Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Fed Takes Action Against Eurozone Meltdown, Stock Markets Soar; Herman Cain Weighs Future of Campaign; Newt Gingrich Surging; Obama Pushes Payroll Tax Cut on the Road; Reagan Shooter Makes New Bid for Freedom
Aired November 30, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And now to Wolf Blitzer. Your "SITUATION ROOM" starts now.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: It's a huge day on Wall Street today. The markets getting ready to close.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Stocks soar on Wall Street as the Federal Reserve and other central banks take dramatic action to pull back Europe from the brink of a financial meltdown.
Also, Herman Cain pushing his campaign forward while he weighs its future. And now a former top Republican Party leader is warning Cain may be hurting the GOP.
Plus, a new bid for freedom by the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Why government lawyers say John Hinckley Jr. has been lying to his doctors.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with the breaking news on Wall Street, a dramatic rescue and an equally dramatic reaction on Wall Street, the stock market skyrocketing today on news that the Federal Reserve and other central banks are taking direct action to prevent a financial meltdown in the Eurozone, using their resources to keep money and credit flowing amid the continent's staggering debt crisis.
It's the largest coordinated move of its kind since 2008, when similar action brought U.S. credit markets back from the brink.
(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)
BLITZER: He's reassessing his campaign, he says, but Herman Cain still very much a presidential candidate, at least today on the stump in Ohio.
But he does tell CNN he will be making a decision about staying in the race over the next several days.
CNN's Jim Acosta caught up with Herman Cain out on the campaign trail today. All right, Jim, tell us what he said.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we asked him directly, Wolf, is he staying in this race? We talked to him for just a few moments at an event in Dayton, Ohio, earlier today. And, Wolf, Herman Cain did not answer that question. It is a sign that his campaign at this point is up in the air.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The crowd was in a fighting mood and so was the candidate.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They want you to believe that, with enough character assassination on me, that I will drop out. They...
ACOSTA: But in a fiery speech, that was as close as Herman Cain came to talking about the allegations of marital infidelity that now threaten his campaign. The conservative businessman did not deny the allegations, as he has this week, and he made no promises to stay in the race.
CAIN: One of the reasons that they want to try to shoot me down and tear me down is because of the strength of my message that's resonating with the American people.
ACOSTA: But he accused unnamed political forces of trying to block his quest for the GOP nomination.
CAIN: The establishment does not want Herman Cain to get this nomination. The liberals do not want Herman Cain to get this nomination, but I happen to believe that the American people have a different idea.
ACOSTA: After the speech, the man behind the 9-9-9 tax plan sounded 50-50 on whether he will remain a candidate.
(on camera): Mr. Cain, Mr. Cain, Jim Acosta with CNN. Are you vowing to stay in this race? Is that your message?
CAIN: We are reassessing and reevaluating.
ACOSTA: Are you staying in the race?
CAIN: We are reevaluating and reassessing.
How are you?
ACOSTA: How soon until we have a final answer on your future plans?
CAIN: We will be making a decision in the next several days.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Supporters were still lining up for yard signs long after the candidate was gone.
Diane Phillips questioned whether the allegations dogging Cain's campaign are true.
DIANE PHILLIPS, CAIN SUPPORTER: What is a woman in his background compared to all the socialists and communists and whatever that were in Obama's background? They elected him. So I don't worry about that woman as much as I do the theology and the ideology of the man. I want him in there.
Either way, Karla Creager said it won't change her vote.
KARL CREAGER, CAIN SUPPORTER: I don't know whether it's true or not. But I still hope he keeps on fighting.
ACOSTA: Later tonight, the Cain campaign says the candidate will answer reporters' questions up in New Hampshire. And then tomorrow, he is scheduled to meet with the editorial board of that state's newspaper, "The Union Leader."
Wolf, for a candidate who is being very cautious right now about the future of his campaign, his timing could not be worse in terms of meeting with an editorial board that will have lots of questions about these allegations that are facing his campaign and about his future, Wolf.
BLITZER: Here's what I still don't understand. If he is really serious about seeking the Republican presidential nomination, why is he spending all day in Ohio, which is not an early state, an early voting state? Why isn't he in Iowa, for example, because the caucuses there are only a few weeks away?
ACOSTA: That's right. It is baffling, but that is a trademark of his campaign.
He is an unconventional candidate. And when you say that this is a late primary, it is the second-to-last primary on the calendar. It is set for June 12, so almost a full seventh months from now, and he had three events here today, one in Cincinnati, one in Dayton and one just a few moments ago that he wrapped up here in Columbus.
And it obviously has a lot of the political establishment in Washington scratching their heads and wondering what Herman Cain is up to. Is he just selling books? Is he just trying to carve out a future for himself as a motivational speaker? What exactly is he doing? That is the question at this point? What is Herman Cain up to? Is he staying in this race or is he just running for publicity at this point, Wolf?
BLITZER: Well, you asked when we would know. He said in the next several days and he didn't flatly deny those allegations once again today. He's reassessing and reevaluating.
Jim Acosta on the campaign for us, thanks very much. By the way, the former Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, is warning that Herman Cain may be hurting the entire Republican Party. We're going to hear what he's saying and we will talk about it in our "Strategy Session." Stand by for that later this hour.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got some more political thoughts in "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The tea leaves, Wolf, are beginning to suggest that Mitt Romney is going to lose yet again.
After being the presumed nominee for four years now and the front- runner among the Republican candidates for the last several months, suddenly, he's breathing Newt Gingrich's exhaust fumes.
Take Florida, where Gingrich has shot to the top of the GOP pack. A brand-new poll conducted for the "Florida Times-Union" newspaper shows Gingrich at 41 percent. That's as much support as the next four Republican candidates combined. Romney does place second in that poll in Florida. he gets 17 percent.
Gingrich is coming on strong in several of the early voting states as well. In Iowa, one poll shows Gingrich leading Romney by seven points. In South Carolina, Gingrich leads Romney by 11 points.
And in New Hampshire, where the former Massachusetts Governor Romney is a favorite son, Gingrich is also picking up steam. Romney is still in front in New Hampshire, but Gingrich is closing the gap.
Meanwhile, Gallup polling shows that Gingrich's positive intensity score is the highest of any Republican candidate right now, while Romney's is at the lowest point it's been in the last year.
"Washington Times" columnist Charles Hurt writes that getting Republicans to line up behind Romney is -- quote -- "like trying to stuff a cat into a trash can. At least one claw always manages to reach out at the last second and cling desperately to the rim" -- unquote.
Hurt suggests the only thing Republicans can agree upon is they don't want Romney. But it's too soon to know if Hurt is right or wrong.
Here's the question: Is Newt Gingrich's momentum for real?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
One thing about Gingrich, Wolf, is we all know what there is to know about this guy. I can't imagine there are any skeletons left in the man's closet. It's all out there, and it's been out there for a long time, so no October surprise coming there.
BLITZER: Right. A lot of that stuff has been discounted because we have been reporting on it for decades, those of us who have been covering him, the former speaker of the House.
By the way, on my blog today, I write about this whole notion of Romney vs. Gingrich. Is it shaping up to be a two-man race? And the gloves clearly are coming off between these two guys. We're going to have more on this part of the story later...
CAFFERTY: The Republicans could have a version of Obama-Clinton. Remember how fun that was?
CAFFERTY: Went through all the primaries.
BLITZER: Went all the way through June, as I recall. They were waiting for the primaries to close down in Puerto Rico in June before we knew who got the Democratic nomination four years ago.
CAFFERTY: Well, this would make our life a lot more fun, if that is what it comes down to.
BLITZER: If you like politics, and we do. We want it to go on and on and on. All right, Jack, thanks very much.
A lot more politics comes up this hour.
Also, other important news we're following. The man who shot Ronald Reagan wants out of a mental hospital, but is he still a danger? We're going to find out what the Secret Service caught him doing under surveillance.
Plus, British officials say no more. They're closing the doors to their embassy in Iran after yesterday's frightening mob attack.
But here's something you won't often see, a great white shark off the coast of North Carolina. Wait until you hear what happened when a group of fishermen got a little too close for comfort.
BLITZER: President Obama's taking his push for a payroll tax cut on the road, an issue that dovetails rather nicely with his reelection strategy.
Here's the president today in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they vote no, your taxes go up. Vote yes, you get a tax cut. Which way do you think Congress should vote?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's over at the White House.
Jessica, a very important state, Pennsylvania, for the president. No -- no accident that he's there today.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
In 2008, the president won Pennsylvania by over 10 points, but now the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that voters in that state approve of the job he's doing by only 44 percent.
YELLIN (voice-over): Haven't you heard? Conventional wisdom says President Obama can't sell his brand to Pennsylvania anymore. Why is he in Scranton pushing the payroll tax cut?
The Obama campaign isn't buying conventional wisdom. They believe they have the time, a detailed voter database and lots of money so they're playing the board. And part of their strategy includes winning Pennsylvania.
Top Democrats say the president aims to win all the states John Kerry won in 2004. That gets him to 246 electoral votes including Pennsylvania's 20. They add New Mexico, which he won in 2008 and he's at 521. That's 19 electoral votes shy of the need 270.
His aides are looking (AUDIO BREAK) get there. There's North Carolina, plus Virginia, or Arizona with its Latino population and Colorado, or just Florida, and there are other options. All would be fierce fights, but the uphill climb would be far steeper if the president lost Pennsylvania, and Republicans are eyeing that state eagerly after GOP wins there in 2010.
YELLIN: Wolf, you know, the Obama team is acting pretty confident because they believe that more of their target voters have moved into some of the formerly purple and red states, which expands the map for them. That means that they can compete in the traditional battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, but also new battleground states like Colorado or North Carolina.
But you also have to temper some of that confidence with a little reality check. Given the state of the economy, it's going to be hard to win over voters in any of the battlegrounds -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Pennsylvania, if the president can't carry Pennsylvania in a presidential election and other Republicans did really well in Pennsylvania 2010 in the midterm elections and all of that, but if he can't carry Pennsylvania, he would be in deep trouble.
YELLIN: And I know you're going to interview Dan Pfeiffer in the next hour. You should ask him about that. I think what the White House would say is 2010 was a very different election year than 2012 will be.
BLITZER: Yes. We'll wait to hear what he has to say, the White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer will join me live here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the next hour. Thanks, Jessica. Thanks very much.
Our Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Some dramatic video out of London today.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
CNN cameras were rolling as dozens of Occupy London protesters stormed the offices of a mining company today -- all part of a mass strike over pension cuts. Nearly 2 million public workers are walking off the job. All across the U.K., workers say they're unfairly bearing the brunt of austerity measures imposed to rein in the country's debt.
And Britain is closing its embassy in Tehran after nearly 200 hard- line Iranian students ransacked the building. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has also ordered Iran to close its embassy in London immediately. Protesters storm the compound on Tuesday in retaliation for Western sanctions. Britain has evacuated its staff from Iran.
And more than a thousand police and riot gear swept through an occupy protest camp in L.A. overnight, arresting 200 people. The protesters had been camping out at the city hall lawn for two months now. Police say the operation was mostly peaceful.
In Philadelphia, more than 50 people were arrested as officers there shut down protest site across the city.
And look what a group of fishermen nearly hooked off the coast of North Carolina. Take a hook at this. Yes, a great white shark. One of the men grabbed his iPhone and captured the shark as it t-boned their boat. The shark then swam back and smacked the boat with its tail. An official at the state aquarium says great white sightings are rare in the area, but certainly not unheard of -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's amazing, but pretty scary, too.
SYLVESTER: Yes. You know, I think of great white, I think of Australia. So, this one apparently off the coast of North Carolina, it happens.
BLITZER: You know a lot more about sharks than I do. Our senior shark correspondent, Lisa Sylvester -- thanks very much.
New revelations about a man who shot President Reagan, including how he allegedly faked an emergency to spend time with his dentist. We have details of the hearing. That's happening today, that could set John Hinckley, Jr. free or not.
And former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele has some strong advise for Herman Cain, but also a warning about the potential consequences of staying in the race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: For the two years that I have --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The man who shot President Reagan in 1981 is making a new bid to be released from the mental hospital where he spent most of the last 30 years.
CNN's Brian Todd is outside the courthouse here in Washington where a hearing was held today on the future of John Hinckley Jr.
Brian, you're there. You saw what was going on. Tell our viewers what happened.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Hinckley's attorney called him a decent person. Not a danger to the community. Government lawyers called him deceptive, and we learned new details about his -- Hinckley's behavior in recent months.
TODD (voice-over): More than three decades after his bullet came within an inch of Ronald Reagan's heart, John Hinckley sat expressionless as lawyers argued over whether he should eventually be freed.
Hinckley's attorney Barry Levine telling the judge the would-be assassin was flawed but fundamentally decent. He's asking for more leave from a mental hospital and eventually live full time with his mother. His lawyer says he's not been violent and a doctor at the hospital says there's a low risk Hinckley would be a danger to himself or others.
A psychiatrist who once evaluated but didn't treat Hinckley says this.
DR. E. FULLER TORREY, PSYCHIATRIST: If he is on medication, Mr. Hinckley could move in next door to me as far as I'm concerned. If he's not on medication, I would do everything I could to block him from moving in next door.
TODD: Hinckley's lawyer says he's been reliable about taking his antipsychotic drugs, but government attorneys counter that Hinckley has been consistently deceptive. They say the Secret Service watched him this year without his knowledge during unsupervised free time.
On more than one occasion they say, Hinckley was supposed to go to the movies or shopping, but instead went to bookstores where he looked about books about Ronald Reagan and presidential assassins. They say Hinckley is also deceptive about his dealings with women, searching the Internet for pictures of his female dentist, then lying about it, faking an emergency to send time with his dentist -- episodes reminiscent of his infatuation with actress Jodie Foster before the assassination attempt.
Former U.S. attorney, Joe Digenova, oversaw Hinckley's prosecution in the early '80s.
JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And I don't think there are any set of circumstances in which Hinckley should be allowed to be walking freely because he's going to have to self-medicate. There's no way to guarantee he's going to take his medication.
TODD: Digenova says that means the Secret Service is going to have to devote considerable resources to monitoring Hinckley, resources that would Digenova says will be taken away from protective detail.
Contacted by CNN, the Secret Service would not comment on any monitoring operations, would not comment on anything about these proceedings. These hearings will play out over several days and then the judge will rule on whether John Hinckley merits more freedom -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is Hinckley, Brian, himself going to testify at these proceedings?
TODD: Well, his legal team has listed him as a possible witness. But if he does testify, that will likely mean that prosecutors are going to want to cross-examine him. His defense team is really against that whole idea. So, he may not appear, but he's in court today. He may be in court for all nine or so days left in these proceedings.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you. Thanks very much.
Tonight, by the way, our own John King will speak with the Secret Service agent credited with saving President Reagan's life that day back in 1981. It's an exclusive interview. John King later tonight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Allegations Newt Gingrich used his famous name to make himself a very rich man. We're learning new details.
Plus, the new book that claims Sarah Palin was obsessed with running for president of the United States. So what happened? We'll tell you.
BLITZER: He spent 20 years in Congress, eventually working his way up to become speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency. Since leaving office, Newt Gingrich certainly has cashed in handsomely on his Washington experience. Despite that, he often brands himself as a Washington outsider as he seeks the Oval Office for himself.
CNN's Lisa Sylvester has been looking into the story for us.
Lisa, what do you finding out?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
As you know, Newt Gingrich -- he has been portraying himself as an outsider and as a guy with big ideas and he has helped companies problem-solve and develop creative solutions. These companies, though, they paid him very well. And now, the issue is: was he actually as a lobbyist for them?
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The Gingrich Group and the for-profit Center for Health Transformation grossed nearly $55 million in revenue in the last decade. Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich has become a master of branding, Newt Inc.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Newt Gingrich did was took the power of his name and applied it in any number of for-profit arenas.
SYLVESTER: But these for profit groups are now dogging him. In 2008, the Center for Health Transformation helped to get a new health care law passed in Georgia. Gingrich touted the group's influence out of members only meeting that year.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do no lobbying of any kind. What we do is education. So, we did not lobby for the bill in Georgia. We did write the basic document that the bill would grow out of.
SYLVESTER: That's at the heart of this. Where does education begin and lobbying end? Gingrich insists he hasn't had to work as a paid lobbyist. According to him, he was making a fine living giving speeches.
GINGRICH: I was charging $60,000 a speech and the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally, celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches. We were selling more.
SYLVESTER: But companies paid as much $200,000 a year to be a member of the Center for Health Transformation and Gingrich in pitching his ideas to reform health care, often pointed to his member clients as providing the solutions like here where he promotes inter mountain health care of Utah, which happens to be a client.
GINGRICH: Someone estimated that if all health care in America were as effective as Intermountain, you would reduce the cost of Medicare by 50 percent while improving the outcomes.
SYLVESTER: Gingrich also gave his clients access to lawmakers. Here again from the 2008 speech, Gingrich talks about building ties to people like then Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. GINGRICH: If we can create the relationships and this goes all the way back to Bill Frist and working with us to host a series of leadership dinners that Hillary Clinton and others came to on electronic information technology, which really did begin to build a bipartisan pattern in the House and Senate in a way that was very different.
SYLVESTER: The Gingrich Group and the Center for Health Transformation in a statement reiterated that its mission was only to provide strategic thinking, policy analysis and planning.
Quote, they said, "We do no lobbying for clients and always make that very clear from the outset. We clearly stipulate that fact in our contracts."
And Newt Gingrich himself has said he did not promote any ideas that he did not personally believe in. He said he was in a position financially at least where he could pick and choose his clients -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He made a lot of money. There's no doubt about that, but now he's doing really well in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. Lisa, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper on Newt Gingrich and a lot more with the "Politco" editor in chief, John Harris. Evan Thomas, they describe the day everyone quit the Gingrich campaign in their new digital book, "The Right Fights Back."
It's part of the "Politco Playbook" 2012 series. John, thanks very much for coming in. This is a whole new world for you, publishing books, digital books. It's not just putting stuff online.
JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: This is an experiment in a new world for "Politico." But I think it's also part of a new world for publishing, the traditional model of publishing with long lead times up to a year sometimes two years to publish a book.
And you go buy it at the bookstore, that world maybe fading. More and more people are reading books on Kindle, on their iPads and what's more they want this kind of detail, much more in real-time.
Some of the events that Mike and Evan report on in this book are only just a couple of weeks old, but we're taking advantage of technology and we're taking advantage of this tremendous hunger for more detail about behind the scenes detail about these campaigns.
BLITZER: I've gone through the --
HARRIS: Number 50, if you allow me to boast a little bit, already. First day on Amazon.com, rising by the hour.
BLITZER: It's going to be, after this interview, it will go up more quickly. I could assure you of that. Let's take a look at some of the nuggets in there because some really great stuff. You got two great reporters. Newt Gingrich, the worst day when everyone quit in his campaign last summer. Take us behind the scenes. What was going on?
HARRIS: Well, actually, Newt Gingrich helps take Mike behind the scenes with a really revealing interview that's in this book. He described that day and the whole period of last summer where this guy who's been a major figure in American life is being abandoned.
Described it as excruciating, but there was essentially a come to Jesus moment between Gingrich and his staff. They were really upset that he was not devoting the time necessary on the trail, doing the hard work of running for president.
They were concerned that his wife, Calista, who Gingrich describes as his closest adviser, they felt that she was taking him away from the task of running for president in a serious way. Very upset, of course, about their trip to the Greek islands when they felt they should be on the campaign trail. So, lots of behind the scenes detail about that episode.
BLITZER: Great color in there. Great detail. Another interesting little nugget in the book, Sarah Palin, your guy's report, was obsessed with running for the Republican presidential nomination.
HARRIS: Wolf, this was really a revelation to me. I had made the decision or assumption, really, starting last spring, you know, almost a year ago now, that she had made the decision not to run and was just going through the motions.
Mike and Evan made clear that she actually was very seriously considering this all the way through the summer and even into September. She was obsessed with following the news, regularly checking all the web sites, watching the cable channels, knowing minute by minute detail what was happening on the campaign --
BLITZER: She had been speaking to consultants, potential consultants.
HARRIS: Absolutely, doing all this in anticipation that she might well run for president. She really wanted to run for president. Ultimately decided the support was not there.
BLITZER: You got another little nugget in there that President Obama and his campaign, they are very obsessed, worried about Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, the former governor who's not doing very well in the polls right now. What's that all about?
HARRIS: It's really surprising. Huntsman obviously has not had success in getting -- in being taken seriously by Republicans so far, but the Obama campaign last spring into the summer was taking him very seriously. They regarded him at the time, the most formidable general election opponent, potential opponent, to President Obama.
BLITZER: He would be formidable, but he's got to get that Republican nomination. What was the most interesting little nugget that you learned from your reporters reading this book? HARRIS: I think the whole thing was like a big bowl of potato chips. You wanted to just keep reading the nuggets. I was fascinated by the behind the scenes portrait they offer of Hailey Barbour deciding whether or not to run for president.
His own aides did the opposition research on themselves. In other words saying, here's what the other campaigns are going to dig up on you. Presented that opposition to Hailey Barbour and said, let's face it. This is too much of a head wind. Just going into his business history --
BLITZER: Lobbying in Washington.
HARRIS: His lobbying in Washington, the difficulty of a southern governor would have on the national stage and ultimately, Barbour who's a brilliant political operative in addition to being an elected official said this is not happening.
BLITZER: Mike Allen must be the hardest working journalist ever. Is that right?
HARRIS: For Mike, it's not like work. He loves this stuff.
BLITZER: You read his playbook. He's a White House correspondent, too.
HARRIS: Wolf, Mike and I have known each other for more than 20 years. Both young reporters down in Richmond, Virginia before we started "Politico" five years ago.
BLITZER: Mike Allen and Evan Thomas have written an exciting new book. Thanks very much, John. You and I have worked together, too.
HARRIS: It's $2.99, Wolf. You can buy it. This is going to come in a series throughout the campaign.
BLITZER: How many more?
HARRIS: Three to four more.
BLITZER: OK, we'll be reading.
HARRIS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Don't leave yet. Mitt Romney comes out swinging today against his newest competition. What's he's now calling Newt Gingrich.
Plus, one of the most expensive hotels in Washington tells an employee you can't serve certain guests. You're going to find out what's going on. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us now are CNN political analyst Roland Martin and Republican strategist Rich Galen.
The gloves as I wrote on my blog today in THE SITUATION ROOM web site, are beginning to come off between the two frontrunners for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Listen to what Mitt Romney is now saying about Newt Gingrich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He and I have very different backgrounds. He spent his last 30 or 40 years in Washington. I spent my career in the private sector.
I think that's what the country needs right now. He's a lifelong politician. I think you have to have the credibility of understanding how the economy works. And I do and that's one reason I'm in this race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He spent 30 or 40 years in Washington. He's a lifelong politician. On the other hand, Mitt Romney's a business person. The gloves are a little bit beginning to come off.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually it's about time. Look, this is supposed to be a change election. All the issues will boil down to the economy and so, Mitt Romney has to offer that contrast.
And it is an absolute joke for Newt Gingrich to stand here and talk about he's an outsider when he is an ultimate insider. I mean, this whole deal with all his institutes and these organizations, he's trading on the level of influence in the nation's capitol.
So it's smart for Romney to go after him aggressively and even that - was a bit passive.
BLITZER: Yes, you used to work for the former speaker, he responded to the criticism from Romney this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I've got a work track record, haven't been as successful as Mitt Romney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I have a work track record. He's made millions and millions of dollars. But on the other hand, Mitt Romney's made millions and millions of dollars too.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I hope we never get to the point in American politics where you have to be a failure to be able to - to be elected. I don't think we want to get to that.
But I think what it tells me, Roland, is that the Romney's got some polling that indicates that this surge by Gingrich may have legs and they may have the determination that they need to get in front of it quickly, which they didn't really do with Perry or with Bachmann or for what matter with Cain except in the debates. But this one obviously they see differently. MARTIN: I don't think you have to because if you look at Bachmann, you look at Perry and Cain. First of all, Bachmann, member of Congress, she went up, came back down. You look at Perry, same thing, came out firing on all cylinders, up, back down.
Cain, no path of seriousness, he's crashing as well. The difference with Gingrich, he imploded early on and has been steadily building himself. So clearly recognized, he's a former speaker of the House, how he has done well.
So it makes sense, plus, we're five weeks out. This is not three months.
BLITZER: You used to work for the speaker. How tough in these remaining weeks before Iowa is this going to get between these two frontrunners?
GALEN: I think it will get very tough because this is it. Everything else was pregame or it's preseason. The exhibition season the over effective tomorrow, December 1st and I think that from this point --
BLITZER: And if Newt Gingrich gets slapped, I've covered him for many years. He slaps right back.
GALEN: He slaps right back. It depends on where you kind of poke him. My sense is that for Newt, who I really like, he's ready for the business, the lobbying. He's ready for that.
He's worked his way through that, but if people start to question his intellectual honesty, that's where I think he may lose.
MARTIN: That's one of the things I think for Romney in the last debate that you moderated, made no sense. He pretty much sat on the sidelines. He allowed Gingrich to elevate himself, pontificate if you will in the debate.
He has to nail him down and also, if I'm Romney, he should be emphasizing his character, emphasizing him being a husband, him being a father. Because yes, Newt, smart as all get out, but he has a nasty side and you want that to come out.
BLITZER: In that last debate, I suspected, I don't know if you suspected it as well, that Mitt Romney was more concerned about Jon Huntsman than he was about Newt Gingrich.
GALEN: I think that right and frankly, I think that everybody was surprised, at least I was, by Michele Bachmann who that was by far her best performance and she really knew a lot more. So I think all those things together meant that Romney got dragged down.
BLITZER: Let me talk about Herman Cain for a second. Michael Steele, the former Republican Party chairman, he said this. He told the "Huffington Post," I'm not going to go out here and blow you up and call on you to get out of the race.
If you decide to stay in, the voters are going to let you know how they feel about that. This is serious. There are impacts and ramifications not just for Herman and his family, but for the party as a whole. It sounds to me like he's very concerned about Herman Cain staying --
GALEN: Well, Michael Steele's political acumen is, we know what it is, so who cares. The reality is that, we were talking about this earlier. I'm not so sure it's a matter of what the voters are going to do, but I think at this point, it may be a family issue.
BLITZER: He said in the next several days he'll make up his mind.
MARTIN: First of all, I got to take, I got to deal with that. First of all, we're dealing with Michael Steele, was RNC chair, lieutenant governor of Maryland. It's not like this is somebody saying whatever.
He is giving Herman Cain strong advice and what he's actually saying is, Herman, this is over. OK, forget you. This is now a party issue. You have been in this game now for several months. Now it's down to the nitty-gritty.
And so if you are constantly the story and these affairs, you're bringing up these allegations of affair and sexual harassment that also touches on Gingrich, he's saying keep the focus away from you. It might be time for you to buy out. That's a nice way of saying it.
GALEN: Well, you know, this is a difficult time. Nobody wants to be the guy throwing the stone. I'm not casting any stones at this table, but on the other hand, who wants to look too closely at anybody's background.
I think for Herman Cain, you are right. This gets into everybody peeking into everybody's shower stall to see what may have gone --
BLITZER: I know a lot of Republicans like to pick on Michael Steele, but I will point out he was chairman of the RNC for the two years leading up to the elections in 2010, which created enormous Republican winds, local, state levels. So, you've got to give him some credit for that.
MARTIN: He's like the Tim Tebow of the Republican National Committee. He can't play quarterback, but he keeps winning.
GALEN: A bad release.
MARTIN: You can play on it.
BLITZER: I like Michael Steele.
MARTIN: But he won.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
Your e-mail on Newt Gingrich's surge in the polls, Jack Cafferty coming up next.
And in our next hour, how American college students discovered what China has been hiding, tunnels big enough to hold thousands of nuclear warheads.
BLITZER: Jack is back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is Newt Gingrich's momentum for real?
Charles in San Antonio, Texas, "Today it is. However, there are many days between today and Election Day. This may give Newt the opportunity to continue his momentum, get the Republican nomination, or provide him with many more opportunities to screw up. Based on history, it's only a matter of time before his Rick Perry moment."
Adam in Idaho writes, "Of Course, Gingrich is for real. One of the rest of the politicians going to learn that public wants substance not talking points."
Jane in New Hampshire. "It's as real as Michele Bachmann's momentum, Rick Perry's momentum. Herman Cain's momentum. Newt's selling books and more $60,000 speeches. Don't let him fool you."
Rob writes, "The only momentum he has is when he moves on to his next wife." Wilheim writes, "When the ghost of Gingrich past shows up he'll tank like every other Republican bomb of the month is. The guy has more baggage than a 747 could carry. Ain't no Ronald Reagan or even a John McCain in this Republican field."
Brian writes, "Is Gingrich's momentum for real? Yes. His hasn't been artificially manufactured, yes, just like everything and everyone else that ever gains momentum in American politics. Political power brokers and the so-called fourth estate, that would be us, can create anything at any time and make it as big as they want."
And Steve in Illinois writes, "The momentum's for real. Much like Thelma and Louise with the same results I'm sure."
If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: See you in a few minutes. Jack, thank you.
A Washington, D.C. hotel is being sued after an employee was told he can't serve certain guests. You're going to hear what the hotel is saying, what the governor is saying, who's to blame, stand by.
Plus, violence erupts on the streets of London as protesters flood the British capitol. I'll ask the former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about what's going on.
BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In South Africa, an artist paints a banner outside the U.N. Climate Change Conference. In Los Angeles, a rosary is all that remains after police break down an "Occupy L.A." camp.
In Bangkok, a dog stands near flood waters after Thailand's worst flooding in 50 years. And in London, a model performs during the launch of a Speedo fashion show.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.
If you're concerned about Uncle Sam looking over your shoulder, maybe you should worry more about your neighborhood mall. CNN's Mary Snow has the story.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As shoppers hit stores on Black Friday, two malls kept a closer eye than usual on where people went, literally.
They monitored signals from shopper's cell phones in Richmond, Virginia and in Southern California. This animation shows how the technology works. Its makers insist personal data isn't collected and that it's used to track shopping patterns.
But it's use is now on hold with the manager of two U.S. malls saying we have temporarily suspended further trial of the technology while we work with a system developer on possible enhancements and a difference to concerns raised by Senator Schumer.
New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has raised privacy concerns. He says while consumers can turn off their phones when they signs outside of stores warning about the technology, they shouldn't have to.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask your permission.
SNOW: The company that makes the technology is called "Path Intelligence" based in the United Kingdom.
(on camera): Why is it necessary to track shoppers?
SHARON BIGGAR, CEO, PATH INTELLIGENCE: It's necessary in the offline world to create a level playing field with what's going on online.
SNOW (voice-over): CEO, Sharon Biggar compares what her company is doing to the information online site's track, but she says in this case, cell phones are counted and personal information isn't detected. And she says having people agreeing to have cell phones tracked poses a problem.
BIGGAR: It would be going from a situation today where we have no information on the individuals, no details about cell phone numbers or demographics to a situation where we are required by law to hold personal information.
SNOW: Despite assurances, the ACLU's Chris Calabrese isn't sold. CHRIS CALABRESE, ACLU: It's hard to take comfort in the idea that the company says this is anonymous information because it's very easy to link people's cell phones and their individual identity.
Every time you do something for a smart phone, say sign up for a service or provide your e-mail address, your linking your identity and the phone that that information is routinely bought and sold.
BLITZER: That report from Mary Snow. By the way, while the use of this tracking technology is on hold, the management company of the malls say it will look at an easier way for consumers to opt out of being tracked other than turning off their cell phones.
For the first time, we're seeing the aftermath of that deadly NATO attack in Pakistan. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lisa, what else is going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf. Well, today, Pakistan's military released footage of last week's NATO attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The air strike hit a military check point near the border with Afghanistan. NATO calls it a tragic unintended incident, but Pakistan is expressing outrage and plans to boycott an international conference on Afghanistan in protest.
Vice President Joe Biden is promising Iraq the U.S. is 100 percent committed to helping that nation develop and reach its full potential.
Biden met with Iraq's prime minister just weeks before nearly all U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of the country. The vice president says the U.S. will pursue a new civilian relationship with Baghdad after the troop withdrawal.
And a successful launch in China. Early this morning, a rocket carried Beijing's latest remote sensing satellite into space. It will be used in scientific experiments, landing crop surveys, and disaster prevention research -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.