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Super Committee Failing; Newt Gingrich New Republican Front- Runner

Aired November 21, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a looming deadline and little hope of a breakthrough. Congress' debt super committee, as it's called, appears heading toward super failure.

Also, a new poll just released shows a dramatic shakeup in the Republican race for the White House with, get this, Newt Gingrich, he's the new front-runner.

And are the Taliban playing any role in Libya, as Herman Cain suggests? I will ask the U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Susan Rice. She is just back from a surprise visit to Tripoli.

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

We're live here at Constitution Hall here in the nation's capital, where in just a little bit more than 24 hours, the Republican presidential hopefuls will face off for the first time in a major debate on national security, foreign affairs and the economy.

I will be moderating the event which is being co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute.

On the eve of this critical contest, an eye-popping shift in the Republican contest. A new CNN/ORC poll just released minutes ago shows Newt Gingrich on top of the Republican pack for the first time.

Look at this -- 24 percent of Republicans asked say the former House speaker is their choice to be the presidential nominee, compared to 20 percent for Mitt Romney. Gingrich's four-point margin is within the sampling error, so statistically it is a dead heat between Gingrich and Romney among Republicans nationwide -- 17 percent want Herman Cain -- 11 percent say Rick Perry, the other candidates all in single digits.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here with me at Constitution Hall.

We're looking at all these numbers, Gloria, and Gingrich is doing amazingly well and in several specific categories much better than Mitt Romney.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He is. And it kind of helps to explain why he has risen in the polls so dramatically. We asked Republicans who is most likely to understand complex issues? Newt Gingrich, 43. Mitt Romney, 18 percent, Wolf. Who is best qualified to be commander in chief, 36 to 20. Most likely to would agree with you on the issues, 25 to 16 percent. That's 16 percent number is the real problem for Mitt Romney, because Republicans are still skeptical that he is conservative enough to be the nominee they want to go against Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Who do you these Republicans believe has the best chance of beating the president of the United States in November 2012?

BORGER: In the end, it is all about electability, right, Wolf? So let's take a look. Romney, 40 percent, the most electable can date by a long shot, Newt 21 percent, Cain 16 percent. Then you see the rest in single digits.

So Romney's selling point is his electability,, plausibility as president, but in a Republican primary, he can't talk about that a lot because that is a clear red flag to lots of Republican voters that, oops, you're a moderate. But you know what he is doing? He is going up with a an ad in New Hampshire tomorrow.

Barack Obama will be in New Hampshire. And he will go toe to toe against Barack Obama, reminding people that the president did not do what he promised on the economy. So he is clearly trying to make this into a two-man race, Romney vs. Obama.

BLITZER: Who are the Republicans most enthusiastic about?

BORGER: Well, they are enthusiastic about all of their candidate. The Republicans are much more enthusiastic voters than the Democrats are. But if you look, Gingrich 70 percent. Romney, 69. Herman Cain, 64. Perry and Paul, they're all in high double digits.

And I will say about Newt Gingrich, his enthusiasm rating is up 19 points since May. That's about when his campaign imploded. But here is one advantage Mitt Romney has. He is considered in our poll three times more likable than Newt Gingrich. So Republican voters may be really starting to warm up to Mitt Romney. We will just have to see.

BLITZER: It's going to be exciting. It's going to be a contest, it looks like.

BORGER: And we will see tomorrow night how they do.


BLITZER: We will be ready.

BORGER: Newt Gingrich has done so well in these debates that that has really, really driven his increase in the polls.

BLITZER: Certainly helped him a lot. We will see how he does tomorrow night. Thanks very much.

We are expecting an announcement any time now from the congressional super committee charged with reaching a deal to cut more than a trillion dollars from the U.S. debt. And it appears the lawmakers have in fact failed.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is up on Capitol Hill here in Washington.

Kate, there was a last-ditch effort to come up with something. What are you hearing about that last-ditch effort? What is the latest?


Well, yes, barring any unforeseen, and I would say at this point, a dramatic breakthrough, all my sources are continuing to indicate that it does appear that the committee is heading for failure with a likely formal announcement coming really any time yet this evening, notably as the markets close.

But, as you mentioned, it is possibly an 11th hour effort try to pull off some sort of a deal. A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the super committee gathered behind closed doors. Senator Max Baucus -- Democratic Senator Max Baucus, he emerged from the meeting noting that both sides are feeling the pressure. Listen here to him.


SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: Both sides are feeling angst and greater angst at the possibility of no agreement. So they are working harder, more creatively to see what can be accomplished. That is happening on both sides.


BOLDUAN: Now, I'm told, Wolf, in this meeting, Senator John Kerry floated some sort of a new tax idea, a new tax proposal, possibly in hopes of trying to bridge the gap. No details are available of that plan.

But I will tell that you a Republican leadership aide quickly shot that down in hearing this Kerry proposal, if you will, calling it a gimmick to get -- try another effort in this aide's words to get a trillion dollar tax hike. It seems it could be a long shot. But I will tell you, while the deadline is Wednesday, today is critical, Wolf. Here is why. Because the committee is required by law to have a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate and savings 48 hours before voting on the proposal.

We are now two days away from the actual -- from the firm deadline of November 23. They are absolutely down to the wire. And we are waiting really any minute, possibly, to be getting a formal announcement that the committee hasn't been able to reach a deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they have been waiting. A lot of people speculating they were waiting for the markets to close, which they just have on Wall Street. We will see what happens. Kate, as soon as you get word, let us know. We will come right back to you. BOLDUAN: Of course.

BLITZER: Certainly the looming failure is not going over well on Wall Street. All major indices were down today, with the Dow Jones industrials average down more than 240 points.

CNN's Erin Burnett is here with more with this part of the story.

Erin, you know, if you look at markets, I would have thought they already would have discounted on a failure, because a lot of people thought there would be failure, but the markets really went down significantly today.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That is actually interesting, because most people did expect they would fail. But I think what's happened and the reason the markets reacted is now it's not only, all right, they can't get anything done.

First of all, the kind of, ah, they never do anything down there is different than the hard cold reality of the deadline coming and then failing. So there's that psychology, but also the fact that we're hearing that maybe these automatic cuts that are supposed to take effect, that now they will try to roll those back and that those won't happen either.

We have a serious debt problem in this that we have to deal with. And that is what you're seeing on Wall Street today. When Max Baucus came out and said there was a -- quote, unquote -- "new idea," the markets came well off their lows. You do see immediate reaction to each of these headlines.

Another thing, today, the U.S., we sold some debt. Record-low interest rates. And so some people say, don't worry about it, look, we can still money for free. That's true for now. But there will come a day when that isn't true, and it may just be too late because of Congress...


BLITZER: China is still buying some of that debt?

BURNETT: Chinese are still buying it. And part of it there is nowhere else to put your money. Europe is toxic. The euro could fall apart. But being the best of the worst isn't good enough.

BLITZER: How worried should be if there is a complete failure, and it looks like there will be a failure, the U.S. credit rating would once again suffer?

BURNETT: For now, it won't immediately. It might, but the expectation is that because these cuts were the automatic cuts that they're going to come at the beginning of next year, January 2013, you will get the $1.2 trillion, that would prevent the ratings agencies from further downgrades.

But if you just continue to see an absolute inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, you could go ahead and get more warnings and downgrades. As many analysts will say, the first time it happened this summer, you saw a 600-point drop. The next time it gets worse and worse and worse and harder to turn it around.

BLITZER: Erin Burnett in Washington, Constitution Hall, you will be here today and tomorrow. It's pretty exciting, isn't it?

BURNETT: It's very exciting. It's a nice place here.


BLITZER: Good to have you here in Washington, 7:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight. You have got a lot more on this and all the other big news, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" today and tomorrow in Washington, the first of many times for CNN in Washington.

A lone wolf, as they're called, a terror suspect charged with plotting bomb attacks on U.S. troops. We're learning new details about what the accused and what is going on, how close he may have been to carrying out his alleged plot.

And Republican presidential Herman Cain is suggesting the Taliban are playing a role in Libya's new government. I will talk about that and much more with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. She has just left Libya on a surprise trip.

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


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's time for President Obama to step aside and hand the reins of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton.

This rather radical idea is coming from two Democratic pollsters in "The Wall Street Journal" titled "The Hillary Moment."

Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen argue that Mr. Obama should follow in the footsteps of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Both those presidents took the moral high road and abandoned a run for a second term when they realized they could not effectively govern.

The two gentlemen say that never before has there been such an obvious potential successor as Hillary Clinton. They say she would save the Democratic Party and be able to get things done in Washington. They think Clinton is the only leader capable of uniting the country around a bipartisan economic and foreign policy.

Caddell and Schoen point to Clinton's experience as first lady, senator and now secretary of state, suggesting that she is more qualified than any presidential candidate in recent memory, including her husband.

Although Hillary Clinton says she's not interested in running, polls suggest she might would pretty well if she got in. In September, her approval rating was at an all-time high, 69 percent. Another poll shows Clinton leading Romney by 17 points in a hypothetical matchup.

Caddell and Schoen say President Obama could still win reelection in 2012, but only by waging a negative campaign, which would ultimately make the gridlock in Washington even worse.

If President Obama isn't willing to step aside, they think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should urge him to do so.

The pollsters say they're writing as patriots and Democrats, have had no contact with Clinton's people, and don't expect to play a direct role in any potential campaign.

Here's the question: Should President Obama step aside, hand the reins of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton?

Go to Post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty provocative thought there. I suspect it's not going to happen, but provocative indeed.

All right. Jack, thank you.

We are learning new details about the New York man accused of plotting a bomb attack, targeting the United States servicemembers among others, and just how close he was to having the explosive device.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is in New York. He's working the story for us.

Deb, what's the latest in this case?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we can tell that you that this case could not have been made without the help of a confidential informant. And this is likely to be key to the defense strategy, whether this alleged pipe bomber was encouraged to do what he was accused of doing, in the form of entrapment.


FEYERICK (voice-over): It was not the reaction you'd expect from a man accused of plotting to kill U.S. troops returning from Iraq by using multiple pipe bombs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defendant was arrested yesterday --

FEYERICK: Twenty-seven-year-old Jose Pimentel smiled while hearing the terror charges against him. His mother, Carmen Sosa, outside the family's upper Manhattan apartment, saying her son was raised Catholic but converted to Islam. He has been running a jihadi Web site.

CARMEN SOSA, MOTHER OF TERROR SUSPECT: My family, we -- right now, everybody is in shock. We don't know what to do. There is a lot going on. FEYERICK: At a somewhat unusual press conference -- New York City's top cop demonstrated the potential impact of the kind of device Pimentel was allegedly assembling, using a how-to article from the al Qaeda online magazine in fire.

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: He used elbow joints customarily used to join two pipes as the main housings for the bombs. He also planned to affix nails to them as additional shrapnel.

FEYERICK: In the criminal complaint, the lead NYPD investigator says Pimentel spent hours shaving match heads to collect flammable powder. He then made ignition devices using batteries, and electronic circuits from Christmas lights. When arrested, he allegedly told authorities he was about an hour away from completing the devices.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: The suspect was a so-called lone wolf, motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as inspired by al Qaeda propaganda. He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad. He represents exactly the kind of threat FBI Director Robert Mueller and his experts have warned about.

FEYERICK: A federal law enforcement source tells CNN federal prosecutors and FBI agents were aware of the NYPD's 2 1/2 year investigation. But in the end, it was decided charges should be pursued at state level, suggesting there wasn't enough to make it a federal case.


FEYERICK: And key to the investigation was a confidential informant who grew so close to the alleged pipe bomber, the two actually went out and purchased some of the bomb component together. The informant is also offering his apartment to Pimentel to build the devices. Special police units swept in and arrested him over the weekend because he started holes, which apparently was the last mechanical step required to complete the device -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, just to be precise on this, the FBI didn't think they should take charge even though U.S. members, who are obviously federal, U.S. Post Office. They were target. They didn't think it was big enough for the FBI? Is that what I'm hearing?

FEYERICK: Well, it was a very big question and initially reports last night when this all sort of started to play out was that, in fact, federal authorities had no indication that, in fact, NYPD was involved in this kind of investigation. It was a 2 1/2-year long investigation. Today, we learn that, in fact, they were aware. They were monitoring it as the NYPD was executing it.

But in the end, they simply decided, whatever the evidence suggests this man did, it wasn't enough to warrant federal charges against him. And that's why it is still in the state level. It's going to be prosecuted by a district attorney and not a federal prosecutor -- Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, I'm surprised because even the president of the United States, earlier this year when I interviewed him in Iowa, he said to me that his biggest concern was the so-called lone wolf theory, someone inspired by al Qaeda, if you will, who could do damage. You would have thought the federal government would want to take charge of a case like this. But for some reason, they decided to leave it to New York City and New York state.

All right. Deb, thanks very much.

A Major League Baseball player stabbed to death. That and check today's other top stories, that's coming up next.

Plus, deadly mass protest erupting in Egypt Tahrir Square only months after the historic revolution. Should the United States be worried? I'll ask the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. She is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner expected to announce this hour, new steps to increase pressure on Iran.

Lisa Sylvester has a check of that and other day's top stories.

What do we know, Lisa?


Well, sources say the United States will name Iran and its central bank a primary money laundering concern but won't directly sanction the bank due to concerns the world economy could suffer. Officials also say a number of Iranian companies allegedly supporting the country's nuclear program will be sanctioned.

Major League Baseball is mourning the loss of one of its own today, 24-year-old Greg Halman, who played centerfield for the Seattle Mariners who was stabbed to death in his native Netherlands. His brother has been arrested in connection with the incident. Commissioner Bud Selig calls Halman's death painful all throughout the game.

And more than $1.2 billion in customer funds may be missing from the bankrupt brokerage firm MF Global. That's nearly twice previous estimates, according to the trustees overseeing the case. MF Global, which was headed by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was forced to file for bankruptcy last month. The FBI and federal prosecutors are now investigating the firm and I will have a special report on this story in the next hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's an important story. I'm glad you're all over it, Lisa. Thank you.

She caught everyone by surprise, showing up unexpectedly in Libya today. We'll talk about that and much more -- my interview with the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. She's next.

And I'll also get her reaction to a rather controversial suggestion by Herman Cain of a Taliban role in the new Libyan government.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Wolf, I think I was among the many who might have been a little bit confused by that comment.



BLITZER: A surprise visit to Libya today by a top American diplomat, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She played a key role earlier this year, convincing the United Nations Security Council to authorize the NATO mission to protect Libya civilians, which also helped rebels topple Moammar Gadhafi. And now, another of his sons has been captured.


BLITZER: And Ambassador Rice is joining us now from Malta, just back from Libya

Ambassador, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Moammar Gadhafi, can you confirm he has in fact been captured by Libyan authorities? Do you want him tried in Libya or before the International Criminal Court?

RICE: Yes, Wolf, he has been captured. That is confirmed.

I met with senior Libyan government officials today, including the new prime minister and the chairman of the Transitional National Council. They both confirm that he is safe. That he is secure. That he is unharmed. And that he is being well treated and will continue to be held in a safe, secure fashion and to receive proper treatment.

They are very committed to a transparent and fair judicial process that meets international standards, as well as the aspirations of the Libyan people. How that will be accomplished remains to be determined by the Libyan themselves. And they will be consulting in the coming days with the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Mr. Ocampo, who was on his way to Libya.

As you know, there was an is an outstanding indictment against Saif al-Islam, as well formerly his father, and former national security adviser, Senussi. They will discuss how to deal with Saif in context of both the Libyan domestic processes and the International Criminal Court, which the international community has given some responsibility to assist in holding him accountable.

BLITZER: As far as Sennusi is concerned, Abduallah Al-Sennussi, the former intelligence chief, I take it he was also captured. Captured alive, but now he is dead. They killed him? What do we know about Al-Senussi's fate? RICE: Well, I can only tell what you I know from a few hours ago when I was meeting with government officials in Tripoli. At that time, they were unable to confirm that he was in custody.

The chairman of the TNC and the prime minister, both were very careful not to give any fuel to speculation that he was in TNC or other related custody.

BLITZER: In criticizing the Obama's administration Libyan policy. Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate said this the other day. I will play the clip because I want you to weigh in. Listen to this.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 got Taliban and al Qaeda that's going to be part of the government?


BLITZER: You were just there in Libya today. Is there evidence that the Taliban and al Qaeda are going to be part of the Libyan government?

RICE: Wolf, I think I was among the many who might have been a little bit confuse by that comment. No, there are no Taliban in Libya. The Taliban, as you know, are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There is the potential, as there is throughout the region, for elements of al Qaeda potentially to infiltrate the borders. The government of Libya is being very vigilant about that.

And I think certainly in terms of the government, which we expect will be formed tomorrow, al Qaeda will not be part of it.

BLITZER: Should the Libyan model be used in Syria right now? In other words, should there be a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring a "no fly zone" over Syria to protect innocent civilians?

RICE: Well, Wolf, these situations whether Libya, Syria, Yemen, they're all very different and what is appropriate in each context also differs. The United States has been very clear in our disgust and condemnation on the violence that Assad has perpetrated against his people.

It is only escalating. We have been joined by the Europeans in putting very tough sanctions on the Assad regime and the last couple of weeks, as you know, nations of the Arab league have come together to suspend Syria from participating in the Arab league and have decided that they too will impose sanctions going forward.

So the pressure on Assad is mounting. His isolation is mounting. And indeed in New York at the United Nations, the pressure on Syria is also growing. Tomorrow, we expect that the general assembly will, for the first time, pass a resolution condemning the human rights abuses and attacks on civilians in Syria.

And also in providing strong support to the Arab league efforts and initiative to try to resolve the situation in Syria, both through sanctions and pressure, peaceful dialogue, and engagement.

The Security Council as you know, have has been unable, because of the opposition of two veto wielding members, Russia and China, even to condemn in two clear cut terms in the form of a resolution what is transpiring in Syria.

That position is increasingly unconscionable and untenable and it is certainly my hope that region joins in stronger actions against the Syrian regime. As the United States and European countries and others intensify our measures.

That those who have blocked action even condemnation, much less sanctions or any contemplation of military action will see that their position is untenable and doesn't serve the Syrian people or even their long-term interest in Syria.

BLITZER: Also in the region, we have seen huge some demonstrations. Once again, in Tahrir Square, in Cairo over the past few days and unfortunately, some people have been killed. Is it time for the Egyptian military to hand over responsibility to civilians in Egypt?

RICE: Well, Wolf, obviously, we think that transition timetable, the electoral timetable that has been laid out must be followed. The first set of parliamentary elections are due a week from next Monday.

So in that context, the violence we have seen is particularly worrying and deplorable. We it is important that all sides exercise restraint. Focus on upcoming elections and ensure that the process that is laid out is in fact followed so that there is a credible and valid transition to civilian authority in Egypt.

BLITZER: Safe travels over there, Ambassador Rice. Good luck, we will stay in close touch.

RICE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have just been informed that momentarily a formal statement will be released on Capitol Hill announcing, apparently announcing the end of the so-called "Super Committee" failure, if you will.

It would be a major surprise if they announce they have an agreement or anything along those lines or even if they were going to continue for another two days, the technical deadline is Wednesday.

But if they wanted to get a deal done, they really need it to get it done today so the Congressional Budget Office could assess how much the deal was actually worth in terms of budget reduction, deficit reduction.

But we'll get the statement momentarily. Our reporters up on Capitol Hill are standing by. We have "Strategy Session" here as well. Donna Brazile and David Frum are standing by. We'll get the news to you as soon as it comes in.

Also, Republican presidential contender, Newt Gingrich, he wants to put for kids to work as janitors in their own schools. Will the idea help or hurt, as the spot at top of our latest CNN poll?


BLITZER: We just got word that momentarily that there will be a formal announcement up on Capitol Hill. We believe the formal demise of the so-called "Super Committee" on deficit reduction.

Kate Bolduan, our congressional correspondent, is standing by. As soon as we get that statement, we will go to her. We will update you on what we know.

A huge surprise, but a great deal of disappointment and the markets up on Wall Street is reflecting that disappointment earlier in the day. We will go to Kate as soon as we get the statement. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich has surge to the top of the Republican presidential pack. Our brand new CNN/ORC poll, it was released at the top of the hour, the surge comes amid a controversy though over his idea to put poor children to work as school janitors.

CNN's Joe Johns is looking into the story for us. Joe, what exactly is the former speaker proposing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is an idea with plenty of room for debate to say the least. Newt Gingrich first asserted that the laws controlling child labor are stupid.

Then he proposed instead of paying janitors to clean up schools, why not have one master janitor and hire the kids who go to the school to clean it up.

For those of us who have covered the speaker for years, it was classic Newt Gingrich.


JOHNS (voice-over): There he goes again. Newt Gingrich has long fancied himself one of the Republican Party's biggest new idea guys. His latest big idea, putting poor kids to work as janitors in their own schools.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They'd be dramatically less expensive than unionized janitors and you begin to re-establish the dignity of work. And in very poor neighborhoods, you have to literally re-establish the dignity of work.

JOHNS: Revising labor laws is a complicated debate, especially when children around the world are forced to work for pennies. This Gingrich idea may have sounded new, but it also sounded very 1990s to some. It is the same sort of things that left Gingrich claiming he was misunderstood almost two decades ago when a cartoon compared him to the Dr. Seuss holiday kill joy known as the Grinch.

In 1994, Gingrich suggested that the government ship welfare children to orphanages and then even said, first lady Hillary Clinton ought to rent the classic old movie "Boys Town" with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney to see how an orphanage is run.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four thousand boys have passed through this city of little men.

JOHNS: Like the "Boys Town" controversy, the kids as janitors idea probably strikes a chord with some in Gingrich's party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, Republicans would like hearing that Newt talks about kids working hard and learning the ethic and pulling themselves up by their boot straps, but a lot of people will guard this as Newt again, one or two or three steps just too far.

JOHNS: No matter what you think of the merits, economist, Peter Moricci says it wouldn't exactly reverse the cycle of poverty in the getto.

PETER MORICCI, ECONOMIST: The notion that one master janitor is going to take care of the school for five thousand children with an army of Mickey Rooneys from Boy's Town is silly.

JOHNS: As a top tier candidate, the former speaker's tendency to talk too much could be his biggest weakness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He tends to try to make such a global point, such a big historical conclusion that even if there is a nugget of truth there and some wisdom in there, and there's often a bit of wisdom, it gets lost in the grandiose plan.


JOHNS: Gingrich was in fine form this weekend after essentially telling "Occupy Wall Street" protesters that they should go get a job after they take a bath. So after all these years, he still has a way with words -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you say, vintage Newt. Joe Johns, thank you.

Let's discuss what's going on, on our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and our contributor, David Frum. He's the editor of

We're all here at Constitution Hall in Washington getting ready for tomorrow night's big Republican debate. What do you think of this latest idea from Newt Gingrich to put some of these poor kids in urban areas to work as janitors to give them that work ethic experience?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I thought the comment was quite insulting, but then again I've heard comments like this from Newt Gingrich over the years.

The fact is there's one out of five children in this country live in poverty. That's not just urban kinds, that's suburban kids, that's rural kids and so the notion that we should take kids out of school or make it as part of their learning assignment cleaning up the classroom that's not a noble idea.

That's not a good idea. The Fair Labor Standard Act is there to help set guidelines for the kind of work that kids can do when they are underage. Baby sitting, for example, there's clearly many things. I started working when I was 12.

BLITZER: He didn't say take them out of school. He said, they should go to school, go to their classes, but in their spare time, they should be put to work to appreciate the nature of work. So what is insulting about that?

BRAZILE: What is insulting, Wolf, is that these kids should focus on their school work. The best path out of poverty is somebody who knows poverty as a child growing up in America is to get a good education.

We should be focused on investing in education, investing in their future. There is no question that these kids want to work. Their parents really want to go to work.

But that notion that we have to focus on poor kids in inner city or urban one, we have a problem with poverty in this country, and we should be addressing poverty, not insulting poor people.

BLITZER: Because what Newt Gingrich says, it's not insulting. It would create a work ethic for these young kids and they would appreciate the value not only of education but of work.

DAVID FRUM, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: And, of course, this is exactly the discussion that Newt Gingrich was hoping to generate when he made this remark.

We are here talking about whether Newt Gingrich has gone too far in being too tough on poor people instead of talking about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The reason that Gingrich -- this is not an example despite the fact that Gingrich is talking too much or having a creative idea that maybe goes a little too far this is a way of redirecting the conversation by throwing a propagation onto the stage knowing that media people will get excited about it then we are on to the new things.

BLITZER: A lot of credit for that sophisticated ability.

FRUM: Newt Gingrich is a brilliant tactical thinker about politics and he's a brilliant tactical thinker about how the media works. So when you -- the only way can you change the media from talking about something you don't want them to talk about is to give them something more exciting that they would rather talk about instead.

So raising a conversation about race, poverty, children, that's something that is more thrilling than the dusty details of housing --

BLITZER: I want to take a break, but I want to put up on the screen for viewers who missed it. Our latest CNN/ORC poll numbers showing Newt Gingrich on top of the Republican pack right now.

Gingrich with 24 percent, Romney 20 percent, Herman Cain 17, Rick Perry 11, Ron Paul 9, Bachmann, Santorum, Huntsman in the single digits, low digits. Take a look at that.

We are also just getting a statement from Capitol Hill on the so- called "Super Committee." The deadline was Wednesday but by -- by all accounts the deadline really was today and we are just getting word.

I will summarize it for you briefly that statement that looks like it is a complete failure. Right now in fact as Kate Bolduan, our constitutional correspondent up on Capitol Hill ready to read us that statement. Kate, are you there?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm right here, Wolf. I 'm just now getting into my e-mail. So sorry, I'm going to get look down. This is a joint statement of Senator Patty Murray as well as the co-chair, Congressman Jeb Hanserling releasing this statement. I'm going to read it as much as I can.

After months, this is the statement, of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline.

The statement goes on to say despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve.

They go on to say, we remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee's work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.

I can go on to read just a little bit more if I can, Wolf. It goes on to say, we are deeply disappointed. We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable it come to bipartisan deficit reduction agreement.

But we approach the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we want to express our appreciation to every member of this committee, each of whom come into process committed to achieving a solution that has alluded many groups before us.

Most importantly, we thank the American people for sharing thoughts, ideas and for providing the support and goodwill as we work to accomplish this difficult task.

So I think in a nutshell, Wolf, it does go on, but as you can see this is finally as we anticipated for all day today. You and I have been discussing. This is the formal statement coming from the two co- chairs that this committee has failed and they have not been able to reach the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction minimum that was required by the debt ceiling agreements set up over the summer.

And so now as we look forward, all eyes will focus on this trigger cross the board automatic cuts and what comes with that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I want to discuss that. Stand by for a moment, Kate. Good work. David Frum and Donna Brazile are still here.

David, this trigger that now goes into effect what they call sequestration 1.2 trillion, $600 billion over the next 10 years in defense related cuts, $600 billion in domestic spending cuts.

But none of that goes into effect until 2013 after the next presidential elections. There is plenty of time for lawmakers to revise that so-called automatic trigger.

FRUM: What we have seen here is kind of legal exercise where the lawyers on each side are refining their lead pleadings and are now getting toward take their case to the jury.

Both Democrats and Republicans, it is not failure for them because what the two parties have is consolidated cases. Where Democrats are saying, we are going to go to the country and say, we want to close debt in a way that relies more on taxes and less on spending cuts.

The Republicans have their case and now it will go to the jury. The thing that --

BLITZER: The jury being the --

FRUM: The American people. The thing that I think would be the really positive outcome is if the two parties could somehow find some way to agree now, to abide by the decision of the jury and that we will - we'll go to the election of 2012.

The American people will show us their priorities by the way they cast their ballots. And then in the next administration, let's work a little bit more productively with the loser accepting the verdict and the winner having the mandate.

BLITZER: So in other words, except the $600 billion in protected defense cuts, but you know, John McCain and others, a lot of Republicans say that is even Leon Panetta, the defense secretary said that would undermine the U.S. military capability help create a hollow military.

There is going to be enormous pressure to just forget about the sequestration, take it all to the election next November. Forget about it, if you will. See what happens then.

BRAZILE: You know, Wolf, it's going to be interesting to see what lawmakers focus on. Some lawmakers will naturally focus on the defense cuts and the impact that will have on our national security. Others will focus on draconian cuts in Social Security and other domestic programs that will also impact the middle class.

BLITZER: And the sequestration - social security -- BRAZILE: I understand, but there are other cuts that will impact middle class Americans, will impact education, health care, the quality of life --

BLITZER: There's other stuff, but not Social Security.

BRAZILE: Not Social Security because that was one of the proposals that many Democrats did not want part of the table. But you know, there's another conversation and that is the top 1 percent of wage earners in this country.

The Bush tax cuts that are scheduled to expire, we're going to have a lot of multiple conversations over the next 12 months as to the quality of the life of the American people and what this says about our political institution.

BLITZER: I have always felt, and correct me if you think I'm wrong. And don't be shy, David. I know you're not a shy guy. But the Republicans thought it would be in their political advantage to kill this so-called "Super Committee" deal.

The Democrats have their own political considerations. Both thought, you know what? If they don't have a deal, they will be respectably stronger going into this election season.

FRUM: But this was also, the "Super Committee" was an exit from an untenable situation this summer where the Republicans found themselves heading toward a national bankruptcy confrontation that the leaders of the party didn't want, but that many of the most enthusiastic talkers are riding it.

They needed an exit from that confrontation. The "Super Committee" was built as way to exit the crisis this summer in a way that wasn't that painful because again, nothing much happens in the defense budget this year. It all happens later. So this is the exit and now they've driven on to the off ramp and now the really work begins for 2012.

BLITZER: There's a lot of criticism as you well know the president of the United States for being MIA in this whole debate involving the "Super Committee," the last 10 days or so, he was in Asia, at an important trip, there's no doubt about that.

But he really did not get involved in sort of forcing an agreement, if you will. How much of this criticism of the president, you have heard it, is justified?

BRAZILE: It is misleading, Wolf because there's another talking point that Republicans use when they simply do not want to talk about raising taxes on the top wage earners. President Obama not only outlined the common cuts he would accept. He outlined the proposals that he would accept.

I think he's had a lot of hand in the game. The problem is, is that lawmakers on Capitol Hill, they act like they need an adult in the room to come together. These are experienced lawmakers. They understood what's at stake. They saw our credit rating lowered back in August. So this --

BLITZER: David, politically who benefits, the Democrats or the Republicans because of this collapse?

FRUM: The two parties together, both jointly benefit. The question will be what happens now to economic events this year. Do they seem to validate one party or the other's view and if we enter into a nasty recession driven by the collapse of the arrow, the Republicans will be stronger. If not, the Democrats have the advantage of Republican disarray.

BLITZER: Simpson-Bowles, gang of six, "Super Committee," all failures, all missed opportunities. It underscores the gridlock in Washington. Why Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents are beginning to hate Washington. You appreciate that, right?

BRAZILE: But I also think this hurts the middle class. We are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. Look what we are serving? Raw turkey.

BLITZER: All right, guys, don't go too far away. We're here in Constitution Hall. The breaking news, failure, failure, a total collapse of the "Super Committee." No deal. We are continuing to monitor the reaction and markets are already collapsing significantly.

Today almost 300 points down on the Dow Jones. We are watching what is going on. This is an important programming note for our viewers, I'll be the moderator when the Republican candidates takes part in CNN's Republican national security debate tomorrow night right here at Constitution Hall, 8 p.m. Eastern, a little bit more than 24 hours from now.

Jack Cafferty is asking should President Obama step aside, get this at hand the reigns of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton? That's his question. Your e-mail, coming up.

And in our next hour, CIA informants unmasked by a terrorist group of in Lebanon. More news right after this.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, should President Obama step aside and hand the reigns of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton?

A piece in the "Wall Street Journal" suggesting that wouldn't be a bad idea. Alex writes from South Orange, New Jersey, "You know that Obama is doing a poor job when Republicans are actually asking for a Clinton. I've heard many Republicans admit they would take Hillary in a heartbeat over our current president.

He wasn't ready. He essentially went from being a state senator to president. There's not a state legislator in the country in either party who has any business doing that. It turns out all that jazz about the 3 a.m. phone call was really a pretty good point after all." Jeff in San Diego writes, "Perhaps if Hillary openly said she was interested and said she would fire every single person from treasury and start over with people working for Goldman Sachs, promise jail time for the Wall Street crooks, offer to draw down military to more manageable cost.

Wait, she's never going to be any different than any other politician in Washington. So what's the difference? Also, it would be suicide for Democrats to do this. It would make them just as cookie as the Republican field does right now."

Tom writes, "No one should try to tell the president he can't run, but given his poor approval ratings, the Democratic primary should be held. If Clinton or anyone else wants to run against him, they should be given a chance. I don't see her staying on if he does win the second term."

Phillips writes, "That would be asking Obama to actually do something selfless and for the good of America. Nice thought, it won't going to happen."

Lei writes, "Yes, we should have done it four years ago." And Mark in Oklahoma City, "Obama better hand the reigns to somebody. He damn sure can't control the runaway team of donkeys that he was elected to reign in."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.