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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Larry Summers; Debate Results; Alleged Terrorist Plot; Interview with Senator Jack Reed; Interview with Representative Peter King

Aired October 17, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, Obama won the battle last night, but did Mitt Romney win the war? Does the president's record on the economy add up?

Plus, we're not just analyzing what the two candidates said, but also how they said it, how they talked to each other, all those grimaces, smiles, laughs, snarks, and the FBI says it has foiled a plot to blow up New York's Federal Reserve Bank with a 1,000 pound bomb. Tonight, we are learning about the suspect's past and the connection to al Qaeda.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, congratulations, Mr. President. Debate watchers liked you. They really did. But there's one small problem. They didn't like you all that much where it really may count, on the economy. In CNN's poll of people who actually watched the whole debate last night, the president came out on top by seven points over Mitt Romney. That's the battle. But this may be the war. When it came down to the economic questions, the key issues that most likely are going to decide this election just 20 days from now, debate watchers heavily favored Romney.

And this is important because in some recent polls, it's sort of been closely tied with Mitt Romney only having an edge on the deficit, and even there a small one. Not so last night. On the question of who would better handle the economy, the answer, Mitt Romney, by an 18-point advantage. Who would better handle the deficit? Mitt Romney by 23 point advantage and on who with better taxes, again advantage Romney, this time by seven points. The group of undecided voters I was with last night in Ohio seemed to agree. Here was Mitt Romney's high point of the night according to this focus group. It was when he talked about his tax plan. And keep an eye if you would on the dials that you're going to see on the bottom of your screen which is how they rated him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to bring the rates down. I want to simplify the tax code and I want to get middle income taxpayers to have lower taxes and the reason I want middle income taxpayers to have lower taxes is because middle income taxpayers have been buried over the past four years. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, when the president talked up his tax plan he did OK, but it was not the high point of the night for the undecided voters. So, could the president's low scoring on this key issues cost him the election? Earlier I spoke with Larry Summers, former director of the Council -- the National Economic Council for President Obama and a former treasury secretary. I asked him why the president is polling so poorly on these crucial economic issues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRES. OBAMA: I think the facts are going to get out and the president's going to do much better. Look, I can say that I want to eat a lot of dessert and I want to lose 40 pounds. But while those are two great desires to have I'm not probably going to have both of them. The problem with what Governor Romney says is he's going to cut middle class people's taxes. He's going to cut high income tax people's taxes. He's going to preserve the programs and the problem is it just doesn't add up. You'll either end up getting rid of half the federal government, doing huge damage to Social Security and other programs or you'll end up raising taxes on middle class families or you'll end up taking the deficits into even more trillions. It just doesn't work.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about another question and that is when the president talks about what he's done so far, so, we actually ran the numbers on the stimulus program. He has spent a significant amount of money, according to Mark Zandi, who as you know, has worked on both sides of the aisle, about $1.325 trillion, 4.5 million jobs have been created while he was president. So, now cost per job, obviously, this is just a simple mathematical equation, but it's $294, 444, almost enough to put you in the top one percent. Is that worth it?

SUMMERS: To 4.5 million families who are living with the difference between working and being unemployed. I think it is. And in addition to those jobs, think about some of the things we have. We have the difference between kids who get to go to school five days a week and kids who get to go to school four days a week. We have substantial progress in renewing our infrastructure, preventing the kind of bridge collapses that we saw in Minneapolis. We have an important down payment on getting the computerized medical record, which has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives every year by reducing medical errors. We have substantial progress towards extending broadband and making it available at a time when that's a crucial part of connecting with our society and we have a set of investments and look some of them fail and some of them succeed. That's why it's called venture capital, but to give the United States the prospect of leadership in renewable energy --

BURNETT: Maybe you were reading by mind, but I want to talk about renewable energy. I want to talk about A123 obviously, which just had to file. The U.S. Department of Energy had about $90 billion. Of the stimulus it's been reported about 831, I mean it's about 11 percent of the stimulus went to these renewable energy, clean energy programs. Five of the most prominent of those have now filed for bankruptcy. You have Solyndra. You have A123, Abound, Ener1 and Beacon Power. How do you account -- I mean let me just show you this, A123 CEO was with the president at a 2010 speech at the Rose Garden and when the company actually opened its plant in Michigan, the president called the CEO of the company and said "this is the birth of an entire new industry in America, an industry that's going to be central to the next generation of cars. When folks lift up their hoods on the cars of the future, I want them to see engines and batteries that are stamped Made in America."

SUMMERS: Erin it's no secret. It's been in the press. I was actually skeptical about some of those investments because I think government has to be very careful in acting as a venture capitalist. But the reason it's called venture capital is that sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed. And given the magnitude of our energy problems, given the importance of strengthening American manufacturing, I think the president was right to be pushing for trying to advance and support American leadership in renewable energy.

BURNETT: Mitt Romney understands venture capital. Would he be better at this sort of thing than the Obama administration?

SUMMERS: Well first of all, I don't think we're going to have a president of the United States picking particular projects --

BURNETT: I'll give you that --

SUMMERS: -- within the Energy Department, so I don't think he'd actually be that connected to it. Second, there's a big difference between what the public sector needs to do and what the private sector needs to do. What Mitt Romney was good at was coming in and finding companies with fat and knocking the fat out of the company. That's a legitimate thing to do.

BURNETT: Yes.

SUMMERS: That's a very different thing than creating a whole industry of the future. There's a big difference between --

BURNETT: So you believe --

SUMMERS: Sporting new technologies and starting a new kind of stationary store.

BURNETT: All right, one final question and this is on the deficit. Four years ago the president made a promise he would cut the deficit in half by his first term. Four years in a row $1 trillion plus deficit. He has not kept his promise.

SUMMERS: The president when he made that promise didn't know what he was going to inherit. He didn't know that he was going to inherit an economy that was losing 800,000 jobs a month. He didn't know that the economy was going to go into freefall and the situation was worse than anybody expected in the fall of 2008 when the president made that promise and as a consequence, it's taken us longer to work our way out than it otherwise would have. First priority is jobs and to get this economy growing and part of that is putting in place a framework that will give people the sense that these debts are under control. And that's absolutely something the president would have done if the Congress had been prepared to cooperate with him around the time of the great debt limit struggle. It's something he'll be working to do during the lame duck session and my hope would be that the president's principle is mostly spending some revenues. That's a balanced principle. He's never said anything like that he's for all revenues. The opposition they think he can do it all on one side. I don't think those numbers are going to add up.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Larry Summers. Good to see you.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And still to come, the ugly side of the debate. The interruptions, the faces, the near physical contact although that might arguably have made for really great television. Plus, the big fight over three words, acts of terror. Tonight, we're going to look at the timeline of who said what and when they said it, about the attack in Libya that killed four Americans. And suddenly Lance Armstrong gone from his charity as he is repeatedly dropped by his sponsors. Can Livestrong survive without Lance?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT pardon the interruption. In last night's town hall actually there was no pardon or excuse me. There was actually just a lot of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters --

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney, here's what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: I had a question and the question was how much did you cut them by?

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: You want me to answer a question --

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: I'm happy to answer the question. ROMNEY: Let me mention something else the president said, it was a moment ago and I didn't get a chance to, when he was describing Chinese investments and so forth --

OBAMA: Candy, hold on a second --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Mr. President, I'm still speaking --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry --

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Governor Romney --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: -- let me finish. Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours, so it doesn't take as long.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: Let me give you -- let me give you some advice.

OBAMA: I don't check it that often.

ROMNEY: Let me give you some advice. Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Caymans trust.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're way -- we're sort of way off topic here.

ROMNEY: So Mr. President --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Romney --

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: We're a little off topic here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- completely off immigration.

OBAMA: I thought we were talking about immigration --

(CROSSTALK)

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: I want to make sure --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I could have you sit down, Governor Romney, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Did you have trouble even understanding what they were saying? I mean there were moments like that last night. John Avlon, Reihan Salam are with me and Michael Waldman, former director, speechwriting for President Clinton. Reihan, let me start with you.

Romney did seem to spend more time interrupting than the president did and the moderator, Candy Crowley, was also interrupted by him. Did this come off as disrespectful or rude to you? I was with a focus group and they certainly got that feeling. There was too much of that.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think he came across as very amped up. I think that he was expecting a more aggressive President Obama and I think that he raised the energy level and it's quite possible that he raised the energy level a little bit too high, so I think that's fair to say --

BURNETT: Like the energizer bunny, they turned him up to 10 and he couldn't dial it back to seven --

(CROSSTALK)

SALAM: -- came across as very aggressive and I think that had he dialed it down a little bit I think that that would have made for a stronger performance. I also think that right out the gate with his first answer to the first question, it wasn't quite as strong and polished as his first answer the last time around. And I'm of the view that that's how you build a foundation for the debate and for your larger performance. I think that his rhythm was a little bit off. Apart from that high level of aggression.

BURNETT: John, you noticed something else about Mitt Romney's performance. I like how you called it his hall monitor Mitt. It's sort of a reminder of high school when you have the person coming down the hall, a stickler for the rules. Here he was last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got to move you --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: He actually got the first question, so I get the last question -- last answer on that one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, in the follow-up, it doesn't quite work like that.

ROMNEY: The president began this segment, so I think I get the last word. So -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to get the first word in the next segment --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Well but he gets the first word of that segment. I get the last word of that segment. I hope -- let me just make this comment.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Rick, again --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Rick, I'm speaking. I'm speaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your newspaper --

ROMNEY: I'm speaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The newspaper --

ROMNEY: I'm speaking. I'm speaking.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: You get 30 seconds --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: The rules work here is that I get 60 seconds --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but the American people --

ROMNEY: And you get -- and then you get 30 seconds to respond, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they want --

ROMNEY: Anderson?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson.

BURNETT: I mean the guy likes it when people play by the rules.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's a very generous interpretation (ph) of it --

BURNETT: And he likes to touch people. I mean --

AVLON: Look, this is hall monitor Mitt persona and it tends to come out in debates. He has got a problem with this. He does tend to try to litigate the rules, really stand up for them in great detail. It comes across as (INAUDIBLE) I think un-presidential because it (INAUDIBLE) a lot of interrupting and talking over other people. And it -- there's something odd about it. I mean there is something that -- you know the Twitter feed (INAUDIBLE) people were saying it's bullying. Some people said it seemed entitled. He doesn't like to live by rules that he hasn't set. But it has come out in every debate and it is not his most presidential quality. He doesn't seem fully in control of this aspect of this debate stop.

BURNETT: Michael Waldman, the president looked very different at this debate than he did at the debate before. You know it was small things, right, like in the last debate he would be looking down taking notes and this time he was always looking, sometimes smiling or you know, he had his facial expressions. Is this going to be enough for him?

MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NYU: Well, as weak at the performance was the first time, I think he was very strong this time. And you're right. There were things that seemed as if he was talking faster. He certainly talked in a way that ordinary viewers at home would understand what he was talking about more. I don't know that this debate necessarily will win the election for him, but I would imagine that it would stop Governor Romney's momentum and make it a closer race going into the home stretch. It wasn't just that Romney -- Governor Romney was bullying or I think even really somewhat disrespectful to the president. You have to be careful when you challenge a president, even when you're running against him. President Obama was so good. I've never -- he hasn't been the strongest debater since his time on the national stage. This was by far his strongest debate I've ever seen.

BURNETT: What's interesting is it seemed like Mitt Romney and I'm going to play a sound bite for you here, Reihan, but it seemed to me that there were certain points that he has felt he's been really hard for and relentless that it had become kind of part of the narrative, and so even when it wasn't the topic of conversation, he wanted to make sure that he made his point and here is one of those topics, it's contraception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

ROMNEY: Thank you and I appreciate that question. I just want to make sure that I think I was supposed to get that last answer, but I want to point out that I don't believe --

OBAMA: I don't think so, Candy.

ROMNEY: I don't believe --

OBAMA: I want to make sure our time keepers are working --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK --

ROMNEY: The time -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The time keepers are all working and let me tell you --

OBAMA: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that the last part, it's for the two of you to talk to one another and it isn't quite as ordered (ph) you think, but go ahead and use this two minutes any way you'd like to. The question is on the floor.

ROMNEY: I just note that I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That's the point he wanted to make.

SALAM: Yes, absolutely. Well one of the fascinating things about this debate is that it took place in Hempstead, Long Island, in a state that Barack Obama is going to win overwhelmingly, yet it's also important that he got a mix of questions from a lot of folks who are disaffected, suburban, oftentimes liberals who are disaffected with President Obama and those are some voters that Mitt Romney's going to have to try to reach out to in a lot of key suburban areas. So it was actually (INAUDIBLE) issue mix that he faced and I think that something like contraception, a really big issue for a lot of college educated, married, not just women, but men as well who are somewhat socially moderate, somewhat socially liberal even, who might be open to voting for Mitt Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

SALAM: So I think that that was important.

AVLON: But he didn't -- you know he didn't get -- there weren't questions about abortion or marriage equality, which I was struck by but he wanted to get that in. They have a new ad out today trying to pivot to the center on the issue of abortion. The problem is this line he's walking, saying he wants to defund Planned Parenthood, but he doesn't think bureaucrats in Washington should determine questions on contraceptives you know that he wouldn't push any legislation to outlaw abortion, but he supports either the Republican platform with a constitutional ban or judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. You can't have it both ways. You've got to own one position and he really did want to get that in and overture for women, but ultimately it's not a question of perception --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) Republican you can't own one position --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: That's the problem --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- Republican running for elected office --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- especially if you're more on the moderate side, right Michael? You can't maybe own one position because you lose your base if you're honest.

WALDMAN: Well one of the great mysteries of this campaign was why Mitt Romney did not challenge the unpopular part of the Republican Party platform throughout the whole primary and ever since then. The first time he showed any distance between himself and those unpopular or more ideological parts was at the last debate and it helped him a lot. This time, because President Obama was much more pugilistic and engaged and really deft it was a lot harder for Governor Romney to sort of make it up and do the etch-a-sketch on national TV.

BURNETT: OK, thanks very much to all three. We appreciate it.

And OUTFRONT next, a terror plot foiled. Today, the FBI said it has stopped a man who planned on setting off a 1,000 pound bomb at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And we have details of possible ties, this person to a terrorist group. Plus, President Obama runs through a checklist of his foreign policy successes. We have our own checklist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, a suspected terrorist arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. The 21-year-old man is from Bangladesh and he made his first court appearance in Brooklyn today, just hours before officials say the suspect was busted after attempting to detonate what he thought was a 1,000 pound bomb in the heart of New York's financial district. Susan Candiotti is OUTFRONT on this developing story and what do you know about this man?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well here's what we know so far. He was a 21-year-old college student and he came to the United States, according to prosecutors, with terror on his mind. He came here wanting to wage jihad, to destroy the American economy. And so, he said he even wanted to disrupt or possibly even stop the presidential election. Well he made a couple of very big mistakes, thankfully. He went to recruit helpers. One of the helpers was -- turned out to be an FBI source, and then who got other undercover agents to work with him and then, of course, they put together this plot after selecting a target of the Federal Reserve Bank and created a bomb, but it was a fake bomb. It was a nerd (ph). It really wouldn't have harmed anyone, but if it had been the real deal, of course a lot of men, women and children could have been killed.

BURNETT: So do they know whether this was a lone wolf?

CANDIOTTI: It appears as though it was. According to sources, he came here seeking help from others from al Qaeda, other al Qaeda people who could help him, and in fact, but those people turned out to be others who were undercover agents. It's an elaborate sting operation, but a successful one in that they targeted him and arrested him. And now here's what Ray Kelly, who is the head of the NYPD, had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY KELLY, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: This individual came here with the expressed purpose of committing a terrorist act. He was motivated by al Qaeda, so we see this threat as you know being with us for a long time to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: And as it turns out right before they almost set off this bomb, he wanted to stop at a hotel prosecutors say, to make a suicide tape and in fact that's what they did. And he said on this tape according to court papers quote, "We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom." Well it appears he achieved neither one.

BURNETT: Wow, Susan Candiotti thank you very much. Pretty incredible and frightening story but obviously success there for law enforcement.

Meanwhile, a man entered a guilty plea today on a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C., in which Americans would have been killed. The country, he says, put him up to it.

And the moment of the debate where the president turned the tables on Mitt Romney. Does the president's claim add up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

And we begin with an update on one of the victims of a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Punjab Singh who has been in the hospital since August 5th is now well enough to be released. He's the last victim to be released from the hospital.

In a statement, his family says he still requires around the clock care, so he's going to go to a health facility where he can get well.

And an OUTFRONT update on the Iranian man from Texas who is accused of working with the Iranian military to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States along with Americans who were out to dinner. Today, the man, Manssor Arbabsiar, pled guilty to three charges. One for conspiracy, two related to murder for hire.

As part of the scheme, Arbabsiar tried to recruit a Mexican drug cartel to bomb a Washington restaurant, but it all unraveled when the cartel contact turned out to be an undercover agent. Arbabsiar is expected to be sentenced in January and he faces up to 25 years in jail.

Four more people have died from a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis. In total, 19 have died from the non-contagious form of the disease, which authorities believe was contracted through contaminated steroid injections. A total of 245 cases have been reported in 15 states. Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the FDA asking for more information about the oversight of the New England Compounding Center which was linked to the outbreak.

Well, it has been 440 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, today, there was more good news on housing, builders breaking ground on new homes surged in September, 15 percent higher than the month before, and the best we've seen since July of 2008. Wow.

Now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: a war of words. Mitt Romney went after President Obama last night for waiting a week to say the killing of four Americans in Libya was a terrorist attack. But the president was ready for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The president just said something, which was that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.

OBAMA: Please proceed.

ROMNEY: Is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: He did, in fact, sir. So, let me call it an act of terror --

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You're correct about that.

ROMNEY: The administration indicated that this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction. It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The response seemed to catch Governor Romney off-guard. So, we looked at the tape of the president's speech on the day after the attack, September 12th, in the Rose Garden. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe. No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: While the president did make a reference to general acts of terror, he didn't specifically call the Libya attack a terrorist attack, nor does he refer to the suspected killers as terrorists in that speech.

So, what did the president really mean when he said an act of terror on September 12th? I asked Senator Jack Reed this question right before show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, the president clearly stated on September 12th, it was an act of terror. It was in the context of the death of Ambassador Stevens and his security detail. That's why he was there. That's why he was praising both the courage and sacrifice of individuals in making clear it was an act of terror.

BURNETT: And let me ask you about this, though, because -- how do you explain the actions of the administration then?

For a full week after the attack when spokesman Jay Carney was asked about it on the 13th, he didn't use the word, terror.

Ambassador Susan Rice, of course, on the 16th, said, "We don't have information at present that leads us to conclude this was premeditated or preplanned."

On the 17th, the State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland asked if she regarded it as an act of terrorism, the formal word, said, "I don't think we know enough."

And then on September 25th on "The View" when the president was asked about it, he said there's no doubt "the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action," which was also still unclear.

Why what appears to be a real hesitancy to use the formal words?

REED: I don't think it's the hesitancy. I think it was a recognition, quite early on, that this was an extraordinarily, chaotic situation in Benghazi. That it was difficult to get accurate information about what precisely went on. In fact, that's why the president, actually, the secretary of state, called on Ambassador Thomas Pickering to conduct a formal inquiry.

BURNETT: Why then, though, did they -- if they were so careful to not say anything, did they say that it was linked to a movie? That it wasn't premeditated or preplanned?

REED: Well, here's the situation. One, there was an hour long attack, if you will, on the legation in Benghazi. It was clear and the president said the day after, this was an act of terror. This was not an accidental occurrence.

It wasn't -- and I don't think he made any reference to the video in the context of this attack on the legation. But it's not clear. It's still trying to establish the facts of whether this was an opportunity unfortunately seized on by terrorists or was preplanned. That has to be determined carefully by Ambassador Pickering and he's doing that right now.

BURNETT: CNN has reported that the government knew within 24 hours that it was not only a terrorist attack, but there were phone calls intercepted with groups linked to al Qaeda, things of which, of course, the intelligence community was aware, and some say that the lack of mention of an al Qaeda linked group for such a long period of time from the government may stem in part from the fact that vanquishing al Qaeda was a specific part of this president's foreign policy achievements.

I want to play you a speech he gave last Thursday, a little piece of it, Senator, then I'll show you something else. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I said that we end the war in Afghanistan and we are. I said that we'd refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 and today, al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, the president gave a speech that sounds extremely similar today in Iowa, except for something really important doesn't seem to be there. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Four years ago, I told you we'd end the war in Iraq and I did. I said we'd end the war in Afghanistan and we are. I said we'd focus on the terrorist who actually attacked us on 9/11 and we have and bin Laden is dead. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And he obviously didn't include the part about al Qaeda being on the run. So is there something to this line of questioning, that al Qaeda on the run was such an important narrative for this administration that they didn't want to talk about al Qaeda's involvement here?

REED: Al Qaeda has been set back dramatically, most particularly by the death of bin Laden, which the president ordered, conducted heroically by Navy SEALs. The fact that there are groups that identify with jihad, identify with Sharia law, identify with extreme radical positions, they still exist and this is a continuing struggle.

But to suggest al Qaeda is still being led by bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11 and others, is completely wrong.

BURNETT: Senator Reed, thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.

REED: Thank you, Erin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And now, I want to bring in New York Republican Congressman Peter King. He's the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and a Mitt Romney supporter.

Chairman King, good to talk to you. What do you make of this issue?

I want to get your action to what Senator Reed had to say. Do you -- do you buy what the president is saying when he said -- was referring to the attack in Libya, when he used the words acts of terror on September 12th? And I just want to add that his press spokesman, Jay Carney, today when he was asked this question repeatedly by reporters said, "Anytime an embassy is attacked by force with weapons and Americans are killed, that is an act of terror under the definition of terrorism" -- as in, of course, people should have known.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Erin, I'm going to use my words very carefully. I think the president's conduct and his behavior on this issue has been shameful. And -- first of all, as far as it being an act of terror, the president was almost four minutes into his statement on September 12th before he mentioned an act of terror. It followed a paragraph in which he was talking after September 11th.

When he -- earlier in his statement, when he was talking about the attack in Benghazi, he didn't say anything about terrorism at all -- nothing about an act of terror. It wasn't until he was well into the remarks and anyone looking at it will be confuse, is he talking about Benghazi or is he talking about September 11th or all acts of terror? So, at the very least, the most you could say for him is ambiguous. But then follow in the next week, when no one in the administration used the words the terrorism at all. Susan Rice -- Jay Carney was going out of his way to say it was not a terrorist attack. The president himself even he went to the U.N. several weeks later was still talking about the tape. They were talking about a demonstration which was never held. They never even acknowledged terrorism.

And I don't expect the president to be able to say on September 12th, this was definitely a terrorist attack. But to deny the fact, to ignore the fact that al Qaeda affiliates from that region, there had been terrorist attacks before, to me, this was politics at its worst, because you're talking about the loss of American life.

BURNETT: You've accused the administration of telling misleading stories and contradicting stories. And to be fair, administration officials, as you point out, did talk about the movie being to blame. They did say the attack wasn't premeditated. They didn't discuss the role of al Qaeda-linked groups and were at least inconsistent on the use of the word "terror".

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on CNN, though, this wasn't the result of confusion, not a result of incompetence, but -- I'm going to quote him -- "sounds like a cover-up". Would you go that far?

KING: Yes, I would. I'm not saying this is a criminal cover-up. This is a political cover-up because it went against the president's narrative. He could not acknowledge that there was a terrorist attack because he had been trying to say al Qaeda was decimated and defeated, when in many ways, al Qaeda is as strong as it was on September 11th. That's not the president's fault. That's the reality of al Qaeda.

This is going to be a long twilight struggle, the same as John Kennedy described the struggle against the Soviets. Al Qaeda has morphed, it's metastasized, it's gone to several different organizations. It changes tactics and procedures.

BURNETT: I guess one question that I have on this though is: who should take responsibility? You know, you saw the debate last night. Obviously, the night before the debate, the secretary of state took responsibility. Our Elise Labott interviewed her in Peru. She said, look, I'm the one who's responsible. The president took responsibility last night.

Are you satisfied with that?

KING: What's she taking responsibility for? She's saying -- now, he's trying to say all along, it's an act of terrorism when he wasn't saying that. His administration was peddling the story that it was not terrorism. That it was a spontaneous demonstration.

Is he taking responsibility for all the false statements, all the misleading statements, all the inaccurate statements? In that case, that's fine. But he wasn't doing that. Instead, he was trying to spin it last night that somehow he was calling it an act of terror or terrorist attack all along. His administration went out of the way. Susan Rice, as she was auditioning for secretary of state on five national shows, went out of her way. She never mentioned the word "terrorism".

The president other than that --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Do you think she should step down? You had said --

KING: Yes?

BURNETT: You would call for her to resign. Do you still think she should -- she should resign or is this now bigger in your mind?

KING: Well, it's bigger. But I think she should because when you have such a misleading of the American people and the world by a cabinet official, a U.N. ambassador, there has to be consequences for this. We just can't somebody to go on television and speaking on behalf of the country.

And, by the way, on that issue, I would like to -- who sat down with Susan Rice? Who gave her talking points? Was David Axelrod involved? Were these White House political people? Did they talk to anybody --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: They tell us, no, that they were not.

KING: -- in Benghazi.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Chairman.

KING: Susan Rice, she -- OK. They have a lot to answer for here.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, sir, and good to see you. We appreciate your time.

And OUTFRONT next, author Mark Bowden, he spoke exclusively with the president on his role in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Plus, Lance Armstrong set to lose millions in endorsements from his doping scandal, but who's the real victim?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: It is getting worse for Lance Armstrong, the day after "The New York Daily News" ran a detailed story accusing Nike of wiring half a million dollars to a cycling official to get them to ignore one of Armstrong's positive drug tests, the shoe company dropped plans from its roster of athletes.

And in a statement released today, this is what Nike said, "Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him."

This is a big deal for Lance. The bulk of his estimated $125 million personal fortune comes from his endorsements and while Budweiser and other minor sponsors also dropped him today, it was Nike that had helped him to find his persona, which brings me to tonight's number -- 84 million. That's the number of Nike Livestrong bracelets that have been sold.

Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation has raised actually half a billion dollars in the fight against cancer, $100 million of that, a fifth of it, came from Nike and those bracelets.

And even though the foundation may have been started by Armstrong, at this point, Nike is crucial, much bigger to it that Lance ever was. But, so it comes down to Lance's name or Nike's money, they decided to go with the money, which could be why earlier today, Lance stepped down as chairman of Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong foundation. And they're building a Lanceless organization.

We were lucky enough to be able to screen grab it for you before and after Lance disappeared.

But will Livestrong mean anything without Lance? Maybe Nike is not more important. Lance could not have raised all this money for cancer unless he won all those Tour de Frances. And if he could win without doping?

Well, does all the money he's raised excuse the doping? Did the end justify the means?

Let us know what you think. Twitter or Facebook, as always.

And now our fifth story OUTFRONT: talking tough on foreign policy. President Obama and Mitt Romney came out swinging last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I said I'd end the war in Libya -- in Iraq and I did. I said that we'd go after al Qaeda and bin Laden, we have.

ROMNEY: The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy from leading from behind and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Final debate next week will be all about foreign policy. President Obama's decision-making will be under the spotlight.

Our next guest covers Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama in their roles as commander-in-chief. OUTFRONT tonight, Mark Bowden, the best selling author of "Black Hawk Down", who's out with a new book, "The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden." And there are great parts in this. I want to ask a couple of things in there that I read that were just riveting to me, because I can't get enough of this story. But I wanted to start, first of all, with -- I mean, you have a chance to talk exclusively with the president about this decision making and what went through his head. You reported on how he basically makes the decision personally on these drone attacks and who they are going to go and kill.

Are you surprised at how this administration has handled the Libya storyline?

MARK BOWDEN, AUTHOR, "THE FINISH": No. And I'm not surprised because I think the political staff that surrounds a president is always looking to present him and their own administration in the best possible light. And, I think that they probably do -- or did shy away from presenting this as an al Qaeda attack because of perceptions of, you know, that organization still being alive, still being a threat.

BURNETT: Right.

BOWDEN: And so -- I don't know for a fact, but it makes sense to me.

BURNETT: And we were just reporting. He just -- the president gave a speech a few moments ago, a campaign speech, and he does his line about Iraq -- I said we get out of Iraq, I did. We're going to get out of Afghanistan, we are.

BOWDEN: Right.

BURNETT: Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is on the run.

BOWDEN: Yes.

BURNETT: He has now removed al Qaeda is on the run. So, last week it was in there, and now, twice in the past three days, without.

BOWDEN: You know what, Erin? He's right. Al Qaeda, the organization that launched the attacks of 9/11 was a very sophisticated, international network, well-funded, extremely and intelligently run. And if you look at the way that attack -- those attacks on 9/11 were prepared --

BURNETT: Right.

BOWDEN: -- people were trained, recruited, flown from one country to the other. They were, you know, basically steered into those jets. That is an extraordinarily sophisticated organization. There is nothing like that today. That organization which made those attacks --

BURNETT: Right.

BOWDEN: -- is basically dead.

BURNETT: So, it's a different and more sophisticated.

BOWDEN: Well, you got local militias in the Middle East who will fly that flag to aggrandize themselves and to attract recruits.

BURNETT: Right.

BOWNDEN: But they were nowhere near what al Qaeda, as I understand it, was capable of doing.

BURNETT: And so, let me just talk about one of the things you found out when the president this decision. You report that it was very much his own decision. He chose the riskier path, at least by many measures, by putting in individual people.

And I just wanted to highlight because I hope you'll read the book, but they had actually been watching Osama bin Laden, literally the man walked every day.

BOWDEN: Yes.

BURNETT: And there was one guy who said I knew that's him. Everybody else said, oh, just a little percentage. There's one guy, and they called him the Pacer?

BOWDEN: Yes, they called him the Pacer. And John Brennan, who is the president's counterterrorism adviser, has been involved -- had been involved for the hunt of bin Laden long before even the Bush administration, back to the Clinton administration. And he had seen video of bin Laden from above walking across the desert Afghanistan.

And, you know the way sometimes you recognize them, you recognize them by more than just their face.

BURNETT: Right.

BOWDEN: You recognize them by the way they move, by the way they walk.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOWDEN: And he saw that picture and he was 95 percent certain that that was Osama bin Laden.

BURNETT: And everyone said, OK, you're kind of -- even the president was like, all right, whatever. I mean, there is something that's got to be amazing, right, about watching this guy.

BOWDEN: I don't think that John Brennan was prepared to take the burden of that choice all on himself. But if asked, which he was, he said I think -- I am as certain as I can be that that's Osama bin Laden. And there were others who reviewed all the intelligence and they were only 20 percent, 30 percent certain.

And the president said, look, as far as I'm concerned this is 50/50. That's what I have to go on.

BURNETT: And he ultimately made the decision and he did get Osama bin Laden. As he said, that can never be removed from the speeches. BOWDEN: You know, it is a remarkable story and one that I think he deserves credit for.

BURNETT: And you tell it very well. So thank you very much.

And Mark Bowden's new book, please go out and check it out, because it tells the story really well, especially when you read the Pacer and sort of get -- at least that was my favorite part.

All right. Last night, I watched the debate with a focus group in Ohio. Neither candidate actually won them over. But there was one thing they were unbelievably passionate about and it was on display.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: During last night's debate, we were in Ohio, obviously, the crucial swing state. We were in Columbus with the CNN undecides, the focus group of voters who haven't made up their minds about the president or Governor Romney. Neither candidate actually seemed to excite them. Of the 35 participants, 15 still didn't know who they were going to vote for after the debate. Each candidate picked up just a few votes.

But even though they weren't sure who they were voting for, there was no question who they were routing for, Ohio State. This is Sheila Dattner Trust (ph), one of the focus group members and like many of them, all of them a huge Buckeye's fan. Now, when they were not talking about the debate, they were talking about their college and how serious are they about their school?

OK. This explains it. Even though there's only one Ohio State, they say it is the Ohio State. That's the name of it, they kept reminding. This isn't Ohio State. It's the Ohio State.

Apparently it sunk it because as I was doing a hit last night for CNN this happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Our focus group here at the Ohio State. I'm sorry, I can't not laugh when I --

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: There we go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That just totally warmed the heart. You know, you have all of these politics. People are angry. People don't like either candidate. We even got playoffs going on in baseball but what people really, really love is their home team and we love that.

All right. Thanks as always for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

The "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.