouble.
SYLVESTER: Italy's political and economic fate is up in the air. It's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has agreed to resign. Berlusconi had been losing public support, thousands demonstrating against him over the weekend. Like Greece, Italy is facing a new reality of future budget cuts and new austerity measures. Berlusconi simply wasn't seen as strong enough to get it done.
SYLVESTER: And what many people are now keeping an eye on is Italy's cost of borrowing. It's been steadily going up. Italy's credit rating was downgraded by Moody's last month and the outlook remains negative.
BLITZER: Everybody's nervous about what's going to happen tomorrow. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
Meanwhile, talks between political leaders in Greece have ended with no confirmation. Prime Minister George Papandreou has agreed to step down. The office said he would hand in his resignation today. In a televised address, Papandreou vowed a new coalition government will pass a European bailout deal and bring Greece out of its debt crisis. We'll see.
New clues about what could happen in the 2012 election here in the United States from voters who cast ballots yesterday. We're taking a closer look at some of the key results and whether one party should be rather worried right now.
And President Obama is targeting cell phones and other high-tech gadgets in hopes of saving taxpayers billions of dollars.
BLITZER: A woman who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment is asking other accusers to go public with her. Karen Kraushaar, who now works at the U.S. Treasury Department here in Washington, filed a complaint against Herman Cain when he was her boss at the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. Kraushaar is hoping to have a joint news conference with the other women who say they have also been harassed by Cain. Only one other woman has agreed so far, Sharon Bialek, who held a news conference this week with her attorney Gloria Allred, saying Cain made inappropriate advances toward her, although she never formally complained.
Kraushaar attorney tells CNN that if it's just the two women, a news conference may not necessary take place. She released this statement today, let me read part of it to you. "As of this time, we have now heard from the other women who stated that they were sexually harassed. We are still hopeful they will have the courage to come forward, but we completely understand if they choose not to.
Anyone should be able to report allegations of sexual harassment without fear their lives and careers will be put on public display and laid open to public scrutiny."
Kraushaar goes on to say that the allegations were not baseless as Cain said yesterday and that she doesn't want the, quote, "continuing fascination with this story" to be a distraction to her life. We'll continue to stay on top of this story for our viewers.
Meanwhile, Cain and the rest of the Republican presidential candidates face off in another debate tonight. The big question right now, will he or his opponents mention the sexual harassment allegations dogging his campaign? The questioners ask any questions related to those sexual harassment allegations? CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us from outside of Detroit. Jim, how will the scandal play out in the debate? Do we have any clue?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have no clue as to whether or not this is going to overshadow this debate. We heard one of the candidates, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain's main rival, talk about this yesterday, calling these accusations face the conservative businessman serious. But most of these candidates have been laying low. Herman Cain has stayed out of the limelight not really doing any interviews today.
But we did have a chance to catch up with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She was giving one of those pre-debate rebuttals, going over some of the Democratic talking points. We asked about the allegations and she called them serious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: I don't have that much to say about the situation other than to say that the allegations are very serious, that it's important for Mr. Cain to respond specifically to those allegations. But you know, I think it really is an example of how troubling this field of Republican candidates for president really is.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: And while the Republicans are concerned about this matter overshadowing this debate, overshadowing the issues they'd like to talk about, you may have noticed in that video, she was standing in front of a large banner that was asking the question of Mitt Romney, why would you want to let Detroit go bankrupt, referring to a column that Mitt Romney once wrote saying the auto industry should be allowed to go into industry. This was back in 2008. So this matter is even getting in the way of the Democratic message at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: What else could cost them fireworks tonight?
ACOSTA: Well, the economy is really going to be the flash point tonight if the Herman Cain matter does not come up a whole lot, Wolf. And that is basically because this state right now is in 11.1 unemployment rate. As you know, just down the road in Detroit, the mayor there is demolishing whole portions of that city, whole neighborhoods in that city just to save it. And so these are dire times in Michigan.
And I had a chance to talk to the governor of this state, Rick Snyder, who is a Republican. He is in a traditionally Democratic state right now. And I asked him the questions about the auto industry bailout. Obviously, it was a very controversial matter. Folks like Mitt Romney opposed that bailout back in 2008, but President Obama was able to get it through the Congress. And I asked Governor Snyder whether or not that bailout was a good idea, and he had trouble answering the question. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: It probably would have dragged Ford into bankruptcy.
ACOSTA: So the auto bailout was the right call in your mind?
SNYDER: Well, looking at some systematic system to deal with the supply chain was the right answer. I would have done it differently than was actually done, that there are more economically efficient ways. But I'm not going to second-guess that. It's done and it's working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So, there you heard at the very end there Governor Snyder saying the bailouts are working, but he would not say, Wolf, in that entire interview -- and I went back and forth with him several times -- whether or not the bailout was a good idea.
So you're going to hear these candidates very likely being challenged on this issue tonight, because looking in hindsight, a lot of people in Michigan right now are glad that those bailouts happened, because the auto industry is making a bit of a comeback right now, as opposed to where they might have been, which is really anybody's guess, had those bailouts not happened -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta on the campus of Oakland University in Michigan. Thanks, Jim, very much.
This programming note. On November 22nd, mark your calendars. I'll be moderating the next CNN Republican presidential debate. It will take place right here in Washington.
We'll do it on national security, foreign policy. The Republican candidates will be at Constitution Hall here in Washington, D.C., for a debate. We're co-sponsoring it with the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Looking forward to that.
Meanwhile, election results in several states are giving us an early read about the political mood heading into 2012. In Ohio, voters repealed a law severely limiting bargaining rights for public workers. It's seen as a victory for unions and for the Democrats. But Republicans also scored in Ohio with the approval of a measure allowing the state to opt out of the new federal health care mandates.
In Mississippi, meanwhile, a controversial measure to ban abortion was defeated yesterday. It defined life as beginning at conception. Critics say it would have outlawed some forms of birth control, might have restricted some in vitro pregnancies.
And in Virginia, Republicans are claiming they've won the majority in the state Senate, but one key contest isn't settled, leaving the slim possibility that Democrats still could control the divided chamber in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein of "The National Journal." He's working all of these elections.
You were up late last night, I'm sure, studying all of this. Sort of a mixed bag for the Democrats and Republicans in Ohio.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. In Ohio, I think it is fascinating, because it historically has been one of the critical swing states in American politics.
On the one hand, there was this vote repudiating the health care bill. And it's a reminder of some of the arguments that Republicans are going to have for them to wield in 2012.
But, Wolf, the main event in the state for both sides was this battle over repealing the signature initiative of Republican Governor John Kasich's term. And the Democratic victory there in repealing this law, limiting collective bargaining rights, could be important for two reasons.
One, because it won behind a populist argument of the sort that many Democrats are urging President Obama to stress in 2012. And secondly, because it brought back a lot of the kind of voters the Democrats have been losing, especially in those Midwestern states.
Non-college white voters, 61 percent of them voted to repeal the initiative, according to one poll out today. Fifty-four percent of white seniors to repeal the initiative, according to the same poll. And both of those groups were at the core of the Republican surge in 2010. They are not the kind of voters who have been for much of anything Democratic lately.
BLITZER: A huge setback for John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio.
BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely. Right.
This was his signature initiative. And look, it ran into some of the same problems that you covered in 1995, when Bill Clinton stood off against a Republican Congress. He was rolling back benefits, a public benefit -- in that case, it was Medicare. In this case, it was benefits for public employees -- at the same time he was defending tax cuts for big corporations in this case, and that is toxic combination.
It's a hard combination to defend. And again, it's the kind of argument that President Obama may be able to wield in 2012 against the Republican agenda.
BLITZER: And in Mississippi, that very extreme anti-abortion measure, that was roundly defeated.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. So this is kind of the reverse of the song "New York, New York." For the personhood advocates, if you can't make it there, you're not going to make it anywhere, because Mississippi is probably the ground that is most receptive to this. A similar amendment lost already in Colorado.
Look, the significance for this for 2012 is fought out in places like where the debate is being held tonight, Oakland County, these white collar suburban counties outside of the South, where Democrats have been doing well, largely around social issues. If you look at how the Democrats won the Senate seat in 2010 in Colorado, which is a model in many ways for President Obama in 2012, it was by emphasizing opposition precisely to this sort of initiative.
BLITZER: And very quickly, in Arizona, Russell Pearce, who came up with that law in Arizona, a very tough anti-immigration law, he was kicked out, for all practical purposes.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Probably more tone than substance.
You can see from these debates like we're going to see tonight the overall trajectory of the Republican Party is sort of very hard line on immigration. I think most Republicans are still comfortable with that. But I think there was a great deal of discomfort in the business community, and also in Mormon Church, which is important in that district, with the tone and the way the debate has unfolded in Arizona.
BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, as usual, thank you.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: President Obama getting an important boost over some top Republican presidential contenders in a brand new poll. Stand by. And the first-ever nationwide test of the emergency alert system didn't go as planned. We have details.
BLITZER: The first-ever nationwide test of the emergency alert system today in the United States, and it didn't all appear to go as planned.
Lisa, what happened?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, you can see here the warning that aired across the country just a few hours ago, but a number of discrepancies reported, including some TV and radio stations that didn't air the test at all.
The system is used regularly at the local level, but this was the first national test featuring an alert code which would enable the president to address the nation. The test was ordered by FEMA and the FCC.
And at least three people are reportedly dead and dozens under the rubble in the wake of a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey just a short while ago. An official tells CNN about 10 buildings have collapsed. No indications yet of how many people are unaccounted for. Five hundred people were killed in an earthquake there last month.
And the intern credited with helping save the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after that deadly Tucson shooting massacre, he is now an elected official. Daniel Hernandez won yesterday's race to fill a vacancy on an Arizona school board with almost 62 percent of the vote.
And President Obama is getting a boost from Latino voters in his battle for reelection. According to a national poll conducted by Latino Decisions for Univision, President Obama leads Mitt Romney 67 percent to 24 percent in 21 of the most Latino-heavy states; 65 percent to 22 percent over Herman Cain; and 68 percent to 21 percent over Rick Perry -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Some numbers for the president.
All right, Lisa. Thank you.
We're also taking a closer look at a U.S. military hero who effectively was fired for telling the truth.
BLITZER: We're learning more about some deadly new fighting in Afghanistan that's going on. Insurgents attacked an Afghan military base last night, and they met with resistance from Afghan and NATO forces. Local officials say as many as 70 insurgents were killed in gun battles. No Afghan or NATO forces were hurt.
A hundred thousand U.S. troops serving right now in Afghanistan. Now to a story that I personally find shocking and very sad, a two- star general in the United States Army effectively fired for telling the truth about Hamid Karzai and the government of Afghanistan. The recent dismissal of U.S. Army Major General Peter Fuller and the truth behind his words deserve some follow-up.
We've asked Brian Todd to take a closer look at this story.
And it is pretty shocking to me, what's going on, Brian, but what is going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, General Fuller's commanders are defending their decision to relieve him of duty, but the fallout in the United States is significant because many people believe what General Fuller was saying was simply the truth about the Afghan government. It's essentially cost Fuller his career.
TODD (voice-over): He's got more than 30 years and several medals to show for his service. He led NATO's training of Afghan forces and oversaw several billion dollars in equipment, supplies and contracts. But when General Peter Fuller got fed up with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and spoke out about it, he was relieved of duty.
It started with Karzai saying his country would side with Pakistan against America in a war. To that, General Fuller told Politico, "Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle? You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion, and now you're telling me, I don't really care?"
(on camera): Fuller went on to say he hopes Afghanistan gets a future president who's more articulate, and he called his Afghan counterparts delusional about American aid. Within hours, Fuller was gone.
(voice-over): General John Allen, NATO's commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement calling the remarks "inappropriate," "unfortunate," "not indicative of America's relationship with the Afghan government."
Others don't see it that way.
FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: What this guy did was speak the truth about a problem that you've got to believe everybody in that command, from the commanding general on down, knows to be true.
TODD: Conservative analyst Frank Gaffney says there's rot in the highest reaches of the Afghan government, and American troops and their allies are losing their lives trying to prop it up. We couldn't immediately reach NATO commanders for a response to that, and we were not successful in reaching General Fuller.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this about Karzai's remarks --
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: That it was both taken out of context and misunderstood. TODD: Clinton says U.S. officials believe Karzai was simply talking about the long history of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Tony Shaffer, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, sides with General Fuller, thinks his firing was inappropriate. But in a broader context --
(on camera): Don't American commanders have to hold some of this stuff in when they're working with leaders on the front lines?
LT. COL. ANTHONY SHAFFER (RET.), CENTER FOR ADVANCED DEFENSE STUDIES: It's very clear that there are situations where a commander, a sitting commander in the field, as a general officer, has to be very careful regarding how he uses information relating to the relationships of the host nation.
TODD: Shaffer says General Fuller probably knew that what he said would get him relieved, but Shaffer says he believes Fuller saw a clear conflict between the guidance he was given and the reality he was facing. And at that point, he may not have cared about getting his third star -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And he had one other specific example of the Afghani government being delusional.
TODD: He told Politico that the Afghan government made requests to him for F-16 fighter jets and for tanks, even without the budget to use or maintain them. And General Fuller said a senior person in the Afghan government told him, "All I want to do is put them on a flatbed truck and drive them around in a parade."
I think with remarks like that, he pretty much was fed up with --
BLITZER: I wrote about this on my blog this week, and I recommended that General Allen, who is a very honorable U.S. military officer, do the right thing and say, you know what? I made a mistake, General Fuller deserves a second chance.
But that's just me.
Brian, thanks very much.
BLITZER: If you're a federal government employee, there's a chance you could lose your smartphone or other perks. Will it really save taxpayers any money? Stand by.
BLITZER: President Obama is taking new steps to slash what the White House says could be billions of dollars each year from the federal budget, and it could mean fewer perks on the job front for some government workers.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has got more for us on what's going on.
What is going on, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
President Obama signed this executive order this morning expanding a program that's already in existence. The goal, to cut certain areas of spending by federal agencies by 20 percent. That's the goal by 2013.
So what are those areas? Some of them would include travel. For instance, traveling for meetings. Instead, doing video conferencing. Or cell phones, laptops, tablets -- you know, for instance, iPads, being more stringent about handing those out. And also reducing the cost usage of federal vehicles.
And also swag, maybe promotional items. Maybe you would think clothing or coffee cups that have agency emblems on those. Cutting down on frivolous spending.
And as the president signed this executive order today, part of his "We Can't Wait" campaign of signing a number of executive orders recently, he took a jab at Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The joint committee on trying to reduce our deficits are engaged in a very difficult conversation right now, and we want to encourage them to complete their work. But in the meantime, we don't need to wait for Congress in order to do something about wasteful spending that's out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, the White House says this will save billions of dollars, but -- and Republicans very quick to point this out, Wolf -- that money wouldn't go towards reducing the deficit. It would be reinvested in other government programs.
And this effort follows a number of other executive orders the president has signed on a number of things from No Child Left Behind, to student loans. It's part of this strategy he has of bypassing Congress. Yes, the president has low approval ratings, but Congress' are much lower. And so he's been making this public spectacle of going around Congress, painting them as in his way -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very, very much.
Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: In the Republican race for president, is Newt Gingrich the tortoise and Mitt Romney the hare?
Rick writes, "A very good analogy. Gingrich is only being held back by the circumstances surrounding his resignation as Speaker in the past, as well as an occasional silly remark. He's won or tied for the lead in every debate so far, and his ideas are mostly sound. His knowledge and experience are unmatched by any other candidate."
"So, the question is, will the voters recognize that people can change, and will they embrace an older candidate who still outshines the younger competition?"
Rex in Oregon, "My old friend Aesop would be irritated with you, Jack. You overestimate the staying power, the speed, the intelligence and the talent of both Gingrich and Romney. My old friend Perry will be irritated with you, too, for referring to anybody but him as 'The Hair.'"
Brenda on Facebook, "Romney is only the hair because the media has made him that. He doesn't impress me one bit."
Gary in Arizona, "Jack, my boy, you've just hit a homerun. They'd make a very good ticket, you know. Romney's business background, Gingrich's political skills could very well clear the mess in Washington as president and VP respectively. I'm signing you up for another season."
Wilhelm writes, "I think Newt Gingrich has way too much baggage in his personal life to ever be the Republican nominee. In the end, Republicans will hold their nose and nominate Romney. The Republicans keep looking for Ronald Reagan, but all they find is Ronald McDonald."
Doug in Massachusetts, "No. There is no way the Republican establishment is going to let anyone get in the way of Romney losing the election."
And Terry in Virginia writes, "Jack, how dare you insult tortoises and hares by comparing them to politicians. Politicians are snakes, at best. My apologies to the snakes."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The term "pillow talk" could soon gain a whole new meaning.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're all by your lonesome, your significant other is miles away, brushing her teeth and pulling on PJs. But when she puts on this sensor ring, his pillow starts to glow.
He does the same, and the next thing you know, her pillow glows. And they go to sleep hearing each other's heartbeat, live.
Hey! Wake up!
(on camera): There is one minor catch. The product doesn't actually exist yet.
(voice-over): But it's due out in a few months -- pillowtalk, it's called, connecting long distance lovers. We've come a long way from Doris Day's 1959 movie "Pillow Talk."
DORIS DAY, ACTRESS AND SINGER (singing): Pillow talk --
MOOS: Twenty-four-year-old Scottish designer Joanne Montgomery dreamed up pillowtalk and got the funding for the prototype. That's her and we believe her boyfriend in the promo video.
The ring monitors the heartbeat and transmits the pulse via the Internet to a fabric panel that the other partner puts inside his or her pillow.
(on camera): OK. Maybe the idea of this pillow makes some of you want to gag, but there are plenty of people dying to get their hands and their heads on it.
(voice-over): On the company's Facebook page, Little Riot (ph), would-be customers gush praise for pillowtalk and beg for word on when it will go on sale. Many are military couples separated by deployments. One woman wrote, "Oftentimes we like to take naps together over Skype, but this would make things so much more fantastic."
Up until now, most of the quirky pillow action came from Japan, with lap pillows, and the boyfriend's arm pillow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a little disconcerting, though.
MOOS: And the body pillow that was featured in a threesome on the show "30 Rock."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "30 ROCK")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Randy (ph), this is James Franco and our friend, Kimi Coton (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP, "30 ROCK")
MOOS: But pillowtalk tells when your head hits the pillow, so you better come home. And will a live heartbeat make her even more of a heartthrob?
This guy thinks it will be awesome, because, "We live almost 1,000 miles apart and haven't met for real, even once."
(on camera): But what do you do if that heartbeat becomes irregular? Is that atrial fibrillation? Should I call 911?
(voice-over): It's good for heartache, as long as you still have a pulse.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.