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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Christine O'Donnell; President Obama Uses Veto Power
Aired October 7, 2010 - 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: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: an exclusive interview with the Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. After weeks of shutting out the national news media, she sits down with CNN to face some tough questions about her controversial campaign. Stand by for that.
Also, President Obama uses his veto power for only the second time since becoming president, killing a bill that would have changed some rules for home foreclosures.
Plus, the casting controversy behind a new Republican political ad. These actors were told to look like -- quote -- "hicks." Were residents of one state being stereotyped by the Republican Party leadership?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a witch. I'm nothing you have heard. I'm you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Her upset victory in Delaware's Republican Senate primary suddenly thrust her into the national spotlight and just as suddenly Christine O'Donnell all but disappeared to the national news media, as controversial past comments and positions came to light.
But with the election now less than four weeks away, she is resurfacing with some colorful new campaign ads and an exclusive interview with CNN's Jim Acosta.
Jim is joining us now from Newark, Delaware, where he had a chance to speak with Christine O'Donnell just a little while ago.
Jim, what can you tell us about the interview?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, she says she wants to reintroduce herself to voters in these final weeks of the campaign.
As you said, she has not done a whole lot of media interviews in the last three weeks, since those clips started surfacing on cable talking about her days of dabbling in witchcraft and so forth. She wants to put all of that behind her and start talking again with the voters one-on-one.
And she is also starting to do more public appearances, more public events, getting to know the voters, getting the voters to know her. She is also taking some questions from reporters, including this one.
ACOSTA: You won the Republican primary, and then your world sort of got turned upside down.
O'DONNELL: That is right.
ACOSTA: There were video clips coming out of the woodwork. What happened and how have you dealt with it?
O'DONNELL: Well, for one, you know, we won the primary. We challenged the political system as we know it. We busted up the backroom deals, and we -- we made a lot of people afraid.
And I think one of the reasons why -- you know, what you see -- what you see going forward in this campaign is my opponent is trying to attack me, because my positions are right on the issues.
I'm concerned about what's important to the people of Delaware. I want to restore the economy through the private business. I want people to be innovators again, where an idea can turn into a thriving business.
So, my opponent can't attack me on that. You know, what? "She wants to stop these tax hikes that are going to put people out of business. Shame on her."
ACOSTA: Right, but, yet, your latest ad says, "I'm you."
ACOSTA: It's as if you're trying to reintroduce yourself to voters.
O'DONNELL: Yes. Yes.
ACOSTA: Why is that? Is that what you're trying to do?
My goal has been, since the primary, to go out and meet as many voters as possible, so that they can get to know me and I can get to know them.
I have got to hear what's on their minds, so that I can know how I can help in Washington, D.C. My goal, my whole candidacy is about putting the political process back into the hands of the people. I'm not a career politician. I'm not someone who's been groomed by -- groomed for office. I'm not someone who's been handpicked by her party elite, by the party bosses, obviously.
O'DONNELL: I'm an average American citizen. I'm an average Delawarean. I want to go to Washington, D.C., and do what most Delawareans would do.
I would not have -- voted for Obamacare. I would not have voted for the bailouts. I would not have voted for more of the spending bills that are putting us into bankruptcy. And neither would you.
O'DONNELL: That's what my message "I'm you" means. I want to do what you would do in Washington, D.C.
ACOSTA: Let me ask you one more thing about these video clips that have surfaced. Have you been embarrassed by those clips?
O'DONNELL: No, I haven't been embarrassed. And I'm not saying that I'm proud.
It's -- you know, obviously, what they're trying to do is paint a picture of who I was 20 years ago. You know, I -- I have matured in my faith. I have matured in my policies. Today, you have a forty- something woman running for office, not a 20-year-old. So ,that's a big difference. And I think most people...
ACOSTA: Were you just having fun back then? Is that basically your -- your message?
O'DONNELL: Well, I think, back then, as I -- as I said on -- on Hannity's show, a lot of what I said, I had a newfound faith, and I saw this an opportunity to talk about the faith on national TV, more as a ministry opportunity.
But voters need to rest assured that, when I go to Washington, D.C., it's the Constitution by which I will make all of my decisions. And I will defend their right to disagree with me.
ACOSTA: Let me ask...
O'DONNELL: That's the most important thing.
ACOSTA: OK. Let me ask you about some issues.
You said last night at your event that you would vote to extend the Bush tax cuts. Now, I have covered a lot of Tea Party rallies, and they're all about cutting the deficit. How do you extend the Bush tax cuts and cut the deficit at the same time, because the experts say it's impossible?
O'DONNELL: It is not impossible. First of all, any time taxes have decreased, revenue has increased, because what you're doing is, you're putting money back into the private citizens, who then go start businesses and create jobs based on the private sector, not government spending.
They go spend that money on those new businesses that are starting. So, it happened under Kennedy. It happened under Reagan. When you decrease taxes, revenues increase.
ACOSTA: Let me ask you about the health care reform law, because there are protections in there for consumers that a lot of people, even some Republicans, say are very important, such as, the law would deny -- would -- would ban insurance companies from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions.
Would you scrap that, as well?
O'DONNELL: What I want to do is create real health care reform. Things like that are absolutely crucial. We have to make sure that people with -- with preexisting conditions get the coverage and care that they need.
ACOSTA: So you would keep that?
O'DONNELL: But what this -- I want to scrap the bill and start over, with real reform, piece by piece.
Nobody is disputing that we need health care reform. But this bill is a massive government takeover of the health care system that gives the government way too much power. Uncle Sam has no business coming into the examination room, getting between you and your doctor. And that's what this bill does. We need to repeal it, so that we can re -- reenact real reform.
ACOSTA: Is that even realistic, because I know the Republicans say we want to repeal the bill, but the president would have to sign any bill that you pass through the Congress? So, isn't repealing health care reform really unrealistic?
O'DONNELL: That kind of throw-in-the-towel mentality is what got us to this mess that we're in the first place.
Repealing Obamacare is absolutely realistic. I heard a statistic this morning that one out of four Democrats are for full repeal of Obamacare.
ACOSTA: So you think...
O'DONNELL: What this...
ACOSTA: ... you could get Democrats to go on board and perhaps...
ACOSTA: ... override a veto, is what -- that's what you're saying?
O'DONNELL: Well, not even just necessarily -- here's why I think it's realistic, a couple things.
Number one, a lot of Democrats are coming forward, saying, we want to start over. We want to scrap this bill. We all made a mistake. We didn't read it. We didn't know about the unintended consequences. As elected officials, our first priority needs to be taking care of the most vulnerable in our society, so we do need real health care reform.
But if -- if the House and the Senate passes a bill to fully repeal Obamacare, so that we can clear the way to start over with true reform that helps the most vulnerable, and then the president goes and vetoes that bill, when the will of the people have been -- has been made very clear, if Barack Obama vetoes that the year before his reelection, he's setting himself up to be very vulnerable.
And I have seen many Hillary-for-president ads running. So, if -- if he chooses to thumb his nose at -- at the will of the American people and ram this -- this unrealistic, unconstitutional bill down America's throats, then there will be consequences, politically, for Obama.
ACOSTA: And we asked Christine O'Donnell a series of other questions, one about Sarah Palin. Is she qualified to be president? Christine O'Donnell took a pass. Should Jim DeMint be the next Senate majority leader in a Republican-controlled Senate? O'Donnell she took a pass on that.
Asked her about whether or not human activity contributes to climate change. She did not answer that question. She said that her opinion did not matter on that.
So, Wolf, there were some other questions that she did not really want to get into during the -- during the interview. The one thing that she did say towards the end of the interview is that she is looking forward to her debate next week in Delaware with you at the University of Delaware.
She says she will be there for that. She won't duck that debate. She will be showing up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, because I'm going to play more of this interview that you had with Christine O'Donnell. I want to hear precisely what she is saying, how she is answering your questions.
More of the interview coming up later this hour.
Jim Acosta on the scene for us in Newark, Delaware.
Jim, don't go too far away, because I want to debrief you as well. And as a reminder: You can see the Senate Delaware debate between Christine O'Donnell and the Democrat Chris Coons right here on CNN. I will co-moderate that 90-minute debate at the University of Delaware. That's next Wednesday, October 13. You will see it right here on CNN.
For the only second time, President Obama is using his veto power, this time on a bill that would have made it easier for courts to clear home foreclosures.
Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here. She's got this story.
It affects a lot of people. Passed suddenly in the House and the Senate without any fanfare, and now the president says, veto.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Veto. It was a surprise to a lot of people, Wolf, and the decision to veto it was because the administration was concerned this law could have made it easier for banks to illegally foreclose on homeowners.
Now, right now, there is a growing controversy about foreclosure fraud. It is so bad that these major lenders, they have all frozen their foreclosures in 23 states.
One of the key problems is that, in these instances, banks are sometimes submitting paperwork on homes they don't own or saying the homeowner is behind on payments, when they may not be.
Well, the White House was concerned that this law could have made it even easier for a notary to approve bad foreclosure documents, saying that it is legal and final, making it even harder for people to fight in court if their homes are taken away from them wrongly.
BLITZER: All right, so the president is vetoing this, only the second time he has used that veto pen.
How did it get this far? I want you to explain to our viewers why the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate allowed this to go forward if the president and the White House hate this so much?
YELLIN: A bit of a head-scratcher, right, Wolf.
Well, even the White House says that increasing foreclosures would have been an unintended consequence of this bill. The bill's sponsor says, look, it was designed to help court reporters, attorneys, business owners. They say it had no connection to foreclosure problems.
So the Democratic Congress thought that it was an uncontroversial bill. They didn't see foresee this foreclosure issue. And they moved it out of both houses without even a recorded vote. That's what they usually do for simple bipartisan measures. So, they really thought this was a non-issue.
But the White House here wanted to avoid any possible problems in light of the foreclosure crisis I'm talking about, this new controversy. And I would add, Wolf, that you have to take into consideration we are in an election season, where the Democrats are arguing they stand on the side of the consumers.
It would seem the White House in this instance was saying, we don't want to do anything that could bounce back and make it look like we took the wrong step for consumers.
BLITZER: I will be interested to see if they do a postmortem to state which lobbying group, special interest got this legislation inserted there and just allowed it to go on a voice group without any opposition at all. We will see if that comes forward. I am sure it will.
Thanks very much, Jessica.
New developments on a story we brought you here yesterday. Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie has now officially pulled the plug on the largest infrastructure project in the United States, a massive rail tunnel connecting Northern New Jersey with Manhattan.
Federal stimulus funds were paying the bulk of the $8 billion price tag, but the state would have to cover several billion dollars in expected cost overruns. Christie says simply the state of New Jersey cannot afford it.
A critical vote now only 26 days away, the midterm elections.
Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: If the primaries are any indication, these midterm elections might well set records when it comes to voter turnout.
"USA Today" reports the number of voters casting early ballots in the primaries up 50 percent over 2006 midterms. That's a huge increase. About six million people took part in early voting in the 13 states that they reviewed.
The increase in early voting is a game-changer. It forces campaigns and interest groups to alter their tactics as they reach out to voters ahead of November's election.
Although the midterms are still more than three weeks away, early or absentee voting is already underway in 10 states. And, early voting will kick off in another 17 states and the District of Columbia in the next two weeks.
The experts say, for campaigns, an early vote for you, that is like money in the bank. But an early vote against you is a lost vote that no TV ad or speech can change.
Others point to a trend where early voters tend to hold back, file their ballot closer to Election Day, because they haven't made up their minds as quickly as they do about presidential candidates, for example.
Midterms are notorious for lack of voter interest and low turnout, but maybe not this time. If the electorate is really as angry as we keep hearing, things could well very be very different.
If people want their voices heard when it comes to the state of the economy, the skyrocketing and unsustainable deficits, taxes, war, health care, you name, well, you got to turn out on November 2 and vote. And apparently a lot of them are going to.
Here's the question: Why are so many more people voting in these midterm elections? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: It's a great question, Jack. Thank you.
Jack Cafferty will be back.
Controversial Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware on gun control, Afghanistan, how involved Sarah Palin is in her campaign. The rest of the exclusive interview with CNN's Jim Acosta, we will have that. That is here later this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, the new political ad some say is offensive to West Virginians -- details of the casting call searching for actors that are supposed to look like -- quote -- "hicks."
And the White House on the defensive amid allegations it tried to hide worst-case scenarios in the Gulf oil disaster.
BLITZER: President Obama twice interrupted a speech at Bowie State University in Maryland today to call for help for people who had fallen ill in the audience. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let him down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.
OBAMA: All right. We got another bottle of water? If we can get another bottle of water up here and a medic up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A local emergency official tells CNN at least two dozen people were treated for fainting, dizziness, dehydration before and during the event.
The president was at the university to stump for Maryland's Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley.
A lot of folks getting sick at that event. There is controversy over a new Republican ad in the West Virginia Senate race that Democrats say offensively stereotypes the state's voters. The people shown in that ad are definitely not who they seem to be.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, just back from West Virginia knows a lot about this state.
What is going on with these ads, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know how at the end of the political ads you see something along the lines of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is responsible for the content of this ad? Well, today taking responsibility meant taking one of their ads off the air in West Virginia.
BASH (voice-over): A GOP ad aimed at many West Virginia voters' concerns about Democratic Senate candidate Joe Manchin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe is not bad as governor, but when he is with Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He turns into Washington Joe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Washington Joe does whatever Obama wants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Well, we better keep Joe Manchin right here in West Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: But get this. Those men are not in West Virginia. They are actors 250 miles away in Philadelphia.
Republicans paid a talent agency to hire them for the ad, and the casting call obtained by CNN asks for a -- quote -- "hicky blue-collar look. These characters are from West Virginia, so think coal miner, trucker looks."
(on camera): Not only that. It asks the actors to bring specific wardrobe items, including a trucker hat, not brand-new. It says preferably beat up. You can see that here. Flannel shirt, check. And a Dickies type jacket with a T-shirt underneath. Well, here's the T-shirt.
(voice-over): A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee says they did not know about the casting call language and pulled the ad.
The irony is, Republicans didn't have to use actors in Philadelphia to capture concerns about Manchin. We went to this real West Virginia diner this week and heard the sentiment unscripted. NATHAN ROSE, WEST VIRGINIA: Seem to be generally happy here in the state, but I won't be voting for him for senator. I would be more voting for someone who is just going to straight-up oppose Obama's agenda.
BASH: No trucker hat, no flannel. In fact, the real foul play with this ad seems to be stereotyping West Virginians.
TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC MEDIA CONSULTANT: Somehow they were hicks and rednecks.
BASH: Even Democratic ad-makers admit both parties use actors.
WEBSTER: If you have to go to paid actors as a second or a third resort, then, because of tight timelines, you may have to go there.
BASH: Take this Democratic Senate ad now running against Missouri Republican Roy Blunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roy is the life of the party on TV. His wife, great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: That woman is an actress.
BASH: Still, Democrats in Ohio are complaining about another GOP ad.
It's Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich's campaign commercial featured a disgruntled steelworker who says the Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, destroyed Ohio jobs.
And, Wolf, that actor -- that steelworker, however, is an actor, not a real steelworker.
BLITZER: It's fascinating stuff.
Thanks very much, Dana, for that report.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to have more of Jim Acosta's exclusive interview with the Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. He asked her if Sarah Palin is qualified to be president of the United States. And wait until you see what she says.
And is the U.S. Army sending wounded soldiers back into combat before they have healed? We will tell you about a veterans protest on Capitol Hill today.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware breaking weeks of virtual silence with most of the national media -- her exclusive interview with CNN. She speaks to us about Sarah Palin's role in her campaign.
Stand by -- part two of the interview coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: I didn't go to Yale. I didn't inherit millions, like my opponent. I'm you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That is a brand-new campaign ad just released by the Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. It's the second ad this week in which the Tea Party-backed O'Donnell tries to convince voters she is like everyone else, one of them.
After her initial upset primary win, O'Donnell largely shut out the national news media, but now she is breaking her silence in an exclusive interview with CNN's Jim Acosta.
ACOSTA: Let me ask you about gun control, because you were at an event today with a gun rights organization who endorsed you, and you said at the event, quote, "I will make sure that the U.N. doesn't supersede our rights, as well. Are you saying that the United Nations has the ability to supersede the laws of the United States, take gun rights away from people?
O'DONNELL: The United Nations does not have the ability, unless our U.S. Senate cedes that sovereignty to the United Nations.
ACOSTA: But that will never happen, right?
O'DONNELL: Well, there are -- the U.N. right now is considering some massive reforms, massive policies, that will severely restrict our Second Amendment right. When I go to Washington, D.C., whether it's on the Second Amendment or any other issue, I will fight to make sure that we don't continue to ceded more of our sovereignty over to the United Nations.
ACOSTA: Let me ask you about Afghanistan, the president's timetable for withdrawal: good idea or bad idea?
O'DONNELL: We need to make our foreign policy decisions based on their effectiveness, not based on time. So we need to be -- we need to take a serious look at what is going on over there and before we make decisions we have to examine whether or not it's weakening our own security.
ACOSTA: Is Sarah Palin qualified for president?
O'DONNELL: Is she running for president?
ACOSTA: I don't know. You tell me.
O'DONNELL: Again, hypotheticals. I mean, I don't know...
ACOSTA: I've heard you talk on the phone with her. Does she advise your campaign?
O'DONNELL: She does not advise our campaign.
ACOSTA: Does she give you advice?
O'DONNELL: She gives me "You go, girl" advice. "Don't listen to them." If anyone knows...
ACOSTA: Does she really tell you to speak through FOX News?
O'DONNELL: Well, I heard that -- she didn't tell me personally, but I heard her say something like that on O'Reilly, you know, because, you know, if anyone knows about the politics of personal destruction, it's women candidates, women politicians like Sarah Palin.
ACOSTA: If the Republicans take the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Jim DeMint.
O'DONNELL: I don't know yet, because what I would need to -- I would need to see -- is Jim DeMint running?
ACOSTA: You tell me.
O'DONNELL: I honestly don't know. I love Senator DeMint. I love what he does. He's a principled man, but what I've said when people have asked me who I would support in leadership, I don't know that as an outsider. Right now, I'm a candidate, not a U.S. senator. Really...
ACOSTA: Is the unemployment problem in this country Barack Obama's fault or George Bush's fault?
O'DONNELL: It's a combination of politicians in Washington losing their way. Like I said, whether it's Republicans or Democrats, our so-called leaders in Washington have lost their way and are no longer in touch with the needs of the Delaware -- or any citizen, not just Delaware. So I think what we need to do to get our country back on track is to replace career politicians with citizen politicians.
ACOSTA: Let me make this the last thing. Your staff was very reluctant to have us ask you about these past statements that you made in the past. I wanted to ask you, why is that? Because aren't they -- aren't they your statements? O'DONNELL: This campaign is about the future and not the past. This campaign is about what each candidate is going to do to address the needs of the people in Delaware. How to get private business jobs back in Delaware. How we're going to get our economy back on track. How we're going to empower the individual and the entrepreneur to open up those ma and pa businesses back on Main Street. That's what's important to the Delawareans, and that's what should be important to both candidates in this race.
ACOSTA: So you're never going to talk about your time with Bill Maher?
O'DONNELL: Why? What I did or said on a comedy show, you know -- over a decade ago is not relevant to this election.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Jim Acosta, who did that exclusive interview with Christine O'Donnell.
Jim, thanks very much for bringing us that interview, but take us a little behind the scenes. Give our viewers here in the United States and around the world a little flavor about this woman, something we didn't necessarily see in the interview.
ACOSTA: Well, you know, what a lot of people know about Christine O'Donnell now is, of course, those clips we've seen from Bill Maher. She appeared on his talk show, "Politically Incorrect," that aired on ABC during the '90s, and during those interviews she made a lot of provocative statements.
And now she's having to pay for those statements in many ways. We've seen her poll numbers drop here in Delaware, and it could cost her the election. And she knows that. That's why she is putting out these advertisements that you just ran a few moments ago.
And I think that's why we're going to see Christine O'Donnell start doing more interviews, start making more public appearances. For example, at an event earlier today, she took questions from reporters. That's not something that her campaign has advised her to do very much in the past. And I pressed her campaign on this. I asked her -- or asked them. I said, "Is this a good idea, not to put her in front of the press and not have her take questions from the news media," because as you saw during that interview, she was more than -- more than happy to get engaged in a pretty lengthy exchange of a the big issues that are going on right now, and including what she talked about in past.
And -- and they sort of acknowledged that perhaps they need to get her out more. And of course, I mentioned to her she could -- she could speak through CNN any time, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm getting a lot of e-mails from viewers out there, a lot of tweets on Twitter, as well, saying she seemed a lot more poised than they had been led to believe; certainly, much more knowledgeable about a lot of these issues. Jim Acosta, thanks very much for doing this interview with Christine O'Donnell.
And this reminder to our viewers. You can see the Delaware Senate debate between Christine O'Donnell and her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, right here on CNN. I'll co-moderate that 90-minute debate next Wednesday at the University of Delaware. That's October 13. You'll see the debate right here on CNN.
The White House is defending itself against allegations it tried to keep worst-case scenarios in the Gulf oil disaster from the public. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is working this story for us.
Suzanne, the White House is saying what?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX,, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a damning report, and really, the question today is when did the administration realize the magnitude of the disaster on their hands and whether they were entirely candid with the American people about what was going on.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): A commission set up by the president, himself, to look at the administration's own response to the oil spill released a damning preliminary report. It stated the White House vastly underestimated the tens of thousands of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, despite contrary information from scientists who used different measuring methods.
The commission says that the White House stuck with that number of 5,000 barrels a day through May 27, about a month after the initial explosion, despite estimates from outside experts and even, BP itself suggesting a much higher figure. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, not true.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: No information was altered, no information was withheld, and nothing in the report had anything to do with the robust response.
MALVEAUX: The report also accuses the White House of refusing to use figures of the worst-case scenario, a spill potentially releasing more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day. The report says BP gave the government those higher numbers just three days after the explosion.
But the Office of Management and Budget knew about the higher estimates, but prevented the public from hearing them. Nonsense, says the White House. Gibbs pointed to public statements made early on by administration officials, appearing on CNN and other outlets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst-case scenario is you could have 100,000 barrels or more of oil flowing out.
MALVEAUX: But it was clear the White House was using a great deal of caution in elevating the scope of the disaster, releasing new numbers as more information came in. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're estimating 1,000 barrels a day.
NOAA experts believe the output can be as much as 5,000 barrels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The current estimate is 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day.
MALVEAUX: The report also criticizes Obama's climate and energy czar, Carol Browner, for erroneously stating on August 4 that 75 percent of the oil had been scooped up, burned or naturally dispersed. Gibbs says the White House quickly corrected the error.
GIBBS: I think it is fair to say that Carol did hundreds of hours of interviews and may have misspoke once, which is a pretty darn good track record and one that -- one that we made sure was accurate, certainly, just a few days -- a few hours later.
MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, the report concludes by initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was neither fully competent to handle the spill, not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.
Now, Wolf, this is a working paper. Obviously, they're going to have their final report, official report in January. We're hoping more information from the commission details greater context can help us understand whether or not this White House was, in fact, forthcoming and transparent.
BLITZER: Because if we didn't learn what went wrong the last time, we're bound to repeat it...
BLITZER: ... down the road. We don't want to ever, ever do that again.
MALVEAUX: That's the goal of the commission, is to make sure that they have enough information so it doesn't happen again.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much.
new Republican campaign ad claims that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, voted to give Viagra to convicted sex offenders. John King is standing by. He'll join me in a talk about the impact of all the bare-knuckled political advertising.
BLITZER: There's a new campaign out in the heat of Nevada Senate race in which the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate Sharron Angle slams the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to know just how out of touch Harry Reid is? Spending $770 billion on a stimulus that failed is a start.
Or Reid voting to give illegal aliens special tax breaks and Social Security benefits is another big clue.
But here's the kicker: Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders. What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about this ad with CNN's John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING USA," which begins right at the top of the hour. John, what is Sharron Angle referring to?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, here's the kicker to the kicker. Harry Reid -- or no one who voted in the Senate for health-care reform explicitly voted to give taxpayer dollars to provide Viagra to child molesters or sex offenders and the like.
What this goes back to, you remember the final days of the health-care bill. Republicans proposed a number of amendments designed to kill the legislation, and they made no secret of that fact. And Democrats predicted at the time many of those amendments would end up in campaign ads. This is one of them.
Tom Coburn, the conservative senator from Oklahoma, proposed an amendment. He said it was possible that in those state exchanges in the health-care bill that, if they did not explicitly forbid or prohibit giving Viagra to sex offenders or those in prison, that the state exchanges could decide to make that benefit available.
So he proposed the amendment. The Democrats, including Harry Reid, went to the floor and said this is designed to kill the legislation. It's a stunt. It's a prank. They voted it down. So Harry Reid did vote against that amendment. Did he ever explicitly vote to, as the ad says, you know, pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and s x offenders? No, he did not. But the Republicans argued if you didn't vote against allowing it, well, that's what you were doing. This one would probably tip the truth-o-meter a little bit.
BLITZER: We also know that Harry Reid is responding to this ad.
Let me -- let me read to you what he is saying in his response. A Reid spokesperson saying, "Sharron Angle continues her pathological pattern of lying to the voters of Nevada in pursuit of her extreme and dangerous political agenda." That's the statement.
This is a close race, though, in Nevada. I've seen some polls over the last couple of days that actually have her slightly ahead of Harry Reid. KING: We had a brand-new poll last night that showed a dead heat, essentially, but among likely voters she had a two-point lead, which is within the margin of error, so dead heat.
But Harry Reid, who served the state of Nevada for a long time, Wolf, with just 40 percent support among likely voters. If you're a Democratic incumbent, that is trouble.
So, this ad, look, this has been a hard-hitting bang-bang-bang campaign. This Viagra allegation, I think, is suspect.
The middle part of that ad, where it talks about the Social Security benefits for illegal aliens is the term the word uses. That tells you something about this race. The Latino vote is critical in the state of Nevada. This is proof that Sharron Angle is pretty clear she's not going to get much of it. So she's trying to get independence. Conservatives who don't like any taxpayer benefits going to illegal immigrants, part of a continuing series. Both Angle and Reid have ads in this race that I don't think would make, shall we say, the polite hall of fame.
BLITZER: No, no, it's a tough race, and they've got less than four weeks to go. We'll see you at the top of the hour, John.
KING: We'll see you then.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Should one state be able to tell people on Food Stamps they can't buy soda?
BLITZER: New York City waged war on salt and transfat, and now it's taking on soda. It wants to ban the use of Food Stamps to buy sugar-sweetened drinks. CNN's Mary Snow has more.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If New York gets its way, buying soda or sugar-sweetened drinks with more than ten calories will be banned if you use Food Stamp. New York's mayor and state governor say they're trying to reduce obesity, and they're making their case to the federal government, which administers the Food Stamp program and currently only bans alcohol and cigarette sales.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: For the government to make the decision, that should not include something that the experts all tell you is very detrimental to your health and is contributing to the No. 1 public health issue remaining in this city and in this country that's getting worse. It's not unreasonable, and it's not picking on anybody.
SNOW: The city's health department reports that 58 percent of adults in New York City are either overweight or obese. Among public schoolchildren, that rate is close to 40 percent. KRISTIE LANCASTER, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Soda is a huge problem.
SNOW: Kristie Lancaster is a nutritionist who's been working to reduce high obesity rates in Harlem. One big problem, she says: healthier food tends to be more expensive, leaving people with few options here. And soda doesn't help.
LANCASTER: Soda, of course, has more calories, and the more calories you drink, you don't compensate for them in the same way as you do when you eat more calories.
SNOW: But not all public health doctors are applauding the city's move to ban soda for people on Food Stamps.
(on camera) Even if we could do it and it would work, is it the right thing to do? Is it?
DR. CAROL HOROWITZ, WORKING TO REDUCE DIABETES: I'm not so sure about that.
SNOW: Dr. Carol Horowitz has also been working in Harlem to reduce diabetes, which is associated with obesity.
HOROWITZ: Food Stamps still pays for a bucket of junk food and a bucket of unhealthy, high-calorie food. They pay for things that are so full of processed chemicals that you really couldn't even call them food. So out of this whole bucket of things that Food Stamps covers, why are we picking out one thing? Why are we picking out soda?
SNOW: Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Food Stamp program, says it will review and consider New York's proposal. The city wants a two-year ban and says in that time, health officials will be able to study the impact -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Another study. All right. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.
Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.
Plus, he made his debut in this photo. Now Cigar Guy has gone viral.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Why are so many more people voting -- pardon me -- in these midterm elections?
Dave in Las Vegas writes: "Millions can vote any time of day, since they don't have a job. Millions more have time to vote, since they don't have the money to go shopping. That frees up time. And the rest are so disappointed and discouraged with Obama's first 18 months that we need to vent our rage in the voting booth. The worst part is, though, the choice of candidates."
Paul in Texas says: "Why? Because the movement of term limits is real. I don't really like the Tea Party movement, but one thing they've been able to do is vote in blocks in order to get people out of office when all they want is a job for 60 years at our expense."
Connie in Virginia writes: "Because they actually think their vote counts. Too bad they're limited to a two-party monopoly that undermines the will of the people when the big corporations and donors take over the agenda of the party leadership."
Pat in Michigan writes: "We're fed up, Jack. We're going to see if the Republicans can deliver in two years. And if they don't deliver, then they'll be out on their collective rear-ends. Enough is enough."
Chester writes: "People thought hope and change meant innovation and improvement. If they were paying attention to Obama's writings and speeches, they would have realized his vision of hope and change was sending us somewhere near the mid-1970s Soviet Union territory. They bought us miserable vision, and now they want their money back."
Joe in Florida says: "Maybe because change is needed and they don't want to wait until 2012."
And Io in Texas write: "History has shown that voter turnout is highest when things are very bad. Maybe if politicians did any work while they were in office, we could all have a peaceful, stay-at-home midterm."
If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you. Thanks very much.
Up next, a "Moost Unusual" bystander at the Ryder Cup is now at the center of an Internet manhunt.
BLITZER: A photograph from golf's Ryder Cup last weekend has created a "Moost Unusual" celebrity. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All he wanted was to watch golf, but now he's a wanted man. He even has an alias.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Called quite simply Cigar Guy.
JON LAL, FOUNDER, BEFRUGAL.COM: Who is Cigar Guy?
MOOS: Answer that and win $1,000.
Cigar Guy's saga started with this amazing golf photo. Tiger Woods flubbed a swing at the Ryder Cup. The ball was captured midair, headed straight for a photographer's camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's taken a bit of a knock here, but the lens, it's absolutely perfect.
MOOS: For a brief moment, the shock was the story. But then...
LAL: No one cared. Almost immediately they noticed Cigar Guy over on the side, his eyes all buggy.
MOOS: And in the blink of the eye, Cigar Guy's image was being PhotoShopped into countless other pictures, replacing everyone from Muhammad Ali to Adam, as in Adam and Eve, from Marilyn Monroe to Martin Luther King to the cast of "Mad Men."
LAL: We love him.
MOOS (on camera): The prevailing theory is that Cigar Guy was dressed up to look like a famous, cigar-smoking Spanish golfer.
(voice-over) The flamboyant Miguel Jimenez is known for chomping on a cigar, even as he plays, as well as his unruly hair.
(on camera) Though it may look like Cigar Guy is wearing a turban...
(voice-over) ... this is actually a wig. Now there's a bounty on his head. A $1,000 reward is being offered by Be Frugal blog for information about Cigar Man's identity. Be Frugal wants him as their spokesman.
LAL: I can just tell, he is the cheapest man on the planet. Did you see his pants? Those are mighty cheap pants.
MOOS: Cigar Man has even landed on the moon in the famous golf ball shot. He's been PhotoShopped onto everybody's head, even the ball. The Web site DeadSpins on a load of photographs from a California high school teacher who made it an assignment.
BARRY PETCHESKY, DEADSPIN.COM: They spent their entire class, the kids, just creating PhotoShops.
MOOS: The kids dropped Cigar Man into photos ranging from Hitler to a streaker. And since the cigar figured so prominently in the Monica Lewinsky affair, no wonder he ends up there.
But who is Cigar Guy? The most common guess is it's Borat.
SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: What?
MOOS: It's Cheech from Cheech and Chong.
CHEECH MARIN, COMEDIAN: Is there a joint in there?
MOOS: No. It's a cigar.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne. Thanks very much.
Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at Twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN, @WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word. You can also follow THE SITUATION ROOM on Facebook. Go to Facebook.com/CNNSituationRoom to become a fan.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
JOHN KING USA starts right now.
KING: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening, everyone.
Tonight, a closer look at a fierce strategy debate within the Democratic Party. Follow the president's approach or get more bare- knuckled and more pointed. Attacks center on Medicare, Social Security, and shipping jobs overseas.