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Presidential Debate Fallout; More Bad News for Lance Armstrong; Syrian Rebels Being Armed by Terrorists?; Two Debates Down, One to Go; Nike Dumps Lance Armstrong; George Zimmerman's Trial Set for June; University of Phoenix Closing 115 Locations; Pakistani Girl Responding to Treatment

Aired October 17, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: The presidential candidates head back to the swing states still fighting some of their battles from last night's debate.

CNN's post-debate poll showed the president won. But will that have any impact on the race itself?

And the cyclist Lance Armstrong's fall from grace passes two more major milestones.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All that coming up, but let's get to the breaking news.

U.S. government agents say they have foiled an apparent terrorist plot in New York City. It's a bomb plot. And the suspect is in custody, will later be in court today.

Let's go straight to CNN's national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, she's joining us from New York. What do we know, Susan?


We know that this alleged plot had been under way for quite some time, an undercover sting operation being conducted by the FBI and the NYPD to foil a planned plot to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank here in Lower Manhattan. It's very close to Wall Street.

And apparently it all went down, culminated in the alleged plot that went down today and that's when this man was arrested. He is only 21 years old. And apparently he was planning to take and detonate a 1,000-pound bomb, what he thought was a bomb, but it was inert, so no one, no member of the public was ever in danger because the feds were all over this, they say, as they were putting this operation together they say at the request of this suspect. They say it was all his idea.

Only 21 years old, his name is Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis. And he came to the United States in January of this year. He's a Bangladeshi national, came here, they say, and he is charged with trying to conduct or carry out a terrorist attack in the United States.

And only this morning, the feds say that he met them at a warehouse and then he drove to another location where he tried to detonate the bomb and that's when they arrested him. They said that he told them he wrote that he wanted to destroy America and that before all this happened he went so far as to make a suicide tape in which according to prosecutors he said -- quote -- "We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom."

According to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office prosecutors, they say this man wanted to carry out a goal to target America's economy and bring it down. But, again, the bomb was inert. They were able to arrest him before he blew up the bomb, which really wasn't one to begin with. But he will be making an appearance in court this afternoon.

I'm also told by a source with information who is very close to the investigation who said that a lot of this sting operation was put on videotape and at some point during the course of this operation, this investigation, this court proceeding, we may get video of this at some point during the course of this. It may not be until it comes to trial. We will have to see what happens.

But it is all coming down just today. The Federal Reserve Bank as you know here in New York, Wolf, has the largest stash of gold bullion in the world -- back to you.

BLITZER: Susan, is it clear that this was -- that there was a political motivation, that this may have been al Qaeda or al Qaeda- inspired kind of terrorism that was involved?

CANDIOTTI: Yes. That's what prosecutors say, that he was attempting to help al Qaeda, that this was a terror plot in association with al Qaeda according to prosecutors and that this man came here with the intent of carrying out some sort of a terrorist attack.

They say that the plot and the target that he chose was the Federal Reserve Bank, was his idea according to prosecutors, although he said at one point he also wanted to target, and they don't name who it is, but a high-ranking official. So perhaps we will learn more about that from the FBI as this case goes on.

BLITZER: So just to be precise, was this they believe a lone wolf, as they say? Or was he part of an organization, an al Qaeda-related organization some place?

CANDIOTTI: Well, that's a good question. I did ask my sources about that. They tell me at this time it appears he was a lone wolf acting on his own.

BLITZER: Susan Candiotti will be working this story for us. Susan, thanks very much. Very disturbing. We have known al Qaeda for many, many years. They have always gone after economic targets. their goal to try to bring down the United States of America. The Federal Reserve in New York if it was in fact such a target obviously had that kind of ambition. Let's get to some other news we're following. We're down to only 20 days until the presidential election. This afternoon, President Obama and Mitt Romney, they are squeezing in some campaigning in the all- important swing states before they have to hunker down once again to prepare for their third and final debate Monday night.

Last night's fiery town hall debate is very much on their minds today.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, was with the president at his first stop today in Iowa.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even before the president arrived here at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, supporters were bragging about the president's performance. One fired up the crowd by saying Mr. Obama was passionate, reminiscent of the candidate they saw here in Iowa back in 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sharp, focused, passionate, knowledgeable, game on.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): With his sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened, the president strutted on to the stage in a sweltering gym and reminded voters about last night.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As many of you know, we had our second debate last night.


OBAMA: You know, I'm still trying to figure out, you know, how to get the hang of this thing, debating. But we're working on it. We will keep on improving as time goes on. I have got one left.

LOTHIAN: The president then shifted his focus to GOP nominee Mitt Romney, mocking his five-point plan.

OBAMA: It's really a one-point plan. It says folks at the very top can play by their own set of rules.

LOTHIAN: The president said the debate helped sharpen the clear choice voters have in November. And he emphasized that point with a new line of attack.

OBAMA: Let's recap what we learned last night. His tax plan doesn't add up. His jobs plan doesn't create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit. So, Iowa, everybody here's heard of the New Deal. You have heard of the fair deal. You have heard of the square deal. Mitt Romney's trying to sell you a sketchy deal. We are not buying it.


(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LOTHIAN (on camera): From here, the president heads to Ohio, a key battleground state that both campaigns are fighting very hard to win in November and where Governor Romney has closed the gap in the most recent polls -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Dan Lothian with the president.

Mitt Romney told a Virginia crowd he loves taking part in the debates with President Obama. But members of both campaigns, they are still arguing about something that Romney said during last night's confrontation.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is with the Romney campaign.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after what sounded like a war between two men trying to assume the role of debate alpha dog, both campaigns are still barking. Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney is sounding like a candidate who believes he's gone two-for-two, but at his first post-debate event, it's worth noting what did and did not come up.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love these debates. You know, these things are great.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In Virginia, Mitt Romney was still in a New York state of mind, still talking about his debate rematch with President Obama.

ROMNEY: I think it's interesting that the president still doesn't have an agenda for a second term. He can't even explain what he's done in the last four years.

ACOSTA: But at his first event after the debate, Romney did not touch on the night's flash point that got as fiery as the body language between the candidates. Just as his campaign signaled he would do during the debate, Romney seized on the deaths at the U.S. Consulate in Libya. But when Romney thought he'd caught the president falsely portraying his comments at the White House the day after the attack, the GOP nominee inadvertently gave Mr. Obama an opening.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror, it was not a spontaneous demonstration, 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. ACOSTA: The Obama campaign is not only pointing to what the president said in the Rose Garden.

OBAMA: 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.

ACOSTA: The president's aides also notes his comments the following day.

OBAMA: No acts of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world.

No act of terror will go unpunished.

ACOSTA: In the post-debate spin room, top Romney surrogates were armed with a different view.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: He used the words act of terror in a general sense. But, listen, for five days they said just the opposite.

ACOSTA: An argument echoed by Paul Ryan on the morning shows.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a passing comment about acts in terror in general. It was not a claim that this was the result of a terrorist attack.

ACOSTA: The Romney campaign pointed to what Ambassador to the United Nations Susan rice Said five days after the attack, that it was in response to an anti-Islamic video that was blamed for the siege at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt.

SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It was a spontaneous, not a premeditated response to what had transpired in Cairo.

ACOSTA: Then there's White House Press Secretary Jay Carney eight days after Benghazi.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We do not have evidence that that it was premeditated.

ACOSTA: The political battle over Benghazi is drawing attention away from moments touted by both campaigns, whether it was Romney on the economy.

ROMNEY: We just can't afford four more years like the last four years.

ACOSTA: Or the jabs from the president on Romney's record on China, his opposition to a bailout of the auto industry and even his wealth.

OBAMA: I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours.

ACOSTA (on camera): And in reflection of the Romney campaign's desire to jump back into debate prep as soon as possible, advisers have postponed what was billed as a speech on fiscal discipline. No word yet on when it will be rescheduled -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.

And you don't want to miss the third and final presidential debate. That happens Monday night. The focus will be on foreign policy. CNN's special coverage will begin at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We all know the economy took center stage at last night's town hall debate, but what other issues did the candidates focus on? We're giving you a special look. That's coming up.

Also, major concerns about where Syrian rebels are getting their weapons. You're going to want to see this.


BLITZER: You have heard the saying time will tell. Well, we're taking it to heart, breaking down the presidential debate last night minute by minute, issue by issue.

The bigger the tile, the longer a candidate spoke. Overall, President Obama there in blue, he spoke for 44 minutes and four seconds last night. That's about three minutes more than Mitt Romney on the right in red.

As for what they talked about most, President Obama's number one issue was the economy at 15 minutes and 15 seconds. Governor Romney also spoke longest about the economy coming in at 14 minutes, 54 seconds, almost, by the way, exactly the same amount of time as the president.

Number two for the president, energy, which was also Governor Romney's number two issue. They split on number three. That would be immigration for President Obama, taxes for the challenger.

The economy provided a fascinating revelation about the tone of the debate. Both men spent much more time on offense. Take a look. President Obama there more than four minutes attacking Governor Romney on the economy. Romney hit Obama more than three minutes.

And now look at this. At the time each man spent on defense, far, far less. For each it seems the best defense was a good and lengthy offense.

Let's bring in CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger. She's been working her sources. She's looking at all of this that's going on.

They spoke a lot about the economy, Gloria. But were that effective in making their respective arguments?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think each side was effective. If you look at our poll we did right after the debate when the viewers of the debate were asked who would do a better job of managing the economy, Mitt Romney won 58 to 40. Mitt Romney was clearly his best and I think you would probably agree when he was on the most comfortable turf for him which was the economy. Using the phrase over and over again that the middle class has been buried, you heard that one before from the vice president, making his case to people that we don't have to settle is the phrase he used. We don't have to settle for this, reminding people of what had occurred in the economy, 23 million unemployed or underemployed over the past four years et cetera. So that was a good comfortable corner for him to be in.

But this time the president went on the attack as you were showing right there in your graphic. And the president kept saying to Mitt Romney, that's not true. That's not true. When he accused him of certain things or used certain statistics.

And the president also said, look, your math doesn't add up. You want to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, you know, stay in place. How are you going to reduce the deficit?

So it was a very, very tough argument on that. But clearly the people who watched the debate, Mitt Romney, that may have been the one area in which he did better than the president.

BLITZER: That really nasty exchange they had on Benghazi, the Libya killing of the four Americans.


BLITZER: How key was that to both of these candidates?

BORGER: Well, I think it was very key to the president. It was a very tense emotional moment. I think the president was more strident in his answer to that than I saw him in almost any other answer, because he said he found it offensive the people who thought he could use his commander-in-chief position for any kind of political gain.

And by setting that tone and being so kind of emotional about it, I think he caught Mitt Romney off guard. Whatever the substance of their claims about who said what when on terror, he caught Mitt Romney off guard. And I think Romney didn't know what kind of tone to assume. He didn't seem to have his Libya answer down pat.

If he wants to make the case that this is an issue of leadership, that the president hasn't shown strong leadership in the Middle East or with al Qaeda, he'll have to find a better way to do it in the foreign policy debate coming up, because he really didn't do it last night.

BLITZER: Romney, he had an opening. Because the question the president didn't even answer the question leading up to that Benghazi attack, State Department officials said they had asked for more weapons but they were denied more security, more protection. He didn't answer that. And Romney didn't call him on that. He didn't say, why didn't you answer the question? That was a missed opportunity. BORGER: He was off guard.

BLITZER: But they were both very aggressive.

BORGER: Yes. I'd say.

BLITZER: I don't know how that plays out there.

BORGER: Well, a lot of testosterone out there to get the women's vote. Let me just point this out. I think they were very combative.

And I think sometimes Mitt Romney got in the president's face so close as you saw that I think it was a little uncomfortable for people to watch. There are questions about whether Romney was too aggressive. After all, this is a sitting president of the United States.

So I think it was a bit uncomfortable, tense, but it really shows you, Wolf, how high the stakes are in these debates. And I think what Barack Obama's fans saw was somebody who was actually fighting to keep his job. And what Mitt Romney's fans saw was somebody who's fighting for the presidency.

So the stakes at the foreign policy debate are going to be very, very high. Lots of Republicans I talked to are saying, why did we allow the foreign policy debate to be the last debate? Maybe we should have had a domestic policy debate be the last debate. But, you know, you never know when foreign policy debates are going to turn to the economy. It seems like everything does.

BLITZER: If Romney won debate number one and President Obama number one debate number two, at least our poll suggested that. It's all up to debate number three right now for the best of three series.

BORGER: On Monday.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

By the way, tonight during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Gloria will join us once again with her exclusive interview with Mitt Romney's former chief of staff, the same woman the Republican nominee mentioned during last night's debate. Stand by, you'll see that.

Also coming up, Syrian rebels aren't getting weapons from the United States. So where are they turning for the fire power? We have new and very scary details.


BLITZER: Now a story you're seeing first right here on CNN. There are growing fears about where some of Syria's rebel fighters are getting their weapons.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.

Chris, what are you learning? CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That while the U.S. has been carefully vetting some of the Syrian rebel groups to find these moderates, these so-called moderates are already busy finding partners of their own in the jihadists. An official who has knowledge of the intelligence says that the moderate rebel groups are so desperate for weapons that they're partnering up with the jihadists who are better armed and well-funded.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Moderate Syrian rebels are not getting the weapons they want from the United States. So they're turning more and more to extremists and al Qaeda-like groups for help.

That's the newest assessment from the chair of the House Intelligence Committee who told CNN, "Even rebels we've identified as somebody we could work with have partnered with jihadists because they have their own sources of money and weapons."

But the Obama administration has stuck to its policy of only arming the rebels with radios and computers. Its U.S. allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia that are giving the real fire power.

U.S. officials say they have a good idea which rebel groups are getting those weapons.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We do have very close coordination in looking at all of the needs of the opposition.

LAWRENCE: Other officials familiar with the intelligence say that's not necessarily true. That the Saudis and Qataris are not sharing where all their money and weapons are going.

Governor Mitt Romney has argued for a more hands on approach to Syria.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values. And then ensure that they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks and helicopters and fighter jets.

LAWRENCE: But with partnerships already being established between moderate and jihadist fighters, there's no guarantee those weapons would not fall into extremist hands. And while Syrian rebel groups scrounge for small arms, some extremist fighters are reportedly stashing weapons for later.

DAVE HARTWELL, IHS JANE'S: Those are themselves, those are militias who overthrew the government want to have a stake in who replaces him.

LAWRENCE: Analyst Dave Hartwell says if true, the jihadists are already planning for a fight after Assad.

HARTWELL: This shows a level of preparation and foresight that perhaps is missing from the second opposition.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE: In fact, one official told me if you're a Syrian rebel commander and you have a jihadist who offers to drive a car bomb up to a gate and set it off, that is a very valuable weapon for you. And he said that's how these relationships are starting to develop. He says the U.S. has a very tight window in order to step in and exert a leadership role perhaps, Wolf, as short as four to six weeks.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence reporting for us -- a very disturbing information. Thank you.

With two presidential debates now history, what happens in the campaign next? Our special panel is standing by.


BLITZER: It's two debates down, one to go for President Obama and Governor Romney, but opinions remain split. Is the series tied at one win each or has Romney already taken a two out of three? Here's a quick snapshot.


BROOKE BALDWIN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEWSROOM": Forty six percent said Obama won, 39 percent said Romney won.

UNDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Romney came out the victor on the key issues, so the economy, health care, taxes, deficit.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This election 20 days left now, 21 last night when they were debating is as close as it can get. Everything they do, every stop they make, you saw them on the trail today.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You've heard of the fair deal. You've heard of the square deal. Mitt Romney's trying to sell you a sketchy deal.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Don't you think that it's time for him to finally put together a vision of what he'd do in the next four years if he were elected? I mean, he's got to come up with that over this weekend because there's only one debate left on Monday.


BLITZER: Let's get straight to the CNN contributor, Sirius XM radio host Pete Dominick. He's got a great little panel with him -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A great big panel. Thank you, Wolf Blitzer for letting us borrow your SITUATION ROOM.


DOMINICK: It's wide this way. I'm already in trouble with the woman. Speaking of which, there are two things rattling around right now from last night. The binder full of women and the Benghazi thing, I brought my binder full of women. And I want to go first to -- this is full of women that I was in relationships with of course. But I want to go to you first on this question of binder full of women. Is this a big deal? Is this catching on? Is this hurting Mitt Romney?

NAVARRO: You know, when I saw it last night, it really did not have any effect on me. I didn't realize until I started looking at it on Twitter that people were really having a reaction to it. It did not phase me. It did not offend me. When he does something I don't like, I call him on it.


NAVARRO: Even if he's on my team. It didn't offend me because I've been on transition teams, there are literally thousands of vacant jobs that need to be filled, board appointments.

And I remember, you know, I have had friends to say to me I want Hispanics, I want African-Americans, I want women, I want diversity that reflects the makeup of the state. And it's not easy to find. So that did not phase me.

ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": That's fine. This is such a classic campaign moment, right? Because basically what happened last night was that Mitt Romney delivered an extended defense of affirmative action policies in hiring at the state level basically a liberal position. And now liberals are roundly making fun of him. So it's just sort of a classic like, you know, partisan --

GOVERNOR BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: I'm going to bring Benghazi, Libya, together with the binder issue.

DOMINICK: This should be good.

SCHWEITZER: I actually lived and worked in Libya. While I was there Gadhafi, he surrounded himself with women. In Arabic there's a different way of saying it, but basically it's a sixth sense that women are protectors and he trusted them because they would protect him.

I do the same thing in the state of Montana. My chief of staff, my deputy chief of staff, my chief legal counsel, my communications director, all women because they protect me, because they have a sixth sense.

Not because I want to check boxes. I pick the people that are best. By the way, I pay them more than I pay my men. That's leadership.

NAVARRO: Ladies, go apply in Montana.


VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: I don't know what to say about the sixth sense. I do say for --

NAVARRO: Be very careful what you say. DOMINICK: Gadhafi and women is creepy.

JONES: OK, but what I do think that he hurt himself, Romney did. He was bleeding women. Women had given him a second chance. And then I just think he came across as somewhat clueless and out of touch.

I thought it was especially interesting. They asked a question about equal pay for equal work, which is a legal issue. Should America's government be partner to America's women to make sure they aren't discriminated against.

And he starts talking about his own personal preferences like he never heard of gender discrimination until he was in his 50s and the story he told apparently isn't even true.

Then they walk it back. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It seems he should have a consistent view with regard to women. Do you think that a woman who's being discriminated against be able to sue or not? Ryan, Paul Ryan, his running mate, voted against that --

NAVARRO: The answer was not well phrased. The answer was not tightly worded. Actually, the more accurate story is a better story had Mitt Romney said it accurately. That a bipartisan organization prepared a binder for him full of women that could apply for some of these jobs.

DOMINICK: My binder full of women is empty.

NAVARRO: Maybe Bill Clinton got a hold of your binder before you did.

SCHWEITZER: Let's say Romney didn't speak eloquently.

DOUTHAT: Obviously, you know, we're four men and one woman talking about this issue.

NAVARRO: There's nothing wrong with that. I absolutely enjoy a -- of men.

DOUTHAT: Your binder's full of them. I thought, Romney, you know pivoting smoothly to talking about work life balance and sort of the challenges facing working women. Obviously, you know, Mitt Romney is the whitest of white guys in his 60s.

He is not the first person that you'd expect to be able to talk about those issues. But I thought if you watched the CNN dials, take it with a grain of salt. But women responded pretty favorably to that answer. I think it's not certainly in a debate where Romney had a lot of relatively ineffective moments. I think this sort of liberal fixation on the sort of binder moment is a lot like the Big Bird fixation.

NAVARRO: His most trusted advisor for decades now while he was at Bain, governor, his chief of staff when he was governor, the woman who led the search for V.P. is Beth Myers, who is his right hand person and his lieutenant governor was also a woman. You know, this is not -- he's not got --

DOMINICK: Women are really important. Whoever gets the majority of women is going to win this election.



DOUTHAT: There's always a gender gap. Women lean more liberal than men on -- not just on -- actually more on economic than on social issues. So you need what the Republicans need to do is narrow the gender gap, not win --

NAVARRO: Being very important is very true.

DOMINICK: I always think that way, but I live with three of them and they're all awesome. Let me just quickly pivot, very little time. This whole Benghazi thing, let me put it aside, I have an original point to make for once which is when we talk about Libya, we have a great argument about presidential leadership.

There's a lot of discussion with libertarians and with the left on constitution whether President Obama legally had the right to go to Libya, how come that question's not being asked in I think because Romney and Obama are close on that.

When we talk about Libya, we should be talking about the war that was launched in Libya and whether or not this president had congressional authority. That is way more important --

DOUTHAT: Actually, I think this is a big missed opportunity for Romney. Romney has been very determined to sort of out hock the president on almost every front. On a case like Libya, there's an argument to be made just as you said that this is sort of the advances of al Qaeda in North Africa not only in Libya but --

NAVARRO: I think there was another occasion where his answer was not tightly worded and it should have been. We knew it was going to come up. He had to be prepared. It was obvious President Obama was prepared. That was a very prepared answer.

DOMINICK: The issue on Libya I think we should talk about whether or not --

NAVARRO: We'll talk about the constitutionality of it after November 6th. Between now and then --

DOMINICK: Right now, we have to talk about our unsolicited advice and you don't want to miss this. Because when we come back here this entire panel is going to pick a target and we are going to give advice. Not that you asked. It's always great. Stay right here.


DOMINICK: Welcome back to unsolicited advice. I'm Pete Dominick. Our brilliant panel here has hijacked Wolf Blitzer's SITUATION ROOM for one more segment to give our unsolicited advice. I'm going to start with the governor as always. Sorry, Ross.

DOUTHAT: You had me going.

SCHWEITZER: At great personal risk, my advice is for President Barack Obama. The question that was asked last night that was the best question and that Barack Obama ought to ask every single day from now to election is the question of Mitt Romney.

How are you different than George W. Bush? When he was asked that question, he effectively said I'm a little taller, richer. No. He said a different person, a different time.

He didn't say I'm not going to send military forces all around the world and put it on the credit card. I'm not going to, for example, have a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and put it on the credit card.

I'm not going to bankrupt the company by spending more and taxing less. He didn't say any of those things. He said, more or less the same.

NAVARRO: Actually, I thought Romney made a mistake taking the bait. I thought that was a terrible answer, a terrible question. Romney should have talked about himself and not eaten up three minutes differentiating himself with George Bush.

JONES: He didn't differentiate himself.

DOUTHAT: In all fairness, the only place was criticizing bush on deficit. So all that credit card spending you're talking about he focused on.

I think the place he actually should have focused on and the thing people remember unfondly about the Bush era is middle class wages were stagnant then too. And that should have been Romney's theme rather than deficits.

NAVARRO: He gave a great opening to President Obama and turned it around.

JONES: And Obama did an extraordinary job of pointing out the extreme position Romney's taking on social policy. He is. He's far to the right of immigration and women and everything else and also on gay marriage. You have somebody running for president of the United States who apparently doesn't support civil unions.

SCHWEITZER: That's the pot calling the kettle black. He left the largest deficit per capita in Massachusetts of anybody and he's proposed to cut taxes and increase spending.

NAVARRO: It was amazing to hear President Obama say good things about President Bush after he spent four years --

DOMINICK: Well, that was the risk.

DOUTHAT: It's that time of year.

DOMINICK: We can talk about this. This is a great one great unsolicited advice, but Ana, what do you got?

NAVARRO: My advice is to Mitt Romney. Mitt, be the debater, not the moderator. I think he went back to doing what he did during the republican primary, which was try to enforce the rules.

It came across awkward then it came across as awkward last night. The second thing he tried to do was become the questioner. He a lot of times went back and asked President Obama the questions directly.

I thought that was such a mistake. It gave President Obama chance to answer. It gave him a second shot at the apple on many of the questions. It put the ball back in his court and ate it up some of Mitt Romney's time.

DOMINICK: Good advice. Van Jones.

DOUTHAT: Sorry, go for it, Van.

JONES: Good advice for him on Monday. For me, my advice is to President Obama, which is simply have numbers along with your proposals. Just said you have a six-point plan.

DOUTHAT: You said it, not me, Van.

JONES: Just say over and over again, what's amazing is Romney has this five-point plan that everybody knocks. Everybody look at and say this plan is literally two minus two equals four, it doesn't add up, but everybody knows he has a plan.

Obama has a plan that actually works but nobody knows it because he's not disciplined in saying I have a six-point plan or a seven-point plan. Just add numbers and then --

DOUTHAT: Or it could be that Obama's numbers don't quite add up either. I mean, there is that possibility, right?

JONES: But -- fair. But nobody can say when you look at the transcript that he did not put forward a vision and clear plans.

NAVARRO: I can say that. I can say he --

DOMINICK: Hold on. If we don't get to Ross's unsolicited advice, we won't get to mine.

DOUTHAT: Here we go. So mine is for the Commission on Presidential Debates. I'm all for having town hall debates, undecided voters asking questions, but don't hold it in a state in a part of the country that isn't actually up for grabs in November.

Look, I'm from Connecticut. I love Long Island, but you could tell from the questioners that these were mostly disaffected Democrats. They were often interesting questions, but just weren't the kind of questions I think you would have gotten in Ohio, Wisconsin, so on.

JONES: I have not heard that. DOUTHAT: A question on gun control, we didn't get much on health care. Again, it was interesting in certain ways. I f we'd had eight debates, that would have been great, but I think next time go where the action is. I apologize --

DOMINICK: Nothing about the Hamptons or the Long Island expressway.

NAVARRO: If we had eight debates, we'd all have to be on Red Bull.

DOUTHAT: He did like 27 in the primaries.

DOMINICK: My unsolicited advice is for Jeremy Epsteen, this young college student who had the first question and for all college student questions out there, government -- presidents don't create jobs.

You don't ask the president if I need a job -- he said they both gave him sincere answers and he was happy with them. He said Mitt Romney looked right through his soul.

They gave old far answers to an old far student. I have a two-year associate's degree. I'm on CNN right now. I have a national radio show. I made a great living as a stand-up comedian.

It's not about necessarily how much college or whether you go to college, it's about hour charismatic you are or how hard you work, if you see opportunities, whether or not you know how to take them.

Nobody's going to hand you anything in life. I got to work with great students last night at Hofstra. I got a lot of good friends from high school that got perfect grades on SAT that are laying tile in Vermont, while I'm on CNN.

NAVARRO: I think Jeremy got his resume in the binder.

SCHWEITZER: Yes. But they get paid for laying that tile. You're here for free.

DOMINICK: That's untrue sir. I get paid money here even a per diem. We're out of time. Wolf does have to get me that paycheck. Let's go back to Wolf Blitzer who I just found out is in the new James Bond film -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We have details. You'll be hearing about it. That check is in the mail I'm sure. All right, guys, thanks very, very much.

New fallout for Lance Armstrong right now. You're about to find out which long-time endorsers have now dumped the champion cyclist over the doping controversy that is surrounding him.


BLITZER: If you can believe it there are additional stunning new developments today in the doping controversy surrounding the cycling champion Lance Armstrong. Nike and Anheuser-Busch both announcing they're ending their deals with Armstrong and that's not all.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. So Brian, it's fast moving. It's almost unbelievable.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. This is a day when all the doping allegations have caught up with Lance Armstrong in a way that has to be very painful for him.

He's not only lost the endorsements that Wolf just mentioned, but Armstrong has pushed himself away from the charity that he'd become synonymous with.


TODD (voice-over): This was the pinnacle, seven straight Tour De France titles between 1999 and 2005 that transcended cycling and made Lance Armstrong a global icon.

He was unsurpassed as a sports hero, philanthropist, marketing brand, fast forward, off a cliff, Armstrong a cancer survivor just resigned as chairman of his own cancer fighting charity "Live Strong" saying he wants to spare any negative effects over his controversy in his career.

Nike dumped him citing seemingly insurmountable evidence that he proceeded in doping and misled Nike. Nike is taking his name off its campus fitness center in Oregon. Anheuser-Busch is also severing ties.

(on camera): How precipitous is this as a fall from grace?

MICHAEL ROBINSON, COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: This is like falling into the Grand Canyon without a net.

TODD (voice-over): Michael Robinson, a specialist in strategic communications and damage control says Armstrong's demise has been building for some time.

(on camera): But he says the guillotine on Armstrong's career really started to drop last week. That's when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it had uncovered overwhelming evidence that Armstrong was involved in a sophisticated doping program while he was active as a cyclist.

(voice-over): The agency's report said several teammates of Armstrongs testified he used banned steroids and tried to hide it from testing officials. Armstrong has consistently denied ever using performance enhancing drugs, but the tide of opinion is undeniable.

PHIL HERSH, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": You can push Marion Jones and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Rossy Ruiz aside, Lance Armstrong is the greatest fraud in the history of sports.

TODD: A spokeswoman for "Live Strong" says the charity's actually had an uptick in donations since August when Armstrong stopped challenging the anti-doping agency's probe. But the head of the charity watchdog says even though "Live Strong" is a well-run organization, it may take a hit from this later. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having the head of the group and the founder, the founder and the head be somebody not trustworthy makes it very difficult for a charity.

TODD: Robinson says the amount of potential personal earnings Armstrong may lose is incalculable.

(on camera): If you're advising Lance Armstrong, what do you tell to do to recover his reputation personally?

ROBINSON: I think until he's able to right the ship and talk to people candidly about what happened in either present evidence that it didn't happen or demonstrate contrition that I did it and I've made a mistake. And I'm prepared to move on, he can't move on.


TODD: The people involved in his charity stressed that it's important to remember here that whatever's happened with the doping allegations and with cycling, what Armstrong has done for cancer patients is still very impressive and that doesn't change.

They point out that "Live Strong" has raised nearly $500 million for the fight against cancer, Wolf, and it's helped 2.5 million people. You cannot deny that. That doesn't change and that can continue.

BLITZER: He's not completely leaving the charity, right?

TODD: That's right. He's going to stay with it behind the scenes and work to raise money and do other things for the organization. Michael Robinson, the strategic communications guy we talked to said that was a good idea.

Also a good idea for Armstrong he says to remove himself from the top position as Robinson says he needs to get out of the way so that maybe that charity can move forward and have a chance to survive.

BLITZER: It's breathtaking what's going on. Thanks very much, Brian. Brian Todd is working the story. Up next, a Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban is getting some help now from a huge Hollywood name.


BLITZER: We now know when the man accused of killing a 17-year-old specifically Trayvon Martin, will go on trial. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, George Zimmerman's trial will get underway on June 10th. The neighborhood watch volunteer is charged with second degree murder in February shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty in the case that sparked protest across the country. He claims Martin attacked him and he shot him in self-defense. Prosecutors say Zimmerman is the one who attacked the teenager.

And the largest for profit college in the U.S. is downsizing. The University of Phoenix is closing 115 of its locations. Fourth quarter profits for the university's parent company, the Apollo Group, have nose dived 60 percent. The closings will impact about 13,000 students. But that's just 4 percent of the university's enrolment since many students actually take courses online.

And the wounded Pakistani girl who has captivated the world with her courage continues to make progress at a British hospital. Doctors say 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai is responding well to treatment. She was shot in the head by militant Taliban gunmen just for going to school. Another girl who was shot in the same attack tells CNN, quote, "God willing I will continue my education."


KAINAT AHMED, WOUNDED PAKISTANI STUDENT (through translator): Girls education here is more important than boys because boys can have any job they want but girls cannot. I want to tell all the girls to continue their mission to get an education.


SYLVESTER: Wow. These girls are just so brave. What happened to mala and her school friend is touching actress and activist Angelina Jolie. She is donating $50,000 to the "Women in the World Foundation for Girls Education Award" in Malala's honor. You can't say enough about this, Wolf. What courage.

BLITZER: I agree. Thanks so much.