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JOHN KING, USA

President Obama on the Attack; Syrian Refugee Crisis; Interview With Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards; 'No Hope' That Diplomacy Will Work in Syria; JPMorgan Exec Fired after Big Losses; Crackdown on Texting While Walking; Obama Campaign Going Negative

Aired May 14, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: President Obama goes on the attack in five battleground states with a new negative ad questioning Mitt Romney's record as head of Bain Capital. It is powerful stuff, but it has Democrats who work at Bain cringing.

Plus, is Governor Romney leading a GOP war on women? Our latest candidate report card explores the record and the gender gap.

And inside the Syrian refugee crisis -- Anderson Cooper sees the pain of those fleeing a brutal regime and their frustration with the world's failed diplomacy.

We begin this evening with the Obama campaign's effort now to change the subject and to refocus the presidential campaign on Mitt Romney's business record. Team Obama is buying TV time during the evening news in five battleground states. Wednesday night, voters in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia will see this TV ad attacking Romney's record at the private equity firm Bain Capital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get up on national TV and bragging about making jobs, when he has destroyed thousands of people's careers, lifetimes, just destroying people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is running for president, and if he is going to run the country the way he ran our business, I wouldn't want him there. He would be so out of touch with the average person in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is traveling with the president in New York.

Jess, the goal here is obvious. Define Mitt Romney as greedy, cold, even heartless. Why is that such an urgent Obama campaign priority?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Because they would like to define him to voters before he defines himself. Unlike you and me, John, most people haven't focused in and many of the viewers have not focused in on the campaign quite as intently as political junkies. And so now that people are starting to pay attention, the campaign wants to get a jump on Mitt Romney.

And he is calling himself -- the premise of his campaign is that he creates jobs. They want to argue that that's not what the record has been at Bain. And so this is what they're unveiling. Now, I will tell you, though, a Republican who is -- obviously has motivation here says the ad buy is quite tiny, and so that he is getting -- the campaign is getting more play, sort of more bang for the buck from our conversation about this and the play that they're getting on news channels than they're actually getting from the actual buy. Waiting for a response from the Obama campaign on that.

KING: Cynicism in politics, media manipulation, I would be stunned if that were the case.

YELLIN: Yes.

KING: But, Jess, if you go back to the Republican primaries, one of the things you heard often from team Obama was that Governor Romney was running only negative ads, negative ads from the beginning. They said it was proof he had nothing positive to run on. Do they worry at all the same will now be said of them?

YELLIN: Flatly, no, because they argue that they're running both positive ads, because the president has put out his positive ad messages, in addition to these.

And I would also point out, John, that this isn't even new from the Democrats. When I was in Iowa before the Republican primary, the Republican primary, the Democrats brought someone to town who had been laid off by Mitt Romney, or that's what he argued, and the Democrats were making the case that Bain did this before. So this has been a message the Democrats have been pushing for many months now, assuming that Romney would be the nominee for many months now.

And they have been pushing this argument. And so expect to see it. And this is just the first in a series of ads pushing this narrative that Romney in their words doesn't create jobs, he kills them. This is just the start.

KING: Just the start. Even if this is a tiny ad buy, there is a new Web site as well, and this issue will not go away.

YELLIN: Yes.

KING: Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin -- Jess, thanks.

One person who knows a bit about Bain Capital is Howard Anderson. He was one of the first investors with Bain and he calls himself now -- quote -- "a recovering venture capitalist." He now teaches business at MIT.

Mr. Anderson, thanks for your time tonight.

When you hear this -- and let's play -- let's play a little bit more of the ad here. I want to play a little bit more of the ad here and ask you if it is a fair characterization. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made as much money off it as they could. And they closed it down, they filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families or the communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is Bain a vampire that comes in and sucks the life out of things?

HOWARD ANDERSON, FORMER VENTURE CAPITALIST: It isn't. Sometimes, we use the term vulture capitalist, and they're not that either.

Sometimes, companies don't do as well as they hoped. And, sometimes, like Staples and Sports Authority, they do even better.

KING: And so when you hear this -- and you heard some of it in the Republican primaries, now you're hearing it from the president's team, saying essentially that Bain is a vulture, Bain is a vampire, and Mitt Romney is this greedy, capitalist, cold, heartless guy who all's he wants to do is make money, he doesn't care how he has to -- what he has to do to make money, is that fair?

ANDERSON: Not really.

The Bain Capital way is essentially to take an analytical approach to business, to correct mistakes, and to make it grow or to make it profitable. It doesn't always work. That's the nature of capitalism. Bain Capital, which is a private equity firm, is the best of capitalism when it does well, and, sometimes, it's the worst when things don't work out.

KING: And so when the company hears its name being smeared like this -- I know a lot of people who have worked at Bain and some who still work at Bain -- a lot of them happen to be Democrats and they're not happy about this.

But why doesn't the company do more? Can it do more to put the record out there, if the record is different?

ANDERSON: Bain would like a much lower profile. Mitt was the leader. Mitt did a superb job.

From '85 to '99, Bain's returns were 88 percent per year, which is a phenomenal record. But Bain likes to go a little bit stealth, under the radar, and doesn't even like all the publicity that they have gotten. KING: Well, they may have to do something like this. Their reputation is at stake.

I want to read something. This is something you told "The Boston Globe" back in February. "These guys have figured out a way to make money even the company loses money. It is heads we win, tails we win, not always, but they can do that."

You have been defending the company here, but, sir, that doesn't sound fair.

ANDERSON: Sometimes, the company doesn't think I am defending at all.

Venture capital, John, is a little like sex, and so is private equity.

KING: I am not sure I want to ask you to explain that.

ANDERSON: Should I explain?

KING: But, yes, go ahead. You got me now. Go.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: When it is good -- when it is good, John, it is very, very good. And when it is bad, it is still pretty good.

KING: Howard Anderson, I think that one is going to be remembered by a lot of people. I appreciate your time tonight. And I think we will check back in as the campaign season unfolds. And I don't think I'm going to top that in the 54 minutes we have got left of this program.

Mr. Anderson, thanks so much.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, joins us now.

Gloria, this does crystallize the big argument here. If it is a referendum on the president's record, it is hard, fair or unfair, because it is tough economic times, or is it a choice between a guy who has been president of the struggling economy and what they want you to think, a guy that would not help you out?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And what they're clearly trying to do with this ad -- and we are magnifying, by the way, the impact of this ad -- that they're trying to define Mitt Romney, and they're also trying to disqualify Mitt Romney, because they want to turn this into a choice, and they want to disqualify him before you make your choice.

And what the Romney campaign is saying, compared to what? Compared to whom? Barack Obama? We will take our record. Now, I will tell you that the Romney campaign put out a Web video hours ago responding to this ad, because no charge can be left unanswered in this kind of a 24/7 news cycle in a campaign.

And they pointed to a company called Steel Dynamics, which was a company that Bain helped get off the ground in the mid-'90s that did very well and is now the fifth largest U.S. steelmaker. So they're pointing to a success story where Mitt Romney created jobs.

KING: I don't think there is any question that Governor Romney is going to have to do a better job explaining that, whether it is the success of Steel Dynamics or Staples or others, but also what the Obama people are doing here is they're playing into, trying to exploit an existing weakness.

Look at these polling numbers. This is from our recent poll. Who is more in touch with the problems of the middle class? President Obama 51 percent, Governor Romney 33 percent.

In a competitive presidential election, for those blue-collar workers in an Ohio, in any battleground state, Governor Romney, that's the challenge and that's what team Obama here -- fair or unfair, that is what they're trying to exploit.

BORGER: Right. Cares about someone like me, understands my problems, those are key polling questions you ask during a presidential race. When people vote for president, they want to believe that this person understands the economic suffering they're going through.

And that is why we see President Obama talking about the middle class and Mitt Romney now saying that President Obama is the one who is out of touch, and not Mitt Romney. And the Obama campaign wants to say, you know what, Mitt Romney is a man who cannot possibly understand your problems. He is so out of touch.

And that's the debate we're going to be seeing going into the fall.

KING: They have put the Web video up about Steel Dynamics. Essentially, is this team Obama trying to get them to take the bait, to spend some of their money...

BORGER: I'm sure.

KING: ... to spend more of their money defending his record, as opposed to going after the president?

BORGER: Right. Absolutely. Of course. They are like, OK, we put this up. We're going to force you to respond to it. They have to spend the time and the money to respond to it, and that's the way -- that's why this is going to be a billion-dollar-plus campaign, because this is how they feel they have to deploy their resources.

KING: On a local TV station in a battleground state. That was our mistake.

BORGER: Yes. That would be good.

KING: Gloria, thanks.

The Obama campaign is already attacking Romney on women's issues -- next, a report card on what Romney's record really shows.

And, later, heads starts rolling because of J.P. Morgan Chase's $2 billion loss. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It is a Democratic campaign theme and now the focus of an ad campaign by the liberal group MoveOn.org. Mitt Romney, they say, is the leader of a Republican war on women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this November, we're going to remember...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... how you threw women under the bus just to get the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So let's put that to the test as we continue our report card on the candidates on the major issues.

One question is whether Governor Romney supports equal pay for women.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

QUESTION: Does Governor Romney support the Lilly Ledbetter Act?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sam, we will get back to you on that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: His critics also cite his pledge to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is the program so critical, it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And on that basis, of course you rid of Obamacare. That's the easy one.

But there are others. Planned Parenthood, we are going to get rid of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And Governor Romney also supported the so-called Blunt amendment. That allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage in their health care plans if they had a moral objection.

Now, Romney supporters, though, say liberal-conservative policy disagreements don't tell the whole story. They praise his record of appointing women to leadership posts.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KERRY HEALEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Governor Romney, with whom I have worked now for over a decade, had 50 percent women in the leadership of his administration. We were the only state in the nation that had that at the time. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the question is, is there a Romney-led GOP war on women?

Joining me now to discuss, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is a member of the House Republican leadership team.

Is there?

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Absolutely not. It is a myth.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It's a myth. If it is a myth -- let me -- I am sorry to interrupt, but if it is a myth, one of the reasons this myth or whatever you want to call it gets perpetuated or exaggerated or amplified is because you have a team that is running for president of the United States.

You heard that conference call. They should know his position on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, should they not?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: You know, that was a bill that was passed and signed into law early 2009. It has been several years. Republicans absolutely support equal pay for equal work.

And he very quickly came along after that and said, you know what, no one is proposing that we repeal or change the Lilly Ledbetter.

KING: His staff didn't do him a favor there.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, but I think your list is incomplete when you look at the issues that are really impacting women. It is the economy, it is jobs, it is the debt. That's what women are concerned about as we head into the election this fall.

KING: Well, and Governor Romney makes that point, Congresswoman.

Now, you are the Democrat. You want to take issue with his record. But listen to Governor Romney here when he talks in public about what -- the mythical, he says, war on women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There has been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy. Do you know how many women, what percent of the job losses were women? -- 92.3 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Are women going to make their choices -- and, look, there are Democratic women and Republican women who have made their choices. In the middle, people who are undecided and back and forth, are they going to make their choices about what is a liberal-conservative policy divide, like whether the government should fund Planned Parenthood, or are they going to make it on the economic circumstances of their life come October and November?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, a lot of those decisions in fact are economic.

I mean, the fact that Governor Romney can't decide what -- whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, when women are making 77 cents on the dollar is a shame. Even in Ms. McMorris Rodgers' state, women there make 63 cents on the dollar. In Maryland, it is 83 cents. It is unacceptable.

And Governor Romney should have a position on that. When it comes to economics, when a family knows that they're getting 25 percent less than they ought to because we don't have fair pay in this country, that's an economic question for women and for families.

And so I think it is all fair game. And contraception, if you can't make decisions about your own private health care and about contraception, what that means is that you can't make decisions about education, about jobs, about planning your family. And I think it is really unacceptable for Governor Romney to embrace a Republican budget -- in fact, you can call it a war or you can call it whatever you want.

The facts speak for themselves, where women's educational opportunities are cut back, where there are cutbacks on things like child care that women really depend on, where two-thirds of women actually receive Pell Grants, and yet the Republican budget that Governor Romney endorses and embraces slashes Pell Grants.

KING: You hear a fairness argument, and she says fairness, with a special hit on women in the Republican budget.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Right. Equal pay for equal work, there's no controversy.

And when you look at women that are in -- with similar education, similar experience on the job market, the pay gap that is referenced very quickly closes. Those are not an apples-to-apples comparison.

When you look at the contraceptive issue, no one is talking about taking away contraceptive coverage for women. It was President Obama -- it was President Obama through Health and Human Services that proposed to change the rule regarding insurance policies and the coverage of contraception.

It was President Obama that proposed that change. But Republicans...

KING: And Republicans had a great issue there when he was at war with Catholic and other religious institutions. They had a great issue. Did they overplay their hand with the Blunt amendment, which would allow anybody to say, I have a moral objection, not just a religious institution?

If it was John King, Inc., John King, Inc., could say, well, I don't like contraception; therefore, I'm not going to put it on my health care plan. Did the Republicans overplay what was a winning hand?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: I think President -- I think it is important to remember that it was President Obama that initiated that whole debate.

But Republicans are about getting people back to work. That's the best thing we could do for women. It's the best thing we could do for families. Fifty percent of children right now that are graduating from college are unemployed, underemployed. We have had the longest streak of unemployment since the Great Depression, of high unemployment, over 8 percent.

We have a record debt this president has accumulated, $5 trillion in debt. These are the issues that women and families are concerned about. And women are the decision-makers in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So then why?

As we finish the conversation, let's put these numbers up. If you look at the registered voters' choice for president, among men, it's essentially a split. That's a statistical tie. Look at that gender gap. Look at that gender gap, 55 percent for the president, 39 percent for Governor Romney. Why?

EDWARDS: Well, the reason there is a gender gap is because women know that under -- under the economic recovery, where we were losing 750,000 jobs when the president took office, that the first thing he did was signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The next thing that he did was embrace a stimulus package to make sure that our educators, many of whom are women, continued to work. He has embraced legislation that -- to ensure that women are getting back to work, four million jobs created in this economy, over 25 months of growth, and 1.2 million of those are women.

I mean, the president has actually embraced policies that do great service to women, whereas you just look at the plain language of the Republican budget, and they're slashing...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: How can Governor Romney close that gap?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, he is closing that gap.

And when -- and it is President Obama's policies that have failed, failed women, failed families, failed Americans and getting people back to work. I think what the Democrats recognize and why they have calculated this and put together this war on women is because they know the Republicans won the women's vote in 2010.

It was the first time since Ronald Reagan the Republicans won the women's vote. And they know that they have to do better going...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: They won't win the women's vote by taking away contraception and by taking away Pell Grants and student loans.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMORRIS RODGERS: They will win the women's vote by getting Americans back to work.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: ... small businesses for women. I mean, that is not a way to win the women's vote, by taking away their...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Economic opportunities will win the women's vote.

KING: One hundred and -- 176 days to have this debate. We will bring you back.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

KING: Enjoyed it. Thank you both for coming. Thank you.

If you ever stepped into the street without looking because you were sending a text, listen up. We're going to tell you where you could get a $54 ticket for jaywalking while texting. I'm going to say maybe it should be higher. People are going to get mad at me.

But, next, why it is a big week for the man who got us hooked on Facebook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: CNN's Anderson Cooper will join us next. He's in a refugee camp listening to people's heartbreaking stories about the fighting in their homeland.

Also ahead: one of the highest-ranking women in the banking world forced out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This half hour, we're on the ground inside a Syrian refugee camp hearing horror story from the survivors: why they say diplomacy won't work and what they want.

And there are consequences to losing $2 billion on risky bets. An executive at JPMorgan forced out, but after the meltdown of 2008, how did this happen again?

Plus, we all know distracted driving is dangerous, but distracted walking? It's not a joke. And if you get caught in one town, it will cost you 50 bucks.

New frustrations and new worries in Syria tonight that a truce brokered by the United Nations isn't working.

This is what's going on at the street level in the city of Raston (ph). You see it right there. Some civilians are running, others limping through battle-torn streets that have been bombarded by heavy shelling for days now. Twenty-three shoulders [SIC] -- soldiers were killed in the fighting there today and since the uprising started 14 months ago, thousands of civilians have been killed by their own government, thousands more leaving everything behind.

Let's get a first-hand account now from Anderson Cooper. He's in a refugee camp right on the Turkey-Syria border.

Anderson, some 25,000 Syrian refugees there. You would have to describe diplomacy so far as an abject failure. Do they have any hope the diplomatic route will work?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: No, they don't. I think they -- they have seen, you know, what's been going on for the last 14, 15 months since this uprising began.

They have seen Kofi Annan, you know, talking to Bashar al-Assad. They've seen what's supposed to be a ceasefire that's now been in existence for a month, and yet every day they're seeing their loved ones dying and they're seeing the attacks by the regime continue. So I don't think they have any faith that diplomacy is going to work.

The number of peacekeepers of the U.N. -- I should say observers on the ground -- about 100 or so. That's miniscule compared to the size in Syria, the actual number that they feel would be needed in order to actually effect some sort of a change.

Their hope is that the world will somehow start to pay more attention and start to give them more supplies, give them more weapons, give them funds at least to be able to go out and buy weapons.

KING: And do they want that assistance, money and weapons? Or do they also want, as in the case of Libya, international armies? Do they want foreign military intervention?

COOPER: Well, you know, there's a lot of different actors in this, and so different people you talk to will have different opinions. I certainly think, at this point, they would like to see some sort of large-scale involvement of NATO, no fly zones at the very least.

But I think very few people you talk to actually believe that is going to happen. I think they think had that -- if that was going to happen, it would have already happened by now.

KING: And I've heard you describe the conditions, and thanks to the generosity and the good care of the Turkish government, it seems these refugees are in better shape than any other refugee camp you might have visited in your years around the world. But that can't -- that can't ease their pain of being essentially forced from their homes. What else do they want?

COOPER: They've lost their businesses. Their homes have been destroyed. In some cases, their homes are being occupied right now by -- by Syrian government forces. They've lost their children. They've lost loved ones. You ask parents to show you pictures of their children, and they'll show you the corpses, pictures of the corpses of their children that they have on their cell phones.

Everybody, it seems, has lost somebody. And that infuses the atmosphere in all of these camps, no matter how nice they are. You know, there are schools that the kids can go to just starting up in a lot of these camps, but they all want to go home. And they know there's no hope of going home any time soon.

KING: Anderson Cooper getting a first-hand look at what is an international atrocity. He's along the Turkey-Syria border. Anderson, thank you. And Anderson will have much more tonight from that refugee camp coming up on "AC 360." That's on CNN tonight, 8 Eastern.

Here at home we've seen the first casualty of that $2 billion blunder at JPMorgan Chase and the chief investment officer, Ina Drew, is out after those big losses on risky bets. She was one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, and now she's retiring.

Erin Burnett, host of course, of "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," is on Capitol Hill tonight. Erin, how big of a deal is this, and do you think we'll see more resignations?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think we are going to see more, obviously. There's been a man, a trader called Bruno Iksil, the guy dubbed the London whale, whale John, because his trades were so big that when he got in the market he displaced everybody else.

He is still working at JPMorgan. So there's a question as to whether there will be more people. But Ina Drew was a very under-the-radar executive. She was an incredibly highly paid executive. So when you talk about retiring, the question is whether JPMorgan, because of the financial reform, will have some claw backs.

Some of these folks were making $15 plus million a year, including Ina Drew. So how much of that money will they be able to keep is going to be a big question about this as we move forward.

But this was a very big blunder, and there's going to be investigations here in Washington. The president's weighed in on this tonight. This bank, for better or for worse, has been on a pedestal as the bank that did things right. And now they've shown that they can make huge, huge mistakes. There's big questions about what this will mean for regulation.

KING: And then that's why people where you are on Capitol Hill and every day folks when you talk to them say, wait a minute. After 2008 we had this big debate. They passed this new law. This wasn't supposed to happen again. Now the Senate Banking Committee says it will hold hearings. But banks keep making these risks. Can the Congress, can regulation stop it?

BURNETT: I mean, you know what's amazing, John, is in a sense nothing can stop it. You know, you -- over the past few years, you may remember there was a trader in London who had a multi-billion dollar loss. There was the famous trader in France who had a $6 billion loss, Mr. Kirby Alasakjian (ph).

So these are all examples, post-financial crisis, of massive losses that have happened because of individual traders. It's unclear whether financial reform would do anything to stop that. But what is clear is that there needs to be more reform and that we have not addressed the question at the center of this, which is how big should a bank be and how big is a bank when it causes systemic risk to taxpayers in a country.

JPMorgan, John, is 45 percent bigger, when measured by assets today than it was before the financial crisis started, $2.3 trillion in assets. That's 15 percent of the U.S. economy represented by one company, J.P. Morgan.

So these are real questions. I mean, you might say that's too big. But what's too big and who should make the choice? But I think we all know that the reforms that were put in place certainly were not enough. Because this is something, this particular case, happening in the chief investment office right next to Jamie Dimon, is the CEO of the company, really could have been avoided and should have been avoided if risk was managed better. This was avoidable.

KING: This was avoidable. You say a lot of questions still to be answered. "OUTFRONT" is a few minutes right at the top of the hour. What else are you working on?

BURNETT: Well, we're also going to be talking about Mexico and the 49 torsos, literally, John, that were found. They haven't even been able to identify who these people are. But we're seeing an escalation in violence and also an escalation in the drug war going on in Mexico and the demand for drugs in the U.S. from Mexico.

Also, as you know, worries about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, possibly infiltrating Mexican drug rings and threatening the United States. So we're going to be talking about that and also about Iran. I'll be talking to Senator Dianne Feinstein today about that picture that the A.P. had which they say is where they were doing nuclear explosive tests in Iran. Were they? Were they not?

This is a big question, of course, as we head into the final months before the election. The big question as to whether Israel will strike.

KING: Erin's on Capitol Hill tonight. "OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. We'll see you then. Thank you. Now, maybe you're guilty of this. Staring intently at your smartphone, maybe even using your fingers as you cross the street. One New Jersey town says it's not just careless, it's dangerous, and it's cracking down. Here is CNN's Mary Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When this video of a woman in a Pennsylvania mall went viral, she may not have realized how it would serve as a constant reminder of just how distracting walking and texting can be.

Then there's this man in California, who became so engrossed with a smartphone that he almost had a close encounter with a 400-pound bear. Now one New Jersey town says distractions are so severe it's cracking down on pedestrians.

CHIEF THOMAS RIPOLI, FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY, POLICE: People aren't being alert. They're walking with their cell phones, not watching where they're going. They're texting.

SNOW: Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli says he's seen a rise in accidents involving pedestrians, including two fatal ones this year. While he can't say exactly how many involve smartphones, he believes they're a main culprit.

To try and force people to pay attention, he's begun aggressively enforcing a ban on jaywalking. Violate it, and it will cost you $54. So far about 120 tickets have been given out.

(on camera) Do you find it extreme?

RIPOLI: I feel that my job is to keep everyone safe and that at this time I feel I'm doing the right thing, and we're doing the right thing.

SNOW (voice-over): The stepped-up enforcement is sparking a lot of reaction. Some question the use of police officers' time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is foolish. It's unbelievable. You know, that's worse than a parking ticket, $54. Unbelievable.

SNOW: But some drivers say the jaywalking ban is a good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are just constantly typing and not paying attention to what's going on in the streets. It gets a little bit nerve-wracking when you see somebody crossing the road without looking.

SNOW: This man doesn't live in the town and was unaware of the jaywalking fine, but the sticker shock of the fee, he says, will make him think twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ouch. Fifty-four dollars, I won't do it again, that's for sure. I'm not taking the chance.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, Fort Lee, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Texting in a crosswalk is a no. I'll let the town set the fine.

Coming up, the "Truth" about why the Obama campaign is going negative.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Oh, enough already with those positive Obama campaign ads that popped up a week or so ago. It's time to get down and dirty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off of this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's part of a two-minute TV ad that will air Wednesday in five of the most critical presidential battlegrounds: Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get up on national TV and brag about making jobs when he has destroyed thousands of people's careers, lifetimes, just destroying people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Bain Capital is complaining tonight that the ad is a distortion, and Democrats who work at the firm are exasperated with Team Obama. So is the man who helped the president with the auto industry bailout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN RATTNER, FORMER OBAMA CAR CZAR: I think the ad is unfair. I think Mitt Romney made a mistake ever talking about the fact that he created 100,000 jobs. Bain Capital's responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to make profits for his investors, most of whom were pension funds, endowments and foundations. And it did it superbly well, acting within the rules, acting very responsibly, and was a leading firm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, let's be honest. "Truth" is, this isn't about a true or contextual portrait of Bain or of Governor Romney's tenure at Bain. This is central to an Obama campaign effort to define Romney as rich and uncaring about the little guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHANIE CUTTER: If you take a look at how Bain Capital was discussed through the Republican primaries, it really was, putting aside whether it was done well -- it really was damaging to Mitt Romney. You know, he consistently lost the middle-class vote in every primary until he was the de facto nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, this should be no surprise to anyone, beginning with Governor Romney himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm going to stand and defend capitalists across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we're going to hit it hard from President Obama, but we're going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's be clear. Everything in Governor Romney's record is fair game. He's running for president. Everything is fair game. And his changing claim of how many jobs he helped create while at Bain opens him to legitimate criticism.

But Team Obama also has some explaining to do if it is going to define Bain as a boogeyman. If Bain is so bad, why is Bill Clinton so happy to pose with one of its top officers. That's Democrat Steve Palucca (ph) there.

And, wait, that's top Obama strategist David Axelrod right there courtside at the Boston Garden for a Celtics-Bulls game as a guest of the Celtics ownership, including that Bain partner.

Now, if you look at political contributions for Bain employees over the past half-dozen years, Democrats enjoyed a more than 2 to 1 advantage. In just this race for the White House, though, yes, Governor Romney has raised more from Bain employees, more than $232,000. Still, the president has accepted just shy of $50,000 so far from the guys Rick Perry called vulture capitalists during the GOP primaries.

Here tonight to talk truth, "TIME" magazine's deputy Washington bureau chief, Michael Crowley; Democratic strategist, our CNN contributor Maria Cardona; and Romney campaign senior advisor Kevin Madden.

You don't like this ad. People at Bain say it's a cheap shot or it's a distortion. However -- however, one of the problems -- you went through this in the last campaign, as well, is that because Bain is a private equity firm, you can't say, "Here it is, here's the record," right?

KEVIN MADDEN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, I mean, you can. You can make the record about the governor's experience in the private sector, the governor's experience in working with a successful venture like Bain Capital. And couple that with his experience as a very successful governor, and you can paint a portrait of a candidate and a vision that Governor Romney has for the future and that is a better economy, better...

KING: But Governor Romney is on the record. One time he said 100,000. Now they say thousands. You heard Steve Rattner on another network here, saying it was a mistake.

MADDEN: Forgetting the actual numbers, I think you can have an argument about whether or not it had a positive impact on job creation and whether or not that experience is the exact type of experience that we need to help turn around this economy and then contrast that with President Obama's lack of leadership on the economy and the fact that his lack of experience when he became president -- and we've seen it for three and a half years -- it hasn't helped move the economy forward. And that's what the American public wants. And all do you is present the choice to the American public.

KING: When Democrats at Bain Capital say, "This is not fair," and they say they have complained to Team Obama, saying, "We understand. It's politics." But this is not fair. It's a distortion of who we are. Do you have any obligation to listen to people who are Democrats, not Republicans. Democrats.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If those Democrats have an issue with Bain being an issue in the campaign, they should go talk to Romney. Because Romney was the one who opened up the floodgates because he is putting this on a table as a reason why the American people should elect him.

Well, you know what? To your point, then his -- his -- everything he did at Bain is fair game.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Because look, what Democrats are saying is that we don't begrudge Romney his wealth. We don't begrudge the fact that he was immensely good at his job.

But then don't put on the table that making a lot of money for yourself and making a lot of money for your investors puts you in a position to be president of the United States, because his job was not to create jobs.

KING: This was one steel company that -- in the Obama ad, it's one steel company in Kansas City area that got shut down. I want you to listen here. This is a Web video put up by the Romney campaign today. It's a Web video. We don't usually air them, because that means there's no money put behind them. They're letting people go to the Web site. We'll just play a snippet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: SDI (ph) almost never got started. When others shied away, Mitt Romney's private-sector leadership team stepped in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Building a dream with over 6,000 employees today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it wasn't for a company like Steel Dynamics, this county wouldn't have a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is a powerful video if you watch it, Michael, but here's the question. Is Governor Romney taking the bait? If he spends his precious resources defending his record, is he taking time away from questioning the president?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think he probably is, because I think the most profitable route for him is to just attack Obama's economic record. And I think that you frequently see that. When an attack comes in against him, he goes straight back to jobs, to the economy, and so that is the playing field that Romney wants to be on. He's somewhat on the defensive here.

But I think he can't just let this go. Obama doesn't want to talk about the economy. He wants to define Romney right now. He wants to demonstrate to people that he is not an economic steward that they can trust and he's looking out for their interests.

So he's kind of taking the bait, but I don't think he can let Obama define him at this early state. It's a very important moment.

MADDEN: I would just argue that it's not -- I don't think we're at all on the defensive. I think we seize this as an opportunity to really offer -- offer a choice to the American public about what you want out of a president with -- regards to experience in creating jobs. And that when you actually have that choice in November, about a president who hasn't created enough jobs, hasn't put the economy back on track...

CARDONA: And the Obama campaign is going to be happy to take that -- that comparison, because you have Obama, who's created 4.2 million jobs, versus Romney at Bain, questionable job creation numbers. He created a lot of jobs in China and Indonesia. And then as governor, he was 47th in job creation in the country. I think that's a good comparison.

KING: We'll call a quick timeout. Mr. Madden will prepare his rebuttal to that. A quick time-out, everyone. We'll be back in just a moment. More politics, including some new poll numbers and guess what? The presidential race is shifting yet again.

Also coming up, how do you patch a $16 billion hole in the budget? California's governor has a plan. Big cuts, big tax hikes, too. We'll spell it out.

And this dog's dance moves -- there you go right there -- I'm going to actually say these words -- just won him and his owner $800,000. His secret to success next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back talking politics with Michael Crowley, Maria Cardona, and Kevin Madden. And while we've been on the air, a new CBS/"New York Times" poll comes out tonight.

And Maria Cardona, why is the Obama campaign going negative in its ads? Well, Mitt Romney 46 percent, Barack Obama 43 percent. That's from a tie just last month. Largely, I think, because of economic anxiety in the country, but this one at the moment is trending not your way.

CARDONA: Well, look, there are clearly months to go to the election. And then...

KING: A hundred and seventy-six days, but we're not counting.

CARDONA: You are counting, right. You're counting the seconds. I know you are.

It's still a dead heat. And look, the president is the first one to say this is going to be a very, very tough election. One of the reasons why I'm actually glad as a Democrat that they are coming out so aggressively and so strong so soon is because -- and you know this, John -- Democrats in the past have been too nice and have been -- have let their opponents be the ones to define him, i.e. Kerry.

KING: Wait, wait, wait. Oh, Kerry, OK. I was going to say Obama- Clinton. Obama-Clinton, that was so nice, that was sweet.

CARDONA: Kerry. And so that's not going to happen again. And so this is going to be an election where the Obama campaign is going to make sure that the -- that voters know exactly what this election is about, and it's about a choice of continuing to be on the right path or the alternative.

KING: What does it say, Michael, that after the bloody Republican primaries, when it was all about the Republicans, when the president had no opposition, it's a statistical tie, but Romney up by 3 points.

CROWLEY: Well, for one thing, it's still a pretty evenly divided country. For another thing, I think it reflects the situation we have with the economy right now. Where, you know, there was a point where it looked like it was going to be hard for Obama to get reelected because the economy was in such a disaster state.

Then I think there was some overconfidence on the part of Democrats, because the economic engine was revving up and it sounded pretty good.

And I think now we're kind of in this gray area, and it could break either way. I think the next couple months of jobs numbers -- the next three months of jobs numbers -- could be decisive. So I think it reflects a sort of moment of uncertainty in the country.

KING: And every silver lining has a cloud. Are you ready?

Susana Martinez -- Susana Martinez, though, the governor of New Mexico, the Latino votes will be critical. Governor Romney has a little oomph at the moment, a little momentum.

She says this to "Newsweek": "Self-deport? What the heck does that mean? I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign, but now there's an opportunity for Governor Romney to have a sincere conversation about what he can do and why."

That's not good news.

MADDEN: No, it is good news. I actually agree with her. I think she's right, that it is an opportunity right now, the reason that you have a sitting president, an incumbent president with a billion dollars sitting at 43 percent, under 50 percent, because people are very anxious about the state of the economy.

KING: Should he back off "self-deport"?

MADDEN: Look, I think that Governor Romney has an opportunity here, just like Governor Martinez said, to talk in a very holistic way about what he would do to help all Latinos, and mainly on the issue of the economy. The Hispanics care about it, African-Americans care about it, whites care about it.

KING: When he does, your friend Ms. Cardona will come back and we'll debate that. Tonight -- tonight I'm going to call a time-out.

Michael, Kevin, Maria, thanks so much. Kate Bolduan is back with the latest news you need to know right now. Hey, there.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there.

Good evening, everyone.

The Dow closed down 125 points, pushed by worries that Greece might quit the euro. Talks between the Greek president and the leaders of three main parties ended tonight with no resolution. The debt-ridden country has until Thursday to either form a government or call for new elections. So walking through the domino effect here, no government means Greece could run out of money to pay its debts, and that may crash the euro.

Taxing the rich. Well, that's one way California Governor Jerry Brown plans to solve his state' $16 billion budget crisis. He hopes the tax -- the tax hike coupled with cuts to health care for the poor and fewer work hours for state employees will help close the gap. But Governor Brown warns that, if voters don't approve the plan, billions will be cut from education programs.

And do you hear the names Ethan, Olivia or Noah perhaps quite a bit lately? It could be because those are some of the most popular baby names of 2011. The Social Security administration published the full list today. The top three boys' names are Jacob, Mason and William. And the top three girls' names are Sophia, Isabella and Emma.

I'm always interested in these lists. I'm always, John, looking at what big news events happened in the past year and what movies started these trends. I'm finding a couple little threads here. KING: I'm flying up to Boston to see my Noah tonight, but he's 18. So I guess that -- I guess that...

BOLDUAN: You're way ahead of the curve.

KING: For this I went to college. Tonight's moment you may have missed. Reality TV lovers in Britain have spoken. And I'm going to tell you about it.

They say a dog is more skilled than the human contestants on "Britain's Got Talent."

(BEGIN VIDEO)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Pudsey and his 17-year-old owner, Ashleigh, performing at this weekend's finals. The dancing duo won about $800,000. So what's the secret to Pudsey's success? Of course, food.

BOLDUAN: That's the only reason we work, isn't it?

KING: Treats, yes. I don't know about that.

BOLDUAN: I think it was great. I mean, I don't know if it's the first time that a pet has won that, but we'll see.

KING: I don't know. I don't know. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.