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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview with Sen. Susan Collins; Syrian Rebels: Regime Aircraft Downed; Palestinians Set for Big Gain at U.N.; GOP vs Ambassador Susan Rice

Aired November 28, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Syria's rebels making gains in their bloody civil war, knocking regime aircraft out of the sky. And now, a former Syrian pilot is sharing inside details on his orders to target Syrian civilians.

The election exposed one major weakness for Republicans -- diversity.

Are GOP leaders creating more problems by picking white men to head all -- every single one of the committees in the House of Representatives?

And drones have been invaluable in secret missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Could they soon be crowding the skies over America?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's a stunning development in Syria's bloody civil war. While new car bombings near Damascus underscore the ongoing brutality of the conflict, rebels say they've gained a major breakthrough.

Look at this.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The video shows a helicopter taking a direct hit. The rebels say they've downed three regime aircraft in 24 hours. And these other images are said to show wreckage from a downed fighter jet near Aleppo.

While the rebels may start evening -- evening the odds a bit against the regime air power, a top air force defector is giving inside details on problems within the Syrian military.

Here's CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, rebels always experience one problem, no matter what success they have -- regime air power, the ability to be struck from the skies by the significant Syrian Air Force.

We've spoken to one former commander of the Air Force who now, of course, is talking on behalf of the opposition, who gave us a snapshot, though, colored, perhaps, a snapshot of how he sees this force is weathering recent rebel success.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATON WALSH (voice-over): For a week, regime air bases and military outposts have fallen daily. Rebels now focusing on besieging the bases from where the regime projects its brutal force. That's put Bashar al-Assad's vital air power under the most pressure yet. They've killed many civilians.

Yet are these rebel advances affecting them?

We asked pilot Muhammad Faris, known to Syrians as their first man in space. A teacher to many Syrian pilots at a key academy, he defected in August.

In Istanbul, he told us pilots would only bomb civilian areas indiscriminately if ordered to.

GEN. MUHAMMED FARIS, SYRIAN AIR FORCE DEFECTOR (through translator): It is destruction for the sake of destruction. For example, they are asked to target a neighborhood, not a particular place. However, there is no accuracy.

PATON WALSH: Random destruction that makes capture the worst fate for a helicopter's crew. This one caught by extremists. It's unclear what happened to them.

But life on some air bases, we're told, is also terrifying. The fear of defection means pilots' families are held a sort of hostage while they fly.

FARIS: The problem isn't how many planes work, it's how many pilots are left that are trusted to fly. They are held captive on their bases, some even with their families, so they are not able to defect. There is a large number who the regime does not trust to fly in case they escape with the plane to neighboring countries.

PATON WALSH: Rebels say gangs bringing new weapons like these surface to air missiles, probably seized from the regime, here near Aleppo on Tuesday, they appear to be launched to devastating effect, though it's hard to prove.

But damaging, too, of the constant bombing runs these aircrafts have made. They need spare parts, and as winter sets in, will be increasingly disabled by something as simple as bad weather. FARIS: A plane has a set number of hours that it can fly. So the recent increase in their use decreases the hours they have left in their life span. When there is rain, clouds and fog in winter, it affects the planes and pilots. The type of planes we have aren't able to bomb so well in bad weather.

PATON WALSH: Difficulties that give rebels a chance in winter to speed their march on Damascus. These men capturing another base too close to its center for regime comfort.

After months of stalemate, the narrative of this war finally changing.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PATON WALSH: What's important to remember, Wolf, is that as rebels advance and collect these weapon catches from bases they overrun, that not only provides them with better firepower to take on the regime aircraft and artillery, it also deprives the regime of key places from which it could normally project that force.

So it's a compound effect. While rebels gain, the regime also loses. Many are seeing a change in dynamics, certainly on the ground, and perhaps the Syrian Air Force, as the winter months approach, will find their ability to hit at will the rebels, like they have been for months now, find that finally compromised -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh doing an excellent job for us.

Thank you.

Palestinians, meanwhile, are heading toward a major victory at the United Nations -- a General Assembly vote that would boost their status on the world stage.

The United States and Israel have lobbied hard against the move, warning it could backfire and actually set back Palestinian hopes for full statehood and negotiated peace.

But with some key European nations on board, Palestinians view the vote as a game changer.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reports from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The final rally before heading to New York. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressing supporters in Ramallah.

"The final decision is to head to the United Nations tomorrow," he says, "to enhance the position of Palestine to an observer state in the United Nations. And it is the first step to achieve all our national Palestinian rights." If the Palestinians win a majority in the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. will recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state, like the Vatican -- its territory to include the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: For the world to begin to rectify a grave historical injustice that the Palestinians had undergone beginning with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

PLEITGEN: Some observers think Mahmoud Abbas needs the U.N. vote to regain authority among Palestinians. While the West Bank remained quiet, the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, exchanged fire with Israel this month, its armed wing shooting hundreds of missiles into Israeli territory during a week of conflict.

(on camera): While many here believe that going to the U.N. could be a first step to Palestinian statehood, the United States has warned the Palestinian Authority that going to the United Nations could thwart any chances of negotiations for a two-state solution.

(voice-over): Last year, a bid for full statehood at the U.N. ran into U.S. opposition. Israel has threatened a strong response should the Palestinians seek full statehood, everything from withholding tax revenues to annexation of land currently occupied by settlements on the table.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We think this is a mistake. It's political theater. I mean the Palestinians can get a piece of paper from the United Nations, but they're not going to get a state. Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through negotiations with Israel.

PLEITGEN: But the Palestinians might try to use their new status to bring Israeli leaders in front of the International Criminal Court for war crimes they believe Israel committed in past military operations.

The Palestinian bid for recognition might be a largely symbolic move, but it could also redefine the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Ramallah.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Here in Washington, the U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, trying to stem Republican criticism over the role she played after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

But one after another, key Republicans are making it clear they still hold serious reservations about Susan Rice and her possible nomination as the secretary of State, succeeding Hillary Clinton.

Our foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, is with me right now -- Elise, is this just about Benghazi or are there other issues at play here?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, there's a lot of politics involved, Wolf. And this enables the Republicans to keep hitting President Obama on the Benghazi issue. But there are going to be a lot of questions about Susan Rice's record, not just as a Clinton administration official.

If you remember, there was some criticism of how she handled the Rwanda genocide, not pushing had enough for international intervention.

Her record at the U.N. has been more successful -- some sanctions on Iran and North Korea. On Syria, it's been a bit of a slog. And then now, obviously, there are going to be a lot of questions about Benghazi.

She's seen, Wolf, as, you know, one of the president's closest advisers, maybe seen as a little bit too -- too loyal to the president, not independent enough.

And our advisers say there could be a little bit of the Senate trying to get their man in, John Kerry. You've seen some Republican senators, Senator McCain, today Senator Collins, saying John Kerry would be an excellent choice and would be easily confirmed.

BLITZER: Yes. They like to confirm their own members of that little Senate club.

Some of her critics have talked about her personality, that she's too abrasive, too tough.

What do you think?

LABOTT: Well, she does have sharp elbows. She is considered someone in Washington to be blunt. She's had notorious spats with Hillary Clinton, Richard Holbrooke, when he was ambassador to the United Nations.

And she also had some tough criticism for Hillary Clinton, some inflammatory language for John McCain, when they were running against President Obama. And, you know, on Twitter, lately, talking about Syria and talking about China and Russia, saying she's disgusted.

But her supporters say, listen, she is a tough talker but you know where you stand with Susan Rice and she doesn't mess around.

But they also say she is surprisingly down to earth. And -- and she, they say, has taken the high road with this whole issue with Benghazi. She isn't, you know, using inflammatory language that's been used against her with some of these senators, John McCain and -- and others.

BLITZER: Here's the question, though. If the president does nominate her to be his -- the next secretary of State, can she be confirmed?

LABOTT: Well, many people think that she -- the Obama administration has enough votes in the Senate to confirm her.

The question is, if she does get confirmed, what kind of shape will she be in?

It's likely to be a very bruising confirmation process. Ambassador Rice, if she becomes secretary, would be leading the State Department, which has tens of thousands of employees, a huge budget. She'd be needing to get that budget through the Hill.

And, but I think, Wolf, at the end of the day, the most important thing is the relationship that a secretary has with the president. She's seen as one of the closest advisers to President Obama. And I think, at the end of the day, if you look at his defense of her, this vociferous defense of her, that sends an unspeakable message to the country and to the world that she has the president's ear and be very instrumental in formulating foreign policy at the State Department.

BLITZER: Yes, there's no doubt the president likes her a lot. She would have the president's ear. She was an assistant secretary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton administration and worked...

LABOTT: And at the White House...

BLITZER: -- worked at the National Security Council...

LABOTT: -- she was a top official...

BLITZER: I remember...

LABOTT: Yes, that's right.

BLITZER: -- traveling through Africa with her at the time, a former Rhodes scholar. Obviously, she's got a lot of experience.

LABOTT: She certainly has a lot of experience in foreign policy.

BLITZER: And she's, by all accounts, done a pretty good job at the United Nations over these past few years, as well.

So we'll see what the president decides to do. The ball is clearly in his court.

Thank you, Elise.

Three weeks after his election loss, Mitt Romney will be in the White House tomorrow for lunch with the president of the United States.

Will he bring ideas for avoiding the fiscal cliff?

And more than half a billion dollars up for grabs in the Power Ball lottery. I'll talk to the man who actually draws the winning numbers. He could make you very rich.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A bunch of Senate Republicans are digging in their heels over the possible nomination of the U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, as the next secretary of state. They complain about her statements after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Today, a key Republican moderate, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, echoed some of those sentiments.

Sen. Collins is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. She's joining us now from Capitol Hill. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: Good evening.

BLITZER: All right. So, you've now heard directly from her. You had some concerns going in. Were those concerns allayed?

COLLINS: Ambassador Rice was able to answer some of my concerns, but not all of them. It still seems to me that the information that she conveyed on those Sunday talk shows is not consistent with some of the reporting to which she had access. And thus, it painted a misleading picture of what really happened in Benghazi.

Keep in mind that she was on those shows on September 16th, four days after the attacks. The reports were conflicting, but by that time, individuals who had actually been within the complex had been interviewed by the FBI, there was the report from the Libyan president and there was other information as well.

BLITZER: Is it your opinion that she was deliberately misleading the American public or that she was just reading from those talking points she had received from the U.S. intelligence community?

COLLINS: Ambassador Rice not only received the unclassified talking points which are very brief and not very helpful, but she also had access to classified information in the president's daily intelligence brief. So, she had a wide range of information and also received telephone briefing. I asked her about that today.

I think what she chose to do was to put more emphasis on those reports that supported the narrative of the nonexistent protest of the video being the direct or primary cause of the attacks on our people rather than painting the fuller picture which was much more complex.

BLITZER: And do you believe she was doing that for political reasons? Remember, September 11th, we were all still in the midst of the presidential campaign. And the administration had some political objectives during those final few weeks of the campaign. Do you think she was doing this for partisan political purposes?

COLLINS: I can't go that far. But what I will say is I don' think the secretary of state or the U.N. ambassador should be involved in going on television, presenting this kind of case with such certitude when, in fact, there's such ambiguity at that point about what really happened and playing essentially the role of the administration's defender. Those two positions should be above politics. I think that's why Secretary Clinton refused to go on the shows. It's my understanding that she was the one who was first requested. In fact, Ambassador Rice told me that. So, I think she just should have said no and that someone from the White House should have represented the views that the administration wanted put forth those days.

BLITZER: I know this is a difficult decision for you because you introduced her when she was being -- during her confirmation hearings in the Senate as to an effect somebody with a close connection to your home state of Maine. You were there. You introduced her to your fellow senators.

How difficult personally would this be for you, Senator Collins, if you decided if the president nominates her to vote against her confirmation?

COLLINS: It would be very difficult. I did introduce her to the formulations committee for her current job. I was asked to do so. And I readily agreed even though I'd only met her once or twice. But I knew her to be an intelligent and talented person. And I still believe that she's an intelligent, talented person.

But it's important that the secretary of state enjoy credibility around the world with Congress and here in our country as well. And I am concerned that Susan Rice's credibility may have been damaged by the misinformation that was presented that day. That's one reason, as I said, that I wish she had just told the White House no, you should send a political person to be on those Sunday shows.

BLITZER: And if John Kerry were the nominee, would you have any problems with him as the next secretary of state?

COLLINS: I think John Kerry would be an excellent choice. He obviously has had many years of experience. He's traveled around the world and is respected for his knowledge in foreign policy. And I would predict that he would be easily confirmed.

BLITZER: Senator Collins, thanks very much for joining us.

COLLINS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Extraordinary never-before-seen pictures of Albert Einstein's brain, brain. Up next, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a look at what they could reveal about this legendary genius.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Extraordinary never-before-seen pictures of Albert Einstein's brain have just been revealed, and they could provide clues about how he came to be one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, what can you tell us about a brain by looking at it from the outside?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a hard thing to do. And this is something that neuroscientists explore quite a bit. And I'll just preface by saying that, you know, the whole exploration of Albert Einstein's brain is one of these things that in the neuroscience world people have obviously been curious about for a long time.

But Wolf, I don't know if you can see some of these images here. You're looking at some representations of Albert Einstein's brain. There were a lot of pictures taken at the time the brain was first examined. One thing to pay attention, you see all these grooves and this sort of what we call sulci within the brain.

And if you think about the fact that when the brain develops, you get many more of these convolutions as your brain sort of develops and grows. If you have more convolutions, if this is just more ridges and valleys like you're seeing there, what that means is you have more surface area sort of on the brain. And that's a great place to sort of start trying to analyze just what the effectiveness, the impact of all those neurons in that area would be.

If you have more gray area like that, you have more neurons and the brain can talk to other areas of the brain more easily. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean someone is going to be more intelligent, but I think we can best say is that based on images like that that, the capacity is there. There's a greater capacity for the brain to talk to each other in different ways.

BLITZER: I just want to remind our viewers Sanjay's a neurosurgeon so he knows a lot about brains. How else does Einstein's brain, Sanjay, differ from the vast majority of us?

GUPTA: I want you to look at something very specific here. If we can pull up this one image, if you can see this, Wolf, there's -- this is an area the frontal lobe. And I want you to look specifically at that yellow area and then there's a red line in between. In Albert Einstein's brain, that area of the frontal lobe was in fact split into two areas.

In most people, again, you know, you have large data on lots of different brains. In most people, that area's fused together. That's an area of the brain, Wolf, that's responsible for a lot of executive functioning. So, not just the thinking of ideas, but the actual implementation of ideas, the ability to take concepts and do something with them.

It's hard, wolf, to make an extrapolation to say, look, this is the explanation as to why he was able to do so many of the things that he was doing, but when you look for some of these differences and figure out what those areas of the brain do, you can start to piece together a brain like Albert Einstein's.

In that area there, Wolf, I don't know if you can still see it, sort of split in two, that's unusual. And it could be an important distinction in terms of his intelligence.

BLITZER: Is there anything, Sanjay, about Einstein's brain that has implications for mere mortals like us? In other words, is there anything we can learn from these fascinating findings?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one of the things that people have been asking almost since the time Einstein's brain was first studied was, was he born with this? Or was this something that he developed? I mean, the old nature, nurture question. And there's one area of the brain that sort of gives, I think, pretty remarkable evidence that probably this was more nurture than nature, meaning that he developed these skills.

He probably had a lot of capacity to start with, but his brain actually probably changed in response to all the ideas and things that he did. This one area of the brain -- I don't know if you can see this, Wolf, but you look at an area that's responsible sort of for your motor function. You know, in this case, specifically, his left hand function.

It's typically associated with people who are really remarkable musicians, which he also was a musician. I don't know if you knew that, but he played the violin. And that area of the brain that's responsible for that is not something you are born with. His brain changed probably in response to that music playing.

And that's a little bit of insight into other parts of his brain that may have changed as well. We know in that area, we also know the parietal lobes which are back up here, they were different in Einstein's brain. Right to left, in one particular area, it was just much bigger than in many other brains to which it was compared, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fascinating material, especially for neurosurgeons like yourself. Sanjay, thanks very much.

Tonight's Powerball jackpot soaring to a record $550 million. Up next, you're going to meet the man who could pull the winning number.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight's record Powerball jackpot has soared to a whopping $550 million.

Joining us now is the man who will be drawing what could be a winning number, Sam Arlen is joining us right now.

Are you a little nervous about all of this, Sam? Because it's your responsibility to pick out that ball with the winning numbers.

SAM ARLEN, POWERBALL DRAW TALENT: That's right, Wolf. Good to be with you. Thanks for having me. Yes, it's an incredible night here. We have a record-breaking Powerball jackpot, an estimated half a billion dollars. So there's a lot of attention obviously. Everyone across the country is crazy excited, which makes my job a little bit more pressure-filled. But I'm happy to do it. And I hope that we make someone really, really happy tonight.

BLITZER: How did you get this job?

(LAUGHTER) ARLEN: Right place, right time, Wolf. I've been doing the lottery draws now for about eight years here in Florida. And Florida, you know, hosts the Powerball draws. And I auditioned for it and was lucky enough to get it. It's been -- it's been a great ride so far.

BLITZER: Do people recognize you on the street? Because when you go out there at, what, 10:59 p.m. Eastern and make that -- take that ball and make somebody very, very happy, people are watching.

ARLEN: People are watching. We've had people fly in from all over the country just to come to our studios and watch the draw because they wanted to see how it worked. You know they watch it from their homes, but they want to see how it looks in person. We're happy to have them in the studio. They have a viewing room, so they can come in and watch.

Yes, I go out and people, you know, they spot me as the -- as the lottery guy, the Power ball guy. It's a -- it's a great job. You know, I mean, I have the opportunity to really change people's lives. And every time I go out on the set and pull those numbers, I'm thinking about the person who might be winning that night and how radically different their life could be the next day.

BLITZER: Are you allowed to buy tickets yourself?

ARLEN: I can't. No. But that's OK. I have the best job. Hey, Wolf, do you have your tickets yet?

BLITZER: Yes, I do. Of course I do.

ARLEN: You do? Good. All right.

BLITZER: I hope you pick --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Pick my numbers. I went earlier today and there was actually no line where I bought my -- I bought $20 worth. That's 10 tickets. I'm hoping one of them wins and somebody will -- that would be nice.

ARLEN: Yes. Channel your numbers. Think about them.

BLITZER: Should I -- is that --

ARLEN: Yes. Around here in Florida where I am -- I'm sorry.

BLITZER: I said is that a strategy I should be thinking, I should look at my numbers.

ARLEN: Yes.

BLITZER: And think of those numbers, channel them to you right now, and you'll pick that winning number? Is that what you're saying?

ARLEN: Hey, it's worth a try, right, Wolf? Half a billion. BLITZER: Can't hurt. All right, Sam, thanks very much. We'll be watching you later tonight. Sam Arlen. He's got a big job. He's going to make somebody -- maybe a few people very happy. Thanks very much.

So what would you do with all that money? We're joined now by someone who had to answer that question. Cynthia Stafford won $112 million. She's joining us from Los Angeles right now.

Cynthia, describe your own moment winning that lottery when you knew you had the winning ticket.

CYNTHIA STAFFORD, WON $112 MILLION IN LOTTERY: I was just the most excited person on the planet.

BLITZER: That's it. You knew right away.

STAFFORD: It's a thrilling feeling.

BLITZER: All right. Walk us through --

STAFFORD: I'm sorry?

BLITZER: Walk us through what happened in the hours that followed. You're winning $100 million. What goes through your mind? What happens?

STAFFORD: I -- breathe, took a moment. And I actually went and stayed in a hotel for a week just to kind of get away from it all.

BLITZER: Did you notify your friends, your family that you had won?

STAFFORD: I told a few friends. And my family knew, yes.

BLITZER: So what did you -- what did you do with all that money?

STAFFORD: Oh, I've donated a lot of it. I've started a production company. I've invested in a few businesses, some start- ups. A number of things.

BLITZER: You're a multimillionaire now. So what's the best -- what's the best thing and the worst thing about winning the lottery?

STAFFORD: Well, the best thing is that it will change your life. Well, you are able to do things that you weren't able to do before. And to live a life of -- I call it the life that you choose. The worst thing I believe is you do lose a few people. And sometimes you have people that come into your life that aren't the best. So it also takes, you know, having some recognition of what you're dealing with in terms of this -- of the wealth that's being given to you.

BLITZER: What do you mean by when you say you do lose a few people? What happened?

STAFFORD: Well, I've had people who were dear friends who they didn't feel comfortable being around me with the wealth. And so people who were my friends at one point are no longer associating with me so.

BLITZER: Was it their choice to walk -- was it their choice to walk away from you?

STAFFORD: Yes.

BLITZER: And so you feel bad about that. Do you have any advice for people who still are out there, may go out and run out in the next few hours and buy one of these tickets? So what advice do you have for them?

STAFFORD: Well, my advice would be to not spend more than what you can afford to. And to believe that if you're spending money on winning the lottery, believe that you will do it. That you will win it. Because someone will win it. And, you know, don't play it thinking that you're not going to win or that it's for that other person.

BLITZER: And just very quickly, you had a feeling you were going to win, didn't you?

STAFFORD: Yes, I did.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers.

STAFFORD: Well, I don't know. It was just like this feeling that came over me that said this is going to be the one. And this is something -- the amount that I won was something that I had wrote down and had seen in a vision. And I thought, OK, I'll go for it. And when it happened it was -- it was just an amazing feeling. Truly amazing.

BLITZER: Certainly is. And I got my ticket right here. I'm channeling this is going to be the one. I'm trying to do what you did. This is going to be the one. All right. I got it.

Hey, Cynthia, thanks very much. Congratulations on your big win. Thanks for the advice.

STAFFORD: You're so welcome. Thank you.

BLITZER: And if there's going to be a little something in this -- if I win with that advice, something in it for you as well, Cynthia. Thank you.

STAFFORD: Oh, I appreciate that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right.

The election exposed one major weakness for Republicans. Diversity. Are Republican leaders creating more problems right now by picking only white men to head all of the committees in the House of Representatives?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Republican Party already facing some diversity questions in the wake of the presidential election. They've just unveiled their new committee chairmen, the recommendations for the incoming Republican-led House of Representatives. You can see them all here.

Joining us now to talk about it and more, our CNN contributor Ryan Lizza, he's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine.

Not a whole lot of diversity in all these prospective chairmen of the new House of Representatives. They're all white, they're all male. Is this a potential problem for the GOP?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is in a sense, though, Wolf, it's -- there's nothing anyone in the Republican House of Representatives can do except elect more Republican women. I mean, this is the -- you know, what was the Rumsfeld phrase? This is the -- you know, the army you go to war with. There's -- only 10 percent of the Republican House caucus is female. And it's about 20 women in the Republican House caucus. And nine of them were elected in 2010 and 2012. So they haven't graduated to that level where they would be the head of a -- of a committee.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They --

LIZZA: Now --

BLITZER: They don't have the seniority as far as -- and African- Americans or Hispanics don't have the seniority among the Republican Party as well in the House of Representatives.

LIZZA: Yes. This is the Republican Party. That's who it is and that's who's leading it. And it's a genuine representation of what the Republican coalition is right now. And of course that's one of the big lessons of the 2012 election is Republicans have to do better with nonwhite voters. That's the bottom line. And we're seeing it represented here.

BLITZER: Paul Ryan is going to stay on as chairman of the House Budget Committee even though there were term limits, he's got an exemption from that.

LIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: What's his future? How does that look?

LIZZA: I don't know. He's been very quiet so far on the fiscal cliff. Presumably he'll have a lot to say about that. There's some reporting that has suggested that he's really pushing Republicans, not surprisingly, on holding the line on serious reforms to entitlements. Remember the Ryan budget, two of the big areas it really went after were it is -- depending on the version were Social Security reform and Medicare reform. And so, so far it seems to be that that's where -- that's where he's headed.

I'm waiting for Ryan to say something, to jump into this debate about revenue, whether he is going to hold the line there where a lot of Republicans have been modifying their position. But so far he's been very quiet since the elections ended. I think he's trying to figure out his postelection role in the GOP and, you know, maybe whether he's going to set himself up to run for president in 2016 or not.

BLITZER: I suspect he's got a good future ahead of him, but we'll see. The president has invited Mitt Romney for lunch tomorrow over at the White House.

LIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: Listen to Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't have an agenda for the lunch. The president as he said then looked forward to having this meeting with Governor Romney. It's a private lunch. Only the two men will be in the room. And I'm sure it will be a useful discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I see a bit of evolution happening in this relationship between Romney and the president. Do you?

LIZZA: You know, a little bit. I'm not so sure we're going to be seeing Mitt Romney and Barack Obama paling around much. I mean, what role could Mitt Romney honestly play in the Obama administration? I mean, is he going to put him in charge of implementing health care? I mean the whole premise of the Romney campaign was to overturn the first four years of the Obama administration.

I just -- on policy I don't see a whole lot of overlap. And frankly, you know, Obama's a kind of guy who sets -- he has the people around him are kind of set in place. And he keeps them. And he doesn't have a great track record of reaching out to new folks and becoming pals with them. I mean, just look at how long it took him to fix his relationship with Bill Clinton. So I don't see much of a future for the two of them.

BLITZER: Well, I'm a little bit more hopeful.

LIZZA: I hate to be cynical.

BLITZER: I know. I'm a little more hopeful. I think there will be a future for the two of them together. On some projects, good projects that they both support. I mean I remember Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, you remember that?

LIZZA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: A pretty rough ride in '92. But in recent years, over the years, they've been working --

LIZZA: And Bob Dole.

BLITZER: Yes. That's right. They've been working together on a whole bunch of stuff. So I think Romney and President Obama are going to do just fine together at some point down the road.

LIZZA: Yes, now Obama -- Obama did say that he appreciated some of Romney's ideas about government reform and perhaps that was an area where he could take some advice. So that's my less cynical contribution there. Maybe there's -- maybe they can talk about that tomorrow.

BLITZER: All right. Standby. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have much more news.

Ryan, thanks very much.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we reported is Mitt Romney is now stepping back into the spotlight only three weeks after his bruising loss to President Obama. The former political rivals are set to have lunch tomorrow over at the White House.

Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is here. He got a little bit more details on what's going on. JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

BLITZER: Walk us through this process.

ACOSTA: Well, Wolf, as we reported, back on election night, Mitt Romney genuinely thought he would win the election, so it's no surprise he did not have a plan B ready to go. So with the future uncertain, the former GOP contender and the president, once bitter rivals, are starting with a safe lunch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): His departure on election night was quick and painful. Just like that, Mitt Romney was gone from the public stage. But at his victory speech, President Obama had other ideas.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

ACOSTA: The president talked of a potential once again at his first post-election news conference.

OBAMA: I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics. MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to accomplish that together, so thank you.

ACOSTA: And so after Romney pays a visit to his former running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, lunch, and perhaps some much needed bipartisanship will be served. When the former GOP nominee and the president sit down behind closed doors at the White House tomorrow.

Press Secretary Jay Carney says Romney's ideas for cutting government waste have wetted the president's appetite.

CARNEY: That skill set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better which is a passion of the president's.

ACOSTA: Romney's image could use an overhaul. Roughly one week after the election, he told donors on a conference call the president's campaign was following an old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups, specifically the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and young people. It didn't take long for Romney to be thrown under the GOP bus.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think it's nuts. I mean, first of all, it's insulting.

ACOSTA: Speculation is already swirling that the president may be reverting back to his old team of rival's playbook like his selection of one-time foe Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. A move that drew comparisons to Lincoln, who appointed his opponents to his cabinet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either the amendment or this confederate peace, you cannot have both.

ACOSTA: Could Romney be added to the Obama team?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is Governor Romney here tomorrow in some kind of cabinet level position?

CARNEY: No.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Some kind of a --

CARNEY: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Where will Mitt Romney be after tomorrow? Well, two aides to Mitt Romney tell CNN he is subletting space in the offices of his son Tagg's private investment firm in Boston. But Romney is not joining the firm. That means the former GOP nominee still does not have a permanent day job and potentially could be available to the president in a future.

Now does that mean a cabinet position? One high-level Democratic official that I talked to earlier today, Wolf, said she would be shocked, shocked was the word she used, if such an offer were made.

BLITZER: Yes, I think it's a little early for that, but maybe getting him involved in some good causes, if there's a crisis some place, asking him for some help, I wouldn't rule that out.

ACOSTA: And he's talked about -- you know, the present people I've talked about that Mitt Romney had some ideas that the president likes when it comes to getting this government under -- the size of the government under control, and perhaps with these fiscal cliff issues such as controlling loopholes and those sorts of things to rein in that kind of spending as well.

BLITZER: And Romney is a very patriotic American. If the president asks him for help, he will help.

ACOSTA: Usually that's what happens.

BLITZER: That's what happens. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

Drones may not just be for the war zones any more. The unmanned aircraft might soon be a common sight in the skies right above the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now they're used mainly for gathering intelligence and targeting terrorists, but drones could soon be crowning the skies over America.

Lisa Sylvester is looking into that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right now only groups with special permission FAA permission like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can operate drones in the United States. But that is going to change. Congress has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to find a safe way to expand the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems domestically.

BEN WITTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The bottom line is that by 2015 the FAA has to have to have a comprehensive plan to open the air space to both public and private UAS.

SYLVESTER: Think of the potential from crop dusting, to news traffic reports, to surveying land, to monitoring forest fires. There's a big industry pushing the federal government to open up the skies, arguing these unmanned aircraft systems are safer and less expensive.

GRETCHEN WEST, ASSOCIATION FOR UNMANNED VEHICLE SYSTEMS INSTITUTE: If you're looking at a manned helicopter that could be used for law enforcement community or manned aircraft that could be used for crop dusting, you're looking at probably around a $3 million price tag. For some of the smaller UAS, the price can range from $2,000 up to $100,000. SYLVESTER (on camera): Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones can be as large as a fighter jet, or only just a couple feet long. And people have actually been flying unmanned vehicles or even model airplanes for years, but with certain restrictions. They can't fly them above 400 feet or in search of areas like airports without running into problems with the FAA.

(Voice-over): That brings us to one of the problems that FAA is trying to solve. How to insure safety if the skies suddenly become a lot more crowded.

KEVIN HIATT, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION: Some of the larger concerns are the construction of the aircraft, who is piloting them, the actual bandwidth, also taking a look at some of those social issues which we've all started to look into as far as privacy.

SYLVESTER: It's the privacy piece that Representative Edward Markey is most concerned about. Could prying paparazzi hound celebrities? When can drones be used by law enforcement to gather evidence? And what about the information gathered by the drones?

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Is it possible that this is just going to be the rampant eyes in the sky gathering information about Americans with no rules whatsoever?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And it is a growing industry. A study by the Teal Group put current spending at $6.5 billion and that is expected to double in the next decade. A lot of proponents say that this is a sector that could bring on a lot of jobs. And of course there are those safety and privacy details that have to be worked out between now and 2015 and that is when the FAA is supposed to have its plan in place -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.