Return to Transcripts main page


Obama Rallies Supporters in Iowa; Thousands Embrace Ryan In Colorado; Violence in Syria; Islamic Countries Two-Day Summit; Stealth Technology; Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaign; Airline Asks Man to Change Seat

Aired August 14, 2012 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, President Obama taking some not so subtle swipes at Mitt Romney. He's about to speak any minute now.

When it happens, we're going to bring you there -- bring it to you live.

And dodging bullets and ducking for cover -- we're taking you inside our own Ben Wedeman's death-defying drive into Syria's largest city under siege.

And imagine flying from New York to London in under an hour. Just ahead, the hypersonic flight vehicle the U.S. Air Force is hoping will do just that.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're standing by for the president of the United States. He's getting ready to speak in Iowa. Right now, he's just started thanking some of the folks there.

He's in the middle of a three day swing through Iowa, just one of the battleground states being blanketed by the candidates on both tickets. And war -- the war of words is getting vicious, with each side taking swipes at the other, some of them not so subtle.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

He's traveling with the president in Iowa right now -- Dan, give us the latest.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you pointed out, there have been sharp jabs on both sides. Yes, the president has been delivering the usual stump speech, talking about the economy, what his administration has done to turn -- turn things around.

But the president did go after Mitt Romney, alluding to a very sensitive story, leaving the Romney campaign saying that the Obama campaign will do anything to go away from the president's record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN: President Obama stopped by a small coffee shop in Knoxville, Iowa to grab a light breakfast.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll have one of each muffin and a cinnamon roll because I've got a bunch of folks on the bus.

LOTHIAN: And to highlight the role small businesses are playing in helping the U.S. economy rebound.

OBAMA: Yes. This is exactly what America is all about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. That's right.

OBAMA: So I'm -- I'm sure you're going to be successful.


OBAMA: And I'm going to contribute to it by buying some stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate that.

LOTHIAN: But on the second day of the president's Iowa bus tour, where he shifted his message from drought relief to renewable energy, Mr. Obama found a way to connect wind power to his GOP rival's dog, Shamus.

OBAMA: Governor Romney even explained his energy policy this way. I'm quoting here. "You can't drive a car with a windmill on it."

I don't know if he's actually tried that. I know he's had other things on his car.

LOTHIAN: That was a not so subtle reference to the incident where the Romney family strapped its dog to the roof of the car.

Those comments drew a sharp rebuke from Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. Quote, "President Obama continues to embarrass himself and diminish his office with his un-presidential behavior."

In a state that gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind power, the president also criticized Governor Romney for opposing tax credits for renewable energy companies.

OBAMA: He said that new sources of energy, like wind, are imaginary. His running mate calls them a fad.


LOTHIAN: Now, the Romney campaign countered, saying that the president is to blame for the loss of thousands of jobs in the wind industry and saying that it's Mitt Romney who has the plan to set that industry on the right course -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right. Dan Lothian, where the president is right now.

In fact, let's go to the president.

He's starting to get to the substance of his remarks.

OBAMA: -- you can find a job that pays the bills. You can have a home that you can call your own. You can be assured that you won't go bankrupt if you get sick. You can retire with some dignity and some respect. And most importantly, you can make sure that your kids get the kind of education and opportunity so they can dream even bigger and do even better than you did. That is what the American promise is all about.


OBAMA: That's what we've been fighting for. That's what we've been fighting for.

And we knew it wasn't going to happen overnight. We knew it was going to take more than one term, maybe even one president, to get this country back to the place where everybody's got a fair shot. But we started it. And three-and-a-half years ago, we saved ourselves from going into a great depression. And 4.5 million jobs have been created, half a million manufacturing jobs. And the auto industry got saved. And -- and we are now...


OBAMA: We're now at a point where a lot of folks are still struggling and so we've got to move forward, and not backwards. We've got to move forward.

Now, the good news is, we've got everything we need to succeed. We've still got the best workers in the world.


OBAMA: We've still got the best universities and colleges in the world. We've got the best researchers and scientists in the world. We've got the best entrepreneurs, small businessmen and women, and -- and large businesses that are the best in the world, making some of the best products. We've got everything that we need. We...



OBAMA: We...


OBAMA: You know...

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: -- and -- and -- and we're a young nation. We're a young nation, in part, because we've got this incredible diversity. People are willing to come here from all corners of the globe because they understand there's something special about this place. And so for all the naysayers out there and the folks who try to paint things as -- as dark as they can, especially during election time, the fact of the matter is, there's no nation on earth that wouldn't trade places with us.


OBAMA: So we've got the tools to make sure that we are living up to this country's promise, a country where you can make it if you try, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what faith you are, no matter what race you are, no matter what your last name is.

Here in America, you can make it. That's what we have the opportunity to make sure continues for the next generation. That's what we're fighting for.


OBAMA: That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States of America.


OBAMA: Now, there is one thing holding us back, though. And that is the politics in Washington.


OBAMA: We've got -- the other side has decided that compromise is a dirty word. And they spend a lot of time trying to beat me instead of moving the country forward.


OBAMA: But -- but part of it is just an honest disagreement about how we move the country forward. You know, Governor Romney chose a running mate this weekend. And I know Congressman Ryan. He's a good man. He's a good family man.

But he's got a fundamentally different view about how we move this country forward. He's an articulate spokesperson for Governor Romney's views. He's the ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress.

But that vision is wrong. Look, let me -- let me tell you...


OBAMA: You can sum up Governor Romney's plans pretty simply. He wants to eliminate... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything.

OBAMA: -- regulation.


OBAMA: He wants to eliminate regulations on big banks and corporations, some of which we've put in place in the wake of the disaster on Wall Street. And he wants to institute even more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.


OBAMA: You know, the centerpiece of his plan is a new $5 trillion tax cut, a lot of which would go to folks like me, who don't need it. And here's the kicker. He expects all of you to pick up the tab.


OBAMA: No, no, don't take my word for it. Independent analysis shows that if his plan was instituted, the only way you could pay for it would be to have the average middle class family with children pay an extra $2,000 in taxes.

How many people think that's a good idea?


OBAMA: How many people think that would actually grow the economy?


OBAMA: But that's his theory. The theory is, is that if folks up here are doing really well, then all the benefits are going to trickle down. The extra $2,000 you -- you'd be paying wouldn't be used to pay down the deficit or the debt that we've already got. It wouldn't be to invest in more teachers or a better school system or making college more affordable or rebuilding our roads and bridges or finding new ways to create cheap energy. No. This $2,000 would be to help finance an average $250,000 tax break for folks making $3 million a year or more.


OBAMA: I've got to tell you, we have heard this sales pitch from these folks before. We've heard this trickle-down fairy dust before. It didn't work then. It will not work now.


OBAMA: We do not...


OBAMA: We don't think it's a plan to reduce the deficit. It's certainly not a plan to create jobs and to help families right now.

See, I believe in a different theory. When it comes to taxes, I said in 2008 I was going to lower middle class taxes.

And guess what?

I did.


OBAMA: So the average family...


OBAMA: -- the average -- the typical family is paying $3,600 less in taxes than they were when I came into office. So what I believe now is...

BLITZER: All right, so there's the president. He's beginning to get into his campaign speech, his stump speech. He's going through the points. He makes these points on almost all of his campaign stops. He's going after the Republicans, spelling out his vision of what he would do if he were reelected. We'll continue to monitor what the president is saying, but he's making it clear he disagrees strongly with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Much more on this coming up.

Mitt Romney's new vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan, is also making his mark on voters across the country. Just ahead, we're going live to Colorado, where thousands of supporters were on hand to welcome him. There's Paul Ryan.

And powerful Islamic countries in the Middle East hold an emergency summit, as Syria sinks deeper and deeper into civil war.

But could the country's biggest ally, the Iranians, derail the talks?

Stand by. We're going to Saudi Arabia.

And a firefighter humiliated on a flight -- just ahead, why the airline asked him to switch seats with a female passenger.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, they look like two peas in a pod. When Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate on that aircraft carrier Saturday morning, some people thought they were seeing double. Writing for the "Daily Beast," Robin Givhan suggests Ryan could easily be confused with one of Mitt Romney's five sons.

She says the Republican running mates and their matching white shirts and black pants lacked dazzle or texture. Describing them as, quote, "Two White guys defined by political expedience, professional uniforms, and perfectly pomaded hair," unquote. Ouch. But it's not just their appearances that are similar.

Politico suggests Ryan could just be Mitt squared. They say it's easy to see why Romney, the 65-year-old numbers nerd wanted Ryan, the 42-year-old budget wonk on the ticket with him. Like Romney, Ryan isn't the most exciting speaker. It's possible Romney was looking more for a youthful double of himself than someone to balance the ticket.

Speaking of doubles, take a look at these two back in high school. In his Janesville, Wisconsin high school photo, Ryan was voted biggest brownnoser by his senior year classmates. He was also the prom king and junior class president, not to mention an athlete and the member of the Latin club. Pretty well-rounded kid.

As for Romney, he attended a boy's prep school in Michigan, the state where his father was the governor. According to one classmate, Romney was in the glee club, the pep club. By the way, have you heard him sing? The glee club, the pep club, and chairman of the homecoming committee. What he didn't do was play middle linebacker on the football team.

Here's the question, who ranks higher on the charisma scale? Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan? Go to, post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. I don't know why that tickles me, but it does.

BLITZER: Should I ask, Jack, what you were voted in when you were a senior in high school?



BLITZER: OK. I won't ask then. I asked if I should ask, but I'm not going to ask.

CAFFERTY: I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Mitt Romney's new vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan, is wasting no time connecting with voters across the country. The Republican vice presidential candidate held his second solo campaign event in Colorado today where the crowd embraced his message with cheers and applause.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's use it. Let's make our energy independence. Let's create jobs.


RYAN: Let's stop sending jobs overseas by buying oil overseas. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)


BLITZER: Our political reporter, Peter Hamby, is traveling with Paul Ryan right now. He's joining us from the scene. Pretty enthusiastic crowd out there. You've covered a lot of these campaigns, Peter. How is he doing?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. I mean, we always knew that Mitt Romney had some trust issues with the Republican base. We also knew that "the Wall Street Journal" editorial crowd, the "Weekly Standard" folks in Washington, those are the kind of conservatives will be fired up for Paul Ryan.

But we're seeing on these Ryan events on the road that he's also firing up the base, those grassroots conservatives that Romney really needs to show up in November. Yesterday in Iowa at the Iowa State Fair, he drew thousands to see him speak at his first solo event. And then, as you mentioned, his second solo event here in Colorado.

The high school gym behind me was at capacity. There were at least 2,000 people, probably more. One of the more ruckus Romney campaign events we've seen the cycle. And Mitt Romney wasn't even here, Wolf? Something to note, though, as a measure of enthusiasm, just because we haven't seen much polling yet about what Republicans think of Paul Ryan, in the 72 hours since Ryan was announced on Saturday, the Romney campaign has raised $7.4 million online.

That's just in three days. That's a big haul, but to put that in perspective, Sarah Palin pulled in $10 million over a three-day period after John McCain picked her in August of 2008, Wolf.

BLITZER: And money talks in politics as it does in so many other ways of life. You've got some pictures of Paul Ryan from college, and I want to share with our viewers. Tell us what these pictures are. What's going on there?

HAMBY: Yeah. This is one of the fun parts about sort of looking into a candidate when they become a national figure is looking back on who they were when they were younger. Paul Ryan went to Miami University in Ohio, in Oxford, Ohio. It's a really pretty campus. And we actually, CNN obtained yearbook pictures of him with his fraternity. He graduated there in 1992.

He was a Delta Tau Delta, and we've got some pictures, I think, we're going to show on screen. Paul Ryan, he's not the only Delt to go into politics. Some of the more famous politicos to come out of Delta Tau Delta nationwide include Kentucky governor, Steve Beshear, South Dakota senator, Tim Johnson, former New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson.

And Ryan would not be the first vice presidential candidate either to come out of that fraternity. Harry Truman, second-term vice president. Alben Barkley is also a Delta Tau Delta and so as Will Ferrell. He's not a politician, but he is in a political movie, Wolf, "The Campaign" which is in theaters right now.

BLITZER: Delta Tau Delta. I was an (INAUDIBLE). What about you, Peter?

HAMBY: I went to Georgetown, Wolf. We did not have fraternities, although they probably would have embraced it if we did have fraternities. That's for sure.

BLITZER: OK. Peter Hamby covering Paul Ryan, thanks very, very much.

Imagine flying from New York to London in under an hour. Ahead, the hypersonic flight vehicle the air force is hoping will do just that.

Plus, one popular brand admits its vitamins aren't as healthy as advertised.


BLITZER: Commander in Afghanistan is calling on the leader of the Taliban to, quote, "reign in his murderers." Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. It's the bloodiest day that the country is seen all year, isn't it, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. At least 41 people are dead and more than 100 are wounded after three separate incidents. The majority of the victims came after a series of attacks in Southwest Afghanistan. In the north, a blast that a market in the Kunduz province killed ten civilians, and a Taliban ambush just to the east of that killed a government official and three police officers.

Also, the maker of a popular children's vitamin is refunding more than $2 million after admitting the pills are not as healthy as advertised. The packaging for Disney and Marvel complete tablets included the claim that the vitamins gave kids all the DHA they need. But in some cases, the vitamins had a minuscule amount of the Omega-3 fatty acids that they had advertised, five-ten thousands of what the company had claimed.

And finally, when you think of price is right, you might think of Bob Barker, the showcase showdown, and possibly, the wonderful women showing off the prizes. Well, now, the game show is launching its first-ever search for a male model. The contest will air in five episodes on the web, and you can vote to decide who wins.

The lucky guy will spend the week modeling on the show. So, if this TV news thing doesn't work out, Wolf, we now know exactly what you can go to next.


BLITZER: Maybe. You know what, you never know. Life is strange, indeed. Thanks, Kate. BOLDUAN: I bet you're doing OK. Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

Life for people in Syria is getting more dangerous by the moment right now. What is it like on the front lines? We're taking you there. Our own Ben Wedeman's treacherous journey into the city under siege. Standby.

And later, he's a fireman who says a major airline made him feel like a pedophile. So, what happened when he boarded his flight and how it could happen to you?


BLITZER: Syria seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into civil war by the minute. More than 70 people have reportedly been killed just today. And the United Nations which has sent a top official once again into Damascus now says the deteriorating humanitarian crisis affects an estimated two million people. The raging violence is topping the agenda at an emergency summit of key Islamic countries in the region. We'll go there in just a few moments. But first, CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman's death defying drive into Syria's largest city under siege.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We made it. We left our safe house at 11:00 in the morning. It's 10 minutes past 10:00 at night. I finally made it to Aleppo.



WEDEMAN: All right. We're now going in the direction of Salahadin (ph), where of course all the fighting is taking place. What we're going to do is go to the mushhud (ph) neighborhood, which is adjacent to Salahadin (ph). There we'll get out and make our way slowly and cautiously toward Salahadin (ph), which the rebels say they've largely retaken. But, you know if you have to take everything they say -- everyone says, with a great big sack of salt.


WEDEMAN: He's saying at the intersection go faster.


WEDEMAN: OK. We're going through an intersection where he says to drive fast, so kind of get on the gear.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just put your foot down, mate.

WEDEMAN: Just going through this intersection. OK. Now we're good. We're good. It was just that road here.


WEDEMAN: OK. He's saying here there's a sniper that's shooting.




WEDEMAN: OK. He's saying you want to go back and drive faster through the intersection because there's a sniper.


WEDEMAN: He said get down. Get down. Get down.



WEDEMAN: That's all right. You're fine. Come down. Just get down. OK. Even if it's uncomfortable, just get down.


WEDEMAN: OK. We made it past that one. OK. Maybe now is a good time to get out. Get our bearings. What are you doing Kareen (ph)?


WEDEMAN: OK. He's going to take us between the buildings. Probably we'll park the car there and (INAUDIBLE).


BLITZER: You heard Ben Wedeman say (INAUDIBLE) right at the end there. Ben Wedeman risking his life to bring all of us the news from inside Syria. There are also new concerns about Iran's growing influence in the region. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed those concerns over at the Pentagon today.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is obvious to both General Dempsey and I that Iran is playing a larger role in Syria in many ways. Not only in terms of the IRGC (ph), but in terms of assistance, training. There's now indication that they're trying to develop or trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime.


BLITZER: Iran is certainly one of a number of powerful Islamic countries meeting in Saudi Arabia for a two-day summit where the crisis in Syria is certainly front and center. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Saudi Arabia covering this story for us. So what happened? What's going on over there because a lot of these Islamic countries totally disagree when it comes to Syria?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Iran is already creating waves here, Wolf. The majority of the 57 states that make up the organization of Islamic Corporation say they want Syria suspended from that -- from this organization. Iran has said that this is not the time. A (INAUDIBLE) was quoted as saying this is not the time. That the -- there should be Muslim unity. They should hold hands together, build bridges to resolve this issue, build bridges through dialogue.

President Ahmadinejad has said he has come here to lay his views out. He has come here at the invitation of King Abdullah, but around that table there are powerful Sunni states, Saudi Arabia to name the largest. You have Qatar, Kuwait, many Gulf States. Many of the other states here that want a strong message sent to President Bashar Al- Assad that is over the heads of the Iranians. So there is not the unity everyone here at the conference has talked about that they want. And it's the Iranians that are causing the problems -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The other issue involving the Iranians is this nuclear problem. We know Saudi Arabia, for example, the Gulf States are deeply, deeply concerned about what's going on with Iran's nuclear program. Has that been an issue at this Islamic conference?

ROBERTSON: You know Wolf that might be a side issue that comes up. I mean, there's sort of a bigger picture here is the talk about wanting unity among these states. And it's clear that Iran perhaps may get a behind-the-scenes closed door session, President Ahmadinejad with King Abdullah. We're not being told about that. I mean they've played -- they really keep a lot of what is going on quite secret here. The meetings didn't start until late this evening. All these heads of state were in country for a whole day. So there was a potential for that. But Saudi Arabia's been concerned about Iran's growing nuclear ambitions, concerned about the way that Iran has growing influence across their northern border from Saudi Arabia.

In Iran that's a huge concern. We had the Saudi former head of intelligence here just within the past year or so saying that if Iran gets the weapon, then maybe Saudi Arabia should be building one as well. So it is a very, very real concern. And you have the other Gulf States that are present here spending hugely along with Saudi Arabia on weapons systems, defensive measures to defend against or prepare for a potential showdown in this region. So it is the perhaps bigger push button issue here, those tensions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Because the whole Saudi-Iranian relationship is unique. I think it's fair to say on the surface they try to project some element of a normal relationship. But it wasn't that long ago, and you will remember this, that there was an accusation that Iran try to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel Al Jubeir (ph), at a restaurant here in Washington. So I wonder if that's at all creating any awkward nature in the reception of the Iranian officials who have come to Saudi Arabia for this conference.

ROBERTSON: Undoubtedly that will create tensions. I was told by an official who was present at other similar meetings where both Iran and Saudi Arabia have been present where literally the seating had to be re-arranged so they weren't sitting so close around the table. That was the level of animosity. But for Saudi Arabia, they see Iran behind many of their problems. On the border with Yemen they see that the Iranians, they believe, funding some of the tribesmen creating problems along that border.

They see the Iranians as being behind the problems in Bahrain (ph) where Saudi Arabia has pretty much stepped in and taken control of to get around those issues. In the east of Saudi Arabia, the Shia communities there, there's been disturbances there in the past six months. Again, the Saudi see Iran's hands in that. Whether or not it's there as much as the Saudis believe, that's an open question. But when they talk about their own diplomats being killed by Iranians -- I mean, look, the big issue here is the sort of Iranian expansion of their influence in the region and that's what has the Saudis so worried, sheer expansion (INAUDIBLE) in the region. They already see Iran as very much in control and in power in Iraq. And for the Saudis, that was worrying enough, Syria as well. They cannot stomach that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us covering this important meeting in Saudi Arabia. Nic thanks. We'll check back with you.

Here in the United States the Air Force took a new vehicle to the skies today for a key test of stealth technology. We'll have that and more.


BLITZER: Imagine traveling across the Atlantic at mach 6 (ph) speed. You'd get to New York from London in less than an hour. The Pentagon is trying to make that kind of speed a reality and the aircraft it hopes will do it had a big test today. Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is tracking the flight.



CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine the trip from Tokyo to Paris taking less than a couple of hours. It could happen, way in the future, if this hypersonic aircraft being tested on Tuesday takes flight. The Air Force Waverider has no pilot or (INAUDIBLE) cargo. But as this classic scene from "Star Wars" shows, looks aren't everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a piece of junk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She'll make .5 past light speed. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.


LAWRENCE: The Air Force has been trying to push the Waverider to mach 6 (ph) or 4,500 miles per hour. That's about five times as fast as a commercial jet can get from JFK to Heathrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be a very specialized capability --

LAWRENCE: Analyst John Pike says the only thing in the Pentagon's arsenal that moves that fast now has hydrogen bombs on the front end.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: They want a long range strike capability that's not going to frighten the Chinese or the Russians into thinking that we've launched a thermal (ph) nuclear attack.


LAWRENCE: One military report speculated on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden three years before 9/11.


LAWRENCE: It took well over an hour for the cruise missiles to hit the al Qaeda training camps, by which time bin Laden was gone. The report suggests hypersonic weapons could have cut the job to under 15 minutes. The problem is you can't simulate hypersonic flight conditions in a wind tunnel. So engineers can't test on the ground before they take to the air or go slow before they go fast.

PIKE: This is basically like trying to learn to drive a car that only goes 100 miles an hour.


LAWRENCE: Yes and the problem with trying to make it into a big passenger flight is the bigger you make this kind of technology, the worse it performs. If the Air Force got to about five minutes in the air today, it would be thrilled. So we're talking about baby steps, Wolf, until the day when maybe, hey, business class won't even mean anything.

BLITZER: It's amazing when you think about what potentially is down the road for all of us or our children or grandchildren --

LAWRENCE: Our grandchildren. Our great-grandchildren --

BLITZER: Whatever. Thank you.

So you're recognized when you walk into a store but not by a friend but by a camera. It is a new marketing tactic that's raising some questions. That's coming up in our next hour.


BLITZER: If there's any question that Paul Ryan has re-energized Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, look no further than Facebook. CNN's political director, Mark Preston, is monitoring the exclusive Facebook CNN Election Talk Meter as we're calling it and he is joining us with details. Mark, what are you seeing there?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well you know Wolf, Congressman Paul Ryan has been relatively unknown until Mitt Romney introduced him this weekend as his vice presidential running mate. Now he is becoming a household name and people on Facebook are taking notice. Hundred and 60 million people, more than half of the country's population is on Facebook and CNN is teaming up with them to present the Election Talk Meter, which measures buzz and attention.

If Romney was looking to create chatter with his vice presidential pick, he certainly did it. Wolf, look at this right here, these numbers right here that shows if it comes up, which shows right now that Paul Ryan is the most buzzed about politician being discussed right now on Facebook. Beating out the likes of President Obama, even his running mate, Mitt Romney.

So why is Ryan on top? Well Facebook looks at the increasing chatter and the number of people who like their fan pages. To give you some perspective, Ryan is just about one point below what Michael Phelps reached on the same scale when he became the most decorated Olympian of all time. And Ryan's fan page has grown from zero to over 600,000 people, over 600,000 people Wolf, if we get right back here, in the last few days. Now remember, Mitt Romney named him as his running mate on Saturday. That's when the page was created. He is now up to 623,000 and he keeps growing by the minute -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So Mark, what else can we learn from all of this data?

PRESTON: Well Wolf, when we dug a little bit deeper, we came across some interesting data points when it comes to demographics and age. Let's first look at age. The average age of the person who liked President Obama's fan page, 28 years old. Look at Mitt Romney, 46 years old, Paul Ryan, 43 years old, Joe Biden, 35. As for gender, it is pretty much split right down the middle for Obama and Biden and Romney. But take a look at this right here, Wolf. When you look at these numbers right here, when you look at these numbers right here it shows that Paul Ryan overwhelmingly is supported by men, 63 percent while only 37 percent, Wolf, are women. To see more of this raw data, and to figure out who has the most Facebook fans, all you have to do is go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll certainly do that. I'm sure a lot of people will be fascinated, all of those political news junkies out there. Mark thanks very much. Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a little correction here, Wolf. I misidentified the USS Wisconsin, called it an aircraft carrier, it is a battleship and I apologize for the error.

The question this hour, who ranks higher on the charisma scale, Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan?

Loren in Chicago. "When everyone has been talking what a milk post Romney has been on the campaign, anyone but a door knob would have a higher charisma rating. As Ryan is not a door knob, he wins the contest hands down."

Mel says "I didn't know the charisma scale went that low."

Dave in Florida says "Please allow me to rephrase the question. Who do you think has a more charismatic personality, the ax man or the tax man?"

Dan in Phoenix "Neither, they both remind me of used car salesmen. Mitt tells you a different car is the best one every day. Paul Ryan wants you and me to drive a scooter while he and his rich buddies go around in limos."

Michael in Virginia "They both have just the right hair to claim to be heirs of the Gipper. However, both also come off as a bit smarmy and a bit awkward. Obama has them both beat. He seems comfortable in his own skin."

Eric on Facebook. "I'll take (c), a summer squash. Romney and Ryan have as much charisma as a piece of river stone."

Karl in Michigan. "You're comparing shades of black here, but since Mitt Romney has absolutely none, it has to be Paul Ryan."

And Connie in Indiana writes "If Romney has charisma, it has to be in one of those offshore charisma accounts."

If you want to read more on this, go at the blog, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. That's where I keep my charisma, in an offshore account --

BLITZER: In the Cayman Islands or maybe Switzerland, who knows, all right thanks very much Jack.

A fireman says he was shocked and angry after a flight attendant asked him to change seats. He was told to move because he is a man and it was company policy. Stand by. We'll explain.


BLITZER: Men told to change seats on a flight just because they're sitting next to young children. It is a policy for many airlines. Our Sandra Endo is taking a closer look.


SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On board a virgin Australia flight, Sydney firefighter Johnny McGirr says he was profiled simply because he is a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as I boarded I was a potential pedophile.

ENDO: Since he was sitting next to two young boys who were unaccompanied by adults, he was asked by the airlines to switch seats with a female passenger. It is Virgin's policy to make sure there are no male passengers or empty seats next to children flying alone. McGirr complained to the airline and explained how he felt.

JOHNNY MCGIRR, PASSENGER: It was interesting, really ashamed (ph) like I had done something wrong and embarrassed.

ENDO: In a statement, Virgin says "This has been a long-standing policy that was based on customer feedback, and in light of recent feedback, we are now reviewing the policy. Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way."

It's a controversial policy. In 2010, a man sued British Airways for sex discrimination and won after being forced to move away from unaccompanied minors sitting next to him. Right now there's no major U.S. carrier that specifically prohibits men from sitting next to unaccompanied children. And since there's no nationwide Department of Transportation policy for airlines, carriers are left to figure out what's best. Children safety advocates support what some international airlines are doing.

JOHN SHEHAN, NATL. CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN: We're trying to prevent child victimization. We know that these -- that the overwhelming majority of sex offenders are male, so by removing that situation, you're lowering the risk.

ENDO: Travelers we spoke with have mixed views about the policy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would be fine as long as the airline has a watch on what he is doing and he's monitored. I don't -- I think that is discriminatory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because my kids, I feel you know unless I am not there with them or another parent, I would feel more comfortable if the policy was in effect.


ENDO: And most domestic travelers we spoke with also didn't even know such a policy existed with some air carriers. We also reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union but they did not want to comment on this story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sandra Endo, thank you.