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THE SITUATION ROOM
Secret Service Protection for Herman Cain; Clock Ticking on Deficit Committee; Agenda 21: Gingrich's Code Word; Herman Cain Holding News Conference; Joe Paterno Has Lung Cancer; Detroit Laying Off 1,000 Workers; Oklahoma State Coaches Killed in Plane Crash; Two- Year Sentence in Sweat Lodge Deaths; Behind a Bloody Hotel Attack
Aired November 18, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Herman Cain is the first Republican candidate to get Secret Service protection. Now Cain himself is about to speak to reporters to explain why. We're going to bring it to you live. Stand by for that.
Another sex abuse scandal may be brewing in another major university sports program. A coach is placed on leave and we will hear from a friend of the accuser.
And it's called Agenda 21. You probably haven't heard about it. A United Nations development program has become though a codeword for conspiracy-minded conservatives and Newt Gingrich seems to be taking full advantage.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But, first, Herman Cain, he certainly has become the first of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates to get protection from the Secret Service. There are some questions about the timing and the reasons why. Herman Cain himself is due to meet with reporters this hour. We will bring you that live, the Q&A. We will get some answers from him directly.
In the meantime, let's check in with CNN's Joe Johns. He's been looking into this story.
Joe, what do we know?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
Cain is certainly, as you said, the first to get this protection, but he's just not going to be the last. We all know that. Frankly it is to be expected. He's doing well in the polls and qualifies as a major candidate.
JOHNS (voice-over): When and why certain presidential candidates get Secret Service protection may seem like a big mystery, but it's not supposed to be. Sources inside the government confirm that Herman Cain has gotten an unspecified number of threats. Apparently some of the threats have been online. Author Ronald Kessler has written about the Secret Service. He says just a suggestion of harm that doesn't even have to be specific is enough to get the Service involved.
RON KESSLER, AUTHOR: And, generally, it's a matter of threats. The Secret Service doesn't like to say that. But I'm quite sure that in this case there were threats, just as there were with Barack Obama when he got protection early on in March of 2007. There were not specific credible threats but there were threats on the Internet, white supremacist Web sites in the case of Obama.
JOHNS: Spot-checking a handful of white supremacist Web sites, we found derisive comments about Cain, but no threats. These Web sites, by the way, were far more critical of President Obama than Herman Cain.
The rules for getting Secret Service are very simple. The secretary of homeland security can authorize it after consulting with the speaker of the House and top party leaders of Congress. We reached out to all four of them. Two of the four, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's office, responded saying they don't discuss any aspects of security, period, which is probably how the Cain campaign should have handled the question, but they didn't by telling "The Washington Post" that Cain was getting a Secret Service detail because of his intense media coverage.
The campaign quickly changed its story and federal sources strongly deny that media coverage had anything to do with Secret Service protection. The Service again would not comment. But Kessler says that doesn't even sound right.
KESSLER: They're not glorified security guards. They're there to prevent assaults or assassinations. And so I'm sure the Secret Service was a little chagrined to hear them describe this protection in that way.
JOHNS: By the way, it's taxpayers who pay for this, not the campaign. There are benefits to the candidate, of course. It makes it easier to get through airports, find parking places and certainly a lot more security, but on the other hand, a lot of candidates try to wait as long as possible before getting protection because of the privacy issues involved, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you have been looking into this, Joe, the element of race. He's the only black candidate on the Republican part. Has that been a factor or hasn't been a factor? What do you think?
JOHNS: There have certainly been some questions raised about whether it's a factor, because, as you know, there's a bit of skepticism out there about Herman Cain, African-American candidates in general in some quarters and certainly the fact that he is an African-American Republican running for the office of president of the United States. So we'd like to hear more from him about where these threats come from, but beyond that, it's not a simple answer, at least for right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's not simple, but my theory is, and I know it's yours, all of us who have worked with the Secret Service and presidential candidates over the years, better to be safe rather than sorry. If there's any doubt at all, any question of a candidate's security, get the Secret Service, get them involved early and often, as we say.
JOHNS: Absolutely right.
BLITZER: Thanks, Joe. Thanks very much.
A war over e-mails has now broken out between Mitt Romney and the Democrats, including his successor as the Massachusetts governor. Each side wants to see the other's records. But in Romney's case, those records may -- may have been destroyed.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM and she is ready to explain what's going on.
So go ahead and explain.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First of all, Wolf, no one in this case is accused of breaking the law. Who considers a fight over computer hard drives sexy? But that's what we're talking about.
It's a scuffle over e-mails among the Romney campaign, President Obama's top political aides and the current governor of Massachusetts. But, really, it's a potential general election fight taking shape.
YELLIN (voice-over): Mitt Romney's campaign launched the first attack blasting off this legal warning to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
"It's evident that your office has become an opposition research arm of the Obama reelection campaign, requesting copies of all e-mail correspondence, phone logs and contacts between the president's top political aides and the governor's office since 2007."
The chair of the Democratic National Committee scoffed.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, that's an interesting distraction.
YELLIN: And her group fired back with a request for all electronic correspondence from the Romney administration with these carefully chosen words, "delete e-mails, destroy records, flip-flop, change position, ranked 47th in job creation." To the Romney campaign, that's a sign of fear.
GAIL GITCHO, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: And the last thing they want to do is run against Mitt Romney in the general election.
YELLIN: It all started with this "Boston Globe" article revealing that at the end of Romney's term as Massachusetts governor, 11 of his top aides purchased their state-issued computer hard drives, and the Romney administration's e-mails were all wiped from a server.
The current Democratic governor, Deval Patrick -- quote -- "has been bombarded with inquiries for records from the Romney era and has no electronic record of any Romney administration e-mails."
Governor Patrick is a friend of President Obama and is expected to campaign for him in 2012. Democrats say the Romney wipe is unprecedented.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mitt Romney was planning to run for president towards the end of his administration and the public has the right to know what kinds of communication were going on while he was beginning to plan that campaign. It is absolutely unconscionable, inexcusable that records of those conversations or of any conversations would have been wiped clean from servers.
YELLIN: But the Romney campaign says it was all legal and:
GITCHO: The Obama administration is a very large organization and they're going to spend millions of dollars, if not a billion dollars, in order to hold on to power. They are going to say and do anything in order to hold onto their power. And in this case, they have deployed or activated the Patrick administration to do their dirty work.
YELLIN: Now, all of this plays into a larger dynamic on the political scene, which is that the Obama team, the campaign team is focusing heavily on Mitt Romney, trying to define him early as a candidate with, in their words, sort of no core values, a flip-flopper. You heard the words the DNC included in their legal FOIA request, their information request.
But the Romney campaign, they're fighting a primary battle and they rarely engage with the Obama folks. But when they do, as in this instance, it gives you a taste just how nasty a general election fight between Obama and Romney would be.
BLITZER: It could be brutal, probably a lot more intense than the Obama-McCain fight was, given the stakes involved.
YELLIN: No question about it. It will be brutal, as you say.
BLITZER: If Romney gets this. He still has to get it.
YELLIN: If. If.
BLITZER: We will see if he gets that nomination.
YELLIN: That would be a brutal fight. BLITZER: Jessica, thank you.
The congressional all-star team assigned to find a fix for the nation's debt problems may be heading for failure right now. The so- called super committee has just five day left to come up with a plan for trimming the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Otherwise, painful automatic spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect.
CNN congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is joining us now with more.
Kate, it's not necessarily looking all that promising right now. What do you know about the latest in these intense negotiations?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, things are beginning to look grim up here on Capitol Hill. It does appear that the super committee is headed toward failure, and it's a big if, if the negotiations do not shift dramatically in the final few days.
As evidence of that, there has been -- recently, we have learned of negotiations between Republicans and Democratic leaders, but those negotiations seem to have also fallen apart. Republicans, according to sources, pitched a much smaller package of spending cuts with very little revenue. And Democrats dismissed that, countering, saying that more revenue would be needed in that package for the deal to go through.
Now, that really shows where things have fallen apart all along and deadlocked this committee largely over the issue of taxes. Democrats say that more revenue, tax increases need to be part of any package for it to be part of the -- quote, unquote -- "balanced approach" that they have been calling for. Republicans though remain just as firmly against tax increases unless they are part of a much broader process of tax reform that would lower overall rates.
Listen here to the Republican and the Democratic co-chairs of the super committee for the latest, Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: We are painfully, painfully aware of the deadline that is staring us in the face. And we have 12 good people who have worked hard since this committee has been created to try to find sufficient common ground for an agreement that would simultaneously address both our nation's job crisis and the debt crisis.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Clearly, there is a major concession on our part to meet them dollar for dollar on entitlements and spending cuts, not policy for policy, but dollar for dollar on those issues.
Where the divide is right now is on taxes and whether or not the wealthiest Americans should share in the sacrifice that all of us have to make. That's the decision. It's what we're waiting for. I remain hopeful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And you hear Senator Patty Murray say right there that she is hopeful.
I will caution both sides say they are talking, both sides say they are still working and will work right up to the deadline. And as you well know, Wolf, Congress loves a deadline. And these big congressional negotiations often go into the 11th hour before there is that magical breakthrough.
But it's noteworthy that the discussions, a lot of the talk has largely shifted from, how can we get a deal, can we get a deal of meeting that $1.2 trillion minimum in deficit savings over 10 years, and now shifted more to how can we lessen the blow, if at all, of that trigger, when that sets in, if the committee does not meet its deadline of Wednesday, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. We will stay in very close touch with you throughout the weekend, Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday. We will watch what is going on. Kate, thanks very much.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're standing by.
Herman Cain, he is in Orlando, Florida, right now. He is giving a speech, but he is going to meet with reporters shortly, talk a little bit I'm sure about the Secret Service decision to provide him with security protection, a lot of other issues coming up. We will go to Orlando live, take that news conference from Herman Cain. Get ready for that.
Also, a new twist in the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal. The NCAA is now getting involved in a move with huge implications. And a similar scandal erupting at another major university. We're talking about Syracuse University, with a coach now put on leave.
Details of the allegations there and a lot more news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The NCAA just informed Penn State University it will evaluate the university's accountability in the child sex abuse scandal swirling around the former football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Mike Galanos of our sister network HLN is working this new development for us. He's in University Park, Pennsylvania.
What are you finding out, Mike?
MIKE GALANOS, HLN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, I'm poring over this three page letter sent out by the NCAA, and there are four questions at the end of it that Penn State has to answer by December 16th.
Let me read you one passage here in it and it directly deals with the head coach, in this case, Joe Paterno. It says this, Wolf, it shall be the responsibility of an institution's head coach to promote an atmosphere for compliance within a program supervised by the coach and to monitor activities regarding compliance of all assistant coaches and other administers involved with the program who report directly or indirectly to the coach.
Joe Paterno is in the eye of that passage there. And, Wolf, it talks about moral values here, that you have to do more than avoid improper conduct or questionable acts. I mention the four at the end -- Penn State, did they exercise institutional control. The fourth question, what policies and procedures that Penn State have in place to monitor, prevent and detect the issues identified in and related to that grand jury report? And it wraps up with this convicting line, Wolf, saying that we need to encourage behaviors that lift up young people rather than making them victims.
Again, that from the NCAA, is how they launched the investigation. Those questions need to be answered by the 16th.
There is a statement from Penn State saying this, President Erickson said, "It will be important for Penn State to cooperate fully and provide any assistance possible to the NCAA, the university's and the NCAA's interest are perfectly align in identifying what went wrong and how to prevent anything similar from happening again." So, you know, Penn State here, as I stand in the midst of it, Wolf, kind of turning into a ghost town, as all the students are leaving, get out of here for the Thanksgiving break.
So, that one statement and reaction we have at this point.
BLITZER: Are they saying anything in that letter, Mike, about possible punishment for Penn State University if this investigation finds that the highest levels of the football program or others were derelict?
GALANOS: No specific punishments mentioned, Wolf, and you all know what those could end up being? Ban from bowl game, loss of scholarships and even at the beginning of this sex abuse scandal, there was a talk of a potential death penalty, that's a media term not an NCAA term. But basically, Penn State maybe -- could not play football for up to one year.
And being in and around Penn State, couldn't imagine, as I look this way and this way, there's five to 10 Penn State stores, all football related, Wolf. This place would be rocked, but they've already been rocked with this scandal, I'd say that.
BLITZER: Yes. More than 100,000 fans at every home game in Penn State. That's been going on for years and years and years.
Mike, we'll stay in touch with you. Thank you.
Meanwhile, a similar scandal is now exploding at Syracuse University. The associate men's basketball coach, Bernie Fine, has been put on administrative leave after accusations surfaced that he inappropriately touched two boys starting more than two decades ago.
Let's bring in CNN's Erin Burnett, the host of "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," weeknights, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Erin, you spoke to a close friend of one of those accusers. What did he say and why now?
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Wolf, actually, spoke to a close friend of Bernie Fine, someone who knew him for 25 years, about whether this happened, Wolf, what kind of man he was.
Don McPherson was a runner up for the Heisman Trophy when he was sat Syracuse University, college football hall of famer and knew Fine well, actually has subsequently spent much of his life as an advocate for things, including child sex abuse in male sports So, he said he would be shocked. He hopes that Fine is exonerated. And really had never seen or heard any sorts of allegations like this.
I also talked to sources at Syracuse who indicate that no one other boys or now men have come forward about associate coach Fine since this first broke last night. But I did learn this, Wolf, and I think it's interesting, as we start to think how prevalent this might be, on one hand, and on the other hand, about the potential and fear of false accusations out there.
Syracuse University, as you know, one of these boys had come forward, now men, in 2005. The school spent four months interviewing people around coach Fine to see whether anything had happened. They came to the conclusion nothing untoward had occurred. And it is only in the past few days that a second man came forward who was actually related to the first man, to allege that he was also abused by coach Fine. And that was when coach Fine was put on administrative leave.
So, it's very unclear what happened here and they're going to be looking into it from the police perspective. But the background is interesting. And it's curious to think about what more we will hear from other schools across the country.
BLITZER: Erin, hold on a second.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: All right. CNN has now confirmed the news that the former head football coach of Penn State University, Joe Paterno, is now suffering from what is being described as a treatable form of lung cancer. We just got that information from our contributor, Sara Ganim.
Mike Galanos is still an over at Penn State University for us. He's I think 84 years old. And, of course, all of us wish coach Paterno only the best, Mike. But this is a dramatic development. It might explain some of the stuff going on lately.
A treatable form of lung cancer, I guess we're not exactly sure what that means. But maybe it means he's going to get surgery or something like that. Do we know anything else, Mike?
GALANOS: No. That's it, Wolf. We just got that information as well as I stand right in front of Penn State University and to many, a beloved Joe Paterno, as you mentioned, a treatable form of lung cancer.
This community still rocks. I had a chance to be on a radio program right here in State College. It's a weary community. I cannot imagine how they're taking this news because they want to be sure they thank Joe Paterno for the years and years and all he's done aside from the scandal. I mean, he -- one person got on the phone and said he's done more for Penn State than any coach in any university in the country.
BLITZER: Give us a little perspective. You've covered Penn State football over the years. So have I. I don't think we can over- exaggerate how significant Joe Paterno's legacy at Penn State has been and why this whole development in recent days, this tragedy, this sexual abuse scandal and this forced resignation, that has tarnished what was arguably the most stellar football coach record in American history.
GALANOS: You know, and again, scandal aside, Wolf, to add to your perspective on this, these students I talked to, were so saddened. They love Joe Paterno. In a sense, he's a father or grandfather figure. You know, I walked in front of that stadium. And there's a statute of Joe Paterno.
The basic sentiment is, I want to be remembered who made Penn State a better place and I wasn't just a football coach. That's pretty much the direct quote there. So, again, this community takes a hit as a man that they have revered for so long will now battle a treatable form of lung cancer.
BLITZER: Well, we wish him only the best. We're going to get some more information check in with our sources over at Penn State, sources close to Joe Paterno.
Once again, CNN has confirmed that former Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, has been diagnosed with what's being described as a treatable form of lung cancer. We'll stay on top of this story. What a development that is.
We'll check the day's other top stories coming up.
Newt Gingrich and something called Agenda 21, why he keeps mentioning it and why Tea Party activist, among others, they are paying close attention. We'll explain.
Lots of news happening right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's called Agenda 21, a United Nations plan for sustainable development. It's become a code word among some conservatives. And now, it's being frequently thrown out by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
We asked Jim Acosta to take a closer look at this story for us.
What are we learning?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it might have slipped past some viewers of last Saturday's GOP debate down in South Carolina, but it did not catch everybody off guard in the Tea Party movement who heard Newt Gingrich talk about something called Agenda 21.
ACOSTA (voice-over): If you weren't listening closely to Newt Gingrich at the last GOP debate in South Carolina, you might have missed it.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would explicitly repudiate what Obama's done on Agenda 21 as the kind of inference from the United Nations.
ACOSTA: Agenda 21, it's a hot topic in Tea Party circles and Newt Gingrich is vowing to stop it.
GINGRICH: One of the things popping up, for example, is Agenda 21. That's probably going to be one of the first executive orders, is to cease all federal funding of any kind of activity that relates to United Nations Agenda 21.
ACOSTA: So, what is Agenda 21? It was adopted by the United Nations back in 1992 as part of a global initiative to combat climate change. According to the U.N.'s Web site, the plan is to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations system, governments and major groups in every area in which human beings impact the environment.
But in his pitch to Tea Party groups, Gingrich warns Agenda 21 could someday be used to seize the private property of American citizens.
GINGRICH: It's a United Nations proposal to create a series of centralized planning provisions, where all of a sudden your local city government can't do something because of some agreement they signed with some private group who are all committed basically to taking control of your private property and turning it into a publicly controlled property.
MAYOR PHIL STODDARD, SOUTH MIAMI, FLORIDA: I think they're out of their minds.
ACOSTA: Bill Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, Florida, says Agenda 21 is no U.N. conspiracy. He says his city adopted the program to promote smart growth ideas in his community, to ease traffic congestion and cut down on pollution.
STODDARD: This is just a way that we can share information on how we're combating climate change, and how we're promoting sustainable development.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You looking in the mirror and take in --
ACOSTA: But across the country, Tea Party groups have appealed to city and county governments to vote down Agenda 21 programs.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People come to me and are concerned about it.
ACOSTA: In Iowa earlier this week, Gingrich acknowledged Agenda 21 is not even binding.
GINGRICH: It's part of the treaty we have never endorsed by the Senate and I don't think the federal government should be in the process of helping implement things that the Senate has not approved.
ACOSTA: Why raise that as an issue on the campaign trail that would not conceivably get passed by the Congress?
GINGRICH: Well, because it's actually being implemented at the local level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Implemented but not binding, climate change is a touchy subject for Newt Gingrich. Three years ago he appeared in an ad with Nancy Pelosi endorsing a national effort to combat global warming. He now calls that ad, Wolf, a mistake.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, he's acknowledged that he was embarrassed. Why did he do that ad to begin with? Does he explain why he was in that ad? It's pretty dramatic. He's sitting there on a bench with -- we've all seen that ad.
ACOSTA: He said it's the worst mistake he's made in years. He says he, too, believes that climate change is a real problem that has to be solved. He just doesn't agree with proposals coming from the Obama administration to solve it.
But he is starting to walk some of that back. That is part of the reason perhaps why he is talking about Agenda 21 because it goes right to Tea Party groups that don't like hearing about the topic of climate change.
BLITZER: He has emerged as a top tier candidate at least according to all of the polls that we've seen. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, for that.
Let's talk about Newt Gingrich and the other presidential candidates a little bit in our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
Do you have a good explanation, Paul, why he's talking about this Agenda 21? The obvious explanation is it's something that a lot of conservatives, Tea Party activists would be encouraged to hear? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think Jim's reporting was really solid on that and really interesting because it's sort of a dog whistle issue.
You know, you ask a normal person, should we try to do what we can do here at the local level to cut down on traffic or to have smart growth or to be able to sustain the environment so we can leave or children and grandchildren a cleaner neighborhood or community, they would say yes.
But for that conspiratorial fringe, even though it's not binding even Newt Gingrich in the piece of Jim had said it's a local matter. Well, Newt's not running for local office.
So it's one of those dog whistle issues that he can use for conspiracy theorists to try to distract from the fact that he actually once being a guy processed of a magnificent brain actually knew that global warming is a problem and he wanted to do something about this.
BLITZER: He is a very intelligent guy, Mary, as all of us who've covered him. He knows something about everything and very often he knows a lot about everything. Why do you think he's engaged in what the critics are calling this conspiracy theory?
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the critics are grassy knollers who tend to find conspiracies everywhere. This is a 21-year- old U.N. program clearing up traffic at the local level is not the depth and breathed of what's inside of Agenda 21.
Any U.N. program that existed over 20 years has a growth and a spread that should be looked at. The U.N. is a big issue for conservatives and Republicans.
Climate change is a big -- man made climate change really is a conspiracy, big issue for conservatives. You can say a lot of things about Newt. What you can't say is he doesn't know what he's talking about when he gets into something.
BLITZER: Let me make a turn to the "Washington Post." Mary, Paul, I'll let you discuss it first. The other day, we learned that Newt Gingrich made nearly $2 million doing consulting work for Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage giant that the federal government all the taxpayers had to bail out to the tune of more than $100 billion.
Now we're learning in recent years, he took in another $30 million to $40 million, $35 million, according to the "Washington Post," from health care industry businesses. Is there anything wrong with that?
BEGALA: Not per se. Our viewers should know that I was a communications, a PR consultant for Freddie Mac when Newt was --
BLITZER: Did you make $1.8 million?
BEGALA: I can't disclose what I made, but I don't think I was in Newt's league. I also didn't advice on lobbying, which is what Newt was advising on, but there is nothing immoral or certainly nothing illegal about it.
He just needs to own up to it. I think politically the health problem that he has got is that when he was advocating for those health industries, he was also advocating for an individual mandate requiring everybody who makes more than $50,000 a year to buy health insurance.
That's very much like Mitt Romney's individual mandate in Romney care and very much like Barack Obama individual mandate in Obamacare. So Newt's got a political problem because he was a strong supporter of an individual mandate, which again is an (inaudible) to conservatives.
BLITZER: If he was paid $37 million from health care industry, Mary, is that a political issue he has to worry about right now in his bid for the Republican nomination?
MATALIN: You know, I don't think so. I remember when he started that transformational health care. He was ahead of the curve in bringing health care quality and costs into the 21st Century.
The thing about Newt's activity, people lined up to pick his big brain, not be an influence peddler, but have an impact on policies. He's been out of office, 12 years, don't know anybody smarter, didn't in Congress, don't today.
I think voters, particularly conservatives have come to the conclusion that Newt looks like he's able to consolidate the 75 percent, he's already ahead in New Hampshire.
So that's why you said at the top, Wolf, all of these -- everything will come out on Newt right now and be viewed through this critical prism. But I think he will be able to stand up to it.
BLITZER: All right, guys, hold on for a minute. You can see on the right hand part of your screen, Herman Cain, he is in Orlando. He's getting ready to go up to that microphone over there and take questions from reporters.
He's the first Republican presidential candidate now to get Secret Service protection, lots of other questions for Herman Cain in Orland. We'll go there live once the Republican candidate shows up.
We're also getting new information on the former football coach of Penn State University, Joe Paterno. We've now confirmed he's diagnosed with what's being called a treatable form of lung cancer.
We're also getting from Syracuse University, a statement from Bernie Fine, the assistant basketball coach who's now also been accused of sexual abuse. Lots of news happening right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Herman Cain is taking questions in Orlando right now. Let's listen in.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because of the popularity of my campaign, it was time to go to that next step. I'm just glad that, you know, we were given that opportunity. So we're delighted to have it.
The thing about Secret Service is that things are secret, so we don't discuss any details about it because that would not be appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).
That is not true. It will not cost a family of four making $50,000 a year. I went through the calculations myself. They end up with more money left over. So what I invite people to do, sit down and do the calculation.
Because you have to take into account that the 9-9-9 plan replaces the payroll tax, the personal income tax, corporate income tax, death tax and capital gains tax, just with the payroll tax, which every worker is paying off the top, 7.65 percent.
The employer is paying for them another 7.65 percent. It may not be going through their check, but it's that money because if that employee wasn't working there, the employer wouldn't have to pay it. That's 15 percent right there.
Now if they're making $50,000 a year, they're probably in the 15 percent bracket. Most people -- they're in the 15 percent bracket. Now, you're up to 30 percent of your money gone. Now, you're down to 9 percent tax on your income and the 9 percent sales tax of the second and the third 9.
Now even on the third 9, you come out ahead, because in everything we buy, there are embedded taxes. They come out, because of the first 9. So when you go to the store to buy that loaf of bread, you have a visible 9 percent, but 30 percent or more has been pulled out.
The farmer has to make a profit. He pays taxes. The miller has to make a profit and pay taxes. The baker who bakes the bread, the truck driver who drives it to the grocery store and the grocery store, and you have at least five embedded taxes.
They come out because of the way the first 9 works. Then you have a visible 9. I personally went through that scenario of a $50,000 family of four. They end up with money left over. Yes, sir. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).
CAIN: This -- this was not my decision. No. I wanted to respect our hosts who invited me in to speak at this particular event, so that was the main reason.
And, yes, we had private security for a while before we asked for Secret Service protection. We wanted to move to that next level because of my ranking in the polls and the additional scrutiny that I have been getting. Mike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it just -- CAIN: Mike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know about the war in Libya.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know Spanish is spoken in Cuba. What is it with these gases?
CAIN: The Libya question was the question was too broad. I do admit I was a bit fatigued, but the question was too broad, so I paused. What they didn't show was I asked the reporter to be more specific.
Well, he didn't get more specific. His question was, and I hope you all show this or write about it, do you agree or disagree with President Obama on Libya? What part? Do I agree with the part where we intervene with rockets and missiles?
Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that Gadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you've got Taliban and al Qaeda that's going to be part of the government? Do I agree with not knowing the government -- which part was he asking me about?
I was trying to get him to be specific and he wouldn't be specific. Then, I went on to say -- they didn't show this -- if it were me, as president, I would have wanted to know more about the opposition because now we see that not all the people in the opposition are our friends.
I would have wanted to know more about, well, what was the resulting government going to look like. Now, we have a country in chaos. Here's the biggest question I would have asked. Why should we spend a billion dollars and lead from behind when the countries that had the most to gain would have been the countries in Europe?
Most of Libya's oil goes to Europe. But they spent the least amount of money. So it gets back to something I have said from time-to-time. Before I commit U.S. troops, military or any of our resources, what's in the -- how is it in the interest of the United States of America?
So I was trying to narrow it down. Now, when I asked -- when I was in front of a Cuban restaurant, I was in front of a Cuban restaurant. I was raised in this country, folk, folks, I think I know that the language of the Cuban people is Spanish.
But when you move up in the polls, every word, every pause gets fly specked. Let me tell you about the American people. They don't care about that stuff! They care about jobs, jobs, job jobs, 9-9-9. That's what the people care about. I had another question over here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Across the street, you were very comfortable talking to that group about the fact that you're a man of faith.
CAIN: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe you said you intend to be the people's president and a defending father as opposed to a founding father. Explain that a little bit.
CAIN: Well, first of all, because it was in that setting, I shared with them the experience that I had dealing with stage 4 cancer. They appreciated it because a lot of the people there were, you know, people of faith.
When I say, I'm going to be the people's president. I believe that Congress and most of the people inside the beltway view themselves, even though they don't say it, as the political class. They treat the people like surfs.
And so when I say that I'm going to be a people's president, I have been listening to the people. And it's people that are propelling me in the polls. As president, I am going to be the president, not the politician's president, the people's president. The difference is, when I ask Congress to propose legislation, I'm going to ask for it to be simple, understandable.
If it's simple, understandable and transparent, guess what? The people can get behind it. And if the people get behind it and they want it, if they understand it, they will demand it.
So that's what I meant by being a people's president. My first question with any issue is going to be, what do the people want, not how do we get it passed through Congress?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you consider yourself -- with people who aren't necessarily Christian?
CAIN: Yes. I will represent all people in this country because I respect all religions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Americans!
CAIN: Yes, we are all Americans. Yes, I will represent all the people, but I won't be afraid to express my religion just like everybody can express theirs. We are Americans first. I want to put united back into United States of America as the people's president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your popularity and rise in numbers, is that why you have the Secret Service? Do you have any problems beyond being pressed by media?
CAIN: It wasn't being pressed by media, trust me. We're not scared of you guys and gals, come on, OK. That had nothing to do with it. We went through an evaluation of a lot of factors and made the request.
To be honest with you, they could have turned us down. They didn't. That's all we're going to say about that because it wouldn't be appropriate to go into any other detail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible). CAIN: There were a number of factors, OK, I am not at liberty to go into and it wouldn't be wise to go into some of those factors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everybody.
CAIN: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks, folks, thank you! 9- 9-9, jobs, job, jobs.
BLITZER: All right, there he is, Herman Cain. He's in a good mood today. He's obviously very energetic, asked a few questions on his request. He has now confirmed it was Herman Cain and his campaign that asked the United States Secret Service for protection and the Secret Service agreed.
He's the first Republican presidential candidate to get formal Secret Service protection. Mary Matalin and Paul Begala are with us. Mary, let me go to you first.
The whole notion of Secret Service protection, he's not explaining why. Originally one of his aides said it was to protect him from the news media, which obviously he acknowledges is ridiculous.
I don't know anyone would say that, but there must be some other bonafide reasons and for good reason he doesn't want to explain. But he thinks he needs secret service protection and it's appropriate that the Secret Service said, yes, I assume you'll agree.
MATALIN: Well, and Paul will agree with this, too. They can ask, but the candidates don't really control. The Secret Service decides if the threat is commensurate to their service. They obviously thought that it was. I think it's good that he doesn't reveal what it is. There are a lot of crazy people out there.
BLITZER: Yes. If there are threats out there, the Secret Service always Paul used to work in the White House, just like Mary, the Secret Service always says, you know what, we'll deal with it. You don't have to go public with this information.
You totally understand, Paul, why he will be the first candidate, Republican candidate to get Secret Service protection just as Barack Obama was the first Democratic candidate four years ago to get Secret Service protection.
BEGALA: Right and God bless those folks. I know Mary agrees with this -- us who have been privileged to work in the White House and work with Secret Service. I wear a Secret Service lapel pin every single day on the air. It's our American flag, but in there embedded in there is the Secret Service logo.
Because I saw them do extraordinary things to protect our president and the first family, as Mary did. They're just the best. There's no doubt. If they decide Mr. Cain needs it, he needs it.
I as a taxpayer am glad he is getting that protection. In time, other candidates will probably require it as well. They have an extraordinary group of men and women out there to risk their lives to protect our democracy.
BLITZER: What did you think, Mary, of his answer, when he was asked why did you apparently get confused when you were asked in Milwaukee the other day about the U.S. policy towards Libya and there was that long, very, very painful pause, he seemed to be confused. At one point, he said, I have so much twirling around in his head right now, what do you think of his explanation today?
MATALIN: Well, as you noted, Wolf, he was very strong on everything. He was strong on the regressivity of consumption part of 9-9-9, very good on that. Very good on that answer, I still don't understand as operative why he was at the Milwaukee Sentinel in the first place and we're seven weeks out from Iowa, Wisconsin is not on the primary calendar.
But I thought he was strong on all the answers. Think about if these debates are doing a disservice to these candidates, when they get some time to explain themselves. They seem to get a little bit more traction.
BLITZER: Mary makes a fair point. Why was he at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or Sentinel Journal, I forgot what I's called, the Sentinel journal newspapers in Milwaukee, why did he go meet with the editorial board there, Paul, as opposed to turn down the New Hampshire union leader this week, New Hampshire has a big contest, I believe, coming up a lot earlier than Wisconsin?
BEGALA: Absolutely unbelievable, to dis the union leader that way, which is legendary for its power and influence and respect among the conservatives, one of the most conservative editorial pages in America and when they're for you, they're for you.
He made a huge mistake. One part, I did not like, Mr. Cain is good, charming, engaging, a very appealing guy. But he talked way too much about that Libya gaffe. In fact, he encouraged people to go to the journal Sentinel's web site and see it for themselves.
I do too. It was a disaster. The less you say about that, that the better. I think Mr. Cain would be well served. I give him free advice. Use my favorite punctuation mark, the period, stop talking about the Libya thing and talk about the other things.
MATALIN: I give you that, Paul.
BLITZER: I think the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel probably didn't get as many hits on that video of that little meeting that they had with Herman Cain. In a long time that video, of course, went viral. All right, guys, thanks very much.
We have a lot more breaking news coming up, including this. Let me tell our viewers what's going on with Joe Paterno. As you know, we've been reporting for a while that he has been diagnosed with what his family calls a treatable form of lung cancer.
We just got a statement from his son, Scott Paterno. Let me read it to you. Last week my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness.
He is currently undergoing treatment and his doctors are optimistic and that he will make a full recovery. As everyone can appreciate, this is a deeply personal matter for my parents and we simply ask that his privacy be respected as he proceeds with treatment. We're going to have a lot more coming up on this story at the top of the hour, the breaking news, Joe Paterno has been diagnosed with what his family is calling a treatable form of lung cancer. Much more news right after this.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other stories in THE SIUTATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the mayor's office confirms that the city of Detroit is cutting 1,000 jobs with layoff notice coming just around the holidays. The motor city is facing a $45 million cash shortfall. Detroit's mayor says the city could run out of money by April and possibly face bankruptcy.
Oklahoma State University is mourning the loss of two coaches killed in a small plane crash in Arkansas. Women's basketball coach, Kurt Budke and assistant women's basketball coach, Miranda Serna are among four people who died. The school has canceled this weekend's games and it's making grief counselors available to athletes and staff.
And a two-year prison sentence for a self-help expert who presided over a deadly sweat lodge ceremony, James Arthur Ray was convicted of negligent homicide in connection with the 2009 tragedy. Three people died when the homemade lodge was heated to extreme temperatures. Prosecutors say Ray didn't monitor the temperature or seek help for those who falling ill -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. A video meanwhile has surfaced showing the Taliban preparing for last June's bold attack in a luxury hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. Here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the most brazen attacks to hit Kabul in June, a government conference at the Intercontinental Hotel was attacked by a suicide squad who killed 11 others.
It took Special Forces, helicopters and a drone to suppress it six hours later. President Karzai this week gathered tribal leaders near the hotel for a vital meeting about America's presence here.
But now, CNN has gained a unique insight into how that raid was planned. The Taliban have posted online a lengthy propaganda video they say about the seven men behind that attack.
This is a display what they want us to see of their skills and planning. CNN can't prove it's genuine, only that it shows how sophisticated their message and media are after a decade of war. Ambush somewhere else seems to have insurgents steal in military uniforms. One hotel attacker speaks with his wish to die.
My message is life is too short, he says. You can die of cancer or car accidents. If you want God's blessing, be a suicide attacker. The preparations are elaborate. We think only the faces of the dead visible in front of a model of the hotel, discussing tactics.
Those with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, the tutor says, get on the roof and use it as a control tower so the enemy can't enter easily.
Then, there's footage of the attack itself. In a war about perception and victory, the Taliban have an increasingly sophisticated voice. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.