Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Mass "Occupy" Protests Grow Tense in New York City; Cain and Canceled Interview; Who's on Freddie Mac's Payroll; More Alleged Abuse Victims to Surface?; The Taliban's Online War; Interview with Michele Bachmann; Congress to Classify Pizza as a Vegetable; Doctors Write Book about Odd Objects that End up in People's Bodies
Aired November 17, 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 you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, New York City police on high alert. You're looking at live pictures right now of the Brooklyn Bridge. Hundreds of Occupy protesters say they're getting ready to try to cross that bridge any moment now. We're there for what could be the movement's strongest show of force yet, spanning clear across the country at the same time.
Plus, the massive Penn State University child sex abuse scandal gaining fierce new momentum. Ahead, the latest on new indications more alleged victims may be coming forward.
And Republican candidate, Michelle Bachmann, on the attack after taking a serious hit in the polls. You're going to find out in my new interview with her why she's now telling voters she's quote, "willing to man up."
Welcome to 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. .
But first, what's being called a mass day of action for the movement battling corporate greed known as Occupy Wall Street. Hundreds of protesters in cities coast to coast, they are fanning out in droves to mark a group just two months in the making. Nowhere is the situation more intense right now than in New York City, where just a little while ago, the mayor, car bombing, put the protesters on notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: We will ensure that everyone has a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, as well as the right to go to work, go to school, ride the subway and go about their day. But make no mistake about it, if anyone's actions cross the line and threaten the health and safety of others, including our first responders, we will respond accordingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Police say 175 people have been arrested, seven officers injured, in clashes in New York, where barricades got uprooted and traffic blocked. The demonstration started in Zuccotti Park, the movement's home base. And the demonstrations have been moving to points around the city as we go along and observe.
CNN's Amber Lyon is standing by over at the Brooklyn Bridge, where a march is expected to begin minutes from now.
Mary Snow is over at Foley Square at Wall Street.
First, to Mary.
What's happening right now -- Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, protesters are streaming into this Foley Square, to this park. And this is the biggest protest expected of the day. Before the protesters head over to the Brooklyn Bridge, they are coming here for a rally. And we're seeing protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement being met here by union members who plan to join them in that protest. They are just getting here. They have been marching from uptown. They're going to have a rally. And you can hear the music behind me. And then they will go -- they're going to head down to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Wolf, these protesters do have a permit to be here tonight for this rally. What they don't have a permit to do is to block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. And that is what some of the protesters are expecting to do. And that is really -- it will probably the most intense moment of this day of protests -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, we'll get back to you.
I want to go over to the Brooklyn Bridge right now.
Amber Lyon is stand by for us -- Amber, what's happening there?
AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're so close to Mary, we can actually hear some of the music from Foley Square. And those protesters are expected to come over here and cross onto the bridge.
A little nervousness among police officers is to keep them on the walkway.
And we're here at the crosswalk. This is where the protesters will be walking across. And police are hoping that they will stay on that walkway. If they come over here onto this area where you're seeing the cars drive through -- there's a lot of traffic going through here, it's rush hour -- they will be arrested. There's even a bright sign right behind me that says if you step on this road, off that crosswalk, you will be obtained.
Now, as far as the movement out here, we're not seeing any protesters quite yet. But we have seen police come out here. They've been out here all afternoon, putting up barricades in an organized fashion, to keep what is, you know, more than 1,000 people walking through here kind of corralled and organize this movement so that when they walk through here, they will come across and walk across that bridge.
But as we've seen earlier at Zuccotti Park and also at the NYSE, these barricades and protesters have been kind of mixing like oil and water. We've seen a lot of protesters upset with barricades, removing them and -- and then being arrested.
What happened out here last month, just right over my shoulder, about 700 protesters were arrested after some went into the street. So police are just hoping that they can keep this organized and that that won't happen out here tonight, Above all, we've seen a lot of signs from protesters saying, you know, you can arrest one of us, two more will show up, but you cannot arrest this idea. And we've definitely seen this movement kind of reenergized out here today in New York today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you, Amber, as well.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so much for the golden years, Wolf.
A new survey out shows that one fourth -- 25 percent of middle class Americans say now that they plan to delay retirement until at least the age of 80. That's two years longer than most people in this country live. Another depressing effect of this economy, where unemployment, stock market swings and plunging home prices have taken a tremendous toll on many Americans' savings.
The Wells Fargo retirement survey shows, on average, Americans have only saved 7 percent of the retirement money they hoped to put aside for retirement -- 7 percent. Survey respondents had median savings of $25,000, while their median retirement savings goal was $350,000.
And it gets worse. About a third of those surveyed in their 60s had saved less than $25,000 for retirement.
It's easy to see why retiring at the traditional age of 65 has become a pipe dream for millions of Americans.
Experts say having large numbers of middle class Americans working past 65 will raise many questions, like will people be physically and mentally able to work as they age?
And what will it mean for young people entering the workforce?
Meanwhile, there's another new study out on the vanishing middle class that helps to explain why many Americans plan to work into their 80s.
Consider this. In 2007, 44 percent of families lived in middle class neighborhoods. That's down from 65 percent in 1970. And almost a third of families lived in neither rich or poor neighborhoods in 2007. That number is up from 15 percent in 1970.
In other words, the great middle class neighborhoods that used to define this country are disappearing.
Here's the question -- what does it mean when a quarter of middle class Americans plan to work until 80, longer than most people live?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post in THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A good question, Jack, as usual.
Republican presidential hopeful, Herman Cain, missing a major editorial board meeting in New Hampshire only days after a dramatic foreign policy stumble goes viral. But he says it isn't his fault.
And Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, is under fire for being paid well more than a million dollars by a troubled mortgage giant. We're talking about Freddie Mac. You might be surprised to see who else has been on the payroll of Freddie and Fannie.
Stay with us.
Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Lots of people are gathering over at Foley Square. It's dark now in New York City, but you can see the crowds gathering near Wall Street. These are the Occupy Wall Street protesters, today marking the second month of their movement.
I suspect some of them might be getting ready to head over to the Brooklyn Bridge.
We heard a strict warning from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly earlier -- they can protest, they can demonstrate, but they can't interfere with other people's rights.
We'll see what's happening.
Our Amber Lyon and Mary Snow are on the scene for us. We'll check in with them.
Meanwhile, another political dust-up for Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, the second one this week involving the editorial board of a major publication. Monday, it was the stumble that went viral over a question about Libya with the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel".
Today was the meeting that was supposed to happen with the "New Hampshire Union Leader," the most influential newspaper among Republicans, certainly, in the first in the nation's primary state. But then this... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it that...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you don't want editorial board interviews?
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because it's optional.
Thanks a lot, folks.
I've got to run.
I've got to run, folks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cain, (INAUDIBLE) you're meeting today?
CAIN: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Cain, why did you miss the "Union Leader?"
Can you give us your version of that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it a timing issue?
CAIN: You're not going to believe it, they canceled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The "New Hampshire Union Leader" says that's not the case. The editorial page editor Tweeting -- and I'm quoting now -- "Cain campaign said we'd do a one hour interview, then said no videotaping, then said interview only, 20 minutes, then cancel."
Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger -- Gloria, he's certainly inviting more controversy by missing this meeting, not just with any newspaper, but the "New Hampshire Union Leader" is legendary in the state of New Hampshire...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BLITZER: -- going into a Republican primary.
BORGER: Sure. It's the most powerful newspaper in the state.
Obviously, Mitt Romney sort of seems to have New Hampshire sewn up. But Cain is at 8 percent and no votes have been cats. So it would seem to me you wouldn't want to get into a tussle with the "Union Leader".
But if you step back, Wolf, the larger point here is that it's clear the campaign, in saying they didn't want an hour interview, wanted to make it 20 minutes, and that they didn't want it videotaped, didn't want to repeat or even give the possibility of a repeat of the situation they had with the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel," in which Herman Cain couldn't talk about Libya policy and how he disagreed with Barack Obama on Libya policy.
So it's clear that they are kind of nervous about repeating that again.
BLITZER: You wrote a terrific column on CNN.com today, Gloria. Let me read a line for our viewers: "Sure, there are always inadequate presidential candidates. But here's where Cain truly distinguishes himself. He defends his inadequacies, even wears them as badge of honor."
BORGER: Well, you know, we -- we -- we've covered politics a long time, Wolf. We've seen presidential candidates that have a lot of inadequacies.
But what Herman Cain does is he kind of defends them and says, look, this is -- I'm a non-politician. I haven't done this before. This is good.
So when he talked about, for example, electrifying the fence at the border, he then told us, you know what, that was really a joke. America, lighten up. Media, lighten up and understand that I have a sense of humor. A lot of other candidates don't have a sense of humor.
The problem with that, Wolf, I've been talking to lots of Republicans, particularly, many who have served in government or in former White Houses. And what they say to me is, look, if this goes on for a very long time, this could bleed over onto the Republican brand. The Republican challenge to Barack Obama is a serious pursuit. And they say that Herman Cain is in danger of trivializing it.
BLITZER: And I want you to listen also to this, because there's been a lot of criticism this week of Herman Cain after that Libya gaffe...
BLITZER: -- at the Milwaukee editorial board meeting, raising a lot of questions about his foreign policy credentials. He responded to that today and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who knows every detail of every country of every situation on the planet? Nobody. A leader is supposed to make sure he's working on the right problem. Be assigned the right priority. Surround himself with good people. He has a plan. And lead.
We've got plenty of experts. And a leader knows how to use those experts. We need a leader, not a reader.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so how important is this entire so-called commander in chief issue for Republican candidates?
BORGER: Very, very important. It's part of the Republican brand. National security, defense expertise, and you know, in talking to Republicans, there's a question someone raised with me, which is what if you're commanders on the ground whom Cain says he would listen to -- what if your commanders disagree? Then you, as the informed leader, have to make the decision.
So being a prosecutor is kind of like being a CEO, but like a CEO, you have to understand the details of the decisions you are going to make. And I think voters in this country take that commander in chief question very, very seriously.
Remember in the Democratic primary last time around, that was the question between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And it was Barack Obama's weakness at that point. So people care about that.
BLITZER: Gloria, good point. Thank you. As usual. Don't forget, check out Gloria's column. CNN.com. Excellent work, as she always does.
This programming note for our viewers. I'll be the moderator when the candidates take part in CNN's Republican National Security debate in the nation's capital next Tuesday night, 8:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.
In the last debate, Newt Gingrich stumbled over his links to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. The eye-popping sum he was paid as a consultant, sources say, about $1.6 million. Maybe as much as $1.8 million over several years, has led to a new question. Who else was Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae paying even as they were in serious financial trouble?
Lisa Sylvester is joining us now with more on this part of the story.
What else is going on here, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, Newt Gingrich has very publicly spoken out blaming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for contributing to the housing crisis. But in fact, he has received more than that $1 million from Freddie Mac. And it turns out, he was not the only congressional lawmakers who went through the revolving door and ended up with big checks from Freddie Mac.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The posh Galileo restaurant in Washington, D.C. was one of Freddie Mac's chief lobbyist Mitchell Delk's favorite spots to wine and dine politicians. Records show Freddie Mac held 85 fundraisers for federal candidates between 2000 and 2003, raising more than $1.5 million for them. Many of the lawmakers being honored sat on the House Financial Services Committee. A congressional panel charged with overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The Federal Election Committee found this to be a blatant violation of federal law and fined Freddie Mac $3.8 million, the largest FEC fine ever. But this was only part of Freddie Mac's strategy to curry favor among federal lawmakers. Freddie Mac at the time was trying to fend off calls for new oversight and regulation.
Lobbying records show the federally backed mortgage lender spent more than $50 million between 2003 and 2006 just on lobbying.
MICHAEL BECKEL, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were major political players. They were spending millions of dollars each year on lobbying if not tens of millions of dollars and they were incredibly well connected organizations.
Former members of Congress were hired to lobby for Freddie Mac, as well as former congressional aides. Many, many of the lobbyists at this organization hired had gone through Washington, D.C.'s revolving door.
SYLVESTER: Among those paid to advise Freddie Mac was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich was paid more than $1.5 million by Freddie Mac. He denies he ever lobbied for them and insists he tried to warn Freddie Mac it was headed toward a financial disaster.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.
SYLVESTER: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae ended up having to be bailed out by federal taxpayers and was on a conservatorship in 2007, but up until then, it had a roster of lobbyists that read like a who's who in Washington. Former Congressman Vin Webber, former Congressman Susan Molinari, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, former chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay, Susan Hirschmann, among them.
Freddie Mac had a number of highly paid consultants like Gingrich. Howard Marlowe with the American League of Lobbyists says often the line between advisor-consultant and registered lobbyist can be blurry.
HOWARD MARLOWE, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN LEAGUE OF LOBBYISTS: I can't speak to Mr. Gingrich or anybody else. I have no idea what they were doing, but we do know that in terms of people who are actually doing lobbying, or involved with lobbyists and planning lobbying, that there's a lot that's not registered.
SYLVESTER: Now I called Freddie Mac for a response and I was told, quote, "We're not discussing past practices that we are no longer engaged in." It was back around 2008 when Freddie Mac folded up its lobbying operations -- Wolf. BLITZER: Good report. Thanks very much. Some perspective on Fannie and Freddie.
Herman Cain raised eyebrows by calling Michele Bachmann, quote, "tutti-frutti." Safe to say he wasn't necessarily suggesting she's sweet.
Just ahead, the Minnesota congresswoman joins me live. We'll talk about that, a lot more. Stand by for that interview.
Plus, the war in Afghanistan has turned into a Twitter war of words between NATO and the Taliban. We're going to show you what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Penn State University child sex abuse scandal gaining fierce new momentum. Members of Congress called a hearing today to determine whether federal laws protecting students and children need to be changed in the wake of the crisis.
This as the suspect in the case, Jerry Sandusky, may have more serious trouble ahead.
Our Brian Todd is is working the story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning that more alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky's are about to come forward and they've apparently been provoked by Sandusky's public attempt to assert his innocence.
TODD (voice-over): Jerry Sandusky's attorney says Sandusky's wanted to talk for a long time. Says for three years he's wanted to speak publicly about the allegations against him. Now that he has, the floodgates are opening. Several other potential victims outside the eight mentioned in the grand jury report are considering coming forward with allegations that Sandusky sexually abused them.
That's according to two attorneys we spoke with. One lawyer, Ben Andreozzi, sent us a statement saying his client will testify that he was severely sexually assaulted by Mr. Sandusky. Another attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, told me he's formally representing two alleged victims of Sandusky's and counseling several others. Anderson said his client's claims go back more than 20 years.
JEFFREY R. ANDERSON, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED SANDUSKY VICTIM: In some instances, he raped or assaulted them on one occasion. And in some instances, it's multiple. It spans what I could -- from what I can tell now, decades of predatory behavior. Grooming families so he could exercise his predatorial ways.
TODD: We called Sandusky's attorney Joe Amendola about the new allegations. He didn't immediately respond, but Amendola and Sandusky have consistently maintained Sandusky's innocence. Amendola, asked about Sandusky's admission that he showered with boys, said that does not constitute a crime.
JOSEPH AMENDOLA, JERRY SANDUSKY'S ATTORNEY: These showers are large shower rooms. They are not the showers that you have in your home, in your house or apartment. And so it wasn't a situation where he was within inches of the young boys.
TODD: Still, according to lawyers for the latest alleged victims we're hearing about, it was Sandusky's Monday interview with NBC's "Rock Center" that infuriated them and made them want to come forward.
BOB COSTAS, NBC'S ROCK CENTER: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?
JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER PENN STATE ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted -- you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. I -- but no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys.
TODD: An interview that also angered the mother of alleged victim number one as ID'ed by the grand jury. She was asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper what she thought of that answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a sick individual. He's sick. I -- I see it as not even being able to straightforward answer the question.
TODD: The woman said her son cried when he watched that interview, fearing that Sandusky might go free.
TODD: Meanwhile, "The New York Times" reports that during the investigation, law enforcement authorities wanted the travel and expense records for Jerry Sandusky's foundation, the Second Mile. The "Times" citing two sources with knowledge of the case says records from 2000 to 2003 were missing.
The records from one of those years were later found but one law enforcement official called the whole thing suspicious. We called and e-mailed the attorney for the Second Mile Foundation. We have not heard back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.
Meanwhile, two rockets hit the Afghan capital today as tribal elders met with the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul to discuss the country's future. For now, NATO and Afghan forces are waging war wherever they find the enemy. Even on Twitter.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is taking a closer look at how NATO and the Taliban spokesman are trading insults online.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After a decade of lethal combat, NATO and the Taliban are now fighting over something else. The last word. On Twitter for months now, ISAF Media, the coalition press office, and ABalkhi, an apparent Taliban spokesman, have been slugging it out.
First, they got personal over claims NATO has Afghan mercenaries in its pay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your officials admitted to it, dumb dumb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dumb, dumb? How the dialogue elevates. Look, nobody takes you seriously. Everything you type is wrong. Just stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why they picked you for this job. If I wasn't here, you didn't have a job.
WALSH (on camera): And neither side wants to talk about it on camera or show the face of that Twitter, but they both seem compelled into this on going war of words. When NATO said it wants talks with the Taliban, they probably didn't have this in mind.
((Voice-over): NATO admits this is a war of perception and the Taliban's information front is getting slicker. When tribal elders gathered near the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul for talks on Wednesday, insurgents put this video online appearing to eulogize the suicide bombers that same hotel months earlier.
But direct conversation happens mostly on Twitter. On Monday after reports a Taliban spokesman was arrested, they sniped over whether he was a civilian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you capturing civilians?
WALSH: So, you're saying he was not a member of the Taliban? Is that what you want everyone to believe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, not everyone is paid to sit behind a desk all day to tweet. Everyone else has a life to tend to.
WALSH: Twitter is seen by very few Afghans, but influential among media and diplomats in Kabul. They have long had reporters and a TV channel to put out their message, but don't want to lose ground to the Twitterati (ph), getting into exchanges that may not help their message, some say.
LOFTULLAH NAJAFIZADA, CURRENT AFFAIRS, TOLO TV: I saw some of them this morning. They were so funny, to be honest. And I was wondering if I should really reply. I shouldn't do it because Taliban probably won't consider all ethics of communication. So we spoke to ISAF to stay out of it and not to engage in such communication. I would be counterproductive by ISAF.
WALSH: But they do dozens a day, often just to deny false Taliban claims of casualties of ISAF casualties. "Nope again. No ISAF Helo shot down last night. Nice try. Did not happen." Albalki is the gift that keeps on giving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever has put you behind a desk needs to fire you and put someone more competent. You're making people laugh at ISAF's intelligence.
WALSH: However infectious these online spats remain, after a decade of war, much more with words.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann referred to as tutti-frutti by one of her opponents. We're talking about Herman Cain. She's going to respond to that and a lot of other issues. Michele Bachmann standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When people think of the president, they think of who's that individual. And I'm willing to man up, so to speak, for the job and do what needs to be done. The commander in chief is a very strong position. I'm a very strong woman. And so it's just a tongue and cheek way of saying that I'm up for the job and I'll do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in Iowa yesterday. She's clearly ratcheting up the rhetoric against some of her opponents out there on the campaign trial in an effort to win a much needed boost in the polls. Congresswoman Bachman is joining us now, live. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
BACHMANN: Thank you, Wolf. It's always a pleasure.
BLITZER: I've known you for some time and I know you're a tough woman. How did you feel when you heard Herman Cain describe you, he was asked to describe a flavor of ice cream he would use for you, "tutti-frutti."
BACHMANN: Honestly, I didn't give it a second thought. I'm running to be the commander in chief and the leader of the free world, so that's what I'm focused on. It really didn't faze me at all.
BLITZER: Do you think his campaign because of all the sexual harassment allegations, that stumble in Milwaukee, some of the other issues, is Herman Cain's campaign imploding?
BACHMANN: That will be for the voters to decide. I think what people are looking at is which candidate is prepared and ready to lead. And as we saw from the foreign policy debate last Saturday night on CBS, it's clear that the next president of the United States needs to be ready from day one, because the next president will be tested almost immediately on foreign policy.
Of all of the candidates that are running in the race, I am the one currently involved in this issue. I sit on the House intelligence committee. We deal with the nation's classified secrets. And so with the threats that come to the United States, both externally and internally and this is something that I have to be conversant with all the time.
It isn't that I know everything. No one possibly can. But this is what I deal with and next president as commander in chief be prepared from day one to deal with these issues, especially with a nuclear Iran and the problems and volatility that there is in the Middle East region.
BLITZER: But Jon Huntsman is a former ambassador to China, so he's obviously well versed on a lot of these national security issues as well, isn't he?
BACHMANN: He's well versed on China, that's true. But I am the only one that is currently involved in the intelligence community, and intelligence is where it's at right now, because our intelligence community is second to none. They're marvelous. They deal with interrogation, detention, rendition. And this is an area that we have to, our commander in chief has to know something about and they have to be prepared to make decisions.
It's one thing to have advisers, but it's another to be the commander in chief. Ultimately the commander in chief makes that decision. And in particular, our nominee has to be able to be conversant and be able to debate with President Obama on the stage, on this issue. It's not like we can poll the audience or ask for a lifeline when it comes to the foreign policy debates with President Obama.
I am capable of standing on the stage toe to toe with the president of the United States and holding him accountable for his disastrous foreign policy, his failures. And really his administration best summed up their foreign policy, which is leading from behind when it came to Libya. But they've led from behind on so many other areas as well.
And that's what I look forward to doing, demonstrating the difference in foreign policy and how this president of the United States has put the United States in a disastrous position.
BLITZER: A couple of questions on that. First of all, Mitt Romney, is he ready to debate the president of the United States in your opinion?
BACHMANN: I believe that I am ready to debate the president of the United States because of my background that I've had on the intelligence committee, but also just the familiarity I have with the issues. And this is something that's the next president of the United States will have to deal with. BLITZER: When you say the president with his policy in Libya leading from behind as it was dubbed, but in the end, it did work. Gadhafi is gone. There's a new Libya. Didn't that strategy that he put in place work with the NATO allies?
BACHMANN: You know, I oppose the president going into Libya. I still oppose the president going into Libya because, after all, it was his own defense secretary who said there was no clear American vital interest in Libya. Why were we there? If there's no clear, identifiable American interest, we had no business being there.
Also, he went on to say there was no mission for us either in Libya. If we don't have a clear identifiable mission, we have no business being there. The president said we were going into Libya for humanitarian purposes, but quite clearly it wasn't humanitarian purposes. It was for regime change, and that's what the president was going for.
Today Libya, the announcement was made they will be operating under Sharia law. If that is so, there are unforeseen consequences that could come from that decision by those who are in charge. But the problem is, no one really knows who's in charge in Libya today. There's militias that are going after one another even street to street, city to city. That leadership hasn't yet been fully determined and we don't know who that will be. It's chaos in Libya now. It's not certainty.
And so the snapshot in time is not one that bodes well for the future. And of course, the president is responsible for the MANPADS that went missing. Some estimates up to 20,000 MANPADS have gone missing, potentially chemical weapons. If that's so, those are shoulder-fired missiles. They are small enough to be thrown in the back of a car and they can be used to bring down a commercial airliner. The president of the United States, President Obama, has to answer for that.
BLITZER: But I just want to be clear, you're happy Gadhafi is gone, right?
BACHMANN: Well, I think everyone is happy that Gadhafi is gone. I'm certainly no fan of Muammar Gadhafi. But he wasn't an immediate threat to the United States when Barack Obama went into Libya. So the result of that has been we don't know who will be in charge. We don't know what type of chaos will ensue. There continues to be a lot of trouble in Libya.
But even more importantly, we have the MANPADS that have gone missing and potentially chemical weapons as well. This is a very real threat if we have a commercial airliner or a military airliner come down as a result of one of those MANPADS, that will l be a disastrous consequence for the president's failed decision to go into Libya.
BLITZER: And MANPADS --
BACHMANN: And he did it without Congressional approval.
BLITZER: -- shoulder fired missiles. Let me get a quick thought from you on Newt Gingrich. Should he release all the documentation about receiving as much as $1.8 million from Freddie Mac?
BACHMANN: Well, you all have to decide that. I just know there's a distinct difference, because I have spent my time fighting against Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and I fought to have them put into receivership rather than conservatorship. Receivership is an orderly winding down in a bankruptcy.
If you look at this last quarter, what a disaster. They were over $7 billion in bankrupt, or in need of a bailout from the taxpayers. The other one was over $6 billion in need of a bailout, and we just had the executives go before Congress and justify that they gave themselves, the top 10 executives, over $12 million, almost $13 million in bonuses.
Now, where's the president of the United States on this? Where's President Obama? Since when do we award bonuses with taxpayer money to people who have to go to the federal government for bailouts? This is a disaster. This is the kind of thing that the Occupy Wall Street forerunners went out to the executives' homes who were getting bailouts on Wall Street. Where's Occupy Wall Street? Why aren't they outraged about this? Why aren't they protesting this? This is exactly what we shouldn't see in the United States.
And that's why I'm calling for Freddie and Fannie to go into bankruptcy and an orderly winding down. We need to have other companies in the free market come up and take their place. They're absolute failures and they need to go into bankruptcy.
BLITZER: A quick follow-up. Some Democrats are saying Gingrich should return that $1.6 million to $1.8 million to the federal government. Should he?
BACHMANN: Well, this may be an ongoing issue and an ongoing question and one that the former speaker will have to address. But again, my response has been to fight Freddie and fight Fannie. They've been, they're government sponsored entities, but today they're practically holding owned subsidiaries of the federal government.
The problem is, for the taxpayers, if they go out to get a home loan today, almost 90 percent plus of homes are financed by the federal government. This is going in the wrong direction. We want to market to prevail in housing. We don't want the federal government backing up housing loans. The federal government already has more than it can possibly have on its plate. We can't afford this. We need to get out of this failed industry and shut it down as quickly as we possibly can. Secondary mortgage companies will rise up in the private market. We need to get the federal government out.
BLITZER: Michele Bachmann, as usual, thanks very much for coming in. We'll continue this conversation. Good luck on the campaign trial.
We'll take a quick break, much more news right after this.
BLITZER: Take a look at these pictures. You can see huge crowds at Wall Street, the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The picture just went away. We're monitoring what's going on. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of that.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, this video claims to show army defectors attacking the military in the town of Homs. The Free Syria Army has stepped up attacks in recent days on government forces. Activists say security forces killed at least 13 people across Syria today.
President Obama has arrived in Indonesia for an Asian economic summit after wrapping up a two-day tour of Australia. Before he left, the president signaled U.S. intent to compete with China for influence in the region, saying, quote, "The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay."
Well, eating your vegetables weren't be so bad for students. Under a law Congress is considering, the bill would allow a serving of pizza to be considered a vegetable. French fries would also make the cut. The bill denies funding to healthier and more expensive school lunch standards from the Agriculture Department. So how about that for a thought, pizza as a vegetable, Wolf?
BLITZER: Pizza's delicious. We love pizza. Thanks very much for that.
Jack Cafferty is next with the "Cafferty File."
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack for the "Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just a quick follow up to Lisa Sylvester's report on Congress trying to decide whether pizza is a vegetable or not. Congress is a vegetable.
The question this hour is what does it mean when a quarter of middle class Americans plan to work until age 80, which is longer than most people live? Jim in Denver writes "It means the American dream of earning a decent living and living with respect is almost dead. The 99 percent of us working stiffs are going to have to scrape by while the people at the top eat cake. This is not what my dad fought for in World War II and worked hard during his life in order to give me a chance to do better than he did. I'm working hard to give my child the same things my father gave me, but I don't think I have a fair chance now to do that. All I want is a fair chance. I'll do the rest."
Chad writes, "They're losing faith in the system to provide a return on the promise of a government and see the political environment unwilling to make the decisions needed to fix the problems." Nate in North Carolina, "It shows that overwhelming responsibility is causing people to acquiesce of the changes being imposed on them. They'll no longer fight back because at the end of the day they have to figure out when to try to get out of debt or start a new career path or find some way to feed their family for the week, even if that means working until they're 80 years old."
Ted writes "This must be the change the president said was coming. Too bad there's no lemon law for elected officials."
Shelby in Pittsburgh, "It means that fast-food orders will be incorrect and we'll still wait in drive-through lines longer and it will take the super committee to agree to cut anything."
And Noah writes, "Hey, Jack, Republicans in office and the one percent aren't going to have to work that long so they don't care. Good luck with them helping the rest of us out with that."
If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM Facebook page. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Jeanne Moos is coming up next.
BLITZER: What's more ridiculous than the objects people get stuck in their bodies? Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Need we say that this goes here and not in here? And electrical cord x-rayed in somebody's gut? And there are a hundred of these. What was the gun doing up there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the tuna can lid --
MOOS: The tweezers, what could they have been trying to pluck? The x-rays are all in a new book called "Stuck Up -- 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn't Be." It's co-authored by this emergency room physician and two other doctors. We doubt the patient's going to be able to pass the salt or the pepper mill or the egg beater or the chopsticks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most commonly, we do see long, slender objects, because that is the most form fitting.
MOOS: We're not going to dwell on how these everyday objects ended up where the sun don't shine. Most of the time it was got an accident, though often that's what people claimed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I accidently fell on an object." That's probably the most common accidental story you'll hear. MOOS: And who hasn't sat on their glasses really, really hard while nude? The doctors say the x-rays are real, though outlines of some objects are graphically enhanced so the reader can easily see them, everything from a computer mouse to a cassette tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was definitely an older x-ray.
MOOS: A more recent x-ray displays an iPod Nano, we can only imagine its play list.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how did that gun get stuck in the middle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certain people love their guns.
MOOS: The good news --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not loaded.
MOOS: Though maybe the patient was.
And you thought a light bulb went off in your head. How about this light bulb in someone's gut? And this string of Christmas lights. The series "Scrubs" did a whole episode on the subject.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either there's a light bulb up his butt or his colon has a great idea.
MOOS: Scrubs accurately described how to remove a light bulb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we need to do is thread an angioplasty balloon past the bulb, inflate it and then pull it.
MOOS: One of the oddest items, where that tuna lid rolled up like a cigar ended up.
But the doctor's favorite found objects is are action figure. Poor Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To infinity and beyond.
MOOS: He said "beyond," not "behind."
And this is Barbie, but it isn't her dream house she's in.
Jeanne Moos, CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, do you have a magazine?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in me. I mean, on me.
MOOS: New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.