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Gingrich Meets With Trump; President Obama Pushes Payroll Tax Cut Extension; U.S. Aviation Chief Charged with DWI; Fear of Eurozone Rating Warning; Gingrich and Pelosi: War of Words; Romney Turns Down Gingrich Debate
Aired December 5, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now: The new Republican front-runner in the race for the White House calls on the power player who almost ran himself and might still run. Who knows? Details of the meeting between Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump. Stand by.
Also, President Obama uses Republicans' words own words against them, ratcheting up pressure to extend the payroll tax cut.
Plus, the man in charge of all U.S. aviation -- get this -- arrested and charged with drunk driving.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A new week and new shakeup in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. A new poll has Newt Gingrich now the solid front-runner in the critical first caucus state of Iowa. But today his focus was on New York and a meeting with Donald Trump.
Let's go to New York.
CNN's Jim Acosta is following all of this for us.
What's the latest with Newt Gingrich, the front-runner, and Donald Trump?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is in the Big Apple and you could say he is singing New York, New York, start spreading the Newts.
His message, Wolf, is that he can win the Republican nomination, and even though that there are many skeptics out there, he is willing to take this battle to all 50 states.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At a news conference in New York, Newt Gingrich insisted he can go toe to toe with his chief rival, Mitt Romney, in a 50-state battle for the nomination, even with a much smaller operation.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have all these articles about how businesses are getting leaner, how they are flattening their hierarchies, how they're doing all sorts of things. You have people now who work from home. You have virtual organizations, all these cutting-edge ideas. And then you have a group of consultants who believe you have to be slow, cumbersome and expensive.
The Donald has had the number one show in the country. OK? He is a genuine American icon in his own right. Why wouldn't you want to come and hang out with him?
ACOSTA: Part of the Gingrich plan also included a visit with Donald Trump, who has had enough meetings with White House hopefuls to host a presidential "Apprentice" reality show.
But Gingrich is tailoring a more serious image in Iowa with a new ad that is drawing comparisons to Reagan's iconic morning in America spot. But the message is also eerily similar to, Yes We Can.
GINGRICH: Yes, working together, we can and will rebuild the America we love.
ACOSTA: Team Obama is sitting up and taking notice with Gingrich surging to the top of the latest "Des Moines Register" poll.
ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think a lot of people inside the beltway and outside the beltway woke up today to a very different political environment and one in which Newt Gingrich is very much for real.
ACOSTA: Democrats seem all too eager to face Gingrich. In an interview with the blog "Talking Points Memo," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi hinted she may dredge up the congressional investigations into the former speaker's leadership during the 1990s.
"I know a lot of about him," Pelosi said. "I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year, 1,000 pages of this stuff."
GINGRICH: I want to thank Speaker Pelosi for what I regard as an early Christmas gift.
ACOSTA: Gingrich responded that the House should act to repudiate Pelosi's comments, accusing her of using her office to damage his candidacy.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We don't always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?
ACOSTA: It's a sign the two former speakers aren't as chummy as their days battling climate change in this 2008 ad.
ACOSTA: And Gingrich went on to say that during those investigations in the House of his leadership, that he was basically cleared of nearly all the charges, just one, Wolf, that he said he was found to be in violation of.
In the meantime, Newt Gingrich is also in search of some campaign cash here in New York Given the fact he is going to be potentially fighting with Mitt Romney across the country for this GOP nomination, he will need more than just good poll numbers to come out on top -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Donald Trump is making it clear, Jim, that if the Republicans nominate someone he doesn't like, and he is not defining who that might be, he is still holding out, albeit a tiny percentage, he is still holding out the possibility that after the next season ends in May of his show on NBC, he could still run as a third-party candidate. Did he elaborate at all following his meeting with Newt Gingrich on that?
ACOSTA: He didn't.
He basically said his next order of business is to hold this debate on December 27. As you know, he is set to moderate a debate among the GOP contenders. Some of those contenders, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, said they aren't going. Newt Gingrich RSVPed yes. So that probably doesn't hurt too badly in terms of getting an endorsement from Donald Trump.
But we also have to keep in mind, Wolf, that I think in addition to his reality TV show, the Donald is coming out with a book this week. Needless to say, and who am I to accuse the Donald of this, but there may also be some self-promotion going on. Just a thought.
BLITZER: Just a thought. We will hopefully speak with him later in the week here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, on the streets of New York.
Herman Cain is walking way from the Republican race amid allegations of sexual misconduct. But he is leaving with a huge pile of cash.
We asked our Lisa Sylvester to take a closer look at what will he do, now that he has -- quote -- "suspended" his race for the White House? What does he do with all the money he has raised?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has a few options here, Wolf.
As you mentioned, he has suspended his presidential campaign. But in one way, he is still acting like a candidate. He is still fund- raising. He even has an event scheduled for tonight in Oklahoma.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The Cain campaign train has come to a stop, but Herman Cain is still rolling in the political donations and if he gets his way will still be a fixture on the public stage.
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to be silenced and I'm not going away.
SYLVESTER: Cain announced the launch of TheCainSolutions.com, a Web site that is up, but without any content. But one thing Cain does have is plenty of cash. Cain has raised about $14 million in campaign contributions, $9 million of that since October 1. Even now, he is still fund-raising.
KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The day before his announcement about putting his campaign on suspension, he sent out a very aggressive fund-raising e-mail to his supporters saying, make a generous donation to my campaign so you can show your support.
SYLVESTER: Cain suspended his campaign as opposed to dropping out of the race. What's the difference? Money. Federal law allows a candidate who suspends a campaign to continue raising funds. He could convert his campaign chest into a PAC and use that to throw his weight behind political candidates.
ROBERT LENHARD, FORMER FEC CHAIRMAN: He has a lot of freedom to use the funds for political purposes in terms of making contributions to candidates or political parties or to engage in his own sort of independent political speech.
SYLVESTER: He wouldn't be able to use the funds for blatant personal use, but he could tap into the money to pay for travel, lodging, Web sites, and consultants.
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The candidate cannot use the money for personal use. They can't pay themselves a salary. They can't just transfer the money to their own bank account.
They can, however, spend the money in such a way that it really does benefit them economically or in terms of reputation because they have set up a charity and they can -- and that reflects well on them.
SYLVESTER: And Cain does have other options with his campaign money. He could return the money to contributors. He could also give the money to charity. But judging by the fact he is still out there in the political arena, that he is still fund-raising, it is very likely that we will see a Cain PAC in the coming weeks ahead.
BLITZER: So $14 million, do we know how much cash on hand he has of that $14 million?
SYLVESTER: Yes. He has $14 million. He has about -- I think it was about $630 million in debt.
BLITZER: Well, $600,000?
SYLVESTER: Right. Exactly. Sorry. Thanks for qualifying that.
Yes. And so he actually is flush with cash at this point, so I think he is doing very well.
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: And he could hold on to that for political purposes as long as he creates a PAC and whatever he wants to do. There is no time limit.
SYLVESTER: That is another possibility as well is, consider this: he could run for another political office down the road.
BLITZER: And transfer that money if he wants to run for governor of Georgia or senator, something. He could do that.
As judging by what he has said in the past, he is not going away. He has big plans. He has got this new Web site up. So we will see what happens.
BLITZER: He wouldn't be the first politician that raised a lot of money and kept it for years to come, using it for political purposes.
Thanks very much. Good report, Lisa Sylvester.
Let's go to Jack. He has "The Cafferty File."
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Wolf.
The day before he drops out of the campaign, he is appealing for money. Go figure.
Mitt Romney is refusing to debate Newt Gingrich one-on-one in a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate.
RealClearPolitics told the conservative publications "Human Events" and "Red State" they had locked down a date, December the 19th, and a place to hold the debate.
They say Gingrich was reading to go, but Romney turned them down.
It would seem potential Republican voters would welcome the opportunity to see the two top candidates answer tough questions face- to-face. Romney could benefit from the two-person format with his toughest opponent instead of the debate format where candidates who have virtually no chance of winning the nomination are all included.
And it could be good practice for a debate against President Obama if Romney winds up being the nominee, which is appearing less likely every day.
So why won't Romney agree to debate Gingrich? Critics say he's simply trying to run out the clock.
Gingrich will have a debate partner on the 19th after all. Jon Huntsman has accepted the invitation, while taking a swipe at Romney. Huntsman's campaign says the substantive format makes it hard for Romney to hide from his record. That's a quote. Romney could be making a big mistake by refusing to talk to the media, refusing to debate Gingrich, et cetera. The coronation he was counting on appears to be slipping away now.
Gingrich sits atop the national polls, as well as those in key early voting states. In Iowa, a brand-new poll now shows Romney in third place, behind Gingrich, number one, and Ron Paul, number two. In New Hampshire, another poll shows Gingrich has climbed almost 20 points against Romney since October.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Herman Cain may endorse Gingrich. He hasn't yet, but if that happens, it could be more bad news for Romney, who would stand to lose more potential voters.
Anyway, here's the question: What does it say about Mitt Romney that he won't debate Newt Gingrich one-on-one?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog or go to the post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You remember Paul Maguire, the former placekicker for my hometown team the Buffalo Bills, who became a sportscaster, a great one indeed?
He used to talk about prevent defense. When you're sitting on a lead in the fourth quarter, you go into prevent defense. And he would always say the same thing. He was right. What a prevent defense does is it, prevents you from winning.
CAFFERTY: From winning, exactly.
BLITZER: Yes. If Romney continues a so-called prevent defense, you know what will happen?
CAFFERTY: Well, it just doesn't make any sense. Remember, who is the fellow from "Time" magazine you had on last week?
BLITZER: Joe Klein.
CAFFERTY: Talked about how much more accessible Romney was four years ago. Nobody can get to him now. He won't talk to the press. He doesn't talk -- he has just -- he has locked himself into this kind of bunker mentality, figuring I guess that it is all his for the taking, but I'm not sure so sure it is.
BLITZER: Yes. You want to be president of the United States, you have to go out there and fight, fight, fight. You can't just be neutral and try to stay above the fray. It's not going to work.
CAFFERTY: Well, and you owe the voters an explanation. You owe them where you stand on the issues. You should be out there explaining to people, here is what I think about this, this and this. Here is how I will attack the problems. You can't trust they will vote for you on good faith, not today. BLITZER: Jack, check out my blog that I wrote on our SITUATION ROOM Web page on -- remember the 9-9-9 plan?
CAFFERTY: Yes, I do.
BLITZER: It's now dead, dead, dead.
CAFFERTY: ... pizza topping. What?
BLITZER: It's now dead, dead, dead.
BLITZER: Check it out.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.
The president is using his bully pulpit to step up pressure on Republicans to extend the payroll tax cut. And he tries to turn the tables on them when it comes to raising taxes.
Also, the head of the FAA arrested, arrested for drunken driving. We're learning new details. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama is trying to turn the tables on Republicans who pledged never to raise taxes. He's telling them to, quote, "keep your word and extend the payroll tax cuts."
Let's go to the White House. Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is standing by.
The president was over in the briefing room just a few hours ago, making his case. Tell our viewers what he said.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, the president's message is that Congress has to use its remaining days before its break to extend the payroll tax cut and that basically if Republicans block it, then it's inconsistent, he says, with their pledge not to raise taxes. Here's the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know many Republicans have sworn an oath never to raise taxes as long as they live. How could it be that the only time there's catch is when it comes to raising taxes on middle class families?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the president's aides believe that this is a winning issue politically for the president because if Congress doesn't extend the payroll tax cut, then taxes on middle class families go up and the president has a campaign issue. And if Congress does extend this payroll tax cut, then the president has a win, a policy win, on his hands and he can take credit for it.
The bottom line is, folks here expect that Congress will pass this. At this point, it's just a question of how it will be paid for or if it will be paid for, Wolf.
BLITZER: And tomorrow, as you know, Jessica, the president heads it Kansas. Kansas to deliver what the White House says will be a big speech. He is trying to draw some comparisons with Teddy Roosevelt. What's this about?
YELLIN: Well, he is going to address issues like income inequality and a lot of these themes that have been very frustrating to the progressive wing of the Democratic base recently, he will be talking about -- well, issues that the progressive wing of the Democratic base has framed as sort of the 1 percent versus the 99 percent. But instead of talking about it in terms of the big banks versus everybody else, you'll hear the president talk about fairness and making sure that regular Americans or working Americans get a fair shake.
And these themes -- balance, fairness, were big equality, were big themes for Teddy Roosevelt when he gave his square deal speech and he gave that square deal speech in the very same town more than a hundred years ago in Kansas, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll watch the speech tomorrow, then we'll discuss again.
BLITZER: Jessica, thanks very much.
The man who oversees all of U.S. aviation is now charged with driving while intoxicated. The FAA administrator Randy Babbitt was arrested over the weekend and he's now taken a leave of absence from his job.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us.
All right. Brian, what do we know about this?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, police say this happened on Saturday night at about 10:30 in Fairfax, Washington, not far from Washington. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt pulled over for allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road. Police say he was driving alone. No crash or injuries reported in this incident. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and released on personal recognizance, which means no bail money was required.
Sometime after 1:00 p.m. today Eastern Time, the Department of Transportation said officials there learned of the arrest, quote, "in the last hour." That of course would be just afternoon today, about 36 hours after the arrest occurred.
The White House also didn't find out until today after about noon time, according to the White House press secretary. So far, Babbitt has been given a leave of absence and his deputy will be filling in. We called Babbitt's house and went there to try to speak to him. We were not able to reach Randy Babbitt.
He is head of the FAA. So, he oversees safety rules for pilots, planes and flights, and that includes regulations on pilot intoxication. He was appointed to a five-year term by President Obama in 2009, and he is veteran pilot himself. He flew for Eastern Airlines for about 25 years, Wolf.
BLITZER: Any indication whether or not the president will ask him to resign?
TODD: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked the question. He didn't answer it directly. He just said that Babbitt is on a leave of absence. And beyond that, he said to ask the Department of Transportation.
The only thing other thing that that department says is that DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Babbitt's employment status.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. Update us on this story if you get some more. Appreciate it.
A check of the day's other top stories coming up.
Then, Newt Gingrich versus Nancy Pelosi. She says she's got dirt on Gingrich that he is firing right back at her. The battle of the former speaker versus -- the two former speakers, I should say, that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tensions mount with Pakistan and the U.S. gets a boot from the military base.
Lisa Sylvester is back. She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What's going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, the U.S. is clearing out of an air base in Pakistan used for deploying and refueling drones for operations against Islamic militants. Diplomatic officials confirm today that U.S. is leaving Shamsi air base at the request of the Pakistani government. The order comes after an air strike last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, worsening already strained relations between the two countries.
And under an expired deadline and the threat of more sanctions, Syria has agreed to let Arab League observers into monitor the unrest there with conditions. Damascus says the regional organization must drop sanction immediately and it also wants its suspension from the regional group rescinded. The Arab League says it will consider Syria's proposal before making final decision.
And word today that workers at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility found a leak of radioactive water, 45 metric tons of it, over the weekend. TEPCO, the plant's operator, says there is a slightly elevated level of radioactive material in the area. It says it's trying to determine how much tainted water may have reached the ocean. TEPCO says sandbags around the cracked barrier stopped the leak. A powerful earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant in March -- Wolf.
All right. Thanks very much for that, Lisa.
Newt Gingrich, he's now out with his first paid television commercial. It's trying to be inspirational. But does it succeed?
Also, the former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is hinting she knows secrets about Newt Gingrich.
We're going to talk about all of this in our strategy session. Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin, they are standing by live.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: A story that's developing. I want to bring in CNN's Christine Romans. She's working the story for us.
Christine, a potential, potential, downgrading of a lot of these European countries by the S&P. What's going on?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A warning of a downgrade is what it is, really. And this would be from S&P.
You have sources telling "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Financial Times" and "Reuters," sources in Europe, that S&P is very close to announcing that it's putting on what they called credit watch negative 17 different European countries, the big European countries, of course. And that this is something that could complicate all these efforts to put together a bailout fund and a rescue of the European countries.
Many people have thought that maybe a downgrade or a warning with downgrade could come to France. But also putting Germany and other AAA rated countries in there something that has caught the markets and people who are watching this a little off guard.
Again, this is reporting -- unnamed source reporting to "Reuters" and "The Wall Street Journal." But in this reporting, it would be Germany, the AAA countries and credit rated companies, Germany, France, Finland and Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg are among those that would be put on what is called credit watch negative. And what that means is they're on notice of a potential downgrade of their credit rating, a 50/50 chance of downgrade within the next 90 days. So, it really is a warning.
And, Wolf, it's why you saw markets -- there's a lot of chatter of this in the last few minutes of the market trading today. It's one of the reasons why a lot of the optimism that had been in the market faded a little bit in the stock market because the credit markets in Europe and stock market have been acting, Wolf, as though they think that Europe is doing the right thing here.
But according to the reports, this would be S&P's citing the difficulties of actually getting its debt crisis under control for a potential warning after downgrade -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How did they the markets wind up doing today given -- at least in the final few minutes. There were these reports that were beginning to surface of a potential downgrading in a lot of these European countries.
ROMANS: Let's look at the numbers. Of the best levels of the session, Dow Jones Industrial average still managing to pull out a little bit of gain for the day. I think about 80 points or so.
But you had a lot of people talking talk about what this would mean inside these never ending serious of summits quite frankly, Wolf. That European leaders led by Germany and France have been having.
On the front page of the "Wall Street Journal" today, Wolf. I'm sure you saw the picture of the Italian, I think finance minister breaking down into tears as she was trying to explain to her people why they were either going to be collectively impoverished or selectively impoverished with later retirement ages and less in their pensions.
It is a very, very difficult what is going on inside each and every one of these countries. At least indication from these reports, from the FT and from Reuters is that it is still not -- still not fixed by any stretch of the imagination, at least in the eyes of the credit rating agencies -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And a lot of Americans are going to ask the fundamental question. Let's say the S&P does downgrade Germany and some of these other European countries. What does that mean for me? What does that mean for those of us in United States?
ROMANS: Anything that is a hurdle on the road to Europe getting its financial house in order is definitely very bad news for the United States, Wolf. Why, because the eurozone is the largest destination for American products.
If Europe slips into another recession or worst, a depression, a depression that would mean that American factories would close and Americans would lose their jobs to say nothing of the investments in the global markets that are tied to what happens in Europe.
Also, the AAA status of the bailout fund is pretty crucial. I mean, you want a stellar credit rating for these countries as they are trying to get their bond situation in order.
That is obviously, any kind of sign of a lack of confidence or declining confidence in the eurozone, not a good thing for exporters and certainly not good thing for the people of Europe. You know, friends and allies of the United States.
BLITZER: Christine Romans watching this story for us. Christine, thanks very much.
Is it real politics or reality TV? Newt Gingrich teaming up with Donald Trump for a new spin on "The Apprentice."
Also, Nancy Pelosi drops a hint. Does she have dirt, real dirt, additional dirt, new dirt, on Newt Gingrich? What she is now saying. What he is saying. The battle between the two former speakers, it's heating up. We will discuss in our "Strategy Session."
BLITZER: There's a new battle that's underway right now between two former speakers of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich. They're battling right now. We're going to tell you all about in our "Strategy Session."
Joining us now are the Republican strategist and CNN's political contributor Mary Matalin and the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile.
Wow, all of a sudden, it is heating up between Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, ladies. Pelosi saying this on "Talking Points Memo." I will put it up on the screen, one of these days we'll have a conversation about Newt Gingrich. When the time is right, I know a lot about him. I served on the investigative committee that investigated him.
Four of us locked into a room in an undisclosed location for year. A thousand pages of stuff. Now Jim Acosta at the news conference with Newt Gingrich in New York. A little while ago, asked the Republican presidential frontrunner to react. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, I want to thank Speaker Pelosi for what I regard as an early Christmas gift. I regard it as a useful education for the American people to see what a tainted political ethics operation Nancy Pelosi was engaged in.
And I would hope the House will immediately condemn her if she uses any material that was gathered while she was on the Ethics Committee because it would be a total violation of the committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, after that, the Nancy Pelosi spokesman put out this statement. Leader Pelosi was clearly referring to the extensive amount of information that is in the public record including the comprehensive committee report with which the public may not be fully aware.
Mary, first to you, what do you make of this latest twist in Newt Gingrich's run for the Republican nomination?
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would have rather that Newt let somebody else say what he just said, but he is absolutely right. There is nothing, nothing that Nancy Pelosi can say about Newt that would hurt Newt worse than this is hurting Nancy Pelosi just the threat of violating those ethics rules.
If there is one thing that Republicans and Democrats abide by and have integrity for or they like to maintain the integrity of those ethics committee. They really do cut each other slack or do it the right way.
And her even suggesting that is so egregious, Newt is exactly right. Stand back and let everybody else make those charges. Get out of process and keep talking about message.
BLITZER: What she said, Donna, I know you like Nancy Pelosi and admire her a great deal. But what she said about in that statement, I know a lot about him, I served on the investigative committee that investigated him.
Four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year, a thousand pages of stuff. That's pretty threatening and pretty inappropriate for a member of that panel to even suggest releasing that kind of confidential information.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, first of all, let's focus on what's out there on the public record.
BLITZER: But she wasn't focusing on the public record. In that statement, she was focusing in on the secret stuff that is never supposed to be released.
BRAZILE: I don't think she was focusing in on it. I talked to her office, that's what she was referring to. You know what, Wolf, Newt Gingrich would love to pick a fight with a woman. He would love to fight with Nancy, because then he won't have to answer the charges that the House reprimanded him for and fined him $300,000.
If he wants to take a trip down memory lane, it'll hurt his campaign. It will expose him as a hypocrite on many of the ethical issues. I don't think that's his real aim today and you know, taking the fight to Nancy Pelosi.
There is a lot of stuff back there. It is the baggage that he carries. It's the baggage that he must be concern with now that he is a frontrunner. He will undergo the same type of scrutiny that Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and all of the other frontrunners will have to undergo. That is part of his baggage.
BLITZER: Let me - Mary, respond to that. He wants it pick a fight with a woman, that's what Donna just said, Mary.
MATALIN: I'm sure she didn't mean to choose those words because --
BRAZILE: I said them.
MATALIN: All right, well, Donna. That's really --
BRAZILE: He is picking a fight with Nancy Pelosi.
MATALIN: That picking a fight --
BRAZILE: She's a woman.
MATALIN: Picking a fight with a woman is clearly a different charge. He's not trying to pick a fight with anybody. This is what the Democrats and President Obama have announced they are going to do. They are going to trash the entire field and they are taking apart one by one. There is nothing we don't know about Newt.
And nobody wants to take a trip down memory lane. Everybody, every voter wants to look to the future. All of the Democrats dumping and trashing and bad mouthing all the Republicans are exactly what voters don't like. For you to say, Donna he wants it pick a fight with a woman.
MATALIN: It's absurd. He is not out there trying to look backwards or pick a fight with anybody. He is trying to win this nomination and the reason he's ascended to the heights that he has.
This is not like a favor of the week. He's deserved this ascent by staying focused on the message, staying focused on the bigger philosophy of government and contrasting it with President Obama. That's why --
BRAZILE: Mary, first of all, let's not talk about the trash because the Republicans have thrown all the trash from the garbage can, from the gutter on President Obama, his birth certificate.
And Newt Gingrich today met with Mr. Birther himself, Donald Trump. Yes, he's picking a fight with Nancy Pelosi. In 2010, the biggest -- the biggest advice across this country with Republican candidates was picking a fight with Speaker Pelosi.
Absolutely, it comes with the game. She was the first female speaker and that's the context of saying they're picking a fight with a woman. I am a woman. I am often, you know, disgusted with the gutter politics.
I spoke out when Michele Bachmann was attacked, with that phony song the other night on television. So yes, this is a fight, but Newt Gingrich has a past. He has a past. He has to be willing to talk about it whether he is uncomfortable or not.
He has to face the cameras and not just throw red meat at his base hoping to excite them by demonizing President Obama, demonizing poor kids, demonizing Nancy Pelosi. You know what? When you throw up your two fists to fight, guess what? Sometimes you might get hit back by a woman.
MATALIN: Can I just say, one of the ironies of this, Wolf, is the reason Newt started out behind and had his claws way back up and did so as well as he did, but for sitting on a couch with Nancy Pelosi.
OK, if there's anybody who's tried to do things together that he is not gutter balling anybody. He is not scaring anybody. There's a notion that kids shouldn't work. Maybe you should come visit New Orleans, Donna.
You know the greatest breakthrough in education reform is keeping these kids at school and tying education to work. Making that cause and effect that we do --
BRAZILE: Mary, I'm the daughter of a retired janitor. I know poverty. I worked, my parents worked, everybody worked. But to suggest that poor kids have to work simply because they are poor is asinine.
All kids, if they are able to work, should work. They should have worth ethics not just poor kids everybody. Everybody should be able to contribute to society whether it's working for free or working for money.
BLITZER: Well, on that very point. It looked like the former Speaker Newt Gingrich doubled down own the whole issue at his meeting with Donald Trump today on this whole issue over the poor children should be working in schools. Listen to this little exchange, the speaker followed by Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: Been making the case that we need to work very hard to help poor children in poor neighborhoods acquire opportunities to work and I've asked him to take one of the poorer schools in New York and basically offer at least 10 apprenticeships to kids from that school to get them into the world of work and get them into an opportunity to earn money.
DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: He did mention, if I could do something, for some of the kids in very, very poor schools throughout the city. I thought it was a great idea. We called it an apprenticeship and we all know about the apprentice.
So we're going to be doing it. We're going to be picking ten young wonderful children and we're going to make them apprenti. We're going to have a little fun with it. I think it will have something that's going to really prove results. But it was Newt's idea and I thought it was a great idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, Donna, great idea? Very quickly, we only have a little time left.
BRAZILE: Wolf, look, Wolf, I support any effort to help any child in this country. That's what I'm all about. Adopt that school, adopt those kids, adopt the parents, adopt the neighborhood. Make sure that we fund public education so that every child in America can get a healthy start as well as head start. That's the ticket out of poverty.
BRAZILE: Let me make a prediction, Wolf. Everyone is going to make fun of the Donald and Newt because of "The Apprentice" and all of that, but mothers of these children are going to be lining up knee deep to get one of these 10 apprenticeships.
I think is a brilliant idea. It is happening across the country. I'm glad that those two would be candidates and I believe they have put it on the top of the radar for education reform.
BLITZER: Mary Matalin, Donna Brazile, ladies, a good discussion as usual. Passionate, that's the way we like it. Appreciate it very much.
Mitt Romney says no to one on one debate with Newt Gingrich. We will tell you what we know about this, part of the political race for the White House.
BLITZER: The storming of Britain's embassy in Tehran last week renewed deep concern about the potential nuclear threat coming from Iran.
I'm joined now by CNN's Erin Burnett. She is joining us from Abu Dhabi where she's been meeting with top officials over there. A lot of focus on Iran's nuclear program in the United Arab Emirates and the entire region, I know you had a chance to meet with Sheikh Mohammed. What did he have to say about all of this?
ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: It is amazing, Wolf. It is a major focus here and here in the United Arab Emirates at one point, you are only about 40 miles away from Iran.
They are deeply concerned, obviously, about this. Dubai though is in an awkward position because they have a whole lot of money and business from Iran. So this is tough and American is relying on the UAE.
Let me tell you what Sheikh Mohammed had to say. He's the prime minister of the UAE, the oil rich emirate and the ruler of Dubai. Here he is on the Iran situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is Iran a bigger threat now than it was a few years ago?
SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM, DUBAI PRIME MINISTER: Iran is our neighbor and we live next to each other for thousands and thousands of years. I don't believe that Iran will enter the nuclear weapon.
BURNETT: You don't think they will get a nuclear weapon?
MAKTOUM: I don't think so, myself. What can Iran do with a nuclear weapon? For example, when they hit Israel, -- and you think if Iran hit Israel, their city would be safe? It would be gone next day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's an interesting situation, Wolf because you have the Iran situation. Here in the United Arab Emirates, it's been one of the biggest buyers of U.S. weapons over the past few years as they have tried to prepare for the threat from Iran.
You're seeing an arms race in this entire region, which of course, is a fascinating and terrible time to see an arms race here, given that you have the Arab spring.
So many governments in disarray and a lot of these Arab spring countries, the economies have been in stall mode, joblessness has risen so when you put all that together, it could be a very toxic combination and democracy also an interesting topic here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure it is. That Arab spring had an impact on the United Arab Emirates whether in Abu Dhabi where you are or Dubai or elsewhere? What are you seeing about -- any protest movement, any democracy movement, what is going on there?
BURNETT: It's interesting because obviously these Gulf States are different than some of the places where you have seen uprisings whether that be Egypt or Syria in particular and Libya. They have a lot of money.
Right here in the United Arab Emirates, Wolf, just last week was their 40th anniversary. It's a very young country, but in observance of that, they doubled a lot of the wages for government workers.
Some people say that they are doing that to try to keep people happy and prevent uprising and protest here. Sheikh Mohamed says that is not the case. But it is a fascinating topic and there were five men here who Amnesty International dubbed the UAE Five, who were jailed foregoing on blogs, talking about wanting democracy in this Sheikh- ruled kingdom, which is exactly how it is.
It's ruled by two ruling families. I talked to one of them tonight. His name was Akhmed, a telecom engineer. He was talking about how he thought the UAE was ready for full democracy right now, which is something, of course, the leaders of this country don't agree with.
But we had a very frank conversation about democracy and this America's biggest ally in the region coming up tonight with Sheikh Mohamed. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to be watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," she's really out front tonight in the United Arab Emirates. Don't forget 7 p.m. Eastern, she's live from the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi. We will be watching, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," 7 p.m. Eastern, later tonight.
When we come back, Jack Cafferty will join us with "The Cafferty File."
BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, question this hour, what does it say about Mitt Romney that he is refusing to debate Newt Gingrich one on one. They arranged for Lincoln-Douglas style debate. Romney doesn't want to be part of it.
Renee in Illinois says, "I think his critics are right about running out the clock. Romney stands better chance in the general election than most of the candidates on the right, but he is struggling with the extremists in his own party. The real question, what does this say about the GOP that they are more determined to run with a candidate who can win their own primary, but less of a chance of winning the general election."
Patrick in Massachusetts writes, "It shows Romney wants to keep running from his record and knows it will never hold up in a head to head debate. Hats off to Jon Huntsman for agreeing to debate Newt."
Steve in Illinois, "That Romney is also scared to debate Obama one on one. I'm seeing Tom Dewey more and more." Charles in San Antonio, "I believe it is a good move on Romney's part. To win Republican votes in a debate with Gingrich, Romney would be forced to move too far to the right. That won't appeal to the independents or disgruntled Democrats in the general election. However, refusing to debate Gingrich will hurt Romney, but not as much as actually debating him. It is all a political calculation."
Carol writes, "It means Romney is counting on Newt imploding and he'll be the nominee by default. Gary writes, "Romney knows that Gingrich is a better debater than he is, it is as simple as that. Romney's background is primarily business. Gingrich is politics and politicians are great debaters. It's rule number one, look at guy in the White House now. He doesn't have a clue, but he is magician at the podium."
If you want to read more, go to my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page. There is a thing on TV about you being on the soul train and beating boxes. What is that about?
BLITZER: That was history. That was, what, two weeks ago when I was in Atlanta. We taped that and it aired last -- the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Now people are getting around to reporting about it.
CAFFERTY: I'm way behind the curve.
BLITZER: I had a great time. You remember the "Soul Train."
CAFFERTY: Yes. It was great.
BLITZER: All right, let's get back to some serious news right now as U.S. troops get ready to pull out of Iraq by the end of this year within the next few weeks, many Americans are wondering how much has really been accomplished.
The story of how American and Iraqi authorities are now responding to the killing of an American soldier may provide part of the answer. CNN's Martin Savidge goes in-depth.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like many American service members in Iraq, these soldiers in the first army division are toward go home. But before they can go, there is one more thing they have to do.
Armed and in full body armor, they head towards a building. CNN was there as the soldiers went after the man suspected of killing one of their own.
The 25-year-old First Lieutenant Dustin Vincent of Texas always wanted to be a soldier, a dreamed that tore at his mother's heart.
MARTY VINCENT, MOTHER: I told him. I said, I don't agree with it, but I'm here to support you.
SAVIDGE: Iraq was Vincent's first tour of duty, but a sniper's bullet ended the mission in early November and shattered the life of his high school sweetheart, who Vincent married just two days before he deployed.
Insurgents posted this video online claiming it showed the attack. Set the music and recorder over a long distance, it shows a military convoy stopped on the street. There is a gunshot and a soldier drops from view.
There's no way to know if this video is the actual killing of Lieutenant Vincent. Meanwhile, word has reached the men of Vincent's squad that the alleged gunman has been captured. They come to the courthouse, not for revenge, but justice. You see, Lieutenant Vincent's death is being handled as a homicide.
MAJ. FRANKLIN D. ROSENBLATT, ATTORNEY: There was a crime committed and because of that crime, a lieutenant was killed and everyone wants to see justice done.
SAVIDGE (on camera): An attack on American forces would have resulted in an airstrike or fire fight at one time. Instead, the lieutenant's death triggered a trial in an Iraqi court.
(voice-over): The soldiers meet with the prosecutors to testify about what happened. They go over the evidence, including the video. It is a sign of just how much things have changed and U.S. officials say the Iraqis are delivering real results.
ROSENBLATT: They have been willing take on cases of the terrorists who attacked the U.S. troops, and I think that's a really good sign.
SAVIDGE: Outside the base where he was stationed, Lieutenant Vincent has been added to the wall of dedicated U.S. service members, each name, a painful reminder of the sacrifice that has taken this part of Iraq from the rule of a dictator and this case, to the rule of law. Martin Savidge, CNN, Baghdad.