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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

McCain Addresses GOP Convention

Aired August 29, 2012 - 20:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: As we see John McCain coming out now, actually. Used to be a huge Republican advantage. It no longer is. But yet that is what John McCain will be talking about. He's been one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration on this. So let's take a listen here, Erin.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. It's an honor as always, my fellow Republicans, to join you at our national convention and add my voice to yours, as we nominate the next president of the United States. My Friend, Governor Mitt Romney.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: You know, I had -- I had hopes once of addressing you under different circumstances but our fellow Americans had another plan four years ago and I accept their decision.

I have been blessed for so long to play a role in our nation's affairs that I'm conscious only of the debt I owe America, and I thank you for the honor.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: When we nominate Mitt Romney, we do so with a greater purpose than winning an advantage for our party. We charge him with the care of a higher cause. His election represents the best hopes for our country and the world. It is said that this election will turn on domestic and economic issues, but what Mitt Romney knows and what we know is -- the success at home also depends on our leadership in the world.

It is our willingness to shape world events for the better that has kept us safe, increased our prosperity, preserved our liberty and transformed human history. At our best, America has led. We have led by example as our shining city on the hill. We have led at the direction of patriots from both parties. We have led shoulder to shoulder with steadfast friends and allies. We have led by giving voice to the voiceless, insisting that every human life has dignity and aiding those brave souls who risk everything to secure the inalienable rights that are endowed to all by our creator.

We have --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: We have led with generous hearts, moved by an abiding love of justice. To help others eradicate disease, lift themselves from poverty, live under laws of their own making and determine their own destinies. We have led when necessary with the armed might of freedom's defenders, and always we have led from the front, never from behind.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: This is what makes America an exceptional nation. It's not just a matter of who we are, it's a record of what we have done. It's a responsibility that generation after generations of Americans has affirmed and carried forward. It is a cause that many Americans have sacrificed everything. Absolutely everything to defend. And when they've gone into battle, as they do today, they have done so with conviction that the country that sent them there is worth their sacrifice, that it stands for something more than the sum of our individual interests.

May God bless all who have served, all who serve today, as he has blessed us with their service.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: We are now being tested by an array of threats that are more complex, more numerous and just as deeply and deadly as I can recall in my lifetime. We face a consequential choice, and make no mistake, it is a choice. We can choose to follow a declining path toward a future that is dimmer or more dangerous than our past or we can choose to reform our failing government, revitalize our ailing economy, and renew the foundations of our power and leadership in the world.

That is what's at stake in this election.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Unfortunately for four years, for four years, we've drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership. Traditions that truly bipartisan. We've let the challenges we face both at home and abroad become much harder to solve. We can't afford to stay on that course any longer. We can't afford to cause our friends and allies from Latin America to Europe to Asia, to the Middle East, and especially in Israel, a nation under existential threat, to doubt America's leadership.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CROWD: USA. USA. USA.

MCCAIN: We can't afford to give governments in Russia and China a veto over how we defend our interest and the progress of our values in the world.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: We can't afford to have the security of our nation. We can't afford to have the security of our nation and those who bravely defend it endangered because their government leaks the secrets of their heroic operations to the media.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I believe we can't afford to substitute a political timetable for a military strategy. By committing to withdraw from Afghanistan before peace can be achieved and sustained, the president has discouraged our friends and emboldened our enemies, which is why our commanders did not recommend these decisions and why they have said it puts our mission at much greater risk.

We can't afford another $500 billion in cuts in our defense budget on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: His own secretary of defense has said that cutting our military by nearly $1 trillion would be devastating. And yet the president is playing no leadership role in preventing this crippling blow to our military.

A wise congressman from Wisconsin has said, our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course, and that man is our next vice president, Paul Ryan.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: But most of all, we can't afford to abandon the cause of human freedom. When long suffering peoples demand liberation from their jailers and torturers and tyrants, the leaders of the free world must stand with them. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

When Iranians rose up by the millions against their oppressive rulers, when they beseeched our president, chanting in English, are you with us, or are you with them? When the entire world watched as a brave young woman named Neda was shot and bled to death in the street in Tehran, the president missed an historic opportunity to throw America's full moral support behind an Iranian revolution that shared one of our highest interest -- ridding Iran of a brutal dictatorship that terrorized the Middle East and threatens the world.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: The situation is far worse in Syria. What began as peaceful protests has now become 18 months later a savage and unfair fight. With the full backing of Iran and Hezbollah and Russia, with tanks and helicopters and fighter jets, Bashar Assad is murdering men, women and children. More than 20,000 people have perished. Extremists are gaining ground, and the conflict is becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies and for us.

In other times, when other courageous people fought for their freedom against sworn enemies of the United States, American presidents, both Republicans and Democrats have acted to help them prevail. Sadly --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Sadly for the lonely voices of dissent in Syria and Iran and elsewhere in the world will feel forgotten in their darkness and sadly for us as well. Our president is not being true to our values.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: For the sake of the cause of freedom, for the sake of people who are willing to give their lives so their fellow citizens can determine their own futures and for the sake of our nation, the nation founded on the idea that all people everywhere have the right to freedom and justice, we must return to our best traditions of American leadership and support those who face down the brutal tyranny of their oppressors and our enemies.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CROWD: USA. USA. USA.

MCCAIN: My friends across the world, people are seizing of their own destinies, they're liberating themselves from oppressive rulers and they want America's support. They want America's assistance as they struggle to live in peace and security, to expand opportunity for themselves and their children, to replace the injustices of despots with the institutions of democracy and freedom, America must be on the right side of history.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: The demand for our leadership in the world has never been greater. People don't want less of America. They want more. Everywhere I go in the world, people tell me that they still have faith in America. What they want to know is whether we still have faith in ourselves.

I trust that Mitt Romney has that faith and I trust him to lead us.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I trust him to affirm our nation's exceptional character and responsibilities. I trust him to know that our security and economic interests are inextricably tied to the progress of our values. I trust him to know that if America doesn't lead our adversaries will. And the world will go darker, poorer and much more dangerous.

I trust him to know that an American president always, always, always stands up for the rights and freedoms and justices for all people.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: I trust Mitt Romney to know that good can triumph of over evil, that justice can vanquish tyranny, that love can conquer hate, that the desire for freedom is eternal and universal. And that America is still the best hope of mankind.

And now, my fellow Americans, let's elect our next commander-in- chief and the next leader of the free world, my friend, Governor Mitt Romney.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So there he is, the Republican presidential nominee of four years ago, warmly endorsing Mitt Romney, making a major foreign policy speech, outlining what he thinks are some differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama on national security. Not sure all those differences are all those real right now. We can get into that in a moment.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

BLITZER: We saw Cindy McCain, by the way, watching her husband deliver that presentation.

BURNETT: Absolutely. And as Wolf said, are these differences all that real? You know, I'm looking at an op-ed that Mitt Romney wrote on March 5th in the "Wall Street Journal" would and he'd handle Iran. Tighten sanctions, speak on behalf democracy and have a military option. Identical to President Barack Obama so --

BLITZER: There's going to be a lot analysis.

BURNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: And later tonight, Condoleezza Rice will be speaking as well.

Let's go up to John.

John, you made a good point earlier, normally the Republicans have an advantage public opinion on national security. Maybe not this time for one specific reason.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's right. The number one reason in the minds of Americans is the death of Osama bin Laden which of course happened on this president's watch. He also ended the war in Iraq that was very unpopular especially in the final years of the Bush administration.

So let's ask the question of our group up here in the skybox. Will national security matter in the election and will President Obama's current advantage hold up through November?

Alex Castellanos, let's go to you. As I said earlier in the evening, You know, I remember my first convention was 1988. And the Republicans tried it then. In 1992, in 1996, on and so on, they were the strong party, the Democrats were the weak party. Harder to make that case this year and ultimately will it matter?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I was surprised even in this hall tonight of Republicans who are, you know, foreign policy fanatics, keeping their country safe. Frankly at the subdued reaction Senator McCain got as he ticked through Obama's failings on foreign policy, it's not going to matter at the end.

Both campaigns, I think, but especially the Romney campaign wants to move the agency back to the economy. And Barack Obama has now had experience, four years of commander-in-chief. So I put that as a plus for the Democrats in the fall.

KING: So what is the test, Donna Brazile? If the economy is going to be issue one, two, three, four and five, when it comes to national security and the conversation at this convention, is it just so the American people look at Governor Romney and look at Congressman Ryan and say OK, they cross the credibility threshold, they can be commander-in-chief?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think when it comes to foreign policy, an area where Democrats have been criticized for years as being sort of weak and wobbly, it's an area where President Obama has excelled. He helped re-establish the United States' position in the world. He -- the ranks of al Qaeda now. He's fuelled because of President Obama's leadership.

He's exercised good judgment in the Middle East and other areas. He ended the war in Iraq safely and in a responsible way. And the erosion that he inherited in Afghanistan, we now have the strategy and a timetable for us to also get out there as safely as possible.

KING: We just heard from Senator McCain. A bit later tonight we'll hear from former secretary of state and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Mitt Romney also spoke national security issues today. He left Tampa for a bit to go speak to the American Legion Convention and he was sharply critical of the incumbent president. Let's season.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A year ago, President Obama you're your national convention that, quote, "we cannot, with must not, we will not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans. Quote, I thought I finally agreed with him on something. But now he's on the verge of breaking that promise.

The Obama administration is set to cut defense spending by nearly $1 trillion. My administration will not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Strong words David Gergen from Mitt Romney. But he left something out. Those cuts are coming as part of the deal the president negotiated with Congress, sequestration. We won't get into the language of Washington.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

KING: Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party, was among the Republicans who voted aye.

GERGEN: On sequestration.

KING: Yes.

GERGEN: Yes, but the Republicans thought it'd be solved by now and there are to trying to lead the charge to not to make those extra --

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: They're committed to have a car.

GRACE: Hey, can't it be said that at least in Paul Ryan's case, he was before it before he was against it?

GERGEN: Yes. Yes . And they've got their fingerprints on it. But I would have to say this, I think, I think President Obama has earned a lot of the credit he has on foreign policy. He got bin Laden, he's getting us out of Afghanistan and Iraq. There are of this he's got going.

But the Republicans are trying to neutralize his advantage on that front. That's what John McCain was thinking, a Democrat, and you know are they -- I think Erin is right that when you hear the language, they sound the same on Iran. The Republicans actually have a very, very big difference with President Obama on Iran. They don't think he means it.

KING: Right.

GERGEN: They don't think he's credible.

KING: Right.

GERGEN: I think the Israelis --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But -- but --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let's end the conversation for now to get back to Wolf on the floor.

As I do, Wolf, you remember in '92, I'm always wary of what candidates for president say about foreign policy because running and being president is very different. President Obama promised to close Gitmo, hasn't been able to do that. President Clinton as Governor Clinton said he wouldn't deal with the dictators in Damascus, with the butchers in -- butchers in Beijing. Had pretty good relations with both Syria and China.

So being a candidate is very different from being commander-in- chief.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of times you make promises as commander-in- chief or as president you can't deliver on.

I want to go to Jim Acosta right now on the floor. He's got a special guest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I'm joined now by Cindy McCain, the wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, who was just up on stage a few moments ago.

He made that remark at the very beginning. We know Senator McCain has a unique sense of humor.

CINDY MCCAIN, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: Yes.

ACOSTA: And he said at the beginning of his remarks that he once had hopes of addressing this crowd under different circumstances. Is it -- is this kind of a bittersweet moment to see your husband up there not running for reelection?

C. MCCAIN: No. Well, yes and no. I mean, I shouldn't say I -- he would have made a marvelous president, and we would not be in the shape that we're in right now if my husband had been elected.

But with that said, we are here for Mitt Romney wholeheartedly. I mean John made the very clear distinction tonight about what a Mitt Romney administration would look like and what the Obama administration looks like. Very clear difference.

ACOSTA: He once had tough words, though, about Mitt Romney. He used to say that he would take every position on every issue.

C. MCCAIN: Hey, campaigns are tough.

ACOSTA: What's their relationship -- what's that?

C. MCCAIN: Their relationship is great. Campaigns are tough. We -- Mitt was the very first person to come out and campaign for us after the primary was over. We're very good friends with the Romneys.

ACOSTA: And what did you make of Mrs. Romney's speech last night? Everybody is calling it a blockbuster.

C. MCCAIN: She knocked it out of the park. She was just amazing. And wouldn't she be a remarkable first lady? She showed all this. You know, not only grace and poise but a great determination and steeled person. So --

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you very much.

C. MCCAIN: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Mrs. McCain, good talking to you. I'm actually going to toss it over to my colleague Candy Crowley who is with your husband John McCain. Hi, Candy.

CROWLEY: Hi. Thanks, Jim.

Senator John McCain, thanks for joining us. First of all, happy birthday.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you just a personal question. You mentioned that you -- thought you might come back to a convention four years later under different circumstances. Any -- we're looking now, we're seeing Ryan where -- Paul Ryan, we're seeing Rand Paul, we're seeing a lot of these sort of younger folks come up. Do you feel a passing of the baton going on?

MCCAIN: I think that's obvious and I think Kelly Ayotte is one of those, and I think it's important to do so. You know? I mean the one thing I've committed myself to for quite a while now is try to recruit and campaign for another generation of leadership.

CROWLEY: Tough to do?

MCCAIN: No, it's fun. You know, I was -- Mia Love, who was here at the convention, I was out campaigning for her. That's the kind of next generation of Republican we need.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you when you talk about foreign policy. When you look at what you see -- what most people see is the biggest foreign policy challenge coming up, and that's Iran. Can you give me the major difference that you see between Mitt Romney's position on how to approach Iran and its need or desire to develop nuclear weaponry, and President Obama? Because when you look at it on paper, there's not much.

MCCAIN: Sure. One of them is the relationship with Israel. Israelis don't trust us. We all know that. The reception that Mitt got when he was in Israel. The president sends his national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to tell the Iranians in Israel -- excuse me, not to tell the Israelis that we're with them. Tell them -- try to convince them not to attack Iran.

It's clear that there's no trust between the United States and Israel. I mean it's just a fact. You can -- you know, he -- it is a fact and a reality. And so the Israelis are faced with a very tough decision because they can't depend on the United States of America.

CROWLEY: I think that some Israeli leaders have disagreed with that, but let me -- let me ask you how --

MCCAIN: Not the prime minister. The prime minister has repeatedly said we are not going to wait for the United States of America. He repeatedly said Israel is a sovereign nation and has to make its own decisions. So at least the top -- the elect top leader says that. CROWLEY: When -- but when you look at what the president is doing now in terms of sort of ratcheting up sanctions, not taking an attack off the table, how is that different from Mitt Romney's, setting aside -- I understand that you think he has bad relationships with Israel. But in an approach to Iran, how is that different?

MCCAIN: Well, it's all based on American credibility which there is none in the Middle East. Every place I go, America is withdrawing. When was the last time you heard the president of the United States stand up for the people of Israel that are being slaughtered? When's the last time the president of the United States talked about victory and success?

All he talks about is withdrawal. So the people in the region have to accommodate the United States' absence. Where did the president of Egypt just go? China and Iran. Not the United States.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Mitt Romney. Big night for him tomorrow night. What is -- how will you measure his speech tomorrow night. What's success?

MCCAIN: I think that we will know that in the ensuing days and weeks because many Americans will be looking at him from -- for the first time. Junkies like you and me see it all the times. But many Americans will be observing Mitt Romney for the first time. So we'll know that later on. And obviously it's got to do with jobs and the economy, and it's also got to do with likability.

CROWLEY: And just --

MCCAIN: It's a despicable campaign. Hundreds of millions of dollars of attack ads on Mitt Romney has taken its toll. We have to reverse that.

CROWLEY: Well, Senator, how do you as a politician go about becoming more likable?

MCCAIN: Well, I think last night was a good beginning with Ann Romney. And I think talking directly with the American people is the way to do that.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, again thank you and happy birthday again.

MCCAIN: Thanks again for having me on. It's always good to do battle with you.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Thanks.

MCCAIN: Thanks.

CROWLEY: Back to you all in the booth.

BURNETT: Funny. And of course, John McCain turns 76 years old today. Seventy-sixth birthday --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Seventy-sixth. Happy birthday to John McCain. I must just add one little point, though. When I was in Israel a couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Mitt Romney at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The next day, though, I did interview the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the Defense minister of Israel, Ehud Barack, and both of them said the U.S.-Israeli military to military, intelligence to intelligence relationship was as strong as ever, if not stronger.

BURNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: It's a fact that the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israeli, Prime Minister Netanyahu, they have some issues, they have some problems but other Israeli leaders see this relationship with the Obama administration as very closed.

I was surprised to hear those strong words coming from the defense minister and the president of Israel.

BURNETT: Yes. Very interesting. When I spoke Prime Minister Netanyahu in the spring, it was the other side, right?

BLITZER: Right. There's a difference --

BURNETT: There's plenty of split within the government.

BLITZER: There's a split within Israel itself.

BURNETT: Yes.

BLITZER: And Senator McCain may be right on that.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Well, former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is going to be speaking. And a lot of people are awaiting this. She's going to be speaking in just a few moments. But she also sat down with Piers Morgan to talk about why women and African-American voters in her view should consider Mitt Romney. And about her invitation to join the all-male Augusta National Golf Club. I personally am very curious about that one. She's a good golfer.

BLITZER: Do you want to be a member of that club, too?

BURNETT: No, I don't. But I was very excited --

BLITZER: All right.

BURNETT: -- when they finally pulled the trigger.

BLITZER: All of us were excited.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lots happening here at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. We're getting ready for some more major presentations.

Want to go up to the CNN skybox right now. My good friend Piers Morgan is standing by.

Piers, you had a chance to speak with a headliner earlier on today.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": I did, Condoleezza Rice who is as always, as you know, a fascinating interview. I think never more fascinating than right now, when she's come here like a bit of a rock star, but doesn't really have a gig.

I sat down with her earlier, talked about that, talked about America's place in the world that will be a fulcrum point, I think, of her speech later tonight. And also about this whole issue of Augusta National Club.

She, as you know, has become one of the first two female members of the most exclusive male clubs on planet earth. So let's take a look at this and then we'll discuss a few of the issues that come out of it afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: How are you?

CONDOLEEZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm very well. Thank you. Nice to see you.

MORGAN: Nice to see you. You have a big, big speech tonight. Everyone is very excited. You're one of the rock stars in the party.

RICE: My goodness.

MORGAN: You shouldn't be so modest about it. Everyone loves you here. What's your primary intention tonight?

RICE: Well, my intention tonight is to talk about a robust American voice abroad because when we are going through the many shifts and the tectonic plates that we're seeing internationally now, the United States has to be clear and ambiguous about where it stands.

That gives the world a kind of north star around which to lead and then to rally, but I'm also going to talk about the need to rebuild here at home. If we aren't strong here at home, then we're not going to lead.

Education is very near and dear to my heart. I'm worried about the state of K-12 education. I'm worried about this clock behind us, which is the debt clock. Because when the world looks to America these days, they see an American government that can't live within its means. That's not a very attractive place from which to live.

MORGAN: Mitt Romney has two big problems according to all the polls -- women and black voters. You are a very high profile woman and a black voter. How do you feel about that? And in particular, this recent extraordinary poll it seemed to me, "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll that says Mitt Romney was rating literally polling zero amongst black voters in America. I found that staggering. You must have been too.

RICE: Well, I do except that I also know that a lot depends on how one asks the questions. I'm always a little bit suspicious of polls myself.

Look, what we have to do as a party is explain to people why these issues, which are so prevalent among Americans in general also speak to concerns for minorities and women.

If you are a black person and you're not concerned about the fact that the unemployment rate among young black men is more than twice the national average then you're not concerned about minority issues.

If you're concerned about the fact that our schools failing, kids in the least privileged circumstances many of whom are minorities then you are not concerned about minority issues.

And Mitt Romney speaks to those issues and so we have a tendency to say what are minority issues, well, education, jobs, the sorts of things that most Americans are worrying about these days.

MORGAN: Is he focusing enough though on the black voters, on the female voters? Does he need to do more because is that going to be a problem?

At the moment, there's perception that Mitt Romney decided Barack Obama can beat him on the black votes and there's no point wasting time and energy chasing a vote I'm not going to get.

RICE: Well, look, there is great pride and I shared it in America's first black president. Everybody understands that. But ultimately, one has to ask, are these policies that are helping America, and in particular, are they helping some of the most vulnerable among minorities, kids in failing schools, unemployed youth?

And the policies aren't helping those constituencies. And so I do think that Mitt Romney is speaking to black voters, speaking to women voters who hold many of the same concerns, but it has to be receptivity on the other side, too. It can't just be a one-way transmission.

MORGAN: Are you disappointed that George Bush isn't in town doing his bit?

RICE: I think he would be the first to tell you that he's the former president and a very, very happy and content former president. Look, he is somebody who led the party, led the country at the most difficult of times. But this is Mitt Romney's convention as well it should be.

MORGAN: What do you want him to do on Thursday when he makes the big speech? All the other speeches are great, but they are the warm up to the main event.

He will have to debate with Barack Obama, who as you know is a very, very good debater and can electrify an audience. What does Mitt Romney got to do?

Because at the moment, the perception about him is nice guy, smart businessman, but doesn't apparently in public at least enough passion or emotion about him.

RICE: He is passionate about America and who we are and what we can be and what we offer the world. And that's what has to come through, I think.

It's coming through, but needs to come through on Thursday night in particular because the world will be looking at that moment. Americans know that we've got very hard times ahead of us if we're going to right this ship.

I thought that Governor Christie was compelling last night when he said let's treat the American people like adults. Let's not pretend that these are easy choices.

MORGAN: It's a bit of tough love is should be the key message.

RICE: Right and I think Americans are ready for that. Because we know that we can't keep spending money that we're borrowing and mortgaging the future of our kids. We understand that.

But somebody is going to say to us, all right, so here's how we're going to do it and is really to give that tough message. I think that Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, who of course, Paul Ryan, will make that the center of the debate.

MORGAN: One of the problems the party has, you had last week with the Todd Akin fury, is the perception because of the extreme positions as many people see them on social issues like abortion and others.

That adds to the fire that somehow the party is anti-women. What did you make of the Todd Akin thing because you yourself, not as hard line about abortion as many in the party.

RICE: Well, first of all, the way that the party leaders, Mitt Romney and others responded tells the people how the party feels about that. It was a statement that really bordered on ridiculous.

I think everybody said that, now women, the party and women. You saw last night a parade of women who are leading this party, governors and senators. And I say, what more do you want? Yes, they are women of conservative values.

MORGAN: What they really wanted was probably you as VP to have a real position of power.

RICE: First of all, nobody wanted, especially me.

MORGAN: A lot of people wanted that.

RICE: Well, I didn't want that and I really didn't want that. And we've got a great candidate for vice president in Paul Ryan.

MORGAN: You said you had no desire to be in Mitt Romney's cabinet should he win in November. Not many people believe you.

RICE: Well, they should.

MORGAN: Look me straight in the eye. Are you 100 percent or 99.99?

RICE: Piers, I wrote a memoir called "No Higher Honor." There is no higher honor, but I've had that honor. I'm very happy to be now a professor at Stanford and that's where I'm going to be.

MORGAN: If I am Mitt Romney and I won, you'd be first on my list.

RICE: No, I've been secretary of state.

MORGAN: I'd be banging your door bell and begging you back in.

RICE: No, he is going to have plenty of people who can do those wonderful jobs because the Republicans have a deep bench on the national security.

MORGAN: If you were asked to do a major job, can you imagine yourself turning it down?

RICE: I said I don't answer hypothetical remember that when I first appeared on your show.

MORGAN: I was hoping you may have changed your position on hypothetical.

RICE: But I'm really happy. And I got to serve at a time of consequence, that's enough.

MORGAN: Far more important than anything has been your appointment as one of the first two female members of the Augusta National Golf Club.

RICE: I'm very honor. I'm honored that the members of Augusta want me to be among their number. It's a beautiful golf course with wonderful traditions. I said the face of America, the face of golf is changing. And I'm very grateful to enter with Darla Moore who's --

MORGAN: They banned women for over 100 years. It's not that big an honor. It should have happened years ago.

RICE: It happened as it should with private clubs on the timing of the members of that club. But I am honored. I look forward to playing there. I've got to work a little bit on my short game. It's very hard to hold the greens.

MORGAN: Have you chosen your first partner to play with you?

RICE: No, but I'm working on it. Are you ready?

MORGAN: Well, I banned myself until they allowed women back. So I released my own ban. I'm available.

RICE: I do have a long line.

MORGAN: Dr. Rice, it's a great pleasure.

RICE: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Condoleezza Rice, what do you make of current claim and insistent claim she would never hold high office again. I don't buy it. She's too young, too vibrant, too smart and I just don't think it's an accurate picture, do you?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. You know, she is a very interesting and a very dynamic woman. She's a common sense conservative. She's a woman of valor, a very, very popular former public servant.

She's enjoying her life back at Stanford. She's enjoying traveling around the country, speaking on college campuses. She's been in concerts with Aretha Franklin.

I think she's having the most incredible period time of her life. And the last thing I think Condoleezza Rice would like to do right now is to run for public office or to go back into public service.

MORGAN: Let me rephrase the question to you, Alex, wouldn't the party drag her literally and appoint her tomorrow to a high-powered job if she gave any indication?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That quick. I mean, seriously, she is so impressive and Republicans understand they're running against an historic accomplishment, the first black president of the United States.

They understand that was an advance. If feels it has made racial progress. They don't want to pull that thread out of the sweater if they don't -- what if you pacify history with history, a female vice president of the United States, black president of the United States.

Just a wonderful choice. Having her as part of this convention does something for Republicans. It says we're not the party of, you know, the country club Republicans. We're a party of everybody. She's a huge plus.

MORGAN: My guess is she will get very bored of golf at Augusta very quickly and we're going to see her back in high office again. I would bet my life on it, actually, maybe not. I'll bet most of my life. I'll bet Wolf Blitzer's life. Wolf, back to you. I just bet your life on Condoleezza Rice. BLITZER: That's a little too much even for me. You never know. These are politicians. Sometimes they change their minds. Sometimes they don't change their minds.

First of all, we'll see if Mitt Romney is elected president of the United States. Piers, that's still a big if. We have two months to go.

All right, standby everyone because later, Piers is going to have an interview with a man who electrified a lot of these Republicans here last night. But saw folks not necessarily so happy.

Here's his interview with Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. That will be live here as our special coverage from the Republican National Convention in Tampa continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: We're here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The storm Isaac still being felt through Mississippi, in Louisiana, flooding has been as bad as we saw in Katrina.

BLITZER: But it's staying there, it's not really moving for another 24 or 36 hours. Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us. Anderson, what's going on?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad O'Brien and I are right over here. We're in St. Bernard Parish. Right over on the other side of the levee is Plaquemines Parish. There's at least 10 feet of water or more on the other side of the levee. That's the only thing that's keeping the water from pouring in.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is part of the levee protection system that's really helping out St. Bernard Parish. Unfortunately, for Plaquemines Parish, they don't have something like that right on this spot. That's a huge problem.

The water is coming in from the gulf. The storm surge is overtopping a levee back there and it's really just poured water into Plaquemines Parish.

The amazing thing about this, of course, is that the 20 feet of protection on the other side, the estimates were 15 to 20 feet high. And you can see on the other side some subdivisions are actually completely submerged.

COOPER: We've been seeing some very dramatic rescues all day long. Starting early this morning even before law enforcement rescue crews are going out there. Individual citizens were going out and rescuing people from their attics, from the roofs of their buildings, from the tops of the levees.

We have some video of an elder elderly man being rescued along with four of his dogs. But you get a sense as you get closer to this levee. It's about 20 feet high total, but about 16 foot at the gate.

You can see a little water pouring out underneath, which is where this water is coming from. But there's just a huge amount of water on the other side of the levee. Last I heard, there were still people in need of rescue in Plaquemines Parish.

O'BRIEN: Yes, the expectations. It's really hard to tell the specific number of people. Those are folks who ignored the mandatory evacuation order in place on the other side of that wall in Plaquemines Parish.

What we were told by some people who had to be pulled out from the second floor windows is that 2:00 in the morning, they got a phone call that there was a breach in the levee. We understand it as an overtopping, but they were told it was a breach.

Two hours later, all of a sudden, water poured in, 5 feet we were told in minutes. And then people of course panicked, ran upstairs and eventually some of them were lucky enough to be plucked right out of their windows.

But they believe some people are still in there. Unfortunately with weather like this, it's really, really hard to get rescue, not only the boats, but obviously the coast guard can't put up any choppers. They're having a difficult time because the weather is so awful.

COOPER: And that's been an area which did not flood during Katrina. So a lot of folks felt, look, Katrina is a much more powerful storm, but as we've been saying, as Chad Myers had been saying, every storm is different.

Even though this was a Cat 1, there were gusts that were Cat 2 strength gusts more than 100 miles an hour. And the storm surge for this area means this storm is even worse than Katrina was just for this area in Plaquemines Parish.

We're going to continue reporting all evening long on the ongoing rescues and the latest from this area. Now back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very, very much. Erin, you know, they're doing an excellent job there, all of our team out there in bad circumstances.

But the people here, the Republican organizers are having a little difficult time. How do you deal with a convention like this at a time of a national emergency like this on the gulf coast?

The president of the United States is having a tough time. He's out there campaigning as well. He's also trying to make sure that all federal agencies are deeply involved. It's always a tough balancing act.

BURNETT: But so far, he's kept his schedule exactly as it was planned to be. As you know, it takes a few days after a storm hits to know how bad it's going to be. BLITZER: Right and let's see what happens. We'll stay on top of that story as well. We've also assembled a group of undecided Floridians. This is a group that everyone is interested in, Democrats and Republicans.

They're going to be listening to the vice presidential nominee speech Paul Ryan. They have a meter, what they like, what they don't like. Tom Foreman is going to join us. He's assembled this group and will explain what's going on. I think our viewers will be interested.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. You're looking at live pictures, lovely night here in Tampa, Florida, inside they are rock and rolling right now.

Tom Foreman is standing by. He's got a special group that he's assembled taking a closer look at what's going to be happening with these people. Tom, explain what's going on?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we have here is a group of about 30 undecided voters from in and around Tampa area. You know there aren't that many undecided voters left. They're all sitting here holding these devices.

And what they'll be doing is as they listen to these speeches is they're going to dial that show whether they like what they hear or they don't like what they hear.

While that is flowing out of all of their dials, it will run into a bank of computers over here, which will process that information so we can see the reaction, whether the men liked it more or the women liked it more and how it's playing with the whole group.

And this, Wolf, is the group that both campaigns are desperately after. Raise your hands if you are an undecided voter because that's what we're talking about tonight. Look at this, Wolf.

Both campaigns have desperately been looking for these very people. We want to see tonight how the Republicans do in trying to win some of them over. So we'll be analyzing the information as it comes in.

Getting second by second reads on how they react to the messages tonight, Wolf. We'll bring you those results later in the evening second by second and talk to many of these voters about why they feel the way they do.

Very different crowd here than you have actually in the hall, people have already signed on to support Mitt Romney, who believe in the Republican cause. These are the people that Republicans want to win and the people the Democrats want to win.

And as far as I can tell, they're kind of a tough crowd -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to get the results in the 11:00 p.m. Eastern hour. I'm anxious to hear how they react.

BURNETT: There are so few people who are undecided. Our own polls say only 13 percent of the Americans are undecided. So they really are the Holy Grail.

BLITZER: Some are switchable, as they say as well. Most Americans have made up their mind that they're all going after that 10 percent undecided vote.

All right, Chris Christie is standing by. He's going to join Piers Morgan live. In a few moments, we'll hear what the governor of New Jersey had to say. He gave a pretty rousing speech on the floor of the convention last night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a deep awareness of the responsibility conferred by your trust, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is America of brilliant diversity, spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call on every American to rise above all that may divide us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had their chance. They have not led. We will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight if per what's right for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're getting ready for the major speakers of this night here at the Republican convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Tampa tonight, Congressman Paul Ryan helps deliver tonight's message that Americans need to change.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Commitment, Mitt Romney and I make to you is this. We want not just tough issues, we will lead.