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GOP Ties to New Obama Attack?; WikiLeaks Founder Granted Asylum; Nastiest Campaign Ever?; Cooking Up Tributes to Julia Child

Aired August 16, 2012 - 18:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now: CNN investigates a new video attack on the president by former Navy SEALs and reveals a Republican connection.

Ecuador grants asylum for the fugitive founder of WikiLeaks, and warns his embassy hideout might be assaulted.

And a lesson in mudslinging for the 2012 candidates from the founding fathers.


BOLDUAN: Wolf Blitzer is off. I am Kate Bolduan, along with Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The former special forces officers behind a powerful new anti- Obama video claim they're focused on national security, not politics, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: But CNN is poking holes in that claim.


BEN SMITH, FORMER NAVY SEAL: It is my civic duty to tell the president to stop leaking information to the enemy.


JOHNS: This web video has been likened to the 2004 Swift Boat ad campaign, questioning John Kerry's Vietnam War record.

BOLDUAN: And like the swift boaters, we're finding that the veterans behind this attack on President Obama do have Republican ties.

It's something our Brian Todd has been investigating. He is joining us here now live.

So, Brian, what have you found out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate and Joe, we have just discovered some links that this group does have to the GOP, links the group has not freely acknowledged him. Its new Web video just rakes the president for his campaign references to the bin Laden raid.


TODD (voice-over): In a campaign ad, Bill Clinton praises President Obama's courage for ordering the Navy SEALs to launch against Osama bin Laden.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Suppose they'd been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him.

TODD: On the campaign trail, the president emphasizes it himself.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promised to go after al Qaeda and go after bin Laden, and we did it.

TODD: Now there's a counterattack.

SMITH: Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden. America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not.

TODD: That's former Navy SEAL Ben Smith in a new video slamming President Obama. The 22-minute film titled "Dishonorable Disclosures" features former SEALs, special forces members, intelligence officers skewering the president for taking credit for the bin Laden raid.

The Obama campaign pushes back, saying the president has repeatedly credited SEALs for the bin Laden operation. The Obama team also points to this interview Wolf Blitzer did recently with the commander of the raid, Admiral William McRaven.

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, COMMANDER, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS: At the end of the day, make no mistake about it, it was the president of the United States that shouldered the burden for this operation, that made the hard decisions.

TODD: I pressed Ben Smith on that.

(on camera): Does the president get no credit here? Should he get no credit here?

SMITH: He gets the credit for having Osama bin Laden killed under his watch. If he gave the order, wonderful. But taking all the credit with the I, I, I, me, I, I about it and using us as a political ad is wrong.

TODD (voice-over): The film also blasts the Obama administration for allowing classified information on the raid and other security operations to become public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had tactics, techniques, procedures that were compromised. We even knew the name of the dog that was on the operation. TODD: The Obama team denies taking part in any leaks and says the Republicans are resorting to swift boat tactics, a reference to the blistering 2004 attacks on John Kerry's Vietnam War record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry cannot be trusted.

TODD: This new film was made by a group called OPSEC, for Operation Security. A spokeswoman for the group says it's completely nonpartisan, but CNN found many links between the group and the GOP.

The president of OPSEC, a former Navy SEAL named Scott Taylor, who appears in the video, once ran for Congress as a Republican. A spokesman for the group has done similar work for the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress.

Ben Smith, that former SEAL, told me he's an independent voter, but says on his Facebook page that he was once a spokesman for the Tea Party.

(on camera): And OPSEC lists its headquarters as being in this building in a certain suite. We found out that also in that suite are two Republican strategy groups and no other groups. We were not allowed to film inside, but were told by someone in the suite that OPSEC doesn't have much more than a desk there and that no one from OPSEC was there to talk to us.

An OPSEC spokeswoman told us where they're located has nothing to do with the message they want to get out.

(voice-over): Could that message hurt President Obama like Swift Boat damaged John Kerry?

DARRELL WEST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It could hurt Obama politically in the sense that it's a very competitive election. It's going to come down to 20,000 or 25,000 votes in a handful of states. We don't know now what's going to move those voters. But national security's a very sensitive issue for many people.


TODD: And OPSEC is now one of three groups of former special forces operations members coming out with campaigns against the president over the security leaks.

Neither the Pentagon nor the CIA would comment on this latest video, nor would they confirm military experience of those in the film -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: A big question is always when you get the tough attacks, Brian, is where do they get their funding? Have you found out where they're getting the money for the group and for the video that they're putting out?

TODD: That's not clear right now. The group is set up as a specific kind of nonprofit and the tax code allowing it to keep donors' identities a secret. They have told us they have about a million dollars at their disposal now and they plan to run ads in swing states in the coming weeks.

BOLDUAN: Something we will be watching for.

Brian Todd, thanks so much. Great work.

JOHNS: Kate, we're now getting new evidence that Paul Ryan's addition to the Republican presidential ticket is starting to make a difference. CNN now considers Ryan's home state of Wisconsin a tossup.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here to talk about that more.

John, what's the news?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Joe and Kate, let's show you the impact.

As you just noted, we are moving Wisconsin to a tossup. Let's do it live here. See Wisconsin, we now have it light blue, that's leaning blue. If you see a state that is light blue, it is leaning the president's way, if it's dark blue, we consider it solid Democrat. Same thing, dark red, solid Romney, light red leaning Romney.

What happens? When you turn Wisconsin, here's what you get, a more competitive battle in the Electoral College, 237 solid or leaning Obama, 206 votes solid or leaning for Mitt Romney.

If you look at the difference here, Joe, you see more Midwest tossups, Midwest battlegrounds. Why are we moving it? Our new poll is one of the reasons, just one of the reasons. Want to make that clear. But let's look at the poll numbers. Our new poll just out today shows the president still leading in Wisconsin, but with a very narrow, within the margin of error of that lead, so essentially statistical dead heat in the state of Wisconsin, Obama 49, Romney 45.

We know from the poll numbers and from reporting, I was in the state for a couple days this week, Ryan is having a factor. Here is one of the reasons. If you look, the president still has a good favorability here. This is why the Democrats say it's getting closer. They're confident the president will carry it in the end.

The president still has a good favorability rating. Paul Ryan actually has a higher favorability than his boss on the ticket, Mitt Romney. We're moving this for now to tossup status. The poll is one of the reasons. Again, if you talk to the Obama campaign in the state, if you talk to Republican activists in the state, they say their numbers are tightening too.

They say without a doubt, again Democrats the think they will win it in the end, but they say without a doubt Ryan is probably a point, maybe a little bit more of impact. They, too, consider Wisconsin a tossup battleground. JOHNS: John, let's talk again just a little bit about how this will effect the race in the Electoral College to 270.

KING: So let's switch and come back to the map.

Again, here is how we have it now. The key question is this. It is a tossup. If Governor Romney can hold these Midwest states, we know it is very important, critical, almost impossible to see him winning without Ohio. If he could also take Wisconsin, look what that does to the map. Those two states alone would give parity with the president.

Then you're looking how do you go forward? Florida, again near impossible to get Romney to the presidency without Florida. But look what I just did there. That was just three states. If he can pick up Florida, pick up Ohio, and pick up Wisconsin, then Governor Romney gets within seven votes. You have all of the other states out here, some of them very tough for the president.

It is critical. Not only are Florida and Ohio critical. If Romney can expand the map and he thinks Ryan can help him do it not only in Wisconsin, but they think he could also possibly help another Midwestern blue-collar state of Iowa, they even think Michigan as well. The Democrats dispute this, but it's something to watch. Governor Romney has decided in the pick of Paul Ryan to make a big fight in the Midwest.

JOHNS: John King, thanks so much. We will be watching that as the days and weeks go by.

Two men who know the importance of each state all too well are joining us in just a few minutes. Former Governors and presidential candidates Bill Richardson and Jon Huntsman, they're live in THE SITUATION ROOM at the bottom of the hour.

BOLDUAN: That will be interesting. I can't wait for that conversation.

But also another thing we are watching, the accused gunman in the Colorado movie theater massacre he was back in court today. We haven't seen a lot of 24-year-old James Holmes since the July 20 shooting that left 12 dead and 58 injured.

Our Ted Rowlands was at that hearing in Centennial, Colorado, and he is joining me live.

Hi there, Ted. How did -- the question, as always, how did James Holmes seem compared to that now infamous video of his first court appearance?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, he appeared very similar in terms of his physical appearance. He still has the orange hair, very long, and unruly, it's curly. It wasn't combed by any stretch of the imagination.

And he has grown out his facial hair in sort of a bizarre fashion. He has got large muttonchops on each side and a mustache, but he seems to be shaving just his chin. It's still that orange look.

Did he understand what was going on? That first court appearance and that video, both, it sure looks like he doesn't understand what's going on. Today he looked like he did potentially understand. You just never know what's going on inside a guy's head.

But he was focused on different things. At one point he was looking at the judge, he was looking up at the lights in the courtroom at another point. There was one point in the hearing today, it was very short, it was more of a scheduling thing, but at one point they were talking about the victims in the case, and if he was going to have a reaction, it would have been then.

They're figuring out how they can get $4 million that's been raised here to the victims, but he didn't flinch at all. He didn't seem to register at all. It was sort of the same version that we saw in the first court appearance -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And, Ted, give us a quick rundown of what happened in court and when also you think we may find out whether Holmes will be facing the death penalty or kind of if he will be pleading potentially insanity.

ROWLANDS: Those are the two big questions. Will the state pursue the death penalty? They say they're going to talk to the victims.

They have a 60-day clock which hasn't started yet to make that decision. That starts when he enters a plea. And we're not expecting that until after the preliminary hearing, which likely won't happen until near the end of the year. They have a lot of time to talk to the victims and decide whether or not they want to pursue the death penalty.

We do expect at some point in the next month or two we are going to hear the first rumblings from the defense whether they will plead insanity or try to go that route. As for today's hearing, mainly, it was a scheduling hearing. There was a representative from the University of Colorado that did deliver some records to the court, but mainly it was just a scheduling hearing. He will be back in court next week -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Ted Rowlands in Colorado tracking it all. Thanks so much, Ted.

Coming up three minutes from now, an international standoff and spectacle in London after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is granted asylum.

Also, the White House can't ignore questions about Joe Biden, his latest gaffe and his future as vice president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHNS: Right now, WikiLeaks founder and fugitive Julian Assange still can't escape his embassy hideout in London hours after Ecuador granted him asylum.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces questioning on sex crime charges.

Today, this international standoff is turning into even more of a spectacle.

CNN's Atika Shubert is in London with this.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the incredible scene outside of the Ecuador Embassy where this diplomatic standoff is taking place.

You have media and protesters on one side of the street, and you have got police ringing the Ecuador Embassy on the side, and all of this happening in one of London's fanciest neighborhoods right behind the world famous Harrods department store.

As for the man himself, Julian Assange, he remains inside the Ecuador Embassy where he has been holed up the last two months. Ecuador has granted Julian Assange asylum. But if he steps outside that door there, then British authorities have said they can and will arrest him and extradite him to Sweden for questioning.

Shortly after the decision by Ecuador, Julian Assange read this statement out inside the embassy. He said -- quote -- "I am grateful to Ecuadorian people, President Rafael Correa and his government. It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation."

It is a political victory of sorts for Assange and his supporters, but it's a real mix of supporters that are out for him today. We have angry Ecuadorians who say the country is being bullied by Britain. We have free speech activists and of course the protesters wearing the masks made popular by the movie "V for Vendetta," all of them voicing their support for Julian Assange.

Take a listen to what some of those protesters told me earlier today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to pop open the champagne just yet because it is still early. We can't start celebrating because it is not over. I would like for Julian Assange to be able to come out of here, get in a car, get in a plane, and fly away into the sunset. To me, he represents David standing up to Goliath.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to support President Correa. We have to support Julian. We have to support the freedom of expression for everybody. SHUBERT: Assange supporters say they will stay outside of the embassy keeping vigil to ensure that British police do not go in to arrest Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy. But is it likely the police will go storming in?

Legal experts tell us probably not, even though Britain does have a legal basis to strip the diplomatic status of the embassy and thereby send police in. That's a process that would take months of legal wrangling, and would be heatedly contested by not just Ecuador, but other countries as well.

It's more likely they say more diplomacy, more negotiations, but who knows how long that will go on? The only thing that has changed today is that Julian Assange now has the permission to stay indefinitely inside the Ecuadorian Embassy. He just can't step outside.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London, outside the Ecuadorian Embassy.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Atika.

It is fascinating, Joe. Indefinitely, he could be staying in the embassy for weeks, months, years.

JOHNS: It is amazing. It's a perfect mess, when you think about it. It appears the circus atmosphere outside that building will follow him wherever it goes.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It was a circus to begin with, everything surrounded Julian Assange, this whole snafu with WikiLeaks and everything, but it's now even more so.

It is pretty amazing.

JOHNS: It's amazing.



JOHNS: At half past the hour, the controversial move by Arizona's governor directly defying President Obama's immigration policy. Two former governors who know the immigration issue all too well join us next.

Plus, the priceless reaction to a rope line kiss from the president.



BOLDUAN (voice-over): Happening now: Republicans pile on Joe Biden and drag Hillary Clinton into the back in chains controversy. And Paul Ryan goes global, saying China is treating President Obama like a doormat.

And a novel way to sing the praises of the late TV chef Julia Child.


BOLDUAN: Wolf Blitzer is off. I am Kate Bolduan, along with Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

JOHNS: Another immigration fight is playing out in Arizona right now.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It pits Republican Governor Jan Brewer against the Obama administration.

Thousands of young illegal immigrants across the nation have started applying to stay in the country under the president's new policy to stop deporting them or deferring deportation. But Governor Brewer has signed an executive order to deny benefits to immigrants in her state that qualify for the program.


GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: They're here illegally and unlawfully in the state of Arizona. And it has already been determined that you're not allowed to have a driver's license if you're here illegally, but they will not be entitled to a driver's license, nor will they be entitled to any public benefits.


JOHNS: This battle is certainly expected to wind up in court.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Let's talk about this and much, much more with our guests this evening, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, both also former presidential candidates.

A lot to get to with both of you.

First to you, Governor Huntsman, talking about this issue of immigration back in the headlines today. You did support the DREAM Act during your campaign when you were on the campaign trail. If you were still Utah governor, would you follow in the steps of Governor Brewer? She says that this move, if illegal immigrants would be getting benefits, it would be a drain on state budgets.

JON HUNTSMAN JR. (R), FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: Well, we have to face reality in this country.

We have to face the facts, and the facts are we're not going to put 12 million people on a bus headed south. We also have to face the facts that we don't have an immigration problem anymore because nobody is coming over the border, because our economy is fundamentally broken.

We also have to face the fact that the illegal immigration problem has bled over to the legal immigration problem, and we're very disadvantaged as a nation going forward in terms of attracting human capital.

And let's face it. Over the next 25 to 50 years in this nation, we're going to have to rely on human capital. And that's bringing brainpower into this country. It's assimilating people from all corners of the world, as we have done from the very beginning. It's made us better, sharper, more competitive, and -- and created jobs.

BOLDUAN: And, so, Governor, real...

HUNTSMAN: So, I would have to say that...

BOLDUAN: Go ahead.

Yes, I was going to ask you, do you think the governor is wrong?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think that we're talking about politics and not about solutions right now. We've got to figure out what we're going to do about this, as opposed to finger pointing and playing the blame game, and resorting to politics. Let's talk about expanding the h1b visa program, doubling and tripling where it is today.

Let's talk about giving green cards and a pathway to citizenship for foreign students who are in our best universities, who we want to keep here in this country. Let's talk about having some of our embassies abroad identify the best and brightest who want to come to this country and add something that would make us all better, create jobs, and make us more competitive going forward.

There are solutions out there, but I am afraid that both sides are falling back on politics, perhaps not too surprisingly this time of year.

JOHNS: Bill Richardson, you dealt with this situation firsthand when you were governor of New Mexico. What do you think? Did Jan Brewer make the right decision?

RICHARDSON: No, she made a terrible decision. I'm flabbergasted as a former governor that a governor is taking such action and contravention of a presidential executive order, almost in contravention of the Supreme Court decision.

This move by her is wrong, it's divisive, it's political, and most likely illegal. It's going to make it impossible to implement the law. And what you have is one governor making federal policy in her own state. So I'm not just unhappy, I am disillusioned that -- and I agree, and by the way, I have enormous respect for Governor Huntsman. I hope it doesn't help hurt him politically, but I just think that what this action does is -- it just even makes this issue more political.

It hinders the potential for comprehensive immigration reform if states start taking steps like this. So again, I agree that we need a comprehensive policy, we need a legalization program. We need to enhance border security. I agree with the h-1 visa initiative of Governor Huntsman. But what Governor Brewer has done is just very, very debilitating and negative.

JOHNS: I want to turn the corner on you real quick. You're a former ambassador to the U.N. and another big headline today is the U.N. ending its observer mission in Syria. What do you think of that? Right choice, wrong choice?

RICHARDSON: Well, I'm disappointed. We expected this. Obviously the United Nations and Kofi Annan plan sponsored by the U.N. has not worked because President Assad keeps killing his own people, keeps massacring civilians.

I think what is needed again is very strong sanctions. I'm pleased that the Obama administration is pursuing assistance to the rebels, communication, nonlethal assistance. I think eventually we're going to have to help with some kind of collaboration with some of the other countries in the region for some kind of lethal assistance, but what's happening with Assad is he's losing support, he's getting a lot of defections, and hopefully the problem will take care of itself.

But I am disappointed that the U.N. mission -- Kofi Annan is an excellent diplomat, a mediator, Nobel Prize winner, couldn't put it together because mainly Russia and China and the Assad regime weren't willing to bring some kind of negotiation to the table.

BOLDUAN: Now let's talk a little presidential politics.

Governor Huntsman, Congressman Paul Ryan, he kind of stepped into foreign policy a little bit today kind of for the first time since being announced VP. Listen to a little bit of -- part of his remarks.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They manipulate their currency. President Obama promised he would stop these practices. He said he'd go to the mat with China. Instead, they're treating him like a doormat. We're not going to let that happen.

Mitt Romney and I are going to crack down on China cheating and we're going to make sure that trade works for Americans.


BOLDUAN: You served under President Obama as the ambassador to China. What do you make of Congressman Ryan's remarks saying that the -- that China is treating the president like a doormat? What's your take?

HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say that I was on this program about six months ago, and I think I responded to exactly the same sound bite, which is to say that we're in a period of political sound bites, and as my friend Bill Richardson for whom I have great respect, knows as well as anybody, what will be important for the American people is to somehow make sense out of what will be the most important, the most complicated and challenging relationship of the 21st century, and that's the U.S./China relationship.

Of course it's fraught with all kinds of challenge. We all know that. But it's also fraught with potential opportunities. We've never exported more to China than we're doing today. We've never had more in the way of investment opportunities. We've never done more in terms of student-to-student interaction, which is good longer term in terms of better understanding each other.

So for all of the nonsensical discussion we have about he said- she said stuff in politics, what we need desperately right now is a full-blown comprehensive conversation about what we are prepared to do as a country and what these political tickets are prepared to do in a few short months to deal longer term with the economics, the security, and the cultural aspects of the U.S./China relationship.

Because it will be the most important foreign policy challenge on the horizon. Sound bites don't work. We need a comprehensive discussion about how we're going to deal with the reality of this relationship.

BOLDUAN: We do need to do sound bites on television, though.

HUNTSMAN: And let me just say, you know, you don't have to go -- you don't --


BOLDUAN: But, OK, stand by, gentlemen. Let's continue this conversation right after the break. We'll talk about the ticket you're talking about. Much more to discuss, including Vice President Biden's chains gaffe. Still getting a lot of talk. Is he too much of a liability for the president? An interesting question.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: I'll tell you, you're looking at a couple of Nobel Laureates up here. I'm sure they're out there. And by the way, I'm not kidding.



BOLDUAN: I think we would all loved to have been a fly on the wall when President Obama and Vice President Biden had their regular lunch date today.

JOHNS: And we may never know if Biden got an earful about his remark that Mitt Romney's Wall Street policies would put Americans back in chains. But two prominent Republicans say the president could solve Biden's foot-in-mouth problem by replacing him with Hillary Clinton.

Let's bring back our guests to talk about the Biden gaffe. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Former governors and also former presidential candidates, Democrat Bill Richardson and Republican Jon Huntsman.

Thank you both for being with us.

Governor Richardson, you ran for president in 2008. You know Barack Obama and Joe Biden very well. What's your assessment of -- of this latest gaffe, of Joe Biden as vice president? Because the question is really today, is he helping or hurting a re-election for President Obama? A senior adviser to the Obama campaign told our John King when he was in Iowa that that gaffe didn't help.

RICHARDSON: Well, look, Vice President Biden is an asset to the ticket. He's been an outstanding vice president. Thirty-five years of foreign policy experience he brought from the Senate. He's been key in a lot of domestic issues with the Congress, again in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Look, he was talking about Wall Street reform. He was talking about consumer protection. He was talking about the Obama administration having a viable policy that deals with some of the excesses of Wall Street. And that's what we should be covering.

Look, I can point to another gaffe on the Republican side about the president being un-American. You know, so it is a sound bite, I agree with Jon Huntsman. We can't have governing by sound bite for presidential election every day in a new cycle a new sound bite.

I think Joe Biden is an asset to the ticket, he's going to demonstrate that in the debates. His foreign policy experience. You know I didn't get anything on the China issue, but this ticket of the vice -- of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney has the least foreign policy experience of many tickets on both sides for many years.

And so again I think Vice President Biden, because of his foreign policy experience, and his connection with average voters in Pennsylvania, with workers, middle class, is a huge asset to the ticket.

JOHNS: So has anybody asked you frankly, do you think Biden ought to be replaced?

RICHARDSON: No. And that's not going to happen. He's an asset. He is somebody that brings votes to the ticket in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. No. He has been a very good vice president and he showed that in the last election. He brought votes to the ticket.

No. I think it's a one-day story and we should move on.

BOLDUAN: And Governor Huntsman, I want to bring you into this conversation as well. You're talking about needing to get away from the sound bites and talking about the big issues. But just look at the presidential campaign so far, they talk about taking on the big issues, and kind of being above the fray, but they have just been going personal attack after personal attack after personal attack. What do you make of this latest gaffe -- this latest gaffe and kind of what it says about the election so far?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think we have become too much of a gaffe centric political culture. We're looking for the mistakes, we're looking for the gaffe. And the vice president's gaffe I thought was horrible, I thought it was egregious, but let's move on. You know, go to Twitter and find out what people have to say there.

And I'd have to say that I believe the media shares some responsibility for helping to elucidate and bring forward ideas that I know people are talking about. If we used as much time talking about China, Syria, competitiveness, education, and all that needs to be done to get us back on our feet in terms of job creation as we do gaffes, our dialogue would be enhanced enormously.

And I'd have to say that the media shares some responsibility for that and politicians, of course, share some responsibility because you've got the rise of the professional consulting class that basically drives a lot of the sound bites, and that's very, very unfortunate.

We've never had a time like this in recent history where the issues have been so very, very important to our survival. We have a fiscal deficit that we've got to address and we have a trust deficit.

And I am sitting here with Bill Richardson. When we were governors together, we were able to get Republicans and Democrats alike around issues like immigration, around energy, around economic development in ways where we differed, of course, but we actually put the interests of our citizens in the regions of the country that we represented first and foremost.

That wasn't so many years ago. I hope that we can get back to that kind of conversation and back to doing what is right for people.

JOHNS: Governor Huntsman, you worked in the Obama administration but you did run against Mitt Romney, you've been able to watch him very closely. If you stand back and look from -- at it from 30,000 feet, what do you think is the biggest mistake Mitt Romney has made so far?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I don't typically like to define things in terms of mistakes, but I would say that --

JOHNS: If he had a do-over --

HUNTSMAN: -- consistency --

JOHNS: If he had a do-over, what would that do-over be?

HUNTSMAN: Let's say consistency around two or three critically important themes. Let's face it, we need consistency that drive home messages on tax reform, on regulatory reform, and how we're going to create jobs. I get back to a comment that Bill Richardson mentioned a moment ago about the ticket being devoid of foreign policy content. Well, that might be true. I'd also have to say that the most important thing we could be doing right now to enhance our national security standing abroad is to get our house in order right here. And that's to shore up our economic fundamentals, to enhance our competitiveness and create jobs.

That will produce more in the way of leverage abroad that today we just don't have. And I think -- I think Governor Romney is positioned to do that. He's got to show the consistency on that economic message. And I think the inclusion of Paul Ryan is absolutely terrific. He is about the best talent that exists in the Republican Party, and I'm proud to see him take this kind of high profile role.

And I would love to see them both stand tall on issues of Medicare reform. I know there's been a little bit of light maybe between them, but let's face it, it is unsustainable in its current iteration. And to throw out some themes, maybe numbers will be different, but themes will help to resolve it longer term would be a very good thing.

JOHNS: Jon Huntsman, Bill Richardson, thanks so much. Good to see you both.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

JOHNS: All this talk about negative campaigning, and it turns out it's a big part of U.S. history. A look back you don't want to miss next.

Plus the rope line kiss that's now our video of the day.


JOHNS: We've already seen a good deal of mudslinging in the presidential race in the last few days, but before you draw any conclusions about how bad it's getting, you should hear what CNN's John Berman has to say.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Joe, it is that time of year when the candidates like to claim that the other has gone to new depths, new lows in negative campaigning. It's also that time of the year when the media likes to ask the question, is this the most negative campaign ever? Well, we thought we'd provide an answer to that question and the answer is really no?


BERMAN (voice-over): Mitt Romney. The ad implies he was more or less responsible for a woman dying.

JOE SOPTIC, FORMER STEEL WORKER: And she passed away in 22 days. BERMAN: A stretch to say the least.

Barack Obama. The ad says he wants to end welfare reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wouldn't have to work --

BERMAN: Not really true either.

No, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama do not agree on a lot, but they do agree this campaign has become positively negative.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's so much negativity and so much cynicism.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low.

BERMAN: Different? Different than, say, Mitt Romney's campaigns against Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?


BERMAN: Or, for that matter, Barack Obama's campaign against Hillary Clinton.


BERMAN: If history has taught us anything, it's that every campaign in history seems like the most negative in history.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS: 2010 likely to have the most negative campaign ads ever.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The most negative campaign in memory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most negative campaign any of us can remember.

BERMAN: Yes, negative campaigns existed even before super PACs. Lyndon Johnson implied Barry Goldwater would start a nuclear war. Grover Cleveland accused of having a child out of wedlock. Mama, where's my pa?

Andrew Jackson accused of killing a man yet having a wife who was a bigamist. John Quincy Adams, it was said he procured prostitutes for the Russian czar. Thomas Jefferson? John Adam supporters once said his election would result in murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest.

So until we get charges of robbery, nuclear war starting or prostitute procuring, maybe this will have to wait.

ROMNEY: The president is taking things to a new low. BERMAN: They might be mean, cruel and cynical, but negative campaigns are not blights on history. They are our history.


BERMAN: If there is one thing that does seem different this year, it's not that the negative campaigning has started earlier, it's that the complaining about negative campaigning has started earlier -- Joe.

JOHNS: Quick programming note, you can also watch John alongside Zoraida Sambolin every weekday morning from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m. on "EARLY START" only on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Up next, the late Chef Julia Child like you've never heard her before.

Jeanne Moos coming up.


BOLDUAN: Our video of the day comes from a CNN iReporter who happened to be in the crowd with a couple of women who went to see the president in Iowa and ended up getting kissed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She got a kiss, too, and he said, you have lipstick -- right --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said -- he kissed her and she gave him a kiss and she has lipstick on and he said, oh, is there lipstick on my cheek? Michelle will be jealous. She's just -- just so happy.


BOLDUAN: She's absolutely excited. It happened Wednesday in Dubuque.

JOHNS: How excited, you know?

BOLDUAN: She was so excited.

JOHNS: Boy, I've never been that excited about getting kissed.

BOLDUAN: You've --

JOHNS: I don't think so.

BOLDUAN: You've never had the chance to kiss a president.


JOHNS: Yes, that's -- BOLDUAN: Shocker.

JOHNS: I think I won't.


BOLDUAN: It's fine, it's fine.

JOHNS: All right, You got it. The late Julia Child would have turned 100 this week so in her honor, lots of people are cooking up tributes. Sorry.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight years after her death, Julia Child is back and she sounds hungry. The woman whose "New York Times" obit called her, "The French chef for a Jell-O nation," has been auto tuned for a YouTube nation.

PBS commissioned producer John Boswell to auto tune the icon to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday.

JASON SEIKEN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, PBS INTERACTIVE: Actually have her sing, use the magic of auto tune to bring her to life in a song.

MOOS: Julia Child didn't mince words, she minced ingredients. If you went searching on Google, maybe you stumbled on a Google doodle cooked up in her honor. These days everybody a foodie, but not everybody gets portrayed by Meryl Streep and Dan Aykroyd on "SNL."

Nothing finger-licking good about his chicken.

The real Julia may have liked things rare but not that bloody. She used a blowtorch to melt cheese over a beef tartar burger for David Letterman.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Have you ever cooked something, Julia, that just turned that awful?


LETTERMAN: Yes. And what do you do then? What happens?

CHILD: I give it to my husband.

MOOS: No wonder he died first.

Julia's auto tuned resurrection -- is the latest installment of PBS icons remixed. Icons like Mr. Rogers. Fond memories evoked by new technology. Certain lines are favorites.

(On camera): The video even makes some people cry. It's not because Julia's chopping onions. (Voice-over): One commentator wrote, every time she mentioned the smell of something cooking reminding her of home -- I tear up a little. Aw, hell, I cried full out my first listen. The one who once said, how can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex, has us reaching for our hankies.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



BOLDUAN: That was great. You would be great auto tuned. Have you heard his laugh? It's pretty awesome.

JOHNS: It's frightening.

BOLDUAN: That's all for us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.