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Democrats Prepare for Convention; Clint Eastwood's Rant; Trapped in Home, Killed by Flooding; Slamming Obama Early And Often; Syrian Government Reportedly Shells Two Cities; Attorney For Navy SEAL Author Responds; Eastwood Talks To "Invisible Obama"

Aired August 31, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.

Happening now: We're going to get our first look at this arena where the Democrats are getting ready for the president of the United States to arrive. It's our first look at the arena where President Obama and the Democrats, they will defend his record, their record and rebut a week's worth of condemnation from a lot of Republicans.

Also, fresh from their convention, Mitt Romney and his wife head for the disaster zone in Louisiana for a close-up look at the flooding from Hurricane Isaac.

Plus, everyone's still buzzing, buzzing about Clint Eastwood's bizarre, rambling attack on President Obama.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Time Warner Cable Center here at the Democratic National Convention. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But let's begin with some shots of inside this arena. This is the arena where the Democrats will be meeting next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, where President Obama will accept his party's nomination for another four years in the White House.

The vice president, Joe Biden, will be here as well. They're putting the finishing touches on this Convention Center here in Charlotte. A lot of folks are very, very excited. And we're going to have much more on what the Democrats are up to in Charlotte, what they plan on doing next week.

But let's begin right now with Mitt Romney's last-minute change in plans. Instead of heading directly from his convention to a campaign rally in the swing state of Virginia, the Republican nominee decided to visit storm-ravaged Louisiana.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now from New Orleans with the latest.

How did this go, Jim?


As you just mentioned a few moments ago, Mitt Romney was scheduled to visit three battleground states today, but at the last minute, his campaign aides added a trip here to New Orleans so Romney could tour some of the storm damage here in Louisiana.

You can see some of that damage behind me. Some of the aluminum siding on this terminal where the campaign plane is parked was blown off during Isaac. All of this is a reminder that in this two-months' sprint to the finish in this campaign, there will be some twists and turns including one last night.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Just before takeoff from Florida, Mitt Romney picked up where he left off at the convention, returning to a sales pitch to independent voters who chose the president four years ago.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You listened to the last guy running for president. He laid out what he would do. He was unable to do it. It's time to give someone new a chance. Hold us accountable.

ACOSTA: Joining the GOP nominee to make the case, arguably the star of the convention, Ann Romney.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Give this man a chance and he will not fail.

ACOSTA: And his running mate, Paul Ryan, tried to set the terms for the debate to come.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the chance where we have a choice. Do we want the failed leadership, the stagnant economy, the debt crisis, the welfare state, or do we want that opportunity society, that American idea where everybody can make the most of their lives and define happiness for themselves?

ACOSTA: Romney was showing off a newly wrapped campaign plane and mixing up his schedule. He dropped a previously planned trip to Virginia to survey the damage left by Tropical Storm Isaac in Louisiana. There was also some cleaning up to do after the convention that had nothing to do with all of those balloons.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself. You're crazy.

ACOSTA: Clint Eastwood's rambling, impromptu script with an empty chair that was supposed to be President Obama had some on the convention floor cheering, but reporters took note the Romney family was not laughing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We appreciated Clint's support. And he's a unique guy. And he did a unique thing last night.

ACOSTA: The campaign seemed to defend the actor in a statement, saying, "Judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical lens doesn't work. His ad libbing was a break from all the political speeches and the crowd enjoyed it." But the president's Twitter account took notice, sending out this tweet aimed at Eastwood and Romney that says, "This seat's taken."

NARRATOR: Not a word about his record in Massachusetts, where job growth was 47th out of 50.

ACOSTA: In signs of the tough fight to come, the Obama campaign released a Web video countering Romney's speech.

And Joe Biden offered a rebuttal of his own in Ohio.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not think you grow the economy from millionaires down. We know you build it from the middle class out. That's how you build America.


ACOSTA: Now, Romney advisers are downplaying any expectations of a post-convention bump. But Mitt Romney did one-up the president in one category.

He got down here to Louisiana first. Mr. Obama is due to be here on Monday. And, Wolf, getting back to that Clint Eastwood controversy, I can tell you that just a few moments ago on the campaign plane, Stu Stevens, who is a top strategist for Mitt Romney, briefed reporters on this Clint Eastwood controversy.

And he said he was backstage with Romney just before his speech last night, just before Clint Eastwood's speech, and he said that the GOP nominee laughed and seemed to enjoy it. So at least from the Romney campaign, the man at the top of the ticket liked what he saw last night from Clint Eastwood, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are the Romney folks saying he was supposed to ramble on there as he did for, what, 12 minutes and delay the start of Romney's acceptance speech? Was that expected that he was going to go off-script and just sort of vamp as he did and speak off the cuff as he did for, what, 12 minutes?

ACOSTA: It was not expected.

This was an ad lib, improv performance. Interesting to note about that briefing from reporters from Stu Stevens, they sort of went on background at one point and asked that aides not be quoted with their names attached to the quotes. They wanted to be quoted anonymously when they explained to reporters at one point during this briefing that this chair that was put out there was something that they did not see coming.

One of the aides talking to reporters on the plane said that they thought Clint Eastwood was going to sit in that chair, not talk to that chair as if it was President Obama. So it sounds as if they were in the dark as much as everybody else was about what Clint Eastwood was doing up on that stage, Wolf.

BLITZER: And did they say they knew that Clint Eastwood would show such disrespect to the president of the United States?

ACOSTA: You know, that is also something they said on background. They would not have a name attached to any of the quotes coming out of that portion of the briefing.

It was a strange briefing, Wolf, because as I'm being explained about this, they sort of went on the record, off the record and then they were saying things on background where they didn't want to have their names attached to some of the quotes.

But what they were saying, during that portion when they wanted to speak anonymously, they were saying that they feel like this is just as inappropriate as the president not denouncing those super PAC ads that haven't aired yet that the Romney campaign suggests the GOP nominee was responsible for a woman's death, that steelworker ad that has caused so much controversy. They made a comparison between the Clint Eastwood controversy and that ad.

They're really not backing away from it. They're defending Clint Eastwood and what he had to say up there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta in Louisiana for us, thanks very, very much.

Instead of going to Louisiana today, President Obama was in Texas, where he defended his foreign policy record.

CNN's Athena Jones is joining us now from Ft. Bliss and that is near El Paso.

Tell us what the president was up to, Athena.


Well, the president's main goal today was to once again mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. Two years ago, he was here at Ft. Bliss marking the day that that U.S. combat mission was ending. This is something that the White House is certainly glad to point out. This ending the war in Iraq was a promise the president campaigned on and a promise kept.

But he also talked about his administration's commitment to the troops. Let's listen to what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may be turning a page on a decade of war, but America's responsibilities to you have only just begun.



OBAMA: I hear you.

So, here is my pledge to you. In a world of serious threats, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the United States of America or our interests. At the same time, I will only send you into harm's way when it's absolutely necessary. And when we do, we will give you the equipment and the clear mission and the smart strategy and the support back home that you need to get the job done.



JONES: So there you heard a little bit of what he had to say. He also touched on the importance of improving mental health care services for troops and their families, of helping veterans find jobs.

And he got a little bit political, not surprisingly, Wolf, and he said that -- he once again called on Congress to work together on a deficit reduction plan that could help avoid the defense cuts that we have been hearing so much about, not just on the campaign trail but also Capitol Hill, Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones traveling with the president today in Texas.

A lot of people pointing out it was curious that Mitt Romney in his speech last night made no mention of the U.S. military personnel serving in the war in Afghanistan, for example. He's being criticized for that. More on that story coming up later.

Today, the political spotlight is shifting from the Republican Convention in Tampa to the Democrats gathering right here in Charlotte.

Let's talk things over with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

First of all, on the Republican Convention, do American voters right now have a better understanding, especially those undecided voters, who Mitt Romney is?


That was clearly the goal of the convention, which was to open a window inside Mitt Romney and to show him as a man of compassion, as a man of character. I mean, the campaign knows very well, Wolf, that this is a big problem for Mitt Romney because President Obama, people believe, understands their problems.

And they were worried that people only thought that Romney only sees things through his prism of his great wealth. So they had to show that. But it was very short, I would have to say, on definitive policy, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.

So that, you know, that -- you can't do everything in one speech. And so most of it really focused on who Mitt Romney is. Today, the Obama campaign said it wasn't so much a reintroduction, as it was a reinvention of Mitt Romney. So you're going to see that play out on the campaign trail as well.

BLITZER: So how does the president deal with all of this when he comes here to Charlotte next week?

BORGER: I was thinking about this today, flying here.

I think President Obama has the opposite problem that Mitt Romney had. Mitt Romney's known as Mr. Fix-It. He had to show that he had compassion. Barack Obama is known as somebody who understands the problems of the middle class, and he has to show that he's a Mr. Fix- It.

He has to tell the American people, I started fixing it, I'm going to continue to fix it, and it's going to get better. So he has to tell people what he's done to make this recovery happen and what he's going to do to speed it along. So it's a very different kind of a burden from these two candidates.

BLITZER: Then let me get back to the whole Clint Eastwood thing because it was so, so bizarre. I'm going to play a little clip just to remind our viewers what happened in Tampa last night.


EASTWOOD: What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself. You're crazy. You are absolutely crazy.


EASTWOOD: You are getting as bad as Biden.




BLITZER: It was, you know, bizarre, awkward, embarrassing.

BORGER: Embarrassing, right.

BLITZER: I don't know what words you want to use. But it kept going on and on. I thought maybe it would be two or three minutes, and he would say, make my day or whatever.

BORGER: Twelve.

BLITZER: But this seemed to never end and really delayed their program. How big of a blunder was this?

BORGER: I think it's a really big blunder, because I think it embarrassed them at a moment, the high viewership, right? Networks tuning in, everything else.

I think it's dangerous to give somebody a script who makes his own movies. This is a man who makes his own movies. He decides to ask for a chair, you hand him a chair, and he does a bit of improv, as someone in the Romney campaign said.

And one thing, though, Wolf, we always talk about how scripted these conventions are. I think we saw one of the really rare unscripted moments. And now we understand why the conventions are scripted, because this was a complete embarrassment to the Romney campaign, although they're not going to admit it publicly.

BLITZER: No. And, look, we all love Clint Eastwood. Great actor, great director. But this was not a great moment.

BORGER: I talked to some Romney advisers last night about this and tried to ask them about this, and all they would say is, you know, Clint Eastwood, he's a great icon. And they left it at that and smiled. Right?


OK, Gloria.

More on this story coming up later as well.

Here's a question, do you want to know what it's really like to experience the Democratic National Convention from the inside? Next Tuesday, join the CNN Election Roundtable. I will be there along with CNN's political team. Submit your questions, get answers in real time in this live virtual chat. Don't miss the CNN Election Roundtable. That's Tuesday noon Eastern by logging onto

Also, stand by for a preview of CNN's new documentary, "Obama Revealed." Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, had special access and asked the president about the challenges he's faced and his ambitions for a second term. Stand by for that.

And up next, devastation in Louisiana. Brian Todd takes us to the town ruined by floodwaters and explains how a couple was killed by Hurricane Isaac.


BLITZER: They started preparing for this Democratic convention here in Charlotte, North Carolina, back in April of 2011. Now, three days next week, this arena, the Time Warner Cable Arena, will be filled with lots and lots of Democrats as the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States accept their party's nomination for president and vice president. We'll be here, we're already here. In fact, these are the first shots you're seeing from inside this arena.

Much more on the political story coming up. There's other news we're following as well including flash flood warnings. They are still in effect in three states because of the remnants of hurricane Isaac. This storm devastated small towns in Louisiana.

And CNN's Brian Todd spent the day in the town where two people died trapped in their home by rising floodwaters -- Brian.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you can see behind me just how devastated this town is. This was once a street. That was a street. And you can see what happened to this building right here. It was in this town where the first reported fatalities from Isaac occurred. We got access to that house only with an airboat. And we realized as soon as we got there the odds were stacked heavily against those who stayed.

(voice-over): It's still almost unapproachable and dangerous. We have to navigate around seeping natural gas and downed power lines just to get near it. This house is where the first two reported fatalities from Isaac occurred. A couple trapped inside.

Urban Treuil, the fire chief here, knew them and had to pull their bodies out.

(on camera): Do you think this couple ever had a chance to get out once the water started flowing in here?

CHIEF URBAN TREUIL, BRAITHWAITE, LOUISIANA FIRE DEPT.: The water came up so fast, we had a lot of emergency personnel that had a rough time getting out. So an elderly couple needing assistance would have been very, very tough to do.

TODD (voice-over): There may have been one opening, maybe.

(on camera): The couple was found floating in the kitchen of this house. The kitchen is around the other side of the house. We can't access that right now. What we're told is that the water levels at the time rescuers got here were about eight feet higher than they were now up to the attic vent right there. If the couple could have gotten to that, possibly they could have gotten out.

(voice-over): Treuil declined to identify the couple by name. He says emergency officials got word to as many people as possible when the levee near here was overtopped.

One of the neighbors tried to get the couple to leave, and they wouldn't. Now, the only creatures that can inhabit this town are either amphibious or have to ride what's floating.

As we move around by airboat, we see homes that are flooded, buckled. Chief Treuil says one house floated about a mile from its foundation.

Bobby Landry and seven others in his family stayed through the storm too. He lost one house to hurricane Katrina and then moved here and remodeled this one. Now this -- he and his family had to climb out windows as the water rose toward the second floor.


TODD (on camera): Bobby, do you want to come back and live here?

LANDRY: This is great living right here. On this side of the river right here, the people in this community are all tight, close. Unfortunately, there's not enough of us to be worried about.

TODD (voice-over): An exhausted fire chief is worried about more potential losses.

TREUIL: It's not something I want to see and I hope that's the last ones we do see. We're still checking a few other residents along that area here. And we're hoping that everybody made it out.

TODD (on camera): When I asked the Chief Treuil if this town will ever recover from this, he said he thinks so. But he also said since the storm happened, they have talked to several resident who have packed up and never coming back. The chief is also reeling from this. He lost his home and this store and gas station, which was his business -- Wolf.


BLITZER: What a story. What a sad, sad story indeed. Brian Todd on the scene for us --thank you. More on the story coming up later as well.

Other news we're following including the stock markets, they're reacting to the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's latest hint that he's ready to take some controversial action to stimulate the U.S. economy.


BLITZER: The Federal Reserve chairman signaling that more monetary stimulus might, might be on the way.

Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some other important stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?


Well, saying the economy is far from satisfactory, Ben Bernanke hinted a third round of asset purchases or so-called quantitative easing could be coming and that would inject more money into the economy. It would be controversial though for the Fed to stimulate the economy without congressional approval. At the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bernanke said the previous two rounds of easing drove stocks higher and created more than 2 million jobs.

The market reacted favorably holding onto gains today and closing out the month higher. The Dow etched up 0.7 percent.

And months of drought and extreme heat have sent food prices soaring. The World Bank reports global prices are up by 10 percent in July. Staples like corn and soybeans increased by 25 percent to an all-time high. The report emphasized the consequences of spiraling food prices citing riots in Africa and the Middle East in 2008.

And more than 600,000 Mr. Coffee single cup brewers are being recalled because of a burn hazard. According to, built up steam can force the brewing chamber to open sending hot coffee grounds and water out. "The Los Angeles times" reports 61 people suffered burns to their faces and hands.

So something to be concerned about, especially folks trying to get their coffee first thing in the morning. They might want to be a little careful with these single-cup brewers. That's the ones that are being recalled, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just be careful. Brewing coffee. Thanks very much for that, Lisa.

So how far is too far when it comes to attacks on the president of the United States? And what will the Democrats do to counter the tough words during the Republican convention? Some unsolicited advice. That's next.


BLITZER: President Obama was targeted early and often on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our problem with President Obama isn't that he's a bad person. It's that he's a bad president.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: When somebody does not do the job, you got to let them go.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.


BLITZER: So how will the Democrats respond to all of this? Let's go to Pete Dominick standing by with a special panel that has some unsolicited advice.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Wolf Blitzer. It's great to finally be on CNN and for me to be able to talk about something that I actually am an expert at, which is talking to large groups of live audiences and delivering those lines.

I've done stand up comedy for years in front of audiences like that. And Mitt Romney, I'm sorry, Van Jones, I'm a climate change warrior, but the dumbest thing the president ever said was that oceans line. And Mitt Romney got him and he delivered it well.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: He milked that pause. DOMINICK: Did you see him bite? He bit his lip. I did not know Mitt Romney could bite his lip.

JONES: Great comedic timing for something that's not funny. The problem I have now is that up until that moment he had me. He's talking about his boys and --

DOMINICK: You were writing a check.

JONES: I wasn't writing a check, but I was tearful and then all of a sudden in the middle of the speech he turns into this diss machine and takes one of the most important issues -- look, John McCain and president Obama agreed four years ago that climate change is real. Suddenly he's using that as punch line. I think that's an unfortunate low now for a Republican Party in the middle of a drought and this kind of problem.

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I actually think the line had nothing to do with climate change.

JONES: What'd it have to do with?

FIORINA: I would guarantee you somewhere in that speech you would have found a reason to get motivated to beat Mitt Romney because that's who you are. I think that line had to do with humorous.

President Obama hadn't even been elected president. He'd only won the Democratic nomination -- hang on, let me finish. No. He was talking about the hubris of a man making grand statements.

And I thought Mitt Romney ended that line. It wasn't just comedic timing. He ended with a simple and clear statement. I want to help you and your families, which in his personal life it's what he's done. To me it all made sense.

JONES: With the narrative that you're the messiah and then you say something messianic, I'm sorry. You don't want to play into that narrative. They take his words out of context. That's not fair, but that was fair. Sorry.

ROSS DOUTHAT, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: I understand, Van, why you took it personally. This is obviously a very important issue.

JONES: But planet earth, not me -- six billion people.

DOUTHAT: But I think in the -- as political attacks go, as attack lines go, this was mild stuff. And it was mild stuff across the board.

DOMINICK: I agree.

DOUTHAT: I think what was striking about last night was how far out of their way Romney in particular, but also Marco Rubio went to say we're not attacking President Obama, the man, we are --

DOMINICK: Is that how it felt to you, Mr. Mayor? MAYOR ANTHONY FOXX (D), CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA: Look, let's be honest with this. Mitt Romney's first point when he finally got to talking about in big picture words what he was going to try to do was he's going to add coal.

He's going to do all this stuff to pollute the environment. And it seems to me that taken in context with the comment that Van picked out. I think it's absolutely right. He's making a statement about the environment.

DOMINICK: It's really important to realize that climate change was never mentioned all last week. That's important. But that line still it's a line that President Obama said in 2008 and he's using it against him.

And let's give credit to Mitt Romney. I don't give him much credit when he talks he's very robotic. He finally delivered a line well-written and he nailed it.

DOUTHAT: The weakness in the speech was not that he delivered disses. The weakness in the speech was that the second half which was supposed to be policy substance was more of the same, you know, broad generalities that we're used to from the Romney campaign.

And I think the thing for Obama to do next week is to counter those generalities with specifics. I think Obama should go negative in a way in his convention speech here. But say here's what Romney's going to do. Here are the 16,000 terrible things that Mitt Romney's going to do. That's what I'd be writing.

FIORINA: Isn't what politics is supposed to be about, honestly, is a battle of ideas? OK, you guys don't agree with Mitt Romney's ideas. But I think what Mitt Romney said, what all of these speakers said was, we don't agree with this guy's ideas. We don't think he's performed well.

That is totally fair. And now I really hope that the Democrats will follow that lead instead of concluding as, Van, sometimes you do and others will do, I don't agree with you therefore you're a bad person. Think about the adjectives the Democrats have used even this week, mean, insincere, angry.

Let's talk about ideas. Let's talk about ideas and say, I don't agree with your idea, but I don't think you're a bad person.

JONES: Let me say this though. What I found interesting about the Republican convention was that it at a high level they were saying what the president's been saying for the last three and a half years, which is that we've got big challenges facing this country and we've got to confront them.

The difference is, is that next week the president will be talking about the things he's done. They're talking about stuff -- there's dumb thing without even help.

DOUTHAT: How much do you think the president is going to talk about the things he's done? How much about the health care bill, for instance?

JONES: It's one thing the president should do. I have two kids. And what I saw yesterday from the Republicans and from Romney was saying the same thing my younger son says, the house is torn up and my big brother did it. Taking no responsibility for the role he played in messing up the house.


JONES: So there's no confession from Romney. The Republicans have not cooperated on even priorities that they have to help this president get the job done. And then they point the finger. I think this president should step forward and say, listen, we had stuff we could have done together.

If he can confess -- the Republicans have never confessed to their role in the lack of progress. If he can come forward and confess, which I think would deal with some of the Hubert stuff but also point out where the country was let down back to the moral high ground and what people want to hear and it's the truth.

FIORINA: What I find interesting about that recommendation is that the central charge against President Obama over this last four days is that he has not led.

And I find it so interesting that President Obama continues to equate himself with a congressman or equate himself with Congress in general. It's interesting that today, today President Obama while he's touring with the troops what does he say?

He says Congress do something. I think the majority of American people actually think the president should do something. Do something.

JONES: He's got to have a partner.


JONES: We have a system of government with three branches.

FIORINA: I understand.

JONES: And they all have to work together.

FIORINA: I understand. Honestly, when you do not put forward a budget --

JONES: One of my great Republican leaders --

FIORINA: Don't start flapping at me, man.

JONES: But you are. Don't you have some concern about the fact that the Republicans did not do more to reach out when he did reach out? It was your view that he actually never tried.

FIORINA: My view is that President Obama rushed through, crammed through, a set of legislative priorities that were important to him. That were important to him.

DOMINICK: We got to go. Not one mention of Dirty Harry. We will be right back here in Charlotte.


DOMINICK: We're back here at the DNC preparing for next week in Charlotte with the mayor of Charlotte and our brilliant panel. It's time to give our unsolicited advice, not that anybody asked. Let's start with Van Jones.

JONES: Well, my unsolicited advice would be to my good brother, Clint Eastwood, you know, I feel his pain. I've been that guy. My advice is, remember, it gets better. It gets better. Tomorrow will come.

FIORINA: My advice is actually to the media, both liberal and conservative, both print and television, I would ask members of the media to check their gender bias. I have been so disappointed.

All of the discussion today has been about the new leaders of the Republican Party. And people mention Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and they kind of stop. Yes, they acknowledge that women gave some good speeches.

But why isn't anyone talking about Susana Martinez as a future leader of the Republican Party or Mia Love or any of these fantastic women that spoke. Check your gender bias, folks. We got women in this party who are awesome.

DOMINICK: Amen. I absolutely agree with that. Why do you think Suzanna Martinez. What is so special about him?

FIORINA: Suzanna Martinez, first of all, utterly authentic, totally real. Secondly, she gave a very human, authentic description of why she was a Republican and how she came to realize she was a Republican. And beyond all that she was funny as heck, you know?

DOUTHAT: I thought the back-to-back of Condoleezza Rice with such completely different styles, the sort of academic sort of rhetorically, you know, gifted and then the more down-to-earth governor and so on. That was probably the best sustained stretch of oratory in the whole convention.

FIORINA: These are not just good talkers.

DOMINICK: They're doers.

FIORINA: They're great leaders, doers.

DOMINICK: Is it somehow politically not correct for us to talk about women and focus on women?

FIORINA: I just think we don't have enough practice at it. I am the subject of media bias on gender for many years. I just don't think we have enough practice at it. And I think habitually people I think men are the leaders. And I think it transcends political party. So just check our gender bias.

DOUTHAT: In the campaign of 2016 all of that will change.

DOMINICK: My wife's actually calling me right now. I got to get permission to give my unsolicited advice. So here's mine. Actors, mine is kind of for Clint Eastwood, but actors and politicians and sometimes you can't tell the difference, but last night you could.

And sadly enough a U.S. senator was a much better actor than one of our most-celebrated actors. I mean, Marco Rubio gave a very, very good performance. And Clint Eastwood didn't know where he was. I'm a stand-up comedian.

We write our own material, we perform our own material. And oftentimes people say did you come up with that on the spot? That's what it's supposed to look like. So my advice to the Obama campaign, if they ask --

DOUTHAT: My advice, because they know better. Democrats know better because Democrats know what celebrities are actually like. That's why my advice to the republican party, just because Republicans like to say make fun of the Democrats, make fun of Hollywood, but secretly Republicans are so jealous that all these movie stars are liberals.

And so as soon as a movie star comes along and wants to speak at a Republican convention, Republicans get all star-struck. They give him a chair. They give him 11 minutes. My advice, don't be star struck. Learn from the Democrats who would never invite Barbara Streisand to speak.

DOMINICK: Which celebrity do you wish was a republican?

FOXX: You're in Charlotte. You have convention goers who are going to be coming in. And I wanted to tell all the folks out there, don't get seduced to believing that bar barbecue is monolithic. You have to try all of them before you can pick your favorites. I look like a New Yorker asking that question.

DOUTHAT: No, people understand.

DOMINICK: We have a little bit of time left. I want to ask you, I don't want to just focus on Clint Eastwood, his speech at all. I want to focus on what I think was a missed opportunity.

I think Ann Romney referenced that this morning on television, those movies, it's a four-day commercial, really. And they missed the opportunity to play the movie, the narrative on prime time. And they gave that away.

FIORINA: They missed the opportunity also to have those incredible testimonials on primetime. You know, should have been Marco Rubio, testimonials, video, incredible video and then Mitt Romney.

DOUTHAT: Well, they made this gutsy move or what people thought was the gutsy move to talk about his Mormonism, his faith. And it played fantastically.

FIORINA: Yes, it did.

DOUTHAT: But nobody in America except for the millions watching CNN saw it because it wasn't on in the primetime block.

DOMINICK: You mentioned barbecue, before we go, Mr. Mayor, tease us. Next week, what's the best part of this convention? You're a democrat.

FOX: The best part of this convention is the fact the president has unedited time to tell the story of what's happened over the last four years and what he's going to do with the another four years going forward.

This president has had more legislation passed since any president since Lyndon Johnson. He's been successful to getting us 29 successive months of job growth. I'm very pleased with what this president has done and pleased with what he'll do with another four years.

BYNES: Carly.

DOUTHAT: It's definitely the case biggest problem has been a lack of television air time. That's the biggest problem.

JONES: Add it to their time.

FIORINA: I think the mayor has it exactly right in this sense. I think the Republicans' charge was performance-based.

JONES: Right.

FIORINA: Mr. Obama, you haven't performed. Now what the president has to do is demonstrate that he's performed. The American people will be listening because no matter what he says, they got their lives. They know what's going on in their communities. And they actually know most of them --

DOUTHAT: You're way too high minded. He needs to tear down Mitt Romney.

FIORINA: Well, he'll probably do that too.

DOMINICK: But what are you looking forward to next week?

FIORINA: Well, first of all, I'm looking forward to being here with this fantastic panel. This is my second Democratic convention actually. I'm not a virgin here. I have been to one before. Whatever -- that's right.

DOMINICK: There's been nothing more for me, I don't know about you guys, hanging out with you guys getting to know you guys and sharing our ideas and respecting each other and having a civil respectful discussion all last week really looking forward to doing it all next week. Thank you very much for joining us. Looking forward to next week right here in Charlotte. Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us. DNC call next week.

FOXX: Our turn coming.

DOMINICK: You'll get it. Back to Wolf Blitzer right now.

BLITZER: All right, guys, good discussion indeed, excellent unsolicited advice. Coming up you're going to see the first previews of CNN's brand new documentary "Obama Reveal."

Jessica Yellin has been working very hard on it. The president of the United States spoke to her and she asked him what it's like to be "as cool" as he is. You're going to hear about his so-called cool demeanor.

Also there's new information coming in about Iran and its nuclear program. David Sanger of "New York Times" has new information. He's joining us as well.

How much division is there between the Obama administration and the Israeli government when it comes to the severity of Iran's nuclear program? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Fierce clashes have erupted in two centers of opposition in Syria. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Opposition activists reported government shelling in Aleppo. This video purportedly shows that fighting. A regime officer and 30 soldiers were killed in clashes with rebel fighters. Heavy artillery shelling was also reported in Homs Province. And the U.N. says there's been an influx of Syrian refugees in Eastern Lebanon.

The attorney for the former navy seal's attorney says his client did not violate anything. Warned the writer whose pen name is Mark Owen that he broke the law and the Pentagon was considering legal action against him and his publisher.

We will have a full report on this in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. And this was the case of sticky fingers. That's apparently worth millions in Quebec. Thieves took a substantial quantity of maple syrup from a warehouse outside Montreal in Quebec City.

Canadian media reports say up to 10 million pounds of syrup was stored in the warehouse. The theft was discovered during a routine inventory check and the empty barrels were found. That maple syrup has to be somewhere though, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Lisa.

Coming up in our next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, despite Iran's new rounds of denials, it may be getting closer and closer to creating nuclear weapons. We're taking a closer look at how the Obama administration and the rest of the world is responding. Standby.

CELEXAN: But up next, the good, the bad and the chair. We'll check out peoples' reaction to Clint Eastwood.


BLITZER: He was the highly anticipated mystery guest, the actor Clint Eastwood's speech was supposed to be a huge surprise. But the bigger surprise may have been his actual performance. CNN's Miguel Marquez reports.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started as classic Clint --

EASTWOOD: I've got Mr. Obama sitting here.

MARQUEZ: Turned into political drama with even the candidate's wife on CBS this morning having a tough time with positive spin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a unique guy. And he did a unique thing last night.

MARQUEZ: The four-time Oscar winner did get rave reviews from fellow actor John Voigt and some guys who texted him.

JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: I got some texts. Clint's the man, from some young guys I know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unscripted and unplugged Eastwood spoke twice as long as planned causing reportedly nervous moments for Romney's campaign staff.

EASTWOOD: I wondered about, you know, when the -- what? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. Can't do that to himself. You're crazy.

MARQUEZ: The performance could be described as a hit, invisible Obama on twitter quickly grew to 50,000 followers. And something called East wooding has taken off, basically cute pics of empty chairs.


MARQUEZ: A party and a campaign upstaged by a celebrity and a chair. Now, I think the rule here, Wolf, is no matter whether it's a birthday party or political party, rule number one, you don't upstage the guest of honor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point, Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.