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Mitt Romney Under Fire; Syria's Bashar al-Assad in Trouble?; Bracing for Jobs Report on Campaign Trail; Who Should Be Romney's VP?; Emergencies Put on Hold to Fill Pool

Aired July 5, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, $100 million in a month. Big campaign money for Mitt Romney.

Terror arrests in London spark new Olympic fears.

And outrage when firefighters stop to fill a private pool after a killer storm.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in the SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with Mitt Romney's latest headache, "the Wall Street Journal." The newspapers highly influential and conservative editorial page is blasting the Republican presidential candidate big- time point after point after point. Here's just one example.

"Mr. Romney promised Republicans he was the best man to make the case against President Obama, whom they desperately want to defeat. So far, Mr. Romney is letting them down." That's the quote.

The newspaper is owned by Rupert Murdoch and it is echoing what he's been tweeting the last few days, namely that Romney's campaign staff is weak and disorganized, desperately needs an injection of some top- notch professionals.

The editorial blasts the confusion coming from the Romney campaign following the Supreme Court ruling on health care. Here's another quote. "The latest mistake is of a piece with the campaign's insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity. Mr. Obama is being hurt by an economic recovery that is weakening for the third time in three years, but Mr. Romney hasn't been able to take advantage, and if anything, he is losing ground."

So why is this a serious problem for Mitt Romney? Because he desperately needs to really energize the Republican base if, if he's going to win the presidency. The folks have to turn out in big numbers for him, especially in those critical battleground states.

One of Romney's top advisers, the former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, says the message is clear.


SEN. JOHN SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Everybody in the campaign pays attention to what their friends say, and "The Wall Street Journal" is a friend of free enterprise, and Mitt Romney is the free enterprise candidate in this campaign. So they're going to pay attention to what they hear from "The Wall Street Journal."


BLITZER: I have covered politics for a long time and I know that the Republican leadership around the country, the people who actually bring out the vote, are very influenced by the editorial writers of "The Wall Street Journal."

When they see the newspapers' lead editorial headline "Romney's Tax Confusion" they worry. When they also see the newspaper start comparing Mitt Romney to the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, they worry even more.

Let's get the news right now from Kate Bolduan. She has some of the important headlines that are happening right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I liked your take today, Wolf, but I want to take our viewers first to London, where London police raised several homes today and arrested six people on terrorism charges.

One of the men arrested worked for the police a few years ago as a community support officer. A security source says the arrests came at an early stage of plotting related to international Islamist militancy rather than the upcoming Olympics.

But with the Games just over three weeks away, British authorities soon will be installing anti-aircraft missiles like these on top of apartment buildings around London and that also is getting a lot of attention.

For the first time in seven months, trucks carrying supplies to NATO troops crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan today. Islamabad shut down the crucial supply routes in November when coalition forces mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops. Finding new routes cost the U.S. an extra $100 million a month, but this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized for the incident and the routes have been reopened.

We now have the final word on what happened to Air France Flight 447. Poorly trained pilots and bad sensors caused the plane to plunge belly first into the Atlantic Ocean three years ago, killing all 228 people on board. That's according to the final report from the French safety board. It says the plane started losing speed seven miles in the air and one of the pilots pulled back the throttle, instead of pushing the nose down. That triggered even more problems. The plane stalled, then crashed just four minutes later.

Wolf spoke to our Richard Quest just a short time ago about this new report.


BLITZER: What surprised you the most, if anything? RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what surprised me was the lack of what's called CRM, crew resource management, with the relationship between the three members of the crew.

For 54 seconds, there was a stall warning. Stall, stall, stall, stall. This thing blares out in the cabin. And yet not once do the two co-pilots or the captain refer to this. Time and again you hear them wondering what's happened, what's gone wrong.

And yet the captain doesn't take control and the more senior first officer doesn't take control. So those come back to this big picture that this is about piloting, it's about airmanship, it's about a culture in the cockpit. And that's what this has been about, not whether there's this bit of technology or this bit of protection or this bit of fly by wire.


BOLDUAN: Air France released a statement acknowledging that it was a "combination of several factors, technical and human," that led to the loss of the aircraft.

Also, the bodies of two Turkish pilots shot down by Syria two weeks ago have been found off the Syrian coast, along with pieces of their jet. And American ocean explorer Robert Ballard actually helped with the recovery. He's most famous for discovering the wreckage of the Titanic back in the 1980s.

And a spokesman for the Turkey's Foreign Ministry says he reached out to Ballard because his crew and his vessels specialize in deep-water missions. That same Foreign Ministry said they were lucky, Wolf, that the Nautilus, the name of his vessel, that it was docked in Istanbul at the very same time. So they were said they were lucky to have them.

BLITZER: Good work. Lucky is one thing, but also solid professional work.


BOLDUAN: Being good is also important.

BLITZER: That's very important. Thanks very much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: If the Syrian regime is about to splinter, it may begin like this. A key general with very close family ties to President Bashar al-Assad has now reportedly fled to Turkey.

Manaf Tlass is a friend of the Syrian president and his father, served as the defense minister to Bashar al-Assad's father over the course of three decades.

Just recently, the Israeli deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, told me here in THE SITUATION ROOM if Bashar al-Assad starts losing his officer corps, he can't hang on for long. Mofaz, formerly Israel's top general, says when the military starts to desert in large numbers it will be, and I'm quoting the Israeli deputy prime minister -- quote -- "the end of Bashar al-Assad."

Last year, mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya led to the ouster of their leaders. We saw Libya's Moammar Gadhafi dragged through the streets, we saw Egypt's Hosni Mubarak caged in a courtroom after a long and bloody conflict. Could Bashar al-Assad be next in line?

Let's talk about it with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend, and she's a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush.

If this report is true, that Manaf Tlass has now defected, a huge guy in Syria, in the Syrian military, Fran, this would be huge.


Not only is he in the Republican Guard, which is a very close -- it's meant to protect Assad and the senior members of the regime. It's meant to sort of enforce regime stability, but this is a close personal friend of Bashar al-Assad's and that makes the defection all the more damaging.

Let's remember his father was the minister of defense for decades when Bashar al-Assad's father was ruling the country. And so this is really a blow, not only sort of in fact, but sort of to the psyche of the military.

We understand him to have been very well respected and well regarded by his troops. And, so, look, this isn't the first. Remember we had the jet pilot who defected with his plane to Jordan recently. But this is certainly the closest senior military person that we're aware of defecting most recently.

BLITZER: Here's what I know, and tell me if you can elaborate on this, that all sorts of actions are now happening, a lot of them covert, to encourage top generals in the Syrian military to defect, whether they're being warned, for example, of war crimes tribunals, the International Criminal Court, or whether some in the region are offering money to them, safety to their families.

There's a major effort right now to break the Syrian military away from Bashar al-Assad. What are you hearing?

TOWNSEND: Wolf, we should assume that's the case.

After all we know that such tactics were used during the war in Iraq, during the action in Libya. This is sort of the standard tactic of Western governments and their allied intelligence services around the world. If you can get people -- remember, in Libya, they got the foreign minister, a very close ally of Gadhafi's, to defect to Italy.

And so this is sort of a standard tactic of Western governments. And you can be certain that there's a coalition of countries working on that as we speak.

BLITZER: It's not just Western governments, I should say. Countries like the United Arab Emirates, or Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other countries in the region who have a lot of money, by the way, and a lot of influence, as you well know, Fran, they are working behind the scenes, I have been told, as well.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely, Wolf.

And they have -- because of their connections both family and tribal, those Arab governments have some of the best connections into Syria. Remember, you know, the Assads are an Alawite family, but there is a Sunni majority -- there is a majority Sunni. There is a Shia population.

This general, by the way, was a Sunni general. And so when you talk about the influence of Arab governments, governments like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE are hugely influential with the Sunni population in Syria.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember covering Mustafa Tlass, the defense minister of Syria for a long time, the father of this general. So that's an important issue.

One of the things I should just add, and I will let you go, Fran, is that what's motivating a lot of these Arab countries, like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, is that they recognize that if Bashar al-Assad goes down, this is a huge loss for Iran, for the ayatollah, for President Ahmadinejad, and they would like nothing more than to see such a strategic setback for Iran.

I know you agree with me on that.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fran Townsend, joining us.

A battle of the buses. President Obama hits the road in his big black bus, but the Romney campaign isn't very far behind. What's going on? We're live with the dueling tours in the battleground state of Ohio.

Plus, disturbing video that's getting a lot of attention, a mother egging on two kids in a horrifying fistfight. That's coming up at 23 after the hour.


BLITZER: The campaign battle for Ohio is now a battle of the buses with both the Obama and Romney campaigns driving across this critical battleground state. But while Romney only has surrogates on the ground, the president himself is rolling through Ohio.

So is our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's traveling with the president.

Dan, what was the president's message today? DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all about the economy, Wolf, that he is pushing to create more jobs, make sure that some of those jobs that were outsourced can be brought back here to the United States.

We're on the bus right now headed to Parma, Ohio, right outside Cleveland, where the president will continue talking about the economy. This is a state where the president is currently leading his opponent, Mitt Romney, but this race continues to be very competitive, so the president is getting out, meeting folks here, hoping that he can repeat his 2008 victory here come November.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): It's a more retail-style approach. But unlike the president's other official bus trips last year, this one has campaign written all over it. There's a big presidential seal on the door. And the venue in the small city in Maumee, Ohio, has been carefully staged, white picket fences, a large American flag and a soft story about his daughter.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then it was Malia's birthday yesterday. See, when she was small, I could say all these fireworks I had arranged for her birthday. But she doesn't believe me anymore.


LOTHIAN: But his speech turned tough when the president took on his opponent's business experience.

OBAMA: Governor Romney's experience has been owning companies that were called pioneers of outsourcing. That's not my phrase. Pioneers of outsourcing.

LOTHIAN: It's a message that resonates with this crowd. Unemployment in Ohio is below the national average of 8.2 percent, but the people in this city have experienced the highs and lows of the manufacturing industry, from GM and Chrysler on life support to a recovery and new investments in the region that the president said were possible because of his administration's auto bailout.

OBAMA: Governor Romney said we should just let Detroit go bankrupt. I refuse to turn my back on communities like this one.

LOTHIAN: And, as if on cue, although the campaign denies political motivation, the administration is filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization against China for alleged unfair tariffs on some American-made autos.

OBAMA: We're going to make sure that competition is fair. That's what I believe.

LOTHIAN: While the president was making that case and defending his economic policies, not far away, Romney surrogates were knocking down what Mr. Obama was playing up. Former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are on their own bus tour shadowing the president.

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: His presidency has been a losing hand for Ohio and for America.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We know that we are not better off than we were four years ago.

LOTHIAN: The president says the Republicans don't have real solutions and that a full recovery will take time. The president will make a total of six scheduled stops in two key battleground states, and following a final event in Parma, near Cleveland, the president will visit Poland, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh on Friday.


LOTHIAN: We're live again back on the bus. It's the press bus headed to Parma, Ohio, the president's final event of the evening.

Now, one other thing, the Romney surrogates, in addition to the surrogates that he has here on the ground, we noticed something else up in the air. At the first event before the president arrived this morning, there was a small airplane pulling a large banner.

And on that banner, it said Romney 2012. So this is Obama's bus tour, but Romney's presence certainly being felt here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

Dan Lothian on the bus, very, very cool to get you live from the bus. Thanks very much.

What a month for Mitt Romney in June. He took in a huge fund-raising haul, more than $100 million. That's a big jump from the $77 million he raised in May.

Let's bring in our chief political correspondent, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," Candy Crowley.

Candy, a huge haul for Mitt Romney, the Republican Party. What kind of reaction are you hearing from the Democrats?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, just on the money scene, the impression you get -- and I talked to several Democrats in and around the president's reelection campaign -- do not expect that they are going to beat that number this month.

They sort of set that stage a couple of weeks ago, saying Mitt Romney is going to have some good fund-raising months. He's going to outraise us. They certainly expect that to be the case in June, although they're not willing to put numbers to that yet.

So they will not raise as much money as Mitt Romney has. But they also say, listen, the reason they put these numbers out is that he wants to draw the attention away from what they believe has been a very rough couple of weeks for Mitt Romney. So they believe that Romney and the Romney campaign wanted to get some good news out there. As far as why is Romney raising so much, the Democrats are saying, listen, in essence, he's getting a lot of low- hanging fruit, because now he can go back to the folks that supported him in the primary and ask for general election money, and he can go back to those who supported others in the primary and say now is the time to give to the guy who is going to be the candidate.

But I will also say that they say, listen, John Kerry outraised George Bush nearly every month after Kerry sort of secured the nomination. They're not saying that's going to happen, but they point that out, and we all know that George Bush won the election. I think that's the lesson we're supposed to draw from that anecdote.

BLITZER: It's a good point you make, Candy, but the one different situation now, as opposed to 2004, is those huge super PACs.

And the pro-Republican, pro-Romney super PACs will get a lot more money out there than the pro-Obama, pro-Democratic super PACs. And that's a huge, huge difference going forward. The Republicans will have a lot more money when you add the regular campaign money and the super PAC money. I think that's a fair assessment.

Candy, thanks for coming in.




BLITZER: There's some video I want to show you our viewers. It's almost too disturbing to show, but we're going to do it anyhow. It's generating a lot of attention around the country. It shows a mother allegedly encouraging a fistfight among children not even out of diapers. Watch this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You all better hit back.



BLITZER: It's painful to watch this.

Our affiliate KTVI in Missouri got ahold of the video, which was posted on Facebook. Missouri's Department of Social Services tells them it isn't able to comment on specific cases.

It's pretty shocking when you see that.

BOLDUAN: It was tough to watch. The affiliate had spoken to, I think, someone -- they had someone else on the piece that they put together. And everyone, of course, just horrified by what they were looking at. I can't -- I had a hard time watching myself.


All right, we have got a lot more news coming up, a critical jobs report out tomorrow, what it might mean for President Obama and for the Mitt Romney campaign. We're going to debate that next.

Plus, a fire department fiasco -- emergency calls pouring in after a killer storm, but one crew is busy. Guess what? They're filling someone's swimming pool. That's coming up at 47 past the hour.


BLITZER: Happening now, outrage. Firefighters tending to a swimming pool instead of helping storm victims.

The Republican veepstakes and a closer look at two top contenders.

Plus a spectacular Fourth of July failure.

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

President Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, they are now bracing for the new jobs report that's due out tomorrow morning, 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Kate, they're going to be looking at this, studying it. There's going to be fallout.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're going to be looking at it, we're going to be looking at it. That's absolutely right. We're going to get the June unemployment numbers from the Labor Department 8:30 Eastern tomorrow morning.

If it's good news, the president will use it as ammo to show he's boosting the economy. If it's bad news, you can be assured Mitt Romney will say it's evidence that the president's policy aren't working.

So let's take a look at where things stand right now. The unemployment rate is 8.2 percent. That means 12.7 million Americans are out of work. But there's something else to keep an eye on here, the number of jobs added. It's been steadily going down this year.

Take a look at this. In January, 275,000 jobs were created. In February, it was 259,000 new jobs. That dipped 143,000 new jobs. In March, 77,000 new jobs. In April -- in May, we were down to 69,000 new jobs. And keep in mind: analysts say the economy needs to create about 125,000 new jobs each month just to hold the unemployment rate where it is. This is definitely something we're going to be watching.

BLITZER: See if that trend continues to go down or begins to go back up a little bit. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Let's talk about what's going on with our -- with our panelists right now. Joining us our CNN contributor. That would be you, Ryan Lizza. He's a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Also joining us, Neera Tanden, she's president of the Center for American Progress. A former senior adviser to President Obama on health care, Doug Holtz- Eakin is joining us, as well. He's president of the American Action Forum, former director of the Congressional Budget Office under the George W. Bush administration. It also helped John McCain four years ago. As I well recall.

Thanks for -- all of you for coming in.

Neera, the trend lines we've seen, dramatically not good. It's got to start picking up over the next four months. This right direction, wrong direction is a critical factor in getting an incumbent re- elected.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: That's true. We've seen people's views of how they're going to be a year out, two years out is improving. We had a poll that 58 percent of Americans think they will be better off in the next year. That's an important issue.

Trend lines are important. Gas prices are coming down. We still have headwinds from Europe. So we'll all be anxiously looking at this set of issues.

But I do think for this election the question is really not only what these numbers are saying but really who has the right vision. And today Bill Kristol really criticized Mitt Romney for not having an economic vision. And I agree with him.

BLITZER: He's a -- he's a conservative. He's a Republican. You agree with him for different reasons than what he was suggesting.

TANDEN: But Doug, on the unemployment numbers, I mean, this is definitely your area, it seems for the challenger kind of a Catch-22. The Romney campaign, of course, wants the unemployment rate to go down. It's good for the country but, you know, in a Catch-22 situation, it might not be good politics because it might help President Obama.

DOUG HOLTZ-EAKIN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: Well, I think actually there's a bigger opportunity than that, because almost regardless of tomorrow's report, it's not going to be good enough to put the president in good standing. Most people are expecting something that looks a lot like the last two months, which are very disappointing. Probably a little bit higher. The unemployment rate could tick up or down.

But I think the real opportunity lies on the insides of this, which is in this recovery, we've seen no real growth in incomes. So, for those who have jobs, they're not getting any better off. And tomorrow's report you ought to look inside and see if that changes. If that doesn't change, that's a big problem for President Obama. Because that's the swing state problem. BLITZER: And that's a fair point, because there's a lot of people who do have jobs now, but not necessarily at the salary they used to have and not necessarily full-time jobs, but they're listed as being employed.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. If you look historically at the best economic indicator that's correlated with who wins the presidency, it is disposable income. It is money in your pockets. Not necessarily the unemployment rates, although the direction matters, but it's how much money do you have in your pocket when you go into that voting booth.

I think we're getting into the area here, getting into July and August, where these -- you know, voters are myopic. They look at the most recent economic indicators. They look at the most recent status of their financial situation.

We're getting into the danger zone for Obama, where he won't be able to reverse these numbers if they get bad. I think the worse the economic numbers get, the harder the Obama campaign is going to be hitting Mitt Romney. Because if they can't win on their record and on the economy, they've got to destroy Romney.

BLITZER: We're talking maybe 10 percent who are undecided or might switch their votes. Forty-five percent or so are basically going to vote for President Obama. Forty-five percent or so are basically going to vote for Mitt Romney. So this 10 percent that's fluid, they're going to be influenced by economic trends over the next few months.

TANDEN: Yes, but I think I really want to focus on this point about what the solutions are. Because I think the challenges -- I do think people recognize it's not just a question of the economic circumstances, because really it's who has the best vision going forward.

And I think that the reason why Mitt Romney is taking this level of criticism that he is, even in a time where he's doing well by some measures, is because people are really -- people on the right are concerned that he doesn't have a vision for this economy. And I think that is a real challenge for Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: And that is the "Wall Street Journal" lead editorial. And Douglas, you read that editorial.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: It's true and that's a wake-up call. I certainly didn't need coffee this morning as I read it.

But I think there's going to start to be the same challenge to the president, who has said not one thing about what he would do in a second term. And so I think you can make that claim only so far, and then both are going to be challenged to say what -- what are you going to do, you know, come January 2013, exactly.

TANDEN: But the president has put forward ideas over and over again to get this economy moving that have been stalled by Republicans. A transportation Bill that should have been a no-brainer had to wait until the last minute because of House Republican intransigence.

So he has put forward ideas. I agree he should put forward additional ideas. But he has put forward real ideas.

BLITZER: Stick around. Everybody stick around. We have more to discuss. You guys are not leaving. We're all going to be here.

BOLDUAN: Not letting you leave. Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, President Obama had some company on the campaign trail, courtesy of the Romney camp. We'll talk about the dueling bus tour. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our discussion here. Ryan Lizza is here in New York. Neera Tanden is here. Doug Holtz -- Douglas Holtz-Eakin is here, as well.

Let me start with you, Douglas. All these potential vice-presidential running mates for Mitt Romney. When you take a look at them, they're all pretty qualified. They're serious guys, if you will, but most of the American people have never heard of them outside of their respective states. We've got some numbers we'll show you. Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal. Not necessarily well known to people out there.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Well, I don't think actually that's a big concern because in my view, is that the vice-presidential choice never takes a ticket upward. It's not really what people are looking at. But it can really hurt a ticket. And you've got to make sure you pick someone who is qualified to step in, should the awful circumstances arise. And all of these have been mentioned and many other are qualified. It's just a long list.

BLITZER: Are you surprised, Neera, that they're following the Obama bus in Ohio? These are governors, a former governor, a current governor. That they're the surrogates. Usually you send someone like you or somebody else.

TANDEN: Oh, my God.

BLITZER: Get out of here. Go!

TANDEN: I think you meant to say Doug.

BLITZER: You send Doug sometimes. You send -- you send a Robert Gibbs. You send a Stephanie Cutter. You know, you somebody like that, an Axelrod occasionally. But to send sitting governors, isn't that a little unusual?

TANDEN: Yes. I think it's a little humiliating, actually, for those governors. To be honest, to be the ones that you -- I mean, to try to be a VP, and to do that, you always want to say yes. When they ask you to do something like be a surrogate against the president, a sitting... LIZZA: It's like the Romney Olympics that they have up there. Romney's family, they get together and compete. He's sending these guys out. It's called bracketing. Right?

BLITZER: So you think they're being tested?

LIZZA: I think he's making them work for a little bit. But it is new.

TANDEN: And it is shallow.

LIZZA: I don't remember -- I don't remember this happening in '08 or in '04. He's much more aggressive.

BOLDUAN: And we also know that Ann Romney, Mitt Romney's wife, is also getting into veepstakes. Take a listen to what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you should nominate a woman?

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: We've been looking at that, and I'd love that option, as well. So, you know, there's a lot of people that Mitt is considering right now.


BOLDUAN: That was in an interview with CBS. We were kind of thinking of the list of possible women that Mitt Romney could be considering. We're talking Senator Kelly Ayotte. We just saw her with Mitt Romney. Who knows? Condoleezza Rice, Governor Nikki Haley, maybe even Governor Mary Fallin.

What's the likelihood -- what's the likelihood that you think there's going to be a woman that's in real contention here for the vice- presidential slot?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think Senator Ayotte, for example, could be in real contention.

BLITZER: She wasn't very experienced.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: She's not. And that would be...

BLITZER: Do you think she's qualified to be president? You do?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: ... believe she's...

BLITZER: You think she's qualified to be the president? Maybe she will be down the road, but do you think she's got enough domestic, economic and national security experience to -- God forbid -- step in and be president?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think she's going to get serious vetting. I do. And will she get over that hurdle? I don't know. But the real issue is that so many of the ones who we see, governors and the like, have taken themselves out of the running. So it's going to be hard to find...

BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice said...


LIZZA: I was looking at the list before we went on of female Republican senators, female Republican governors, and depressingly there are not that many.

BLITZER: Kay Bailey Hutchison, she is a talented, smart, energetic...

BOLDUAN: Congressman Kathy McMorris Rogers, her profile has really been...

LIZZA: Her people have been whispering to us in the press in Washington trying to try to get her name out a little bit more. Conservatives really like her. She's the only female Republican in the House leadership.

BOLDUAN: She took a big role with health care.

TANDEN: I would say, with the challenges that Mitt Romney has had with women over the last several months, I am surprised that they aren't putting out a woman or a few women out there more. I'm surprised.

BLITZER: Putting Kelly Ayotte out there.

TANDEN: I mean, they're putting her name out, but it seems clear that she's not in the first four categories. The first four is all men. And what's surprising about them is that they're not particularly exciting candidates.

BOLDUAN: Isn't that a good thing maybe?

BLITZER: They may not be exciting, but they're qualified. I mean, if you take a look at Rob Portman, he is not exciting. He's the senator from Ohio. Former budget director, former special trade representative former -- and he's from Ohio, too. He may not be the most lively kind of guy, but he's very intelligent, and he's certainly qualified, don't you think, to be president?

LIZZA: And these picks say more about the candidate, the guy at the top of the ticket...


LIZZA: ... than the person who's underneath. And I think Romney will go with someone safe. He'll overcompensate for the lessons of 2008 when Palin is judged as a disastrous candidate for McCain and he'll do something -- he'll do another governor who's competent, qualified and will tell you about his decision-making. TANDEN: That's right. He's going to overcompensate. I think good VP candidates have really brought out or accentuated positive elements. Al Gore in '92 with Bill Clinton, they sent a message. And I'm just not sure what the Tim Pawlenty/Mitt Romney message is.

BLITZER: Tim Pawlenty is a smart guy, a two-term -- two-term governor of Minnesota. He's qualified. May not necessarily be the most dynamic...


TANDEN: We can talk about it until then.

BLITZER: We'll continue to talk about it. Stand by, guys.

More news coming up, including an outrage right here in the nation's capital, and it seems ridiculous, but listen to this. Filling a swimming pool instead of helping storm victims. What was the Washington, D.C., Fire Department thinking? We have details.


BOLDUAN: Back to our list of what's trending in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

To remind you where we were, No. 4, three children die off the coast of Long Island when a boat capsizes during a Fourth of July trip.

No. 3 on our list, check out this very old map that labels the new world as America. It's a centuries-old copy of a map from 1507 that actually christened the continent on paper.

And No. 2 on our trending list, goal line technology is coming to the soccer field. It was unanimously approved by soccer's governing body after months of exhausting tests. The technology will help refs determine when a goal is actually a goal.

And No. 1 on our trending list today, a Florida lifeguard who got fired for saving a swimmer outside of his coverage zone can have his job back if he wants it. But 21-year-old Tomas Lopez tells CNN he doesn't plan on going back. You can hear his side of the story next hour when he'll appear on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."

BLITZER: Saved a life, he's a good guy.

BOLDUAN: I think everyone is on his side on this one.

BLITZER: I think you're right.

The fire department here in Washington, D.C., is fighting a major fire of its own right now, struggling to explain why one of its units took almost an hour away from the fear and devastation across the city to fill up a private swimming pool in the hours immediately after Friday's killer storm.

Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this story for us. And it's the nation's capital. It's not supposed to happen, but what happened?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, this is one of those stories that's hard to believe, but it is true. The D.C. Fire Department does take community requests. For example, to bring a fire truck to a school or to have firefighters out for a parade.

Well, this was one of those special requests, but this one should have been immediately denied. But oddly enough, it was not. And now the D.C. Fire Department is in hot water.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Trees down, dangling electrical wires and medical emergencies in the aftermath of the storm. As a result, the fire department had triple the number of normal calls. But in the middle of it all, what was this D.C. engine fire crew tasked with? Filling this private small above-ground pool in someone's yard. Neighbor Freda Brooks watched it all happened.

FREDA BROOKS, NEIGHBOR: I was more in shock. I couldn't believe it. Because I didn't know they could come and do that. So yes.

SYLVESTER (on camera): They're not actually supposed to do that.

BROOKS: I kind of figured that.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): This fire hydrant had to be open to help fill up the pool with a total of about a thousand gallons of water. It took firefighters about an hour to get the job done.

We knocked on the homeowner's door, but there was no answer.

(on camera) So while the fire department was filling up this one person's private pool, the neighbors here say they were suffering in the heat. They didn't have electricity for four days.

(voice-over) The firefighters local union president says even the Engine 30 fire crews thought the request was unusual. The fire department doesn't go around filling up private pools.

ED SMITH, D.C. FIREFIGHTER: I did talk to some of the firefighters that were involved, and they had concerns. They thought that, you know, they could have been out doing all the work, especially given the storm.

SYLVESTER: But these firefighters had their orders, and they're trained to follow them. So how could this have happened?

The homeowner made the request on Thursday. Friday, the storm hit. And the job was done on Saturday. I asked the D.C. fire chief what in the world his people were thinking. He says the request to fill the pool was immediately denied.

CHIEF KENNETH ELLERBE, D.C. FIRE CHIEF: They ran it up the flag pole and they were told not to do it. But, unfortunately, that information was not communicated down to the company level. We found out where the breakdown is, and we're going to have to take appropriate action.

SYLVESTER: A battalion chief is now being reprimanded, and the fire chief is now saying to D.C. residents, sorry.

(on camera) Is this ever going to happen again where you're going to fill a private pool?



SYLVESTER: And the fire chief insists there is no personal connection between that homeowner and anyone at the fire department, but it's amazing that this even got past the initial homeowner's phone call, because the fire department doesn't serve as a pool company.

And, by the way, Wolf, when we got to that pool, it was actually empty.



You know, we looked at it, and they've been part of the problem but they've been taking a lot of heat for this. So I think it's very possible that the homeowner just emptied out the water. But right in the middle of that pool you could see a gaping hole.

BLITZER: Maybe the water just seeped out.

SYLVESTER: I think the water just seeped out. And I think a lot of people are frustrated that, after all of that, there's no water.

BLITZER: The fire department has got more important things to do than fill little people's little pools.

BOLDUAN: I think people would agree. Yes.

BLITZER: Good work, Lisa, thank you.

A 20-minute fireworks display in just 30 seconds? They all went off at once. Jeanne Moos is next.


BOLDUAN: So a cruel hoax resulted in a Mexican feast for a remote Alaska town. It's worthy of our "Video of the Day." I'm already intrigued.

Well, that's a Taco Bell truck being airlifted to Bethel, Alaska, loaded with more than a ton of taco fixings. I hope you're sitting down for dinner, because it's making me hungry.

It all started when someone started a rumor that Taco Bell was coming to their little town. Now, the closest Taco Bell is actually 400 miles away, so people were quite excited about this rumor. Well, when the hoax was revealed, people were disappointed to say the least, disappointed enough to attract the attention of Taco Bell executives in California, who arranged for this very special taco airlift.

BLITZER: Good for them. Smart work on their part.

BOLDUAN: I know. I think we should start kind of a -- some kind of a Twitter campaign to get something air-lifted to CNN, lunch tomorrow.


Look at this. It was supposed to be a fireworks spectacular. Instead, it was a spectacular failure. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're looking at fireworks where the fire worked, just not the timing.

(MUSIC: Queen's "We Will Rock You")

MOOS: It really rocked San Diego.


MOOS: All of the fireworks intended for an entire 20-minute show went off at the same time. It was over in under 30 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. This has been this year's favorite demonstration (ph).

MOOS (on camera): You know, it's always hard to tell when a fireworks display is over. You're always asking, was that the finale? Was that it? Same here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe that was everything!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wasn't supposed to happen, was it?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They set them all off at once?

MOOS: You betcha. Garden State Fireworks, a company famous for its shows, says the snafu may have been caused by a corrupted file, resulting in a computer glitch that launched every single firework.

Garden State's co-owner, August Santore.

AUGUST SANTORE, CO-OWNER, GARDEN STATE FIREWORKS: I wish I could unring a bell, but I can't.

MOOS: At least unring the car alarms.


MOOS: The short, but intense, show, was a disappointment to some but not all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was not expecting that! That was awesome!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was a good start. You don't often see the grand finale at the beginning.

MOOS: On the Internet, they call this an epic fail. Too bad it happened too late to be included in this.

(MUSIC: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow")

MOOS: The ultimate fireworks fail compilation set to music.

(MUSIC: "I wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me")

MOOS: At least no one was hurt in the San Diego blowout.

(on camera) The Coast Guard had a technical term for the fireworks fiasco.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A, quote, "premature ignition."

MOOS (voice-over): Leaving one poster to quip, "I swear to you, this has never happened to me before."

Even after the fireworks were spent, the music played on.

(MUSIC: "What so proudly we hail...")

MOOS: In the land of the free, feel free to cheer premature ignition.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...



MOOS: ... New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America, woo-hoo!


BLITZER: At least nobody was hurt.

BOLDUAN: No one was hurt. And I don't think we need to comment after a perfect Jeanne Moos ending.

But I do want to get our viewers to my favorite segment, which we're calling the "Ask Wolf" segment, where you can ask Wolf a question, and we'll answer it on air when we have the opportunity.

This one comes from Matthew Caulfield. He writes via Twitter, "Wolf, how difficult would it be to repeal the health-care law if Romney is elected?"

That is a big question, Wolf. What do you think?

BLITZER: It's a very important question. It would be very difficult if the Democrats continue to maintain a majority in the Senate. It would be a lot easier for the Republicans to do it if Romney is elected president.

If Obama is reelected, it's going to be almost impossible, because he'll veto anything that comes out of the House and the Senate. And you need a two-thirds override to make sure that that is overridden, that veto. So depends on what happens in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

BOLDUAN: And President Romney will have a lot of things to be dealing with if he would be coming in right away, not just health care. So all right.

So also, want -- you can send your questions to us. Keep them coming. Facebook, Twitter, iReport. All of the above.

BLITZER: That's it for us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.