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Iran & North Korea Team Up On Technology; State Dept.: Two Americans Hurt In Pakistan Attack; Campaigning for President Obama; Violence Continues in Syria; "Obama Revealed"; Democratic National Convention

Aired September 3, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Democrats, they're gathering for their convention right here in Charlotte, North Carolina. But they're shadowed by Republicans sounding the battle cry, are you better off now than four years ago? I'll speak with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. He's here with me.

Also, once lumped together as part of an access of evil, Iran and North Korea now say they're teaming up on technology. Could that be missiles and nuclear weapons?

Plus, they still have an uneasy relationship, but can Bill Clinton help Barack Obama when he needs it the most?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: They're getting ready for the opening of the Democratic National Committee convention here on -- in Charlotte. Look at Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, now the minority leader of the United States House of represents. She's up on the stage with some aides, some friends. She's beginning to practice a little bit.

They did this last week at the Republican convention as well. The speakers were able to go up there, get a feel for the room, get a feel for the arena, begin to practice a little bit on the teleprompter, and from they're prospective, hopefully do an effective job speaking. So, you see Nancy Pelosi there right now.

We're covering what's going on here in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is a state President Obama narrowly won four years ago, but it's certainly a battleground right now. And a new poll may give the Democrats some fresh cause for concern on this, the eve of their big event. Let's begin our coverage this hour with our chief national correspondent, John King. John, tell us about this new poll.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you look at the map, remember, as you noted, North Carolina was one of the many red states that President Obama turned blue in 2008. It had noted voted the Democrat for president since back more than a generation. But here's what greets the Democrats as they arrive here. This is an Elon University poll conducted for the Charlotte observer.

It shows Governor Romney is leading 47 to 43 percent. Now, that's within the poll's margin of error, but a public poll with a four-point lead. Both campaigns concede that Governor Romney is ahead here at the moment. The Romney campaign says the bigger lead than that. The Obama campaign says this is just about right.

Now what is driving this? This is what has to concern the Obama campaign a little bit. If you look at this right now, we know the number one issue is the economy. Which candidate do you trust to handle the economy? Wolf, look at that. Governor Romney getting a majority. Fifty-two percent he can be trusted to handle the economy. The president at only 39 percent.

And here's the reflection. We're in a southern state here. The republicans tend to do better in the south. Many national polls, when you ask the question who shares your values? The president wins, but here in South Carolina -- here in North Carolina, excuse me, at the moment, a very slight edge for Governor Romney.

So, that's what's helping him. Voters trust him more on the economy, and they believe he is someone, and this is definitely shaped by the Republican convention as well. A bit of an internal bounce in the polls, if you will, that Governor Romney is more in tune with their values -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What do we need to be looking for in North Carolina? What are you looking at specifically going ahead towards November 6th, John?

KING: Well, let's look at the state and let's gets go back to the state here and you go back again. And I want to circle some areas here. You look up here. this is the research triangle up here, the Raleigh Durham area. A lot of college educating, a lot of students. That's President Obama's strength.

African-Americans in the urban areas like charlotte, like Fayetteville, like Raleigh, Africans-Americans a big part of his base, then, students are a big part of his base, and then college educated women. You find a lot of them up in the research triangle, in the suburbs around here. I'm going to blank this for a second and then come back to a couple of areas.

Watch up here and watch down in here. This is 2008. You see all that blue. Now, when we go back inside the 2004, you see a lot of those areas turning in red. That was the president's big secret. He was able to make in roads, especially in the suburban areas, Wolf. President Bush carried them in 2004.

That's when the president changed it. But remember, it was a very narrow. This was the narrowest of victories about 17,000 votes between President Obama and John McCain. That, in a very big Democratic year. So, you would think, just by its DNA, more Republican state. Much tougher for the president this time. BLITZER: Show us, John, how North Carolina plays into the overall calculus as far as the election on November 6th is concerned.

KING: As you mentioned, the Democrats come here. Obviously, they're concerned to see that they're a little bit behind North Carolina, but the advantage the president has is in the race to 270, and he starts right now at around 237. The dark states are solid for the president. The light blue states are leaning the president's way.

Governor Romney is at about 191. Dark red solid for him, the lighter red leaning his way. You have North Carolina right now as a toss-up, as is Virginia, another state. But the president can afford to lose this. Governor Romney really can't. We can make this stay red, and you can still get the president to 270 in so many ways. Let me even just start out here.

The president can hold Nevada. If the president can hold Colorado, then the president then could say, you have the chairman with you. We'll get to this one in a moment. If he can hold battleground Wisconsin, that gets the president on the doorstep right there, then the president would only have to win one of the big ones.

He wouldn't have to win both floor (ph) in Ohio. He could just win one of them, and that would get the president over the line. So, the president's path to 270 is easier. That doesn't mean it's easy, but it's easier than Governor Romney's. The president can afford, he could lose North Carolina. He could lose Virginia and still get to 270.

If you're the Romney campaign, you have to win Florida, you have to win Ohio, you have to probably win both North Carolina and Virginia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a big, big challenge. It's going to be very close. John, thanks very much.

And certainly, as Democrats gather here in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan appeared just a while ago also on the other side of the state, arguing that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. That's the GOP battle cry right now and it stump some key Democrats, but not the vice president, Joe Biden. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is better off today than they left us when they left. And if it weren't so hot, I would go into detail why I say it. But let me just sum it up this way, folks. You want to know why we're better off? I got a little bumper sticker for you. Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!


BIDEN: Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!


BLITZER: All right. The GOP certainly set up a shop near the convention here in Charlotte. They're ready to respond to whatever the Democrats have to say and the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, is among those here in Charlotte.

You were in Tampa last week. Now, you're in Charlotte. Well, go ahead, respond to the vice president. Bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive -- better off as a result of those two things, right?

REINCE PRIEBUS, THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, certainly Bin Laden not being alive is good.

BLITZER: And General Motors is alive, too.

PRIEBUS: And we're happy General Motors is doing well. Here's the deal, though. There's nothing better than going into a closing argument knowing that the facts are on your side. Now, they're not good facts. We don't like that these are facts of where we're at in this American economy, but Obama can't hide from the truth of where we're at in this economy.

Fewer people employed today than they were four years ago. Debts and deficits through our ears, coming outs, a president that ignored the budget process, a president and his party that didn't pass a budget in over four years.

The facts are the American people are hurting. This president gave grandiose promises layered with pixie dust and everything else. He didn't follow through. We're worse off today than we were four years ago.


BLITZER: I challenge some of the questions, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in the last hour. She made the case the country is better off. You're making the case the country isn't better off. Let's go through some of the numbers, and we'll --


BLITZER: -- how a better appreciation. When President Obama took office, 700,000 people a month were losing their jobs, sometimes, 800,000 people a month. The country was on the verge of another great depression at that time. You remember what was going on in October of 2008.

PRIEBUS: The economy wasn't in good shape.

BLITZER: It was in terrible shape.

PRIEBUS: We give him that. But here's the problem that Barack Obama has. Everything today is worse. And let me just back up. We can't give Barack Obama a pass and say that, well, the economy wasn't in good shape, and therefore, it's an excuse to make everything worse. He knew when he won in 2008, Barack Obama ran against and on the economy.

He said the economy is no good. He said he would fix the economy. He'd get people back to work. He campaigned against George Bush, right, and the economy. He won. Now, either his answer now is I didn't appreciate how bad it was and I didn't understand what I was doing or could be a combination and/or I failed. It could be a combination of both.

BLITZER: Objectively speaking, not everything is worse. We've had this conversation.


BLITZER: Let's talk a little about Wall Street, for example.

PRIEBUS: But people don't have a job aren't worried --

BLITZER: The Dow Jones was under 7,000 when he took office. It's now over 13,000. Millions of Americans have money invested in stocks, their 401(k)s, their IRS (ph). They are better off. They made a lot of money over these past four years in their retirement plans and their equities.

PRIEBUS: And too many Americans, over 23 million of them, don't have the luxury today to worry about the status of their 401(k). The problem in America today is that people aren't working. There's a whole lot of people that are working, but they're not making the money they should make.

We got a president that while he's in love with giving speeches, he hasn't been too good at following through with promises. I mean, the fact is we got bigger problems too facing America.

BLITZER: There's no doubt that there's enormous problems right now, economic problems, and certainly --

PRIEBUS: Huge problems.

BLITZER: -- too many people who are employed and underemployed. That's a huge, huge problem, but in terms of the overall picture, you remember what it was like when John McCain had to cancel campaigning near the end of that campaign four years ago because the country was on the verge of economic collapse.

PRIEBUS: And Barack Obama said knowing all the facts --

BLITZER: But he's not on the verge of economic collapse right now.

PRIEBUS: But knowing all the facts, knowing all the facts, Barack Obama said that he would get people working again. That if we passed the stimulus, we'd have unemployment under eight percent, that if we pass Obamacare, healthcare premiums would go down. Everything in that regard, in all three of those areas, worse, worse, worse.

And what about the longer term, Wolf? I mean, the bigger problem for our country -- we have a today problem, but we have a two-year problem, a five-year problem, a 10-year problem that this president ignored.

BLITZER: Is the housing market better today or worse today than four years ago?

PRIEBUS: It's worse today.

BLITZER: You think so?

PRIEBUS: The president promised that he was going to save us from seven million foreclosures across America. This is what he promised when he run. We've had nine million foreclosures since he became president of the United States. The problem is you and I can choral about some of the details and that's OK. The problem this president has is that he made promises in major league fashion.

And when you make a lot of promises like that, when you talk all the time, all that comes back to haunt you, because you've got to be a man of your word. And if you're not, having the excuse as, well, I couldn't possibly fulfill these promises because things were so bad, well, then don't make the promise.

BLITZER: Things were pretty bad. All right. Let's talk this new Gallup poll. I don't know if you've seen that today. But the question is, did the Republican convention, you're the chairman of the party, make your more or less likely to vote for Romney? More likely 40 percent, less likely 38 percent, no difference, 22 percent. So, it doesn't look based on this Gallup poll that just came out today that you're going to get a huge bounce off this.

PRIEBUS: We'll see what happens, Wolf. I mean, I think you'd agree with the way news cycles work nowadays. You got three cycles a day. We got a little bump out of Paul Ryan. I think we got a bump last week. I think it's more of a momentum shift. I think it's let's get to know Mitt at the national convention.

I think that was very positive for us. The issue that the president has is that he can't climb anymore. He's got a ceiling. We don't have that same ceiling that President Obama has. People are so getting to know who Mitt Romney is. It's only going to be for the better. And I think that we're going to be very strong leading in the last two months.

BLITZER: How does it feel to be hanging out with all these Democrats?

PRIEBUS: You know what, they love me over here.


PRIEBUS: I just can't believe it how much --

BLITZER: You're like a rock star --

(LAUGHTER) PRIEBUS: Yes. Not quite.

BLITZER: Reince Priebus, thanks for coming in.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Iran and North Korea, they say they're working together on science and technology. Does that mean nuclear weapons and missiles?

Also a fiery blast in Pakistan as a car filled with explosives rams into a U.S. diplomatic vehicle. We have details on the attack.

And some of the president's closest advisers, they talk about his role as a family man. We're going to have a preview of tonight's new CNN documentary, "Obama Revealed." Standby for that.


BLITZER: Much more coming up from inside the Time Warner Cable Arena. We're here in Charlotte, North Carolina. We're watching what's going on. They're getting ready for the start of the convention tomorrow. We saw earlier the first lady of the United States. She's up in the stage getting a little feel for the room.

We just saw Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, up on the stage. We wonder who else will be showing up sooner rather than later. Standby. We'll show you all the interesting pictures. But right now, there's some other important news we're following as well.

They've often been portrayed as members of the so-called rogue's gallery, but now, Iran and North Korea have a new deal to team up on science and technology, and that's raising serious concerns, because the United States has long accused both of them of teaming up on advanced weapons. Our Brian Todd is digging into the story for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning that the North Koreans will be able to give Iran crucial help in developing a nuclear weapons capability. This might make even -- this might even make actually former president George W. Bush seemed a little bit prophetic relating to a speech he gave ten years ago that drew a lot of criticism at the time.


TODD (voice-over): They were two-thirds of a notorious list.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea has a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction while starving its citizens. Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror. States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.

TODD: A phrase that got former President George W. Bush accused of exaggerating threats and destroying potential intelligence partnerships. Now, Iranian media reports that Iran and North Korea have signed a new deal, and it came with a tweak to the west.

Iran supreme leader, quoted as saying the two countries have common enemies since the arrogant powers cannot bear independent governments. The Iranian say they'll work wit North Korea on scientific and technological projects.

What does that mean to you?

ALIREZA NADER, RAND CORPORATION: The fact that North Korea's nuclear program is more advanced than of Iran's program. North Korea is known to have a better centrifuge program, for example, (inaudible). That's the cause for concern that North Korea could help Iran and hands this nuclear weapons program.

TODD: Analyst, Alireza Nader, of the RAND Corporation points out North Korea has already helped Iran acquire ballistic missile capability.

TODD (on-camera): Nader and a former U.N. nuclear inspector tell us North Korea could also help the Iranians tap into a new market for technology and components that could help them accelerate their nuclear program even further. That new market, China.

(voice-over) Iran has consistently denied that its pursuing nuclear weapons, but recent reports say there's another indication that a weaponization program is moving ahead. The reemergence of a mysterious scientist named Mohsen Fakrizadeh (ph).

The "Wall Street Journal," which first reported the story, says he's Iran version of Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who headed America's push for a nuclear bomb in the 1940s. Experts say like the fizz zest who headed the push for a nuclear bomb in the 1940s. Experts say Fakrizadeh drew into the shadows after some of his fundings was cut a few years ago.

But according to an IAEA report, he now runs a facility north of Tehran engaging in activities that, quote, "would be highly relevant to a nuclear weapon program." There are no photos of Fakrizadeh readily available. The Iranians have repeatedly stonewalled U.N. nuclear officials from gaining access to him. Nader says there's a reason they're shielding Fakrizadeh.

NADER: He's also a prime target for assassination. So, we would assume that he's under heavy protection.


TODD (on-camera): That's a reference to at least three Iranian nuclear scientists who've been killed in recent years all by the same method. Assailants placed magnetic bombs on their cars as they drove to work. Iran has blamed Israel and the U.S. for those attacks. Both countries have reportedly denied that. Just last week, the Iranians displayed the cars of those scientist at the opening of a somewhat of non-aligned nations that they hosted along with the pictures of those scientist, Wolf, that was kind of a strange display, but pretty powerful there, as you can see.

BLITZER: Very strange, indeed. Brian, what's the latest you're hearing about how soon the Iranians could acquire what's called a deliverable nuclear weapon?

TODD: We spoke to former U.N. weapons inspector, David Albright, who knows quite a lot about this. He says that Iran could develop that in no more than two years time. He says if that want to break out and produce weapons grade uranium, they can do that.

Actually, in just a couple of months, but he says they also know that they might get bombed if they do that. So, they may be a little cagey in that capability.

BLITZER: Sensitive issue, indeed. Brian, thanks very much.

President Obama warms up with a few licks before heading right here to Charlotte, telling a crowd in Ohio that watching last week's GOP convention was like watching "Nick at Nite." We're going to deconstruct the joke in our "Strategy Session." Stand by.

And Labor Day weekend. People having fun at a monster truck show when suddenly things go very, very wrong.


BLITZER: A bomb attack in Pakistan and confusion in the aftermath. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, the state department says no U.S. employees were killed in today's bomb attack on a U.S. counselor van in Peshawar, Pakistan. A spokeswoman says two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff members were injured and are now receiving medical treatment.

But Pakistani officials say two Pakistanis were killed and 25 were wounded when a car loaded with explosives slammed into that conflict van.

And the Secret Service says it has found a stolen U-haul carrying equipment for a Labor Day rally with Vice President Joe Biden. The truck was taken from a Westin Hotel in Detroit yesterday. Some of the equipment was recovered this morning. And agents say the rest appear to be accounted for in the truck.

And the holiday weekend, it took a dangerous turn for spectators at a monster truck show in Harrisburg, Oregon Saturday. Take a look at these pictures. Oh, wow! Look at that. A speeding truck goes out of control, clears a barricade and careens into the crowd. Three people were injured. But just take a look at that. Amazingly, though, none of the injuries were life threatening. No charges were filed. And the event continued on for the next day. If we've got those pictures, we can just see that looks like a disaster in the making, but three people injured. None of those injuries is life threatening. Something else, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, Could have been a whole, whole lot worse. Dramatic pictures, indeed. Lisa, thank you.

So, here's the question, will the former president Bill Clinton go all out for President Obama over the next two months or focus on pushing potentially, at least, the Hillary Clinton candidacy in the next election in 2016? What's going on? Our "Strategy Session" coming up.

And the actor/musician, Jeff Bridges, entertains the crowd ahead of the Democratic convention, helped out by a guitar playing governor.


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN political contributors, they are here together with me, obviously, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Democratic strategist, James Carville, and the Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos. Guys, thanks very much for coming up to the sky box.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton will be the featured speaker Wednesday night here in Charlotte, the man you worked for.


BLITZER: You know him quite well. You admire him, even though, Alex, you never worked for him. Ryan Lizza (ph), our CNN contributor, writer for "The New Yorker", a fascinating piece in the new issue entitled "Let's Be Friends: Two Presidents Find a Mutual Advantage (ph). Among other things he writes this.

"President Clinton's associates take it as a given that he would like nothing more than to see his wife become president. Hillary Clinton will step down as secretary of state after the campaign and begin the process of deciding whether she will run in 2016. By some measures a defeat for Obama in November would leave Hillary the undisputed leader of her party and propel her for the Oval Office that much faster." James, you're smiling. Why?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: (INAUDIBLE) speculation and by the way, we're not Rubio and Chris Christie. (INAUDIBLE) win in 2012 and then we've got the 2012 convention. And I don't know that in terms of the Democrats if president Clinton, which I saw him do in a (INAUDIBLE) spot for President Obama today on -- it was actually was on ESPN, I was watching it and why does that not help her if he's perceived as somebody that helped the party keep the White House? I'm not sure I understand the logic of it --

BLITZER: But you think --

CARVILLE: -- to help Hillary.

BLITZER: But you're leaving open the possibility she could run in 2016 --

CARVILLE: I hope so. I hope she does.

BLITZER: You do?

CARVILLE: Of course I do, but I don't have any idea what she's going to do --


CARVILLE: But yes --

BLITZER: I suspect she will as well. She would like to be the first woman president.

CARVILLE: Right --


ALEX CASTELLANOUS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: As a very wise man, James Carville said once it's like sex. Nobody ever runs for president just once.


CASTELLANOS: And he was right. But you know, Wolf, that's all the more reason, if people do want Hillary Clinton to run for the Clintonites to do everything they can for Barack Obama this time because that really is what helped her the most. If he loses, he loses, but they can't be seen as halfhearted contributors and they're not. Bill Clinton is on the air. Republicans shouldn't underestimate the power of Bill Clinton. He doesn't have to do it with words. He doesn't have to say I love Barack Obama. He's great. He's terrific. He's here. Just his presence is a huge gift for Barack Obama.

BLITZER: I just wanted to let our viewers know in case they don't. She can't be here as a sitting secretary of state or a sitting secretary of defense or even a sitting secretary of the treasury, she can't be seen as overtly involved in a political venture. That's why she's in Indonesia right now even as we speak right now --

CARVILLE: Probably glad to be there.

BLITZER: You know there are some Democrats and you know this James that are a little bit concerned, even as -- he's so popular, Bill Clinton, he could go off message and could say something that could hurt this president. Do you think that's possible?

CARVILLE: You know, look, I live in a world, understand that anything is possible. I will be betting very heavily that he doesn't if anybody -- and I'll be giving very good odds, so I don't think he's going to do that at all and again no reason to think that. I think he's very excited about his speech. I think he's working very hard on it and I think it's going to be very complementary to the president.

CASTELLANOS: I'd be very surprised if he did a Biden. I think he's going to stick to text. But there is a difference between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton is a new Democrat. He moved the party to the center. Barack Obama moved it to the left. Bill Clinton declared the era of big government is over. Obama said no, no, this is the era of even bigger government. That's what our economy needs. How are they going to resolve that? What is Bill Clinton going to say when he's asked?

BLITZER: What's the answer?

CARVILLE: Well, he's already on the air with a spot talking about how Romney wants to go back to the George Bush's policies and Obama has his policies of investing and doing the kind of things to bring the whole country forward and I think he's going to talk about that in his speech, the same thing he's talking about in his spot, and I think he's going to come out very strong here.

BLITZER: The president gave a little preview in Toledo, Ohio, of what he's likely to say. One of the themes here in Charlotte, Alex, listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Despite all the challenges that we face in this new century, we saw three straight days of an agenda out of the last century. It was a rerun. You might as well have watched it on black and white TV with some rabbit ears on there --


OBAMA: Should have been on "Nic at Night" (ph).



BLITZER: Good line.

CASTELLANOS: It's a good line and it's a good political point. Barack Obama can't run this election on the present. The economy is not in good shape, so all he's saying is don't go back. Don't go back to Bush. This is going to be the third or fourth election Democrats have run against George Bush. But Mitt Romney does have a challenge. He has to say, no, no, the person who hasn't changed Washington is you, Barack Obama. You've just made it bigger, larger, more expensive. Here's what I'm going to do that's going to turn Washington on its head. I'm going to sell every other government building. I'm going to replace most of Washington with three good websites, but I'm going to bring change and you haven't. CARVILLE: Yes, I think that the president is wrong. I think he just has to go back to the early part of this century. I think they have gone back to Bush's economic policy, change foreign policy and Santorum's (ph) social policy. As I said, his speech -- Romney's speech was right down the line and I think the Democrats (INAUDIBLE). And by the way, we're going to be running against George W. Bush 20 years from now. This is --


CARVILLE: You know what but they may just -- how long was it -- the Republicans are still running against Jimmy Carter. I mean how long -- so that was 32 years ago. So 32 years --

CASTELLANOS: But Republicans do have a different idea, and a new idea, and that is the same dollar can't be in two places, Wolf. It can't be in Washington and, you know, Washington is going to send it to you to grow the economy. No, no, we've got to take dollars from Washington and put them in the American people's pocket. That's a change from what we have be doing that has grown this debt to 20 trillion --


CASTELLANOS: -- coming up in 10 years, so that's the change Republicans have to put on the table.



CASTELLANOS: I was looking ahead at the next four years is Obama is reelected.

CARVILLE: Yes, Clinton raised taxes on wealthy people, created 22 million jobs. Bush cut them, created a million jobs. They want to go back to the Bush policies. Obama says I think the Clinton policies work better. The country, you decide. Who do you think was better for the country, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush?

BLITZER: Good question and the other question we didn't get to, are you better off today than you were four years ago? Don't answer that question because we'll need something to talk about --


BLITZER: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

CARVILLE: I am, but I, you know, look we're not losing 750,000 jobs. GM is alive --


CARVILLE: -- and bin Laden is dead.


BLITZER: Here's another question. Do you want to know what it's really like to experience the Democratic National Convention from the inside tomorrow? You can join the "CNN Election Roundtable with me and CNN's Political Team". Submit your questions and you'll get answers in real time in this live virtual chat. Don't miss the "CNN Election Roundtable" tomorrow 12:00 Eastern. You can log onto for all the information you need to know.

President, politician, father and husband, and fierce competitor, still to come CNN's Jessica Yellin, she sets out to answer the question, who is Barack Obama?

Plus, hundreds dying daily and journalists are shut out of Syria, so who is the man behind the camera and why is he risking his life to get the story out? Our own Arwa Damon is on the scene for us and she has this powerful, dramatic story.


BLITZER: Looking at Air Force One moments ago touch down in New Orleans. The president of the United States will be touring parts of the area that was so devastated by Hurricane Isaac. We've just confirmed that the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will join the president on a walking tour of St. John the Baptist Parish. The president will also make a statement there later. The -- we'll obviously have coverage of that here on CNN, so the president now in Louisiana. Mitt Romney was there on Friday, also got a tour from Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor.

Other news we're following right now including some very tough words from Syria's information minister today. He's warning that if any nation tries to set a buffer zone inside Syria, and I'm quoting him now, "we will cut their arm off". And the violence, meanwhile, rages on. Activists say more than 200 people died today alone. CNN's Arwa Damon shows us some amazing video from a freelance journalist who spent time in one town, the town of Kusair (ph), not far from the Lebanese border. A warning, some images you're about to see are disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) today -- some children.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every night Trad (ph) scrolls through the videos he shot that day, reviewing scenes he wishes he had never witnessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This person died.

DAMON: It's a macara (ph) routine, but one he's addicted to. He simply can't stop, can't let go, can't give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) DAMON: For the past 18 months he's documented nearly every single death in Kusair (ph), a town of some 50,000 before the violence started.


DAMON: Name, date, location more than 400 victims and counting. Often they are his neighbors, friends, relatives, people he would see around town and once he pointed the camera at his brother's corpse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) but I didn't know my brother the first one. After I come also I take some photos of the other one. Suddenly I remember this one my brother. The start I shout my brother, my brother, my brother, Doctor, my brother. But after, normal. I'm sad also, the first, and angry. But after normal.


DAMON: The 37-year-old once owned a furniture shop. Now he's part of a small team of media activists. Filming and posting online the horrific videos that have come to symbolize the Syrian uprising. Most of the residents of Kusair (ph) have fled. But the indiscriminate shelling still takes its toll on the few who remain.



DAMON: Those who have nowhere else to go. In the last few weeks this 8-year-old girl was killed by a mortar round that hit her home. There was nothing the medical team could do but try to hide the wound to spare her mother the anguish.



DAMON: She collapses when she hears the news.


DAMON: At times Trad (ph) tries to console families, reassuring this woman that her son is going to be OK, that he will survive the wounds to his leg. Occasionally he hands over the camera so he can help. But too often, there is nothing he can do but film.


DAMON: Much of Kusair (ph) lies in ruins, similar to most of what we see from across Syria. Its people resigned to their fate, knowing that they are on their own. The hospital regularly targeted is trying to build up its defenses.


DAMON: This man who works in construction is building a bunker for his family. His children take a quick peek into the darkness below. Perhaps this will save them. Perhaps it will be their grave.


DAMON: Trad's (ph) younger brother is now a rebel fighter. He was a mechanic who wanted to be a deejay. He plays music as Trad (ph) recalled the fate of one of their media activist friend detained by Syrian security forces and returned to them with his eyes gouged out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they take the eyes. The same, my job. I can go down Bashar. I throw Bashar by this one. Too much dangerous, here in Syria the camera, but when I finish with revolution I catch the camera like this and I throw it.


BLITZER: That report from CNN's Arwa Damon in Beirut, a very, very disturbing look at what we're seeing increasingly every single day, more and more horrors, horrors of every day life in Syria and it just continues non stop.

"Obama Revealed", the president and some of his closest aides, they are talking about his life as a family man and what it meant to be raised by a single mom and his grandparents. Our own Jessica Yellin is here. She has a preview of tonight's brand new CNN documentary "Obama Revealed".


BLITZER: Family life is extremely important to President Obama, and we see that side of him in our brand new CNN documentary, "Obama Revealed". Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin interviewed the president and some of his closest aides. Watch this little preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear that suggestion that he has trouble connecting, but I just don't see it. I think a lot of people have trouble connecting with people in Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A politician has to be sort of imbalanced. Bill Clinton was imbalanced. You know, so he needed those strangers, so he would spend the hours between 6:00 and 9:00 talking to people in Congress, whereas President Obama is basically with his family during those hours you know which is sort of a balanced thing to do but not necessarily good for a president.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we're in town here in Washington, in the evenings, 6:30, we want to be at the dinner table with our kids and I want to be helping with their homework. And I think that's sometimes interpreted as me not wanting to be out there slapping backs and wheeling and dealing. It really has more to do with just the stage we are in our lives. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): If you're re-elected, your girls will be older. They'll probably have their own weekend plans; they might not want to hang out with mom and dad.

OBAMA: It's already starting to happen, yes.

YELLIN: Do you think you might do more outreach of what you call back slapping with members of Congress?

OBAMA: My hope is, is that getting past this election people will have an opportunity to maybe step back and say, you know what, the differences that divide us aren't as important as the common bonds we have as Americans. And some of that I'm sure will require additional effort on my part. Hopefully, we'll see more effort on the other side, as well.

YELLIN (voice-over): Though being a family man isn't always an asset in office, it is a priority for the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to remember, this is someone who grew up raised by a single mom and his grandparents whose father abandoned him. And he's lived with that kind of missing piece in him. And at a very young age, he decided he wasn't going to be the kind of father he had. He wanted to be a present father.


YELLIN: And a present husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a guy who really loves his wife. She's obviously a great source of personal strength to him.

OBAMA: She keeps me straight every single day. She is the best mom in the world and she's cute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle Obama's role has been to keep him grounded. To make sure his ego isn't a Macy's float that takes off.


YELLIN: Those who know him best say the president is a fierce competitor at any level.


YELLIN (on camera): You coach your daughter's basketball team.

OBAMA: There you go. That's Sasha's team, the Vipers. This has been so much fun.


OBAMA: I don't coach them full-time. I'm sort of like an assistant coach adviser.

YELLIN (voice-over): So what does the president's own game say about his leadership style?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a competitor. You know sometimes you know you get a bad call but you can't extend or overextend too much emotion worrying about what just happened. From efficiency standpoint, you know, you can cry about the call or you can look to the next play.


BLITZER: And Jessica is here. I'm really looking -- I haven't seen it yet. I'm really looking forward to it, 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. But you get into other themes, as well. It is a 90-minute documentary.

YELLIN: Yes, we talk about the partisan gridlock in Washington and what part of that President Obama shoulders, what part Republicans shoulder. It was a big campaign promise that he would unite Washington. Talked to both him and Speaker Boehner about the debt deal and that's fascinating and some of the tactics on the war on terror so -- or as he calls it the hunt for al Qaeda and on bin Laden, so a lot of ground to cover.

BLITZER: You worked really hard on this 90-minute documentary.

YELLIN: I did. I did.

BLITZER: You were invisible over these past --

YELLIN: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: Where were you?

YELLIN: I was working --

BLITZER: You were working really hard --

YELLIN: -- I swear getting interviews, yes.

BLITZER: Well I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks so much for doing it. I know our viewers are going to be happy, as well. Here's important information you need to know. Stay with CNN for this brand new documentary. It premieres, "Obama Revealed" airing tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern and don't forget you can see "Romney Revealed", Gloria Borger's excellent documentary that will air right after THE SITUATION ROOM at 6:30 p.m. Eastern tonight, two excellent documentaries.

The Democratic Convention is heating up and it hasn't even started yet. It begins tomorrow, but it includes some interesting musical guests that will be playing here. Also, some musical guests already playing at Carolina Fest. We're going there. Stay with us.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: While Democratic Convention planners put the final touches on the big show that starts tomorrow, today's Carolina Fest is winding down here in Charlotte. The street festival kicking off the Democratic Convention brought in diverse music and a diverse crowd. CNN's Joe Johns is there.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: This is the intersection of Trade and Tryon (ph) in Charlotte, North Carolina, the very center of the queen city. We wanted to take you on a little tour down this street of what is basically a political state fair. The only thing about it, it represents only one party, the Democrats. This is where all the advocacy groups have set up shop. You see a few nonpartisan groups like the USO right there, but most of them are firmly representing and supporting the president like the AFL-CIO of North Carolina and right here, the Human Rights Campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) see what we've got for you.

JOHNS: What's the deal with the wheel?

KEVIN LYNCH, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: What we're doing is we are doing a wheel for equality. We're going to give you a wristband. All our participants are signing a petition that we sent to our congressional leaders in support of gay marriage.

JOHNS: I see --

LYNCH: So they're all agreeing to sign the petition so that we can send that information. They get a free prize.

JOHNS: Charlotte is the hometown of NASCAR. This entire street festival originally was supposed to be out at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, but they moved it downtown. This car, the DNC 2012 Dodge Charger, was supposed to be a part of that celebration. They just brought it here. This is kind of an outdoor food court and if you look that way, you get a sense of the size of the crowd. It's just huge.


JOHNS: This is North Carolina, so you see a lot of barbecue, smoked turkey legs and right over here, "Dan the Pig Man".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I present Jeff Bridges.

JOHNS: And finally, the big stage behind me featuring performers who are also supporters of Democratic causes like Janell Monet (ph), Jeff Bridges, James Taylor, they were introduced by politicians who also happen to be big names in the Democratic Party.


BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting.