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Bill Clinton Campaigns for President Obama; September 11 Warnings Ignored?

Aired September 11, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And Bill Clinton campaigning for President Obama. We expect to hear him live this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The battle for the White House largely suspended on this, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. President Obama had no campaign events. Mitt Romney had only one and the Republican nominee used it to beef up his credentials on a subject where he's particularly vulnerable.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now. He's covering the Romney campaign in Reno, Nevada.

So what's the latest there, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, in recent days, Mitt Romney has come under criticism, not just by Democrats, but also members of his own party, for neglecting to mention the war in Afghanistan in his speech to the Republican Convention.

Well, today there was no such oversight.


ACOSTA (voice-over): On this anniversary of September 11th, Mitt Romney arrived at his charter to find firefighters at Chicago's O'Hare Airport holding their own remembrance. It was an unexpected moment for a tightly scripted candidate, a reminder that some days are bigger than a campaign.

Next, it was onto Reno in a National Guard convention for a speech that appeared to have a dual purpose. Both burnish Romney's foreign policy credentials and address an oversight that the Obama campaign has hammered for days.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.

ACOSTA: Romney's mention of Afghanistan came less than two weeks after Democrats point out he neglected to mention the war in his speech at the GOP convention.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, RET. : It's more than a mission. It reveals a severe lack of understanding about the job as president. It doesn't reflect well on what kind of leadership he would bring. And frankly, it's just unbecoming of someone who wants to become commander-in- chief.

ACOSTA: In the latest CNN/ORC poll, voters by a wide margin said voters would better handle foreign policy than Romney. After saying in his was not a day for contrast, Romney slammed looming budget cuts at the Pentagon.

ROMNEY: The return of our troops cannot be an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts.

ACOSTA: In recent days Romney hit Democrats for an omission of their own, temporarily leaving out the word "God" from their party platform. Romney has referred to his faith in speeches and online.

On Twitter, he marked 9/11 by tweeting that America is united under God in its quest for peace and freedom. In Ohio, the same theme cropped up again in a not-so-veiled jab at the president.

ROMNEY: When and if I become president of the United States, I will not take "God" out of my heart and I will not take "God" out of the public square, and I will not take out of the platform of my party.

ACOSTA (on camera): He's making a point about the Democratic convention about the platform --

KEVIN MADDEN, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Right. I think that was an issue that came up, that the Democrats had a disagreement on the floor of their convention. That's -- everybody's known, but I think the governor made very clear where he stands on that.


ACOSTA: Now, both campaigns did take down their negative ads out of respect for this 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, but Mitt Romney made it clear in his speech here in Reno today, Wolf, that this pause is for one day only -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And then tomorrow, full speed ahead, I am sure. Less than two months to go. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's go to Miami right now. The former president of the United States Bill Clinton, he's speaking to a largely student audience there on behalf of President Obama.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My daughter was a 21-year-old young woman, working in New York City in Lower Manhattan and was one of the tens of thousands of people that were just told to walk north, and we could not find her.

On that day, Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the New York City fire department and a friend of Hillary's and mine, was killed along with a number of other people we knew.

I decided to come here on this day because I think if you look around at how this day is being honored today, it's being honored by service projects all over America, by people trying to be good citizens. And the most important thing that I can say today, before I get into my remarks on behalf of the president is, you just have 27 days to register to vote in Florida.

And there are volunteers here today who will register you to vote. Where are they? Raise your hand. And you can go online at I like that, slang online,

This is really, really important. You want to honor the people who have worn the country's uniform, who have come them bearing the wounds of war, who need help finding jobs and education and housing, who may need years of help because of the staggering number of people with post-traumatic stress syndrome or brain injuries? Be a good citizen. The least we can do is show up and vote.

And when people try to discourage you from voting, which is happening in a lot of these voter changes all over America, it should redouble your determination to vote.


CLINTON: I will never forget when I was in Cleveland running for president 20 years ago, and a magnificent minister named Otis Moss, who became a very good friend of mine, and was very active in the civil rights movement, described the first day his father was legally eligible to vote.

And the equivalent of all these new barricades was basically just jacking African-Americans around and sending them to different places to vote. And he said his daddy, who had worked all his life and had all his life for this day, first went to one place and they said, I'm sorry, Mr. Moss, you're at the wrong place. And he didn't have a car. He had to walk to the next place.

So he walked, even though it took him two hours, to the next place. And they said, I'm sorry, Mr. Moss, you're at the wrong place. And he had to walk another two hours. And then he had to stand in a long line. And when he finally got there, they said, well, you're at the right place, but we're closing the polls at 7:00. And Otis Moss looked out at that crowd of young people and he said, the happiest day of my life was when I took my daughter to vote with me when she was first eligible, and we walked into these voting booths together, and I pulled the curtains on mine, and I pulled the curtain -- I heard her pull the curtain on hers, and before I voted, I put my ear to the edge, until I could hear her pull the voting levers.

And he said, he said, in my family, we do not miss voting. We are there every time the polls are open.


CLINTON: So I say to all of you who are here, you need to talk to your friends about this.

I keep reading that young people are not quite as sure as they were four years ago they're going to vote. I tried to argue down in Charlotte last week that that's a bad mistake. We have got a lot of reasons to vote. And we have got a good candidate to vote for.

And we need to get out here and do that. Besides, if you sit on the sidelines, you are responsible for the consequences. And the next time somebody says, oh, I wish that or the other thing hadn't happened, if you sat on the sidelines, you contributed to it happening.

The whole purpose of a university is to empower people to live their dreams. Your president was telling me before we came in about the magnificent progress of FIU and what you were going to do in the next 10 years and how important the Pell Grants were and how important the loans are and how important the support program is.


CLINTON: If it matters, you should be heard on Election Day.

You know, a lot of what is said in politics today bothers me, because we all long for the unity we felt on 9/11 and for months afterward, and we know that to some extent, that level of unity can't be maintained, because we do have honest disagreements. And we need to have honest debates.

Benjamin Franklin once said, our adversaries are our friends because they show us our faults. But if you believe in honest debate, you believe in it because you think nobody's right all the time, not because you think it's my way or the highway.

There is a big difference. And if you believe in honest debate, after the debate's over, you would want everybody to vote, not to make it harder for the young, the minorities, the disabled, the elderly and the poor to vote.


CLINTON: So I will say again, in much less time, what I tried to say last week.


CLINTON: This is a pivotal election. I believe we should be working in an interdependent world for an America of shared responsibility, shared opportunities, shared prosperity, and shared membership in one American community. That's what I believe in.


CLINTON: If you look around the world today, no country making progress on creating a society where people share the future, not a single one, got there with a militant, bitter anti-government strategy. Why? Because what works in the modern world is partnership. The president was telling me about how you work closely with Miami-Dade, about how you are going to create a whole new set of jobs and businesses here just for the people you're graduating.


CLINTON: If you look at the investments that have been made in Florida by the administration in the space program, there are going to be all these new businesses and new jobs created along the space coast that are part of a 21st century economy.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break, but we will have much more of the former President Bill Clinton on the other side. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We will get back to the former President Bill Clinton -- he's speaking in Miami shortly -- but there's something else, another story I want to get to right now.

Not just one, but multiple warnings of an imminent terror attack dismissed by the Bush White House, that's the charge by the journalists and author Kurt Eichenwald, who says he's seen excerpts from classified briefings sounding an alarm as early as the spring of 2001. He writes all about it in a "New York Times" opinion piece, among other things, writing this: "Could the 9/11 attack been stopped had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all those daily briefings? We can't ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all."

Kurt Eichenwald is joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM. His book by the way is entitled "500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars."

Kurt, thanks very much for coming in.

Powerful, powerful stuff you have come up with.

Let me read a couple of lines, though. I went back to the 9/11 Commission report that came out in 2004. And they wrote this. They said: "During the spring and summer of 2001, President Bush had on several occasions asked his briefers whether any of the threats pointed to the United States."

Was there any specific threat to the United States that you came upon that should have immediately raised alarm bells directly by the president?

KURT EICHENWALD, AUTHOR, "500 DAYS": The May 1, 2001, briefing where it specifically states there is -- there are a group of people in the United States, al Qaeda terrorists, who are preparing to strike.

And you had -- you know, when you take the compilation of everything that was there, you had briefings that said this is going to be mass casualties. You had briefings that said, you know, this is on track. It's going to happen. You know, they have a flexible time frame. And there was an enormous amount of detail that was going on.

So, you know, at the end, what you have here, and I think the most important -- to me, one of the more important things is there's been this whole storyline going that the CIA fell down on the job, and, you know, if only they'd told more to the White House, something could have happened.

Well, the CIA, based on what I read, did a spectacular job. And just they weren't able to persuade the White House that they were right.

BLITZER: And you used the word negligence to describe the Bush administration's reaction to some of these reports. Who specifically was negligent?

EICHENWALD: Well, that's a hard question to answer.

I mean, one of the things that really happened here is, you ended up with a dispute between different divisions of the government. You had the neoconservatives in the Pentagon who were shooting down the CIA, saying, you know, they're being fooled. Bin Laden is actually working with Saddam Hussein and he's pretending there's going to be an attack, so that we won't pay attention to what Saddam is doing.

You know, and when you had that kind of silliness going on and you had the CIA having to spend time refuting theories, essentially, you had people taking their eye off the ball. So when I say negligence, it's fairly widespread. You can't just point at a single individual and say, well, that person is responsible.

BLITZER: Well, when you say neoconservatives at the Pentagon, I assume -- are you referring to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz? Who are you referring to?

EICHENWALD: Wolfowitz was in particular a very strong advocate of this idea that -- what people told me was the false flag argument, that bin Laden was, you know, operating as a false flag to divert attention from Saddam.

BLITZER: Here's what the former Secretary of State -- she was the national security adviser back in 2004 -- Condoleezza Rice, what she said during her testimony about some of the stuff you write about.

I'm going to play it for you, because I want you to tell me if what she said you believe to be accurate. Listen to Condoleezza Rice.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I was concerned about possible threats inside the United States and on July 5, Chief of Staff Andy Card met with Dick Clarke, and I asked Dick to make sure that domestic agencies were aware of the heightened threat period and were taking appropriate steps to respond, even though we did not have specific threats to the homeland.

Throughout the period of heightened threat information, we worked hard on multiple fronts to detect, protect against, and disrupt any terrorist plans or operations that might lead to an attack.


BLITZER: All right. Is she accurate in what she says, based on all the research you have done?

EICHENWALD: Well, I would counter that with one fact.

On July 9, members of the Counterterrorism Center in the CIA had a meeting where one of the people there said, we're not convincing these people of how serious this is. We should all transfer out of here, before the strike happens, before -- because we're going to be the ones left holding the bag.

And the response by one of the people in charge was, you know, there aren't people who can take our place. We're going to have to ride this thing down.

So, you know, yes, they had responses. In December of 1999 was the only other time you had, you know, intelligence coming in that was as horrific as what was coming in, in the summer of 2001. And what happened was, the government went on major high alert. Actually, the people in the Counterterrorism Center were told, blow through your budget.

And they spent the money they had for budget from January through September in the first 15 days of January. And so, you know, that was the kind of, we believe this is going to happen, the entire government apparatus is on alert, and they stopped things.

This time, the alert wasn't on that scale. The alert was not something that was being dealt with on that level. And that's -- you know, you wouldn't have people talking about getting out if they believed that this was being handled correctly. And that's four days after Secretary Rice was talking about they had these meetings.

BLITZER: Yes, I just want to leave. We're out of time, but I quickly want to leave our viewers with this other comment that she made during her testimony. This was back on April 8, 2004, when she testified before the 9/11 Commission. I will play this, Kurt. Listen to this.


RICE: There was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. In hindsight, if anything might have helped stop 9/11, it would have been better information about threats inside the United States, something made very difficult by structural and legal impediments that prevented the collection and sharing of information by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's wrap it up with your reaction to that. Go ahead, Kurt.

EICHENWALD: I think that's exactly what I was talking about. It's blaming the messenger.

You know, they had sufficient information to put the government on high alert, just like happened in December of '99, and they did not do so. And you end up -- you know, it's very convenient to stand there and say the people who are responsible are the people who aren't sitting in this room, and, by the way, many of them can't even talk to you.

And I think the intelligence that I lay out, both in my book, in "500 Days," and in the "New York Times" op-ed piece today, makes it very clear that there were people banging the drum very, very loudly.

BLITZER: The book is entitled"500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars."

Kurt Eichenwald is the author.

Kurt, thanks very much for coming in, especially on this 11th anniversary of 9/11.

EICHENWALD: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right, when we come back, we will go back to Miami. The former President Bill Clinton, he's only just beginning. We will go back and hear what he has to say. He's out there campaigning for President Obama.


BLITZER: Kate, the former president, not a surprise, still speaking in Miami. Let's listen in a little bit more.


CLINTON: ... preventative care. Under the health care reform bill, it's all going to be gone if they repeal it, all to save Medicare Advantage.

You tell me if it needs saving. Under the current law, the profit margin is now down to 14 percent. OK? Here's what happened last year, 2011, after Obamacare went in. More providers than ever before asked to participate. They weren't run off. They said, let us in. We want to give this health care, one.

Two, 17 percent more seniors got into the Medicare Advantage program. Three, the price of being in it dropped 16 percent. So, if President Obama's goal was to destroy Medicare Advantage, he did a poor job. He didn't weaken Medicare. He strengthened it. He didn't weaken Medicare Advantage. He strengthened it.

But if you repeal the health care law and you repeal these savings, you are going to weaken Medicare Advantage, you are going to weaken Medicare. It is going to run out of money quicker. You are going to really weaken the senior drug program. Those are the facts.

That is the arithmetic. And it is -- now, they got away with running this old dog through the chute in 2010. And countless thousands of seniors voted because they were given misinformation against people who supported a plan that strengthened Medicare and strengthened Medicare Advantage.

So I'm talking about it everywhere, because the first time they did that, it was their fault. If we let it happen again, it is our fault. And we should not do it.


CLINTON: So, now, let me just say one other thing, because we're on a campus. They also want to repeal the student loan bill.


CLINTON: Now, let me explain it to all of you. The student loan program, the federal student loan program used to basically involve you qualify for a student loan, you go down to the local bank, you get your loan at a certain interest rate. The government gives a 90 percent guarantee to the bank.

So if you don't repay it back, they will cover 90 percent of the loss. The new student loan program, which is a national version of something I did on an experimental basis, works like this. The government sets aside its own loan reserve and makes the loans directly, which means they can make them for lower interest rates.

But more important -- so it will be cheaper for you to repay. But far more important, far more important, starting in 2013, every student who borrows money under the federal student loan law, however much you borrow, will be able to pay that loan back for up to 20 years at a small, fixed percentage of your income.


BLITZER: All right, so we get the point: he's making a strong pitch for the current president of the United States. That's the former president.

Kate, we've got a good panel. Let's assess what we've just heard. Joining us now, our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal." Our chief national correspondent, John King; and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

He's got a unique role to play for the president, and so far he seems to be doing a pretty powerful job.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's kind of remarkable. If you remember, back in June of 2008 in a famous interview, Barack Obama said that Bill Clinton had not changed America the way Ronald Reagan did, and Ronald Reagan was more the model for his presidency. He wanted to be a more transformative figure, and he thought Clinton had been too transactional and tactical.

And now, clearly, he is the -- you know, the witness for the defense. I mean, what you saw at the Democratic convention, above all from the -- President Clinton, was a defense of Barack Obama's first- term record. And they are deploying him now in swing states, even more than Michelle Obama; he's probably the biggest asset they have. It is a remark -- but life is long. You never know when you're going to end up, that these two men are now embracing to this extent. You know?


BOLDUAN: You know, the president got a bounce at the convention, and it's arguable that Clinton played a big part in that. We have this new Pew Research Center poll that I found really interesting. It showed, when they were asking, what was the highlight of the Democratic convention, 29 percent said Bill Clinton's speech, 16 percent said the president's speech, and then Michelle Obama's speech was at 15 percent. So does that also mean that there is a downside to having President Clinton...

BORGER: Oh, you mean overshadowing -- you know, he -- everybody knows he's not the candidate. I think he's a great character witness for the candidate. I think there was a danger maybe at the convention of that kind of a result, because you want your candidate to shine, not the person who is testifying on your behalf to shine.

But I think right now, it's every vote you can get. And Bill Clinton appeals to disaffected Democrats who remember what the economy was like when Bill Clinton was president. So it's very important for him to say things like we just heard, which is, you know, "Back in the day, when I was president," or "This president's in a bigger ditch than I was in. Give him a little more time." So if you have to weigh this, I'd deploy Bill Clinton anywhere I could.

KING: And to that previous Obama criticism, aren't we in a transactional, tactical election right now?

BROWNSTEIN: Maybe we are.

KING: So maybe he's putting his best skills at play. Look, he's the last president anyone can look at -- Democrat, Republican, or independent -- and remember a booming economy.

BORGER: Right.

KING: And so -- and he's not a politician now. He's still a politician. But anyone who has an actual title now, a current, automatically hurts your trust factor. And look, the guy has a gift.

BLITZER: What states, John? Would he be most effective -- which battleground states in helping the president?

KING: I think he -- I think he helps most of all in the blue- collar states, where he did very well and his wife did very well running against then Senator Barack Obama.

Senator Obama, President Obama, same guy, same problem. White working-class voters have always been a weakness. They're a weakness now. Our latest polls says they're coming up a little bit. That's probably the sugar high, the Romney campaign says, but that's something you want to watch after the campaign.

Look, working-class voters, guys who get their hands dirty, Clinton not only had policies that worked for them and got them jobs, he talks in a way that is more familiar to them. Clinton is very -- his language is very approachable. Even when's talking about complex things, he does it in a very approachable way, whereas the president, President Obama, sometimes sounds like a professor.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because a lot of people -- we got a lot of -- some Republican were e-mailing me or tweeting me, asking, why are we taking this speech from the former president live, because they think we're doing the work of the Obama campaign. I said, simple answer. If the former president on the Republican side, George W. Bush, were out there campaigning for Mitt Romney, we'd take that live, as well.

BROWNSTEIN: And look, it is kind of unusual to have -- for him to have a role to this extent. And Ronald Reagan did in 1988 give a speech and said, "We are the change" on behalf of George H.W. Bush. I don't remember him being quite as much of an attack dog.

And you know, it's interesting. Bill Clinton does his annual global initiative, which is this tremendous global kind of civic sector convocation that he convenes in New York. And both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are going to be speaking at that in two weeks. The two hats -- I mean, the two hats, right, are very different.

BORGER: Only Bill Clinton can do that, by the way.

KING: George W. Bush is still viewed too negatively.

BOLDUAN: Is there any scenario he would be helpful?

KING: No. 1, he doesn't want to. It is in his personal DNA to say, "You have one president at a time. I'm done. I shouldn't be out there," especially his immediate successor.

BLITZER: If he went out there on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney.

KING: It's what he believes. He believes very strongly that especially his immediate successor, he should stay out of the way.

Now President Obama took a couple shots at him at the Republican convention. So maybe he'll change his mind. But remember that President Bush, a lot of conservatives say he spent too much money. They're mad at him; a lot of independents because of the Iraq war, the competence question after Katrina and the...

BORGER: I would think the president... BLITZER: Do you think, Gloria, that Mitt Romney wants George W. Bush to campaign for him?

BORGER: No, I don't think so. You know, it was interesting, because at the convention, his brother, Jeb Bush, said, you know, it's about time to stop -- to stop blaming my brother. But I think he was talking to people in the Republican Party also at that point, because they blame George W. Bush for loss of the deficit spending that we have, for the prescription drug benefit that they say wasn't paid for, et cetera, et cetera.

So I think he's not as much as a sure bet, and he certainly would not cross party lines the way Bill Clinton does. Bill Clinton appeals to both.

BOLDUAN: How much do you think -- how much do you think that Bill Clinton speaking out so forcefully for Barack Obama right now has to do more possibly with Hillary Clinton in 2016?

BORGER: No, I don't think so.

KING: I would vote less possible. I would vote -- I don't mean not at all, but I vote less possible. Clinton's a Democrat. He wants this Democratic president to succeed. And if that also potentially helps his wife down the line, if she decides -- she says she's not interested, but if she changes her mind, so be it.

BROWNSTEIN: If the economy starts to recover in Obama's second term, you're better off -- in the next four years, you're better off with a Democrat in the White House than Mitt Romney running for re- election.

So that's just -- by the way, Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, very different messages. A reminder that Bill Clinton is still -- Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are still not exactly on the same page about how you build a majority coalition and how inclusive you are versus how confrontational.

BORGER: And he, you know, Clinton is the great conciliator, and that is not President Obama. He's never been known as a great conciliator. So different agendas.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Good discussion, as usual.

He calls it the biggest disappointment of his career as House speaker, and Mitt Romney calls it a big mistake. John Boehner speaking out about the debt battle. That's coming up.


BLITZER: A verbal smack-down by the Republican presidential nominee against his party's congressional leaders.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and listen to what Mitt Romney said about the deal that will force dramatic budget cuts if Congress and the White House can't agree on a plan to cut the deficit. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This sequestration idea of the White House, which is cutting our defense, I think is an extraordinary miscalculation.

DAVID GERGEN, HOST, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": Republican leaders agreed to that deal, to extend...

ROMNEY: I thought it was a big mistake. I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House, to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it.


BLITZER: Let's get some more now from our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, Republican leaders were asked about Romney throwing them under the bus. So what happened here?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I actually asked the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, about that. It was really Mitt Romney dissing him and other Republicans here for going along with the deal known as sequestration, automatic spending cuts. I want you to listen to the exchange that I had with him, but I also want you to look at the forced smile on Mitch McConnell's face.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Look, I don't have any interest in getting into a debate with the nominee of our party. I know -- I know you'd like me to do that, but I don't have any interest in doing that. You'll have to ask him why he said what he said.


Bash: So he clearly didn't want to engage there.

As for House speaker John Boehner, he was, of course, the one who was having the direct negotiations, ill-fated negotiations, with President Obama, on the whole idea of cutting the budget, cutting the deficit. That did not work and led to this whole sequestration. And he responded to Mitt Romney's criticism by defending his own role. Listen to that.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Listen, it was certainly a difficult -- a difficult time. I still look at my failure to come to an agreement with the president as the biggest disappointment of my speakership. Mr. Woodward's book that came out this morning, page 326.

And I'll make it perfectly clear, where the sequester came from. We've had a discussion over a trigger, but the president didn't want his re-election inconvenienced by another fight over a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling.


BASH: Now, Mitt Romney, Wolf, is clearly trying to take a page from Bill Clinton's playbook by trying to triangulate between Democrats and Republicans here on Capitol Hill. The problem, both Kate and Wolf, is that Paul Ryan, his running mate, voted for those automatic cuts.

BOLDUAN: That's a problem he's going to have to face, especially if he heads back to Capitol Hill at some point this week, which we do expect.

It's so interesting that Boehner had that page number right on hand when he needed to use it.

But another big issue that came up today, Dana, is S&P down -- the potential downgrade. S&P last year downgraded the U.S. credit rating when Congress failed to reach a deal then Now Moody's is threatening another downgrade if there's no deal. Boehner, as well as Senate leaders, were asked about it, and it seems again, shockingly, they are not on the same page.

BASH: They're not on the same page, and the House speaker said that he's, quote, "not confident at all" -- he said that to our Deidre Walsh -- that Congress will come up with a deal. And the window we're talking about here is about seven to eight weeks between the election and the end of the year.

Well, Democrats jumped on that today, saying that they see the glass as half full. I asked the Senate Democratic leader why he's so optimistic. He said that he thinks that in the elections, it will show that the Tea Party strength is significantly weak. And the translation is, Democrats insist that they feel that they'll have leverage after the election. That's what this is all about, who's going of the most leverage.

Dana Bash up on the Hill, watching all of this, and it's really important. A lot of important stuff at stake.


BLITZER: It's one of the biggest hassles airline passengers face, but imagine if -- imagine if airport security looked like this. It just might happen in the not-too-distant future. Stick around. We'll explain.



BLITZER: September 11, 2001, the day that changed everything for the U.S. airline industry and the passengers. BOLDUAN: And we're all familiar with the hassles of airport security checkpoints, born in the wake of 9/11, but can security actually return to being hassle-free?

BLITZER: Wouldn't that be good? CNN's Sandra Endo is over at Reagan National Airport here in Washington.

Sandy, what's going on with airport security?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate and Wolf, the goal is to make airport security safe but efficient. And the Federal Aviation Administration is projecting the number of air travelers will grow from 800 million U.S. travelers today to 1.2 billion in 20 years.

So the challenge, really, for airports is to handle the load of passengers and find a better way to get them through security.


ENDO (voice-over): This is what air travelers are used to now. Shoes off, laptops and liquids out, and hands up for the body scan. In roughly seven years, the International Air Transport Association says airport security checkpoints could almost be hassle free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: IATA is working to make travel more convenient for passengers.

ENDO: With the help of fingerprint or retinal scans, passengers could get their boarding passes, then breeze through the checkpoint.

(on camera) So is this going to be the future of airport checkpoints? As easy as walking down a hall like this?

PERRY FLINT, INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: In seven to ten years, we think it can be, yes.

ENDO: It sounds too good to be true. How do you make sure that people are safe, then?

FLINT: Well, by moving to a risk-based system, which we have to move to, because we can't accommodate the volume of passengers that are going to grow over the next few years with the current one-size- fits-all system.

ENDO (voice-over): Before 9/11, 350 people passed through a checkpoint in an hour. That's down now to 150 passengers an hour. New technology is constantly being tested, like these machines used at three airports, which match the information on your boarding pass with encoded information on your I.D., and security experts say the strategy is not only to identify dangerous objects, but also dangerous people.

FLINT: If we use a risk-based system, then you're basically focusing your energy and resources where it's most required.

ENDO: The TSA's pre-check program aims to do that. The goal is to reduce the so-called haystack of travelers who may pose a threat. Pre-approved very frequent flyers at a growing number of airports can keep their shoes, belt, and jacket on, and travel-size liquids and laptop computers could stay inside carry-on bags.

So far, 2.5 million passengers are a part of the program, which launched last year.


ENDO: And instead of these travel-size containers, full-size liquid bottles could be safe to travel within a couple of years, according to one company that develops airport screening technology. But the TSA says don't expect that policy to roll out any time soon. They say they're testing a wide range of different technologies -- Wolf and Kate.

BLITZER: It's changing quickly, as it should.

By the way, I'm going to be filling in for Piers Morgan later tonight. Got a special interview with Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York on 9/11, exactly 11 years ago today. We're going to have a clip of that interview when we come back.


BLITZER: Tax increases and massive across-the-board budget cuts are coming soon, unless -- unless Congress and the White House can make a deal. Tonight Erin Burnett is talking with one of the insiders who knows the numbers.

Erin, tell us more.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Certainly, it looks like there could be no deal from what we heard today. But Senator Rob Portman going to be our guest: adviser to Mitt Romney; was considered for the V.P. ticket; and playing Barack Obama in the practice debates with Mitt Romney. We're going to talk to him about the debt crisis and what exactly Mitt Romney would do about it. Is he really fiscally conservative or not?

Plus, breaking news out of the Middle East tonight, Wolf. We'll have the very latest from Libya and from Cairo where there were attacks on America today. We'll have the very latest on what's going on in the consulates and embassies there, having -- the people trying to scale the walls, rip down flags. We'll tell you exactly what's happening and why, top of the hour.

Back to you.

BLITZER: Pretty shocking stuff. All right, Erin, thanks very much.

He was known as America's mayor in the days immediately after 9/11. Just ahead, you're going to hear from Rudy Giuliani. My interview with him on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" coming up later, but we'll have a little excerpt, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just learning from our State Department reporter Elise Labott that the Libyan government has now informed the State Department that an American consulate official has been killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. We're just getting this information coming in.

We know there was also an attack on the U.S. embassy today. This, the 11th anniversary of 9/11 on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, as well. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is going to have much more on both of these developing stories at the top of the hour.

Few politicians are more closely associated with 9/11 than Rudy Giuliani. After the attacks, the former New York City mayor became known as America's mayor as he helped lead the nation forward.


BLITZER: You've described 9/11 as both the worst day and the best day. Explain why you said that.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: The worst day because it was the worst attack, domestic attack in the history of my country, or at least you 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. Four or 5 o'clock in the afternoon seemed to me like 1,000 construction workers descended on Ground Zero. The darn place was on flames at the time, and these guys wanted to go in and just drag people out.


BLITZER: The full interview, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," 9 p.m. Eastern. I'll be filling in for Piers.

That's it for us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.