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THE SITUATION ROOM

Pope Francis Gets to Work; Iranian Nuclear Threat; Interview With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

Aired March 14, 2013 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BOLDUAN: We start this evening with a tense confrontation between the U.S. and Iran in the skies over the Middle East.

BLITZER: And it certainly comes as President Obama is speaking to the Israeli news media about the possible timeline for an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following all of this for us.

Barbara, tell our viewers what's going on, because the president was pretty specific, at least in one sensitive part of a timeline.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. The Pentagon, the U.S. government has now warned Iran, it will keep going on with its spying missions over the Persian Gulf and has warned Iran once again not to interfere.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The unmanned Predator spy plane was flying over the Persian Gulf earlier this week when the Iranian military spotted it. Iran scrambled an F-4 fighter jet. It pursued the drone to within 16 miles. After a verbal warning from one of the two manned U.S. fighter jets escorting the drone, the Iranian aircraft peeled off, the Pentagon says.

No shots were fired in the incident that occurred in what U.S. officials say was international airspace. But it could have gotten much more serious. Drones are now routinely escorted by armed fighters. A senior Pentagon official tells CNN, "We are fully prepared to defend our aircraft."

It comes as the top U.S. military commander for the region is even more blunt.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I have requested and received additional forces in the Gulf by the decision of the secretary of defense to ensure that we are ready to reassure our friends that we mean business and temper the Iranians designs. STARR: The incident publicizes something the White House would rather not talk about, Iranian efforts to stop Pentagon and CIA spying.

In December 2011, Iran displayed to the world a CIA drone captured after crashing inside Iran. President Obama, due to visit Israel, said all options are on the table if Iran decides to proceed with a decision to build a nuclear bomb.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon. But obviously we don't want to cut it too close.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, regarding these spy missions, these drone spy missions over the Persian Gulf, you will remember a couple of months ago the Iranians actually fired on a U.S. drone on one of these patrols over the Persian Gulf. That's when the U.S. started escorting them with fighter jets. So it's ratcheting up the tensions in the region, Wolf. The U.S. wants to make sure this does not get out of hand with Iran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the president heading to Israel next week for talks with the Israeli government on Iran, among other subjects.

Barbara, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: The controversy over knives on planes playing out today in Congress. The head of the TSA had to defend his decision to allow some small knives on board, and he used this very dramatic video to make his point. Take a look.

TSA administrator John Pistole told lawmakers explosives will bring down a plane, not knives.

CNN's Joe Johns is here with more.

He sure doesn't seem to be backing down.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a pretty simple question for the flying public. Right? What scares you most, bombs or small knives? The answer seems pretty simple.

But when the head of the Transportation Security Administration took a stand on that question for his agency, he had to go to Capitol Hill to defend his position.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, was sticking to his message on Capitol Hill. He's taken harsh criticism on his decision on March 5 allowing small knives on planes, while the limit on liquids you can carry on a plane remains in effect. Pistole was on the Hill restating his position.

JOHN PISTOLE, ADMINISTRATOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: That a small pocketknife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft. An improvised explosive device will. And we know from internal covert testing, searching for these items which will not blow up an aircraft can distract our security officers from focusing on the components of an IED.

JOHNS: But Pistole has not been able to tamp down the uproar.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: And I'm trying to figure out how this could not be perceived as something potentially dangerous to the people on the plane.

JOHNS: Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee wants TSA to rethink this.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: You need to stop this now. These cause bleeding. These cause injury. These can cause a terrible tragedy. And I don't want to take it to the next length. It can possibly cause someone to lose their life.

PISTOLE: The fact is, there are so many objects already on flights that can cause the type of harm you're talking about.

JOHNS: Three airlines and the flight attendants association don't think it's a good idea either.

SARA NELSON, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS INTERNATIONAL: We have to help de-escalate conflicts on board. Sometimes we even have to ask passengers to help us contain those conflicts. If you introduce a weapon into the scenario, it is not helpful at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: There's also legislation. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts has a bill to keep knives off of planes. But people we spoke to in the law enforcement community said today TSA's got it right. You don't allow your agency to spend all its time looking for knives when the bad guys are trying to bring bombs on planes. But given what happened on 9/11, it may take a while to convince the public.

BOLDUAN: It sure does. Despite the fact that John Pistole is making a very case, as you said, explosives take down planes, not knives. The criticism is not backing down either.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: Right. Right. They say they haven't really had any problem with these little small knives on the planes. There just hasn't been a big incident. On the other hand, one bomb, one explosive, you got a terrible situation on your hands.

BLITZER: A lot of people will remember they did have a problem with those box cutters...

JOHNS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... on 9/11. So that brings back a lot of bad memories.

JOHNS: A lot of memories.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Joe, thanks very much.

BLITZER: Word of arrest in that deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Sources telling CNN this man, there he is, Faraj al-Shibli, is being held in Libya, detained after returning the last couple of days from a trip to Pakistan.

Four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, in a fiery terror attack on a consulate in Benghazi last September 11.

Pope Francis on this, the first full day of his papacy, he started by praying at the basilica in Rome that has special ties to his order of the Jesuits. But he didn't take the papal limousine there either. He's opting for a plain black sedan instead. He also refused the limousine last night, took the bus with the cardinals back to their residence. He celebrated his first papal mass with them today in the Sistine Chapel today.

We are told that last night he stood with the cardinals rather than sit on the papal throne.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, prominent Republican name missing from the straw poll at this very high-profile conservative conference. Now we know why Jeb Bush wasn't on the ballot.

Plus, the man who barely survived this horrible accident speaks out about the hidden death trap we all face on the highway.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A pretty blunt assessment from the GOP from one of its own rock stars, Senator Rand Paul. He told a gathering of conservative activists here in Washington that the party has grown, in his words, stale and moss-covered.

BOLDUAN: Not the way you want your party described. It's just some of the Republican soul-searching going on at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

CNN's Brianna Keilar has been there all day at the National Harbor in Maryland.

What else do they have to say, Brianna? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf and Kate, there was a lot of red meat to be had, particularly from Senator Marco Rubio, who talked about abortion, defining marriage traditionally, as well as gun rights.

But the theme of this year's conference is the next generation of conservatives, as Republicans try to rebrand themselves after their November loss.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): At CPAC, the always colorful annual gathering of conservatives, the Republican Party is trying to transform itself, and attract more voters. Young conservatives who cast their first votes for president in a disappointing election have some ideas.

HAROLD REIGHN, ROWAN UNIVERSITY: Our generation, the younger generation is less concerned with the social issues. We're more liberal than the generation before us and the generation before that.

BRANDON NYE, MILLERSVILLE UNIVERSITY REPUBLICANS: That message needs to start coming across or it is going to be a repeat of the last election.

KEILAR: Two new GOP leaders, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, drew standing-room-only audiences, Paul on the heels of his almost 13-hour filibuster of the president's pick for CIA director.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I was told I got 10 measly minutes. But just in case, I brought 13 hours' worth of information.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KEILAR: He had young CPAC-goers on their feet as he tried to take his libertarian message mainstream.

But it is unclear still how the party meets the challenge of tacking the center while holding on to its base. Exhibit A, during a panel discussion on immigration reform, one well-respected pollster talked about attracting Hispanics who voted overwhelmingly for President Obama.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Don't you think that a group of incredibly hardworking, family-oriented, entrepreneurial, spirited people might be a good place to look for some more allies?

KEILAR: And some of the most popular Republicans in the country weren't even invited to CPAC, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who brushed off the snub.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: My job is to work for the people who elected me and not to work for my political party first. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: CPAC officials say that Christie's brand of conservatism this year was not in line with their principles.

But, Wolf, although a lot of this conference is about looking forward, there's definitely some looking back. Mitt Romney will be speaking tomorrow. There's a panel discussion called CSI: Washington, D.C., November 2012 autopsy. And when Sarah Palin speaks on Saturday, she's guaranteed to draw a very big crowd.

BLITZER: Yes, and Donald Trump will be speaking as well. We will all be watching. It will be fascinating. Brianna, thanks very much

Let's get a little bit more with our chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper. His new show, "THE LEAD," debuts this coming Monday.

Jeb Bush, he's speaking at CPAC, but he's not on that straw ballot, if you will, all these other up-and-coming Republicans, because he was very, very popular. What happened here?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he actually, according to his spokesperson, with whom I spoke to earlier, asked that his name not be put on the ballot.

He was invited by Al Cardenas, former Florida GOP head, now head of the American Conservative Union. And I was told: "It was our request to Mr. Cardenas when he extended the invite for Governor Bush to speak. We asked not to be included. As Governor Bush has said repeatedly, it is too early to think about 2016."

But we should also include the context here which is that there are a lot of Ron Paul supporters who attend this. Ron Paul has repeatedly won this event in the past, and, of course, Rand Paul is seen as a new generation. So possibly there was some self-interest in there as well.

BLITZER: He will do well, Rand Paul, in the straw poll.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Let's talk about Rand Paul. He's been getting a lot of attention over the past week or so, and, of course, more so amongst the conservative base. But he had some pretty strong words today at CPAC. Let's listen to a little bit more of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PAUL: I don't think we need to name any names, do we?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Not only does he say that. Then there were cheers after he said that. So it's clearly a swat at someone or some more than one. Who do you think it was?

TAPPER: Well, I spoke to an associate of Mr. Paul's and he said that it was just meant about the establishment. But I think a lot of people are interpreting that as a swipe, as one of the senior senators in the Senate, Senator John McCain, who has never been incredibly popular among the CPAC gang, and Rand Paul and John McCain have had words over the drones program in the last week.

But I think generally speaking, Paul was not referring to anyone else being moss-covered, certainly not literally. As far as I know...

BOLDUAN: It would be awkward.

TAPPER: As far as I know, none of them are literally covered in moss.

BLITZER: Where does Chris Christie, the very popular governor of New Jersey...

TAPPER: Not covered in moss.

BLITZER: ... fit into all this? But where does he fit into this whole political environment?

BOLDUAN: This fight between the old guard and the new guard?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He was not invited.

TAPPER: He was not invited. I think that he occupies a very unusual place in the party right now, in that he is a blue state Republican governor.

BLITZER: Very popular.

TAPPER: Very popular in his state, which is a state that went for Barack Obama overwhelmingly twice and John Kerry before that, et cetera.

And I think that, you know, he's got to walk a very delicate line right now. And that is not endearing him to the Republican base, whether it has to do with fighting for relief for his state after the storm, or whether or not it had to do with praising President Obama during that period right before the election. So he's trying to appeal to his voters. And that is alienating some of the more conservative voters.

BLITZER: Obviously it has.

You all set for Monday?

TAPPER: I hope so.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Doing some push-ups? Doing some jogging? What are you doing?

TAPPER: Chin-ups.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Chin-ups are much better preparation.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: As you know, anchoring, if you're going to anchor, you need to do chin-ups.

BLITZER: Get ready. I know you have been practicing a little bit.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: As of Monday, I am going to be throwing to you. And I would like your permission on the air for me to call you the Wolf man when I throw to you.

BLITZER: We will discuss.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Oh, you are pushing it. You're pushing it, Tapper.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's too much?

BOLDUAN: You at least need to get your feet wet first.

TAPPER: OK. I'm sorry. I have clearly overstepped my bounds here.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Good luck.

TAPPER: I apologize. I'm sorry, ma'am.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You can call me -- I have been called a lot worse.

Jake Tapper, "THE LEAD."

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: "THE LEAD."

TAPPER: "THE LEAD."

BLITZER: "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts Monday 4:00 p.m. Eastern right before THE SITUATION ROOM. We move to 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: That's right. People can warm up. I'm like a lovely appetizer. You are the entree.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You're the entree.

TAPPER: And you're the dessert.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, enough.

BOLDUAN: And we're done.

BLITZER: Michigan's governor making a dramatic move right now. What's he doing?

BOLDUAN: He is. We're going to hear from the man he picked to dig Detroit out of deep financial trouble. Much more ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama reaching out to lawmakers. Is his so- called charm offensive really working as far as the Republican leadership is concerned, specifically, Eric Cantor? The majority leader of the House, he's here. He's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama back on Capitol Hill for a third day in a row, having lunch today with Senate Republicans. Their leader, Mitch McConnell, and the president both called the 90-minute meeting great.

BOLDUAN: Great meeting. Then the president was off to meet with House Democrats, wrapping up what's dubbed his charm offensive. It also included a closed-door session with House Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now from Capitol Hill, Eric Cantor. He is the majority leader of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Leader, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Appreciate it, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want you to listen carefully to what the president said last night at one of his supporters meetings here in Washington. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Over the last several weeks, the press here in Washington has been reporting about Obama's charm offensive.

Well, the truth of the matter is, all I have been doing is just calling up folks and trying to see if we can break through some of the -- some of the gobbledygook of our politics here.

And I do believe that -- you know, that -- at this juncture, one of the things I believe is that we have got to get members of Congress involved in these discussions, not just leadership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Well, you're the leadership, Mr. Leader. What do you say to the president? He seems to want to go around you, given the history of what happened a couple of years ago.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Wolf, the president came to Capitol Hill yesterday to meet with the members of our Republican conference, and, you know, I hope that he is sincere in wanting to work together.

Because the fact is, there are a lot of things that we do agree on. We know we've got to -- we know we've got to balance the budget. We know that there are things in common within his proposals and ours. In fact, when the House moved to put a proposal across the floor, one of which I sponsored, it included things that were in the president's budget.

So I'm hopeful that we can work together and not let things get in the way, like how the president's desire to put more taxes on the American people. We don't agree on that. But we can agree on some things that can move towards balance in the budget, so we can grow our economy.

BLITZER: Well, do you believe he is sincere?

CANTOR: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, it is -- it would be a good thing, I think, for the country. And you know, the problem is, you have some fundamental disagreements here. I mean, the president was quoted on a TV program that he was on, saying that there wasn't a debt crisis. He was quoted as saying we don't have a spending problem. Obviously, I think most Americans would disagree with that. And, you know, that's why we don't believe you go and put more taxes on the American people to solve this problem. You want to bring the budget into balance. You want to grow the economy. And that means you have to deal with the reforms and the spending reductions necessary to achieve that balance.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Leader, talk to me about that meeting yesterday. We hear that the president got a standing ovation going in, when he came into Capitol Hill. What did you say to him and did you -- where was there encouragement in your mind that there could be a deal here? Where is there an area that you see really agreement with President Obama?

CANTOR: I mean, first of all, I mean, the tone and the reception I think was appropriate. He's the president of the United States. We welcome him to Capitol Hill.

I think that where the agreement could be is that we all want to do right by the people that elect us. And there's a lot of disaffected Americans out there, working families who just want to see their life work again. And I believe that all of us want to see folks who are in failing schools, to have parents have the ability to give their children an opportunity for a quality education.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to that major article in "The New Yorker" magazine the other day, written by "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza, who himself is a CNN contributor. In there, you're quoted as acknowledging that, back in the summer of 2011, you said it's a, quote, "fair assessment" that you talked the Speaker John Boehner out of accepting Obama's deal. Is that right?

CANTOR: Don't quite know if that was the exact context of the answer to that question. What I can say is, John Boehner and I have never differed on the fact that you've got to do something about reducing spending in this town. In order to achieve the balance that we want to grow the economy. We've always said you've got to do that.

It's not about raising taxes. The two of us have always been together on that. We continue to deliver that message to the White House and to the president. We want to work with the president to achieve that balance. It's not about putting more taxes on the American people. It's about getting control of the spending in this town.

BLITZER: You weren't in agreement at the end of December when you voted against that legislation to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, because it included a lot more tax revenue coming from rich people. He voted in favor of it. So it was a split -- there was a split between the two of you then.

CANTOR: That is -- that is correct. John Boehner and I, the speaker, we are in constant communications, know where each other are. And certainly on that vote, there was a difference. But we're a team, and we're working to try and achieve the best outcome for the people that put us here and elected us, to try and balance the budget, to try and produce a growing economy. BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about the here and now. Paul Ryan just released his budget. Do you support it?

CANTOR: I do support Paul Ryan's budget. It is a -- it is a comprehensive plan to address the growing unfunded liabilities of the entitlement programs at the federal level. And so that we can save the safety net for those who need it. And that we can bring the budget into balance and grow the economy. That's the essence of what the plan is about.

BOLDUAN: But Mr. Leader, in order to achieve that balance, to balance the budget, it also assumes that $600 billion in tax increases that you opposed in January.

CANTOR: Well, I mean, unfortunately, we have, in fact, after the last election, a situation where the status quo of the president there, the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican House, that those tax increases were something that the president supported.

But I can tell you, if you look at the alternative vision coming out of the Senate, there really is a two separate visions of the way this country ought to go.

On the one hand, we have the House budget that is -- promotes a balance within ten years, that can grow our economy. And that you can get people back to work with more jobs.

On the Senate side, what you have is a budget calling for $1 trillion of additional tax increases, and you have more borrowing, more spending, and never a balance.

So the real question for the American people is, which side would they come down on? I believe the people feel a balanced budget is something that makes sense and is an imperative at home for them. It should be here in Washington, as well. Because the tax dollars that are in Washington are nothing but the dollars earned by the hard- working taxpayers across the country.

BOLDUAN: It should be an imperative, as well. But I want to just make sure on one point: So you are comfortable and will support those $600 billion in tax cuts -- tax increases?

CANTOR: As you note and as Wolf pointed out, I didn't support those tax increases.

BOLDUAN: Right.

CANTOR: They are put into law at this point because of the president's reelection. What we want to do is achieve real tax reform to bring rates down for everybody. And, you know, we want to get rid of those special interest loopholes in the tax code, make it a fairer system, lower rates for everybody.

But again, what you see in the Senate plan is never a balance, in terms of the budget, and you see a call for additional $1 trillion in tax increases for the American people. That's not what we need right now. We've got to get ahold of the problem here in Washington, and then grow this economy.

BLITZER: The Ryan budget does call for a reduction in the growth in defense spending by about, what, $2.3 trillion over the next ten years. You come from Virginia. That's a major military state, as you well know. Are you with Ryan on that?

CANTOR: I support the Ryan budget. And I've always said, Wolf, as far as the Pentagon is concerned, you can't defend every dollar and cent that the Pentagon spends. We've got to be able to do more with less.

And I am a huge national security individual. I believe that, if we don't lead in America, there's going to be no leadership. And certainly, my state of Virginia has a long heritage of playing a role in the projection of military power of this country and across the world. And I'll continue to support the men and women who are part of that effort, as well as the infrastructure and the industrial base that has been established in our state to make sure that that happens.

BLITZER: Good discussion. Thanks so much for joining us.

CANTOR: OK. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: He certainly is one of those rising stars in the Republican Party.

BOLDUAN: Yes. He's already a star. I mean, but you know, when we were talking to him, you realize that it's really great to hear on both sides that change in tone, that they really enjoyed these meetings. As we're talking with Eric Cantor, you also realize they're philosophically so different from, you know, the tradition of the White House.

BLITZER: Clearly differences even among the Republicans.

BOLDUAN: Right. Exactly. A long way to go.

Still ahead, from dream cruise to another cruise-ship nightmare for Carnival passengers. Can the cruise line get it right this time?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Vacation voyage has once again come to an agonizing halt for the cruise ship -- cruise-ship passengers. This time the travel nightmare involves a cruise ship called "The Dream." Passengers are once again telling of power failures and toilet failures. And once again, it's a Carnival ship. Brian Todd is joining us now from Carnival headquarters in Miami.

Brian, what happened?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was one month ago today that the Carnival ship The Triumph was towed into port after an engine fire. Now, passengers aboard the Carnival Dream are stuck in St. Martin, and we're again hearing accounts of power interruptions and overflowing toilets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): For the second time in a month, Carnival cruise passengers disembark from a vessel that had serious mechanical problems. Passengers on the Carnival Dream stuck in port in St. Martin in the Caribbean. The cruise line says an emergency diesel generator malfunctioned while it was in port.

Before being allowed off, passengers were kept onboard for several hours while the crew did maintenance checks. There were periodic power outages, interruptions to elevator and toilet service, and accounts from passengers that hearken back to the Carnival Triumph disaster last month, when sewage flowed throughout that vessel.

Passenger Greg Stark says this time when the crew was doing maintenance checks...

GREG STARK, PASSENGER (via phone): During that time the toilets and everything started overflowing down in the main general lobby areas where people were frequenting -- frequenting the bathroom.

TODD: In an e-mail to CNN, a Carnival spokesman said the toilet problems were minimal: "Only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow, and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom." He said toilet service was fully restored by just after midnight Thursday morning.

But passenger Chris Anderson said this.

CHRIS ANDERSON, PASSENGER (via phone): They were out of service for quite some time, for several hours. Ours started working about 8 a.m. this morning.

TODD: A Carnival official told us they'll look into that.

Just one day before the Dream's generator malfunctioned, a top Carnival official announced the company was conducting a comprehensive review of its entire fleet.

Maintenance, prevention of fires, engine issues. Travel industry analyst Christopher Muller says between the deadly Costa Concordia wreck last year, the Triumph calamity last month and now this incident, Carnival's problems run deep.

CHRISTOPHER MULLER, TRAVEL INDUSTRY ANALYST: This is a management problem. They're doing something wrong with preventive maintenance. They -- you know, Carnival has so many working ships, to say that the fleet is in distress is maybe a little bit broad, but clearly something is not working right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: I asked the Carnival official to respond to those comments about management problems. He has not yet responded to that. Carnival is chartering planes to fly its passengers to Orlando tomorrow morning. That's near where they departed. And the company is offering discounts on a future cruise of up to 50 percent, and partial refunds for this trip -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, with all these incidents, could there be any serious financial fallout for the company?

TODD: Well, the analysts we spoke to, Christopher Muller, said there really could be some serious financial fallout. You know, these are very expensive cruises to run.

And what he says you're going to start seeing, probably in an effort to get passengers back on these ships, is deep discounting of cruises. Maybe up to half off on many of them. He said that, you know, they may find in a few months that, because of those discounts and a lack of -- you know, just a lack of customers, some of these routes, these cruises may not be profitable in the coming months. And he said they may even get to the point where some Carnival ships have to be mothballed.

So, you know, the combination of all these three incidents really may add up to some financial problems for Carnival. And he said that will impact the broader cruise industry, as well.

BLITZER: Well, all right, Brian, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, they're supposed to save lives, but too many times they do not. The disturbing details of a hidden highway death trap threatening anyone who's on the road.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: A hidden highway of death traffic causes some of the most gruesome accidents. It's a threat to just about every driver. CNN's Renee Marsh has details of a study on truck guardrails. This is something that people might not know much about but they really need to know more.

RENEE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, Kate, if you're driving, you're on the road and you're side by side with those huge trucks, you may feel a bit of fear. And according to a study that's out by one group today, that fear may be for good reason. It's a danger on the road that every driver should know about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): When it's car versus truck, quite often the truck wins and the consequences deadly.

DAVID ZUBY, INSURANCE INSTITUTE: First thing that contacts the back of the truck is the windshield. Right behind the windshield is the driver's face.

MARSH: According to the Insurance for Highway Safety in 2011, 250 people died after their cars rear-ended big rigs, broke through the truck's guardrail and ended up underneath it. Last December John Wallace fell asleep at the wheel. His Kia Rio slammed into the back of a semi parked on the shoulder of a Florida highway.

JOHN WALLACE, HIT SEMI TRUCK: I hit it at full speed going 60 miles an hour, no braking. The only reason I stopped where I did was I actually ended up hitting the axels underneath the trailer.

MARSH: He was lodged 71 inches under the massive truck, suffering head injuries and multiple broken bones.

This is what we're talking about. If one of these guardrails fails, then a car that's, on average, about three feet high fits perfectly under this truck. That's 3 1/2 feet from the ground.

While all of the guards passed the test, when a car struck straight on, all but one failed, when the car hit the edge of the guard.

The Insurance Institute wants the federal government to require manufacturers to make the guardrails stronger with better dimensions. Members of the trucking industry say they support change that would increase safety, but not all the problems are with the trucks.

BILL GRAVES, CEO, AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS: Let's try to avoid hitting the trucks to start with. Why don't we put more emphasis on slowing people down, on distracted driving? I mean, the best design in the rear guard under-ride is the one that never gets tested.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: Well, we reached out to the federal government, and they say that they've been doing their own research based on that, as well as the crash test that you just saw. They say there could be changes to the current federal safety regulations. So there could be.

BOLDUAN: So scary to see those crash tests. You said 250 people died in 2011. That's an amazing number.

MARSH: And that man who survived, he is so lucky. He's blessed to have even survived where he did.

BOLDUAN: Wow. Renee, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up right at the top of the hour, Erin Burnett. She's joining us now with a little preview.

Erin, what's coming up on your show?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, Wolf, we're going to be joined by Jason Chaffetz. He's one of the most vocal critics of what happened in Benghazi. There was an arrest there today. We're going to talk to him. Plus, the president's policy on Iran with Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And this woman, her name is Christmas -- I'm not making this up. And she is absolutely incredible. Yes, she can bench about 250 pounds. She's in a NASCAR pit crew. Her story is amazing, and it's at the top of the hour.

Back to you.

BLITZER: Sounds great. Looking forward to it, Erin. Appreciate it very, very much.

BOLDUAN: I would not mess with her now.

I also would not mess with this lady. Coming up, she's an 88- year-old grandmother who, try as she might, just cannot stop dancing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: So here is a story that will make you want to get up and dance.

BLITZER: I'm ready.

BOLDUAN: Get stretched out.

An 88-year-old grandmother has become a huge hit online because when she hears music, the music she likes, she just has to drop her purse and boogie. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us the dancing Nana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most 88-year-olds are lucky to be walking down steps, let alone dancing down them to "Run Around Sue."

(MUSIC: "RUN AROUND SUE")

MOOS: It started out as a weekly routine for Esther Feole and her 24-year-old granddaughter Chelsey, playing oldies.

CHELSEY FEOLE, GRANDDAUGHTER (via phone): That's how it happens. I pick her up, make her breakfast and blast the music an she dances her way to the car.

MOOS: The next thing you know, "Run Around Sue" is running around the Internet, titled "Dancing Nana."

(on camera): You can tell she's really going to get down when she puts down her purse.

(voice-over): When she sets that thing down, she means business. No run around.

FEOLE: People are loving the purse drop.

MOOS: Nana wears her Life Alert like geriatric bling. On "Dancing Nana, Part Two," she's dancing in the streets.

(MUSIC: "DANCING IN THE STREET")

MOOS: And on "Dancing Nana, Part Three," she belts out a tune popular in her day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): You're gonna miss your big fat momma.

MOOS: But "Run Away [SIC] Sue" is her runaway viral hit.

(MUSIC: "RUN AROUND SUE")

MOOS: And she brings down the house with her last line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I could dance all the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) day.

FEOLE: That's just the cherry on top. I remember filming, and when she said that, I was just like, "Oh, my God!"

MOOS: These days Nana's dancing in the halls rather than in the streets.

(MUSIC: "DANCING IN THE STREET")

MOOS (on camera): Cut, stop the dancing. I hate to say it, but a few weeks ago Chelsey's Nana had to go into a nursing home. She's having problems with dementia.

(voice-over): But Chelsey says she's the life of the nursing home.

FEOLE: That sassy, you know, spunky grandmother to all of us. I truly cherish this video.

MOOS: She's an oldie but goody, even when she's bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could dance all the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) day.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Oh, my God, I love Nana.

BLITZER: Dancing Nana. She's great.

BOLDUAN: She's great.

BLITZER: She's good, too. You got some moves.

BOLDUAN: I've got moves. But you've got better news. All we -- all we have to do is play the Dougie.

BLITZER: "Run Around Sue."

BOLDUAN: Isn't that sweet?

BLITZER: You remember that song?

BOLDUAN: Yes. That was big in my day.

BLITZER: We've got to go right now. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.