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Interview With Ed Gillespie; A Castro Coming to United States; "Stroller Brigade" vs. Toxic Chemicals; Activity at North Korea Nuclear Test Site; Three-Year-Old Drives through Traffic; Mexican Candidate Appears Topless; Fan Catches Back-to-Back Homers; Surrogates Gone Wild; Another Colombia Prostitution Scandal?

Aired May 22, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: off message and on the hot seat -- a key Obama campaign surrogate gets in trouble for speaking his mind about Mitt Romney's business background. I will talk about that and more with a top Romney campaign adviser, Ed Gillespie. He's standing by live.

The Castro family has ruled Cuba with an iron hand for half-a- century. Now a Castro, yes, a Castro is coming to the United States -- why some Cuban-Americans are furious. We're going in-depth.

And first the Secret Service, then the U.S. military, now DEA agents are under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Colombia.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A high-powered campaign surrogate is on the hot seat for going off-message. After Newark's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker spoke about the attacks on Mitt Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, he had to scramble to do some damage control and the dust still hasn't settled.

Let's discuss what's going on with a veteran Republican strategist, a key adviser right now to the Romney campaign, Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Ed, thanks very much for coming in.

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thank you for having me, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Let's talk a little bit about what the president specifically said about Mitt Romney, his experience at Bain Capital yesterday. Then we will get your reaction.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying, I'm a business guy, and I know how to fix it, and this is his business. And when you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.


BLITZER: All right. The president, does he have a fair point there in saying, you know what? You want to talk about your business experience, we will talk about your experience at Bain Capital.

GILLESPIE: Well, obviously, Governor Romney is happy to talk about his experience at Bain Capital and his understanding of the private sector and job creation, Wolf, which this administration just doesn't have.

That's why we have 23 million Americans today who are either out of work entirely or not working in jobs that are suitable for their skills, or not working the number of hours they would like to be working,they're underemployed, or have left the work force entirely as we saw last month with 430,000 Americans dropping out of the work force.

So, the fact is when you look at the president's record relative to Governor Romney's experience in understanding how to help foster job creation, how to spot opportunities in the economy, that would be a valuable asset in the White House right now.

The president was also wrong, by the way. Governor Romney loves to talk about his record in Massachusetts, where he balanced the budget, where he took office when unemployment was nearly 6 percent and by the he left, unemployment was below 4.7 -- was at 4.7 percent.

That's in sharp contrast to 39 months of 8 percent or higher unemployment that we have seen under President Obama. So, look, I think it's understandable that people in the president's own party, people like Governor Rendell or Senator Mark Warner or Mayor Booker would say that this is probably not the best message for the Obama campaign, to be attacking private sector investment and job creation.

But I can understand that they'd rather talk about anything other than President Obama's record.

BLITZER: The president though says his job at Bain Capital was to make money for the investors. It wasn't job creation, but in the process of trying to maximize profits -- nothing wrong with that -- he obviously couldn't be all that concerned about the people being who would be laid off from their jobs.

GILLESPIE: Wolf, if you look at the record of Bain Capital, 80 percent of the companies that Bain invested in grew.

And when you grow, you hire more people. If you look at the start-ups, for example, take -- if you look at Staples, nearly 90,000 employees, when you look at Bright Horizons, Brighter Horizons, 19,000 employees as a result of that start-up that Bain Capital invested in.

When you look at Sports Authority, 15,000 employees, those are a lot of workers, middle-class people, who are able to help put their children through college, who are able to pay a mortgage, able to take a vacation and benefit from the investments and the start-ups that were made by Bain.

They were failures, too. And the Obama campaign is going to highlight -- there were fewer than 5 percent in terms of Bain's investments that didn't make it, but they tried. That's not for lack of trying. And as the governor says, you also learn from failures as well as from successes, but when you look at the record of Bain, it had great success partly because of Mitt Romney's ability to understand where the economy was going and where the opportunities are.

That will be valuable for him in the presidency should he win in November, which I think he will.

BLITZER: Well, Vice President Joe Biden doesn't necessarily agree with you. And he was out speaking very firmly today. I will play a little clip.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These guys in the House just voted down our version, the continuation of the existing Violence Against Women Act, and they cut out big chunks.

Folks, this is not your father's Republican Party. Ladies and gentlemen, let me make one thing absolutely clear to all of you. We will not go back to the '50s in social policy, to the Cold War in our foreign policy and to the policies of the last administration on our economic policy.



BLITZER: All right, let me give Ed Gillespie a chance to respond to the vice president.

Go ahead.

GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, the fact is when you look at Vice President Biden, President Obama, they're the ones who are trying to take this country back, back to failed policies of the past, where the government intervened in our economy, tries to pick winners and losers, like Solyndra and other instances of cronyism that we have seen inside this administration.

That doesn't work. We know that doesn't work. When you try to raise taxes on people who are trying to create jobs in our economy, when you impose mandates, when you have political appointees in Washington, D.C., making decisions about where to spend money, as opposed to allowing free enterprise to make those decisions in a more efficient manner and create jobs, it's understandable that we would have millions of Americans today who have lost their homes as a result of foreclosure, who have ended up in poverty as a result of the president's job-killing policies, and like I say 23 million Americans today who are either unemployed or underemployed or out of the work force entirely.

These are a result of failed policies. The president -- I think a lot of Americans who put a lot of hope in this president and his promises are disappointed today because those promises haven't panned out and in fact his policies are resulting in economic stagnation, stagnant growth rates and stagnant wages.

And Governor Romney has a positive agenda, a pro-growth agenda that would foster job creation, as he did in Massachusetts, record of strong leadership, as we saw in saving the Olympics. And I think that when people look at the contrast in policies between the pro-growth agenda of Governor Romney vs. what we have now as a result of President Obama's policies, the choice will be very clear in November.

We're very confident that a majority of Americans are going to opt for higher jobs, rising wages, lower electricity and gasoline policies.

BLITZER: And there are stark contrasts, as in the strategy and the economic policies of both of these gentlemen, the president of the United States and the former governor of Massachusetts.

Ed Gillespie, thanks for coming in.

GILLESPIE: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Toxic chemicals in everyday products and the risks they pose to children.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: When you sit down, you release this fine spray of toxic chemicals right in the face of your baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not right.

DURBIN: That isn't right.


BLITZER: The so-called stroller brigade pushes their babies and pushes lawmakers for more regulation.

And it is too late for Democrats to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket? Paul Begala, Erick Erickson, they are both standing by live.

Plus, a Castro, yes, a Castro is coming to the United States this week -- why some Cuban-Americans are so angry about this week's visit.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's the economy again, stupid, and this time around, it just might sink President Obama's reelection chances.

A new poll shows the president and Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat over who could better fix the economy. That's the top question on voters' minds. "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows Mr. Obama with a three-point edge over Romney if the election was held today, 49-46. But on handling the economy, they are dead even at 47 percent.

Despite the recent hoopla over other issues ranging from birth control to gay marriage, more than half of Americans say the economy will decide their vote. Things like health care, taxes and the federal deficit only all rank in single digits.

Late in the campaign in 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked Americans: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Well, it turns out they weren't. And there was a sudden 10-point swing in the closing days of the campaign, and Reagan went on to defeat the incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide.

So how about in 2012? Thirty percent of those surveyed say they are worse off financially today than when President Obama took office in January 2009. That's almost a third. Only 16 percent say they are better off. This could make Obama-land nervous, probably is.

President Obama's numbers on this question resemble those of George H.W. Bush. He lost his 1992 reelection bid due to a rough economy.

However, it's not all bad news for Mr. Obama. The poll shows voters are evenly split on who could better create jobs and the president tops Romney on the question of who better understands people's economic problems.

Yet, at the end of the day, many Americans may look in the mirror and ask themselves this question. Are you better off now than you were three and a half years ago?

Go to, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Good question.

The stroller brigade, the stroller brigade has invaded Capitol Hill. A group of mothers today pushing their babies and pushing lawmakers for a crackdown on dangerous chemicals found in everyday products.

Let's go live to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by with more.

What's going on up there, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, this baby bottle is made without a chemical called BPA. BPA used to be in most bottles until it was -- it got out that BPA may cause neurological and behavioral problems in children.

So, this is a case where the marketplace took care of it, but what mothers came here to Washington today to say, what else is out there that could hurt our children? They want the government to step it up.


BASH (voice-over): Strollers, babies, breast-feeding pillows -- usually, women walking around the Capitol like this are tourists, not activists.

PROTESTERS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, toxic chemicals have to go!

BASH: But moms like Lisa Allen came from all over the country, pushing to regulate chemicals and products we all use, like mattresses, carpets and plastics, even items made for babies, that could be health hazards.

LISA ALLEN, PROTESTER: As a mom, it's overwhelming. We do the best we can, but we still need help. We're hoping our senators will help us to protect our children.

BASH: Earlier this month, "The Chicago Tribune" reported flame retardant chemicals in many carpets and couches, pushed by the smoking industries to prevent fires are also toxins that can cause cancer, fetal impairment and fertility problems. That prompted this protest.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Every time you sit down on the couch, you know what happens? When you sit down, you release this fine spray of toxic chemicals right in the face of your baby. That isn't right.

BASH: At issue: a 1976 law given the EPA authority to regulate chemicals is in need of an update. The EPA administrator says because of legal and procedural hurdles of the 80,000 chemical in its inventory, the agency tested just 200 chemicals and has only banned five because of toxic health risks.

Senator Frank Lautenberg authored legislation to make testing more frequent and information more available, require manufacturers to provide information on how health hazards for all chemicals. And require chemical companies, just like pharmaceuticals, to demonstrate product safety before putting products on the market.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Required chemical makers to prove their products are safe before they end up in our children's bodies.

BASH: The chemical industry strongly disputes the EPA numbers, but insists chemical companies agree, safety laws need to be updated. It's just that the Democrat's approach will not hurt business.

ANNE KOLTON, AMERICAN CHEMISTRY COUNCIL: It will do the two things that we really need to do, the two goals, to protect health and the environment, and also to insure that American manufacturers can compete in the global marketplace.

BASH: But moms like Christine Nienstedt who flew in from Idaho to talk to her senator says she wants information on make smart choices about what she buys.

CHRISTINE NIENSTEDT, PROTESTER: You can't read a label on this pillow and know that it's supposed to confer with rules for fire retardants. That makes you feel like you're doing something safe for your family. It just turns out that we learned the exact opposite may be happening. So until the labels mean something, we are powerless.


BASH: Right now, there are 18 co-sponsors of this legislation. All are Democrats. Not one is a Republican.

Wolf, the top Republican on the environment committee, James Inhofe, his spokesman told me that he does want to update this law, he wants to work with Democrats, but this particular legislation, he says, is too burdensome for businesses. And other problem is that he and other Republicans simply don't like the way the EPA works and, of course, it's the EPA that the legislation is calling on to regulate more.

BLITZER: So basically means all of this is for naught. The Republicans will be able to block this legislation, right?

BASH: Right now, they can block it, but they also insist that they do want to work with Democrats to find a common ground on it. You talked to some of the folks who got this protest together today and they claim it's the industry, much like the tobacco was years ago that it's trying to strong arm Republicans and other -- and even some Democrats to not update this law. This is certainly a very, very tough fight with million, literally billions of dollars at stake.

BLITZER: Good point. All right. Dana, thank you.

The name is synonymous with communism, so why is the U.S. allowing a Castro -- yes, a Castro to visit the U.S.?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an offense to Cuban-American community in the USA, and it's a big offense to all patriots.



BLITZER: Many Cuban-Americans, especially in south Florida, they are furious right now at the Obama administration that a Castro, yes from the Castro family is being allowed to visit the United States this week.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty has the story.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Her family name says it all, Castro, and she's coming to the United States. Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of Cuban leader Raul Castro, granted a visa by the State Department to attend an academic conference.

In Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, some Cuban-Americans are furious.

TERESA PINCHET, CUBAN-AMERICAN: She's coming here just to spread their communism because that's what it is, and they're coming under false pretenses to try to lift the embargo.

DOUGHERTY: The 50-year-old directs the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana. She's an activist for gay rights in Cuba, which were non-existent in the early years of Fidel Castro's regime, but have changed in recent years. In a 2008 interview with CNN, Castro is seen brushing off her communist pedigree.

"The only advantage that the person who is now president is also my papa, and that I can talk to him," she said. "But don't think I can talk to him a lot."

The Bush administration granted Castro a visa in 2002, but some lawmakers say it's an outrage to do it this time.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: People are in hunger strikes, dissidents in Cuba jails. Nothing has improved. It's all gotten worse. And yet, here, it's just all systems go for the Obama administration. Raul Castro's daughter wants to come to the U.S., sure, she's an academic. Let her come.

DOUGHERTY: Ros-Lehtinen points to Alan Gross, an American imprisoned in Cuba on charges of subversion. She says the Obama administration should send a message to the Cuban lead by refusing his daughter a visa.

The State Department citing privacy concerns won't comment on Castro Espin's case. But says about 100 Cuban academics were invited to the conference in San Francisco, 77 applied for visas. As of Friday, 60 got them, 11 were denied and six were still being processed.

A U.S. presidential proclamation rules out visas for high level officials of the Cuban government or communist party for military, police and spies. But it can make exceptions if there are no security concerns and the reason for applying is legitimate.

Raul Castro's daughter appears to have passed that test, but not in Miami.

EMILIO IZQUIERDO, JR., CUBAN-AMERICAN: It's an offense to the Cuban-American community in USA, and it's a big offense to all patriots.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): The State Department says it doesn't link visa policy with larger political, economic and human rights issues. It's based on law. And if Congress wants to change that law, the State Department says, Congress can.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.


BLITZER: Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with Julia Sweig. She's a senior fellow for Latin American studies over at the Council on Foreign Relations, also the author of the book, "Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Cuban Underground."

Julia, thanks very much for coming in.

It's a significant decision seems to me that the Obama administration allows 60 of these Cubans to come in, including the daughter of Raul Castro.

Here's a question: is it linked any way as far as you can tell, to what's going on with Alan Gross, the American held in prison now for two and a half years?


Frankly, I don't see a direct link. The academic exchanges, the cultural exchanges, the student exchanges that the Obama administration has started are continuing and this conference in San Francisco is part of that. The question of Alan Gross is dealt with on a separate track very clearly as the absence of diplomacy shows with regard to the fact that he's still in prison.

BLITZER: But the fact that the daughter of the president of Cuba, Raul Castro's daughter is allowed to come into the United States, that's not just an average Cuban academic, if you will. That's a big deal.

SWEIG: It's a big deal and several average Cuban academics of high esteem were denied visas, in fact. Mariela Castro coming here to speak about the LGBT agenda, gay rights, family law, civil society in Cuba is very, very significant. And, frankly, I'm a bit puzzled about the denials, on the one hand to long standing scholars that have taught in our universities and I'm surprised that the visa has been granted to Mariela Castro.

BLITZER: You saw, 60 out of 77 have been granted so far. That's a pretty significant number.

SWEIG: It's significant. I have no idea why professors from Harvard and Columbia and MIT and others that have come here under Obama, under Bush, weren't given the visas. This is all a mishmash, frankly, to me. It's very puzzling. I wish there was a pretty bow to tie around why Mariela, why not the other 10?

BLITZER: Is Mariela Castro as someone who could emerge as the leader of Cuba following her father and her uncle?

SWEIG: I have no idea, and I don't think she does either. My guess is that the Castro brothers senior are all we're going to see in terms of family governance. She has a very specific space. It's a very important human rights space about civil society, but, you know, we never know and the looking glass is not that bright in terms of leadership succession.

BLITZER: It seems to me the past two and a half years in Cuba, for the Castro regime over there, there's been a totally missed opportunity because this president came in, he wanted to see an improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations. But they've taken some of these steps including imprisoning Alan Gross, this American, for 2 1/2 years, that almost make that impossible to go forward.

SWEIG: Let me tell you what's with absent. I know that what you see is exchanges and some travel and a lot of Cuban-American travel and remittances to the island despite what Miami says. They're traveling and supporting their family there.

What we don't have is a diplomatic framework. What we don't have is a policy framework so that these major issues like Alan Gross, like other big longstanding problems can be dealt with. The administration doesn't have a bilateral diplomatic framework and, frankly, I don't see the U.S. government taking yes for an answer. Most of the political prisoners have been released, not all. Significant, I think, and exorable economic reforms going forward that actually the changes from the Obama administration have been cautious and careful and mindful of Miami.

BLITZER: But if they did release Alan Gross, that would be a significant gesture.

SWEIG: Of course, it would be, but I think the expect that they do so unilaterally because they so desperately want the embargo to be lifted is the 1980s expectation. It's a Cold War expectation. This is now 50 years in which this Cuban government has learned to live with the embargo.

And so, the question of unilateral concessions misses what's really happening and that's why I'm emphasizing the need for a diplomatic framework.

BLITZER: Julia Sweig, thanks very much for coming in.

SWEIG: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: It's a parent's nightmare: a child thinks his toy is just like a real car and drives it into a busy downtown intersection. We have the frightening video. That's coming up.

And something happened to a baseball fan that so rare and so improbable, he's expecting a call from "The Tonight Show."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leno or Letterman gotten a hold of you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope to be on the next flight to Leno in New York City, I hope so.



BLITZER: North Korea appears to be ramping up for another nuclear test. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and also some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, new satellite images show a flurry of activities near the country's nuclear test site. They show mining carts and digging equipment.

When combined with other recent images that show a mining train and new roads, it could mean a test is coming. North Korea had agreed to stop rocket and missile tests. It tried to launch a rocket just last month. Two previous rocket launches had been followed by a nuclear test.

And a terrifying clip coming to us out of China. Watch this as a 3-year-old boy drives his toy motor bike through a busy downtown intersection and you can see him narrowly missing busses and cars, completely unaware of the danger.

Look at that. Fortunately, a police officer eventually saw him and brought him home to his grandfather who said he was in the bathroom when the boy went missing.

Well, U.S. politicians sometimes do crazy things to get votes, but they usually keep their shirts on. That is not the case in Mexico where a woman running for Congress is unveiling a campaign billboard on which she and other women are topless. She says she's giving voters a wake-up call and says even if she dressed as a nun, conservatives wouldn't vote for her.

And a team hitting two back to back home runs, that's rare, but the same fan catching both of them is downright incredible. It happened to a Cincinnati Reds fan in the fourth inning game against the Atlanta Braves.

So the first one came right to him, but the second one bobbled around before he came up with it. A reporter caught up with the lucky fan after the game. You can see him catch it there.


CALEB LLOYD, CINCINNATI REDS FAN: I couldn't see it because there was a bird flying right above it and it comes down and I'm, like, I'm catching this and I just snagged it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Letterman or Leno or anybody got a hold of you? LLOYD: I'm waiting for their call right now. I hope to be on the next flight to Leno in New York City, and maybe to Los Angeles tomorrow. Never know.


SYLVESTER: He's here on THE SITUATION ROOM. That's probably something that we'll never, ever see again. So that's pretty impressive, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he made it to THE SITUATION ROOM, that's not bad at all. It is amazing. Thanks very much.

So here's a question, is it too late for Democrats to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket? Paul Begala and Erick Erickson, they're both standing by in our "Strategy Session." We'll discuss that and more.


BLITZER: High-powered campaign surrogate is on the hot seat for going off message after Newark's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker spoke his mind about the attacks on Mitt Romney's old firm, Bane Capital.

He had to scramble to do some serious damage control and the dust still hasn't settled. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is here with more. The story continuing and some are saying surrogates gone wild, if you will. What's going on?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Cory Booker can take some comfort that he's not the only surrogate to go off script this week. In fact, he's only joining a club that is growing.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In what's become wayward surrogate week who better to send to New Hampshire than the unpredictable Vice President Joe Biden. The subject, what else, but Mitt Romney's former investment firm, Bain Capital.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn't mean that private equity guys are bad guys. They're not, but that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And by the way, there are a lot of smart plumbers.

ACOSTA: The Romney campaign also threw caution to the wind putting its own free spirit former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu on a conference call with reporters. Sununu proceeded to admit that Bain is a legitimate issue.

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR (via telephone): I think the Bain record as a whole is fair game and what you have to do is do an honest evaluation. MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. I used the word nauseating on "Meet the Bress" because that's really how I feel.

ACOSTA: That's par for the course in the week that started with Newark Mayor Cory Booker veering from the Democratic script on Bain, only to revise his remarks on a web video only to later explain he wasn't pressured to clarify his comments. Got all that?

BOOKER: They've never pressured me to do anything. I certainly did talk with campaign officials, but they didn't force me to do anything. They had good conversations with me.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day on CNN, Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben Labolt said the president's re-election team said did not ask Booker to weigh in on initial remarks.


BEN LABOLT, PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA 2012: Did not ask him to do so.

ACOSTA: But in a campaign statement, Labolt said the mayor spoke with a DNC official who also did not ask him to record a video. Translation, the Obama world was not happy.

But a pro-Obama "Super PAC" is reminding the Romney campaign of its own surrogates gone wild namely, the ex-rivals who endorsed the presumptive GOP nominee after once trashing Bain, too.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: They wait until they see distressed company and they swoop in and pick the carcass clean and fly away.

ACOSTA: Despite his own ties to Bain and the private equity industry, the president is sticking to this issue.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This issue is not a, quote, "distraction." This is part of the debate that we're going to be having in this election campaign.

ACOSTA: Not following the advice of somebody who has used Bain, but failed to get ahead.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there are things you can legitimately look at in Bain Capital. I think there are things you can legitimately look at including Mitt Romney's record. What I'm reporting is the question you asked. I don't think it's politically effective.


ACOSTA: It wasn't for Newt Gingrich. In response to the vice president's speech, the Romney campaign released a statement accusing Biden of, quote, "repeating the same misleading attack on free enterprise that has been repudiated by the president's own supporters." Of course, referring there to Cory Booker and I did ask the Obama re-election campaign. Did Vice President Biden intend to sort of slam plumbers there in that speech today? No response from the campaign.

BLITZER: You know, that the some plumbers will be responding to that.

ACOSTA: The next thing on Twitter will be the war on plumbers. That's not what the campaign needs right now.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper in our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala and the CNN contributor, Erick Erickson, he's editor in chief of

So what do you think, Paul, about this whole Bane Capital Cory Booker, I guess uproar that has been generated over the past few days.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as you know, Wolf, what our viewers need to know. I advised that pro-Obama "Super PAC" that's running ads. The ads we are running featured real people who Mitt Romney has laid off and he shattered their lives and sometimes it happens in business.

I think people understand that, but here's the deal. Some of his investments in Bain were very smart and he made a lot of money and I think that's great and I applaud that. But some went horribly wrong and he still made money off of them. Even as he was cancelling health benefits for women like Loris Haffman who's in our new ad.

Even as he was laying off people like Pat Wells who is in one of our ads. He was still paying himself millions now that's wrong. You make a good investment. You should get rich. God bless him for that.

He did that many times, but also a whole lot of times he took companies that drove them into bankruptcy, loaded them up with debt, paid himself millions and the canceled the health benefits, retirement and jobs of the workers. That's wrong.

BLITZER: It doesn't look like the Democrats will back away from this issue. They see it as a winning issue for the president.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and I'm not sure that it is. And I get where Paul is coming from, and I think the way Paul articulates it is what the Democrats need to be doing and general attacks on private equity whatnot.

It seems like this past week, you have the president out there having to defend himself to his own supporters, to former Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania or former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee or Mayor Cory Booker.

All of whom have said lay off the private equity. When the Democrats are having to explain themselves to themselves, I think they've got problems.

If they can expound the way Paul is suggesting they go, then I think it may have some impact, but then Romney, of course, will be able to defend on other grounds.

BLITZER: I assume you guys saw the article that was on "The Daily Beast" posted today. Michael Tomasky is a very good political reporter. He once again revived something that's been talked about a lot over the past six months.

I wrote about it at least six months ago, the possibility some would say, very, very remote that Hillary Clinton could replace Joe Biden on the president's ticket.

Let me read a line from what Tomasky wrote in "The Daily Beast." Clinton's positive numbers are off the chart. Biden (inaudible) approval and disapproval in the 40s, Biden's putative asset that he helps a bit with white working class and Catholic voters is even truer for Clinton and women forget about it.

Would a smell of desperation possibly? Is it still unlikely? Probably, neither of those means it wouldn't produce a blowout. All right, Paul Begala, I know you like both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Who would be a better asset on the ticket?

BEGALA: It's just not going to happen. It's not going to happen.

BLITZER: Well, answer the question.

BEGALA: Look, I think Hillary should have been president. I was for her against then Senator Obama, OK, so my love for Hillary knows no bounds, but she's not running and nor will she run for vice president like I tell my kids, NHD, not happening, dude.

Mike Tomasky is a good writer. You were on this issue months ago. Its' just not going to happen. The truth is this president should not, if I were advising him.

And I'm not, I would say Mr. President, don't repudiate your first decision as president. He chose Joe Biden for the right reasons, which is if God forbid, if anything happened to the president who could step in and run the country.

I think Hillary meets that test too as do many other people in both parties, but he made, I think a great choice with Joe Biden. He's been enormously helpful in governing the country. I think he's helpful in running for election and there's no chance of that changing.

BLITZER: What do you think, Erick especially let's say his polls numbers in the next few months aren't good.

ERICKSON: I agree with Paul. I think Joe Biden is enormously helpful in running for president for the Republicans. He keeps the Democrats off message on a recurring basis. I really do actually like Joe Biden tremendously. He's a good guy and Paul is right. This was his first decision, Barack Obama's. He wouldn't repudiate, frankly, Wolf, that you and other members of the press corps.

But this is one of the things that drives me crazy about the press is engaging in these nonsensical hypothetical as if there maybe some reality to it just because you want a click on your web site.

BLITZER: You know, sometimes, nonsensical things happen in the world of politics. I've covered politics for a long time. I'm not saying it will happen this particular time, but sometimes stuff happens as we all know.

We'll leave it there. We'll discuss the subject on several occasions over these many months. You know what? We might discuss it down the road. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

A flight from Paris to the United States is diverted when a woman says she has a device surgically implanted inside her. We have new information on the strange mid-air scare.

And the U.S. could be on the brink of an environmental disaster and worse than any spill in history. What's being done about the toxic debris being done on U.S. soil? Stand by.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, are you better off now than you were three and a half years ago?

Tom writes, "Three and a half years ago, Bush and Cheney were running things. They had started two idiotic wars, dramatically cut taxes for the super rich and were exporting our jobs and corporate tax incentives. We were plunging into a second grade depression that some economists said no miracle could prevent. Yes, we're better off, Bush is gone and America is back, Jack."

Steve in New York, "Three and a half years ago, I had a job and my bank account was earning 4.5 percent interest. Now I don't have a job and my bank account is earning 0.5 percent interest. Food prices, gas prices, medical, dental bill, property taxes, all going up.

You tell me if I'm better off. If you listen to the news especially those clowns on MSNBC they want me to vote for Obama again. You've got to be kidding."

Kay in Oklahoma writes, "The answer is no, no, no. Grocery sky high, gas sky high, more regulations, more uncertainty and more worry. Have you ever in your life time worried so much about the future of your children and grandchildren? No. Obama and his czars are destroying the United States from the inside out."

Ben writes "Yes, now I have a job. I was able to buy a house and I got married and I'm expecting a daughter. My 401(k) is up 17 percent for the year, I paid of my credit cards and for the first time in a long time have enough money to start investing in stocks. My life is much, much better now."

Ken writes "I own a small internet business and we are down 50 percent since Obama was inaugurated. I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel with Obama getting re-elected."

And Dan in Milwaukee writes, "Yes, I graduated from college and although it took me nine months to find a full-time job I am now employed as an engineer. Not only that, but I now make enough money to move out of my parent's house, which presumably means their lives are better off than three and a half years ago, too."

If you want to read more about this, go to our blog or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: People do that every single day, Jack. Thank you.

A passenger makes a very scary comment and amid concerns about human bombs. An airliner was diverted to Maine with a fighter escort. That's coming up at the top of the hour. New information coming in.

And the first there was the Secret Service and then the U.S. military. But now DEA agents are under investigations for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Colombia.


BLITZER: There may be another scandal brewing over American agents hiring prostitutes in Colombia. First it was the Secret Service and then the U.S. military and now allegedly DEA personnel.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan has the details. What do we know, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, according to members of Congress as well as government sources briefed on the matter, three agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration are now under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Colombia.

These agents were stationed in Colombia according to sources. Now as it was described to me, this involved sexual massages at one of the agent's apartments and while this allegedly happened right around the time of mid-April around the president's visit to Cartagena for the summit of the Americas, sources say these DEA agents were not involved with the president's security for the trip.

However, the House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, he tells me that this all came to light because a Secret Service agent was also in that apartment and came forward to confess to secret service officials, which led them to these DEA agents.

Now I'll tell you, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Susan Collins, I spoke to her and she's been briefed on this and she calls this latest development, reckless and completely unacceptable. Listen here.


SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Suffice it to say, with one of the DEA agents, it appears that this was not the first encounter with the woman who came back to the apartment.

The reason that this is troubling is that these women are unknown to our law enforcement personnel. We don't know if they're associated with drug cartels, whether they've been sent in to entrap the agents or compromise them in some way which could endanger their mission.


BOLDUAN: Collins and King both told me that they were briefed on this incident more than two weeks ago, but have been asked to not comment on it until these agents were taken out of the country and taken out of Colombia.

I should note that while the DEA agents, Wolf, are still under investigation that Secret Service agent according to sources is not likely to lose his job because he came forward to authorities. He self reported.

And according to sources did not know that these were prostitutes at the time and according to one source has passed a polygraph test. One quick note and important to note for our viewers, Wolf, the director of the U.S. Secret Service Mark Sullivan, he will be appearing and testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Where the committee that Susan Collins is a top Republican on, and that will be tomorrow and this is will be the first time since this whole Secret Service scandal and everything involving in Colombia has really broken out.

BLITZER: We'll have extensive coverage of that hearing. Thanks very much, Kate.