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Rick Perry Campaign Does Damage Control; Joe Paterno Fired; A Legal Nightmare for Penn State; What Causes a Brain Freeze?; How Can Penn State Restore Its Reputation?; What Did Nixon Tell The Grand Jury?

Aired November 10, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Rick Perry's campaign in full damage control mode, scrambling to contain fallout from the candidate's cringe-inducing stumble in the latest Republican presidential debate. This hour, the anatomy of a brain freeze.

Also, the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University exploding with a flurry of dramatic developments, including the firing of college football's winningest coach.

And Pentagon officials are speaking out for the first time about some shocking revelations that some cremated remains of American war dead were simply dumped in landfills.

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

It may have been the most awkward 53 seconds of the presidential campaign so far and it's certainly the most widely seen. Texas Governor Rick Perry's brain freeze during last night's Republican presidential debate was the most viewed video on YouTube in the United States earlier today.

If you haven't seen it, you're about to as we look ahead to what happens to Rick Perry's campaign now.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the scene of Perry's monumental stumble.

Rick (sic), how does he recover from this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after last night's debate and Rick Perry's meltdown in Michigan, the candidate and his campaign seem to have a new strategy. Get the voters to laugh with him and not at him.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Commerce, Education and the -- what's the third one there? Let's see...


ACOSTA (voice-over): It could be gone in 53 seconds for Rick Perry. The time it took the Texas governor to butcher his own talking point on which three departments of the government he would cut was a slow motion brain wreck.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: But you can't name the third one?

PERRY: The third agency of government I would -- I would do away with, the Education, the...



PERRY: Commerce. And let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry.


PERRY: Oops.

ACOSTA: As soon as the debate was over, Perry knew he was in trouble. He marched right into the post-debate spin room to put out the flames.

PERRY: Yes, I stepped in it, man. Yes, it was embarrassing. Of course, it was.

ACOSTA: But rival strategists and GOP operatives in the room were already writing Perry's obituary, comparing it to Howard Dean's infamous campaign-ending scream of 2004, ranking the debate performance among the very worst in TV history.


Right there with Admiral James Stockdale in 1992 and Dan Quayle in '88.


LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: This was Chernobyl style meltdown. This wasn't a tiny little gaffe. This will live forever in the reel of debate moments that changed politics.

ACOSTA: Perry tried to laugh off the gaffe, asking on his Web site, which department do you want to forget about the most? And he had a few one-liners ready to go for the morning shows.

PERRY: Look, we have got a debater in chief right now and you have got to ask, how's that working out for America?

ACOSTA: But on the online prediction Web site Intrade, Perry's odds of him winning the GOP nomination plummeted 50 percent. Hundreds of thousands of people had watched the meltdown on YouTube and on Twitter the hashtag oops was dubbed the new fail.

Perry's flub also gave cover to Herman Cain. still reeling from allegations of sexual harassment, Cain had a gaffe of his own at the debate when he called former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Princess Nancy.

And it was a new opening for other contenders who are vying to become the Tea Party alternative to Mitt Romney.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm hopeful that people will see that we are the alternative to as -- a consistent conservative.


ACOSTA: The Perry campaign is still making light of what happened last night.

Later tonight, the Texas governor is scheduled to appear on "The Late Show With David Letterman" to deliver the top 10 list. Wolf, you can bet the campaign war chest that that top 10 list will be on a teleprompter.

BLITZER: And he was on all of the morning shows this morning, did a round-robin of interviews. He's clearly a lot better in a lot of these interviews than he is in the formal debate setting. Do his aides explain why?

ACOSTA: You know, this all goes back to Rick Perry's days in Texas, Wolf.

I can tell you from when I spent some time in Austin a couple of months ago, right before he jumped into this race, that members of the Texas press were saying, keep in mind, he doesn't do many media availabilities. When we were there, he hadn't done one in six weeks.

And he didn't even debate his Democratic opponent in the last gubernatorial campaign. Rick Perry tends to shy away from these debates. He tries to avoid these debates and just in the last couple of weeks, he was floating the idea of not doing any more debates. That probably would have been a good approach for him to take at that point, Wolf. This was clearly a disaster last night.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. We will see how he recovers, if he can recover.

Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

Rick Perry's stumble may be stealing the headlines, but the Republican presidential hopefuls did talk extensively again economic issues in last night's debate. And on the issue of the European debt crisis, they agreed the United States needs to stay out of it.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Focus on the domestic economy or we will fail, so, yes, focus on the domestic economy first. There's not a lot that the United States can directly do for Italy right now, because they have -- they're really way beyond the point of return that we -- we as the United States can save them. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Europe is able to take care of their own problems. We don't want to step in and try and bail out their banks and bail out their governments.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, you have to let it liquidate.


BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Erin Burnett, the host of "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," which airs on CNN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Erin, it was pretty much of a consensus. You were listening very carefully to that debate last night. Pretty much of a consensus, they don't want the U.S. involved in Italy, or Greece, or Portugal or Spain or any of those countries when it comes to spending U.S. taxpayer dollars.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And politically, Wolf, there is no other answer, right? You have to have a consensus.

It's a very anti-bailout environment out there. Jim Cramer, though, my former colleague who was asking the question, obviously felt differently than the candidates. And I have to say, when you just look at it, Europe just matters too much to the United States and that's a big part of the problem.

We really can't just not help Europe. When you look at our exports, 20 percent of our exports go to Europe and right now our Federal Reserve is already assisting Europe to make sure that their banks function. Our banks have huge exposure to Europe.

It would be nice if it didn't matter, but it does matter to the United States and we will help them and we are helping them and hoping it doesn't get to a point where anything further is required.

BLITZER: One of the economic writers for "The Washington Post" Ezra Klein, he wrote today a strong piece today in which he said that Italy may be too big to fail, but it's also in too much trouble right now to succeed. What's going to happen? This is the seventh largest economy in the world.

BURNETT: It is. It's a huge economy and it's too big to bail out, as we were talking about last night, but you know, Wolf, today, Italy, there was a little bit of calm in Italy. There was a little bit of pullback from the precipice.

Look, Italy has a lot of problems. We talked about it last night in our show, 42 days of paid vacation. That's more than eight weeks. It is the most this Europe. But when you look at Italy's unemployment, just over 8 percent, France is at 9.9 percent. When you look at a lot of the metrics of the Italian economy, it's actually a pretty solid economy, it's a robust economy and a significant one in many ways and one that is not on the verge of failure.

It's really about the confidence and that's what it comes down to and if you have confidence and it can function and you can deal with the reforms, you don't need a bailout. A bailout comes when you have a crisis in confidence and people stop lending.

BLITZER: Erin's going to have a lot more on this later tonight 7:00 Eastern on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." Erin, thanks very much.

BURNETT: Thank you.

BLITZER: Other important news today involving Penn State. The child sex abuse scandal rocking Penn State exploding in the last 24 hours with the Board of Trustees firing the legendary football coach Joe Paterno and the university's president. And that sparked a night of rioting. Demonstrations by thousands of students.

CNN's Jason Carroll has been at Penn State now for days, ever since this scandal unfolded.

Jason, set the scene for us. What's the very latest?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, things looking much different out here today, stark contrast to what was seen out here last night. Things very calm, but I have to say, even doing these reports out here, every once in a while, you will get a student who walks by and gives you the finger or shouts an obscenity.

Also, today, Wolf, was the first time we have heard from the new coach, the new interim coach here, Tom Bradley. He spoke with mixed emotions at a press conference, also said that he has no reservations about what he has to do and he talked about the challenges that lie ahead.


TOM BRADLEY, PENN STATE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH: We're obviously in a very unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in. And I just -- I have got to find a way to restore the confidence and to start a healing process with everybody and I'm going to try to go about it. As I said earlier, it's with very mixed emotion and a heavy heart that this has occurred, that I'm going through this.


CARROLL: You know, you talk -- he talks about that heavy heart.

And I think there are a lot of heavy hearts here, Wolf, at Penn State, especially after witnessing what took place out here last night. The thousands of students that flooded into the streets, at one point flipping a news van, breaking a window, throwing a rock at one of our trucks.

Spoke to some students out there last night in the heat of all as it was going down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going after the wrong guy and the justice system needs to take its course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're pretty much making a stand because we're in support of our school, and we're in support of JoePa. We think it's absolutely ridiculous that he got fired over this sort of situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think some people are making the mistake of putting JoePa in front of the actual situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tears, actually, the second -- I wiped them off now, but the second I heard it, tears were in my eyes. He's done so much for our university.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to get JoePa for our last home game. He's retiring this season. Let him play his last game. It's that simple. Everyone here is for that right now. And that's -- we all believe it. If you guys want to hear something right now, we are...

CROWD: Penn State!


CROWD: Penn State!


CROWD: Penn State!


CROWD: You're welcome!


CARROLL: For his part, Joe Paterno called for calm and he called for everyone to respect the university, but, Wolf, last night, that just simply did not happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I take it, Jason, a lot of the students though are also upset because they feel not enough attention has been put on Jerry Sandusky. He was the coach implicated, charged with the sexual abuse of these boys. What's next in the legal part of this case?

CARROLL: Well, he's going to have another preliminary hearing, Wolf. That's going to be on December 7. As you know, he's already out on $100,000 bail.

And a source close to the investigation has told me, as you know, he's already charged with sexually assaulting eight boys, but a source close to the investigation tells me that a tip line has received more than a dozen calls at this point from people saying they, too, were sexually assaulted by Sandusky, so this investigation far from over -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Jason Carroll on the scene at Penn State, thank you. So, will the former head coach, Joe Paterno, face criminal charges and what about a flood of civil lawsuits against Penn State? Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, he is standing by live. We will go in- depth.

And a Major League Baseball catcher kidnapped. We're getting new information.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CAFFERTY FILE: Penn State its having its own Catholic Church moment. The university has been rocked to its core by a child sex abuse scandal, a scandal that escalated because those in power either looked the other way or helped cover up what was going on in order to protect one of their own and their precious football program which generates millions of dollars for the school every year.

The legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, was told in 2002 that his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky raped a young boy in a shower at the football complex. Paterno told his boss, but not the police.

According to grand jury testimony, Sandusky allegedly fondled and had oral and anal sex with boys for at least 15 years -- 15 years. Penn State officials could have stopped it years ago nine years ago. The university's board is cleaning house as well, they should. They fired Paterno and the school's president, Graham Spanier.

Paterno had wanted to coach the team's last home game of the season this Saturday and then resign after the football season ended. You have to give credit to the Penn State board. They said you're not resigning, you're not coaching, you're not retiring -- you're fired. Get out.

As for the hundreds of Penn State students who rioted on campus last night, they ought to be kicked out of school. How dare they act like this because they like the football coach? These punks are intellectually equipped to attend an institution of higher learning. How would they feel if it was their little brother who had been raped? Their behavior is disgusting.

And it's a testament to the outside role sports plays in the American society. Granted, this is a sad way for the winningest coach in college football to end a storied career, but it didn't have to end this way. Joe Paterno himself could have prevented it by applying the same life lessons he preached to his players for 46 years to himself.

Here's the question: How can Penn State University restore its reputation? Go to, post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Strong stuff, Jack, but well-said indeed.

Let's go in-depth of the legal issues of the Penn State scandal with our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, Penn State's board of trustees, they fired Joe Paterno. They fired Graham Spanier, the university president. But we're relatively early, I take it, in the legal process, is that right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Wolf. We are much closer to the beginning than to the end. As far as I'm aware, there hasn't been a single civil case filed by any of the victims against Penn State -- the university, against any of the officials.

I mean, there is going to be a flood of litigation. Plaintiff lawyers will be circling everywhere and, frankly, they should be, because these kids who were abused, particularly those who were abused after Penn State had notice that they had apparently a child molester roaming the grounds, they really have a claim against the university and you can be sure they'll be lining up to file them.

BLITZER: Civil lawsuits are one thing, but criminal charges are another.

Here's the question: Do you think Joe Paterno and/or Graham Spanier, the ousted university president, either one of them potentially could face criminal charges?

TOOBIN: Well, when the attorney general of Pennsylvania announced the initial charges against Sandusky, the alleged perpetrator, and the two officials who have accused of being part of the cover-up, she said that Paterno would not be facing charges based on the evidence available to her at that point. But you can be sure the investigation is going on.

Just, I'm going to give you one example. You just heard Jack mention that the one thing we know is that Paterno had notice of the -- this horrible incident in the shower where a child was sexually assaulted in 2002. That's the only reference in the grand jury report to notice.

But is it really plausible that Joe Paterno, who was the head of this department, who was very close friends with the alleged perpetrator, is that the only time he got notice? You can be sure that the investigators are going to be pursuing it.

So, on the issue of whether Paterno knew more and should have reported sooner, I expect that the investigation will continue, and it's only going to get more involved and more (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Who's responsibility is it to report an incident like this to the police as opposed to just reporting it to other school officials?

TOOBIN: Right. Well, that's really at the heart of one part of the investigation. The two officials, the former vice president and the former athletic director, those two are charged with violating the statute you're referring to.

And I've read the statute. Frankly, it's a little confusing to me. It suggests that anyone who is sort of in a final decision making place of authority, that's the person who's obliged to report. But frankly, it seems to me that could be Joe Paterno as well, even though he was not charged.

So, I think again, that's going to take more investigation, more legal analysis by the prosecutors to decide how that statute applies, but we don't know all the facts. And I'm sure the prosecutors don't know all the facts yet. As Jason Carroll reported a couple of minutes ago, they are getting more alleged victims reporting to them all the time. They're going to have to do investigations. There's a lot that everyone doesn't know.

BLITZER: For those two university officials, those high-ranking officials who were charged, out on $75,000 bail each. They were charged among other things with lying with perjury, lying to the grand jury investigation, which is obviously a serious charge, but not necessarily a direct charged involve in knowing, or for example or participating in some sort of criminal behavior, trying to cover up.

TOOBIN: Well, they are charged with two different kinds of crimes. They are charged with perjury, which as you say is a very simple crime to define. It's just lying in the grand jury. And Paterno, according to the attorney general, did not lie in the grand jury. As far as she understood, told the truth.

The crime that they are charged with, the substance of crime is failure to report crime and that's where Paterno, if he has any criminal vulnerability, I think that's where he may be vulnerable on the issue of: was his decision simply to report what he heard to the athletic director, did that fulfill his legal responsibility under the statute?

So far, the attorney general says yes, my reading of the statute, it's a little more ambiguous.

BLITZER: It's a very early as you say in this whole legal process. Jeffrey, thanks very much.

TOOBIN: You know, there are all sorts of rumors flying about this investigation expanding. It is really going to be an ugly, ugly scenario that Penn State's going to have to deal with probably for several more years.

BLITZER: Yes. The federal government could get involved in the investigation as well.

TOOBIN: The federal Department of Education is one of the many investigations going on and, of course, we have not yet heard how these poor kids are doing. I mean, that's ultimately what we care about the most.

BLITZER: Certainly, absolutely right. Jeffrey, thanks very much.

Michele Bachmann hoped to make a splash with a major foreign policy speech, but look at this.


BLITZER: Unfortunately, protesters on the USS Yorktown had a different plan. Stand by, we'll explain.

And Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president back in 2008. You're going to hear what he now has to say about the commander-in- chief.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour:

We call them heroes, casualties of war, but the U.S. military treated their remains like garbage. Stand by.

Also, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need billions and billions of taxpayer dollars simply to stay afloat. So, here's the question. Why are they setting aside millions of dollars for their executives' bonuses? Those executives already make significant salaries.

And some debates are like watching paint dry, but not this year for the Republican Party. Stand by.



He crossed party lines to back up Barack Obama. So, how does the former secretary of state, General Colin Powell, feel about the critics who say the president hasn't been tough enough?

He talked candidly about that and much more with CNN's Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: The argument that people have with Barack Obama, who you supported, is that he hasn't fought back against the modern weapon, which is multimedia, the Internet, all these things. He hasn't beaten his chest and behaved like you would in the battlefield.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that's a fair criticism of the president. He is somebody who was used to getting people to compromise and seeing if we could not quietly find a way in almost a lawyerly manner. But he still has that spark, he still has that enthusiasm about the country and about his job that got him elected in the first place.


BLITZER: Powell also speaks rather bluntly about polarization here in Washington. The death of Bin Laden and much more. You can see Piers' entire interview of General Colin Powell later tonight, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Let's get to our strategy session right now. Lots to discuss.

Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala, along with Republican strategist Rich Galen.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

I'll play a little bit of the clip that I guess "brain freeze" -- as a lot of people are calling it -- from last night --

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The second word, but I got --

BLITZER: -- and then we'll discuss.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will tell you, it's three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the -- what's the third one there -- let's see.

So Commerce, Education and -- the --

JOHN HARWOOD, MODERATOR: But you can't -- but you can't name the third one?

PERRY: The third agency of government.


PERRY: I would do away with the Education, the Commerce and -- let's see -- I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

Obviously, I stepped in, but again, I go -- I have my moment of humor with it and then a press on and understand that there are a lot more serious things facing this country than whether or not I can remember the Department of Energy at an inappropriate time.


BLITZER: I got to give him a little credit. He went on all the morning talk shows, all the morning news shows this morning. He's going to be on "Letterman" tonight. He's not backing down. He's trying to fix this.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. I know. I'm trying to say something other than what I'm thinking, which is he's an idiot. I said that before. He's started -- when he's started running, he's not qualified to be president. That stage had a lot of --

BLITZER: He never lost an election in your home state of Texas.

BEGALA: No, he hasn't.

BLITZER: He's the governor for 10 years. BEGALA: That's right. And he was the candidate for all the people who thought George W. Bush was too cerebral for them. He's not real political talent, but not the kind of political talent that can match against the other people he was on that stage with. He's got real political talent, but not the kind of political talent, that can match up with against the other people he was on that stage with.

BLITZER: The economy in the state of Texas.

BEGALA: He doesn't run a state economy except that which he can-


BEGALA: He embarrassed himself. He's a global joke. They're laughing probably on the international space station right now. He just needs to go away. I'm so embarrassed. I am.

BLITZER: When you were watching it last night, I assume you were watching the debate. I know how I reacted. I sort of jumped out my couch and said, oh, my God. How did you react?

GALEN: I hit my cat. She was horrified, too. No, there's nothing you could Do. What? Make this stop.

BLIZTER: I though he was joking initially. He was going to do some sort of joke.

GALEN: I'm not going to say that he's dumb or anything. I mean, this has happened to all of us. But we do know, that from a tactical standpoint, every one of these debates has been like the NCAA men's basketball team, either he survived or he's out. And this one, was another--this was the fifth debate I've had.

BLIZTER: Can he come back out of this?

GALEN: I don't see how. I just don't see how. Because at some point, you've got to show that you can think under pressure which is really what these things demonstrate.

BEGALA: It advances the master narrative we already had no Perry. Which is that he's dumb. Remember Barack Obama in one of the debates in08' said he'd been to all 53 states. And we all laughed.


BEGALA: And we all laughed. But nobody really worried That Senator Obama was not smart. When he said to Joe the plumber, we're going to spread the wealth around, that hurt him a lot more because people were worried he was too liberal.

The narrative on Perry is that he's too dumb. And so when he does something dumb, it really hurts him more than it would have hurt Romney or Santorum or Gingrich or Bachman or-a lot of smart people on that stage. Governor Hunstman. I mean all of the--most of the rest of them. All of them are really bright people. But Perry not so much.

GALEN: But again, this is strategy. This is "Situation Room". For the strategy was he had -- if he dad done well in this debate, then he could have said, OK, I showed you I could do a debate, I don't have to do anymore. I'll do two. I'm not going to do 18. But now-

BLITZER: And the irony is, that if he would have done well, he could have maybe picked up some points because Herman Cain's got his own issues right now. Now that issue, the sexual harassment allegation, Maria Bartiromo she raised it. I want to play this little clip from the debate again last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARIA BARTIROMO CNBC CORRESPONDENT: In recent days, we have learned that four different women have accused you of inappropriate behavior. Here, we're focusing on character and judgment. You've been a CEO. You know that shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues. Why should the American people hire a president if they feel they are character issues?

HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion, based on unfounded accusations.


BLIZTER: All right. Then there was wild applause for him. He had a very friendly crowd there. How did he handle it?

BEGALA: I think actually very well. Because you don't even want to let them see you sweat. He didn't overreact. Didn't freak out. One minor -- I thought he said at least, for every woman who claims I did something inappropriate, there's thousands of others who claim I didn't. That's like Willie Sutton, saying for every bank I robbed there's thousands I didn't. But in the main, he didn't make any news on it. He certainly seemed calm and in command.

GALEN: More news about calling Nancy Pelosi princess.

BEGALA: He walked that back right away too .

GALEN: But here's the thing about Cain. The problem with Herman Cain. This is a huge problem, I'm not trying to down play it. But the problem is, he just doesn't know enough to be president of the United States. And he's not going to learn it in the next 60 days. And that will ultimately be the reason.

BLIZTER: Mitt Romney had a chance to really go after him, but he passed by saying this.


MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions. He just did. The people in this room and across the country can make their own assessment. I'm not-- (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Yes, I think he did another excellent debate performance. Mitt Romney. Don't you think?

GALEN: Yes without question. The separation just keeps growing and growing between the others including Newt and Mitt Romney, who I think now is if he's going to be the nominee, the bidding now in downtown Washington is does he win it before or after Florida.

BEGALA: Just outstanding the way he handled that. Really impressive. Because I'm sure he knows this. To my knowledge, had nothing to do with this story coming out, right? But if he comments on it, there would be some voters unfairly who would think, oh he must have been one of the people pushing it. So he didn't touch it at all. Handled it very graciously. Outstanding job.

BEGALA: And just generally speaking from a tactical standpoint. You don't want your candidate in a story with the words sexual harassment. No matter what.

BLITZER: He was smart on that. By the way. I write about the debates. I call it the year of the debate on my blog. My "Situation Room" blog page if you want to check it out. I know you do.


Thanks very much.

Rick Perry's forgetfulness in last night's debate certainly has happened to all of us at one point or another.


RICK PERRY, PRESIDNETIAL CANDIDATE: The -- what's the third one there? Let's see.


BLITZER: So, here's something we should consider. What happens inside the brain that causes that to happen? We're going to explore the anatomy of a brain freeze. Lisa Sylvester has been speaking with neurologists on this.

Also, the search for a missing major league baseball player kidnapped in Venezuela.


BLIZTER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the "Situation Room", right now. Including what we're learning about the Washington Nationals catcher. What's going on?

LISA SLYVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Wolf. Well Venezuelan police are searching now for two men suspected of kidnapping Washington Nationals catcher, Wilson Ramos. The 24 year old was abducted from his family's home last night. He was back in his native country playing winter ball after his rookie season with the Nationals. His home run total this year was a team record for a catcher.

And rescue teams are working through the night to save survivors buried in the rubble left by a strong earthquake in Turkey. The government says more than 100 people were buried under debris after the magnitude 5.7 earthquake. At least seven people were killed. The tremor struck the same region where another earthquake killed more than 500 people less than three weeks ago. And violence in Syria today claimed the lives of at least 38 people, including six children. According to pro democracy activists, 16 of these fatalities came in the restive city of Homs. This video is said to have been taken in Homs on Wednesday, but CNN can't confirm its authenticity because Syria has banned reporters from the country. Amnesty international says 100 people have been killed since the government agreed to a peace plan. And news international chief James Murdoch bristled as a lawmaker compared him to a mafia boss today. It happened during a hearing in Briston's parliament on the phone hacking scandal. Murdoch told a special committee that former executives at the News of the World tabloid misled them about the scandal. The controversy has threatened Murdoch's standing in the company that was founded by his father. Rupert Murdoch. Wolf--

BLITZER: Lots of news today as usual. Thanks very much Lisa for that.

So, what happened to Rick Perry in last night's presidential debate? We've all been there. Here's the question. What causes the brain sometimes to freeze up like that? We'll ask the experts.


BLITZER: You could certainly call it an oops moment. Rick Perry forgetting one of the three government departments he would close if he were president of the United States. It happens to all of us, just not necessarily during a presidential debate. Lisa Sylvester is joining us now with more on the science behind what a lot of people call a brain freeze. And I know you've been speaking with neurologists among others.

SYLVESTER: Yes this is really fascinating Wolf. So just to set the stage here. It was high pressure on Rick Perry to do well in the debate. It's live television. It's a grueling campaign schedule, and the candidates were all probably a little bit sleep deprived and that is the perfect combination that can lead to momentary memory lapse. Something that has happened to all of us.


SYLVESTER (voice over): Political gaffes are nothing new. Mis- statements.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've now been in 57 states. I think one left to go.

SYLVESTER: Botched quotes.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you.

SLYVESTER: And the brain freeze.


SLYVESTER: Last night, Rick Perry had a colossal cringe-worthy moment. Three agencies would be gone if he's elected president. Commerce, education and --


GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The third agency of government I would do away with, education, the -- commerce. And let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's right. In a nationally televised debate, Perry forgot a corner stone of his platform, eliminating the Department of Energy.

PERRY: Yes, I stepped in it, man. Yeah, it was embarrassing. Of course, it was.

SYLVESTER: Blanking on something has happened to all of us. (Inaudible), a Maryland neurologist, memory impairment can be affected by a number of issues, among them sleep deprivation, stress, certain medications and alcohol. But when is a brain freeze indicative of a bigger problem?

DR. NIRJAL NIKHAR, NEUROLOGIST: So if someone says I just couldn't remember Bob's name and I had seen him just three months ago, that's one thing. But if they're having difficulty remembering the neighbor's name, Bob's name and it's frequent then that often suggests some underlying problems.

SYLVESTER: Dr. Nikhar says Perry's case appears to be a classic example of cramming for an exam and then failing to process and recall the information come test time. But Perry is going to be expected to perform on the world stage if he's elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've all had moments especially us in the TV business. I can tell you in the last three days, I've had these moments. Sometimes, the viewers know about it, sometimes they don't.

But anybody that goes out there and is all holier than that one and says I can't believe that happened to him, well, flat out, they're lying. He had a moment.

The biggest problem was that he could not name the agency. The biggest problem is that he waited a whole minute and then at the very end, he said oops, not very presidential.

SYLVESTER: Another prominent Republican found a way to remember all those facts, dates and other data using her Palm as a crib sheet.


SYLVESTER: Well, memory loss is often associated with ageing. Dr. Nikhar says, you know, you can think of it this way. You can go up a flight of stairs a lot faster when you're 16 years old than when you can at you're 65. Well, in the same way the body slows down, so does your memory with ageing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, makes a good point. Thanks very much. Good report.

All right, Jack Cafferty is coming up next with the "Cafferty File" and coming up in our next hour, some shocking revelations that some cremated remains of American troops were simply dumped in landfills. Now we're hearing from Pentagon officials for the first time.


BLITZER: Jack's back with the "Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour, Wolf, is how can Penn State University restore its reputation? We have lot of very good e- mails. Too bad I can't read more than just a few.

Eve in Texas, "Thank God the board fired the ones at the top. Having been a professor for decades, I've seen universities conceal crimes committed against students and faculty, and castigate those who tried to stop it. It's typically the ones at the bottom who wind up being punished.

I applaud the board because against all odds they're punishing the ones who could have saved these children. That will restore their reputation quicker than the cowardly institutions who have protected the perpetrator. Take that, Catholic leaders."

Dennis in Florida, "Penn State doesn't have to restore its reputation. There are 30,000 people on the PSU campus, probably hundreds of thousands alive that have been associated with the universities.

The actions of small groups of people can cause a media sensation, but realistically they do not destroy the reputation of the university.

Do you believe any degree at any level earned by a PSU graduate has less value today than it did a month ago or that the accomplishments of those former students are diminished by the actions of a few morally corrupt people? Yes, I do."

Cameron in Dayton, Ohio, "I have admired Joe Paterno my entire life, but firing him was the right decision. Every person on the football staff should be fired immediately. Penn State's football program should be suspended immediately. They should not play on Saturday or be allowed to go to a bowl game or play at all next year. Give the players a year of eligibility back and ban the coaches from Division I jobs. Programs have been shut down for far, far less egregious crimes than raping and pimping preteen boys and then covering it up. I'm absolutely sickened by the whole thing."

John writes of Facebook, "Back in the olden days, schools were about learning. There was a place for sports, but academics came first. It seems like almost all schools have forgotten their primary function. When schools give more scholarships to athletes than to scholars then you begin to realize where the priorities are."

Fred writes, "Southern Methodist University lost its entire football program due to giving kids gifts to play ball in the harshest sanctions ever levied against the football program. Penn State covered up the rape and molestation in house of numerous boys.

If the NCAA has any dignity, they ought to cancel the PSU season, forfeit all games and be banned from playing in any football division for 15 years. That's the same amount of time it took them to do anything."

And Kirk writes, "It won't take much. People's memories only last until the start of the next football season."

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

BLITZER: Powerful story indeed. All right, Jack, thank you.

Here's a question. How can a company justify taking billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to stay in business then go ahead and simply pay out millions of dollars to executives in charge who are already making very, very decent salaries? Get the answer, you have to go ask the executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We have new information.

Also, historians have eagerly awaited the release of transcripts of Richard M. Nixon's testimony before a grand jury in 1975. Well today, it happened. We're going to tell you what they revealed.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shot." In China, a rescuer adjusts his helmet during an emergency mission to save 23 workers trapped underground during a mine blast. In India, Hindu priests performed prayer rituals at the festival on one of the rivers there.

And in Colorado, a soldier appears for U.S. troops returning from Iraq at a welcome home ceremony. In Argentina, look at this, two participants in the Miss Pole Dance Argentina contest show off their moves. "Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world. For decades, historians have been itching to learn what Richard Nixon told a grand jury after resigning as president. Today, they got their wish. CNN's Athena Jones looks at what was released.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Years after his fall from grace, it's Richard Nixon in his own words.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I got dressed and at approximately 4:35, we left the White House and drove to the Lincoln Memorial.

JONES: New transcripts and audio recording released by the National Archives and the Nixon Library provided glimpse into the mind of the nation's 37th president.

NIXON: I have never seen the Secret Service quite so petrified with apprehension.

JONES: As he reminisces about an impromptu, predawn meeting with anti-war protesters at the Lincoln Memorial. Just five days after members of the Ohio National Guard killed demonstrators at Kent State University.

NIXON: A few small groups of students had begun to congregate in the Rotunda of the Memorial. I walk over to a group of them, walked up to them and shook hands. They were not unfriendly.

JONES: He said he tried to explain to the students why the U.S. had invaded Cambodia, expanding the unpopular Vietnam War.

NIXON: Our goal was not to get into Cambodia by what we were doing, but to get out of Vietnam.

JONES: Then there's the secret grand jury testimony. In which a testy Nixon is pressed repeatedly about the 18 and a half minute gap in an audiotape of his conversation with Chief Staff H.R. Holdeman about the Watergate break-in.

Nixon said I have never heard this conversation that you have alluded to, this so-called 18 and a half minute gap. When asked how that part of the tape was lost, he said.

If you're interested in my view as to what happened, it is very simple. It is that it was an accident. I don't know how it happened. And throughout the testimony, Nixon denied ordering the IRS to go after Democrats in the months before the 1972 election.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: I'm not a lawyer, but I think lawyers and those who want to be lawyers, will recognize in the president's statements, a very intelligence lawyer who is not offering anything beyond what he knows or thinks he knows the prosecution. There's very little information that is offered.

JONES: Nixon appeared before the grand jury in June, 1975. Ten months after he resigned in a dramatic television address from the oval office.

NIXON: I have never been a quitter.


JONES: Now in making the decision to release the former president's grand jury testimony. The federal judge in the case said that doing so would enhance the historical record, foster further discussion and improve the public's understanding of a significant historical event.

And so historians and legal scholars are going to be pouring through this. The ones who sued for the release of these transcripts will certainly be pleased today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena, thank you.