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Mitt Romney Rejects a Nasty Campaign Advertising Idea; Survivor is Suing Princess Cruise Lines; FaceBook Founder Mark Zuckerberg; FaceBook Co-Founder Saverin Slammed by Senators; France's Unmarried First Lady; Tsunami Debris Heads for West Coast; Christie and Booker Do Seinfeld; Woman Drives 25 Miles After Moose Collision

Aired May 19, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Later on the SITUATION ROOM, Mitt Romney rejects a nasty campaign advertising idea, bringing back the flap of Barack Obama's old pastor. But will the political ad war soon explode into new controversy?

And facebook frenzy, the social media giant starts selling its own shares on Wall Street creating instant millionaires and billionaires.

And three fishermen stranded at sea pleading for help from a passing cruise ship but allegedly ignored. Now the sole survivor of that horrific 28-day ordeal takes matters into his own hands.

We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

The 2012 campaign ad wars are threatening to take an ugly new turn by dredging up the past. So far Mitt Romney is rejecting a proposed anti-Obama advertising offensive that would have brought back a controversial figure from the last presidential campaign.

Here is CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a pitch to tear down the president laid out in this proposal obtained by the "New York times" for a multi-media ad campaign that recommends, quote, "hitting Barack right between the eyes." Entitled "the defeat of Barack Hussein Obama, the Ricketts' plan and his spending for good," it proposal schedule is out o series of TV spots featuring the president's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, in the clips that nearly derailed his 2008 previous campaign.

A conservative political action committee called ending spending says it received the proposal but rejected it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to stop this incredible spending.

ACOSTA: The PAC is aligned with online brokerage tycoon Joe rickets seeing here in his own Web video railing against the national debt. In statement he says Ricketts' PAC said Ricketts is neither the author nor funder of the so-called Ricketts' plan to defeat Mr. Obama. The plan ad campaign is filled with racial overtones referring to the president as the metrosexual black Abe Lincoln. It was emerged just a hyper-partisan, hyper-elitist, hyper-liberal politician. It was to kick off at the opening of the democratic national convention in Charlotte. At a campaign stop, vice president Joe Biden questioned the morality of the plan offense.

JOE BIDEN, VIE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think these guys like that are so missed understand the state of the union. They act like it's 1942.

ROMNEY: It is like breakfast is served.

ACOSTA: When asked about the story on his campaign plane, Mitt Romney said he hadn't read it yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Sir, have you seen the report in the times this morning?

ROMNEY: I haven't seen the papers this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Governor. Governor, do you think Reverend Wright is off limits in this campaign?

ROMNEY: I'll be right back, I'll be right back.


ACOSTA: Slammed by the Obama campaign for that non-response, Romney went further at a campaign event later in the day.

ROMNEY: I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America. I've been disappointed in the president's campaign to date, which is focused on character assassination.

ACOSTA: But the GOP contender did raise the question of Wright's influence on the president earlier this year in, in a radio interview with Sean Hannity.

ROMNEY: The president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard not from those who are believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like to see America more secular. And I'm not sure which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we must be a less --

ACOSTA: Romney defended those comments.

ROMNEY: I stand by what I said whatever it was.

ACOSTA: Back in 2008, John McCain was offered the chance to use Jeremiah Wright in his own ad, but he declines saying he did not want to run that kind of campaign. This time around the proposed Wright offensive managed to inject the pastor into the news cycle without spending a dime on air time.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Naples, Florida.


BLITZER: Let's turn to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

Dan, what's the White House reaction to this idea of trying to revive the whole Reverend Wright controversy?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We, you know. First of all, you saw the Obama campaign really jump all over this, blasting Romney for not coming out and issuing a stronger statement initially. What they're trying to use this to do is to show that --

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, everyone. We'll get back to that in a moment. We're going to take you now live to Camp David, the president speaking. He's meeting with leaders from around the world, to try to boost the world, the global economy. Let's listen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To get back to a path of recovery and growth. Our progress has been tested at times by shocks like the disaster in Japan, for example. Today it's threatened once again by the serious situation in the Euro zone.

As all of the leaders here today agreed, growth and jobs must be our top priority. A stable, growing European economy is in everybody's best interests, including America's. Europe is our largest economic partner. Put simply, if a company is forced to cut back in Paris or Madrid that is correct might mean less business for manufacturers in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. And that might mean a tougher time for families and communities that depend on that business.

And that's why even as we've confronted our own economic challenges over the past few year, we've collaborated closely with our European allies and partners as they confronted theirs. And today, we discussed ways they can promote growth and job creation right now while still carrying out reforms necessary to stabilize and strengthen their economies for the future.

We know it is possible, in part based on our own experience here. In my earliest days in office, we took decisive steps to confront our own financial crisis, for making banks submit to stress tests and rebuilding their capital and we put in place some of the strongest financial reform since the great depression. At the same time, we worked to get our own fiscal house in order in a responsible way.

And through it all, even as we worked to stabilize the financial sector and bring down our deficits and debt over the longer term, we stayed focused on growing the economy and creating jobs in the immediate term. Of course we still have a lot of work to do. Too many of our people are still looking for jobs that pay the bills. Our deficits are still too high, but after shrinking by nearly nine percent the quarter before I took office, America's economy has now grown for almost three consecutive years.

After losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, our businesses have created more than four million jobs over the past 26 months. Exports have surged and manufacturers are investing in America again. And this economic growth then gives us more room to take a balanced approach to reducing our deficit and debt while preserving our investments in the drivers of growth and job creation over the long term, education, animation and infrastructure for the 21st century.

Europe's situation of course is more complicated. They've got a political and economic crisis facing Greece, slow growth and very high unemployment in several countries. And what's more when they want to decide on a way to move forward, there are 17 countries in the Euro zone that need to come to an agreement. We recognize that and we respect that.

But the direction the debate has taken recently should give us confidence. Europe has taken significant steps to manage the crisis, individual countries and the European union as a whole have engaged in significant reforms that will increase the prospects of long-term growth.

And there's now an emerging con sense us that more must be done to create growth and job creation right now in the context of these fiscal and structural reforms. That consensus for progress was strengthened here at Camp David.

Today we agreed that we must take steps to boost confidence and to promote growth and demand while getting our fiscal houses in order. We agreed upon the importance of a strong and cohesive Euro zone and affirmed our interest in Greece staying in the Euro zone while respecting its commitments.

Of course we also recognize the painful sacrifices that the Greek people are making at this difficult time and I know my European colleagues will carry forward these discussions as they prepare for meetings next week.

The leaders here understand the stakes. They know the magnitude of the choices they have to make and the enormous political, economic and social costs if they don't. In addition to our G8 meeting, I was able to talk to them individually over the last two days and I reaffirmed that Europe has the capacity to meet its challenges and America is not only confident in its ability to meet their challenges but we are supportive of their efforts.

This morning, I updated you on the progress we made last night in our discussion of security issues. And today following our discussion of the economy, we also made progress on a range of other important challenges. We discussed the importance of pursuing an all of the above strategy for energy security in a safe and sustainable way.

Our leaders agreed to join a new U.S. led coalition to address climate change in part by reducing short-lived pollutants and in the face of increasing disruptions in the supplies of oil. We agreed that we must closely monitor global energy markets. Together we stand ready to call upon the international energy agency to take action to ensure the market remains fully and timely supplied.

We also announced a new alliance on food security, with African leaders in the private sector as part of an effort to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade. We discussed our support for a sustainable Afghan economy --

LEMON: President Obama speaking at Camp David talking about what they're talking about at the G8 summit, economics of course, climate change and the rest we will monitor here on CNN.

OBAMA: So, I'm very pleased we were able to make progress here at Camp David and we are going to keep at it. And tomorrow we begin out NATO summit in my hometown of Chicago where we will discuss our plans to responsibly end the war in Afghanistan.


BLITZER: We're seeing early signs of just how rough this presidential campaign could get, Mitt Romney now rejecting a proposal to revise the Reverend Wright controversy while Democrat continue to handle of Romney's business record.

Let's discuss what's going on with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

Let's talk about Bain Capital, Gloria, first of all. This is -- the Democrats clearly want to make this a huge issue.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They do. And that's because they're looking at the polls and they're seeing that the one area in which Barack Obama does not do well against Mitt Romney is the area of who's best able to manage the economy.

And so, what they're trying to do now is say, you know what, maybe he's not best able to manage the economy, look at the way he used Bain Capital and look at how many people lost their jobs. So they're trying to disqualify him on that front and define him during this part of the campaign.

BLITZER: I found it interesting, Candy, that the Romney folks now are saying when the president forced the General Motors and Chrysler to go through bankruptcy, a lot of people lost their jobs as well.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Yes. I think the response in the Romney campaign has not been that great so far. It's going to come up again. They'll have another shot at this.

But the fact is it fits well into the Obama re-elect camp where they want to say there's them and then there's us. We heard that from Joe Biden. They don't get us. They don't understand us middle-class folks. It's not just about, yes, he managed a business and looked how many jobs he's lost. It's also about he's a rich guy. He got rich off of this. He doesn't understand.

BLITZER: What you are saying is this is a winning issue, the Democrats believe, for the president?

CROWLEY: Yes. BORGER: Well, can I just say that I'm not so sure that class warfare to say they don't get us, the way Joe Biden did this week, is a winning argument necessarily with independent voters. Those --

CROWLEY: I don't think so. I think they think so.

BORGER: Right. Those are the people they have to, you know, convince. I think that could turn off a bunch of independent voters.

CROWLEY: Class warfare, they don't like to call it that in the re- elect committee, but, has not shown to work. We've seen it before we saw Al Gore sort of try it, it clearly didn't work there.

BLITZER: And you know what else isn't going to work, by all accounts except for a small element, there is reviving the Reverend Wright uproar against them. They tried those four years ago. It didn't exactly work great. And they're running away from this, the Romney folks as quickly, Candy, as they can.

CROWLEY: Yes. Because they see it not just a there was some full horror here I think on the parts of Democrats to steer this story, why, because it's a bad issue for Republicans. It brings up race and that does turn off independents. That does -- they don't want to be seen as intolerant. They don't want to be seen as aligned with anything like that and I think the Romney folks get that. And before it could touch someone them in a heavy handed way, they said we renounce this.

BORGER: You know, also, what the president really has going for him is that he's liked by a majority of the American public. And so, you have an ad like this and it will turn a lot of voters off. Also, Mitt Romney has to stick to his economic message. That's his chief message. Any moment, he is talking about something else it's not a moment of opportunity for them. He has got to talk about jobs, the economy and health care. And that's what we are going to be hearing from him about. He doesn't want to be talking about Reverend Wright.

BLITZER: Well, what is interesting also this week, we learned that the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign, they are both raising about the same amount of money now, Candy, about $40 million, $45 million. They're both doing relatively equally as well.

CROWLEY: I think just, you know, sort of putting a period on what we've been seeing for a while, this is going to be a close race there. You now seeing - I mean, Romney is beginning to catch up because now it just Romney. And he will be able to -- I don't know that you can ever get to the point where a president is simply because fund-raising for a president is a lot easier than it is as a challenger but nonetheless, there are plenty of folks they can go to. And there, you know, I think it just shows this is going to be a close race.

BLITZER: They're both going to have hundreds of millions of dollars.


BLITZER: Where the Republicans do have an advantage, Gloria, are the super PACs. They seem to be able to raise a lot more money in those super PACs in the Democrats right now or more, let's say they are not --.

BORGER: Well, the Democrats now have to go to the grass roots because they understand this isn't going to be like in November of 2008 where they were way ahead. Right now we're looking at a race that could be an almost at parity here. So, it's whole different ball game. And of course at first the president was opposed to super PACs, now he's given the super PACs his blessing because he's wants to compete against the Republican super PACs.

But don't forget, I mean, these things have an awful lot of influence in the campaign but as we saw that the Reverend Right thing, sometimes they can run amuck.

BLITZER: These super PACs?

BORGER: These super PACs.

BLITZER: Because there's supposed to be no control no, alignment whatsoever. Why are you smiling?


CROWLEY: I think it's a very thin line there and I think it's crossed at the time. I mean, you know, what is coordination? Is it calling the guy and saying hey, will you run in these states or is it simply knowing what the guy is going to do and could you something. I mean, I honestly, I think this line is very blur if it is even there.

BORGER: Right. Or is it the candidate going to the bully pulpit saying I repudiate that kind of an ad where in your indirectly talking to the super PAC which is you are saying, you got to stop them.

BLITZER: You mean super PACs are only getting started. And the Democrats say, you know what, they hate these super PACs but they don't want to, quote, "unilaterally disarm" in the face of this war going on.

You have a big show tomorrow on "STATE OF THE UNION "?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. We're going to talk to David Axelrod and Reince Priebus about some of these issues. We also have on Barbara Boxer and Kay Bailey Hutchison to give us their view of what's going on in the Senate, which at the moment appears to be nothing.

BLITZER: Are we surprised?

CROWLEY: No, we're not.

BLITZER: 9:00 a.m. and noon Sunday. Candy Crowley, "STATE OF THE UNION."

Thanks very much for coming in.

Lost at sea, his lawyer says he survived by drinking rain water and eating rotting fish. Now, the lone survivor of the stranded boat fights back against the cruise line he says ignored him.

And at first for France, we're going to tell you what's so unusual about the country's new first lady. Stick around.

You are in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Three fishermen stranded at sea, pleading for help from a passing cruise ships but allegedly ignored. Now, the sole survivor of that horrific 28-day ordeal is taking matters into his own hands.

Our Brian Todd is working the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what the passengers saw, a disabled fishing boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The passengers were on board "the star princess," a massive cruise liner that had come win sight of the boat. One of the passengers who spotted it, Judy Meredith described what a man on the stranded boat was doing.

JUDY MEREDITH, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: You could see him doing this with his shirt, over and over and over.

TODD: Meredith and at least one other passenger, Jeff Gilligan, who took this photo, said they immediately notified the crew member on the Star Princess Cruise ship. They say the crew member visually confirmed the distressed boat on his own but the cruise ship never stopped.

JEFF GILLIGAN, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: While we were on the ship, the feeling of powerlessness because we would have liked to somehow gone over and rescued them.

TODD: The three people on the disabled boat were growing more desperate by the moment. One of them, Adrian Vasquez, is now suing princess cruises for neglect. He spoke with the web site Panama guide.

ADRIAN VASQUEZ, RESCUED BOATER (through translator): It was a really big boat. It was white and had the name in red.

TODD: Vasquez was on the disabled fishing boat with two companions. His complaint against princess cruise lines says after they were spotted by the cruise ship passengers on March 10th, one of his companion, a 16-year-old having lost all hope, died that very same day. The complaint said the other died five days later.

Vasquez, who would set off from Panama on February 24th was rescued by another fishing boat near the Galapagos Islands after having been a drift for nearly a month. His lawyer says Vasquez survived by drinking rain water and eating rotting fish. Contacted by CNN, Princess cruise has issued a statement saying it suspects this was a case of unfortunate miscommunication, that after the crew members was alerted by passenger, regretfully the captain of the Star Princess was never notified of the passenger's concern and if he had been, he would have had an opportunity to respond.

I spoke with an attorney for Vasquez.

The Princess cruise line's statement says the captain was never notified. What does that mean as far as you're concerned?

ROBERT DICKMAN, ATTORNEY FOR RESCUED BOATER: Well, the fact that the captain wasn't notified is an admission of gross negligence on their part. The captain should have been told whatever any crew member was told about this distressed vessel. There's a rule in admiralty, you must go up the chain of command.

TODD: Robert Dickman says he believed one reason that crew ship didn't stop could be because it was scheduled to make a port of call in Punta Rena Costa Rica, the next day on March 11th. And he says, if the ship had stopped to help and maybe missed that scheduled docking, it would have lost a lot of money in concessions. A spokeswoman for princess cruises says that assertion is absolutely false.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Facebook has gone public with its stocks and one of its founders apparently is trying to avoid paying taxes on his expected windfall. Some senators though, say no way.

And France's new socialist president is promising to do things differently. He already is by not being married to his first lady.

And more than a million times of tsunami debris starting to reach the North American shore. Could it be radioactive? We will have a full report.


BLITZER: FaceBook certainly has a lot of new friends, investors who clamored to buy stock when the company went public on Friday. FaceBook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is about to get even richer at the age of 28. He celebrated his birthday this week.

CNN's Silicon Valley correspondent, Dan Simon, is taking an in-depth look at the young man who helped change the way the world communicates.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FOUNDER & CEO, FACEBOOK: Gosh. OK. I'm glad this isn't live.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 2006, about two years after launching FaceBook from his Harvard dorm. A nervous and camera-shy Mark Zuckerberg...

ZUCKERBERG: Sorry. Can I start that a different way?


ZUCKERBERG: I'm just, like, so not on today.


SIMON: ... sits down for a CNN interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark, can just say your name and pronounce it so nobody messes it up and we have it on tape if...

ZUCKERBERG: Sure. It's Mark Zuckerberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you like to be identified? Your title...

ZUCKERBERG: Founder and CEO.

SIMON (voice-over): Outside of Silicon Valley, he was such an unknown quantity that our producer had to ask the most basic of questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did the company start?

ZUCKERBERG: Well, it didn't start as a company. I was a sophomore at Harvard, and -- and we needed to -- I guess -- I've never really been asked how the company was started before.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did FaceBook start?


ZUCKERBERG: I'm a little embarrassed. You would think that I would have been asked that, like, a ton of times.

SIMON: Speaking-wise, he may have been rough around the edges, but even then it was clear Zuckerberg had a laser-like focus of what he wanted FaceBook to become.

ZUCKERBERG: We view the site as sort of an information directory. It helps you better understand what's going on around you. And once you're better informed about the people around you and what's going on, you're in a better position to meet people, connect with all these people.

SIMON: Like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs before him, Zuckerberg is one of those rare CEOs whose pioneering accomplishments, fame and persona make him an especially compelling figure.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, AUTHOR, "THE FACEBOOK EFFECT": In private, I think Mark is a pretty entertaining, engaging fellow who's funny, who's got a lot of friends. SIMON: David Kirkpatrick is what you might call a FaceBook historian, author of the best-selling book, "The FaceBook Effect."

KIRKPATRICK: He's much more relaxed in private than he is in public. I don't think even to this day, he really would like to be as much of a public figure as he is. And if it were up to him, he'd never be on a stage. He'd mostly just be sitting in front of a computer coding because that's what he loves to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see FaceBook as your dream job or a stepping stone to something else?

ZUCKERBERG: It's definitely not a stepping stone. I don't necessarily think about what my dream job would be, but I guess this is pretty cool. I get to build what I want. That's awesome.

SIMON: It's interesting to get a glimpse of FaceBook's small office back then. Notice the newspapers on the desk. It was only six years ago, but this was pre-iPhone and iPad. But one thing that hasn't really changed, Zuckerberg's attire, T-shirt and sandals. Also unchanged and most important...

ZUCKERBERG: Hi. I'm Mark Zuckerberg, founder of FaceBook, an on-line social directory.

SIMON: ... his core vision for the company, to use technology to connect people to their friends.

ZUCKERBERG: I'm not building a company for the sake of building a company or because I think it's a good way to make a lot of money. I think that the philosophy that this company has is that you solve an important problem, and then you have the ability to have a good business, but the basis of all that is solving an important problem.

SIMON: Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


BLITZER: One of FaceBook's co-founders is under fire right now, accused of renouncing his United States citizenship to avoid paying taxes. Some U.S. senators are fuming, and they say they are going to make him pay.

Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Lots of motion, lots of activity up on Capitol Hill on this issue.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, something big in the news, they certainly will be jumping on it on Capitol Hill. But you know, last year, 1,800 people in the U.S. gave up their U.S. citizenship. Only one was a FaceBook billionaire. And a pair of senators using incredibly harsh language -- they're calling him "despicable."


BASH (voice-over): In the movie "Social Network," Eduardo Saverin was a sympathetic figure betrayed by FaceBook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You signed the papers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to blame me because you are the business head of the company and you made a bad business deal with your own company?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just going to be like I'm not a part of FaceBook!

BASH: But now the way these senators see it, Saverin is hardly sympathetic.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire. This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.

BASH: The back story -- Saverin lost his position at FaceBook but still has an estimated 4 percent stake in the company, worth billions of dollars. Ahead of FaceBook's IPO, Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship in favor of the country he's lived in since 2009, Singapore, which has no taxes on capital gains. This could save Saverin tens of millions in U.S. taxes.

SCHUMER: Eduardo Saverin wants to de-friend the United States of America just to avoid paying taxes, and we aren't going to let him get away with it.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: And he spits in the eye of the American people. And when he does, it's an insult. He should be held accountable.

BASH: Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey came up with legislation to force Saverin to pay taxes on FaceBook profits. It would require wealthy Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship to still pay a 30 percent capital gains tax on U.S. investments, double the rate for a U.S. citizen. If they don't pay that and back income taxes, they'd be barred from the U.S.

In a carefully worded statement, Saverin responded that he will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government. "I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen."

Note he says nothing about paying taxes on FaceBook profits he'd make now that he's no longer a U.S. citizen. Saverin insists he only expatriated because he wants to live in Singapore. Schumer says if you think that's true, he has a bridge you can buy.

SCHUMER: Anyone who believes Mr. Saverin didn't do this at least in good part for tax purposes is quite gullible.

BASH: A footnote. Schumer posted a link to his new legislation, where else, on his FaceBook page.


BASH: The legislation does allow the IRS to exempt Americans who renounce U.S. citizenship for clearly legitimate reasons. For example, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren renounced his citizenship not for tax purposes, but Wolf, he did it to comply with Israeli law.

BLITZER: And like Queen Rania of Jordan did when she became queen of Jordan. She was an American citizen, had to renounce that in order to become the queen of Jordan.

BASH: That's right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana Bash.

BASH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Even by French standards, the new president, Francois Hollande, has an unusual personal life for a politician. And watch two of New Jersey's best-known political figures spoof themselves and the old "Seinfeld" sitcom.


BLITZER: The new socialist president of France is making his debut on the world stage. He's here in the United States for the G-8 and NATO summits and for some personal face time with President Obama. Francois Hollande's inauguration this week marked a dramatic transition for France in more ways than one. The new first lady is very different than Carla Bruni Sarkozy. Among other things, she's not married.

Here's CNN's Hala Gorani.


HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is France's first unmarried premiere dame. Valerie Trierweiler is the girlfriend of President Francois Hollande, but she prefers the term "companion." Their affection for one another was evident election eve, a relationship that began in 2005 while they were both with their former partners.

CAROLINE LAURENT-SIMON, REPORTER, FRENCH "ELLE" MAGAZINE (through translator): They've known each other for a very long time, Valerie Trierweiler, because of "Paris Match" and before that, she was with another paper. She has always been a political journalist. She followed the Socialist Party for "Paris Match" so they've known each other for at least 20 years.

GORANI: A feisty political journalist, the twice-divorced mother of three gave up her career so she could actively campaign for Hollande. And now she has some big shoes to fill, size 38 Louboutin peep-toe pumps, to be precise. Singer, supermodel and outgoing first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, has always fashioned (ph) to the spotlight. But that could be out of character for France's new first lady, who says she will keep her day job.

LAURENT-SIMON (through translator): She wants to stay a normal woman. She says herself that she has no family wealth. She has three children, three adolescents, who she still looks after. And for her, it's crucial that she remain independent, especially financially independent with regards to her husband. She is not one to sponge off the state, so for the first time in France, we could have a first lady who is a working woman.

GORANI (on camera): But working as a political journalist when you're in a relationship with a government official -- no less the president -- could be viewed as a conflict of interest. Even still, it wouldn't be the first time in France. The former foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, is married to a woman in the news business.

(voice-over): Work aside, relationships among Paris's power elite have been a bit complicated. Bruni Sarkozy married her husband after he divorced his second wife while in office. Francois Mitterrand, the last Socialist president, had a wife and a mistress, fathered children with both, even though Mitterrand ordered a cabinet official and a top aide to marry their girlfriends for protocol. But it seems times may have changed.

LAURENT-SIMON (through translator): I think the French public wants a revolution in opinion. A lot of couples in France live together. So does Hollande and Trierweiler, though it does not shock anyone. A lot of French families are step-families. The couple are at the head of a step-family.

GORANI: France's first couple may never feel the need to marry, but then again, they haven't ruled it out.

Hala Gorani, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: And the new French president also never married his first partner, Segolene Royale. She was the Socialist presidential candidate five years ago and lost to the now former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande and Royale have four children, by the way. They're grown now and in their 20s.

It was one of the worst natural disasters in history. The devastating tsunami in Japan swept over one million tons of debris out to sea, and now it could have a major impact on the West Coast of the United States.

Also, probably everyone has an archnemesis. Now the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie -- for him, it's the mayor of Newark. We have their hilarious tribute to Jerry Seinfeld's Newman, and that's coming up, as well.


BLITZER: The United States is just now beginning to feel the blow of that devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan more than a year ago. Now the West Coast of the United States is bracing for what could be a major threat, with tons of debris headed directly that way.

Let's bring in our own Lisa Sylvester. She's working the story and has details -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a growing concern. Scientists tracking the flow of the debris say it's moving much faster than previously thought. 2013 and 2014 are when the western coast of North America could be hit with a wall of debris. But there are major concerns that the United States may not be ready.


(voice-over): One-and-a-half million tons of tsunami debris moving across the Pacific Ocean, just starting to reach the West Coast of North America. Recently, this Harley-Davidson motorcycle washed up on a remote Canadian island. Thousands of pieces of plastic, Styrofoam and household goods are expected to make landfall starting next year.

Nick Mallos of Ocean Conservancy says the items are not radioactive but still pose a danger to marine life.

NICK MALLOS, OCEAN CONSERVANCY: We know it harms marine mammals. We know it harms sea turtles and birds, and we know it has an impact on coastal economies. So we can't predict the future in terms of exactly where this debris is going to end up, but we certainly can make sure that we prepare for it.

SYLVESTER: This animation from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the path of the debris as it moves across the northern Pacific. NOAA is the lead federal agency for the cleanup, but some U.S. senators are not happy with the progress that's been made.

In a hearing, NOAA's National Ocean Service acknowledged it doesn't have the budget or a plan. Alaskan Senator Mark Begich.

SEN. MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA: Have you made a low-risk, medium-risk, high-risk cost analysis of what this would be? And the answer from your administrator was no, which made no sense to us after a year knowing -- I don't know, tsunami did happen.

DAVID KENNEDY, NATIONAL OCEANIC & ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: I don't have an answer that's going to make you happy, that's for sure. I really don't. You know, lots of priorities going on and a small program, and we're out there and we don't know what the scope is, don't have a clue.

SYLVESTER: David Kennedy, assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service of NOAA, admits they don't have the funds to clean up remote areas. NOAA's marine debris program is facing a 25 percent cut under the Obama administration budget for next year, so the cleanup may become the problem of cash-strapped states already struggling to make ends meet.

BEGICH: To be very frank with you, it's somewhat frustrating to hear that statement because the role of the federal government in emergencies is to assist states, not just say, It's your responsibility, good luck, because that's not acceptable.


SYLVESTER: The debris is following general ocean current flows, but it has dispersed, which has made it harder to track by satellite. In March, there was a Japanese ship that surfaced off the coast of Alaska. It made that 4,500-mile trip. It was not picked up by satellite, it just showed up. It was sunk by the Coast Guard, but it shows you that there may be a lot of other surprises along the western coastline coming up.

BLITZER: We saw Senator Begich of Alaska. So is Alaska the most endangered right now by this debris coming across the Pacific?

SYLVESTER: Yes, if you look and you follow the map of where they think this debris is right now, it is headed toward Alaska. It's headed to Washington state. These are some of the major areas. And also, all the way down to California. You know, the mayor of Long Beach is very concerned that they are going to have a lot of this stuff coming on their shore without the money, the resources to clean it up.

BLITZER: Well, they better get ready because that could be a disaster.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: A second disaster. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that report.

Switching gears, if you're a fan of "Seinfeld," you know Jerry's archrival is a mailman, Newman. Well, New Jersey's governor Chris Christie has his own nemesis, and he's poking fun at him in a new video.

And a woman drives 25 miles with the roof of her car torn halfway off. If you want to know what happened it to, don't ask the driver. She has no idea. She certainly had no idea anything was wrong.


BLITZER: You may remember the story last month of Newark, New Jersey, Democrat Cory Booker, rescuing a woman from a burning house. Well, the state's governor, Republican Chris Christie, teamed up with Booker to poke some fun at his heroics.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Hey, listen, I got to get going. I think we're going to have a flat tire here. All right. All right. I'll hang up first. Good-bye.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NJ: Hey, Gov! Gov! Sit tight. I got this.



BOOKER: Governor, stand back! I got this. I got this.


BOOKER: Governor Romney -- Governor Romney, yes, yes, that was me running into the fire. Yes. I do shovel snow, as well. Yes, you're very persuasive, but I'm not a number two guy. I'm not a background singer. Mitt, sir, with all due respect, I know you need a big...

CHRISTIE: Excuse me, Mayor. I got this.

BOOKER: Christie!


BLITZER: As fans of "Seinfeld" already know, they got the idea from Jerry Seinfeld and his archnemesis, Newman. Take a listen.


JERRY SEINFELD, "SEINFELD": You're going to the Super Bowl?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am! A guy on my mail route just got a couple of tickets, and he offered one to me.

SEINFELD: What's his name?


SEINFELD: That's my ticket!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it? Oh! Well, if only you'd known, you could have saved some time and given it directly to me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a receipt for a rental car with your signature, including a report of some damage to the rear seat. It seems as if the springs were so compressed that they completely collapsed the right side.



BLITZER: Certain moments of your life that are also so intense, so powerful, they're etched in our memories forever. And apparently, there are some that are immediately forgotten. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What's black and blue and has fur all over? A Canadian motorist who hit a moose, lost all memory of the accident, and drove the car like this 25 miles to arrive at work on time. Co-worker Cindy Paulson came running.

CINDY PAULSON, CO-WORKER: And I said, Michelle, what happened? And I heard, Nothing.

MICHELLE HIGGINS, HIT MOOSE: And then -- well, she asked me if I was OK. And I said, yes. I said, Why wouldn't I be?

MOOS: Blood streaming down her swollen head.

PAULSON: And I said, Michelle, you were in an accident. And she said, No, I wasn't.

MOOS: But when she turned and saw her car, the one she had just stepped out of...

HIGGINS: I was devastated to see the state my car was in.

MOOS: Next stop, the hospital. Michelle Higgins has been recovering ever since from two broken bones in her neck and bruises galore.

(on camera): Did you actually have a hoof print on your face?

HIGGINS: Right up there.

MOOS (voice-over): She calls it a scuff mark.

(on camera): But the moose looked worse than Michelle did. Police found it dead on the side of the road.

(voice-over): Michelle was driving from home to her job as a behavior therapist in Gander, Newfoundland. She believes she rounded a bend on the TransCanada Highway and struck the moose, peeling back the top of the car. Officials told her...

HIGGINS: If I had been an inch taller, they say that it would have took the top of my head off.

MOOS: She has no memory of driving the next 25 miles.

(on camera): You're stopping at red lights and you're making lefts and rights and...

HIGGINS: Exactly. Yes. I made two -- I made two lefts and a right.

MOOS (voice-over): Michelle says the memory loss really bothers her.

HIGGINS: I lost $5 a few years ago, and that still drives me crazy wondering where it is. Now I lost my mind.

MOOS: Finally, a pair of pedestrians came forward, confirming they'd seen her driving by.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a lady driving a car with no windshield.

MOOS: She may never go down Memory Lane with her moose, but she's happy.

HIGGINS: I'm breathing and I'm walking.

MOOS (on camera): Michelle says there was moose fur all over the car, all over her clothes.


HIGGINS: Oh, that was in my bag.

MOOS: In your purse?


MOOS (voice-over): Sadly for them both, Michelle bagged a moose.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

HIGGINS: You can take it out in handfuls.

MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) that is. That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.