Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Romney in Pennsylvania; President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Talk; Interview with Rep. Peter King
Aired September 28, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Mitt Romney makes a bold prediction in Pennsylvania. Israel's prime minister talks by phone to both presidential candidates.
And the rover Curiosity makes a potentially major find, signs of water on Mars.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There are two areas where Mitt Romney sees President Obama as vulnerable, Israel and Iran.
And, today, the Republican nominee was hammering away at both of them. Romney was in Pennsylvania, a state where he's trailing President Obama. But despite that, he made a bold prediction.
CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with Romney. He's joining us with the latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even though Mitt Romney's campaign has largely been a pitch to fix the nation's economy, he has been stepping up his attacks on the president lately on the issue of national security and specifically on who is a better friend of the state of Israel.
And there are signs that the Obama campaign is starting to pay attention.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At a military academy in Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney tried to make the case for a new commander in chief. Romney once again questioned the president's recent description of events in the Middle East as bumps in the road.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I sure as heck don't consider Iran becoming nuclear a bump in the road. We need someone who recognizes the seriousness of what's ahead and is willing to lead.
ACOSTA: Romney's tough talk on Iran follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's dramatic performance at the United Nations, aimed at drawing the world's attention to his nation's nuclear worries.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: A red line should be drawn right here.
ACOSTA: Just days after the president declined to meet with Netanyahu in New York, the two leaders spoke over the phone. But then, hours later, Romney, who enjoys a much friendlier relationship with Netanyahu, got his own call, chatting with the Israeli leader while sitting on a tarmac in Philadelphia.
It was a reminder of the power of the Jewish-American vote in places like Florida, where Vice President Joe Biden defended Mr. Obama's relationship with Israel.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to talk about Israel today. But I just want to say one thing. I just want to tell you how proud I am, how proud I am to stand shoulder-to- shoulder with a guy who has done more for Israel's physical security than any president of the eight I have served with.
ACOSTA: Switching gears to court the state's senior citizens, Biden said Romney's plan to lower taxes would force the nation's elderly to pick up the tab.
BIDEN: Their plan on Social Security, the one they have now, would raise taxes on your Social Security.
ACOSTA: Romney, who has accused the president of misleading the public on the subject of taxes, repeated his pledge on the issue.
ROMNEY: I will not raise taxes on middle-income Americans.
ACOSTA: Less than one week from his debate with the president, Romney is trying to expand the election map, boldly predicting twice during his visit to Pennsylvania that he can win here.
ROMNEY: I have got a little secret here, and that is that the Obama campaign thinks that Pennsylvania is in their pocket. They don't need to worry about it.
And you're right and they're wrong. We're going to win Pennsylvania. We're going to take the White House.
ACOSTA: It could be a questionable move. Not only does Romney have ground to make up in swing states like Ohio and Florida. The latest CNN poll of polls in Pennsylvania shows Romney trailing the president by 10 points.
Republicans have tried, but failed to win Pennsylvania in recent presidential elections. Just ask John McCain, who made his own last- ditch effort.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There's just one day left until we take America in a new direction. We need to win in Pennsylvania tomorrow. With your help, we will win.
ACOSTA: Now, it's unclear what kind of resources the Romney campaign is planning to spend on Pennsylvania. When asked if they would buy any ads in this state, a Romney aide said that is for the Romney campaign to know and for the Obama campaign to worry about -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta traveling with Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania, thank you.
Let's get some more now on that phone call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
CNN's Dan Lothian is over at the White House watching this part of the story as well -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House always stresses that the president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in touch frequently. They downplay any daylight between the two leaders. But they didn't meet face-to-face this week. And so one phone call is getting a lot of attention.
(voice-over): President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York, but at different times. The White House insisted it was a scheduling issue, not a snub. No meetings, no handshakes, but today a follow-up phone call that a senior administration official told CNN lasted more than 20 minutes.
In a statement released by the White House, the conversation included -- quote -- "a range of security issues," the president reaffirmed his commitment to Israel security, and the two leaders were in full agreement on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been pressuring the U.S. to lay down a so-called red line on Iran that would prompt military action. At the U.N., he used a prop to drive home his point.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: A red line should be drawn right here, before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.
LOTHIAN: While some have accused the prime minister of pressuring the president to help GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Mr. Netanyahu has said his actions are not tied to the U.S. political calendar.
The White House downplays any friction between the two leaders and brushes aside criticism that there was no face-to-face meeting.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has met with and spent time on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu more than with any leader since he took office. And that is reflective of the importance of and the closeness of the relationship between the United States and Israel.
LOTHIAN (on camera): The White House would not say if the two leaders talked about the so-called red line, which, of course, is a key issue, and no specifics on how they will stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But they did agree to -- quote -- "continue their regular consultations on this issue" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots happening today.
BLITZER: As Kate just mentioned, a stunning call for the United States ambassador to the United Nations resign in the wake of that attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Up next, you're going to hear my interview with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, plus all the reaction that's coming in.
BLITZER: There's new and important political fallout from the Benghazi, Libya, attacks.
Just a little while ago, I spoke by phone with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the New York Republican Peter King, and I asked him it's true that he's calling for the resignation of the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, because of comments she made on television the Sunday following the attacks?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes, Wolf.
I believe that this was such a failure of foreign policy message and leadership, such a misstatement of facts as were known at the time and for her to go on all of those shows and to in effect be our spokesman for the world and be misinforming the American people and our allies and countries around the world, to me somebody has to pay the price for this. We have too much -- things go wrong and then everyone forgets about it the next day.
I think we have to send a clear message and on such a vital issue as this where an American ambassador was killed where by all the accumulation of evidence at the time the presumption had to be it was terrorism. I can see why if they wanted to say it's too early to say it's definitively terrorism but to rule out terrorism, to say it was not terrorism at that time was a -- to me a terrible mistake to make whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally and to show the significance of that, I believe she should resign, yes.
BLITZER: Because there is a statement that the spokesperson, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put out today they are saying it was obviously a terrorist -- an action, a deliberate and organized terrorist assault carried out by extremists affiliated or sympathetic with al Qaeda.
That's today's statement. But they also said this, and let me read it to you because it might explain why Susan Rice and other administration officials were saying what they were saying and this is from Shawn Turner, director of Public Affairs Office of Director of National Intelligence.
"In the immediate aftermath there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo." The statement goes onto say that information was provided to the White House and Congress with a clear understanding that it was preliminary and could change.
Quote: "We provided that initial assessment to executive branch officials and members of Congress who use that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continue to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving." And if you read closely what Susan Rice was saying, she was saying that was based on the information she and the administration had at the time when she was pooh-poohing this notion of an al Qaeda attack or something along those lines.
KING: Wolf, she was on five days after the fact. And I would agree that there may not have been conclusive evidence that it had to be terrorists, but there's far more evidence that it was terrorist than it was not terrorists and if she'd come on and said it's -- obviously there was some terrorist involvement here, we're not certain of the extent of it, but we're trying to find out.
Instead, she was ruling it out. And you know she may play over the semantics, but the fact is everyone came away from watching those shows the belief that the United States government was saying this was not a terrorist attack.
You saw what Jay Carney was saying days after that. But the whole predicate for that was set by Susan Rice's, by Ambassador Rice's appearance on those shows. And to me she was clearly sending a message it was not terrorists and it was not -- even if you look what the DNI is saying, it was evolving.
But she -- what she should have said was that there is considerable evidence this could be terrorism. The fact that al Qaeda in the Maghreb is a stronghold in that area, the fact that Ansar al- Sharia is a stronghold in that area, the fact that there was direct and indirect fire coming in, there was heavy weapons involved, the presumption should have been leaning toward it being terrorism. If she wanted to say we're not absolutely certain of the extent of the terrorist control, that would have been fair comments.
That would have been a legitimate statement. But to come out so clearly and deny and say there was no terrorist involvement, this was not a terrorist attack. That was I believe irresponsible. And whether she was saying it on her own or she was told to say it or whatever, the fact is she was the vehicle by which that misleading message was translated to the American people and the world. BLITZER: Yes, remember this incident occurred on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in Benghazi --
BLITZER: She went out, as you say, five days later. I looked it up and here's what she said on some of the shows and I will read it to you.
BLITZER: She said "our current best assessment based on the information that we have at present is that in fact what this began as it was a spontaneous not a premeditated response to what had transpired in Cairo."
She was paraphrasing -- she was using that line in her comments. So here's the question to you. Do you believe that this was just inadvertent that she had bad information given to her from the U.S. intelligence community or she deliberately sought to mislead the American people?
KING: Wolf, I don't know the answer. Either way it was wrong. It was intentionally or it was done through ignorance, but in either case I think we have to show that there is a price to be paid for such a gross misstatement of reality and of the facts.
And, again, as ambassador to the U.N. and, in fact, ambassadors of the world in that position, she's transmitting a message. And everyone watching those shows that day came away with a clear impression this was not a terrorist attack including Jay Carney whom for the next several days kept insisting it was not a terrorist attack.
BLITZER: And I just want to wrap it up by saying other administration officials were saying similar things, what Ambassador Susan Rice was saying including the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, including I think the secretary of state, maybe even the president in the immediate aftermath of what happened, but you're specifically calling for her resignation.
KING: She was the one who was sent out by the administration. She was the one who went from show to show. She was the one who was out front. She was the one who was there. And therefore she was going to get the glory of that. Now she should pay the consequences.
BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
KING: Wolf, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And we're getting reaction very quickly from the Obama administration and the State Department. First, the spokesman for the National Security Council over at the White House called right after my interview with Congressman King, and he told me -- and I'm quoting now -- "Ambassador Rice has done extraordinary work at the United Nations and for the American people as well. The president appreciates the work she does every day and he's looking forward to her continued work."
"Everything she said in that interview," the statement went on to say, "was cleared by an interagency group based on the latest information that the United States had, and certainly nothing was designed to mislead the American people."
A very fast reaction to Peter King's statement calling on Ambassador Rice to resign.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was almost an instantaneous, the moment you got off the air.
But we also have a statement from Ambassador Rice's office. They put out a statement on the controversy really this morning, that is before this call for the ambassador's resignation, as you just heard Peter King speaking with Wolf.
Let me read this statement from Ambassador Rice's office. It says -- quote -- "During her appearances on the Sunday talk shows September 16, Ambassador Rice's comments were prefaced at every turn with a clear statement that an FBI investigation was under way that would provide the definitive accounting of the events that took place in Benghazi."
It goes on to say: "At every turn, Ambassador Rice provided and said she was providing the best information and the best assessment that the administration had at the time, based on what was provided to Ambassador Rice and other senior U.S. officials by the U.S. intelligence community."
A lot of back and forth, clearly, Peter King not convinced.
BLITZER: It is clear that she was reflecting what she was told. She was not going to go out there and deliberately lie to the American people.
BLITZER: She was told by the U.S. intelligence community. And they said they were giving her and other administration officials the best information they had at the time. Originally, they thought it was spontaneous. But, obviously, that was wrong.
BOLDUAN: It wasn't misspeaking. She was consistent on all five of those shows that day on what her statement was.
BLITZER: She knew what she was saying, and I assume that was based on the intelligence information that she received in her own briefing.
BOLDUAN: Clearly an evolving situation.
BLITZER: All right, this is a big story. We're going to have much more on this story.
In a few minutes, I will be joined by a panel that includes the former spokesman now for the Bush White House, Ari Fleischer, and the former U.S. special Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller.
BOLDUAN: The NASA rover dubbed Curiosity keeps coming up with startling new discoveries on Mars. This time, the rolling lab may have stepped right into an ancient riverbed.
For more on this, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has been looking into it and all the pictures. So, how do they know it's a riverbed, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Because the stones that they're seeing are round. You don't get round stones unless something eroded rocks and made them round, like rolling down a river.
Getting a lot of tweets today as we have been doing this story a little bit. Of course there was water on Mars. How else would they have made concrete? Because if you look at it, it really does look like a piece of concrete. But it's not. It's part of an old ancient bed, riverbed.
Here is how they know. Here is Mars and the round stones here, here. Here is the Earth, in fact Utah. Round stones here, here and here. Ancient riverbeds as the water pushed those stones down the river, round the stones off, made them into pebbles.
And they know that wind couldn't have done because the pebbles were just too big. Here is an ancient riverbed in -- well, this is the Earth, because there are people here. So this is not Mars, but the people there.
This is an riverbed that we're seeing in the Atacama Desert. There has not been water here for many, many years. But that's what the round stones look like. The water comes down from the top of the mountain, down through, rolls the stones and the stones become round. And they know that that's what they're on right now.
A lot more to go. They have not found any life yet, of course, but you know what? Life could have been a billion years ago. What might we find even if we find anything, any forms of life? If it was a billion years ago, it might be not much left.
BOLDUAN: Not much left, but still fascinating, absolutely fascinating. Water on Mars. What is the Curiosity rover going to find next? Chad Myers, you will be watching it and bringing it to us.
MYERS: I will.
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Chad.
Not found the green guys yet.
BLITZER: Not yet.
BOLDUAN: Not yet.
BLITZER: If it's bottled water, that would be cool. But that's not happening.
BOLDUAN: Every time we talk about this.
BLITZER: No bottled water.
BOLDUAN: No bottled water.
BOLDUAN: It's just a riverbed so far.
BLITZER: All right, we have some breaking news we're following.
A powerful United States congressman calling for the United States ambassador to the United Nations to resign -- new fallout from the attack on an American consulate in Libya. We're going to talk about it.
Ari Fleischer and Aaron David Miller, they're both standing by.
BLITZER: U.S. intelligence is now calling the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya -- and I'm quoting directly -- an organized terrorist assault carried out by extremists affiliated or sympathetic with al Qaeda. That's a major revision from the initial assessment which deemed the attack spontaneous.
BOLDUAN: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, repeated that initial assessment following the attack -- in several Sunday morning talk shows, including ours.
Now Republican Congressman Peter King is accusing her of misleading the American people, and he wants her to step down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via phone): To rule out terrorism, to say it was not terrorism at that time, was a -- to me, a terrible mistake to make. Whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally. And to show the significance of that, I believe she should resign, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about that and more with Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center here in Washington, and CNN contributor Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House press secretary.
Ari, first of all, do you agree with Congressman King that Susan Rice should resign?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think I do, Wolf. And I equivocate. You know, I understand the politics of it, but here's what I don't like about this, and I say this as an alumnus of the Bush administration.
I didn't like it when people started demanding heads to roll in the Bush administration because of politics and it was tied to terrorism. I think when there's a terrorist attack on our country, I would so much more prefer for us to join together. Sometimes I think that the world laughs at us because we get struck, and who do we turn on? Each other. I would much rather go after the terrorists who did it first and then settle any domestic matters.
Susan Rice said something she shouldn't have said. I don't know the circumstances: if she didn't know, if she was just being loose. I think the Obama administration has had a history of underplaying terrorist threats to the United States, particularly the Underwear Bomber and the Times Square Bomber specifically here again.
But I'm uncomfortable with this talk of resign because of what you said after a terrorist attack.
BLITZER: Are you uncomfortable because of the bad intelligence that was provided to Bush administration officials when you served in the White House about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that set the stage for the war? There were plenty of calls for resignation as a result of that bad intelligence.
FLEISCHER: I'm uncomfortable, Wolf, because I think when there's a terrorist attack, we should join together as Americans and not resort to the first-string partisanship that is so part of the system. I didn't like when it was done to George Bush. I don't like it when it's being done to Barack Obama.
Intelligence is often hard to ferret out, to follow. It changes quickly, and that's why I think you have to let some time pass before you make final evaluations of whether she did or did not do her job. She was wrong, obviously, but did she know? Did she have access to all the information? Did she speak loosely? We don't know the answers to those things, and that's why I'd rather not set my sights on her. I'd rather get the terrorists who did it first.
BLITZER: You served six secretaries of state, Aaron, Democrats and Republican s. What do you make about this call for her resignation? AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER: I think Ari is basically right, that we have this tendency to personalize our politics and to find individuals who at the time appear to be convenient fall-women or men, for what frankly was -- and I think Ari is being quite magnanimous here with respect to the administration -- at best, a muddled message.
I mean, the fact is days after the attack on Benghazi, there was enough information. "The New York Times" was reporting, as the organized protests, what is now considered an assault on the consulate, the consult in Benghazi, they were talking to members of -- I'm sorry, Sharia, so that it was clear that this was more than just some sort of spontaneous display of anger over a vile and two-bit video.
So I think the administration has to get its messaging straight. And even during a political campaign, you have to be very careful, when it comes to these matters, that you try to be as straight as you possibly can and as consistent as you can. Susan Rice should not resign. She's doing her job, and the reality is she's not out there on her own dime anyway. She's reflecting administration policy and what the administration wants to convey.
BOLDUAN: Now, Ari, let me ask you. I mean, you worked in the Bush White House, how do you -- how should you handle putting out this kind of information? I'm sure you're either going to be criticized for getting too far in front of your skis or you threaten to be criticized for withholding information that the American public should know about.
FLEISCHER: No, you should get criticized for withholding information. That's exactly what you should do. In the first 24 hours after an attack like that, you should not rush to conclusions, because as we've seen so often in the past, that first mountain of intelligence changes and changes quickly. Because it's a scene that no one can quite get their arms around yet, and it takes time.
And I thought the administration for trying to downplay it right from the start. As I said, they did that earlier with the Times Square bomber, saying he did not seem to have any organized connections to anybody else. We found out he did, to terrorist cells in Pakistan. And with the Underwear Bomber, as well.
They seem to not want to fall into the old Bush world of saying, "It's terrorism and we're going to go after terrorists." They want to act and talk different, so they downplay.
But once something like this happens, what you really need to do is just say, "We're gathering the facts. It's going to take time. we don't rule anything in; we don't rule anything out.
Here they seem to just want to rush to blame it on the video, which I think had very little credibility. So I think they made bad judgments, bad mistakes, said things they should not have said. I don't think it rises to resignation level, but it certainly does rise to congressional hearings level and a deep investigation level. BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We have a lot more to discuss. We're also going to ask Aaron David Miller about his column that he just wrote, suggesting that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, is going too far with his red line for Iran.
BLITZER: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided one of the most dramatic moments of the United Nations General Assembly when he literally drew a red line on a cartoon bomb representing Iran's alleged quest for a nuclear weapon.
BOLDUAN: But Aaron David Miller takes issue with that approach. In an article he wrote for CNN.com, he writes this, in part. Quote, "By stressing red lines that can't or won't enforce, Netanyahu threatens to overplay his hand, irritate a close ally and undermine Israel's own credibility."
BLITZER: Aaron's back with us. Also, our CNN contributor, Ari Fleischer.
Aaron, explain what you mean, why the red line that the prime minister drew on that cartoon bomb was such a bad idea.
MILLER: Here's my -- here's my view, Wolf.
You know, first of all, I don't want to trivialize Israeli concerns. I live in Chevy Chase Circle. The Israelis sitting there in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the Iranians are clearly enriching more uranium than they clearly need for peaceful purposes, and we shouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt. So Israel has a serious problem.
The question is how to deal with it. Red lines can be effective if you have three things. No. 1, a sense of urgency. But I think all the drama in the moment yesterday was somehow diffused by the fact that the takeaway on what the prime minister said was that Israel will not act at the earliest, probably not until late spring or even summer.
No. 2, red lines work if other people sign up to them. And I didn't notice a mad rush to the exits yesterday for a lot of countries wanting to validate what Benjamin Netanyahu said.
And finally, red lines work if your key strategic partner, in this case, Israel's most important friend, Barack Hussein Obama, is on the same page with you. And the reality is, this president is clearly not there yet.
What the Israelis, I think, need to focus on, and I'm quoting a former DMI chief, head of Israeli military intelligence, Agaf HaModi'in (ph), is less the zone of immunity and more the zone of trust. Because in the end, they don't to strike Iran; they want us to do it. Because they know we would be far more effective, and an attack would be much more consequential, assuming diplomacy or sanctions...
BLITZER: Let's get Ari's reaction. Do you agree with that assessment on the red line?
FLEISCHER: You know, Wolf, let me tell you a quick story that will lead up to the Iraq war. President Bush sat down with Ariel Sharon in the Oval Office, and the subject of the discussion was if Israel was struck by Iraq in the 2003 war and it was chemical weapons, what would Israel do?
Now, Ariel Sharon said in that private meeting to President Bush, "As the keeper of the Jewish people and the person responsible for keeps us safe for thousands of years now, I will defend Israel and do whatever we need to do. We trust you; we believe in you, but I must -- I must protect my own people." And that's how he sees it. That's how any Israeli leader must see it..
America is much more powerful than Israel. America can do a much more effective military job than Israel. But Israel doesn't know, especially under President Obama; if they will or won't come to its military aid, if necessary.
So I think that what Netanyahu did was smartly ratchet up the pressure which will certainly become front page news stories all spring and summer next year. And then we'll see, if the Obama administration is reelected, what will they do.
So the timing of it, he's planted that seed. It will -- it will dominate everything next spring and summer.
BOLDUAN: No one's going to forget that prop he brought, definitely, for a long time to come as well. I want to listen to something that Vice President Biden said today to some Florida voters. And I want to get your reaction. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to tell you how proud I am; how proud I am to stand shoulder to shoulder with a guy who has done more for Israel's physical security than any president of the eight I've served with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So those eight presidents, obviously, included your old boss, George W. Bush. Do you agree with Joe Biden's assessment here?
FLEISCHER: Well, first of all, you should know I'm on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and we have a big advertising campaign going against President Obama because of what I think is his weakness, his lack of support for Israel.
He has continued, as many American presidents have gone, their predecessor's military operations and increase them. Because that's how military technology works. Military technology always gets better; it gets smarter. And one president to the next president picks up where the other left off and increases it, continues it. It would be a total shock if the government ceased it or moved it backwards.
But on the more important issue about does Barack Obama have Israel's back, that's the open question. Having heard him condemn Israel's housing policies in the vociferous way that he did, having heard him say return to the '67 borders, having him flip-flop on whether Israel's capital is Jerusalem, I question it. And that's the fundamental measure of trust. And that's what's lacking.
BLITZER: He did say return to the '67 lines with mutually agreed swaps, which was basically the same position that the Bush administration...
FLEISCHER: No. No.
BLITZER: ... and -- hold on a second. Let -- Aaron worked for six of those eight presidents that we're talking about. Go ahead, Aaron. Go ahead and respond to that.
MILLER: Institutionally, the U.S.-Israel relationship is thriving. There's no question about that. But that's only part of the story.
The fact is it's not just an institutional relationship. It's a relationship driven by value affinity, and the understanding on the part of an American president what Israel's fears and real concerns are.
I have to tell you -- and again, I worked for Democrats and Republican, I voted for Democrats and Republicans, and I'm not associated with anybody else's campaign. The reality is this is the most dysfunctional relationship between an American president and an Israeli prime minister that I've seen. And four years into the first term, it remains, whatever the rhetoric, dysfunctional.
Barack Obama does not have the same kind of emotional and instinctive affinity toward Israel that Bill Clinton had or that George W. Bush had. The charge that he's thrown Israel under the bus is clearly and utterly ridiculous.
But the fact is, Obama thinks Benjamin Netanyahu is a con man without much reciprocity or respect for American interests, and Netanyahu, with some legitimacy, thinks the president is bloodless and doesn't really understand what it's like to be a tiny power with a dark past, living in a dangerous neighborhood on the knife's edge.
And that dysfunction on Iran and on the Arab-Israeli peace process has to somehow be addressed, because it may well be that these two guys will be here for the next -- next few years.
BLITZER: On those brutally candid words from both of you, we're going to have to leave it, but we're going to continue this conversation. Ari and Aaron, thanks, guys very much.
Up next, is the Pentagon getting too cozy with Hollywood? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: The Pentagon is investigating the military's involvement into a film about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
BOLDUAN: That's right, and there are concerns secrets are getting spilled. Here's our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're spending billions of dollars. We are still no closer to defeating our enemy.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new Hollywood thriller about one of the most secret missions ever: the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When was the last time you saw bin Laden?
STARR: The movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," is just the latest in real-life top-secret action becoming big-screen box office. Also in production, a movie starring Tom Hanks about the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. Filmmakers used U.S. Navy ships off the East Coast. Navy SEALs are working as technical advisors.
Next up, the Marcus Luttrell story. Luttrell, a Navy SEAL, was the only survivor of a 2005 Afghanistan mission in which 19 Navy and Army commandos died. A movie based on his book, "Lone Survivor," is also likely to get military help.
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Thank you, you're welcome.
STARR: But is it all too much Hollywood? Former Navy SEAL Harry Humphries was a consultant on "Black Hawk Down" and many other productions. He says some projects are telling too many national secrets.
HARRY HUMPHRIES, FORMER NAVY SEAL: It's gotten out of hand. There's too much being discussed about a community that lives on the fact that it's a group of folks that thrive on a concept called silent pride.
STARR: The debate erupted after the publication of "No Easy Day." Seen here in a "60 Minutes" interview is author Nat Bissonnette, a Navy SEAL who was on the bin Laden raid. Admiral William McRaven, who heads Special Operations command, has been warning about loose lips.
ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN, HEAD OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Are people affected by the information that comes out? You bet they are. Are lives at risk? Absolutely.
STARR: Ironically, McRaven's interest in joining the military came after seeing this movie, John Wayne's 1968 film "Green Berets," about the Vietnam War. For years, the military has loaned Hollywood ships, aircraft and even active-duty SEALs as technical advisers, but in the movie "Act of Valor," real SEALs were the actors. The Navy acknowledges the movie didn't go through standard approval but says the bottom line remained intact.
ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NAVY: I think the principle concern -- and I think every American can understand this -- is the divulging of sensitive and/or classified information, tactics, techniques, procedures.
STARR: But that new bin Laden movie...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's right in the inner circle.
STARR: ... it's already a political hot potato after e-mails emerged showing moviemakers met with top administration officials after the raid.
(on camera) "Zero Dark Thirty" is set for release after the presidential election, but it hasn't dimmed the criticism that Hollywood and the military may be getting too cozy.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
BOLDUAN: Barbara, thank you.
Coming up, a woman thought she stumbled on a windfall at a flea market. Unfortunately, the FBI says not so fast.
BLITZER: A Renoir sold for $7 at a flea market.
BOLDUAN: The owner was supposed to auction it off tomorrow, but the FBI canceled that. Brian Todd explains.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the Sadie May Room of the Baltimore Museum of Art. Sadie May was a well-known donor in this area, a patron of the arts in Baltimore. She lent a painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir to this museum many decades ago.
In 1951, that painting was stolen from this museum. The circumstances around that are not clear. But it made its way somehow from 1951 to a flea market in West Virginia a couple of years ago, where it was sold for $7, where it was actually bought at a flea market with just some other kind of trinkets in a box for $7, this painting by Pierre Renoir. It is worth up to or possibly over $100,000.
And we're here with Doreen Bolger, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art. Ms. Bolger, can you tell us how do you think it might have made its way from being stolen here in 1951 to being bought at a flea market two years ago?
DOREEN BOLGER, BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART: Certainly, it's an amazing mystery, and we may never know exactly the course of the painting over all those years.
1951 was 61 years ago. We didn't have computers. We didn't have digital images. Things were recorded by hand on index cards. Things were mimeographed or a carbon paper. Very different from how we record information today. So we'll be very lucky, I think, to find out the whole story.
TODD: Well, good luck in trying to find that story and thank you for joining us.
BOLGER: Thank you.
TODD: The museum is working with the FBI and others to try to piece together what happened to the painting, how it made that journey, and then, they're going to have to determine custody of it, Wolf. Whether it belongs to the museum, the estate of Sadie May, whether it belongs to the woman who bought the painting at that flea market in West Virginia. That woman wants to remain anonymous.
So that is all being investigated right now. We're going to determine hopefully how a painting that was bought for $7 in West Virginia, and it's now worth about $100,000 at least, Renoir painting, determining now who gets custody of that painting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Who gets custody is going to make some money. That would be nice.
BOLDUAN: That would be nice. Seven dollars. I would love it. If it wasn't stolen.
BLITZER: That's it for us. Have a great weekend. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.