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THE SITUATION ROOM
Paul's Best Shot at Gingrich; Obama's Push for Jewish Vote; Hotel Video Raises Questions; Captive American's Family Releases Video; Jon Huntsman Says He's Got Staying Power; EU Leaders Reach A Deal Without UK
Aired December 9, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Ron Paul's campaign to, quote, "expose Newt Gingrich."
Could the libertarian rebel of the Republican Party derail the frontrunner in Iowa?
New information coming in.
Plus, a new video of the former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at a -- at the hotel where a maid accused him of rape. The surveillance tape is no creating new confusion about the charges that have been dropped.
And a year-old hostage video that's painful to watch. It's now public. It's part of a new bid to free a retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The stop Newt Gingrich campaign is moving into overdrive right now. His Republican opponents watched his poll numbers soar this week with less than a month to go before the first Republican presidential contest. Mitt Romney's camp is unleashing a new video attacking Newt Gingrich today. It's slamming Gingrich for calling a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare quote, "right-wing social engineering," a comment he later dialed back. Ron Paul also is getting more aggressive in his criticism of Newt Gingrich, saying he has to expose the man he calls -- and I'm quoting Ron Paul now -- "a counterfeit conservative."
Congressman Paul is campaigning in Iowa today. He's holding another town hall meeting this hour. The state's January 3rd caucus could be his best shot at scoring an upset victory over the frontrunners.
Lisa Sylvester is joining us now. She has more on Ron Paul's Iowa prospects. And this is crucial, Lisa, in the race for the nomination.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
Well, right now, Ron Paul is solidly in the middle of the pack. But he has been working Iowa, developing a ground team and building up widespread support. And the question now is, could Iowa be the spark that he needs to place him in the upper tier?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Ron Paul.
SYLVESTER: Officially, he's not the frontrunner, not even the second runner up. But don't let the numbers fool you. Ron Paul could pull of a surprise upset in Iowa. He's passionate and likable.
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Don't you think it would be a pretty good idea if we went back and obeyed the constitution?
SYLVESTER: But his real asset is his organization on the ground in Iowa -- a devoted conservative following that, come hell or high water, will stand by him. Senator Rand Paul says his father is also courting Independent voters in the state.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Gingrich has no ground game there. So you have to get voters to the polls. And we're planning on getting thousands and thousands of voters out come the Iowa caucus.
SYLVESTER: Here's how the numbers break down. In the latest CNN/ORC Poll, Gingrich has 33 percent of likely GOP caucus participants; Romney, 20 percent, and Paul, only a hair behind him, with 17 percent.
But Iowa conservative radio host, Steve Day, says those numbers don't capture many of Paul's supporters.
STEVE DEACE, IOWA RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Conservatives in general are skeptical of the mainstream media. Ron Paul supporters are hyper paranoid of it. So they're not ones that traditionally pick up the phone when the media calls. They -- they don't respond to traditional polling mechanisms.
So If he's in double digits with a mainstream media survey, that probably indicates his actual support on the ground is much stronger than that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM RICK PERRY CAMPAIGN AD)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do agree our country must take action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Paul released this ad in Iowa, ripping Gingrich for quote his, quote, "serial hypocrisy." Paul, who has run for president twice before, scores well among Tea Party conservatives, who love his preaching on cutting taxes, reducing government and slashing spending.
But there are other views that might turn off establishment Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: and the negatives would be some of the less mainstream issues and some of the quotes that he's made over the years that could come back to haunt him.
SYLVESTER: Some of those views, eliminating five government departments, withdrawing all foreign aid, adopting an isolationist foreign policy and leaving it up to the states whether to legalize or criminalize marijuana.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SYLVESTER: And there's been a lot of discussion if Ron Paul is not the Republican nominee, could he run as an Independent candidate?
Well, Ron Paul has dismissed that scenario, not wanting to pull away support from whoever the GOP ends up going against President Obama -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
Let's dig a little bit deeper with our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" -- "STATE OF THE UNION" -- Candy, he's got a great organization in Iowa, you and I know. He's got a lot of devoted supporters out there.
What happens -- it's not out of the realm of possibility -- what happens if Ron Paul wins Iowa?
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: In fact, it's well within the realm of possibility. And what happens is this is exactly what Democrats would love to see, because, I think, still most people would say that, you know, Ron Paul doesn't have what it takes to go the distance, that the -- the support is passionate, but it works in a concentrated place like Iowa. Not so much when you get to a place like Florida.
But what happens is that let's say Mitt Romney places third in Iowa. That really weakens his campaign. Let's say Newt Gingrich places third, behind Mitt Romney. That weakens his campaign. But nothing gets settled in New Hampshire unless, of course, there's Ron Paul again. And then we'd have to reconsider.
But it -- what it does is lengthen out the process, which certainly is something that Republicans -- that Democrats would love to see.
BLITZER: Yes. A lot of us remember when Howard Dean, back in 2004, didn't do so great in Iowa, remember what happened to his bid for the Democratic nomination at that time.
BLITZER: He's been very highly critical, Ron Paul, of Donald Trump. And now there's indications today that that debate that Donald Trump and Newsmax were going to do December 27th, it might not happen.
BLITZER: Only two of the candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have agreed to participate. It's not going to be much of a debate if it's only the two of them.
Here's what Donald Trump told me yesterday.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: People are afraid that I'm going to run as an Independent candidate. And some of the people that are supposed to be in the debate have expressed that. And I don't want to give up that option, because it certainly is an option, if the Republicans pick the wrong candidate or if the economy and everything continues to be bad and we have the wrong candidate. That would be a worst of all. I'd love to see the economy get better. I don't think it will get better under this administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Were you surprised?
I mean I was pretty surprised that almost all of these Republicans said no to Donald Trump.
CROWLEY: I -- I actually wasn't. And one of the first to say no was Ron Paul.
BLITZER: He didn't just say no, he slapped him in the process.
CROWLEY: But, absolutely. And he said no, this isn't a circus, this is, you know, a serious endeavor and we ought to treat it like such.
And I think that, by and large, no matter what Donald Trump says, what we have here is a realization within the Republican Party that when Herman Cain was busy imploding, there were a lot of Republicans that thought, boy, this is taking on a circus atmosphere here. We need to get, you know, serious, because you are up against a sitting president.
So you're down here. And what you don't want to look like is you're the carnival and he's the serious president. He gives big, lofty speeches a la Teddy Roosevelt in Kansas and meanwhile, they're talking to a guy with a reality TV show. I think that was a primary source of concern for a number of those folks.
BLITZER: Do you think these Republicans are also concerned that Donald Trump might still run?
CROWLEY: Certainly, we heard from Reince Priebus, who's head of the Republican Party, who said, listen, I don't think the moderator ought to be a guy who's thinking about running against them. But I still think it had a circus atmosphere that turned off of a number of the candidates. And I also think they're doing a heck of a lot of debates. And -- and it's, as you know, right now where they need to be is knocking on those doors and sitting in people's living rooms and convincing them to go out for the caucuses.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
We'll see you Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION".
BLITZER: President Obama is trying to shore up areas where he could be vulnerable on election day, including his support within the American Jewish community. Republicans, even some Democrats, are accusing the president of damaging U.S. relations with Israel.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is joining us now from the White House.
I know there's a strategy underway at the White House to try to win back a lot of that Jewish support.
What are you learning -- Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you've heard the administration, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney again and again saying the -- the Obama administration has done more for Israel's security than any other administration.
But the president's critics have been really hitting him hard for being, in their minds, soft on Iran and also, four months ago, talking about the starting point of Mideast peace negotiations, the prospects of which have now faded, to be those pre-1967 borders.
So a lot of criticism this week from Republicans and the administration is firing back.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome to the White House. Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukah.
KEILAR: (voice-over): A warm welcome for the president's Jewish supporters.
OBAMA: This Hanukah season, we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart, even us gentiles. KEILAR: These overtures are part of President Obama's strategy to shore up backing among Jewish American voters and stem the tide of criticism he's getting from Republican presidential candidates.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace.
KEILAR: They hammered Obama's stance on Israel one after the another, while addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition this week.
MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama must immediately end his doctrine of appeasement.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This one-sided continuing pressure that says it's always Israel's fault no matter how bad the other side is has to stop.
KEILAR: The criticism has been so persistent, even late night hosts are poking fun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE JAY LENO SHOW," COURTESY NBC)
JAY LENO, HOST: Well, all the Republican presidential candidates are in Washington, DC this week courting the Jewish voters. And while speaking to a prominent group of Jewish Republicans, Newt Gingrich promised to support Israel, not give into the Palestinians and promised his next wife would be Jewish.
KEILAR: In the president's corner.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: The first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress.
KEILAR: Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, un -- unfortunately for the Republican, there isn't a single domestic policy issue that Republicans are -- are right on when it comes to the Jewish community. So they have no other choice but to lie about the president's record on Israel, distort it.
KEILAR: the Obama campaign just hired a director of Jewish outreach. The White House has a similar post. And this week, a pro-Obama PAC defended the president in a memo filled with praise from Israeli leaders.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KEILAR: it is a lot of political firepower to be concentrated on a voting bloc that makes up an estimated 4 percent of the American population, many of those voters tending to vote Democratic. But the thing, Wolf, and you know this, the Jewish population in America tends to be concentrated in states that are very important politically, like Florida. And, of course, the lesson of the 2000 election was that you can't take a single vote for granted in a battleground state -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right.
Thanks very much, Brianna Keilar.
A good report.
A newly released surveillance video is renewing questions about the dropped rape charges against the former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss- Kahn.
Plus, why did the family of a missing American wait a year to release a videotape apparently taken by his captors?
And Donald Trump's stunning claim that the United States should have seized Iraq's oil fields to pay for the war. Stand by for the part of the interview you didn't see before. We'll air it this hour.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Newly released surveillance video now fuelling conspiracy questions about the sexual assault scandal involving the ex-IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a luxury hotel maid. Let's go to New York with CNNs Mar Snow. She's monitoring the details for us. What's the latest, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, those conspiracy claims are being raised after two men are seen on the surveillance tape and they appear to be celebrating, but the hotel is calling this nonsense.
SNOW (voice-over): Here is Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaving the Sofitel, a luxury New York hotel, shortly after he was alleged to have sexually assaulted a maid on May 14th. He appears to be casually leaving, and after he checks out, he gets into a taxi cab. Strauss- Kahn's accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, is also seen that day in her hotel uniform.
French broadcaster, BFM, which obtained the hotel surveillance video, described the two people with her as a supervisor and security officer. Later, she is seen pushing someone, her attorney claims she was demonstrating What Strauss-Kahn did to her. And then, there is this portion of video gaining much attention.
For roughly 12 seconds, two men are seen in a separate room and appear to be celebrating. There is no audio on the tape, and it's unclear what they're saying. Both sides claim the video bolsters their case.
An attorney for Strauss-Kahn says it raises questions about what he calls questionable conduct of Sofitel personnel saying, "The timing of the celebratory behavior of the two Sofitel employees caught on camera defies an innocent explanation." An attorney for Diallo says it's nonsense that there's any kind of conspiracy involved.
KENNETH THOMPSON, NAFISSATOU DIALLO'S ATTORNEY: This video shows actions of a victim. Not someone who's part of some plot to bring down a man that she had never seen before in her life that day.
SNOW: Even though the Manhattan district attorney's office dropped criminal charges against the former IMF chief after questioning his accuser's credibility, Strauss-Kahn faces a civil suit. Will this video make a difference in the case? We asked former prosecutor and attorney, Paul Callan.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think when judging it in the context of the legal case that it's a flash in the pan. It's a bunch of headlines, salacious headlines, the tabloid press loves. But in the end, I don't think it's going to be an extremely important part of the civil case.
SNOW: And Wolf, as for those two men who were seen celebrating on that videotape, a lawyer for the parent group of the Sofitel Hotel said in a statement that the men couldn't specifically remember why they did this, but he adds that they were both relieved that the housekeeper had made the decision to allow the hotel to call the police -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure more to come in this story. Mary, thank you.
Down on Wall Street, the Dow closed the week almost 200 points higher amid news of an agreement that could potentially, potentially move Europe one step closer to resolving the dire Eurozone debt crisis, but the deal also came with some glaring setbacks.
And our own Richard Quest is joining us now from Brussels, where all the action is going on. What's the very latest right now, Richard? What happened today?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened is that the Europeans not only increased the fire power of their bailout fund, but they put in place the new principles of rules for how to make sure the Euro works in future, the so-called fiscal compact, basically, agreeing budget deficit restrictions, automatic sanctions, a whole series of things to make sure this never happens again.
Unfortunately, there was one country that refused to sign up for the whole package, and that was the UK. The UK says it wasn't getting what it wanted. It was going to veto the treaty. So, basically, it has kicked the other European countries, and they will now have to do this arrangement separately. Think of it this way, Wolf. They'd hoped to have a grand treaty. Everybody on board.
All agreeing to improve the working of the union. Instead, you've got that lot over there all getting on with it and Britain on the outside throwing stones, saying that they can't do it this way. They shouldn't do it that way, and it probably, they're not going to be cooperative. It's a bit of a mess that what's happened today.
BLITZER: Were you surprised that David Cameron, the prime minister, how defiant he was saying flatly, Britain would never give up its own currency and join the Europeans?
QUEST: No, not at all. I was not surprised on that point and the fact that David Cameron, you see, basically, what he was doing was, he was protecting London as the financial center. Some European countries want the so-called Tobin Tax, a financial transaction tax. Now, that will come down the road, but this was Cameron's moment.
If he said to the others, you get your treaty, but I get a get out clause, a knocked on out financial tax. That would have done it, but they wouldn't give him the opt out. They said no. So, literally, he said you're not going to give me that. I'm not going to give you this. Tit for tat. You're not going to have your treaty until I get my opt out.
He went right to the brink, and for good reason, Wolf, London would have been seriously impacted by this tax and David Cameron knows when he goes home, he would have been creamed in the press and in popular opinion if he'd gone along with it.
BLITZER: Richard Quest on the scene for us in Brussels. Richard, lots at stake right now. We'll be staying in close touch. Thank you.
The case of an American who went missing in Iran gets more baffling with the belated release of a video showing him held captive.
Plus, Rick Perry struggling to name one of the Supreme Court justices.
And Donald Trump reveals his eye popping idea to cover the coast of the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: Donald Trump has never loss for words or lacking in self- confidence. I was reminded of that when we sat down for an in-depth interview yesterday in his New York offices yesterday. Here's a portion of the interview when Trump shares some provocative views on the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
BLITZER: Iraq, all U.S. troops are going to be out by the end of this month. You happy about that?
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRES., THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Tragic, waste of money. Tragic --
BLITZER: More than a trillion dollars.
TRUMP: 1.5 trillion to be exact. Tragic, tragic waste of lives and money, and that we left there without taking the oil is unbelievable.
BLITZER: It's Iraqi oil.
TRUMP: Like hell it is. They have the second largest oilfields in the world, oil reserves. Second largest after Saudi Arabia. We spent 1.5 trillion, thousands of lives, and I'm not even talking about the wounded where I see them all the time. I love them.
No legs, no arms, their face gets blown to pieces, and my attitude was much different because what's going to happen as sure as you're sitting there, Wolf, is that Iran will go and then take over those oilfields and they'll take -- and the reserves more importantly because they're very backward, but they have the largest reserves after Saudi Arabia.
BLITZER: But you say the U.S. should have taken over those oilfields.
TRUMP: Absolutely. And you know we should do, every soldier's family that was killed, $5 million. You know what this is? Peanuts. That's peanuts compared to the kind of numbers you're talking about. Every soldier that was wounded, $3 or $4 million where they lost their arms and their limbs and their face. $3 or $4 million. These kids are going to be out for the rest of their lives.
They're going to be paying medical bills and they don't have to money to pay them. They're going to be going for the rest of their lives for operations. $3 or $4 or $5 million to every soldier that was badly wounded, and we have many of them, Wolf. I seE them all the time because I help them. So, we leave Iraq, and we didn't leave, by the way.
They threw us out, just so you understand, Wolf. I know you like the president and all that stuff, a little less than some of the folks at MSNBC, but we got thrown out of Iraq. We didn't leave Iraq. They said, we don't want you here anymore. The counsel said no. The head wants to say, they're not sure. Let me tell you, as sure as you're sitting there, Iran's going to take over Iraq, and they're going to take over those oil reserves.
BLITZER: So, the whole thing was a waste of time, waste of money.
TRUMP: Much worse than that. Excuse me, it wasn't a waste of time. It was a waste of lives and what about the Iraqi lives? I mean, you know, you had --
BLITZER: In fairness to President Obama, you remember the president who started the war in Iraq?
TRUMP: Hey, excuse me, have I been a supporter of Bush? The answer's no. That war should have never -- look, Saddam Hussein knocked down the World Trade Center. And one good thing about Iraq. He killed terrorists. He was very good at killing terrorists. There were no terrorists around (ph). Now, it's Harvard. It's like going to Harvard for terrorism.
Saddam Hussein killed terrorists. He would wipe them out so fast, and right now, they're using Iraq as the primary breeding ground for terrorists. So, here's a thing, if Iran is going to take over Iraq and the oil reserves, why don't we just keep the oil reserves?
BLITZER: That's your theory (ph).
TRUMP: How stupid, look, how stupid can we be? Thousands of lives, tremendous numbers, 35, 40,000 people really horribly injured. We get nothing. What do we get? Nothing. Now, we're handing it over to people that, in a couple of years, will be our enemy.
BLITZER: $2 billion a week. That's what the U.S. is spending to keep 100,000 troops in Afghanistan right now, at least through the under 2014, another three years. That money -- $100 billion a year. Money well spent?
TRUMP: No, it's not well spent. It's poorly spent. You have to understand, I'm a military person. I believe strongly --
BLITZER: What would you do?
TRUMP: I would get out quickly, because you -- it's never going to be good. It's never going to be good.
BLITZER: End result in Afghanistan will be like the end result in Iraq.
TRUMP: Here's the difference. Here's the difference. No, probably even less except there's a difference. Iraq has oil. Afghanistan basically doesn't. So --
BLITZER: They do have some natural resources.
TRUMP: No, they have some pretty good. And by the way, you know who's taking out all of those?
TRUMP: China. Why we're fighting, China's taking it out. So, we're fighting, and China is taking all those mineral reserves. I mean, how stupid are we? So, Afghanistan's different, but we have a problem with Pakistan. But Afghanistan --
TRUMP: Excuse me, Wolf. We've got to rebuild our country. We're rebuilding. You know, you go to Afghanistan. There's a school. It gets blown up. We rebuild it. We build a road to the school. They both get blown up. We rebuild -- in the meantime, if you want to build a school in Brooklyn or Iowa or California, you can't build them. Is there something wrong?
BLITZER: Yes. I know you write about it eloquently in the book. You also write, and I've written about this as well. I don't know if you did it first or I did it first, but a trillion, a billion -- $1 billion. That's what the U.S. spent to liberate Libya. A billion dollars.
TRUMP: And much more than that, but that's OK.
BLITZER: Not the official number.
TRUMP: Because they say that it's much more.
BLITZER: The U.S. throws about $30 billion in Libyan assets.
BLITZER: I wrote a blog saying, you know, deduct the billion the U.S. spent from that frozen assets and state department says that's -- under international law.
TRUMP: It's a sovereign country.
BLITZER: But to liberate their country. The U.S. you know, got NATO involved.
TRUMP: OK. So, here's the issue (ph) as you take Libya, So, Gadhafi is just bombing the hell out of these people and it's over six, seven months ago. They come to the United States, which is basically NATO. They come to the United States to help.
They say, please, help, help, help, help, we're being routed. They're being routed.
Now, Obama could have said we're going to help you, we want 50 percent of their oil. Fifty percent of your oil. Instead, he just helped them.
Now they throw us out, and that's the end of it. And a person who is meaner, tougher and more vicious than Gadhafi will end up taking over Libya. It's already basically happening.
Now, if we ask right now -- and then we say the great fighters, we liberated. They didn't liberate anything.
They go into a city, they get routed. Now they go into a city because we're bombing the hell out of that city before they go in. They walk into the city, in some cases they fought a little bit. But basically, we routed the city, we killed the city, and then they walk in and they say, oh, we're great freedom fighters.
The fact is, they come from Iraq and they have been fighting us. They come from Iran, these people. And what do we get out of it?
Now, the $1 billion is a phony number. It's not the real number. You know that and I know that. But still, even at a billion dollars, what do we get out of it?
Now, if six months ago, when these people who had lost because Gadhafi, believe it or not, was a lot stronger than people thought -- they had lost, it was over. Had Obama said we're going to help you, we want 50 percent of your oil, they would have said absolutely, 100 percent, OK.
BLITZER: He would never do that. But I could see -- - TRUMP: But why wouldn't he do it. You said he would never do that. Is he stupid? Let me ask you, is Obama stupid?
BLITZER: It goes against -- TRUMP: Why would he never do that?
BLITZER: Because that goes against international law.
TRUMP: It doesn't go against international law. First of all, there is no country, because you're talking about these people -- there's a revolution. Why wouldn't Obama say we want 50 percent of your oil and we will help you?
BLITZER: You think Obama would ever do that?
TRUMP: Well, why wouldn't he do that? Do you think he's stupid, Wolf?
BLITZER: No. He's a very intelligent guy.
TRUMP: Really? OK. Well, you tell me that. I'm not so sure.
BLITZER: He comes from a very different background than you do. You're a business guy.
TRUMP: Well, all you have to do -- and here's the question. It takes you five seconds. We will help you, but we want 50 percent of your oil.
They will say thank you very much. In fact, you could ask for 75. They'd sign that, too. They'd sign anything.
And you know what? Then we wouldn't have to feel so guilty if we took it. Now, if you go back right now and say, by the way, we helped you, we'd like 50 percent of your oil, they'd laugh in your face.
BLITZER: Donald Trump speaking with me in his office at Trump Towers in New York yesterday.
Another potential "oops" moment for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry. Ahead, details of the Texas governor's so-called "Supreme" stumble.
And Coca-Cola's secret formula revealed. Sort of.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Is Syria preparing a massacre for a town that is at the epicenter of the pro-democracy movement?
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that story and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on here, Lisa?
SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, activists are warning about a government push to crush dissent in Homs, Syria. They say at least 37 people were killed across the country today. Nearly half of those deaths were in Homs. Opposition groups say the military has surrounded the city and soldiers are manning dozens of checkpoints. The U.N. says more than 4,000 people have been killed since a brutal crackdown began last March.
Police in India arrested six hospital managers for negligence after a fire killed 88 people. A government minister said most of the bedridden patients were abandoned by the staff on duty. The blaze started in the hospital's basement, where investigators found safety violations. Authorities there are still trying to determine what caused that fire.
And the woman accused of pepper-spraying her fellow Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday won't face felony charges. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office is instead referring the case to the city attorney, and the woman could be charged with a misdemeanor. Firefighters treated 10 people for exposure. The suspect paid for her purchases and left, but later she turned herself into police.
And Eddie Murphy has been attached to a biopic about former Washington mayor Marion Barry. Spike Lee would direct the film about the man who served four terms as mayor and served time in jail for cocaine possession. Barry current serves on the Washington City Council. Murphy's name was recently in the news when he suddenly quit of host of next year's Academy Award Show.
And we can't tell you the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, but you can see the box that holds it at a display in Atlanta. Since 1925, the box has been kept at a bank, but for Coke's 125th anniversary, the company moved the recipe to its World of Coke Museum. Coca-Cola was created way back in 1886. The formula was never written down until 1919, when it was used as collateral for a bank loan.
So, imagine that, the piece of paper, the recipe for Coca-Cola.
BLITZER: Could you imagine if that got out?
SYLVESTER: It's never going to get out. That is the ultimate company secret -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. No WikiLeaks for that Coke recipe.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Authorities say they now know the identity of the gunman in Thursday's deadly Virginia Tech University shooting, but a big question still remains.
And Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman weighing in on the rise and fall of his top rivals. Ahead, when he says his 15 minutes of fame will arrive.
BLITZER: More potential "oops" moments for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry today. This time, while taking questions during an editorial board meeting with Iowa's "Des Moines Register" newspaper.
The first came when he appeared to stumble over the name of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor while discussing what he considers President Obama's war on religion. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you see his appointment of two, from my perspective, inarguably, activist judges, whether it was --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sonia Sotomayor?
PERRY: Sotomayor and Kagan were both activists judges. I mean, I would suggest to you that is an example of my concern about -- I believe the Supreme Court should not be making legislative decisions and telling Americans how to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Governor Perry also mentioned there were eight justices on the U.S. Supreme Court bench instead of nine. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: For Washington to tell a local school district that you cannot have a prayer and a time of prayer in that school I think is offensive to most Americans. I trust the people of the states to make those decisions. I trust those independent school districts to make those decisions better than eight unelected and frankly unaccountable judges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meanwhile, he may be at the bottom of the Republican presidential pack, but that's not stopping Jon Huntsman from pushing full steam ahead in his battle for the White House.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, he's now revealing his theory about the rise and fall of some of his top rivals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAREED ZAKARIA, "FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS": Let's talk about the temperament, though, because it is, it seems to me, one of your problems, which is that the Republican primary wants people to say incendiary things. I mean, if you watch the rise of Herman Cain, you watch the rise of Rick Perry, you watch the rise of Newt Gingrich, there is a market for people to say slightly outrageous things as a way of proving that you're politically incorrect or willing to kind of -- not (INAUDIBLE) to the mainstream media. So you just refuse to say those kinds of incendiary things. JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it may give you your Warholian 15 minutes of fame, Fareed, but in every case that you've cited, they've all come down. They go up and then they come down because there's no staying power, there's no sustainability there.
And all I'm saying is I've got a track record. I'm a consistent conservative when you look at my record, and my track record would speak to accomplishments.
As governor, I've lived overseas four times, three times as a United States ambassador. I've been in business. So, when we get our Warholian 15 minutes of fame -- and I think it's coming this month as we gradually build up with a sustainable rise in New Hampshire -- we'll have the staying power.
ZAKARIA: But you're predicting something about Newt Gingrich, who is still up. You think that that candidacy will fade?
HUNTSMAN: It's hard to know. We'll have to see where the marketplace goes. But all I can tell you is this, Fareed -- I'm not going to pander, I'm not going to bluster, I'm not going to contort myself into somebody I am not. And I'm not going to sign those silly pledges like everybody else has done, and I'm not going to make that sojourn into Donald Trump's office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Governor Huntsman also weighed in on whether he'd be open to another job in the Obama White House if he doesn't win his party's nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: It seems to me, given your poll numbers, it is possible for someone to look at your candidacy and say this man is running for secretary of state. So, I'll ask you, if a Republican candidate becomes president and then offers you the job, will you be secretary of state to the United States?
HUNTSMAN: Nice try, Fareed, but we're in this to win the race. We're moving in the right direction in New Hampshire. And that's always the marketplace that upends conventional wisdom. Make no mistake about that.
And we're doing just fine in New Hampshire. We're going to win New Hampshire. We're going to exceed market expectations here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I misspoke. He was asked if he would take a job in a Republican administration, as opposed to another Obama White House administration job.
By the way, you can see the full interview with Jon Huntsman on "FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS" this Sunday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
A lot of mystery surrounding the disappearance of a former FBI agent in Iran. Now his family releases a video of him, and that's raising even more questions. We'll tell you what we know.
And the president's unexpected stroll outside the White House.
BLITZER: We're getting a disturbing new glimpse at an American who went missing in Iran nearly five years ago. It's a video showing a retired FBI agent held captive and pleading for help from the U.S. government.
Let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.
Jill, this video isn't now, but it's just being released now, I take it. What do we know?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Wolf, you'd have to say, we've been reporting on this case right from the beginning, and it continues to baffle and frustrate everybody involved, especially the family of Robert Levinson.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): In the video --
ROBERT LEVINSON, FMR. FBI AGENT: I've been held here for three-and-a- half years.
DOUGHERTY: -- a gaunted, bearded Robert Levinson pleads for help.
LEVINSON: I am not in very good health. I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine.
I had been treated well. I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three-and-a-half years.
CHRISTINE LEVINSON, ROBERT LEVINSON'S WIFE: When I saw it, I was very sad to see him looking the way he does. However, at the same time, I was happy to learn that he was alive.
DOUGHERTY: Christine Levinson, his wife of 37 years, mother of their seven children, tells CNN the family received the video a year ago and finally decided to post it on their family Web site, along with a new plea to release him.
DAVID LEVINSON, ROBERT LEVINSON'S SON: I'm sending this message because we need to know what you want our family to do so that my father can come home safely. We will do everything within our power to bring him home.
DOUGHERTY: Who sent it? Who's holding him? Christine Levinson still doesn't know. C. LEVINSON: Since we received that video, we've tried to get in touch with the group that is holding Bob. Unfortunately, we have not received any response from them, and we feel that this is a way to try and reach them with our plea and the video to get them to let us know what the family needs to do to get Bob home alive and quickly.
DOUGHERTY: Sixty-three-year-old Robert Levinson, a former FBI-agent- turned-private-investigator, disappeared in March, 2007 from Kish Island, Iran, where it's believed he was investigating cigarette smuggling. For years, there were almost no leads. Iran's government claimed it was not holding him and did not know where he was.
Then, last year, the family received what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as proof of life. In March, CNN was told, some discussions with Iran were being held about Levinson.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We continue to welcome any help that the Iranian government can provide in determining Mr. Levinson's welfare and whereabouts.
DOUGHERTY: The State Department says it's still in the dark.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not in a position to confirm even where he is. What we have said, what the FBI has said, the secretary said it in March, is that we've received indications that he's being held captive in Southwest Asia.
DOUGHERTY: Right. And in our interview today with Christine Levinson, she did say that she still believes that her husband is alive. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did say that he is willing to help to try to find Levinson, but -- and Mrs. Levinson of course wants him to try to do that. But, Wolf, you would have to say that with relations in the situation, the case that they are right now with Iran, the prospects of that are looking pretty bleak.
BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much. I know you'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including the latest on the police investigation into the Virginia Tech University shooting.
What's going on there, Lisa?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, police at Virginia Tech could reveal the name of the gunman in yesterday's shooting. They're still trying to learn though motive behind the shooting of a police officer. Authorities say the gunman had no previous contact with the officer. A second person believed to be the gunman was found dead not far from where the officer was killed.
Republican presidential candidates are cheering the government's decision to drop a labor complaint against Boeing. Front-runner Newt Gingrich said the case was politically motivated. The GOP said the White House was more concerned with pleasing unions than creating jobs. The case was dropped after Boeing reached a new labor deal with its machinists union.
When you're commander-in-chief, it's not always easy getting out of the fish bowl of the White House, but President Obama, he tried that today. Take a look here.
He took a short stroll to the White House gate. And we are told that he set of the metal detector. Guards suspect that he might have left a cell phone in his pocket, and we're guessing, Wolf, there probably was not a pat-down.
But what a treat for the people down in that area, to see the president just strolling along. For all of the tourists out there, probably quite a treat -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A treat, indeed. All right. Thanks very much for that. I don't think he does get a pat-down.
A renowned chorus breaks into song with a medley of tweets. Jeanne Moos is next.
BLITZER: Twitter is giving a philharmonic chorus in Canada something to sing about this holiday season, along with some new tips for staying warm.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine your pathetic little tweet sung by a majestic 120-member chorus.
CALGARY PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CHORUS (singing): Till you fell the heat.
TIMOTHY SHANTZ, CHORUS MASTER: We decided to ask people to tweet about how to stay warm in a Calgary winter.
MOOS: The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus sang those tweeted tips to one of the most melodramatic pieces of music ever, "O Fortuna."
CALGARY PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CHORUS (singing): Try hot yoga! Or a nose hat! Or black silk long underwear!
MOOS (on camera): Do people actually put their clothes in the dryer to warm them up before they go out?
SHANTZ: Of course.
CALGARY PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CHORUS (singing): Clothes in the dryer! Set the timer! Hop into a warm outfit.
MOOS (voice-over): The chorus did this to promote the Canadian city of Calgary. It's not first time "O Fortuna" has gotten new lyrics.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (singing): It's a big ad for Carlton Draught! It's just so freak-ing huge!
MOOS: The beer might help to wash down one of the most popular tweets sung by the Calgary chorus.
CALGARY PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CHORUS (singing): Gravy action on my cheese
MOOS (on camera): Some of the tweets require translation from a Canadian.
SHANTZ: It's a French-Canadian delicacy of fries with cheese on top, and then gravy on top of that.
MOOS (voice-over): Tweeted tips on how to stay warm are nice, but someone posted, "They should do this with Kanye West or Snooki tweets."
Well, Kanye West has already been done on Jimmy Kimmel's show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Can we please toast to the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bags?
Fur pillows are hard to actually sleep on.
MOOS: So are Snooki's tweets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Love my tattoos! I'm a bad (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Today is so a cuddle day.
MOOS: Even Sarah Palin has had her tweets performed by William Shatner on Conan's old show.
WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: But consistent rain reminds us, no rain, no rainbow.
MOOS: Delivered soulfully, almost any tweet will have you --
MOOS: Jeanne Moos --
CALGARY PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA CHORUS (singing): Gravy action on my cheese.
MOOS: -- CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): French fries are the devil.
MOOS: -- New York.
BLITZER: Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter, @WolfBlitzerCNN. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.