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GOP Debates as Must-See TV; The Immigration Kingmaker; Bogus Military Parts Threaten U.S. Security; Safety Concerns at "Occupy" Protest Site; Polls Show Gingrich Benefits From Cain's Scandals

Aired November 12, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A revealing new snapshot of Republican race for the White House as Rick Perry tries to recover from his cringe- inducing stumble.

Also, a decorated U.S. Army general relieved of duty after criticizing the Afghan president. But what he said was true.

Plus, counterfeit Chinese electronic parts discovered deep inside some of the U.S. military's most sensitive equipment.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A week of twists and turns in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, with two of the candidates in a very hot spotlight. Herman Cain facing accusations of sexual harassment and Rick Perry stumbling badly in the latest GOP debate, and now struggling to recover.

CNN's Jim Acosta is watching all of this unfold, as he always does.

So what's going on right now? Because there is certainly a lot at play.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It is safe to say that the race for the GOP nomination is changing. While, Mitt Romney is still on top, there is a new un-Romney and his name is Newt Gingrich. Take a look at some new polls that have come out.

One from McClatchy-Marist, and from CBS. First the CBS-no, let's look at the McClatchy-Marist poll first. Mitt Romney there on top, 23 percent and then Newt Gingrich at 19 percent. He has moved into that un-Romney position. He is sharing it right now with Herman Cain who has slid just a bit. And then you see Ron Paul and Rick Perry.

This poll, we should note, Wolf, is interesting in that it was taken in part after the GOP debate on Wednesday night when Rick Perry had that big oops moment. So that potentially has hurt him in this race for the GOP nomination.

Now to the CBS poll, which also confirms Newt Gingrich in a near front-runner status. He is within the margin of error. Herman Cain, there at 18 percent. Mitt Romney at 15 percent. Not good news for Mitt Romney there. But Newt Gingrich right there at 15 percent. So what is old is Newt in the race for the GOP nomination. He has been buoyed by these debate performances in the last few debates, where you have seen him go after the media. Conservatives love that kind of red meat, Wolf.

BLITZER: He's been slow but steady on the increase. And Newt Gingrich, who would have thought? But he is clearly moving up. Rick Perry's been massively involved in what we call damage control.

ACOSTA: He has been in damage control mode ever since that big oops moment at the Republican debate on Wednesday night. And as you saw, Wolf, he marched right into the spin room after the debate and tried to contain that damage. And has since been trying to make light of that debate performance, having fun with it on the morning talk shows and then delivering the top ten list on the "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN". Let's take a look.


RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually, there were three reasons I messed up last night. One was the nerves.


PERRY: And two is the headache. And three -- um -- um -- oops.

LETTERMAN: That's all right. Don't worry about it.


ACOSTA: And these jokes obviously write themselves, Wolf. And we can probably note from that performance there he was using a teleprompter. So that oops there, I think, was scripted.

But one person who is cutting him some slack is his wife, Anita Perry. She has been out on the campaign trail. She was down in Jacksonville, Florida, after the debate performance. Here's what she had to say about her husband's oops.


ANITA PERRY, WIFE OF GOP CANDIDATE: Everybody forgets something every now and then. But he remembered our anniversary last week.


ACOSTA: So there you go, support from Anita Perry. And Rick Perry said it, himself, he stepped in it, at this debate. The question for Rick Perry now, Wolf, is whether he can step out of it. Telling jokes, having fun with it in the short term, that works for a while. You can't do it from eight weeks, between now and Iowa.

BLITZER: Quickly. You were there in Michigan at the debate. I assume you were watching with a whole group of journalists. What was the reaction during that oops moment?

ACOSTA: I never witnessed anything like it, Wolf. We were all in the press file which shared the same space with the spin room outside the debate hall. I have never heard gasps coming from the press corps the way I heard it on Wednesday night, outside of that debate hall. It was tangible. Everybody felt something dramatic had just happened in the race for the GOP nomination. And obviously, there was some feelings that perhaps this was it for Rick Perry.

BLITZER: I was home, sitting on my couch. I jumped off my couch. I couldn't believe it.

ACOSTA: We almost all fell out of our chairs.

BLITZER: One of those moments we'll never forget.

ACOSTA: Right.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much for that, Jim Acosta.

Herman Cain keeps raking in campaign cash while controversy swirls around his presidential campaign. The Republican reports raising more than $9 million since October 1st. About $2.5 million of it since allegations of sexual harassment surfaced less than two weeks ago. Cain was asked about the accusations during this week's debate in Michigan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On character and on judgment. You've been a CEO.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know that shareholders are reluctant to hide a CEO where there are character issues. Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?

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


BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, who is looking at all of this unfold. There is the CBS poll, Gloria, Republicans only in the poll.

Allegations that Cain make you: 30 percent said less likely to vote for Cain; 61 percent said no difference; 4 percent more likely to vote for Herman Cain. I wonder who the 4 percent are. But that's another matter.


BLITZER: But, you know what? He's still out there. He's still doing well raising a lot of money.

BORGER: Yeah. He is raising a lot of money. I think what we can say is that the people who support Herman Cain fervently, still fervently support him. When you see that 30 percent, among Republicans, are less likely to vote for him, you have to believe that a lot of those people are women. A lot of those people believe it goes to his question of leadership and how he has handled this. I think, in the long term, you will see that this has been a real problem for him and could knock him out of that top slot.

BLITZER: And that same CBS poll, it looks like women are leaving his campaign a bit back, in October 28 percent who supported Cain, now down to 15 percent.

BORGER: Right. And that's not surprising. He wasn't doing very well with women to begin with. I should say, Wolf, that in the Republican primary electorate, women are very important voters. It's one constituency you don't want to lose. My guess is those women are going to be going to -- if they don't like Mitt Romney, say, they're going to end up with Newt Gingrich. Because he seems like a reasonable force in all of these debates recently. I bet that's who's benefiting from Cain's problems.

BLITZER: Certainly looks like Newt Gingrich is gaining from Cain's problems and Perry's problems, to put it mildly.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: You wrote a terrific column at this week.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Among other things, you wrote this about Herman Cain. "If he wants to get this behind him, how about getting the facts out? Give the Restaurant Association's board permission to release the details of their investigation, which occurred way back in 1999."

BORGER: Right. He has come out publicly, as you know, Wolf. He said their own internal investigation showed that charges were baseless. If that is indeed the case, he should release that, redact whatever names he feels like he needs to do. And let the public know just exactly what the Restaurant Association decided. If it clears him, great. If he continues, at the top tier, at some point that is going to have to come out. So why not do it on his own accord?

BLITZER: Yeah, that's what a lot of damage control people, experts say. If you have bad news, you release it instead of letting your adversaries do it.

BORGER: If it's good news, why not release it now?

BLITZER: Gloria, thank you very much.

This important note to our viewers. I'll be the moderator when the Republican candidates take part in CNN's Republican national security debate right here in the nation's capital. Join us Tuesday, November 22nd, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be at Constitution Hall in Washington.

Now a story many of you will find outrageous. I know I did. It's the latest example of executives who are out of touch with the country and who apparently think they deserve big fat bonuses even though their companies are floundering. This time it's the chiefs of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Our Brian Todd has been looking into the bonuses and the backlash.

So what's going on here, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is bipartisan outrage over these bonuses. Members of Congress are trying to stop them. But a lot of the bonus money has already been paid out. That's causing even more frustration.


TODD (voice over): You may not know Michael Williams, but you probably want to be paid like him. Same for Ed Halderman. They're the respective CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government sponsored firms which back at least half the mortgages in America.

According to records from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Williams and Halderman each made about $900,000 in salary last year. And each is getting paid about $2 million in bonuses. Earlier this year the federal government approved nearly $13 million in bonuses for Williams, Halderman and eight other executives from the two firms. Despite the fact that millions of Americans are still struggling to make it through the housing crisis and that Fannie and Freddie have been hemorrhaging cash this year. The they lost $10 billion in the last quarter and just asked Congress for more money.

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) BUDGET COMMITTEE: This is completely excessive and uncalled for.

TODD: Republican Senator John Thune is spearheading an effort by 60 Democratic and Republican senators to cancel the bonuses. They have sent a letter to the government body that oversees Fannie and Freddie, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, asking it to revise the policy. The FHFA approved those bonuses.

THUNE: Why would you be rewarding this kind of behavior and/or this kind of performance, at least, at a time when we got all these national economic issues and people across the country are very frustrated?

TODD: Contacted by CNN, officials at Fannie and Freddie wouldn't comment on the bonuses.

(On camera): Their overseer, the FHFA, says it's reduced executive pay at Fannie and Freddie in recent years. That those firms have to pay that kind of money to attract the kind of talent need to manage $5 trillion in mortgages. And officials here tell CNN the reason those execs got those bonuses was because they took the right steps to turn things around at Fannie and Freddie after the mortgage meltdown.

(Voice over): A meltdown which triggered a massive bailout from the feds.

(On camera): How big was the bailout of Fannie and Freddie compared to the auto bailout and some of the others?

CLIFF ROSSI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Yes, it was about $170 billion so far from both entities, both Fannie and Freddie. I think the estimated tally, from what I understand from the Congressional Budget Office, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 billion. So from that standpoint, it's large relative to these other bailouts.


TODD: Analyst Cliff Rossi, who once worked at both Fannie and Freddie, says the current executives at those firms were put in place since the bailout to clean up the mess from before. He says they have started to do that, but also says they have not done enough to modify more homeowners bad mortgages. So he is on the fence about whether they deserve those bonuses, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can President Obama or anyone at the White House intervene and stop this from going on?

TODD: Well, Senator Thune wants the White House to step in and basically halt these bonuses. The White House says these are independent agencies and the White House really doesn't have any role in assigning pay for the executives.

I think Senator Thune really is aiming towards just kind of preempting some of these bonuses in the future. That's what he's -- I get the sense he wants to kind of lay the groundwork for doing that, rather than expecting anything to happen right now.

BLITZER: Well, because it is ridiculous that this company, this Fannie and Freddie, they take 100 of billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers and then they give out these bonuses arguing that $900,000 a year salaries are not good enough to attract people? How does the Treasury Department attract a secretary of the Treasury who makes $200,000 a year, but they can't attract good people for $900,000 a year?

TODD: It's a very good point to make. I don't think anybody would really argue with that. They say that to manage these very tough and complicated jobs you have to hire top talent. This is kind of what brings them in. I know that, you know, the argument that they already make a lot of money. It's hard to square both.

BLITZER: It is one thing to give bonus it's the company is making money. But they're losing billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and that's a big issue. And they shouldn't be getting bonuses.

Brian, thanks.

TODD: Sure.

BLITZER: It's a shocking turn of events within the U.S. military as well. We've got a story of a United States army general effectively fired for simply telling the truth. We are taking a closer look at why he was axed. And a threat to the national security hidden in military equipment; members of Congress are revealing who's to blame. Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: And now to another story that I find personally shocking and very sad. A two-star U.S. Army general effectively fired for telling the truth about the government of Afghanistan and its President Hamid Karzai. The recent dismissal of Major General Peter Fuller and the truth behind his words deserve some serious follow up.

Once again, here is Brian Todd.

TODD: Wolf, General Fuller's commanders are defending their decision to relieve him of duty. The fallout in the United States is significant because many people believe he was simply saying what needed to be said about the Afghan government. It's essentially cost General 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.


TODD: To that, General Fuller told POLITICO, "Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle? You 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 that he hopes Afghanistan gets a future president who is more articulate and he called his Afghan counterparts delusional about American aid. Within hours, Fuller was gone. 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 (voice over): Conservative analyst Frank Gaffney says there is rot in the highest reaches of the Afghan government and American troops an their allies are losing their lives trying to prop it up. NATO commanders did not respond 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, you know, 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 the stuff in when they're working with the 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: Schaefer says that General Fuller probably knew 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. At that point, he may not have cared about getting his third star. Wolf?

BLITZER: He had one specific allegation how he felt, General Fuller, the Afghan leadership was delusional?

TODD: That's right. He told POLITICO that the Afghan government made requests for F-16 fighter jets and for tanks even without the budget to use or maintain them. Fuller said that a senior Afghan leader told him all want to do is put them on a flat bed truck and drive them around in a parade. I think at that point you could clearly tell he was getting fed up with all of this.

BLITZER: Yes, pretty shocking. American general fired, effectively, for telling the truth.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thanks very much.

A boy, essentially, without a country. Just ahead, the heated debate unfolding over at the U.S. Supreme Court, hitting one family's wish against the future of the Middle East peace process.

Also, Rick Perry's big brain freeze this week. Have other recent debate gaffes come anywhere close? We'll talk about some of the doozies.


BLITZER: And now to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a heated debate is unfolding over the birthplace of a nine-year-old boy. And the court's decision could have some serious implications for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Here is CNN's Kate Bolduan.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Menachem (ph) Zivotofksy is a shy nine-year-old boy, a boy without country, so to speak.

ARI ZIVOTOFSKY, FATHER: We moved to Israel and then we were very proud that our third child was born there. And we want his documents to say that.

BOLDUAN: Ari Zivotofsky's son is at the center of a highly charged legal dispute potentially pitting one family's wish against the future of the Mideast peace process, all over a U.S. passport.

SARAH CLEVELAND, COLUMBIA UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: There have been 50,000 Americans in the last 10 years that were born in Jerusalem and many of them would like to have Israel indicated as their place of birth in the passports. But this is also an extremely important geopolitical issue.

BOLDUAN: Jerusalem is the holy center of three different religions, the United Nations and most of the world community do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Both Israelis and Palestinians consider the city their own. The Zivotofskys are American citizens. When their son was born in Jerusalem, they requested his U.S. passport list Israel as the place of birth, following the normal practice for Americans born outside the U.S. But nothing is normal when it comes to this disputed city. The State Department refused the request listing only Jerusalem on the boy's passport sparking this nearly decade-long battle.

ALYZA LEWIN, ATTORNEY FOR THE ZIVOTOFSKYS: What's at stake is their deep personal pride and sense of identification with the state of Israel, and their right given by Congress to express that on the passport.

BOLDUAN: The Zivotofskys are asking the court to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2002, giving their son and others the Israel option on passports. But both the Bush and Obama administrations have ignored the law, saying it interferes with the president's power over foreign policy. While the Zivotofskys recognize the complex and thorny issues surrounding this fight, Menachem's father argues their request is a simple one, where can his son call home?

ZIVOTOFSKY: Whatever else they decide, you know, the bigger issues, that is for them to decide. We're requesting just exactly what the lawsuit says. Implement the law and write in the passport that he was born in Israel.

BOLDUAN (On camera): In court the justices had tough questions for both sides. They seemed to show little sympathy for the family involved, but also seem to struggle with the larger question of where does congressional authority begin and end with regard to foreign policy issues? We expect a ruling in the next few months. Kate Bolduan, CNN, at the Supreme Court.


BLITZER: Rick Perry's oops moment now raising the question, have the GOP presidential debates become must-see TV?

Plus, you're going to want to see Jeanne Moos' take on the freeze that's going viral.


BLITZER: Rick Perry's oops moment got me thinking about how significant the Republican presidential debates have been this year. Over the course of 10 debates so far, there have been many memorable moments. Take a look.


HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The statement was, would I be comfortable with the Muslim in my administration, not that I wouldn't appoint one. You have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us. And so when I say I wouldn't be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -


BLITZER: He doesn't have it. He needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

REP. RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what freedom is all about. Taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody -


BLITZER: Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?




JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have to hear these two go over here it's almost incredible. You've Governor Romney who called it a fraud in his book "No Apology." I don't know if that was written by Kurt Cobain or not.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question is, is it about life or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

BLITZER: You have to respond to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended.

BACHMANN: I'm offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice. That's what I'm offended for.

PERRY: Was it -- was it before he was -- he was before the social programs from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe versus Wade, before he was for Roe versus Wade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, when I was deployed in Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I'm a gay soldier. Do you intend to circumvent the progress made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I -- I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you saying that the state sales tax will go away?


ROMNEY: OK. We're replacing a bunch of oranges.

CAIN: You mixing apples and oranges, which you throw out the existing code and put in our plan. You're still going to pay that. That's apples and oranges.

ROMNEY: Fine. And I'm going to be getting a bus basket that has both because I'm paying more taxes. I'm speaking. Will you please wait? You are just going to keep talking?

PERRY: Yes, sir.

ROMNEY: Or are you going to let me finish?

PERRY: 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.

PAUL: Five.

PERRY: OK, five. Commerce, education and the --


PERRY: There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seriously? Is the EPA the one you're talking about?

PERRY: No, sir. We were talking about the agencies of government -- EPA needs to be rebuilt. There's no doubt about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't name the third one? PERRY: 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.


BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss in our strategy session. Joining us our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and Republican strategist, Rich Gayland, a former press secretary to Newt Gingrich. He's the publisher of

Before we get to the candidates specifically, Donna, is it my impression or do you think the debate this is time around in this Republican contest have really been so significant?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's been very helpful. With the exception of Mitt Romney who ran back in 2008, of course, Ron Paul who is also a candidate in the past and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Most Americans are not familiar with the Republican field. So this season of debates is really helped to clarify the election and to give others a sense of who the other candidates are.

BLITZER: The debates seem to be more important than ever. But correct me if you disagree.

RICH GALEN, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: No, I think you're right. I think it's part of a change, a sea change in politics.

Four years ago, the campaigns knew about social media and Twitter, but only the younger voters did, which is one of the reasons why President Obama did so well.

Now grand mothers are checking their Facebook page to see what the granddaughter looks like. So this is a completely different era. And people are perfectly comfortable seeing candidates do this on TV as opposed to marching through a hog farm in Iowa.

BLITZER: Can Rick Perry come back from that brain freeze gap?

BRAZILE: You know, we've seen other candidates implode throughout the electoral season. So I think Rick Perry has money. He has a terrific organization and some of the early stakes. Perhaps if one of the other leading candidates implode, Rick Perry may be able to capitalize on their mistakes.

GALEN: Here's what I think. I think he can come back from anything in politics except for ridicule. Once you become the object of ridicule, you're doomed. I think Rick Perry last night passed the ridicule threshold.

BLITZER: Can Herman Cain survive these sexual harassment allegations?

BRAZILE: He's been defined. He's been able to keep his base with him, raise a lot of money. It's going to hurt him with women. It's going to hurt him in the general election if he becomes the Republican nominee.

GALEN: I think at some point the weight of all these things, it's not just the sexual harassment things but abortion thing, the Mexican fence, all of the things that he sort of, you know, said and then said I was just kidding.

BRAZILE: And what about China?

GALEN: China. Didn't know they were a nuclear power. I mean, he just doesn't know enough to be president. I think that will weigh upon him. I think we're beginning to see now that it's beginning to weigh him down.

BLITZER: My sense is, and I'd love both of you to weigh in -- the setback that's Herman Cain has had to endure over the past several days and Rick Perry over the past several weeks, all of a sudden Newt Gingrich, your former boss, all of a sudden he's coming out of nowhere and he's doing amazingly well. First to you, are you surprised?

GALEN: Well, no. I'm not surprised because it's the dozy do of the not Romney candidates. That is number one. But number two and I love Newt. I respect him. He's very smart. But now that he looks like he may be in the top tier, now all the research is going to start coming out. And we'll see how he deals with that.

BLITZER: But a lot of that stuff -- opposition research what he's talking about, we know all about the ex-wives and Tiffany's and the trip to the eastern Mediterranean. We've gone through all that. So to a certain degree he should have been immune from that.

BRAZILE: Now remember, his campaign imploded first. He lost most of his staff. Some of his staff accused him of not being focused. But you know what? He's done incredibly well at the debates. He's well informed, he knows the issues. Right now, this is his moment to shop around and get some support.

GALEN: If there were a debate every night, he'd be the nominee.

BLITZER: Is it possible that when all the dust settles and should be settling in the next several months, obviously, January, February, March, who knows? It will be two-man contest. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich?

GALEN: All right, at the end of the Republican process? Yes, I do think that. I think Newt will probably now come in second. But unless you have enough, Donna knows this better than I do.

Unless you have enough delegates to force a floor vote, it doesn't matter that you're second or ninth. Whoever won, won unless can you threaten them with a floor fight on a plank or something like that you won.

BRAZILE: The Republicans changed their rules this time. It's no longer winner take all. This means they'll have a much longer contest, similar to what we experienced in the Democratic Party in 2008.

I see it as a three person race, Romney versus two anti-Romney's maybe Gingrich, maybe Cain, maybe Perry, maybe Bachmann. We'll see what happens in Iowa and the early states.

GALEN: Which is actually better for Romney because it splits the conservative votes.

BRAZILE: That's correct.

BLITZER: But if it's just Romney versus Gingrich, for example, who wins?

GALEN: I think Romney because I believe that most Republicans think that Romney has the better chance of beating Barack Obama. He may not be Republicans' first choice, but Barack Obama is their last choice.

BLITZER: You're a Democrat. Who would the Democrats fear most? This is obviously all hypothetical, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich?

BRAZILE: We know that more than 43 percent of the electorate would like to see someone else elected. I don't think we should figure any of the candidates.

But Mitt Romney clearly has the type of track record that would lend itself to winning the Republican nomination and perhaps galvanizing the independents to come his way.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile and Rich Galen, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

One of the most controversial figures over illegal immigration is also one of most sought after endorsements in the Republican race for the White House. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is going to be a little controversy.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Arpaio just might be the most popular kid on the playground of Republican presidential politics.

CAIN: Let me say this thank you, Sheriff.

BACHMANN: Sheriff Joe is the nation's sheriff. He is one of my heroes.

LAVANDERA: The candidates are lining up to see him so we, too, sat down with him. These are interesting times for Arpaio. Critics are clamouring for his resignation.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: I'm going to tell you right now, you're not going to drive me out of office. I'm not going to resign, not going to resign. I'm going to keep fighting. LAVANDERA: Arpaio crusades against illegal immigration, a sheriff who revels in making county inmates wear pink boxer shorts. But this election season, Arpaio could become kingmaker in the Republican presidential primary.

Cain, Bachmann, Romney and Perry have all come calling looking for his highly coveted endorsement. All this despite a cloud of controversy hanging over the sheriff, county officials accuse Arpaio of misspending $100 million over eight years to fund in part his controversial immigration rates.

(on camera): Sheriff Arpaio is also under a wide-ranging federal investigation. The U.S. Attorney's Office here in Phoenix tells us that it and the FBI are looking into allegations that the sheriff and his top deputies abuse their law enforcement power.

They're also looking into civil rights violations that inmates and the sheriff's jails were mistreated. And allegations of racial profiling in those highly publicized illegal immigration raids.

Those are the same raids that have made Sheriff Arpaio so popular and controversy at the same time.

(voice-over): Arpaio says he is clean and unapologetic as ever. He is running for a sixth term as sheriff.

(on camera): Is there a cloud hanging over your department?

ARPAIO: I'm higher in the polls now than ever before because they know I do the job.

LAVANDERA: So if they charge you with anything having to do with abuse of power --

ARAPIO: You don't know what abuse of power is. I don't think there's a law. I'm the guy being abused over and over -- even you are abusing me. I'm the guy being abused. But you know what? That's part of the job. You take it.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Sheriff Arpaio. It's an honor to be here with you.

ARPAIO: Why are you concerned with what he said?

LAVANDERA: Politicians usually run away from other politicians shrouded in controversy. But this endorsement could help someone like Rick Perry. The governor offered in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants.

The issue sent Perry spiralling down in the polls. Arpaio tweeted he had a great conversation with Perry about immigration that could boost the Texas governor's immigration credentials. The sheriff loves being in the middle of it all.

ARPAIO: I will not be riding off in the sunset.

LAVANDERA: So stay tuned, an endorsement could come very soon, said Arpaio. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


BLITZER: Key parts used in U.S. military equipment are fake and Congress is pointing fingers at China.

And some "Occupy Wall Street" protesters in New York don't trust the police to protect so they're taking matters into their own hands.


BLITZER: A potential threat to America's security is being exposed right under the noses of U.S. troops. And members of Congress say China is to blame. Our Lisa Sylvester is looking into the story for us. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a shocking story. There are about 1,800 cases from 2009 and 2010 of counterfeit components being discovered in military equipment and hardware. These counterfeits are hard to detect with the naked eye, but they have a very high failure rate.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): These may look like the real thing, but deep inside some of the U.S. military's most sensitive equipment are counterfeit electronic parts.

A congressional review of just a sample of the defense industry supply chain found about a million bogus components, 70 percent of the counterfeit goods were traced to China.

SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We cannot allow our national security to depend on electronic scrap salvaged from trash heat by Chinese counterfeiters.

SYLVESTER: And they were found in critical equipment. On a U.S. Navy anti-subhelicopter, the night vision and targeting system contained at counterfeit transistor. It's failure could have compromised the pilots ability to identify targets.

On the C-27J military aircraft, suspected counterfeit memory chips were discovered. And on the P8-A Poseidon Airplane, an ice detection module had fallen out of its socket, a part that on closer inspection appeared to be a fake.

A Government Accountability Office investigation found that many of the counterfeit electronic parts can be bought on the internet.

RICHARD HILLMAN, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: We consider the problem itself to be a very serious one, possibly affecting the lives of our military personnel and the capabilities of the systems that they utilize.

SYLVESTER: Counterfeiters have become more sophisticated. These are voltage regulators for an automotive air bag and break system. They appear virtually identical, but bogus parts are subject to a much higher failure rate.

BRIAN TOONEY, SEMICONDUCTOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: In many cases these counterfeiters are remarketing the products so they may appear as if they were made in the United States. And so that is clearly part of the problem.

SYLVESTER: Another problem, counterfeiting has become almost a cottage industry in some parts of China where fake electronic parts are openly obtained from trash heaps and serial numbers scrubbed off. Thomas Sharp works for a company that authenticates electronic parts. He recently visited China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see any evidence when you were there of any Chinese government action against what was openly being sold as counterfeits?

THOMAS SHARPE, SMT CORPORATION: When we got into the city, the entire business purposes of everything that we saw there was very obviously to harvest components from scrap and go through complete refurbishment right there in the open. There was nothing hidden.

SYLVESTER: How do fake Chinese parts get into American military equipment? The supply chain is so complex one part can change hands eight times before it ends up being sold to the Pentagon.

The Missile Defense Agency is taking steps to prevent and detect defective parts including extensive ground testing and insuring defense contractors use original equipment manufacturers.

LT. GENERAL PATRICK O'REILLY, DIRECTOR, MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY: We do not want a $12 million defense interceptors reliability compromised by a $2 counterfeit part.


SYLVESTER: The Chinese embassy gave us a statement saying, quote, "the Chinese government takes a zero tolerance attitude towards fake and counterfeit products for the purpose of providing safe and sound products to consumers both at home and abroad." Many lawmakers are not convinced, they say China still has to do a lot more to shut down these known Chinese counterfeiters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: U.S. defense contractors need to do a lot more, too. Thank you very much, Lisa, for that report.

"Occupy Wall Street" protesters taking new steps to keep themselves safe. Plus, Rick Perry's brain freeze goes viral.


BLITZER: "Occupy Wall Street" protesters are taking action to keep criminals out of their encampment. Mary Snow has details.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police maintain a presence outside Zuccotti Park, the home base of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. But inside, protesters who don't trust the police handle security themselves. And they're adding new safety measures like this women's only tent.

It follows the arrest last week of a 26-year-old man charged with sexually abusing a female protester.

(on camera): Have there been problems with women?

CHRISTINE, OCCUPY WALL STREET: We have had a few incidents. We have encouraged people to report those incidents, but again, I feel like we haven't had a higher level of problems here than in lots of other communities.

SNOW: The 23-year-old Christine, who does not want to give her last name, says she and other volunteers walked through the park overnight to help with security. Chris Ryder does the same.

CHRIS REIDER, OCCUPY WALL STREET: We do patrol. We do have a wave system of letting know there's a problem down that way or a problem over here, and we do focus on it. Overall, it's very peaceful.

SYLVESTER: Police say there have been several crimes reported inside the park. Some are sexual in nature, others are assaults. Protesters here insist crime is no more prevalent here than in any other place where there are large numbers of people. And as the number of protesters grow, Jeff Smith, says small tents that now fill the park are a problem.

JEFF SMITH, OCCUPY WALL STREET: A smaller tent allows people -- whether it's drug use that's going on or a simple crime or any kind of violence, any anti-social behavior is not really tolerated out here. So I think were obviously having to deal with the same societal pressures that everyone does in the city at large.

SYLVESTER: In a move to address security and space issues, Smith says the movement has $20,000 in donations to put up larger army tents like these where the people inside can be better monitored.


SNOW: More of those big army-sized tents are expected to go up. And there have been questions about whether or not they're legal. The city says they don't violate any building codes, but this is a privately owned park. And the owners of that park are declining comments about those tents. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

BLITZER: We'll be right back with Jeanne Moos.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's hot shots. In southern France, people run away from a high wave. In Tanzania, students wave national flags as they greet the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales.

In Thailand, soldiers put sandbags in front of factories to protect them floodwaters. In Germany, check it out. A 10-day-old elephant stands next to her mother. Hot shots pictures coming from around the world.

It's the freeze that's going viral. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do Britney Spears and Rick Perry have in common?

PERRY: Oops.

MOOS: Oops was everywhere from headlines to impersonations. Even Rick Perry couldn't resist from repeating himself as he came up of his replayed clip. When Rick Perry forgot the third department he wants to cut.

PERRY: What's the third one there? Let's see.

MOOS: The forgotten Department of Energy gaffe took on an energy of its own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Perry had an amazing meltdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely forgetting his point.

MOOS: One defender described it as a temporary loss of cabin pressure. We all have it. Here come the jokes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who could be president if he only has two things to remember?

MOOS: Funny or die put up a parody quiz asking the governor to name three things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three legal moves from rock, paper scissors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, you got rock, paper and there's a hawk.

MOOS: The governor's gaffe was gleefully timed. Rick Perry's 53- second brain freeze dwarfed previous whopper. It made Arizona Governor Jan Brewer seem like a scholar when she blanked for a mere 13 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have -- did what was right for Arizona.

MOOS: At least when President Bush did it, he was answering what's been your biggest mistake?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here.

MOOS: Sometimes what pops out is even worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like South Africa and Iraq, everywhere, such as.

MOOS: Like such as that, is some consolation to Governor Perry. After that doozy of a gaffe, he came up with a recovery plan, a multistep recovery plan.

PERRY: I stepped in it, that's for sure. Obviously, I stepped in it. I stepped in it last night. Some stuck on my feet.

MOOS: Remember how Sarah Palin made sure she wouldn't forget her three priorities.

SARAH PALIN: We've got to start reining in the spending.

MOOS: Cartoonist Jeff Dansegert drew advice handed down from Palin to Rick Perry, write it on your hand, stupid. Jeanne Moos, CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Name three rice crispy mascots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snap, crackle -- sizzle.

MOOS: New York.


BLITZER: Very funny. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM, every Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. At this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.