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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Turmoil in the Middle East; Remembering 9/11
Aired September 11, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is New York's tribute in light. The city's stunning memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It's an installation of 88 searchlights, which can be seen in the night sky up to 60 miles away.
Meanwhile, on this anniversary of 9/11, we have breaking news of turmoil in the Middle East tonight. In Cairo, angry protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy and hauled down the American flags in protest of a film they believe insults the Prophet Mohammed.
And a State Department official says that the Libyan government has confirmed that an employee at the American consulate in Benghazi was killed today.
Good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer in for Piers Morgan. We begin with our breaking news in the Middle East. Attacks on diplomatic compounds in both Egypt and Libya.
Joining me now, Congressman Mike Rogers, he's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in. And I want to get to 9/11, but there's some breaking news that we're following and I want to get your sense. An American diplomat apparently has been killed. People stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Can you update us? What's going on? This is very worrisome.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes, it's my understanding there were nearly two dozen armed individuals that was coordinated explosions and other things. This is the same site, by the way, that was attacked with an IED about maybe a month or so ago. Very, very concerning, and it's concerning that this is a repeat target for them and that this may have been more successful because of the large scale of it.
So it's, again, very, very concerning. We have seen al Qaeda elements in Libya spring up, as we have -- as we have seen in Tunisia, as well. All of that is concerning. We still don't know for sure and for certain yet, as I speak to you today or tonight, that -- who is responsible and who's claimed responsibility. So those details are still unfolding.
BLITZER: Because is it a coincidence or not that this is the anniversary of 9/11? And we see not only what's going on in Libya, but they were attacking the U.S. embassy in Cairo, as well, on this day. Is there a connection here?
ROGERS: Well, from what I have been led to believe, as I stand here, there's no connection yet identified as to the coordination. And we've even had some odd descriptions of the one in Egypt. I will say the Egyptian government has not -- not probably has done as much as it needs to do right now. I think those discussions are happening and ongoing. But it just shows that with the change of the government and the new direction and the Muslim Brotherhood taking over, there are just huge questions that go unanswered, and their commitment to U.S. embassy security is very, very concerning.
So we saw some changes in the Sinai that disturbed us when it comes to Egypt. Their lack of real effort to make sure that that doesn't explode, if you will. And now this with the U.S. embassy, we're going to have to have a lot of hard questions, we're going to have to do a lot more digging to find out who exactly is responsible, if it was coordinated, and if it was related at all, A, to 9/11, and B, to the event in Benghazi, Libya.
BLITZER: I know a lot of your colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, in the House have said to me they're reconsidering supporting, what, about $1.5 billion a year in military and various forms of economic assistance to Egypt, given the nature of this new Muslim Brotherhood-led government. Are you amongst those ready to pull the plug?
ROGERS: You know, you always have to ask yourself, is the United States and our national security better if we're gone completely or if we have some sphere of influence there? I'm not ready to say that yet. I do believe it ought to be leveraged in our discussions as we move forward and we have got to get some commitments by this government that they're going to do more in Sinai, lest to provoke Israel, and they're going make sure that our U.S. consulates and embassies are protected fully by the Egyptian government.
It's unconscionable that this could happen on their watch. So I do think it's -- there needs to be a point of discussion. We need to be very careful about starting to pull out of places that we don't fully understand the changes that are happening, we don't fully understand the military and intelligence roles there yet and what this new Muslim Brotherhood government is trying to do.
We're going to have to have those discussions but we should walk into that decision. We shouldn't run into it.
BLITZER: And speaking of Israel, what do you make of this decision, the White House telling the Israeli government, Prime Minister Netanyahu coming to the United States, that the president won't be able to meet with him because of scheduling conflicts? This comes at a time of some tension between the U.S. and Israel over Iran and its nuclear program.
What do you make of this?
ROGERS: They are in a really tough neighborhood and there's a lot of uncertainty now that surrounds them. The one thing that they really clearly need is certainty from the United States on where we are. And this just shows to me that -- it's just another example that highlights this problem that we're having politically. You know, intelligence services are working well, our cooperation there is great, but our political discussions and cooperation is clearly off kilter.
And if we want to prevent a conflict in Iran over their nuclear program, then we better have some certainty about where -- what role the U.S. is playing, their leadership and our relationship with Israel. We have to work all of that out. I would highly encourage the president to find time for this meeting.
Netanyahu, as I understand it, argued he'd fly anywhere in the country to do that. We need to continue dialogue so that we can prevent armed conflict if possible. But we also need Iran to understand that we are absolutely serious, that we will use a military option if they don't stop their nuclear program from advancing.
BLITZER: Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham, they issued a statement, they were pretty upset about this inability apparently to -- Netanyahu and the president to get together. Let me put it up on the screen and read it to you.
"It is puzzling that the president can't make time to see the head of state of one of America's closest allies in the world. If these reports are true," the two senators go on to say, "the White House's decision sends a troubling signal to our ally, Israel, about America's commitment at this dangerous and challenging time."
You were at a meeting recently. The Israeli prime minister was there. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, was there. This is a U.S.-Israeli Strategic Cooperation meeting. And apparently there was some angry words exchanged. Just set the record straight for us. What happened there?
ROGERS: Well, I can tell you that clearly I walked out of the meeting with the understanding that the Israeli government is a little frustrated with the lack of certainty on where -- on behalf of the United States. And they're trying to move some dialogue so that Israel has a comfort level and the United States has a comfort level. Clearly that's not happening. And so I think there was some sharp exchange. You know the U.S. ambassador to Israel was not shouting in the meeting. I think that was reported.
But there was certainly a sharp exchange. There was certainly a meeting that was a little elevated in tone, if you will. And again, it was very clear that there was a high degree of frustration with the United States government and that lack of certainty and leadership, and it's the -- you know, one of the sole remaining superpowers, it is important that we show that leadership and we have those levels of certainty and we work with our allies.
If we don't, Wolf, my fear is Israel is going to back away and say, look what's happening around us. We're going to have to do this on our own, and I think if we all come together on this, we probably can prevent a military action, but we have to prevent it not by beating up on Israel but by making sure Iran understands that there is a real consequence, a military consequence if necessary, if they don't stop their program.
BLITZER: All this unfolding on this the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
And, Mr. Chairman, thanks very much.
ROGERS: Wolf, thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Now I want to bring in the senior senator from New York state, Chuck Schumer.
Senator Schumer, thanks very much for coming in. First, what do you make of this decision, this inability for the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, he's coming to the United States, and he's not going to meet with the president of the United States? What's going on here?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think that -- look, Prime Minister Netanyahu can reach the president any time he wants. And my guess is, there are just scheduling difficulties and I wouldn't be surprised if they work something out.
BLITZER: I wouldn't be surprised if they work something out either. But it does sort of re-enforce this notion, as you well know, some of Israel's supporters, they have doubts about the president of the United States' commitment to support for Israel. And you heard what Mitt Romney said not that long ago in his acceptance speech in Tampa.
Listen to this one line that he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: "Thrown allies like Israel under the bus." So what do you say to Romney on the heels of what happened with the Jerusalem platform dispute, now this inability to come together for Netanyahu and the president to meet what Mitt Romney is saying, go ahead. As a strong supporter of Israel, what do you say?
SCHUMER: Well, here's what I'd say. The two biggest threats to Israel, the two most existential threats, if you will, are, one, a nuclear Iran, and two, rockets raining in from Lebanon launched by Hezbollah. And I would say on those two issues this president has been better than any other. He has launched sanctions against Iran that are tough and having an effect. He has made it clear that he will not support a nuclear Iran. He has made clear that the policy of containment is not a good policy. And I'll tell you this on Iran, and I've said this to a couple of Romney supporters who agree, that if the sanctions fail, and military action is warranted, a re-elected President Obama is far more likely to launch that kind of military action, probably in concert with Israel than would Mitt Romney. Because Mitt Romney will be new, he'll have a whole domestic agenda.
And I've talked to the president on Iran. He's resolute about not having a nuclear Iran. On Hezbollah, Netanyahu himself, the prime minister admits that nobody has done more for Iron Dome than this administration. Israel has even tweaked it a little bit so it's even stronger. And the percentage of Hezbollah rockets that might be launched from Lebanon, if there was a military action or Iran decided to let Hezbollah loose in any other way, the number of rockets that would get through would be much, much smaller than it would have been in the past.
On the Israel --
BLITZER: First --
SCHUMER: So I think on these two issues, the president is very strong and I think that Mitt Romney is mistaken.
BLITZER: I do think, though, that right now, even though when I was in Israel not that long ago, both Ehud Barak, the defense minister, and Shimon Peres, the president, they hailed this very close U.S.-Israeli relationship. I think there has been a history of and a continuation of some tensions first -- on a personal level between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama. I don't know if you'll agree with me or not.
SCHUMER: Well, I would say this, look, I've had my disagreements with this administration on the Israeli and Palestinian issue. I do not believe the cause is belie of that conflict. It's either the settlements of the 1967 borders. I believe frankly that most -- too many Palestinians and too many Arabs really don't believe that there should be an Israel. They hide behind the "Law of Return" but never have they -- when they talk about a two-state solution -- acknowledge a Jewish state.
And I think that's the big problem. But overall, the president's record on Israel is extremely strong, particularly with Iran and Iron Dome and rockets from Hezbollah coming to the fore. And so I think supporters of Israel, if they had to choose who would be better for Israel, I don't think there's any doubt it would be Barack Obama.
BLITZER: On this 11th anniversary of 9/11, where do you see the greatest threat to the United States?
SCHUMER: Well, here's another thing. And this gets -- the president gets a lot of credit. Obviously, terrorism launched by al Qaeda would be. And they're reeling in Iraq -- in Iran and in Pakistan, in -- rather in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let's not forget while President Bush was reluctant to send drones over the Pakistani border, President Obama released them and has wiped them out.
We're now doing the same thing in Yemen, another al Qaeda center. So I think we're a heck of a lot safer today than we were certainly on 9-10-01 but we're also a lot safer today than we were the day President Obama took office. He's been the toughest president on terrorism that we have had.
What is our great danger? There are always new terrorists that pop up. Different types and they're smart with the Internet. They have a lot of knowledge and they look for our weak pressure points. And so that's why we have to stay vigilant all the time. But we're a lot -- it's not an accident that since 9/11, thank God, there hasn't been a terrorist attack on America. We're much better prepared and doing a much better job, and particularly in the ability to listen in to would-be terrorists and find out what they're doing and thwart them before they could even begin to launch anything that might hurt us.
BLITZER: Senator Schumer, thanks very much for joining us, especially on this 11th anniversary of 9/11.
SCHUMER: Thank you very much. Good to talk to you, Wolf. And go Bills, right? You must be a Bills fan being from Buffalo.
BLITZER: Yes. Of course. Buffalo Bills.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Senator.
Up next, the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he joins me. He'll talk about what he remembers most from that fateful day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've blunted the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
A new tower rises above the New York skyline. Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama at the Democratic National Convention. He, of course, ordered the raid that killed the terror mastermind.
Bin Laden is gone, but what he did in 2001 will stay with us forever. 9/11 changed the country and it changed the world. And it began on a Tuesday morning in New York 11 years ago today.
Rudy Giuliani was the mayor of the city. He's joining us now.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for coming in.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's 9:00 p.m. here in New York right now. Where were you exactly on that evening at 9:00 p.m. 11 years ago today?
GIULIANI: I was at a temporary command center that Governor Pataki and I had set up at the New York City Police Academy on 22nd Street. And I was getting ready for our last press briefing of the day, which we did shortly thereafter to explain to people the additional information we now had about what happened, give them some advice on how to handle themselves the next day in which a lot of services we're going to be interrupted. And also trying to find something, you know, inspirational to say to them.
Because I knew going to bed that night, they're going to be the first New Yorkers in memory that had to go to bed at night with their city having been attacked. And I wasn't sure how they were going to deal with it. Frankly, Wolf, if you asked me that that night, I'm not sure I knew how I was going to deal with it. We're just doing the best we could.
BLITZER: I don't think any of us appreciated what was going on. But the responsibility that you had was so enormous. You've described 9/11 as both the worst day and the best day. Explain why you said that.
GIULIANI: The worst day because it was the worst attack, domestic attack in the history of my country, or at least you'd have to go back to the Revolution and the War of 1812 and the Civil War to look for similar kinds of things. Certainly in the history of New York City. And at the same time, it was a day of more heroism, more patriotic fervor, more assistance, more charitable action and activity than I ever saw -- ever in my life.
I mean I never saw this kind of desire to want to give. 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon, seemed to me like a thousand construction workers descended on ground zero. The daunt place was -- in flames at the time and these guys wanted to go in and just drag people out. And they just came. Nobody asked for them. Nobody called them. We got help from all over the country. We've -- firefighters who put up the flag, the firefighters who saved so many lives inside the building.
So you had both. You were -- you were shocked by the attack and the loss of life and my case the lot of a number of good friends. On the other hand you were just elevated by the tremendous spirit of courage and the desire to fight back, which was almost immediate.
BLITZER: Yes. It was a day I think all of us will never, ever forget. We seem to remember almost every -- moment of that day even obviously 11 years later. What was the biggest lesson from that fateful day?
GIULIANI: When I look back on it? BLITZER: Yes.
GIULIANI: We had -- we had been preparing for a terrorist attack since the day I took office, you know, in 1994, because we had been attacked in 1993, the year before I took office. And we had started the first Mayor's Office of Emergency Management. We used to do drills, exercises. We were ready for sarin gas, anthrax, suicide bombings.
Here's the lesson that I got out of it. We had underestimated the impact they could have on us, probably by half. Everything was too small. Our 911 system was too small. The Emergency Management Center that got destroyed. In any event it would have been too small. We needed an emergency management center 2 1/2 to three times larger than the one that we thought would be necessary for the worst catastrophe New York could face.
The scope of it was bigger than we had actually anticipated. I think we responded to it well, and we did some catch-up very, very quickly. We set up a new emergency center in a half hour. We set up a bigger one that Governor Pataki I did about three days later at the pier. But if you look back and you want to see the things that could have been done different, if we had anticipated twice as big an impact, I think the reaction would have been even better.
BLITZER: Good lesson learned. America, as you well remember, was so, so united in the days and months after 9/11. And here's the question. Can Republicans and Democrats be united again any time soon? Is that possible?
GIULIANI: Sure, sure. You know, it's all very understandable, Wolf, having been in politics and government in different capacities all my life. When something very, very big happens that's bigger than you are, bigger than you, your ambitions, your political party, Americans come together and we're one.
I knew that that bipartisan cooperation wasn't going to last very long. I was very fortunate. I had only 3 1/2, four months to go as mayor. Until the day I left office, we still had that bipartisan cooperation going on. I got tremendous help from Democrats in the Senate, Republicans in the Senate. I got everything I wanted. President Bush gave us everything we wanted and needed and more.
But I knew that wasn't going to last. I mean when things go back to normal, we go back to having very different views of how our government should be run, what's important. Our political differences are real. They're not -- somebody is not making them up. We have real differences about the way America should be governed. So that's why we have debates.
BLITZER: Yes, we have politics in the process at the same time. Mr. Mayor, stand by for a moment.
When we come back, I want to turn our attention, more to politics. I'll ask Rudy Giuliani about the presidential race.
BLITZER: The presidential election is fast approaching. Come November, voters will decide if Barack Obama deserves four more years in office or if Mitt Romney should lead the country. With me once again the former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Certainly he has a lot to say about the White House race.
Mr. Mayor, once again, thank you. The conventions, as you now know, over. This race neck and neck by all accounts. So what did you make of the Democrat's convention?
GIULIANI: Well, I thought they were two very interesting conventions. If you were to listen to the Democratic convention, things are really going in a pretty good direction and we should just continue to go in that direction. Listening to the Republican convention, they simply thinks we're going in the wrong direction and we have to change it.
And I think however voters come out on that is how this election is going to come out. If people are satisfied with the direction of the country, they generally re-elect the incumbent. When people are unsatisfied with the direction of the country, they change management. And I think after all is said and done, and all the fighting is over and all the sound bites are over, I think essentially that's going to how -- that's how people in Virginia and Ohio and Florida and those swing states are going -- are going to decide it.
BLITZER: I -- I was in Tampa and in Charlotte for both conventions. The Republicans left Tampa on a high note. Democrats certainly left Charlotte on a high note. But as you know last Friday's jobs figures dampened that mood a bit. The president -- former president, President Clinton's speech was powerful. He used a key word, as you know, arithmetic.
What did you think of his presentation, Bill Clinton?
GIULIANI: I thought if Bill Clinton were running, he would win by 10 points against anybody. He's not running. Honestly, he's trying -- he's trying to argue as a defense lawyer for somebody else's record that's very different than his. And I don't think it works. I think the -- I think Bill Clinton's rhetoric was fabulous.
I think the president and Joe Biden gave great speeches, but then you wake up the next morning to 43 months of 8 percent unemployment with a -- with an unemployment number that's actually more devastating than if there had been increase in unemployment because there's been an increase in permanent unemployment.
Three hundred thousand people stopped looking for work in August. That is staggering. We haven't seen things like this since the Depression and I think that you can't talk you way out of that. I mean people are too smart nowadays. You know Romney and Ryan have their slogans. Obama and Biden have their slogans and -- and arguments. Ultimately I think it's that unemployment number that's lasted now for 43 months that's going to say, you know we've got to try something different, and let's give Romney a chance.
BLITZER: I can't tell you how many people said to me, they wish that the Constitution would allow Bill Clinton to keep another four years.
BLITZER: And on a serious note, do you think that there should be an amendment...
BLITZER: ...that would allow that to once again come into play?
GIULIANI: No. One -- one very, very famous American, Dick Thornburgh who was governor of Pennsylvania, told me that the best thing about term limits -- he said to me, "Mayor, the best thing about term limits? It will save you from yourself." Third terms are notorious for complete deterioration.
Bill Clinton did a lot of good things as president. He did a lot of things I disagree with. But I think he had a very good record, particularly in the area of the economy. Who knows if he could reproduce that today? What worked then might not necessarily work now.
You know, we've got a lot of good young people in both parties. And it's time for them to kind of take things over.
BLITZER: What will an Obama/Romney debate, and there's going to be three of them in October, look like? You've got some experience personally in those debates, the Republican Presidential Debates. And Mitt Romney participated when you did it as well?
GIULIANI: Well I mean I debated Mitt maybe 11 times, 12 times in '07, going into '08. Always did well. He won some of the debates. Never lost one. He's a very, very sound, very, very comfortable debater. We know the president is. The president is an extraordinarily smart man. So this will be a very good debate.
And they're very similar. They're both -- they're both a little wonkish. I mean, they both like to get into the weeds a lot. They both understand -- they both want to understand very deeply what the policies are. They're both going to be enormously well prepared.
I think the debates will be very, very, very important. But ultimately, I think the economy is going to decide this election. Assuming no one of them wins by a big margin or loses by a big margin in the debates, which I think they're going to be pretty even. I think this is going to come down to America's view of the economy and whether they want to give President Obama four more years.
And if -- if things remain the way they -- they seemed to be on Friday with the -- with the unemployment numbers, I think the president's got a hard time asking for four more years. BLITZER: Yeah, but as far as those undecided voters are concerned, or the switchable voters; let's say there's five or six or -- or eight percent, they will make the decision. They will make the final verdict in Florida and Ohio and these other key battleground states.
I tell you this, I moderated four Democratic debates four years ago when Barack Obama was running including the final debate with just him and Hillary Clinton. He's an excellent debater. I -- I've moderated four Republican debates with Mitt Romney. He's an excellent debater as well.
I -- I'm really looking forward to see how they do head-to-head in October in these three -- in the three presidential debates.
But let me ask you about the vice presidential debates, because a lot of people are looking forward to Paul Ryan versus Joe Biden. That could be lively?
GIULIANI: That will be very lively and it ends up being a more important debate for Paul Ryan than it does for Joe Biden. With all teasing about Joe. I mean Joe is well-known. Nobody's going to change their mind one way or the other about this election because of Joe Biden. They already accepted him once as vice president.
It -- Paul Ryan has the most to win and the most to lose in a debate like that, because he's the -- the new guy on the block. And he doesn't have to really win the debate. He just has to be acceptable in the debate.
He has to be someone that people can say, "OK, this is a man we can accept as president of the United States if God forbid something happens." And I think Paul will easily be able to do that. I mean -- I don't mean to demean anyone, he could be the single smartest guy in the race, just in terms of knowledge of the budget, knowledge of the intricacies of government. And maybe -- maybe among a group of wonkish candidates the most -- the most wonkish.
BLITZER: He's very wonkish, but you know what? Joe Biden is pretty wonkish as well.
GIULIANI: Oh, yeah, it's going to be...
BLITZER: That could be an excellent debate.
GIULIANI: Joe can't lose the debate. I doubt -- I mean Joe has been through numerous debates like this. He's not going to lose the debate. The real question in that debate is going to be, can -- can Ryan stand toe-to-toe with him? And if he comes out even or close to even, then Ryan will have won the debate.
BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, it's always good to speak to you, especially on this, the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
BLITZER: Once again, I know you lost friends, you lost colleagues and our condolences to you...
GIULIANI: Thank you.
BLITZER: ...as we remember what happened. We'll always remember.
GIULIANI: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: We appreciate it very much. Thank you. Up next, a 9/11 survivor who lost hundreds of employees in the terror attacks.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Welcome back to this special 9/11 anniversary edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. Howard Lutnick had an office on the 105th floor. He was taking his son to his first day of Kindergarten when the plane hit. He survived; 658 people in the company he still runs, Cantor Fitzgerald, did not. And Howard Lutnick is joining us now.
Howard, thanks very much for joining us. Eleven years since the 9/11 terror attacks. Your company, Cantor Fitzgerald, lost what two thirds of its workforce, including your own brother. Howard, let me ask you, how are you doing tonight?
HOWARD LUTNICK, CEO, CANTOR FITZGERALD: Every year on September 11th -- and you know it's the toughest day in the world for us. We have a charity day. So we don't give away our profits that day. We donate all of our revenues. So today we donated all of our revenues and we ask all the New York related stars to come out and help us.
Last year, we raised 12 million. This year, we haven't finished tallying it up yet, but it should hopefully be more.
BLITZER: Tell us why this way of commemorating, remembering what happened 11 years ago is so important for you and Cantor Fitzgerald.
LUTNICK: You can imagine on September 11th, what do I want to do in the morning? I want to curl up and grab a pillow and pull the covers back over my head. So the only way to get up and really enter the world is to do something good. So all of our employees around the world, they all agree to waive their day's pay. And all of our clients come to our aid and help us.
We give to about 150 organizations around the world. We gave it -- and this happens all over the world, in Asia, Europe and of course here in America. We give to Wounded Warriors, the Intrepid Fallen Hero's Fund, Children's Cancer, things that show we can make the worst day into something nice and special.
And then in the afternoon, we all get together, all of the families get together and we read the names of the 658 people we lost, and show their pictures and stay together as a family, and keep their memories alive.
BLITZER: Take us back, Howard, to that awful, awful day. How did you learn that a plane -- yes, a plane had crashed into the North Tower?
LUTNICK: I was standing in front of my son's nursery school or Kindergarten. It's his first day of Kindergarten. He's now 16, so he shaves. But then he was five, that famous first day picture where you're in front of that school. I was standing there and my phone rang and I was thinking to myself, I can't believe my office won't just leave me alone.
Here I am, I'm taking my son to his first day of Kindergarten. I couldn't get through to the phone. And an administrator -- so I walked him over to his classroom. And an administrator came over and said, a plane -- I was just told a plane hit the building, Mr. Lutnick, and they're looking for you. So I ran downstairs, jumped in the car and headed right downtown.
I went right to 5th Avenue, so I could see the building as soon as I could. Of course, we all know how horrific it looked. I went like a moth to the flame to the building, to grab people as they came out in hopes that I would find one of my guys.
BLITZER: When did you realize that none of your colleagues, family, friends would be able to escape?
LUTNICK: Well, I was -- so I'm at the door of the building grabbing people as they come out, asking what floor they were on? The highest floor I got to was someone said they were on the 92nd and floor. Then we had this roar. I had no idea what was going on. Remember, I hadn't seen a picture of any of this stuff.
That roar was Two World Trade Center, the other building falling. Obviously if the one I'm standing under falls, I'm not having this interview with you. So I just start running from that tornado of black smoke, which I think people have seen in videos. So I'm a guy in a suit running with all my might from this tornado of black smoke.
When the smoke caught up with me and I was laying under some car in this pitch black darkness, I knew I was outside and here I was dying outside. So I knew right then and there, all my friends and my brother, everyone who I knew at work was gone.
BLITZER: Your brother was trapped in that North Tower. He did call your sister, Edith. What did he tell her?
LUTNICK: You know, my sister picked up the phone and my sister, Edi, runs our relief fund. So she's given up her business life to take care of our families, the families of Cantor Fitzgerald. But he called her and she said, oh, thank God, you're not there. He said, I am there. He told her he loved her and told her goodbye. And he told her to tell me that he loved me and my kids and he said goodbye.
It's -- it's as brutally sad as you could think. That was really -- if you want to know what the calls were that came out of that building? They were either calling for help or they were calling their loved ones to say goodbye and how much they loved them. It's -- these are extraordinary people we lost, extraordinary.
BLITZER: It was so painful for me, too. Not only what happened with all of those who were killed on that awful day, but I -- as you might know, I have a cousin -- I had a younger cousin who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, Jeffrey Shrier (ph), a wonderful, wonderful man who unfortunately was among those who was killed. He worked in your mail room. And he did a fabulous job for you guys.
And it's so painful to even think about the loss. I know how you feel, but I lost someone at Cantor Fitzgerald that day, as well.
LUTNICK: You know, Jeffrey worked in our mail room and we were a special company, because we liked to hire people that we liked. So one of our friends was a social worker. And we had our mail room were all people of special needs. And as you know, Jeffrey was a beautiful person with special needs. And so our whole mail room were young men and women of special needs.
Our whole firm couldn't be more supportive. And that was what was beautiful about it. It just makes it -- when I tell stories like that, and we think about Jeffrey, it just makes it more sad, because these were beautiful people who were lost that day.
BLITZER: I wanted to express my condolences to Jeffrey's entire family, his wife. I was at their wedding in Brooklyn. I know they're just -- the Shrier -- a wonderful, wonderful family. And my heart goes out to them. My heart goes out to everyone who died on 9/11.
LUTNICK: Make sure you give them my love, as well.
BLITZER: I definitely will. Howard, I want you to stand by for a moment. We have more to discuss. We're going to continue our conversation with Howard. We're going to talk about the post-9/11 world and what it means for business and politics. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: A sight to see. The time lapse video of One World Trade Center rising above Lower Manhattan. I'm back now with Howard Lutnick, the chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, the company that lost over 658 people on 9/11.
Howard, describe the aftermath of the attacks. Because you reopened only 48 hours after those towers fell. Why was it so important to reopen so quickly?
LUTNICK: Well, one of our competitors named Broker Tech was really pushing to open, because this was their big chance, you know. You can't understand that kind of -- some people don't understand the difference between business and humanity. And this was their big chance to open and take advantage of what happened on September 11th. So they were going to open on Thursday.
Remember, the stock market didn't open until that next Monday. No football games were played on Sunday. But the bond market in America opened on Thursday. And we knew if we were not there, that people would start moving on and forgetting about us. So our employees, primarily the people in London -- my office in London, who had never done U.S. government securities. We're like the New York Stock Exchange for U.S. government bonds. We run the government bond business in America. That's one of our businesses. They opened the business for U.S. Treasuries in the United States of America on Thursday morning.
And I -- I still to this day, I think it was a miracle. I don't know how those guys did it, but they did. Our screens flickered, and up came our business. And you got to realize, everybody in the world who trades with us, every bank in the world trades on our government securities market, they couldn't believe we opened. And you know, the people, men and women who survived and worked for this company are extraordinary people.
And you know, I'm honored to be associated with them.
BLITZER: Howard, describe your feelings about the new One World Trade Center, the tallest building in New York.
LUTNICK: Look, I think it's important to rebuild. I just find it -- personally I find it odd that they would name it One World Trade Center. Frankly, I think if they named it any other name, I would think it was a -- the memorial is beautiful, but I don't know why they don't change the name. That just seems so odd to me, since the building I worked in was never called the North Tower. It was called One World Trade Center.
BLITZER: You think they should change that or try to change that?
LUTNICK: I'll tell anybody -- I'm telling you. I'll tell anybody who wants to know, change the name. That's just weird.
BLITZER: Bin Laden, as you know, is dead. Everybody in the world knows he's dead. But do you worry about future terror threats in New York?
LUTNICK: Of course. New York is a spectacular place. And those who are jealous of the way we live our lives are always going to strike out. And, you know, we're always going to be a target, sadly, always. London is going to be a target. Anywhere in the west, you are a target.
BLITZER: Are you thinking -- are you thinking all of us are better prepared now?
LUTNICK: Well, I'm certain that we are better prepared. Prepared enough? I don't know. But certainly better prepared. Darn well better be.
BLITZER: Let's talk politics for a moment. We just finished two weeks of conventions. We're hearing two different -- very different visions for how to get Americans back to work. You had to bring your company back to life. Who has the better answer? Would it be Mitt Romney or President Obama?
LUTNICK: I think -- you know what the problem is? They both speak to the crowd instead of speaking to reality. My view is the most successful Americans, the people with money, the people who have been successful, if you want to tax them more, you'll take their money, and you'll send it into the black hole of government. Or that's -- that's the Democratic way.
Or you can have the Republican way that says tax them less, or, you know, don't tax -- or don't raise their taxes, to which case that doesn't seem right either. I think the right answer is incent them to work more. Say to the most successful Americans -- I mean, they are the horses that are pulling our carriage. Don't let them sit in the back of the carriage. Say, I tell you what, you are a private equity guy. You want to have carried interest. Go hire 15,000 people, and you earned your carried interest.
Don't just ask us to give it to you. Warren Buffett says I think I should pay more taxes. I think Warren Buffett, instead of sending the money to government, he should invest that money in a startup and hire 10,000 people. Now Warren Buffett, he's probably such a smart guy, he will make money on that. And then he could do it again and again.
If we don't incent the best business people in America to drive more employment, then we're being silly. And I think both of this rhetoric is bupkus, nonsense. It's garbage. Because unless we get people to hire people -- we know that government isn't going to save us. Can you imagine suggesting government is going to save us? Businesspeople are going to hire people. We need to create the kind of incentives that push them.
You -- you're a rich guy, Howard, you're a successful guy. You will pay more taxes unless you go out and hire another 1,000 people. I tell you what. I can sit on my butt and pay more taxes, or I can get off my tail and hire 1,000 more people. That's the kind of incentive that sounds like America to me.
BLITZER: You want to tell our viewers which candidate you are leaning toward?
LUTNICK: You know, I'm probably leaning -- in the presidential race toward Romney. However, I think the non-tax stuff is just not going to move our economy. He's got more right than wrong, but I still think we could do much better than this.
BLITZER: Well, I'm sure you will have conversations with him down the road. Howard Lutnick, thank you for joining us, especially on this 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Once again, our deepest, deepest condolences. The memories obviously come back, especially on this day. Thanks very much.
LUTNICK: Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll be right back.
BLITZER: We leave you on this solemn day with the tribute in light. Piercing the night sky over Lower Manhattan, the beams reach far into the heavens. Composed of 88 search lights, this lasting memorial introduced six months after September 11th. Every year on the anniversary, the tribute of light soar skyward to commemorate the twin towers that once stood there and to honor the thousands of victims who perished in the terror attacks.
Ground Zero will always be sacred ground. But with the rise of One World Trade Center, it is also a symbol of America's resilience and strength.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in for Piers Morgan. Have a good evening. "AC 360" is next.