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Democratic National Convention Gets Under Way; New Presidential Poll Numbers; First Lady's Moment In Spotlight; Unsolicited Advice; U.N.: More Than 103,000 Fled In August; Karzai's Pick Accused Of Torture; Officer Rides Windshield, Catches Fugitive; Democratic Convention To Begin In Minutes

Aired September 4, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: brand-new CNN/ORC polls just in on the heated battle for the White House. Did the Republican National Convention give Mitt Romney the bounce he needs to get out in front of President Obama? You're going to find out in a matter of a few seconds.

Plus, one hour from now, the Democratic National Convention formally kicks off. Tonight, the president's most powerful political weapon takes center stage.

And with the enthusiasm building here in the convention hall, Republicans are already pouncing. They're seizing on the grade the president gives himself for improving the economy.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Charlotte, North Carolina. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to get straight to our brand-new CNN/ORC polls on the state of the race for the White House on this, the heels of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Take a look at this, an actual tie, Mitt Romney and President Obama both at 48 percent among likely voters. Romney gets a post- convention boost of just one percentage point, while President Obama has dipped one percentage point.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is over at the magic wall, along with Democratic poster Peter Hart, with the very first look at the numbers.

John, a statistical margin of error, sampling error 3.5 percent. This is about as close as it gets.


We have one of the best in the business. Peter Hart is going to help us understand why Romney didn't get a bigger bounce and what does the president have to do with his convention as it opens tonight here in Charlotte? Peter, let's look at the number. I would suspect one reason the horse race moved just a little bit is because Governor Romney did not move this one too much, who would best handle the economy. You see there he was slightly ahead in our last poll. He got a little tiny bit, but just a sliver, statistically insignificant. He didn't move the dial on who is best to handle the economy.

But I want your take on this one. If you're the Romney campaign, you have to be happy with this. Who's in touch with the middle class? A 14-point deficit for Governor Romney going into his convention, a six-point deficit now. How significant, how important is it that Governor Romney made that gain and how does President Obama get it back?


Number one, what you have is what we call a concrete bounce. That is no spring in this. If you move up one point, you didn't move up at all. Number two, when you look at this and where people are on handling the economy, they have already made their pitch.

If that was their pitch and that was the best they got out of it, that's not a good situation for them, because essentially they have had the ball, now it goes to the Democrats. Democrats have their chance. And my guess is you will look at these numbers and everything that we have seen in our focus groups and everything else suggests that Obama's lead is much better and much stronger in terms of talking to the middle class.

KING: We will see if he can get those numbers back. As you suggest he does get the ball second. Having the second convention helps.

Let's look at some of the more underlying numbers in the poll. This one here, this is largely because of progress Governor Romney made at his convention in the suburbs. You see essentially a flip among voters making $50,000 or more. President Obama led in our last poll by seven points. Governor Romney has that. Now, again, it could be temporary, but this is largely in the suburbs. How important is that?

HART: Well, sure, it's extremely important. But you also have to remember your margin of error is 5 percent plus or minus. So we don't know how much change there is. But overall this is probably the best piece of news for Romney out of his convention.

KING: Here's one more that they would like to say is good news. If you look at going into the convention they were essentially tied among independents. Governor Romney now -- are there true independents out there? We talk about the polarized electorate, where more than 80 say they have made up their mind. Who are the real independents in this race?

HART: There's almost nobody.

We're down to 10 percent, 12 percent as independents. So you start to look at this movement. And there's slight movement and very slight movement. Overall, I would have to say if you're looking from the Romney camp, you wish that there would be more. If you're looking at it from the Obama side, you have to say, this is our chance, we can make a difference in terms of the convention. That's what they're hoping for.

KING: So you understand the mood of the country better than anybody. This is not your first rodeo.

So when you look at this, this is where we have it right now, 237 for the president, 191 for Governor Romney, 270 to win the presidency. It's not easy, but the president has an easier path to 270. What's the most important thing he has to do and his team has to do as the Charlotte convention gets under way to try to affect the map in a positive way?

HART: Well, I think the most important thing is to be able to say where we're going to go from here. Because the voters have looked...

KING: Is this the are you better off question, second term question?

HART: No. No. It's really where we go as a nation.

And I think that's a little bit different are you better off. I think this is the idea of is your second term going to be different and better? He has that chance to make a difference. Secondly, I think he has to go beyond just talking to constituents and to the women or to the minorities.

I think he has to be able to reach out and bring a sense of joy and a sense of togetherness. If he does those two things, I think he will be in pretty good shape. And where I would be looking for, John, is what happens in what I call the Hispanic coalition out in the Southwest?

KING: So you have Nevada. He needs to keep that blue.

HART: He needs to keep that blue.

KING: Colorado, it matters.

HART: Absolutely, and also obviously New Mexico.

KING: Right. New Mexico I would say it's less likely the Republicans play there, but they're going to play hard in Nevada and Colorado.

HART: Absolutely.

Then, secondly, the states that are surrounding Illinois, he needs to split there. He needs something out of Wisconsin and he needs something out of Iowa. So, somehow he needs to get a split there. If he does that, then he's put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Romney campaign because that means they have to take Florida and Ohio. So, look to the Southwest to the Hispanic coalition and then look towards Illinois.

KING: We will look in the middle. I think we're going to spend a lot of time out here. Maybe I'll take you with us when we go to battleground Ohio, battleground Wisconsin, battleground Iowa, little bit of a pattern there.


HART: I'll bring you.

KING: All right. I will take you on the road.

Wolf, as you see from Peter's perspective, very close coming in. I think most people, even the Republicans concede when it comes to this map, the electoral map, slight advantage for the president. The question is can he build on it over the next few days here in Charlotte?

BLITZER: I know, John, you and Peter have both been looking at all the numbers in this new national poll of likely voters. Here's the question. As important as national numbers are, we know the difference will be in the battleground states. New York state got a lot of people, California, a lot of people. They're going to go Democratic. Texas, a lot of people, going to go Republican.

Are there any hints either of you have seen, John or Peter, in this national poll that would indicate what's happening in Ohio or Florida or Virginia, some of these battleground states?

KING: That's why I looked at the numbers, how do you feel among the middle class? How do you feel voters above $50,000, which we have looked at, it's mostly in the suburbs, and that's what I looked at because Wolf makes a great point.

In the last two months national polls are helpful, but you're better off studying any state polls you have. When you look at a national poll, you conduct the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, what in a national poll is helpful to people when they are trying to think -- maybe they live in Wisconsin, Iowa or Ohio -- what's happening where I live?

HART: I think there are two things. You're looking for the dynamics. That is who represents me, who do I care about, etcetera. Who can do the job that I want to have done related to the economy in terms of moving the country forward?

That's the first thing you look at. Second thing you look at is constituencies. When it comes to constituencies, I think you have to be able to look at white suburban women. That's where it's going to come back around to. And you look at that, that's pretty darn close right now.

KING: White suburban women critical in this state of North Carolina, critical in the Cleveland suburbs and critical suburbs just about everywhere in America, North Carolina, Virginia. Look at that map, Florida as well. Make an excellent point. Thanks for stopping by.

Wolf, you get the sense of how close we are. That means as we raise the curtain on the Democratic convention, high stakes.

BLITZER: Yes, 48-48, doesn't get any closer than that. John, thank you. Don't go too far away. Peter Hart, thanks to you as well.

As President Obama makes his way here to Charlotte, Republicans are hot on his trail. And there's one word they don't want him to forget, that one word being incomplete.

CNN's White House correspondent Dan Lothian is traveling with the president and has the latest -- Dan.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was the final campaign stop for the president before heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the Democratic National Convention.

He drew a large crowd here at the historically black Norfolk State University, where he pitched his middle-class message in a state that he's fighting to keep blue. But Republicans are working just as hard to paint the president as ineffective. And they're seizing on a grade the president gave himself for fixing the economy.

(voice-over): President Obama admits the economy is still struggling. But he takes credit for pulling it back from the brink of collapse.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have created a lot of jobs, but we have got more jobs to create.

LOTHIAN: But when it comes to giving himself a grade for improving the economy, the president told Colorado television station KKTV:

OBAMA: You know, I would say incomplete.

LOTHIAN: The president explained that steps like bailing out the auto industry, making college more affordable or investing in clean energy will help grow the economy over the long term.

But his critics zeroed in on the word incomplete. From the Republican National Committee to the Romney campaign, a flurry of e- mails stuffed in-boxes, more evidence they argued that it's time for new leadership in the White House.

As Governor Romney prepared for upcoming debates at the Vermont estate former of Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, his running mate took a swipe at the president's personal assessment on "The CBS Morning Show.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president is asking people just to be patient with him. Look, Charlie, the kind of recession we had, we should be bouncing out of it creating jobs. We're not creating jobs at near the pace we could. So, I think the incomplete speaks for itself.

LOTHIAN: This comes on the heels of another dust-up over mixed messages from the Obama campaign and surrogates on whether Americans are better off now than they were when Mr. Obama took office.

But giving himself an incomplete grade is not new. He said it several times before, most recently on "The View" in May.

OBAMA: I won't give us a letter grade. I think it's still incomplete. We have still got work to do.

LOTHIAN: But there's greater scrutiny in the final works to Election Day, even as deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter tried to put it all in context.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: But when he's saying incomplete, it means a number of different things. One, we're on a path forward. We're on our way up. And there's a lot more that he wants to get done.

LOTHIAN (on camera): Traveling campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the Republican alternative is to go back to the -- quote -- "old playbook of failing policies and failing grades."

But Republicans point to one big grade, unemployment still above 8 percent -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Dan Lothian in Norfolk traveling with the president. Thanks.

And while the president was in Norfolk today, he also handed out a case of White House beer to some of the firefighters lined up to greet him. The White House just recently released the recipe for the special homemade brew, but only, only after some pressure from serious beer aficionados. New video just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. They're pretty proud of that beer over at the White House.

President Obama's big night in Charlotte still a couple days away, but there's one speech tonight he's absolutely not going to miss.


OBAMA: I'm going to be at home and I'm going to be watching it with our girls. And I am going to try not to let them see their daddy cry, because when Michelle starts talking, I start getting all misty.



BLITZER: We're here in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democratic National Convention kicks off less than an hour from now, right at the top of the hour. But the biggest moment of the night will come later in the evening, and while the president won't be here, he will be watching on television.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever I say here today, it's going to be at best a distant second to the speech you will hear tonight from the star of the Obama family, Michelle Obama.


You know, this is just like a relay and you start off with the fastest person. So I'm going to be at home and I'm going to be watching it with our girls. And I am going to try not to let them see their daddy cry. Because when Michelle starts talking, I start getting all misty.


BLITZER: Let's go to our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar. She's downstairs. She's here in the convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

Brianna, what else do we expect the first lady to say tonight?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're really expecting her to stay somewhat on message when it comes to what President Obama's campaign is all about. That he's making decisions putting the middle class first. But she's going to be doing it. A source close to her tells me from a very personal place.

She'll obviously talk about herself is the person who knows him best, around him at very pivotal moments and she'll be talking about how she's seen him make difficult decisions, whether it be health care reform or over the auto bailout. And that she has seen him make these decisions putting the middle class first. That will be here message. We're expecting her comments to last about 25 minutes, Wolf.

BLITZER: How is she prepared? Do we have any inside information on that, Brianna?

KEILAR: We know a little bit about how she's prepared. I wanted to know exactly where she was when she's been getting ready. She's been working with a team, especially with her primary speech writer, Sara Hurwitz. And she's been doing a lot of the practice in her office in the East Wing, in the Residence.

So, what's interesting to me, Wolf, is that she has not practiced this speech in front of President Obama, nor has he practiced his speech in front of her. She has said, according to this source, that she really wants to see his speech on Thursday night with sort of fresh ears.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Interesting as well.

She's going to be introduced by a mother of five. What do we know about this woman?

KEILAR: This woman is named Elaine Brye. She's from northeastern Ohio. She has five children. And they're in four different -- pardon me, they're in four different branches of the armed services. So, obviously, this is something to do with the fact that Michelle Obama has had a lot of involvement with military families.

This is someone who wrote her, I'm told, a Christmas letter -- who wrote her a Christmas letter thanking her for her work. And actually Elaine Brye was invited to the White House in March to a state dinner where Prime Minister David Cameron visited and she sat along the table with her husband Courtney at the table with President Obama.

Something else really interesting I wanted to tell you, Wolf, the first daughters -- you know, this is kind of late at night for them, but we understand that they're going to be staying up late and watching their mom. And not only is this an important day for Michelle Obama, this is an important day for them. It's the first day of school for the first daughters. In fact, Malia Obama started high school.

So, we know that Michelle Obama , if she hasn't already, is going to be calling the girls after school seeing how their first day of school went, and they're going to be hanging out late sitting there with dad, President Obama, as well as their grandma, Michelle Obama's mom, Marian Robinson, in the Residence, watching their mom give her speech, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and the president, we just heard him say he hopes he doesn't get misty. Although I'm not sure what's so bad about that. Why can't he get misty if his wife is delivering a beautiful speech about him, about the whole country? Let him get a little misty. It's fine.

KEILAR: I agree.

BLITZER: The daughters will be happy to see their dad crying a little bit. It would be an appropriate night for that to happen.

Brianna is going to be with us throughout the night obviously on the floor as well. Thanks, Brianna.

Eight years ago, it was then-State Senator Barack Obama who gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. Now it's this man's turn. We're going to take a closer look at the party's young rising star, there you see him. Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio. Standby.


BLITZER: We're live here in Charlotte, North Carolina, as we count down to the start of the Democratic National Convention.

CNN's Dana Bash is down there on the floor of the convention here in Charlotte.

Dana, there are some big speakers tonight to kick things off, including Michelle Obama, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago. Set the scene for us. What else are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're going to see according to Democratic officials who are running the show here are a few things. First of all, this may seem obvious to some people, but to the people who want to get the president elected, it's not. And that is they want to send a message over and over again. It's not just about whether or not to fire Barack Obama or not. It's to decide between him and the man running against him. There's a real choice between the two of them when it comes to character, when it comes to policies, all of the above.

And so, to that end, we are going to hear -- you heard Brianna talk about Michelle Obama being a character witness. In addition to her, you mentioned Rahm Emanuel. He's going to talk about his time as the president's chief of staff. And the two of them together are going to talk about the kind of decisions he made from the perspective of the Obama campaign, the hard decisions he made.

They're also going to go back and look at the parts of his record that they believe are the best to highlight. The auto bailout, which was a success story. You're going to see the former governor of Ohio talking about that. He's going to give -- I talked to this morning -- a pretty hard-hitting speech when it comes to the president and when it comes to the jobs it's created in his state.

And we're also going to hear them talk more about what the Republicans did about going forward with specifics, he will do if he's elected for a second term, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Dana, you know, the Democrats they released their policy platform today, the Republicans released their platform last week. And people who read those platforms, and there are plenty of people who do, they noticed some sensitive word changes in this year's Democratic platform. Tell our viewers what's going on.

BASH: Really interesting, a few really interesting things. I should just say that when this convention officially opens in about 35 minutes, they're going to formally present that platform.

First of all, a change that we just saw -- the word God has been taken out of the Democratic platform. And this was in just a specific line talking about hard work, the importance of hard work. It said that people should make the most of their God-given potential. That's gone. Now it simply says the hard work should pay off and people should be rewarded for that hard work.

So that's very interesting that in today's day and age that that word is taken out.

Another change, which I know you are incredibly familiar with is the whole question of what is the capital of Israel? Is it Jerusalem or not? Four years ago, in 2008, Democrats inserted the word Jerusalem, saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. This time, they took it back out. It's not something that is gone unnoticed on the Republican side. And their platform, Jerusalem being the capital is in there.

Mitt Romney already put out a statement saying it was shameful they took that out. Of course, the whole question is whether or not you make Jerusalem the capital that enrages Palestinians and others there. That is why they decided to take that out.

The Jewish vote may be small but critically important in states like Florida.

And, of course, one thing we had reported before but it's important to underscore and that is that for the first time, the Democratic platform recognizes same sex marriage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about the mayor of San Antonio, the young mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, he's going to be delivering the keynote address. He's only 37 years old.

BASH: Thirty-seven. He'll be 38, I believe in a month. He is going to be the first Latino to give the keynote speech at a Democratic convention. And the Democrats are really hoping that he continues to appeal to that ever, ever important Hispanic community.

You know, you look at the polls and they overwhelmingly support President Obama over Mitt Romney. The question is: are they going to get out and go to the polls? They hope that his address here is going to that.

We are told in fact, I spoke to him directly, I bumped into him outside the convention center and he said that he's going to talk about his personal story, much like we heard from then even before he was senator just plain Barack Obama in 2004 about his life of a son of a single mom, a son of a grandson of an immigrant, in his case from Mexico. He's going to try to link that to he told me the American dream and how he says it is intergenerational, the links that allow people to build what he calls the American dream here in this country.

He's also of course going to hit Mitt Romney on the issues that we've heard all along in this campaign.

So he'll be one to watch for sure.

BLITZER: For sure.

All right. Thanks very much, Dana. You'll be joining us later as well.

We're only about half an hour away from the official start of this, the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman from Florida, she will gavel the convention to order. You're going to go see, we're going to see it all live. We'll be back in a moment.

You're watching what's going on. We're here at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte for the start of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.


BLITZER: Tonight, it's the First Lady Michelle Obama's moment in the spotlight.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When Michelle starts talking, I start getting all misty.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: My piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me, all of them. Driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle Obama by her own upbringing and by her ability to talk about the American experience is going to talk about the importance of the middle class.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She is incredibly popular. She's more popular than the president. Four years ago not so much.

MICHELLE OBAMA: For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.


BLITZER: All right, let's get straight to CNN contributor, the Sirius XM radio host, Pete Dominick. He's over at the CNN Grill right here in Charlotte and he's getting some unsolicited advice from our excellent panel about this very question. Pete, join us.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you very much, Wolf Blitzer. Here with my brilliant panel. Yes, the subject of conversation today will be the headliner tonight, Michelle Obama.

How important is the first lady? How much does she matter? What can she say tonight? Let's start with our first lady, Carly Fiorina -- Carly.

CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, first, I think Michelle Obama's been a really good first lady. She's an inspiring person in her own right. I think her focus on veterans' families has been very positive.

I think her focus on childhood obesity has been very positive. She's a really popular figure and an inspiring figure. She'll give a great speech. I think her difficulty is that the American people know already that President Obama is a great husband and a great father.


FIORINA: So she's not going to shed a lot of light on that. I think they also know that he's a rather solitary figure. He tends to spend his spare time with a small group of friends. He doesn't engage in politicking and working to build relationships with either Democrats or Republicans.

So for her, I think the issue is to try and illuminate how is it he makes decisions? How does he think through problems? What causes him to decide one thing versus another thing? That's I think her challenge tonight.

ROSS DOUTHAT, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: I think that's a good point. I think it's useful to look at it this way that first ladies tend to be more popular the less political they are perceived to be, right?

And Michelle Obama after some missteps and false starts maybe on the campaign trail in 2008 has done a very good job of being a political in I think the best possible way.

DOMINICK: Aren't they always?

DOUTHAT: But it's tricky -- well, it's interesting to contrast her --

DOMINICK: Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush.

DOUTHAT: Right. But the Hillary -- I think the Hillary comparison is illuminating, right? Because Hillary was maybe a less successful first lady, but has been a more successful --

DOMINICK: Good point.

DOUTHAT: And the challenge for Mrs. Obama tonight is to sort of, you know, figure out, well, she has to give a political speech in some sense. Having been apolitical successfully for four years, it will be interesting to see how she makes that transition back to politics.

DOMINICK: I don't even know the governor. We met your first lady last night and quite a mismatch if you don't might I say.

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: Because she's smart and beautiful.

DOMINICK: Well, you said it. How important is it?

SCHWEITZER: Let me tell you, America's going to see that gal's got the guns. She's got the best guns in America.

DOMINICK: Are you saying she's going sleeveless tonight?

SCHWEITZER: I bet she does. You got the guns, you show them. So the bottom line is that first lady is a verifier. When we're sizing up the person that we're going to be looking at for the next four years, you want to know about their family. Are their values like your values? So you oftentimes -- well, you shouldn't, but you do. You look at their spouse. You look at their children. You look at their upbringing. You say, do they have the same kinds of values that I have?

When they make these decisions that I'm not going to get involved in, will they use the same kinds of information that I would have used if I wanted to get involved.

DOMINICK: I'm a sycophant. I love this woman. She's inspired me. She's inspired my wife. But more than anything I feel like, she's inspired certainly young black girls in America.

And she's also given America a different image of a black woman that might have been played out in media or even on television. How important is that? Sorry to go for you for the race question, I want to get your take on it.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: I was going to speak to it. I'm sitting here getting emotional. The president saying about he's going to get misty. A lot of people are going to get misty.


JONES: She looks like my sister. I have a twin sister who is the same height, same complexion, and the same spirit. It's almost impossible to describe what it feels like to have somebody like her standing up there and speaking for America.


JONES: Because there's this image of what beauty is supposed to be, of who's supposed to be up there and she comes out there with such dignity and with such poise and with such class.

DOMINICK: And with such beauty.

JONES: And with such beauty. I think about my sister and think about her being teased for being too dark skinned. That was not considered beautiful. You had to be light skinned.

And here she is the whole world acknowledges, not only she's brilliant, not only she's courageous, but she's a beautiful woman. This is emotional for so many people out there.

Politically, it's in fact true she's going to need to explain who this guy is, who this president is, but who she is, is so important to so many people.

DOUTHAT: Well, I think that's the big difference between her remarks tonight and Ann Romney's remarks last week. Ann Romney's job was to tell people something they didn't know about Mitt Romney.

Michelle Obama's job tonight is to remind people of what they already like about her and about her husband and about the Obama family. So they're doing the same thing, but they're coming from a different direction.

JONES: I think the argument she can do to help him. There's been this sort of idea that he's a lazy guy. He's a golf player. He's not showing up for work. I know for sure -- I know for a fact he does show up and works very, very hard.

I think she can humanize that. She can tell you, let me tell you what it looks like when he comes to the east wing. Get people inside of that.

This is her last convention speech as the first lady -- well, she'll come back hopefully in two years, but the first lady in the middle of an election campaign for her husband. I think it's a beautiful, beautiful moment for her.

DOMINICK: Has anybody on our panel met Michelle Obama?

SCHWEITZER: I have, once or twice.

DOMINICK: What was your reaction like? Van, I want your impression too.

JONES: The governor lost.

DOMINICK: Well, my wife just waved to her and made connection with her at the White House Correspondence Dinner. My wife put her hand on her chest and said you inspire me so much.

And Michelle Obama looks back and she seems to be able to connect to everybody. It seems to go right down through her staff. She does seem to have a personality that really radiates. What was your interaction like?

SCHWEITZER: Well, four years ago, I gave her a crew Indian bolo tie. So I'm expecting maybe she'll be wearing that tonight.


SCHWEITZER: Here's what Americans see in a first family. They see upward mobility. Every family in America dreams that their children will be able to climb mountains that their generation couldn't have.

And when they look at this family, this family says to every family in America no matter where they started that they can climb the tallest mountain. And I don't think you could have a better symbol than that.

DOMINICK: Van, you got to know the first lady a bit.

JONES: Sure. She is who she is. It doesn't matter if she's talking to a head of state, if she's talking to an intern, a security guard, she is the same person across the board. I think it's the highest praise you can make of somebody is she treats everybody the same.

DOUTHAT: If I could just complicate the love fest a tiny bit.

JONES: No problem.

DOUTHAT: I think bringing back down to the reality of politics, the challenge for the president and the challenge for this convention is that, you know, he's always had high personal approval ratings, right?

People have always liked him. They still like him. The challenge is selling him on policy, on his achievements and there I think it will be interesting to see how far she, what she tries to do. It may be a preview of what's to come successfully or perhaps unsuccessfully.

DOMINICK: We'll see. I predict jokes. I predict many jokes tonight from the first lady. When we come back, we'll maybe have some jokes of our own.

Everybody on our panel will choose a target of his or her own choosing and we will give that target our unsolicited advice. You do not want to miss this. We'll be right back.


DOMINICK: We're back here at the CNN Grill downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm Pete Dominick with my brilliant panel of guests here.

And now it's time to give our unsolicited advice. And we will start with the governor and Governor, before you begin, a little birdie/your assistant Franklin, told me today is your birthday, the big 4-0, 3-9, I apologize. Happy birthday.

SCHWEITZER: Thank you very much.

DOMINICK: All right, so go ahead, Sir. Who is your unsolicited advice for?

SCHWEITZER: My unsolicited advice is for Congress. Now, we understand from the Supreme Court that they consider corporations to be people. We further understand from the Supreme Court that those corporations can use their money like speech and they can give really in these elections.

But does anybody in America think foreign corporations ought to be able to buy elections? Do you think Hugo Chavez should be able to buy elections with his corporation Citgo.

Do you think that the Saudi royal family ought to be able to choose the president of the United States because they sell 10.5 billion barrels of oil and they can step in here and put billions of dollars in the next election?

Congress, here is my recommendation to you. I know you can't even agree on apple pie and motherhood, but you should be able to agree that foreign corporations should not be able to invest in American elections.

So pass legislation today that says if you're a corporation, you must prove to the Federal Election Commission that more than 95 percent of your shareholders and your money is American.

DOMINICK: I mean, he's preaching to the choir here, Ross.

DOUTHAT: Yes, I mean, I generally agree with the governor. I will say that the one thing Congress is usually able to agree on is that they don't typically like foreigners. That might be a relatively easy lift.

FIORINA: I want to just go back to your birthday. I'm a cancer survivor. As a cancer survivor, I have come to know that growing old is the goal. So however old you are, separate -- celebrate every single year of it.

DOMINICK: Yes. It's a state of mind. Appreciate it. I'll give anything for that many years however they are. Go ahead, Ross.

DOUTHAT: All right, so my unsolicited advice is for both Democrats and Republicans who want to really insult the opposition. So here we are at the Democratic convention, we've already had a major California Democrat compare Paul Ryan to Joseph Goebls.

We've had another Democratic delegate compare Paul Ryan to Adolf Hitler. I'm not asking you to cut out the insults. I'm fine, it's part of politics. I just want more original, historical analogies.

I want a Democrat to stand up and say this is the first right winger since -- I want Republicans to say Barack Obama is the second coming of (inaudible) from Romania. That's all I'm asking for. I think if we were together, we can get there.

SCHWEITZER: I don't think I can get there, but I can call somebody a skunk.

DOMINICK: There are certain names that Ross wants to go trending on Google. Look those up. All right, my unsolicited advice is for anybody who believes a political ad.

This is the worst time of campaign season. Listen, if you believe or buy or vote based on anything you heard in 30 seconds, I'm going to say right now on CNN, you're an idiot. Yes, you are. Look it up. Think for yourself.

If you don't like the political ads, you can change the channel. Here's how you know something's untrue, if there's scary music behind it. Van Jones is -- well, we saw what they did to you.

Now, the bottom line is everybody does it. They're 30-second ads, to a minute, and they're untrue and people need to think deeper. They need to look harder and they need to search the information and think for themselves.

Because these 30-second ads, they've got psychologists, focus group, they know exactly what they're doing. It doesn't matter if it's true. It doesn't matter the music. It influences people. They know it. They don't care. Stop paying attention to them. Turn the channel. They're probably lying.

DOUTHAT: Pete, Pete.


DOUTHAT: Based on how steady the polling numbers have been, I would say voters have been taking your advice for the last few months, I mean, seriously.

DOMINICK: Well, Mitt Romney says his welfare lie ad has been very effective. They're very effective ad. We don't care the fact checker.

SCHWEITZER: Pete, it's been nice knowing you. Our headquarter is watching right now and they are saying how are we going to run this network without the ads?

DOMINICK: Because there are plenty other people that will advertise on CNN and anybody else. They just can't get in. Your right this is my last day, I'm out. Carly.

FIORINA: My unsolicited advice is perhaps not surprisingly to President Obama. When you say the grade you would get is incomplete, what incomplete means is that you have failed to achieve the required work in the required time frame and that is exactly what people are worried about.

My advice to President Obama sincerely, bridging off of what you said yesterday, Van, that you know, we have real problems and we're all Americans. Let's be honest about where we are, poverty is at a 50-year high, small business failure rates are at a 40-year high, chronic unemployment is at a historic high, middle income families have lost $4,000 in wage increases in the last four years.

Our debt just hit a historic high. We're in a bad place. The question is, what is it that you think you're going to do as the leader of this country to improve the situation? Be straight. Be straight.

JONES: That's a fair question. I'm looking forward to hearing from him. I think when he says incomplete what he means is Bush had eight years to maybe mess it up. He wants eight years to fix it back up. I think he's looking at eight years rather than four.

FIORINA: But you know, Van, that's not honest leader. If we're on this, both Republicans and Democrats contributed to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac running amuck. Both Democrats and Republicans contributed to inadequate regulatory oversight in Wall Street. I mean, this was a bipartisan set of problems.

DOMINICK: Van Jones, your unsolicited advice.

JONES: My unsolicited advice is surprising no one on this panel, I've been talking about it all week is to the Democratic people who are watching this convention tonight. Watch out for the next superstar.

DOMINICK: Here we go. Talking about all week.

JONES: Everybody's talking about the Mayor Castro, love him. He's great, but in 2000, there was a guy walking around here. Nobody knew who he was, his name was Barack Obama. He had to sit in the nosebleed section. Eight years later he's president. There's a young woman named Tulsi Gabert --

DOMINICK: She's speaking.

JONES: She's speaking tonight. Hawaii Iraq war veteran, her name is Tulsi Gabert. She's 31 years old --

DOMINICK: She's not American. Look for her. Thanks very much. Happy birthday, Mr. Governor.

SCHWEITZER: Thank you.

DOMINICK: All right, that's all for our unsolicited advice. Back to Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Excellent unsolicited advice once again, guys. Thanks very much. They're joining us from the CNN Grill here in Charlotte. They'll be back tomorrow.

We're only minutes away from the official kickoff of this, the Democratic National Convention. The chair, Debbie Wasserman- Schultz she will gavel this convention to order in a few moments. Standby, live coverage happening.

Also, Mitt Romney has one word for an edit that Democrats made to their policy platform. And I'm quoting him now, that word he's saying is "shameful," the change the party made in its platform and a lot more coming up as our live coverage continues.


BLITZER: Opposition forces in Syria say women and children were among the 135 people killed once again today. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, more than half of those deaths came in the area around the capital of Damascus. The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross met with President Bashar Al-Assad today.

The group says the humanitarian situation is deteriorating fast and the United Nations says more than 100,000 Syrians fled last month alone. Now more than 1 percent of Syria's population has officially registered or is waiting to register with the U.N. as a refugee.

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai is facing protest over his pick to be the country's next intelligence chief. Asadola Halid is a loyalist known for heavy handed tactics in fighting the Taliban. He's accused of drug trafficking and torture, even having a dungeon in his own home. He denies the accusations. And he must still pass a legislative vote of confidence.

And this is a routine traffic stop, but it looks like a scene from an action movie. Take a look. An officer in South Korea pulled over a man who then took off. Now take a look at this as the car finally stops.

The car leaps off the windshield and chases the driver into a subway. He tried to shake the officer off for 25 minutes zigzagging through back streets and crashing into other cars for more than nine miles. Turns out this man was wanted for drug-related crimes, pretty astonishing video there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: An amazing video. All right, thanks very much for that, Lisa.

The Democratic convention is about to get underway in a few minutes. Right at the top of the hour, just ahead you're going to see the official opening right here in Charlotte. Standby.

Also, a dramatic change in the party platform when it comes to the critical relationship between the United States and Israel. What's going on? We'll have details.