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THE SITUATION ROOM
Will Israel Attack Iran?; Mitt Romney's Momentum; Controversial Michigan Campaign Ad; Egypt Plans to Prosecute U.S. Aid Workers; Mixed Signals About A Strike On Iran; Car Commercial Or Political Message?; Escalating Violence In Syria; Prince William Reports For Duty
Aired February 6, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now: We're just a day away from three more Republican contests -- why the front-runner, Mitt Romney is casting some nervous glances over his shoulder.
Growing indications an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program is likely this year. We are going to hear from an insider -- what Israel fears the most when it comes to Iranian retaliation.
And one of last night's Super Bowl ads has everybody talking today. Was that Clint Eastwood car commercial really a political message in disguise?
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Mitt Romney may have notched another big win in Nevada this weekend, but the front-runner is not resting easily right now. There are contests tomorrow in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. And topping the list of Romney's new worries, a strong new challenge from back in the Republican pack.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is taking a look at what is going on -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney is finding out the afterglow of a big primary or caucus win can fade quickly. Surprisingly, his campaign is starting to focus on a candidate who is not Newt Gingrich. Think sweater vest.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Rick Santorum is out to show Mitt Romney what happened in Vegas will stay there, hitting the GOP front-runner once again on his health care plan in Massachusetts.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Specifically, Governor Romney is absolutely incapable of making the case against Obamacare successfully and, therefore, greatly damages our ability to be able to win this election.
ACOSTA: After toiling for weeks in obscurity, Santorum is suddenly seen as the Romney campaign's latest threat. Santorum mostly skipped Nevada to focus on this week's caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado and a nonbinding contest in Missouri.
TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: His votes and his behavior in the Congress reflected that drift away from fiscal discipline.
ACOSTA: In a sign that Minnesota could be a tight race, Romney is using the state's ex-governor, Tim Pawlenty, to tear into Santorum's record of backing congressional pet projects. Santorum likes the attention.
SANTORUM: I just want to say that, for the record, as you know, Governor Romney was an advocate of earmarks, number one. But, number two, this is typical Romney.
ACOSTA: Romney's other worry is a wounded Newt Gingrich, who is out for blood.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We nominated a moderate in 1976 and he lost. We nominated a moderate in 1996 and he lost. We nominated a moderate in 2008 and he lost. The elite media would love to talk us into nominating another moderate.
ACOSTA: But the former speaker has problems of his own, with "Saturday Night Live" turning his proposal for a colony on the moon into a punchline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It's a surprise to see you here, Mitt. As I recall, you found the idea of a moon colony silly back in 2012.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: But it's Romney who is losing altitude in the head-to- head matchup with the president, trailing Mr. Obama by nine points in an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been the most anti-jobs, anti-investment, anti-growth administration I have seen since Jimmy Carter.
ACOSTA: Then there's the potential headache in the making coming from his latest top surrogate, Donald Trump, who boasted he helped put Romney over the top in the Nevada caucuses. Romney won the states by double digits.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: And a lot of people are giving me credit for that, and I will accept that credit.
ACOSTA: After a huge victories in Florida and Nevada, Mitt Romney would like a clean sweep this week, but if the current situation in both of these states coming up are any guide, this upcoming caucus battle here in Colorado and in Minnesota could be more like the Super Bowl, Wolf, down to the wire for all the teams on the field, Wolf.
BLITZER: Because, as you say, Santorum looks like he has a shot of actually winning the caucuses in Minnesota. Ron Paul always does well in these caucuses. Newt Gingrich isn't even on the ballot in Missouri right now. It's a nonbinding primary in Missouri, so there's a lot of wild cards. We could have major surprises tomorrow.
ACOSTA: That's right.
That's right. And Rick Santorum might come out of the whole process looking like he pulled off a very smart political play by basically skipping the Nevada caucuses and focusing his attention on Minnesota and Colorado. He's really set the table for potentially, a very big night tomorrow night and once again putting the attention of this race back on his campaign, something he's needed for some time now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, could be a very badly-needed boost right now. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
Tomorrow doesn't have a catchy name like Super Tuesday. But Santorum is hoping to rename it Santorum Tuesday with a strong showing in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, all three states.
I spoke with the Republican candidate about his strategy for tomorrow and beyond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I can't tell you how many people, so-called experts, pundits, analysts, Senator have said to me, the reason that Rick Santorum is staying in the race is in case Newt Gingrich were to drop out, he could then emerge as the non-Mitt Romney, the so-called real conservative and develop a real challenge to Mitt Romney.
Is that the way you're thinking?
SANTORUM: I think, eventually, as I said before, this race will come towards us. We're the candidate that provides the real best perspective of beating Barack Obama. I think that's going to become more and more evident. It's just the opposite of what people actually thought at the beginning of this race. I think it's going to become clear.
BLITZER: Tell us what's going to happen on Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
SANTORUM: You know, I think, again, demographically, Colorado is not the best state for us, but I think we can do well here. I think we will do much better than we did in Nevada. I think we can do even better maybe in Minnesota, and Missouri is an interesting one, because Newt is not on the ballot and that presents an opportunity for a one- on-one match up in a state that's a pretty key swing state for Republicans, actually a must-win state for Republicans in this election cycle.
So, we're optimistic that we're going to perform very, very well in all three of those states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Despite losing four straight states Rick Santorum will always have Iowa.
Ron Paul, on the other hand, has yet to notch a victory in any state.
I spoke with the congressman about his expectations for getting the Republican nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, give us your feeling looking ahead to Tuesday. You're already in Minnesota, though. There will be caucuses in Minnesota on Tuesday, caucuses in Colorado on Tuesday, also a primary, although it is not binding, in Missouri. What is your assessment?
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm feeling pretty good about it. We have some good reports on what is happening in Maine and the Colorado reception was fantastic. And we hit really good support here, you know, in Minnesota. So I think we're going to come out pretty good on this. But I don't usually make wild predictions or claim anything. But I have felt very good about it. The reception has been excellent.
BLITZER: You're in this contest at least through Super Tuesday if not much further, right?
PAUL: Yes, certainly. I mean, it would be pretty difficult, even if I had a personal desire not to continue, there would be a strong rebellion with my friends. But I think we are doing so well that there is no reason to think about that.
BLITZER: But at some point you have to win a state, right, Congressman? You have to win one state. Give us your prediction. Which state will you win in first?
PAUL: Well, I -- I'm probably not the best person, because I don't look at those numbers carefully. I see myself as responsible for delivering a message and trying to motivate people. So I don't think I'd be very good at saying that the very best state is going to be this state and this is the one we're going to win. So I'm going to defer because I don't have the numbers in front of me to make that prediction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN will cover tomorrow's three-state election night like no one else with the most reporters as well as the most cameras of anyone. A special edition of "JOHN KING, USA" starts at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. I will be anchoring our complete coverage. Colorado, Missouri, Minnesota, all of that special coverage will begin at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. There's a Super Bowl ad that wasn't widely seen last night but it certainly is being talked about today. A Republican Senate candidate in Michigan, a former U.S. congressman, is being hammered from all sides for a campaign commercial that is being called at the very least racially insensitive.
Our Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this.
Lisa, what's going on here?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, certainly in the political world, this is the most talked about ad from last night. Pete Hoekstra is running against Debbie Stabenow for the Senate in Michigan. And the ad plays on themes of jobs leaving the country and record government spending and the U.S. falling behind in the globalization race, but some critics are calling the ad blatantly racist.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): It's the ad mocking Democrat incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow that's got the Internet buzzing. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spend- it-Now.
Debbie sends so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Our get very good. We take your jobs.
Thank you, Debbie Spend-it-Now.
SYLVESTER: The ad by former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who wants to take her seat in the fall, debuted during the Super Bowl in Michigan television markets. It is accompanied with a Web site that includes Chinese characters and titles like the great wall of debt.
The ad campaign is being lambasted and criticized as being racist.
REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: Well, I don't think there's any element of that at all. The only stereotyping that we do here is of liberal Democrats and their spending policies.
SYLVESTER: Republican strategist Mike Murphy though tweeted, "Pete Hoekstra's Super Bowl ad in the Michigan Senate race really, really dumb. I mean, really."
A group of Detroit Baptist ministers are now calling on Hoekstra to apologize and pull the ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if he would say these types of things and use these types of actions using Asians, then we believe the same fear tactics will be presented this regards to African-Americans. SYLVESTER: The ad was produced by Fred Davis of Strategic Perception He's the same ad man behind this now infamous ad by former Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), FORMER DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a witch.
SYLVESTER: Davis purposely goes for ads that are attention- getting. Ads Hoekstra has no intention of backing down.
HOEKSTRA: No, I'm not apologizing for the ad. I said if someone believes that we were insensitive, I'm sorry to them. But, no, I'm not apologizing for this ad at all. I think it clearly drives the message. The problem is American public policy, American domestic policy. The problem here is not anything that the Chinese are doing at all.
SYLVESTER: Senator Stabenow's campaign office referred us to the state Democratic office, which points to Hoekstra's own record of voting to increase the national debt ceiling and for the bailout of Wall Street.
Mark Brewer says the ad is backfiring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was shot in the United States. I understand that the actress in it is an American. So, again, it's just hypocrisy after hypocrisy. It's so disingenuous and so insincere. And I think that really adds to Pete Hoekstra's credibility problems.
SYLVESTER: Now, there's an interesting backstory behind the ad. Pete Hoekstra in 2010 he ran for governor of Michigan. He lost to a man named Rick Snyder.
Now, Snyder had a very successful ad campaign called one tough nerd. And the person behind that ad was Fred Davis. So Hoekstra, now running for the Senate seat, said to his people, get me Davis. I want him to do a hard-hitting ad for me.
And this is the result, Wolf. Will it have the same impact? Well, we can say this. People are certainly about it, Wolf.
BLITZER: They were talking about that "I am not a witch" ad in Delaware that Christine O'Donnell had. That didn't exactly work out well for her.
SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right. Fred Davis here, I think you have kind of got a mixed record here. On hand, he had a very successful ad campaign which we saw in the Michigan governor race. I don't know how this ad will be playing.
I know if you look at Facebook, if you look at Twitter, there's been a lot of criticism about this particular ad, the Hoekstra ad, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes. I suspect that criticism is not going to go away. Thanks very much.
Iran is flexing its military muscles with a new round of military exercises and Israel's openly talking about military action. The frightening reality of what could happen after an Israeli strike.
And 19 Americans including the son of a prominent member of President Obama's Cabinet, they will stand trial in Egypt, a country that receives $1.5 billion a year in U.S. military and economic assistance. Now the Congress is pushing back.
And more than 100 billion people saw this Clint Eastwood Chrysler commercial. Could it, though, unintentionally help the president in his reelection battle?
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, another deadly day of bloodshed as the world stands idly by and watches Syria's government murdering its own people. Opposition groups say more than 50 people were killed today, hundreds more reportedly killed in the city of Homs over the weekend.
And the killing, in some cases, has turned into butchering. One Syrian told "The New York Times" of seeing the beheaded bodies of women and children, lying in the roads. The civilized world looks on, does nothing. China and Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft solution which would have demanded President Bashar al-Assad stop the violence. China and Russia said it was the potential violation of Syria's sovereignty.
The U.S., along with other Western and Arab nations, are pushing back, calling for the international community to do more. The U.S. says it was disgusted by the veto. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said blocking the U.N. resolution is to, quote, "bear responsibility" for the horrors happening in Syria.
President Obama has condemned Syria's unspeakable assault against its people. France calls the recent massacre the city of Homs a crime against humanity. The British says the veto that will only encourage more killing in Syria. And Germany says the sandal would be failure to act.
Lots of words. No actions. The killing goes on.
The U.N. says at least 5,000 people have died since the conflict in Syria began. So, here's our question: why isn't anyone doing anything about the bloodshed in Syria?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good question, Jack. We're going to be checking with Arwa Damon later here in THE SITUATION ROOM for more on this important story.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is warning that aid to Egypt could suffer if Egypt persists on prosecuting 19 American aide workers who now been referred to a court. The Americans, including the son of Cabinet Secretary Ray LaHood, were caught up in raids against nongovernment organizations in December. Some have actually taken refuge in the United States members in Cairo.
The issue is sparking serious bipartisan anger in Congress and that could cause some serious fallout for Egypt's military authorities.
Our Pentagon Chris Lawrence is standing by with a closer look -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some of those Americans have been branded as fugitives by Egyptian authorities because they left the country, but they're actually in a better position now because the U.S. is unlikely to ever force them to go back to stand trial. At issue are those Americans still in Egypt. As you mentioned, some have taken sanctuary at the embassy.
And today, the State Department issued a public plea for the other Americans to come to the embassy, get some space, meet with lawyers and start to prepare for what could be coming.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Egypt is pressing ahead with the prosecution of 19 Americans -- civilian aide workers accused of using foreign funds to stir up dissent. Their offices have been raided, equipment confiscated -- all while the U.S. sends Egypt $1.4 billion, most of it to the military.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We said clearly that these actions could have consequences for our relationship, including regarding our assistance programs.
LAWRENCE: But some demand more than mere threats. They want to cut the purse strings. Forty-one outraged members of Congress signed a letter Secretaries Panetta and Clinton, and Egypt's military leader. The Republicans and Democrats are calling on the U.S. to cut funding until Egypt stops going after the aide groups.
REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: I don't think we should send them one thin dime until they release those Americans that they're holding over there, that they're planning to try, it's just -- it's just terrible.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: It's clear the military just trying to pick a fight with the United States because it does not have the support of its own people and is trying to play the American card.
LAWRENCE: Egypt was the first Arab nation to buy American F- 16s. It plans to add well over 1,000 Abrams tanks to its arsenal. The two militaries have trained together.
The official Pentagon line is -- the relationship is strong, we just have to push through this crisis.
But privately, a senior defense official admits there's been frustration. That after all the years of building this partnership, the Pentagon has not been able to have greater influence. Some analysts say the crisis has exposed a real rift. They expect the U.S. and Egypt to still maintain some relationship.
STEVEN COOK, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: But the strategic alignment that Washington and Cairo have enjoyed over the course of the last three decades is clearly coming to an end.
LAWRENCE: And again, today, the State Department issuing an opened invitation for those remaining Americans charged to come to the U.S. embassy there in Cairo. The senior defense official I spoke with said the U.S. has to keep giving military aid to Egypt, because he feels no matter what sort of government emerges from the upcoming elections, the Egyptian military will remain a pillar of that country and he says that the U.S. has to maintain a relationship with that military -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know what's shocking to me is that not only Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the president of the United States, President Obama, they've all personally spoken with General Tantawi who is the head of the military regime over there in Egypt and have made the case, you know, you got to stop this if you want U.S./Egyptian relations to stay on track. If you want the U.S. Congress to continue providing $1.5 billion a year in assistance to Egypt, and the general doesn't seem either capable or willing to do anything.
I don't know what they're saying at the Pentagon about this, but it's pretty shocking when you think about it.
LAWRENCE: That's right, Wolf. Publicly, at least, the Egyptian officials are sort of passing the buck to the judiciary, saying, look, we can't interfere with judicial affairs, that's a judicial matter. But in reality, everyone knows that the military exerts enormous influence over the interim government, so to speak, that's in power now.
And so, the failure to do something on this issue, many people believe, is entirely in the hands of the Egyptian military.
BLITZER: All right. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon -- thank you. An enormously important story.
President Obama meanwhile gets tough on Iran. At the same time, Iran is flexing its muscles in a new series of military exercises and Israel's leaders are openly talking about a bombing campaign. What's going on?
Also, a circus stuntman moves -- makes a move that definitely wasn't planned and the accident is captured on tape. You will see what went wrong.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what else is going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Mexico's conservative ruling party has picked a woman as its presidential nominee. If elected, Josefina Vasquez Mota would become Mexico's first female president. The former education secretary is running against two other candidates in the July election. Mexico's current president, Felipe Calderon, is at the end of his six-year term limit.
And brace yourself for this video showing a motorcycle stunt gone terribly wrong at a circus in Michigan. A stuntman was trying to fly his cycle through the air when he collided with a cable -- and you see it there. He crashed 25 feet to the ground.
The cable struck a clown, sending both men to the hospital. The driver has several broken bones. But fortunately, both men are expected to be okay. Pretty spectacular pictures there.
Well, you can call it the middle finger malfunction. Rapper M.I.A. performing with Madonna at the Super Bowl halftime show, flipping the bird to the largest television audience in history. It happened so fast that you might have missed it. NBC tried to blur it out but was slow to the trigger.
A source close to M.I.A. says the rapper was nervous and not thinking and apparently, adrenaline took over. That's what she's saying to explain that moment, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure she is. I missed it myself watching.
All right. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.
Stepped-up concerns -- Israel is moving much closer to attacking Iran's nuclear sites. We're going to hear from a top Israeli journalist.
Also, one Super Bowl ad has everybody talking right now. Was that Clint Eastwood car commercial really a political message?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: Discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Iran says its military is conducting a new round of war games amid growing concern Israel is moving closer to striking Iran's nuclear facilities.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is joining us now with the latest -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf think of it as that rising triangle of rhetoric, Israel, Iran and the United States, everybody's got something to say about all of this, but what is really going on here?
STARR (voice-over): If it comes to military action, this may be ground zero. Iran's underground nuclear fuel plant near the holy city of the Qom, buried so deep there are doubts even the biggest U.S. or Israeli bombs can get to it.
Israel and the United States seem to be at odds about what comes next. Defense Minister Ehud Barak talks openly about a possible military strike.
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS (R), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: If Israel does a unilateral strike this could be a real problem for the national security interest of the United States.
STARR: And inside the administration more mixed signals, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let it be known he believes Israel could strike this spring. But in an NBC interview, the president seems to disagree.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do.
STARR: But as Iran begins another round of military exercises, some U.S. officials say the back and forth between Israel and the U.S. is a pressure tactic against Iran. The U.S. intelligence community has its own warning.
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Iran's technical advances, particularly in the uranium enrichment strengthen our assessment that Iran is more than capable of producing enough highly- enriched uranium for a weapon. If it's political leaders specifically the supreme leader chooses to do so.
STARR: The CIA is tracking several highly-classified indicators of where Iran's nuclear program stands.
DAVID PETRAUS, CIA DIRECTOR: What we think would be evident, if there is a decision to enrich beyond the 20 percent that they are currently enriching to the weapons' grade would be very significant.
STARR: The president tells NBC perhaps more significant, the politics inside Iran.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think we have a very good estimate of when they could, potentially, achieve breakout capacity. What stage they're at in terms of processing uranium but, do we know all the dynamics inside Iran? Absolutely not.
STARR: Some U.S. officials say, you know, that the sanctions are beginning to work. Beginning to bite at Iran's economy, but the question, perhaps, is -- will they bite enough before Iran makes that critical decision about whether or not to go nuclear -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good question, Barbara, thank you.
And joining us now from Tel Aviv, Ronen Bergman, he's a reporter for Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, also a contributing writer for the "New York Times" Sunday magazine.
Ronen, you wrote an amazing piece in the "New York Times" last weekend and you concluded with this sentence -- I'll put it up on the screen. After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of military and intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will, indeed, strike Iran in 2012. I assume you still hold that opinion, that assessment right now, right?
RONEN BERGMAN, SENIOR ANALYST, YEDIOTH AHRONOTH: Yes, and since the story was published last week, and thank you for the compliment, Wolf, I'm not the only one who says that, but Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta gave even a more specific date when he said that his assessment that Israel will strike between April and June.
And I think that this is the common fear among American leaders and chiefs of the intelligence. I just came back from the Munich Security Conference today and what I heard from the American officials is that they are -- they are almost convinced Israel will strike. If anything, if nothing changes Israel will strike Iran in the time frame of 2012.
BLITZER: Because over the weekend, President Obama gave a little different assessment of what's going on. The decision making process in Israel a little different than what Leon Panetta apparently believes. Listen to what the president told NBC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don't think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you believe Israel has made a decision already?
BERGMAN: No. I think that the minister of defense, Barack, when giving interviews in a long phone conversation in late nighttimes when he called me after giving interviews. He stressed that the decision has not yet been made and even a time to make this decision has not yet been scheduled.
However, the Israeli assessment is that Iran, during 2012, is about to enter what was coined and termed by Minister Barack as the immunity zone. This specific point in time after which an attack would be possible, but in effect the sites are going to be too spread to deep underground.
And the fossil material of Iran is going to be hidden and therefore, the Israeli leaders believe that 2012 is the time to make the call, the last time to make the call whether to strike or not.
BLITZER: The president also says that U.S./Israeli military and intelligence cooperation right now is better than it's ever been before. Do officials in Israel -- and you're in close touch with them -- believe that they effectively have a green light from Washington if they make that decision to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran nuclear facilities.
BERGMAN: Let me, Wolf, react to both parts of your question. First, I think that the perception from Israel is like the President Obama said. The intimate, profound serious corporation between the United States and Israel on intelligence, especially when it comes to the Iranian nuclear challenge is deeper and the best that it has ever known.
And because of that cooperation and because of the interchange of intelligence, both countries agree on the fact. The facts are that agreed are that Iran is going to be able to reach a nuclear military capability within a year's time and militarize a nuclear bomb to fit the shoulder of a missile within another year or half a year.
The problem or the debate is what to do with the facts? What Israel or the United States, altogether, are going to do? On the issue of the green light, the answer is yes and no. There's no -- nobody in Israel claimed there was an American green light, but Israel maintains and minister and prime minister both maintained that Israel is not seeking a green light.
When Israel is asking for an international legitimate first strike it is looking for understanding, not even support, but an understanding that after exhausting all other options, using covert actions, using sanctions and embargo on the export of fuel-use equipment to Iran.
After exhausting all this as a last option, Israel is left with no other possibility, but to strike and therefore, no green light but Israel, is not seeking a green light for that, but something of a much lesser value.
BLITZER: Is Israel prepared for a retaliation?
BERGMAN: Yes. I would put it this way. If it wasn't for the inevitable day after affect of a strike, Israel would have attacked a long time ago, but Israel knows Iran has the ability to the launch surface to surface long range ballistic missiles on Israel from Iran.
But also and more important, Iran is able to activate Hezbollah, a Jihadist Iranian proxy situated to the north of Israel and armed with 50,000 to 60,000 rockets that are covering the whole of the territory of Israel.
And also to make Hamas, a Jihadist movement situated to the south of Israel to initiate a rocket campaign as well. Therefore, while being quite, I would say, persistent and stubborn and doing whatever it can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.
There are many Israelis that claim Israel does not can have the capability to protect its own population in the day after. And therefore, such a risk might ignite a war in the Middle East or might ignite a war that Israel cannot sustain.
BLITZER: Ronen Bergman, tough decisions for Israel, for the U.S. and for the region as a whole. Thanks very much, once again. An excellent article in "The New York Times" Sunday magazine, I learned a lot reading your piece, appreciate it.
United States shuts down its embassy in Damascus, Syria. Dozens more civilians are killed today in a brutal government crackdown. The emotional stories from what's become a war zone that's coming up right at the top of the hour.
And while England celebrates the queen, Argentina condemns the prince. Why the future king is causing such controversy right now.
BLITZER: Getting to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
Great Super Bowl yesterday. The commercials were pretty good as well. This one, in particular, is causing a lot of political buzz right now. A Clint Eastwood Chrysler car commercial, let me play you a clip of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: It's halftime, both teams are in their locker rooms discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half. It's halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they're hurting. And they're all wondering what they're going to do to make a comeback.
And we're all scared because this isn't a game. People of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything, but we all pulled together. Now motor city is fighting again.
I've seen a lot of tough and a lot of downturns in my life and times when we didn't understand each other. It seems that we've lost our heart at times. A fog, a vision, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.
This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world will hear roar of our engines. Yes! It's halftime, America! And our second half is about to begin!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A pretty impressive ad. Let me start with you, Mary. Today, that ad, that Chrysler commercial followed up with a full page "It's Halftime in America" with Clint Eastwood and our second half is about to begin as well.
When I saw the ad I didn't know what it was for and initially I said, it looks like a pro-Obama "Super PAC" ad, if you will. That was the initial sense I got. How did you react when you saw that ad?
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as a member of the 44 percent of the NFL fan base, women, that is, the first thing I thought was how hot Clint Eastwood is. I didn't know what the commercial was about, but a big fan of his so it became political.
It's not anymore political and it's certainly not a pro-Obama spot. It's a car commercial. Just the same as the beer commercial that celebrated the end of prohibition was anti-nanny state government that Obama epitomizes.
These are commercials for products. Extremely well done and how it got into the political buzz world is when the Obama people tweeted out that somehow, Clint Eastwood who really doesn't have a big liberal back ground is somehow allegiant to Obama. That's not his history.
BLITZER: Well, you know, it wasn't just the Clinton folks and the Obama folks who were tweeting. Karl Rove was on Fox today, Mary and he reacted to that commercial this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I was frankly, offended by it. I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood and I thought it was a extremely well-done ad, but it's a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics.
And the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, are using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best wishes of the management which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they'll never pay back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Karl Rove is pointing out to the bailout of Chrysler and General Motors, the Obama administration and the Bush administration, for that matter, bailed out the American car industry, if you will. Not Ford and this is a way of them saying, thank you to the president of the United States.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I thought it was a very effective ad and I agree with Mary that the ad was about revival. It's about an auto industry that was on its back and now it's coming back.
The great American cities are coming back. So I thought it was a very effective ad. And of course, anybody that knows Clint Eastwood, the man is still a handsome guy like you, Wolf.
But, let me just say this, Wolf. At some point, we need to stop making everything political. This was an opportunity for Chrysler, like they did in 2008 and they did in 2011 with Eminem to tell their story, to tell the American people, it's time to get back to work.
It's time to reboot our economy. So I thought it was a very effective piece and I'm sorry that Karl didn't like it.
BLITZER: So you disagree with Karl Rove, is that what you're saying Mary?
MATALIN: I'm surprised to hear Karl say that. I don't usually disagree with Karl, but that particular bridge loan, which was initiated under Bush was everything the stimulus, the subsequent Obama stimulus wasn't.
It was timely. It was targeted. It was temporary. It was attached to very strict and measurable market-forced conditions all of which were met. There are many management jobs. Labor jobs lost. Dealerships closed. Iconic brands went down.
A lot of reform-oriented restructuring and accelerated bankruptcy. All of which was put in place by Bush. This is not to be confused with the subsequent stimulus packages, which were not nearly as productive so I'm not sure why he said what he said. But I'm sure he had a good reason for it.
BLITZER: Mary Matalin, still defending the Bush administration. We're out of time, Donna, but we'll continue the conversation. Thanks very much.
The violence is worsening in Syria right now. Jack Cafferty is asking -- why isn't anyone doing anything about the bloodshed? Your answers in a moment.
And it's something you don't see every day, a prince performing the duties of a military man. Now new pictures of his deployment to the Faulkland islands. We'll have those pictures when we come back.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour, why isn't anyone doing anything about the bloodshed in Syria? Horrific things going on in that country?
David in Tampa writes, "They don't have any oil, unlike Libya. They're not developing nuclear weapons unlike Iran and Israel can kick their butts militarily in a couple of days, like the rest of them. I think the biggest reason is we're too broke to be of assistance and we're too afraid of what the resulting mad hatters will form in the way of a government."
Kim in Kansas writes, "Two reasons, Jack. First, China calls the shots now, not us and they like the idea of having a dictator in their pocket they can control. Secondly, the world is growing weary of the typical scenario where there's an uprising, the dictator falls, religious and tribal factions carve up the country and it all ends up on someone else's doorstep to be resolved only to be repeated a few years down the road. The Middle East will never, ever change."
Cliff in New York writes, "Last I checked the Arab league consisted of 22 member countries. It's about time for them to take responsibility for moderating the behavior of their members both in Syria and in Iran as well as end the absurdity of the unified hatred of Israel, which ironically is the aspirational democracy of the Arab spring."
Stan in Ohio writes, "History repeats itself. Not on the same scale. We saw similar events in South Africa, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Germany to name a few. The world sat on its hands then. As long as it doesn't affect anyone's ability to be safe and comfortable, will be continuing to do nothing for the foreseeable future."
Carlo writes, "I don't know, Jack. In this election year, could it possibly be the warmongers in this country have decided to let this one slide considering it's none of our business and we're just ending two other idiotic blood-sucking drain our wallets dry, wars."
If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Much more coming up on Syria. Hope is fading for anyone that opposes Bashar Al-Assad's regime. We're going to Syria for a gut-wrenching story about what it's like to be part of the opposition.
And Prince William goes to work. New pictures of the man being called "Flight Lieutenant Wales." They are stirring up some controversy.
BLITZER: New pictures of Prince William in the Falkland Islands in Argentina. The future king is at a six-week deployment that's part of a search and rescue team and training.
But while England maybe proud of the young prince's day job, Argentina is not saying he wears the uniform of the conqueror. CNN's Max Foster is watching this all unfold, Max?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYALTY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this deployment is being played down here in London, as routine, but it's being seen very differently in Argentina.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER (voice-over): Flight Lieutenant Wales as he's known in the Royal Air Force is almost 8,000 miles away from home starting for a six-week posting to the Falkland Islands as a search and rescue co- pilot.
He has the same duties as any other servicemen of his rank as been assigned a standard room with a single bed. Meals provided alongside everyone else in the staff canteen. But Prince William is no ordinary serviceman and this is no ordinary assignment.
This is the future king of Great Britain and these islands are also claimed by Argentina. The timing of William's assignment is causing a stir there with April marking the 30th anniversary of the start of Falkland's war that saw thousands of people die and ultimately won by the British.
They have erupted with demonstrations outside the British embassy and attacks on British businesses. The argentine government says it regrets the prince's arrival in what it calls "The uniform of the conqueror."
JEREMY BROWNE, U.K. FOREIGN OFFICE: I think they're putting that in very emotive terms. Let me put it in lesser motive terms. He wears the same uniform as other people. He performs the same duties as other people. That, if you like, is his day-to-day job and he's doing his day-to-day job.
FOSTER: Adding to the emotion in Argentina, the new movie "The Iron Lady" recently released in the country, shows former British Prime Margaret Thatcher who sent troops into war with Argentina over control of the islands almost three decades ago.
FOSTER: No comment from Buckingham Palace. They say the deployment is a matter for the government and military. Buckingham Palace is focusing on the fact that the queen is celebrating a remarkable 60 years on the throne -- Wolf.