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THE SITUATION ROOM
Republican Race Continues; President Obama Meets with British Prime Minister; School Bus, Tractor -Trailer Collide; Growing Calls For Gingrich To Go; Israel-Gaza Border Ceasefire Appears To End; Missing Child Found Safe After Eight Years; Vets Outraged By Obama Flag; One Dead In Texas Courthouse Shooting; Study: Five Million People At Risk Of Flooding; Stocks Mixed As Rally Fades
Aired March 14, 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: Newt Gingrich still isn't counting himself out, but the GOP race seems to be coming down to Romney vs. Santorum.
And despite a pair of Deep South defeats, the Romney camp still claims the outcome is inevitable.
President Obama and the British prime minister David Cameron begin their day with a series of jokes, but they turn deadly serious when it comes to Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.
And a modified American flag sends tempers soaring in Florida -- why some local veterans are outraged.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Rick Santorum has a brand-new surge coming after stunning victories in the Deep South. Newt Gingrich is refusing to add up the numbers. Mitt Romney's camp says the math still makes this race a forgone conclusion.
They're all back out on the campaign trail today.
Let's begin with our coverage with our senior correspondent, Joe Johns. He's in Illinois -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is Rosemont, Illinois, outside of Chicago, where Newt Gingrich is expected to appear shortly.
There were new calls today from conservatives for Gingrich to get out of the race and give Rick Santorum a clean shot at the Republican nomination.
JOHNS (voice-over): As indecision limped closer to the halfway mark of the primary calender, the candidates fanned out. Rick Santorum, Tuesday night's winner in Alabama and Mississippi, took his victory lap, stumping for votes in Louisiana, ending up in Puerto Rico, but not before taking a parting shot at Mitt Romney. RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People have said you're being outspent and everybody is talking about all the math, and all the things that this race is inevitable. Well, for someone who thinks this race is inevitable, he's spending a whole lot of money against me for being inevitable.
JOHNS: The vanquished of Tuesday's Southern slam headed north, promising to fight another day, Mitt Romney to New York to raise money after having prematurely predicted curtains for the Santorum campaign in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign, and is trying in some way to boost his prospects. And frankly misrepresenting the truth is not a good way of doing that.
JOHNS: Looking more desperate all the time was the night's biggest loser, Newt Gingrich, who set off to Illinois, defiant as ever, even though he had lost his magic touch in the Southern state primaries.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe a Massachusetts moderate who created Romneycare as the forerunner of Obamneycare is going to be in a position to win any debates this fall. That's part of the reason I have insisted on staying in this race.
JOHNS: Problem is that his latest lackluster performance cued the chorus of Republicans and conservatives who said it's time for Gingrich to go.
Ford O'connell, Republican Consultant: Newt should step aside, because Rick Santorum by winning two states that nobody thought he could, Mississippi and Alabama, he's really earned the right to go one on one with Mitt Romney. And while Santorum has a minuscule chance of actually winning the nomination, he has a far better chance of winning with Gingrich out of the race.
JOHNS: Ages ago, an elder statesman might have stepped in to restore calm and show Gingrich a face-saving way to head for the exits, someone like Richard Viguerie, perhaps. He's been called the "funding father" of the conservative movement.
RICHARD VIGUERIE, FOUNDER, "CONSERVATIVE DIGEST": I think it would be very helpful for the conservative cause if Newt Gingrich were to withdraw. I don't see a path for Newt Gingrich to get the nomination. He's just going to divide the conservative vote. And it would be helpful to the cause that Newt has worked most of his adult life on behalf of, the conservative cause, the conservative movement, and he's dividing the vote right now.
JOHNS: A major question is whether Newt Gingrich is going to be able to keep his funding sources going strong. The campaign says he has tens of thousands of small dollar donors, but the question is whether his deepest pocket donor, who is Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire, the question, of course, is whether he will continue writing the checks as he has before.
The friends of Newt Gingrich were not answering that question when CNN asked them today -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: It's a good question, and stay on top of it, Joe. Thank you.
The math certainly may be on Mitt Romney's side, at least for now, but why is the race such a struggle for him?
Let's discuss with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Is it a message problem that Mitt Romney has or is it Romney himself?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It may well be a message problem.
But I think the more interesting thing is the problem that Mitt Romney is having as a candidate. As you see, in all of these exit polls, in all of these primaries, the conservative base of the Republican Party just doesn't feel passionate about Mitt Romney.
I was talking to one Romney supporter today who is in Washington and he said to me the irony here is that Romney might be more comfortable as a general election candidate than he really is as a Republican candidate who has to appeal to the conservative base.
He said to me, take a look at how he reacted to the whole Rush Limbaugh controversy. Instead of going out there and just criticizing Rush Limbaugh for his words, he said something like, well, those weren't the words I would have chosen, and this person said that's because he was afraid of making a mistake. He was afraid conservatives would come down on him.
I think that discomfort really shows as he campaigns, particularly as he campaigned in the South.
BLITZER: He still has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum, so he has a decisive advantage, he's got a lot more money, certainly has a more professional, better organization. He's on the ballot, for example, in Illinois next week in all the congressional districts. Santorum is not.
But you have been speaking to sources inside the Romney campaign. What are they saying about his next move?
BORGER: Well, there's clearly a lot of internal discussion going on about retooling, and how do you retool the Mitt Romney campaign.
Some people have said, OK, you have got to make staff changes. I don't really think that's going to happen, but everybody seems to agree that the message of vote for me because I can win, or vote for me because I'm ahead really in this race is not enough to get people passionately behind you. So they're talking about getting back to the main message of the economy, and start talking about party unity. Start talking about how a unified Republican Party can beat President Obama. And if you are for Rick Santorum -- now, this is the Romney people talking -- if you're for Rick Santorum, what you are essentially saying is that you support the idea of a contested convention, because the only way Rick Santorum could get that nomination, they say, is to go to a contested convention.
Santorum says, I can stop Romney from getting to 1,144, but he doesn't ever quite say I can get to 1,144 myself without that contested convention action, so really talk about how important unity is to beat the president.
BLITZER: Gloria, thank very much.
BLITZER: President Obama today stood shoulder to shoulder with the British Prime Minister David Cameron. They made it easy to nudge each other in the ribs with some jokes as well, and then they showed their solidarity regarding several crisis situations.
CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us and she has the details of what happened -- Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
It's clear the special bond between these two leaders extends beyond the traditional special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. Prime Minister Cameron by our count is the first foreign leader to get a trip on Air Force One with the president. The two share policy goals and a personal rapport.
YELLIN (voice-over): The day began with pomp, circumstance and a little mutual teasing.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's learned to appreciate one of our great national pastimes. His team has told me he's decided to install a hoop at 10 Downing Street.
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will leave America with some words, alley-oops, brackets, fast breaks. And, who knows, maybe that hoop will be installed in Downing Street after all.
OBAMA: All right, everybody. Thank you so much.
YELLIN: The two leaders met behind closed doors for at least two hours, then, in the Rose Garden, addressed the full spectrum of world events.
On Afghanistan, the president gave a date for a shift in mission.
OBAMA: At the upcoming NATO summit in my hometown of Chicago, we'll determine the next phase of transition. This includes shifting to a support role next year in 2013 in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014.
YELLIN: It's the first time the president said NATO forces will take on a support role in 2013. He made clear the time frame for negotiations with Iran is closing soon.
OBAMA: The window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.
YELLIN: Prime Minister Cameron had praise for the president's handling of the crisis with Iran.
CAMERON: The president's tough, reasonable approach has united the world behind unprecedented sanctions pressure on Iran.
YELLIN: A slightly different tone on Syria. While the White House consistently says Assad will eventually go, the prime minister had a more dire warning.
CAMERON: If Assad continues, then civil war or revolution is the inevitable consequence.
YELLIN: There were many lighter moments. While the first lady and Mrs. Cameron unveiled plans for the London Olympics, the president took the British leader to an NCAA basketball game, conveniently located in the key battleground state of Ohio.
OBAMA: The heartland is what it's all about.
YELLIN: It was the prime minister's first basketball game. And he joked:
CAMERON: He's going to help me fill out my brackets.
YELLIN: The president got a nice headline out of the visit. And in the Rose Garden, he couldn't resist some ribbing.
OBAMA: I'm still trying to get David to fill out his bracket.
YELLIN: I'm told he needed a little bit of help, because the prime minister's original brackets included Arsenal and Manchester United -- a little joke.
On a slightly more serious note, the two men, the two leaders exchanged gifts. The prime minister received from the president a grill in commemoration of a meal that the president and prime minister shared with their families when the president was last in the U.K. And the Brits in return are giving the White House a table tennis table, which in the U.S. is known as ping-pong -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So I assume, Jessica, you're getting ready to get all glamorous for the state dinner at the White House, the black-tie dinner that the president and first lady are hosting for the British prime minister?
YELLIN: My invitation hasn't shown up, Wolf, but I'm going to place a call about that.
BLITZER: Shocked, shocked.
YELLIN: But there is a big state dinner tonight that we will all be watching very closely.
BLITZER: We certainly will be. I'm sure it will be lovely. Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.
In today's White House welcome ceremony there was a 19-gun salute and probably an equal number of jokes by these two leaders. They are quickly becoming friends. The president began noting that the prime minister was impressed by that trip that Jessica mentioned to the NCAA Tournament in Dayton. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The storied relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is steeped in tradition. And last night, as president, I shared with the prime minister a uniquely American tradition of bracketology...
... March madness. He's learned to appreciate one of our great national pastimes. His team has told me he has decided to install a hoop at 10 Downing Street.
OBAMA: It's now been 200 years since the British came here to the White House under somewhat different circumstances.
They made quite an impression.
They really lit up the place.
But we moved on.
And today, like so many presidents and prime ministers before us, we meet to reaffirm one of the greatest alliances the world has ever known.
We Americans and Brits speak the same language most of the time. So let me just say, David, we are chuffed to bits that you are here.
(LAUGHTER) And I'm looking forward to a great natter. I'm confident that together we're going to keep the relationship between our two great nations absolutely top-notch.
CAMERON: And I have to say, Barack, with that spectacular command of our shared language...
... with all these Union flags, and with so many friends at home, you are really making me feel very at home here in Washington.
So I am a little embarrassed as I stand here to think that 200 years ago my ancestors tried to burn this place down.
Now, looking around me, I can see you've got the place a little better defended today.
You're clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time.
And thank you also for the lessons last night.
I will leave America with some new words: alley-oops...
... brackets, fast breaks. And, who knows, maybe that hoop will be installed in Downing Street after all. It was a great evening. Thank you very much indeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's an official visit to Washington, but the White House calling is tonight's festive deal a state dinner, the main course a fitting Anglo-American combination. They're serving Bison Wellington.
Mitt Romney's double losses in the Deep South are on Jack Cafferty's mind. He's coming up next with "The Cafferty File."
Also, the Obama campaign uses some troubling poll numbers in a stark warning to raise money.
Plus, star power on Capitol Hill as the actor George Clooney turns activist and urges lawmakers to take action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: These were not acts of war. These were war crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here we are, another Tuesday, another failure by Mitt Romney to line up the party faithful behind him. Not only did Romney lose yesterday's contest in Alabama and Mississippi, he finished third in both, behind Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Even though Romney remains well ahead in the delegate count, even though he will likely still win the nomination, he just cannot put the nagging doubts among conservatives to rest.
CNN political contributor writes for "The Daily Beast" that Romney has gone from inevitable to unelectable. Quoting here, "Somebody strapped into the roof of one of his Cadillacs and drive him off to one of his many mansions," unquote. It's pretty funny.
Begala says the hard truth is, the more voters see Romney, the less they like him. And Begala calls on Romney to get out of the race. Of course, that isn't going to happen.
But Romney isn't doing himself any favors here. On this very program yesterday, Romney proclaimed that Rick Santorum was at the, quote, "desperate end" of his campaign. Twenty-four hours later, it looks almost like it's the other way around. Romney looks like the desperate one with southern conservatives seeing right through his supposed love of cheesy grits and catfish. And so, the race goes on and on and on. It's getting painful to watch.
Santorum and Romney now expected to split the next few contests on the calendar, and that leaves Newt Gingrich, who managed to have an even more embarrassing day. He's only won two states, failed to deliver in the South yesterday. It's time for Newt to go away, but he won't. Gingrich seems to they he's running against what he calls the elite media. That might explain why he keeps losing to the candidates on the ballot.
Here's the question then -- what's Mitt Romney's biggest problem?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog, go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
I wonder if Mitt Romney has ever eaten cheesy grits or catfish.
BLITZER: Good question. I suppose as a politician you've got no choice, Jack.
All right. Stand by.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: There's been a major accident in Pennsylvania. Lisa Sylvester is getting some details.
What happened, school bus full of children -- what happened though, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We're just getting this word in. Apparently, there was a serious accident involving a school bus and a tractor-trailer. This happened in Somerset County in Pennsylvania.
You are seeing pictures. These are pictures courtesy of our affiliate WTAE. This is a significant accident.
And at the time of this crash, that school bus was fully loaded with students, as many as 70 students were believed to be on board that bus. We know that six students have been taken by medical chopper to area hospitals, 22 students have been described, in the words of a 911 dispatcher as the walking wounded. And there are an unknown number of other injuries.
This accident happened at Route 281 in Turkeyfoot Valley, in the area. Just to give it some perspective, it's about an hour to two hours just south of Pittsburgh. Again, a major accident, a school bus and a tractor-trailer have collided.
You can see in these pictures, you have emergency crews that are on the scene right there. And just judging by it -- and this is just a guess -- it looks like that tractor-trailer might have been a Pepsi truck, that's at least what the sign says. You can see that the back door of that truck -- of that school bus, rather, is open. They are obviously trying to get to the victims. They are still treating victims on the scene.
So, we will continue to monitor this very serious accident, Wolf, and we will continue to bring details to our viewers as soon as they are available -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, terrible situation. All right. Lisa, thanks very much.
Veterans outraged by a flag with President Obama's face on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't describe how upset I was, because you just don't do that to the American flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You're going to see the tense confrontation that followed with a Democratic Party official.
Also, why the Obama campaign says the president would lose to Mitt Romney if the election were held today.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.
Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour:
A disturbing security breach as the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lands in Afghanistan amid very high tension.
Also, satellite images raising new concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Are these the sites of actual nuclear tests?
Plus, a flight attendant's bizarre onboard rant. You're going to hear the 911 calls from the frightened passengers.
Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: But first, let's get to our strategy session. Joining us, the Democratic strategist Jen Psaki, former deputy communications director in the Obama White House. Also joining us, Republican strategist Nancy Pfotenhauer. She was the spokesman for the 2008 McCain campaign.
Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.
NANCY PFOTENHAUER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be here.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney just gave an interview to FOX News, and he was asked about what some considered to be some of the gaffes he said, talking about the wife's Cadillacs, talking about the fact that he knows all these owners of football teams, et cetera.
Listen to how he responded to this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Guess what? I made a lot of money. I've been very successful. I'm not going to apologize for that. I know the DNC tries to push this out and they get it on the mainstream media, networks, and that's where you guys see it, and everybody laughs about it, because in this country, we want someone who can help other people become successful. This is a nation which is not going to choose or president based on these little innuendos and personal attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Jen, does he have a good point there?
JEN PSAKI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Wolf, that's the heart of the problem for Mitt Romney and his campaign. He's completely missing the point. It's not about how much money he makes, it's about his plan for the middle class and people who have not been as fortunate as he has been. And when he makes statements like that and when he references like Cadillacs and sports teams and the owners he's friends with, he shows a real lack of empathy and compassion for what most people in this country have been going through over the last couple of years.
BLITZER: Is that hurting him, Nancy, with Republican voters? For example, did it hurt him in Mississippi and Alabama yesterday?
PFOTENHAUER: I don't think that's what hurt him in Mississippi and Alabama. I think that Romney has problems with white evangelical voters. And therefore, I think in the states where you got fairly significant demographic of those voters, that you're going to see him show a lot of weakness.
I do think he is strangely uncomfortable with his success. And I would contrast that with Jon Huntsman and his approach when he was in the race. And he's come in late to the party action and therefore it's not as believable.
BLITZER: Jim Messina, who is the campaign manager for the Obama campaign, a gentleman you know quite well, he put out an e-mail yesterday. I'm going to read a little bit of it. He says this, "If the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney. Now, many other polls put the president on top, but all point to the same reality; we're looking at a race tighter than you think, we can no underestimate someone like Romney who has shown he will spend and say anything to win."
I know this is part of a fund-raiser, this email that went out, but give me your thoughts -- if that's something that the campaign should be telling the Democratic base right now that the president of the United States, if election were held today, would lose to Mitt Romney?
PSAKI: Well, Wolf, it's been a couple good weeks for the Democrats, in part because of the out of whack debate about contraception, but we know this is going to be a close race. It's going to be hard-fought, it's going to be tough. And what Jim Messina was saying is we need every voter, we need every volunteer, we need every single person who can give a dollar to give a dollar, because we're at mile two in this marathon, and we have a long way to go until November. We can rest then.
BLITZER: Is that scare tactic going to get a lot of money for the Democrats, Nancy?
PFOTENHAUER: Oh, I don't know. I mean, I think that they -- fund-raisers on both sides typically say this type of thing. I guess I'm not surprised. I do agree with Jen that I think it is going to be a tighter race than people may anticipate.
That's because right now you see a Republican base that is spread along multiple candidates in a long primary season, but they will coalesce behind the Republican nominee.
And the intensity here will be on the Republican side because they do not want Obama. They may not love their nominee, but they dislike him more.
BLITZER: You continue to assume, Jen, like most Democrats, most supporters of the president that the Republican nominee is in fact going to be Romney, not Santorum?
PSAKI: Well, there's a path for Santorum. We know Romney has more delegates right now, but he has a couple problems. One is he significantly has outspent. And he still lost two of the races yesterday.
So, you know, I think right now what the Romney campaign needs to do is go back, really take a look at what the heart and soul of this candidacy is all about, because they haven't been able to communicate that to voters across the country.
BLITZER: A lot of Republicans are saying it's time for Newt Gingrich to see the handwriting on the wall, just like for Ron Paul, for example, see the handwriting on the wall and get out of this race. Are you among those Republicans who are ready to tell the speaker of the House it's over?
PFOTENHAUER: I think it's his decision, but I really I guess am struggling with why at this point he's staying in. I do hear more and more people who are talking about brokered convention, as if it could occur.
At that point, frankly, when you ask them who benefits from it, it's not any of the people currently in the race that come out first. They're talking about someone -- we're not currently seeing, and I would imagine that would be the worst nightmare for the Obama campaign.
BLITZER: I assume you agree, Jen, that it's now a two-man race for all practical purposes, just as four years ago, it turned to be Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama. They went until mid June until Hillary Clinton conceded.
Do you see this, as a Democrat, basically Santorum versus Romney, and it could go to June or to a contested convention in Tampa at the end of August?
PSAKI: Well, as we all know, Newt Gingrich goes to the beat of his own drummer and he certainly has a healthy sense of self. So if he stays in until the convention, I don't think anybody would be surprised.
The difference between this year and four years ago is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were exciting people in the party. They were bringing new voters into the party, and, you know, right now we're not seeing that on the other side in the Republican primary.
BLITZER: And there's no doubt that competition between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made Barack Obama a much stronger candidate, and eventually obviously beat John McCain as we all know. All right, guys, we'll continue this conversation. Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tempers are soaring in Florida over what some veterans say is desecration of the American flag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Josef Stalin, pictures of Mao Tse-Tung, pictures of Adolf Hitler, the pomp, the ceremony, the flags like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But this flag has a picture of the president of the United States. We're going to show you what all the outrage is about.
Also, the actor, George Clooney answering questions up on Capitol Hill including from our own correspondent. What brought him to Congress? That's coming up.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including a new video of a huge explosion in Syria. What happened, Lisa?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, the blast allegedly occurred at a checkpoint in the province of Homs after a large number of soldiers defected from President Bashar Al-Assad's army.
CNN can't independently verify the authenticity of the video clip. The opposition says more than 50 people died in Syria today, and more than 8,000 since the uprising began according to the U.N.
A fragile truce along the border of Israel and Gaza appears to be over. Israel says they bomb so-called terror activity sites in Northern Gaza as a response to rockets fired into Israel over the past day.
There are no reports of casualties, but both sides seemed reluctant to carry out the agreed upon ceasefire. We'll monitor this potentially serious situation.
And after eight years, a missing child has been found safe. Texas police say a woman was babysitting her neighbor's 8-month-old child when she skipped town.
Authorities say the case someone fell through the cracks under Child Protective Services investigated the woman for negligence supervision last year. Police were then able to trace the trial back to the home of the woman's sister. The alleged kidnapper is in police custody -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thank you, Lisa.
The actor, George Clooney is calling attention to an unfolding humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. He's just back from the region, where there is ongoing fighting, and he's using his star power to encourage Congress to take action.
CNN's Athena Jones has details of his testimony on Capitol Hill just a few hours ago. Athena, what did he say?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you don't usually find throngs of autograph seekers outside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but that's because you usually don't have a Hollywood star as a witness.
As you just mentioned Clooney made a passionate appeal to help stop the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing fighting between the Sudanese government and the rebels along the oil rich border region with the newly independent South Sudan.
JONES (voice-over): George Clooney isn't just a big draw at the box office. Arriving on Capitol Hill, the actor was greeted by fans, flashbulbs, and even laughter, but the subject was serious.
GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you.
JONES: Clooney is lending his celebrity to efforts to stop a humanitarian crisis on the border of Sudan and South Sudan, the actor/activist is just back from the region.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us a sense of what you really saw on the ground.
CLOONEY: These were not acts of war. These were war crimes.
JONES: Clooney showed a video to the pact hearing room.
CLOONEY: Yesterday, 10:30 in the morning, 15 bombs hit this tiny village where everyone is hiding in the rocks. This is an unexploded bomb. It's buried up to its neck in the dirt.
JONES: Clooney says frequent bomb strikes on villages by the Sudanese government as it fights rebel mean the people live in constant fear. Some 250,000 people could face near famine conditions by next month if the government doesn't allow aid in.
CLOONEY: You're a very brave boy. Can you tell him?
JONES: Noting the South Sudan position to stop oil production has driven up the price of oil on world markets and deprived China of 6 percent of its oil. Clooney called for the U.S. to work with China to influence indicted war criminal and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.
CLOONEY: Let's send a high-level envoy to China to work together on this. Let's use the techniques we've learned from chasing terrorists and find and freeze the offshore bank accounts of these war criminals.
JONES: After the two-hour hearing, it was back to the throngs of fans and reporters. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like it will make a difference?
CLOONEY: Tomorrow we speak to the president, we speak to Secretary Clinton, and then we'll continue to try to move the bar.
JONES: Now, Wolf, you just heard Clooney say he'll be meeting with President Obama. It won't be the first time to talk about this subject.
One more thing I should mention, Clooney is cofounder of the satellite sentinel project, which uses satellites to track suspected war crimes in that region of South Sudan and Sudan in real time.
Clooney said he hopes the group can use these images to try to stop the bloodshed and also can be used as evidence in any future trial -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He's doing really, really important work. We wish him success. He doesn't have to do it, but he's doing it, and I applaud them for that. Thank you, Athena.
A stolen vehicle on the runway just as the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is about to land in Afghanistan. We're learning new details of a disturbing security breach.
Plus a tense confrontation over a flag with President Obama's face on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is private property. You're not allowed to touch anything. I'll call the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fine. I wish you would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Controversy and confrontation in Lake County, Florida, over an American flag with President Obama's face on it. Berndt Petersen of CNN affiliate, WFTV was there when angry veterans demanded that it be taken down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any American citizen should be sick to see something like this.
BERNDT PETERSEN, WFTV (voice-over): Don Van Beck says his blood was boiling.
DON VAN BECK, VETERAN: I can't describe how upset I was because you just don't do that to the American flag. PETERSEN: The Korean War veteran found it flying outside Lake County Democratic Headquarters under the Stars and Stripes, a banner veterans insist violates the United States flag code. It made some of them see red.
JOHN MASTERJOHN, VETERAN: Josef Stalin, pictures of Mao Tse-tung, pictures of Adolf Hitler, the pomp, the ceremony, the flags like that.
PETERSEN: Nearly a dozen vets came to the Democratic office to take it down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, this is private property.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, I understand that.
NANCY HULBERT, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: You're not allowed to touch anything, I'll call the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish you would.
PETERSEN: Democratic Party Chair Nancy Hulbert agreed to check the federal code. After about 10 minutes, pulled out the pole and cut off the flag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you check higher up the ladder?
HULBERT: No just went online. There is no higher up in Lake County. I'm responsible and I take responsibility.
PETERSEN: The veterans insist their outrage had nothing to do with President Obama, but everything to do with protecting the Stars and Stripes they love.
BECK: If you've been a veteran and fought and some died for this for this flag, you don't want to see it desecrated. That's how simple it is.
BLITZER: That report from Baron Petersen of our affiliate, WFTV, obviously a very, very sensitive subject for so many people out there.
Millions of homes along U.S. coastlines could face flooding. A new warning about global warming is out. You'll want to listen to this.
We'll take you for a ride on Boeing's new Dreamliner. After years of production problems, does it finally live up to all the hype? Our own Lizzie O'Leary is on board.
And what's Mitt Romney's biggest problem? Jack Cafferty has your e-mails.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now including a deadly shooting in Texas. Lisa, what happened?
SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf. At least one person is dead from a shooting outside a courthouse in Jefferson County, Texas. Another four people are wounded.
The shooting occurred during a break in a case and the judge says one of the people shot was a witness in the case. He says police shot the suspect before apprehending him.
A new study says 5 million people on U.S. coastlines will be at risk for flooding during the next 30 years. The organization Climate Central predicts global warming will cause sea levels to rise and threaten more than 2.5 million homes and cause billions of dollars in damage.
Florida faces the biggest threat, but Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, New York and Virginia are also at risk.
A Hollywood legend is coming to a reality show near you. The entertainment channel, "E" will air "Mrs. Eastwood and Company," which follows the life of Clint Eastwood's wife and their teenage daughters.
The 81-year-old star is expected to make guest appearances and calls his family a constant source of inspiration and entertainment.
And a day after a big rally on Wall Street, U.S. stocks struggled to find direction today. While some bank stocks were down after traders weigh the results of the fed's stress test, big technology companies rally with shares of Apple actually hitting an all-time high. The Dow rose 16 points. The S&P loss 2 points and the Nasdaq edged up a point -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The 13,194 is pretty good number. You think about it, only a few years ago, it was down to, what, 6,500 and now it's more than double --
SYLVESTER: And for 401(k) plans, too, Wolf. I think a lot of people are happy about that for their 401(k).
BLITZER: Let's see what happens in the coming months. We'll watch it closely. Lisa, thank you. Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is what is Mitt Romney's biggest problem. He came in third in Alabama and Mississippi yesterday.
Chic writes, "Biggest problem -- he's been chosen by the GOP elite and the media, just like John McCain was and then we lost. This time the voters are determined to have our say, and we say he's no conservative. Go home, Mitt."
Terry in Blountville, Tennessee, "Mitt Romney might be more likable if he didn't seem so phony. Don't come to southern states and say yaw, I had cheesy grits for breakfast and expect to fit in. He tries to fit in every situation and fits in nowhere." Austin writes from Texas, "Mitt Romney has no problems, it's a primary election. He's doing better than the field. Once he gets nominated, I think he has the best chance of beating President Obama."
Lisa writes from Long Island, "It's his judgment. Jack, the judgment of someone who puts his dog on the roof of the car and keeps his luggage in the back."
Tom in New York, "Mitt Romney, he's offering to lead America and he doesn't know anything about America, an alien from East Podunk, Mars would have an easier time relating."
Johnny on Facebook writes, "Why aren't most of you talking about the elephant in the room? Evangelicals will never vote for a Mormon for president."
Bill writes, "Romney's past clearly reveals a moderate, too moderate for too many conservatives." And Ed in Maryland writes, "The thought of a dog being strapped on top of Air Force One."
If you want to read more about this, go to my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
At the top of the hour, we have new details just coming of the security breach in Afghanistan that diverted the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's plane.
Also, straight ahead, a rare look inside one of the world's most anticipated new airplanes. You're going to see what makes Boeing's Dreamliner so different.
BLITZER: It's called the Dreamliner, but it's been a bit of a turbulent road for Boeing, which is years behind in delivery of its next generation jumbo passenger jet. So has it been worth the wait?
Our aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzie O'Leary took a ride on the Dreamliner. Lizzie is joining us now. So what did you think, Lizzie?
LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, this is the first plane of it's size to be built of composite. It's basically a special kind of plastic. This is Boeing's hope to try to get back on top in the aviation race and beat airbus.
It has been a long road, three years of production delays, so now they're showing it off to investors, employees, and people like us on what they call the dream tour.
O'LEARY (voice-over): Watch the dream tour pull into town. This plane has fans. The 787 Dreamliner is Boeing's baby and we got to tag along for a ride. The first things you notice, big windows, spacious overhead bins, and a high ceiling.
(on camera): I'm 5'6". So my head come right about here.
(voice-over): And those windows.
(on camera): There's no shade, right? So how does that work? This way, it works with a button, if you want it to be darker, you push this button, and watch the window itself begin to get darker.
(voice-over): A few other perks, custom lighting colors, an air system that doesn't feel as thin or dry. In flight, the plane is remarkably quiet, even in the cockpit.
Its wings actually bend up and down, making for a smoother ride in the cabin, and a more efficient one. Boeing says this plane, made largely of plastic and carbon using 20 percent less fuel than an aluminum one.
But it hasn't all been smooth flying. Dreamliners are running three years behind schedule, and on some planes, the composite skin is pulling near the tail. That means two weeks of repairs. Boeing's test pilot is not worried.
CAPTAIN ED WILSON, BOEING TEST PILOT: Our engineers work very hard at getting it right. That's why we're possibly behind. We want to get it right before we put it out to the public and make it available for everyone to fly.
O'LEARY: This is the Dreamliner's biggest customer. He's buying 74 of them at roughly $200 million a piece to lease to airlines. And he's 6'3", and said comfort was a big selling point.
HENRI COURPRON, CEO, INTERNATIONAL LEASE FINANCE CORP: If the product is not attractive for the passenger, you, me, taking or family on business travel, it doesn't work.
O'LEARY: He also brought along his bankers who shall we say enjoyed themselves.
(on camera): What is it about this plane that makes people act like 8-year-olds?
COURPRON: All planes are like this. It's the magic of flying.
O'LEARY: Well, right now, Wolf, a lot of employees from Boeing are getting a chance to come on board, tour the Dreamline. Check it out. That's not an opportunity. U.S. flyers will have that soon.
Next month, this plane is going to make its commercial debut in the U.S., in Boston. It's already flying in Asia. Japan airline is going to fly it from Tokyo to Boston.
United has put in an order for a lot of these claims, but it's still unclear when they're going to start flying. They just say sometime in the coming year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm looking forward to getting on board myself. Lizzie, thanks very, very much.