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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Speaker of the House John Boehner; Milk Prices Rising?; Syrian President Appears On State TV; 48 Tones Of Silver From Shipwreck; Freeman Gives $1M To Pro-Obama PAC; Spammer Offline After Global Takedown; Boehner: Election Is Referendum On Obama; GOP Leaders Slam "Degrading Attacks"; $10 For Dead Person's Identity; Register To Vote On Facebook; Food Allergy Treatment Shows Promise
Aired July 19, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: two big interviews.
I have an exclusive face-to-face sit-down with the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner. He says he doesn't talk that much with the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. And there's a big issue, he says, where he agrees, he agrees with President Obama. Stand by, the full interview coming up this hour.
I also spoke with Susan Rice. She's the United States ambassador to the United Nations, a huge day at the U.N. today. You're going to want to hear her tough response to Russia's accusation that the United States, that the Obama administration is being hypocritical about Syria. You're going to want to hear what she has to say.
And alarming news about what the drought across much of the Midwest may do to the price of milk.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
My interview with John Boehner coming up this hour. You're going to want to hear what the speaker of the House has to say on a whole range of issues, the presidential campaign, how he really feels about Mitt Romney, what he says about the president of the United States, where he agrees with the president and many issues where he strongly, strongly disagrees. What kind of relationship do they have? That interview coming up.
But I want to get right to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's covering Mitt Romney today delivering some major messages of his own in this race for the White House. Jim Acosta is joining us from Boston right now.
What's going on on this day as far as the Republican presidential candidate, Jim, is concerned?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the back-and-forth in this campaign right now is all about four words the president said nearly a week ago, the words, "You didn't build that."
The comment has the Romney campaign building a new line of attack that is resonating with Republicans.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Republicans hope it's a sign Mitt Romney is back in business.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the president said that, if you got a business, you didn't build it, come here and talk to Brian. And you will learn that in fact he did build this business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I take umbrage at the suggestion that people don't start and build businesses.
ROMNEY: Now, I know some people that there are some people that think what the president said was just a gaffe. It wasn't a gaffe. It was instead his ideology.
ACOSTA: On a day when Romney was expected to stay behind closed doors, his campaign added an event at a truck repair company near his Boston headquarters to keep hammering a comment made by the president last Friday.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
ACOSTA: A new Romney Web video features a small business owner taking issue with the president's remarks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My father's hands didn't build this company?
ACOSTA: And it's catching on with Republicans. Take this Twitpic of a restaurant sign that reads "Mr. Obama, I did create this business."
The Obama campaign says Romney is taking the president's words out of a larger context about the need for public spending to help private businesses. So Obama's team put out its own Web video showing Romney echoing the president's message.
ROMNEY: We value schoolteachers, firefighters, people who build roads.
ACOSTA: But for months, Democrats and the Obama campaign have done their own selective editing, making a meal out of Romney's own gaffes.
ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.
Let Detroit go bankrupt.
ACOSTA: Republicans say they're focused on the president's record, noting in a new Web video Mr. Obama hasn't met with his own jobs council in six months.
QUESTION: So there's no reason to have him at public places?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, there's no specific reason except the president's obviously got a lot on his plate.
ACOSTA: The fierce battle has had little effect on the latest CNN poll of polls, which shows the race nearly deadlocked.
But another poll from "USA Today" and Gallup could be more worrisome for Romney. It shows a majority of Americans want to see more of the GOP contender's tax returns, something Mrs. Romney told ABC is not happening.
ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: And you just want to give more material for more attack. And that's really -- that's just the answer. And we have given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life.
ACOSTA: Meanwhile, Romney may be getting a lifeline from, of all people, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said earlier today that too much time in this campaign has been spent on the tax return issue.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, John McCain tells CNN's Piers Morgan his team found nothing in the tax returns that would have disqualified Romney in his own vice presidential search four years ago -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So I take it this notion that we had earlier in the week that a vice presidential running mate could be selected before he heads off to London for the Olympic Games and then he's going to Israel to meet with the Israeli prime minister -- it looks like all of the vice presidential discussion is now going to have to be delayed until he comes back until after the Olympic Games are over on mid- August before the Republican Convention at the end of August in Tampa?
ACOSTA: It looks that way right now, Wolf.
Earlier in the week, it looked like the Romney campaign may be searching for some kind of way to change the conversation off of all of that talk on Bain Capital and the tax returns. But then came this gift from President Obama himself, those words "You didn't build that." That gave the Romney campaign really a chance to switch gears and go on the attack against the president, using really his own words instead of having to come up with a hurried vice presidential announcement.
And, Wolf, there are some tea leaves to read here. Kelly Ayotte, who is said to be high on Mitt Romney's vice presidential search list, she is going to be appearing with Mitt Romney up in New Hampshire tomorrow. The Romney campaign announced that yesterday. Wolf, I think it stands to reason that the campaign would not have announced this event, would not have said Kelly Ayotte is going to be at this event up in New Hampshire if they were going to somehow come out tomorrow and announce she's the vice presidential running mate.
So I think that's an indication that perhaps this window before he goes to the Olympics is closing and that the vice presidential announcement will come after the Olympics are over, Wolf.
BLITZER: They haven't released his exact schedule yet, what days he's going to be in London, when he's going to be in Israel, when he's going to head back to the United States. He's going to Poland as well. Do he go to London, Poland, then Israel, or London, Israel and then Poland? Do we know any details about that?
ACOSTA: Wolf, I can tell you right now that, yes, all three of those countries are on the schedule.
But right now, the Romney campaign has kept the specific details of this trip very close to the vest. I think they're still working out some of those details. And I think, for security reasons, Wolf, they haven't completely released all of that to the public as of this point. But we hope to have more details perhaps this weekend on the specific details of the trip, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta covering Mitt Romney for us and doing an excellent job, thank you.
Three new polls agree the presidential race is a dead heat. But a closer look reveals some real weak spots for the Obama campaign.
Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.
You know, I looked at that "New York Times"/CBS poll and it clearly showed that there are weak spots for the president.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and it all goes down to the question of the economy.
Wolf, as we have been saying all along, this is going to be an election about the economy. And what the "New York Times" poll shows is that people's perceptions on the direction of the economy are beginning to harden. And they're hardening in the wrong direction as far as the Obama campaign is concerned.
Take a look at this. When you say, is the economy getting better, if you look at where it was in April, 33 percent, and now it's down to 24 percent, and that really -- I was talking to some pollsters today, Democratic pollsters. They consider that to be a really significant drop.
Also, the question is asked, do you approve or disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy? Now the approval rate you see is 39 percent, but back in April it was 44 percent. So the perceptions are hardening. And this is really not good news for the president.
BLITZER: This number is significant. Do you approve the president's handling of the economy? It's such a significant factor, the economy, the economy, the economy.
BORGER: Right. And you see that 55 percent disapprove.
Now, the question is, do they believe that Mitt Romney would do a better job than President Obama? That has to be decided. But what you see the Obama campaign really trying to do right now is disqualify Mitt Romney essentially as a candidate.
And they figure if they can do that, then the people will say, OK, you know what, we may not be thrilled, but we really don't want to take that risk. So we're going to re-hire President Obama.
BLITZER: They're trying to do to Romney what the Republicans did to Michael Dukakis at this point in the campaign back in 1988.
BORGER: Yes. But if you look at the polling, Wolf, to me what's interesting is that so far it hasn't seemed to move the numbers.
The thing we need to look at and we should say that this is a -- this race is a statistical dead heat, but what we have to look at is the races in those key battleground states, because that's where this election is going to be either won or lost.
And right now, most of the battleground states and you see are really still a dead heat. You look at Ohio, the president is up nine points. Some people believe it's not as high as nine points. But that's where this election is going to be fought. And this is where it's going to be won or lost.
BLITZER: If the president wins in Ohio, it would be a huge, huge win. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.
BLITZER: I think it would be because the president helped save the auto industry and so many jobs in Ohio, obviously Michigan, but in Ohio and other states in the Midwest are dependent on the supply route for the auto industry. That would be a huge...
BORGER: Right. That's an important -- that's such a key battleground state for both parties right now.
And the question is whether suburban women might go for Mitt Romney in that state. So it's really up for grabs. So not only do you have a national poll dead heat, but you have battleground states dead heat. And some Republicans are saying, you know what, if the perception is that the economy is not doing so well, why isn't Mitt Romney further ahead?
BLITZER: As important as these national polls are, the battleground state polls are much more important.
Gloria, thanks so much.
BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's joining us right now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Tough to believe still three months to go before the election. It's already turned into a knife fight.
The airwaves flooded with negative ads. They come at us from both sides now often, loud, obnoxious, boorish and increasingly they lack anything resembling dignity. Most of them are even irrelevant. Coming from President Obama and the Democrats, they take aim at things like Mitt Romney's old tax returns, his time at the head of Bain Capital more than a decade ago.
As for Romney and the Republicans, their attack ads focus on Obamacare, the disappearance of hope and change and the economy and jobs, which at least resonates for a lot of people. One Obama ad features Romney singing "America the Beautiful" off-key, while a Romney ad includes the president singing "I'm So in Love With You." It's childish.
The sad thing is these ads don't address the real problems, $16 trillion national debt, 8.2 percent unemployment, the rapidly approaching fiscal cliff. Instead, they just fill the airwaves, TV screens, computers with noise.
When asked about negative ads, President Obama told CBS News he's done -- quote -- "a whole slew of positive ads" talking about education, the tax code, how to rebuild America and promote energy development, but they're not getting news coverage. Probably true.
But without the negative ads, maybe the media would pay more attention to the positive stuff. Just a thought.
We recently reported in "The Cafferty File" that negative ads have skyrocketed since the 2008 race, partially due to the growing involvement and huge amounts of money available to special interest groups like the super PACs. Unfortunately for all of us, there is no end in sight, not for three more months.
Anyway, here's the question, a little different. I would rather "blank" than watch another campaign ad.
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on the THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting to hear the fill in the blank as they say, Jack. Good work. Thank you.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: Coming up next: my exclusive interview with the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner. I was up on Capitol Hill talking to him today. He says he doesn't talk that much with Mitt Romney. We will tell you why.
And in our brand-new third hour in the 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour of THE SITUATION ROOM, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, she has some very harsh words in response to Russia's charge that the U.S. is big hypocritical about Syria.
And we will also have the very latest on the investigation into a terrorist bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists.
BLITZER: Now to my exclusive interview with the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.
There are some major headlines here, including the Republicans' plans for the looming battle over tax cuts. The speaker also agrees with President Obama when it comes to Syria rather than the more interventionist approach of Senator John McCain and other Republicans. And you may be surprised with what he has to say about Mitt Romney.
We sat down up on Capitol Hill in his office just a little while ago.
BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks so much for joining us up here on Capitol Hill.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Let's talk presidential politics first, a little bit about Mitt Romney, a little bit about President Obama.
And we'll start with Mitt Romney, because you raised some eyebrows last month when you said, "The American people probably aren't going to fall in love with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has some friends, relatives and fellow Mormons." You went on to say, "Some people that are going to vote for him. But that's not what this election is about. This election is going to be a referendum on the president's failed economic policies."
It didn't sound, to me, at least, like a ringing endorsement of the Republican candidate.
BOEHNER: Well, listen, I'm enthusiastic about Mitt Romney and I think the American people will be enthusiastic come Election Day about Mitt Romney.
The point I was trying to make is that this election is a referendum on the incumbent. Now, in this case, it's a referendum on the president's failed economic policies. His policies have not only not helped, they've actually made things worse.
And, as a result, the American people, I think, will vote with their wallets. And I think Mitt Romney is going to win this election.
BLITZER: So you -- it will be a vote -- a win for Mitt Romney not so much because they love Mitt Romney, but because they don't like the president?
Is that what you're saying?
BOEHNER: Well, no, any incumbent president running for reelection of -- the election is going to be a referendum on the job that they have done. And I think this election is going to be similar to what we've seen in the past.
BLITZER: Do you spend a lot of time talking to Mitt Romney?
BOEHNER: I talk to him once in a while. But I don't spend a lot of time talking to him, no.
BLITZER: Has he consulted with you about who his vice presidential running mate should be?
BOEHNER: He has not.
BLITZER: I'm surprised. I mean, you're the speaker of the House of Representatives. You'd think he'd call you and say, what do you think about X or Y or --
BOEHNER: Well, listen, you know, a presidential candidate is entirely capable of picking their own running mate. These -- he's got to keep this in a very closed circle. And I don't expect to be consulted. I don't need to be consulted.
BLITZER: Do you have a favorite in --
BOEHNER: I have a lot of confidence in Governor Romney to be able to pick his candidate.
BLITZER: Do you think he should release his income tax returns for more than just two years?
BOEHNER: I think that's nothing but a sideshow. Listen, I file a financial disclosure form, as do all federal candidates, including Governor Romney. And this is nothing more than a way to try to distract people from the president's failed economic policies.
BLITZER: A bunch of Republicans are urging him to do so, as you know.
BOEHNER: Well, I've -- I -- again, I think it's a sideshow. He -- he released his returns from 2010. He's going to release his returns from 2011. I think that's more than enough.
BLITZER: All right. So we got you on that.
All right, let's talk about President Obama, because yesterday, you said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I think the president's attack on the private sector in America is exactly what's wrong with his administration. He doesn't give a damn about the middle class Americans who are out there looking for work. What he's trying to do is distract the American people in order to win his own reelection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States doesn't give a damn about middle class Americans?
BOEHNER: If he did, why wouldn't he meet with his own Jobs Council?
Why wouldn't he spent some time over the last nine months talking to the leaders here in Congress about what we can do together to help get our economy going again?
The president checked out last Labor Day. And he's been on the campaign trail nonstop ever since. It's all about him.
When the American people elect us because it's about them.
BLITZER: Because you used to have a good relationship with the president.
BOEHNER: I have a good --
BLITZER: Because you were -- you were almost -- you were very close to a deal that would have solved a lot of these problems.
BOEHNER: Listen, I have a very good relationship with the president. That doesn't mean we agree on everything. And when you look at some of the nonsense that's gone on in the campaign here over the last couple of weeks, you begin to scratch your head.
Somebody has got to speak English. And I'm not afraid to do it.
BLITZER: On the middle class, he -- you and he agree on one thing, that 98 percent of American households, they should continue paying the current rate, the Bush tax cuts. That is a, you know, a foregone conclusion.
Where you disagree is on the top 2 percent, making more than $250,000 a year.
So here's the question: why not get the middle class, folks making under $250,000, off the table, pass that, extend that?
He says he's willing to sign that into law right away. Most Americans would then no longer have to worry about a tax increase. And then later, you can fight over the top 2 percent.
BOEHNER: Well, Ernst & Young came out with a study earlier this week that made clear that the president's plan to tax the so-called top 2 percent will cost our economy about 700,000 jobs. We all know that almost half that income from that top 2 percent are small businesspeople who run their businesses as pass-through entities.
So, they end up paying their business taxes as part of their personal tax. And this is the wrong thing to do.
BLITZER: But why not just get the -- you know, where you agree, agree, and then fight over the 2 percent later?
BOEHNER: Well, you probably will recall that in 2009, 2010, when Democrats had the White House, they had big majorities in the House, a big majority in the Senate, they couldn't pass that president's plan. They couldn't do it.
Why? Because the votes aren't there. The votes are there, Democrats and Republicans, in a bipartisan way, to extend all of the current tax rates. In this economy, as fragile as it is, raising taxes on Americans, especially American small businesspeople, is a monumental mistake.
BLITZER: I understand that. But I'm just saying, the argument they make is you're holding 98 percent of the American people -- American households -- hostage in order to make sure that the richest Americans don't get a tax hike.
BOEHNER: That -- well, no, that's what they say.
BLITZER: That's what I said.
BOEHNER: What I'm trying -- well, what I'm trying to do is to protect all Americans and keep our focus on what the American people want us focused on, and that's the economy and jobs. And if we're serious about getting the economy going and creating jobs, we need to extend all the current tax rates.
BLITZER: So there's no way you're going to just separate the 98 percent, a vote tomorrow, next week --
BOEHNER: It would be the wrong --
BLITZER: -- next month?
BOEHNER: -- it would be the wrong thing for the country to do.
BLITZER: And so what are your -- looking ahead to the lame duck session, assuming nothing happens between now -- do you think annoying is going to happen between now and the election?
BOEHNER: The House will extend all of the current tax rates. We'll do this in a couple of weeks. We'll send it over to the Senate and hope that they act. And there's no reason to hold our economy hostage because no one knows what the tax rates are going to be come next year. They could act as early as September.
BLITZER: One of your members, Michele Bachmann and four other Republicans, they wrote a letter to the State Department deputy inspector-general raising questions about one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top aides, Huma Abedin. I know you've condemned this, but tell me what you think about this, because, to me, as someone who knows Huma for 20 years, I mean, it's pretty outrageous.
BOEHNER: Well, you know, I don't know her, but everything that I know about her makes it clear that she's got a sterling character. I'm not sure what the basis of these claims may be, but this is dangerous stuff to be throwing around without a lot of facts.
And, frankly, there are enough legitimate issues that we need to work with here in town, here in Washington, that I just am very concerned about the direction that this thing takes.
BLITZER: Have you spoken to Congresswoman Bachmann about this?
BOEHNER: I have not had a chance to talk to her, but I expect I will soon.
BLITZER: And if you -- and what would you say to her? What will you say to her? Give us a little flavor.
BOEHNER: Well, I expect that she'll offer to me why this came about. But again, these are dangerous accusations. And if somebody had the facts, they should have put the facts out there.
BLITZER: I'm with you. Totally agree.
A quick question on Syria right now. There seems to be a tipping point in what's going on.
Would you support U.S. military action, not necessarily troops on the ground, but air power, cruise missiles, arming of the rebels?
Would you go that far at this point to get rid of Bashar al-Assad?
BOEHNER: I don't think that -- that we ought to go that far. Now, it's clear that the opposition is making progress. It's also clear that they are receiving assistance from their friends in the region.
And I don't think, at this point that it calls for that type of military intervention on our part.
BLITZER: So, on this issue, you're with the Obama administration, basically, and not, let's say, with John McCain?
BOEHNER: I've -- probably correct, because I believe that Assad has to go. But I don't think that we need to over -- overly involve ourselves to the extent of direct military action.
So I'm confident that the opposition groups, they're making progress and I'm confident that Assad's days are numbered.
BLITZER: On defense spending, you know, the fiscal cliff and sequestration and all of the things that potentially could happen, I was listening to former Senator Alan Simpson the other day. And he made the point that U.S. defense spending right now -- whatever it is, $700 billion a year, whatever it is -- if you take the next 15, 14, 15 countries combined, friendly countries like Britain or France or Canada, rivals like China and Russia, adversaries like Iran and North Korea, and you add all of their defense expenditures together, it doesn't reach what the United States alone spends.
So the question is this: isn't there room for significant Defense Department cuts?
BOEHNER: There is room. And that's why when we agreed to the Deficit Reduction Act last year and put caps on discretionary spending for the next 10 years, about $487 billion of what would have been spent at the Department of Defense is going to be cut.
BLITZER: Over 10 years?
BOEHNER: Over 10 years. Now, what is unacceptable, though, is the sequester, another $1.2 trillion worth of cuts --
BLITZER: Over 10 years.
BOEHNER: Over 10 years, half of which would come out of our military. That is going too far.
Listen, the president promised the American people the sequester would never happen. The reason we have the sequester is that the president didn't want to be inconvenienced by having a second debt limit vote before his reelection.
And he and Senator Reid pushed to have this automatic sequester if the super committee couldn't do its job.
They also committed to help get the super committee to produce $1.2 trillion worth of cuts and frankly didn't help.
BLITZER: But with all these troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, isn't there a great opportunity now to slice the --
BOEHNER: I'd say --
BLITZER: -- Defense Department budget?
BOEHNER: No, that's actually, it comes out of a different budget, those activities going on in Iraq and in Afghanistan. But understand that after 10 or 11 years of war, a lot of our equipment is worn down. A lot of it needs to be replenished and replaced.
So, the first half of the cuts, $487 billion, I think is acceptable. And the Pentagon has agreed that we can do that.
But I don't think we can go much further without hollowing out our force, as Leon Panetta described it, and not meeting our number one responsibility, which is providing for the security of the American people.
BLITZER: One final question, because we're out of time.
You're about to celebrate your second anniversary, right, as speaker?
BOEHNER: Well, assuming that we win the majority in November.
BLITZER: What's it like?
I mean what is, you know, you're -- we all know your personal story growing up in Cincinnati. And, you know, it's an amazing story. When you think about it, here you are, the speaker of the House of Representatives. You're up on Capitol Hill. We're talking right now. It's an amazing story, when you think about it.
BOEHNER: It really is. But, you know, welcome to America, where you can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do. And it's the only country in the world where there -- there's no lid, there's no cap on what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.
BLITZER: So you think about those roots you had there and you see what you're doing right now --
BOEHNER: Well, you're busy around here, you forget about it. But every once in a while you look up and you go, why am I here? Why me?
BLITZER: What do you say?
BOEHNER: Welcome to America.
BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks so much.
BOEHNER: Nice to see you.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to dissect what the speaker just had to say about Mitt Romney in our strategy session. Standby for that.
But first, some deep sea explorers recover a record haul where they found 48 tons of silver. And they're not alone.
BLITZER: Amid growing speculation over his whereabouts, Syria's president appears on state TV. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, it is President Bashar Al-Assad's first TV appearance since the bombing that killed three of his top officials. The video shows him with his new defense minister, but there's no sign of where that video was taken.
There have been some reports suggesting that he has left the capital. Violence continues to rage in Syria. Opposition forces say at least 94 people were killed today.
Deep sea explorers are celebrating a record bounty. Get this 1,200 bars of silver pulled from a ship wreck three miles under water in the North Atlantic. The haul is from this British cargo ship torpedoed by a German boat in 1941.
So far the expedition has pulled more than a million ounces of silver to the surface. And they think there may be a lot more still on the ocean floor.
President Obama is getting some big name and big money support. We've learned actor Morgan Freeman donated $1 million to a pro-Obama "Super PAC" last month.
In a statement the actor says the president has done a remarkable job in historically difficult circumstances. Hollywood power players like Steven Spielberg and Bill Maher has donated to the same group.
And one of the world's biggest spammers has been knocked offline in a global takedown known as the "Grumbotnet." It generated around 18 billion spam e-mails a day. Take last week, it was responsible for about a third of all spam, today, not one single message. Security firms and internet service providers in three countries killed the network with an attack on its main servers.
The question though is, is this going to be coming back? Are we going to see some other version of this, Wolf?
BLITZER: Spam. I get a ton of spam too. Unfortunately goes to a spam bucket out there. I don't have to deal with it, but there's a lot of spam out there.
SYLVESTER: Yes, it's a big nuisance. I know a lot of folks get tired of seeing that. But 18 billion spam e-mails a day this one entity was responsible for. At least we'll see a little bit of the slowing of that, Wolf, hopefully in our e-mail boxes.
BLITZER: That would be good. Thank you, Lisa.
Modern technology is catching up with U.S. democracy. Stay there and you're going to find out which state is about to let people use Facebook to register to vote.
And the House Speaker John Boehner tells me the election is a referendum on the current president. It's not a referendum on Mitt Romney. We're going to see what our Democratic and Republican strategists have to say about that.
BLITZER: Get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart, former Michelle Bachmann campaign spokeswoman, also worked for Rick Santorum's campaing.
One of these days you'll get it right get the one of the winning candidates out there. We'll see what happens, Alice. Thanks very much.
Let's talk about my interview with the Speaker of the House John Boehner. I had this little exchange. We just saw it, but let me play this little clip and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It will be a win for Mitt Romney not too much because they love Mitt Romney, but because they don't like the president, is that what you're saying?
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Any incumbent president running for re-election, the election is going to be a referendum on the job that they've done. I think this election's going to be similar to what we've seen in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Hilary, is he right that this is an election an incumbent president for all practical purposes doesn't really make any difference who the challenger is. This is a referendum on the president.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's easy to say that, but of course it's not because ultimately it will be a choice, not a referendum. It will be a choice between two men.
And people have to decide which one speaks for them, which one can they trust, which one is doing the most for middle class voters who make up the majority of the electorate.
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think he also pointed out was that Americans are going to go to the polls based on their wallets. If they don't have a job, they're going to be frustrated with who's in the White House right now.
And this will be a referendum on President Obama's administration. And his policies have failed to make things better for most Americans. That's why the polls are neck and neck. Not just nationwide but in the key states like Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and Ohio.
BLITZER: Let's say Florida. Let's say Ohio for that matter or Virginia, there has been an improvement in the economy. Now, the governors are all Republicans and they're taking credit for it.
But the president of the United States is the president of the United States. And those states, will the folks in those states give the president some credit for improving the economy let's say in Ohio?
STEWART: I don't see that happening.
BLITZER: Why won't they just credit John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, who obviously has something to do with the economic recovery in Ohio, but the president certainly has something to do with it as well.
STEWART: Well, when we see statements that we've saw from the president talking about how if you built a job, you didn't build it on your own. He does not have faith and confidence in the American people.
He sees faith and confidence in bigger government and bigger spending. And the American people are insulted by the fact that if they worked hard and took risks and sweated and took chances and they created a job, the president doesn't have respect for that.
BLITZER: That was an awkwardly phrased statement that the president made. He's getting some grief for it.
ROSEN: He is. And I think it's silly. Look, the fact is that the Republicans are not going to be able to have it both ways. Where things are getting better they're going to have to give the president credit.
If they're going to hold him responsible for where things have gotten -- have not gotten better. I think what we have seen consistently is the president saying we have to do more, we have to do more. But there have been some improvements.
And I think when you get down October and early November, people are going to say, who do I trust to create the kind of jobs that are going to support me?
And I think the reason the president is actually holding as well as he is in a very bad economy is that they just don't think that Mitt Romney's on their side.
BLITZER: Ladies, don't go away. We have more to discuss. Also, a well-known news man is calling out the news media saying some are selling out to political campaigns.
Dan Rather is going to join me live in our next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM to explain what he calls a, quote, "stunning agreements some journalists are making with political operatives."
And Michelle Bachmann under fire from a growing number at her own party, has she gone too far this time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: These allegations about Huma Abedin and the reports from which they are drawn are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.
When anyone not least a member of Congress launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation. And we all grow poorer because of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John McCain on the floor of the United States Senate really going after Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and four other Republicans who are making these insinuations about a top aide to Hillary Clinton.
Let's continue our conversation with Hilary Rosen and Alice Stewart. Alice, you used to work for Michele Bachmann. I know Huma Abedin. I've know her for 20 years. She's an outstanding patriotic American who happens to be a Muslim.
But what's wrong with that? You can't be a patriotic American and be a Muslim? Here's the question, has Michele Bachmann and these four other Republican lawmakers crossed over and gone too far?
STEWART: Look, I have not had the pleasure of meeting Huma before. I hear wonderful things about here. I heard she's wonderful, sweet, kind, sincere person, works really hard at a very tough job. I do feel like that she should not have been singled out in an attempt to call attention to and shine the spotlight on the possibility of Muslim Brotherhood influence on the Obama administration.
It's not necessary to call out someone of her character and her good will and good nature. And I just think that was an unfortunate thing to do.
BLITZER: It was really a terrible thing to do. Not only John McCain, but John Boehner, Ed Rollins, who was Ronald Reagan's political director. He wrote an item on foxnews.com saying Mrs. Bachmann, you know better, shame on you, Michele.
ROSEN: Right, accused her of McCarthy-like tactics, which is absolutely right. Michele Bachmann owes her an apology. But frankly, even the concept that there's Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the Department of State or into this government is ridiculous.
Huma and the rest of Hillary Clinton's team have supported the most pro-Israel secretary of state we've had in a generation. These issues we have with Syria right now are extremely serious even John Boehner today agreed with President Obama in the strategy he's taking to try and put pressure on Assad stepping down.
BLITZER: Should Michele Bachmann, in your opinion, Alice, call her up Huma Abedin and apologize?
STEWART: That's her decision to make. I'm not working for her anymore. That's her decision to mistake. I think the fact that she's basically doubled down on this after some criticism seems to be rather unlikely. But as I said, it's unfortunate. I hear Huma is a wonderful person.
BLITZER: She is.
STEWART: And I hope that she's able to, you know, get through this.
BLITZER: We got to leave it there, but we've invited Michele Bachmann to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I hope she comes on.
ROSEN: Michele Bachmann is irrelevant. She's irrelevant.
BLITZER: She's not irrelevant. She's a lawmaker. She represents nearly a million people from Minnesota. What do you mean? She's elected several times to the House of Representatives.
ROSEN: In a district in Minnesota.
BLITZER: There are 435 members of the House.
ROSEN: But why her outrageous positions and shameful personal attacks get this much attention I think is just wrong.
BLITZER: And it's not just her. It's four other Republicans who signed that letter as well. So if each of them have almost a million constituents, that's five million -- ROSEN: It's nothing, but negative celebrity in my view.
BLITZER: It's an outrageous McCarthy-like charge to be sure.
ROSEN: It is.
BLITZER: And she does -- I know her well and owes her an apology.
ROSEN: She does.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
It's a parents' worst nightmare, your child is walking down the street and a man tries to abduct her. It's all on tape. Standby.
BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Sick of the campaign ads? That's the question this hour. I would rather blank than watch another campaign ad.
Dottie says, "I would rather cut out my own gallbladder with an oyster fork." Valerie in North Carolina, "I'd rather listen to my mother-in- law tell me how to cook than listen to the campaign ads."
Curtis writes, "I would rather watch Michele Bachmann and her husband eat corndogs while Sarah Palin reads from the book, "50 Shades of Gray" than watch another campaign ad. On second thought, maybe not."
Tom in Michigan writes, "I would rather watch Fox News than watch another campaign ad, maybe." Nan on Facebook, "Have a triple root canal while being forced to watch the "Jersey Shore."
Jay in New Mexico says, "I would rather push a scorpion uphill with my nose than watch another campaign ad." Jay writes, "I'd rather hunt quail with Dick Cheney than see another political ad."
Candice says, "I would rather put out a campfire with my face than watch another campaign ad." Aster on Facebook, "I would rather go to the DVM."
Crest in Florida writes, "I would rather go to sleep and have someone wake me up after the election. Thank God for the mute button." David says, "I would rather watch porn with my parents."
And Tom in New York says, "I would rather do a 12-hour road trip to Canada in a cage on Mitt's roof."
If you want to read more about this, things people would rather do than watch the campaign ads, go to the blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
BLITZER: Some very clever writers out there, Jack, very funny stuff.
BLITZER: Good stuff. Thank you.
By the way, coming up in our next hour, my interview -- in our new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour I should say, my interview with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
She has some very harsh words to say about Russia. Also coming up, you won't believe how easy and inexpensive it is to go online and steal someone's identity.
BLITZER: So is the federal government accidentally helping identify thieves -- helping to identify thieves commit fraud? Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on here, Lisa?
SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, one senator says, yes, that is because for $10 you can get the full name of a dead person complete with Social Security number from the government. It's something that's known as the death master file.
And Senator Bob Casey today called for restrictions on access to it. The Social Security Administration created it to help businesses prevent identity theft, but right now anyone can use it.
And want to register to vote, but don't have a stamp to mail in the form? Well, just log onto Facebook. Washington is set to become the first state to allow eligible residents to register through the secretary of state's Facebook page.
They'll have to provide name, birthday and state id or driver's license number. The state says Facebook won't get that information.
And a new study is showing promising search for a way to treat food allergies. The technique is called immunotherapy. In the study, doctors gave children allergic to eggs extremely small amounts then increasing the amounts slowly over time.
Now some of the children lost their allergy. But we have to emphasize this is not something you want to try at home. This study was done in a medical setting with tightly controlled conditions -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.