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U.S. to Americans: Don't Go to Pakistan; Fighting for the Latino Vote; Libyan P.M. Gives New Attack Info; Protecting U.S. Diplomats; Bill Clinton's Case for Optimism; "CNN Heroes"; Replacing Candidates?

Aired September 20, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, violent clashes near the United States embassy in Pakistan amid stepped up protests over an anti-Islamic film. A stepped up U.S. warning about a key U.S. American ally as well.

And did the United States take the proper precautions to guard its diplomats in Libya? The state department answering accusations from Libyans and harsh criticism from lawmakers.

Plus, Bill Clinton talks about the future in the latest issue of "Time" magazine. Is he also hinting a little bit about a possible Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016?

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



BLITZER: Anti-American protests and violent clashes as rioters try to reach the United States embassy, this time, the location, in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally. And the violence comes as the United States steps up a warning to Americans. In just a minute, I'll speak with the foreign minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar. But first, let's go to the capital, Islamabad.

And Reza Sayah is joining us now from Islamabad. Reza, extraordinary measures once again being given right now. What's the latest as far as Americans and Pakistan are concerned?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just to be clear, this is a renewal or a reminder of a longstanding travel warning that's been in place in Pakistan for a long time right now. The U.S. embassy, the U.S. state department telling Americans, if you don't need to come to Pakistan, do not do it. Essential travel only.

But the fact that they're reminding Americans of this warning is a sign of growing tensions. That warning follows more anti-American protests in the federal capital of Islamabad today. It's critical to point out that despite the dramatic pictures and the violence, this was a relatively small protest. 1,500 demonstrators approached the diplomatic enclave. This is a walled compound, a highly secured compound, where you'll find the U.S. embassy, the French embassy, and the other embassies. It's an incredibly difficult place to penetrate, even so these protesters tried to do it. Once they got there, the clashes started. Protesters throwing objects, rocks, sticks.

Police responding by firing teargas and shots in the air. Protesters managed to burn several of the small police check posts. Eight police officers were injured according to the police chief. But again, we can't repeat enough. There's 180 million Pakistanis. This was 1,500, a very, very small fraction, Wolf.

BLITZER: Tell us, Reza, about the latest U.S. efforts to communicate directly with the Pakistani people.

SAYAH: Obviously, the U.S. government is concerned about the rising tensions. They want to do everything to ease the anger. That's why they bought a lot of ad time on FM radio, television, to air PSA, the PSAs, where the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, condemning the anti-Islam video.

The PSAs are subtitled and/or do we have a clip. Let's take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since our founding the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me state very clearly. And I hope it is obvious that the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.


SAYAH: Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and U.S. president, Barack Obama in a PSA condemning the anti-Islam video in an effort to ease the anger here. Will it work? We'll find out tomorrow, Wolf, when more protests are scheduled.

BLITZER: Big ones, indeed. All right. Reza Sayah on the scene for us in Islamabad. Thanks very much. Let's dig a little bit deeper now with the foreign minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar is here, foreign minister, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The state department issued this strong travel warning to all Americans, as you just heard from Reza. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and westerners are known to congregate or visit. Terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security personnel to gain access to targeted areas. Are you agreeing with the state department that this is a bad time for Americans to visit Pakistan?

KHAR: Wolf, I think if you look at how -- what sort of a response there was in Pakistan to the condemning of the video that Secretary Clinton and President Obama have already condemned, which I think is, of course, the right thing to do --

BLITZER: That stupid 14-minute trailer that's out there on the internet that's causing this kind of --

KHAR: Exactly, which is a threat to religious harmony, and therefore, a threat --

BLITZER: And I want to get to that. Why it's such a threat, because it is so idiotic. It is so stupid. But, is it bad for Americans to visit Pakistan right now?

KHAR: Wolf, as I said, I think in Pakistan, the situation has been much better than in many other countries. We were the first countries which condemn the killing of your ambassador in Libya. And we give call to restraint. We will have, Insha'Allah, holiday tomorrow in order to make sure that everything passes by peacefully.

BLITZER: Because I'm worried about that. The Pakistani government has declared Friday what you're calling a national holiday to honor the Prophet Muhammad. I assume there are going to be massive demonstrations on the streets of Islamabad, Karachi, other cities in Pakistan that could potentially, let's hope they don't, turn into anti-American violence.

How worried are you about that? And why are you doing this in response to this stupid 14-minute trailer?

KHAR: You have to respond to sentiments as they show on the street. I think the best response was the call for holiday, and your system might be very different. But in our system means very different.

BLITZER: Because it seems to be encouraging people to go out in the streets.

KHAR: Absolutely not. It will make sure that if people do get together which in a peaceful manner and make sure that those people who are trying to get to offices and schools do not come into harm's way.

BLITZER: Because I've been to that U.S. embassy in Islamabad. You've been there as well. It's a fortress. Are you beefing up -- as the host country -- protection of American diplomats there?

KHAR: Wolf, we already have done a pretty good job at it. And we actually called in the army in a small section of the city also. So, I think, so far, things have gone well. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that we will be able to manage this.

BLITZER: I had this exchange with Professor Fouad Ajami yesterday here in the SITUATION ROOM. We're talking about long-term. Is this going to get better, this relationship between America and the Muslim and Arab world? Listen to this exchange.


BLITZER: Bottom line, is this ever going to get better?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: No. Not really is the honest answer. I mean, I think when you have these kinds -- when you have these positions are so sharply drawn, we believe in the west. We believe in the western tradition, and that can (ph) in a free speech.


BLITZER: You agree with Professor Ajami?

KHAR: I hope not. I hope it does get there.

BLITZER: As someone who's educated here in the United States, obviously, the foreign minister of Pakistan, do you see this ever getting better?

KHAR: I see that this certainly can get better. And I think what we need is more tolerance for each other's views. What we need is to be able to give mutual space for us to be able to demonstrate what is culturally, religiously important to us and not to hold each other -- you know, not to judge each other for that.

To give that space and to be able to create some space for ourselves. And really, Wolf, I think we have to be sensitive to religious sensitivities. I think it's not good enough to say it's free speech, it should be allowed. I think if this does provoke action against American citizens or Americans anywhere else in the world, then maybe we do need to rethink how much freedom is OK.

Is freedom to the extent of harming lives also OK? So, I think we need to find a way to manage this in a civilized manner in trying to bring all of our, you know, all of our minds together.

BLITZER: Because you know, there's plenty of ugly things that are said about other religions in the Arab and Muslim world, whether Christians or Jews. You hear awful things. But you don't see massive demonstrations. You don't see violence emerging as a result of that.

KHAR: Well, I don't want to get deeper into that discussion, because I quite frankly think that in Islam, there is a lot of respect for both Judaism and Christianity. Koran, itself, has a lot of respect. And that's why this is why I think this is a common battle because Islam is a religion of peace.

Prophet Muhammad's life is a life of peace. He is called the messenger of peace, for instance. So, this is very different than the Islam that just (INAUDIBLE) to you when you see that street violence. We need to correct that. We need to come to the same page and look at things as they are, not how we have portrayed them to be or made them to be. So, I would not let those 1,500 people define what Islam or Prophet Muhammad's messages. We would like the majority of Muslims and Pakistanis to be able to define the peaceful Islam that we are proud to call a religion.

BLITZER: You're here in Washington. I assume you'll be meeting with members of Congress and others. Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was here in the SITUATION ROOM. He says he's going to withhold any additional U.S. aid to Pakistan until you free that doctor who was arrested in connection with the Bin Laden killing in Abbottabad. When you hear that kind of stuff, what are you going to do?

KHAR: I had a long session with the Foreign Relations Committee, and we are hopeful that we will be able to build on the relationship rather than break it. And, Wolf, let me really take this opportunity and thank you for giving it to me to see that how can we betterize (ph) a person who was up for hire by anyone, including (INAUDIBLE) were harming your interest and ours.

This Dr. Afridi who is portrayed to be a hero has come in the way of polio campaign in Pakistan, has come in the way of being able to ensure that polio is no more prevalent in Pakistan.

BLITZER: But if he was trying to help the United States killed bin laden --

KHAR: Let me categorically tell you, he did not know that he was on this grand mission to get OBL. Getting OBL was as much part of our plans and our effort as it was yours. So, this is not what divides us. OBL unites us. Osama Bin Laden is a common enemy. Terrorism is a common enemy.

Your people are dying, our people are dying even more than yours. So, these are all things why unite us. Why do we portray them to be things that, you know, where we disagree? These are points of agreement. So, please let due process is going on in Pakistan. We should all have respect for the rule of law.

We should allow the process to run course. And we should not make heroes out of people who don't deserve to be that.

BLITZER: So, as far as the Pakistani government is concerned and you're the foreign minister, he's going to spend the next 30 plus years in jail?

KHAR: No. As far as the Pakistani government is concerned, the due process of law will go through and we will all be patient to see what comes out of it.

BLITZER: On that note, I'll thank you, foreign minister, for coming. Good to see you again here in Washington. Last time we met was at the United Nations.

KHAR: I remember.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

KHAR: Thank you.

BLITZER: The White House declares the attack on United States consulate in Libya a terrorist attack. Could it have been stopped, though? We have the latest on the investigation what U.S. officials are now admitting.

But, first, tough questions for the president as he takes his campaign to Florida to court Latinos.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's following what could be a key moment in this presidential race. Jack is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Could be big. As the clock ticks down to Election Day, the debates are presumably the next big hurdle for these candidates. Mitt Romney, who's had a rough few weeks to put it mildly, is under the most pressure to use the first presidential debate to try to turn things around. Some actually think that October 3rd could be his last best chance, which is probably why he's been practicing a lot.

According to "Politico," Romney recently did five mock debates in 48 hours. He's apparently told his advisors that it might be hard to win a debate against the president. Probably will be. If you're on Mitt Romney's staff, the debates got to make you a little bit nervous. See, their candidate famously puts his foot in his mouth when he goes away from the teleprompter.

But the debates could also be a challenge for President Obama who can give long-winded answers that sound more like a college lecture than a game plan for a second term. This is a man who once gave a 17-minute answer in a town hall meeting, 17 minutes. The president can go on and on.

No surprise Team Obama's out lowering expectations this week saying the president has not debated in four years while Mitt Romney got a lot of practice during the primaries. We know how half of the first debate in Denver's going to focus on the economy. We also know that other topics now will include health care, the role of government and governing. Pass the no doz. Debates can be a defining moment for a presidential candidate. Think Kennedy/Nixon. October 3rd promises to be huge.

So, here's the question, how much do you think the presidential debates are going to matter? Go to and post a comment on the blog or go to the post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think they will matter with the those still undecided and those switchables who may change their minds. Those debates will be critical. Jack, thank you.

The battleground state of Florida is back in the spotlight right now where both candidates are fighting for a voting block, so powerful it could hand them the election in November. Yesterday, Mitt Romney made his case to Latino voters. Today was President Obama's turn. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is standing by. She's got details on what happened --Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. The topic of immigration dominated this forum. President Obama saying his biggest failure has been not getting comprehensive immigration reform done, but he said it wasn't for lack of trying or desire. And he blamed Congressional Republicans.


KEILAR (voice-over): As President Obama courted the Hispanic vote in a forum on the Spanish language Univision network --


KEILAR: He got some tough questions. Co-host, Jorge Ramos, asked about his 2008 pledge to tackle immigration reform in his first term.

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION: This is very important. I don't want it to get lost in translation. You promised that. And, a promise is a promise. And with all due respect, but you didn't keep that promise.

OBAMA: I did not make a promise that I would get everything done 100 percent when I was elected as president. What I promised was that I would work every single day as hard as I can to make sure that everybody in this country regardless of who they are, what they look like, where they come from, that they would have a fair shot at the American dream. And I have -- that promise I've kept.

KEILAR: The president touted his recent executive order to buy time from deportation for so-called dreamers, young, undocumented immigrants.

OBAMA: If you heard their stories, there's no way that you would think it was fair or just for us to have them suffering under a cloud of deportation.

KEILAR: But Max Sevillia of the National Association of Latino elected and appointed officials says voters still have concerns.

MAX SEVILLIA, NALEO DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: President Obama still has some explaining to do. There's some more outreach that needs to be done. The Latino community is suffering because of the downturn in the economy. There have been more deportations done by this administration.

KEILAR: If President Obama has some explaining to do to this growing voter block, Mitt Romney has much more.

SEVILLIA: Candidate Romney has taken some positions that really clash with the priorities of the community.

KEILAR: Though Romney tried to soften his language on immigration while at the Univision forum Wednesday, he said in the Republican primary that he would veto the Dream Act calling instead for a more permanent immigration solution.

He also called for making it so difficult for illegal immigrants to find work that they would, quote, "self-deport," and he called Arizona's controversial citizenship verification law a model for the nation.

The latest Gallup poll shows President Obama with a 40-point lead among Hispanic voters. That's roughly equivalent to the margin then- Senator Obama had over John McCain in 2008 when Hispanic voters helped propel him to victory. Hispanic voters are increasing in number, and they could be crucial in key battleground states like Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada.


KEILAR (on-camera): It is a must for President Obama to maintain his lead with Hispanic voters over Mitt Romney, because, Wolf, you'll remember in 2004, George W. Bush did uncharacteristically well with Hispanic voters for a Republican. And that was key to keeping him in the White House and really to John Kerry not getting in there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I think the president will do well with Hispanic voters. The key, though, is to get them to vote, to show up.

KEILAR: Show up.

BLITZER: To have that enthusiasm, that's going to be critical. They had it four years ago. We'll see if it occurs this time as well. Brianna, thank you.

The former president, Bill Clinton, is out campaigning for President Obama this year, but he also is hinting, hinting at least a little bit, at a possible run by his wife four years from now. What's going on? We're going to show you. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


DAVID EAGLEMAN, NEUROSCIENTIST: I'm interested in neuro law because it's really where the rubber hits the road in neuroscience. I'm David Eagleman and I'm a neuroscientist. What we do currently is we incarcerate everybody. We treat jail as a one-size-fits-all solution. For some people, incarceration is just right (ph). For some people, they're addicted to drugs and there are ways that we can help them break that addiction.

That's one of the things we're doing in my lab right now. We're using something called real-time feedback in FMRI (ph) to help people take control of their addictions and break them. If this works, it's going to be a game changer because it gives us a way of saying, look, instead of just jailing somebody because they're addicted to cocaine, what if we gave them a way to break that?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Mortgage rates hit another record low. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. I think it's a good time to refinance. The average 30-year fix rate mortgage fell to 3.49 percent down from 3.55 percent, the previous week. According to mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, and this after the fed's decision to buy billions in home loans for the foreseeable future.

The news, though, it didn't seem to help Wall Street where stocks have been stuck in a little bit of a rut all week long.

Items from the temporary memorial formed in the wake of the summer's deadly Colorado movie theater shooting are being dismantled and stored by the Aurora History Museum. Victims' families will still have access to the items at a secure location.

Meanwhile accused gunman, James Holmes, he was back in court today. Prosecutors added new charges and amended others among the 142 he's already facing. The judge also granted the defense access to a notebook Holmes allegedly mailed his psychiatrist the day before the shooting.

And if Apple has its way, your iPhone may one day make getting through airport security just a little easier. According to public patent documents, the phone would automatically send electronic identification to a TSA agent once the traveler gets in line and they could also check your bags. Neither Apple nor the TSA is commenting on the patent.

And amazing video just released by NASA of the space shuttle "Endeavour's" final journey shot from inside the chase plane flying next to it. The retired "Endeavour" is making its way on the back of a 747 from Florida to los Angeles where it will be put eventually on display. The shuttle touched down at Edwards Air Force Base in California just over an hour ago.

And it is scheduled to arrive in L.A. tomorrow. And I know that they were flying it low enough for people to actually -- for spectators to actually get a glimpse of it. A little piece of history there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Great pictures indeed, Lisa. Thank you.

Meanwhile, new information coming into the SITUATION ROOM, the investigation into the attack on the American consulate in Libya, and it's coming directly from Libya's prime minister. You're going to hear what he's now telling CNN.


BLITZER: We're getting new information about the attack on the United States Consulate in Libya which took the lives of the United States Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. CNN's Arwa Damon just interviewed the new Libyan prime minister. Arwa is joining us now from Tripoli, the capital. Arwa, so what did the prime minister tell you?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well here's the very latest information, Wolf. He is saying that eight people have been detained. These individuals were directly affiliated with the attack itself. He said that they are pursuing others including the leadership. Now, these individuals according to the prime minister not linked to any one group. The entire group that he believes was behind the attack made up of around 30 to 50 people a loose coalition it was described as being again not affiliated with any one group. He also said that these were not people who were tied to al Qaeda. That this was not an attack that was linked to al Qaeda. It was however preplanned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If the U.S. were to decide, Arwa, to take military action to try to deal with those who killed the Americans, would the prime minister support that idea?

DAMON: At this point in time most certainly not. It is very well- known that there has been an increase in drone activity over suspected sites of these training camps, militant training camps that exist in the east. The U.S. has also moved two of its naval warships into the region. The prime minister was very clear though when he made the point to say, no, there can be no outside interference. This would be viewed as being a foreign attack on Libyan soil and that it would create complete and total chaos.

As for what the Libyan government is willing and prepared to do, he says that they will be pursuing the individuals that are responsible for this attack saying that they fully realize that they have no other option and that they are determined to bring those who carried this out to justice. When it comes to the bigger picture and how the Libyan government has to deal with these various extremist militant groups that the government initially wants to try to approach politically. Because to try to take these groups on, that would create a blood bath and at this point Libya can really not afford.

BLITZER: Arwa, thanks very much. Arwa Damon reporting for us from Tripoli in Libya. So did the United States do enough to protect its diplomats in Libya? There are harsh accusations being leveled right now and officials are responding. Our foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is here. She is working the story for us. CNN has reported Senator John McCain has suggested very bluntly there were warnings about the security of the American diplomats in Benghazi, warnings apparently that weren't heard. What are your sources telling you, Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, senior State Department officials, top officials really that have been scrubbing all this and going through a detailed account are saying if there was such a warning, it did not go up the chain of command, if you will, to the top levels of the department where it could have been acted upon. They knew the general threat of extremists in the area. They knew that they had to watch it. They saw some other previous attacks including the attack on the consulate in June and some other convoys that were attacked, foreign convoys. But they said there was never any specific threat on the embassy. And there was never any discussion about whether they should close the facility because they felt they knew the risks, but they were doing very important work there.

BLITZER: Did Ambassador Stevens have enough security at that consulate in Benghazi especially coming on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 when there should be heightened security procedures for U.S. installations around the world?

LABOTT: Well, Ambassador Stevens had two guards for himself, two guards detailed arm shooters. And the consulate itself had three guards. So that was five guards for about two diplomats that were there on the site. And officials say, Wolf, in the months leading up to the weeks attack after a failed IED (ph) attack on the consulate in June that we just mentioned, State Department took measures to improve security, barb wires, barriers, cameras at the facility. There were also some safe rooms. There was a steel door on some of these safe rooms to make sure that the personnel was safe and also all of these armed guards.

So they say, Wolf, that obviously even though they took all of these precautions, they weren't predicting the kind of onslaught that they saw. Some of the other attacks out there, minimal damage. These are the kind of attacks they were warned about because of these other attacks. And the pattern out there, they weren't expecting the kind of onslaught and it was no match for these security measures. Obviously they have to re-examine security at all posts.

BLITZER: Elise, thanks very much for that reporting. The story is obviously not going to go away. We're continuing to watch this issue. The Libyan story is taking center stage. By the way, right now up on Capitol Hill the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the country's top intelligence officials in a very rare closed door classified briefing with all, repeat all members of the United States House and Senate. We're going to go there live right at the top of the hour. Stand by.


BLITZER: Bill Clinton is on the cover of the latest issue of "TIME" magazine, our sister publication. Inside he's optimistic about the future. But he says those better days will have to be fought for. Let me quote from the president. "The truth is the future has never had a big enough constituency. Those fighting for present gain almost always win out. But we are now called upon to try to create a whole different mindset. We are in a pitched battle between the present array of resources and attitudes and the future struggling to be born."

Let's talk about the new issue. "TIME" magazine's managing editor Rick Stengel is joining us right now. Excellent article by Bill Clinton, excellent cover story. He is at an unbelievable positive favorability number now, according to all the latest polls. He's almost -- I think he's at a record high right now. How do you explain that, Rick?

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME: Well, part of it, Wolf, is I call him in my editor's letter the global philanthropist in chief and even though he has become President Obama's number one surrogate, he does have a day job and that is running the Clinton Global Initiative. And he is doing things. He's raising billions of dollars to wipe out inequality around the world, to alleviate children's poverty and disease. And so I think people just look at him now as one of the good guys who's doing stuff that benefits everybody, not just one particular party or person.

BLITZER: And his speech -- the speech that he gave at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte was obviously one of the best that he's given. And he's gotten really, really great grades for that. Let me read another quote from the article. This is President Bill Clinton.

"I see evidence all over the world that women are gaining social and economic power that they never had before. It's been proven that women tend to reinvest economic gains back into their families and communities more than men do." You know what -- when I read that quote from the former president my mind immediately soared to 2016 and the possibility that one woman, mainly his wife, might run for president once again. Did you get the same impression?

STENGEL: No, Wolf. My mind did not go to that at all. Not one iota. I mean he has been, as you know, a supporter of women's equality, of girl power as he sometimes talks about it, and girl power has a multiplier effect. You know the old saying is you know you educate a man, you educate one person. You educate a woman, you educate a village. And I think he has seen that at CGI. And obviously his wife, the secretary of state, has been an outspoken supporter of girl power as well.

BLITZER: Yes. He's not ruling out the possibility that she might consider running once again for the Democratic presidential nomination then running for president. We'll have to wait --

STENGEL: He's not ruling it in either.

BLITZER: No. He's not ruling it in. He's not ruling it out. We'll see what happens down the road. My own suspicion, by the way, is I think she will, but that's just my own guess. I have no inside information. It's very intriguing that at the CGI, the Clinton Global Initiative, next week, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday there are going to be two big speakers in addition to Bill Clinton. There's going to be -- Mitt Romney is going to speak. Barack Obama is going to speak. Not surprising that the president is going to be at the Bill Clinton event, but Mitt Romney a little intriguing. What's going on?

STENGEL: Well, again, as I was saying before, Wolf, I think CGI, the Clinton Global Initiative is a worldwide platform and it's nonpolitical. It's nonpartisan. He's looking to do the most good around the world as possible. It doesn't have a political point of view. He's trying to leverage philanthropy to help people around the world and I think it's smart, frankly, for Governor Romney to go there. It shows that he's concerned about those issues. And as you mentioned, Wolf, Clinton's own personal popularity is so high, it probably you know wouldn't be bad for him to have Clinton put his arm around his shoulder and have everybody see that. BLITZER: Do you know what the format is going to be when the president attends the CGI Conference and when the Republican presidential nominee attends? Is it just speeches that they will give? Will they do Q&A? Do you have any idea what the schedule is going to be?

STENGEL: I'm not sure, Wolf. I do believe that President Clinton will be introducing both President Obama and Governor Romney. And after that I'm not sure what the format is. I think both men will though have a chance to speak their minds on something that's important to them.

BLITZER: It's amazing how much good work the Clinton Global Initiative has done over all these years. I know you write about it. How much money have they raised for all these good causes?

STENGEL: Well, they estimate that they've actually gotten commitments of almost $70 billion over the -- I think since they started in 2005. And when you think about that, that's real money that's going to problems around the world. And when you compare that to foundations which only spend five percent of their endowment, I mean it really is an enormous effort that they've made that actually doesn't have a rival anywhere on the planet.

BLITZER: And talk about the cover picture for a second. There he is. He's holding a globe. The Clinton Global Initiative I guess, that's what it's referring to, right?

STENGEL: Yes. I mean we -- you know they told us originally that the president doesn't do props. But I thought the idea of him holding the globe so that you would see it's not a story so much about President Clinton, which it's not. It's a story about -- a story of optimism, a story by him about the five big important things that are going on around the world that's making the planet a better place. So we thought him holding the planet that way would signify that.

BLITZER: Rick Stengel of "TIME" magazine, good work as usual. Thank you.

STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So how much will the presidential debates in October really matter? That's Jack's question. He has your answers and that's next.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, question this hour is how much will the presidential debates actually matter? First one coming up October the 3rd.

Perry writes, "if they would answer the questions truthfully, they would matter. But as it is they matter not."

Ed in Texas, "I think they'll be critical for Mitt Romney's candidacy. At this point he can't win the election unless he wins the debates."

Kim in Kansas says "if both candidates were on an equal footing intellectually, it might mean more. Romney's actually managed to become worse in front of a camera and lacks the human element required to connect with people. That complete lack of charisma is magnified on the television camera. So it will be even worse than the Nixon- Kennedy debates."

Brad in Oregon writes, "it will matter a whole lot more to Romney than Obama. Romney better put on a good show or he'll just confirm what everybody thinks of him right now, that he's just too stupid to be president. And George W. Bush set a very low bar for that already."

Matthew on Facebook writes, "none, because they'll both evade and dodge the questions in order to say just what they want to say."

And Bob in Long Island says "the debates will be the bane of Mitt Romney's candidacy -- get it? It will be all over except the counting."

If you want to read more on the subject, go at the blog, or through the post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Today CNN revealed the top 10 "CNN Heroes of 2012". Each of them will have a chance at earning $300,000 and the top honor, "CNN Hero of the Year". Anderson Cooper shows us how you, how you can decide who that person will be.



ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Now that we've announced the top 10 "CNN Heroes of 2012", I want to show you how you can vote for the "CNN Hero of the Year". It is very easy. This is the main page of Now down here, you'll see all top 10 "CNN Heroes". Each one will receive $50,000, plus a shot at becoming "CNN Hero of the Year" and that's where you come in. Here's how you can vote for your favorite "CNN Hero". As an example, I'm going to randomly click on Raza John (ph) over here. You can read a story about her work providing free education to girls in rural Afghanistan. Now the same kind of information will come up if you pick any of the top 10 "CNN Heroes". Once you're ready to pick the person who inspires you the most, click vote which is in red right over here. A new page then comes up. It shows you all top 10 "CNN Heroes". You choose the person you want to vote for -- I'm going to say here just an example Leo McCarthy (ph).

His photo will show up down here under your selection. Then you just enter your e-mail over here in step two. You enter the security code and you click on the red box right down here that says vote. You can vote up to 10 times every day with your e-mail address and through Facebook and then rally your friends by sharing your choice on Facebook over here or on Twitter. And, remember, you can vote from your computer, your phone, your tablet, pretty much any mobile device with the browser. Just go to We'll reveal your "2012 Hero of the Year" during "CNN Heroes", an all-star tribute which is a CNN tradition that promises to inspire.


BLITZER: Remember, all 10 finalists will be honored live at the "CNN Heroes", an all-star tribute hosted by Anderson on Sunday December 2nd.

You may have heard of replacement referees, but what about replacement candidates? We'll explain. That's next.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hotshots". In the Golan Heights (ph), a farmer harvest wine grapes. In China exhibition goers view an urban model for new buildings. In India parked trucks symbolize a national protest against incoming foreign supermarkets. And in Germany -- look at this -- a tourist hand feeds a sparrow -- "Hotshots", pictures coming in from around the world.

With so much chaos erupting out there on the campaign trail right now, you have to wonder if the candidates ever wish they could be replaced. Let's go to CNN's John Berman -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Mitt Romney is trying to move his campaign forward now. Move ahead after that 47 percent comment, right the ship. Barack Obama has been there, too, trying to turn things around after a campaign mishap. One solution you never really do hear from candidates, though, why not just take a break and have someone else fill in? It's what they're doing in football right now, sort of.


BERMAN (voice-over): There's something different on America's professional football fields. League officials have locked out the regular referees and instead we have replacement refs with varying degrees of success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) pass interference on Denver.


BERMAN: OK, the situation might not be perfect. Still it might be attractive for certain other professions these days. Take presidential candidate --

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

BERMAN: After that video surfaced from the liberal magazine "Mother Jones", maybe Mitt Romney wishes he could find a replacement now and then, maybe one with a certain flair for language.

ROMNEY: You know it's not eloquently stated let me put it that way.

BERMAN: If it's elegance he wants, how about Henry Higgins (ph) from "My Fair Lady".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.

BERMAN: That guy drips elegance and as for connecting with the 47 percent, that was his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, where does it rain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the plain, on the plain.

BERMAN: How about a replacement for Barack Obama. Well there was this comment about Egypt.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy.

BERMAN: Maybe a good fill-in might be James Taylor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) yes, I'll be there. You've got a friend.

BERMAN: Paul Ryan, well, replacements could include Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck. They've all played Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy (ph) movies and according to Bob Woodward (ph), the president gets Paul and Jack confused anyway. And finally, a tough one, Joe Biden. How about Meryl Streep? Honestly, she can play anyone, plus, she swears like a sailor.


BERMAN: Not just a big deal if you're playing Joe Biden, but --



BERMAN: The problem with politics, though, is that no matter how good Meryl or Alec or Ben or Henry might be, there's no real way to replace a candidate. To an extent, elections are the candidate, which is why everything they say and do matters so much. They're simply no substitute -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Berman, thanks very much. You can watch John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin on CNN's "EARLY START" every morning beginning at 5:00 a.m. Eastern. They go until 7:00 a.m. Eastern.