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THE SITUATION ROOM
Senate Candidate Under Fire for Controversial Rape Remarks; Libya Investigation Continues; Trump to Obama: Let's Make a Deal; Final Appeal to Undecided Voters; Harsher Prison Term for Millennium Bomber; Hurricane Sandy Pounds Jamaica; U.S. Marine Meets Daughter; Administration Pushes Back Against Libya E-mails
Aired October 24, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: an interview with President Obama that none of us were meant to see. It goes public. It includes some revealing remarks about his opponents and his plans for a second term.
Also, Mitt Romney's sidetracked by some controversial remarks about rape and abortion by a Senate candidate he endorsed.
And newly revealed e-mail, they're raising new questions right now about what the White House knew in the hours following that deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just 13 days until the presidential election and the Obama and Romney campaigns, they are kicking into overdrive as the candidates make their final push to win the White House. CNN correspondents are following their every move. They're reporting from coast to coast and from all the most crucial states, any one of which has the potential to decide who the next president of the United States will be.
Let's begin this hour's coverage in Iowa where President Obama kicked off a two-day coast-to-coast swing through eight states. He's calling it a campaign marathon extravaganza, likening it to an all-nighter. And no surprise, his itinerary consisting almost entirely of battleground states.
CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is traveling with the president.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama is hopping around the nation stumping for early votes and undecided voters. It's the kind of whirlwind tour you usually see in the last 48 hours before Election Day. The fact they're doing it 13 days before the ballots are cast is a sign just how important the early vote is to this campaign.
Now, from Davenport, Iowa, the president heads to Denver, Colorado, then he has stops in Florida, Virginia, again in Ohio. He's going to Las Vegas, Nevada, overnight. He also stops in Las Vegas -- in Los Angeles where he will be taping with Jay Leno, and in Chicago, Illinois, where he will be casting his own early ballot. He had a bit of a new message when he spoke to voters here in Iowa telling them this is where it all started, but also making the case that he is the same person he has been all along. They know him better than anyone. And drawing a contrast with Mitt Romney, his values haven't changed. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some folks in this crowd who probably have been following me since I was running for the United States Senate. And, you know what, you can -- like this guy right here, who I served with in the United States Senate, George Shadid.
And, you know, you could take a videotape of things I said 10 years ago, 12 years ago, and you would say, man, this is the same guy, has the same values, cares about the same people. Doesn't forget where he came from. Knows who he's fighting for.
And you know what? I haven't finished all the work that we set out to do back in 2008. But I have fought for you every single day that I have held this office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: And, Wolf, also a bit of news. In an interview with "The Des Moines Register" that was supposed to be off the record but then was put on, the president revealed a bit of his second term agenda if reelected. He said he believes he could get immigration reform done in the first year and turn this sequester crisis into something like the grand bargain, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, thanks very much.
That interview by the way with "The Des Moines Register" was supposed to be off the record. But after the newspaper protested, the Obama campaign agreed to have it published in full. Not only did the president say he's confident he can get immigration reform passed if reelected, Jessica just reported that, he went onto say this -- and I'm quoting -- "And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community" -- a direct quote from the president in that interview.
Meanwhile, Republican challenger Mitt Romney is facing another distraction over the issue of abortion rights for women.
CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is with the Romney campaign in Reno, Nevada.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In what's now a horse race to the finish, Mitt Romney was rounding up votes in Nevada and trying to stay on message on the economy.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president doesn't understand what it takes to get this economy going. He doesn't have a plan to get jobs for Americans. I do. And that's why I'm going to win.
ACOSTA: Romney's in the midst of a swing state blitz, flying from Colorado to Nevada to Iowa to Ohio, then back to Iowa, back to Ohio and then onto Florida and Virginia.
But a new distraction cropped up in Indiana, where Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate, made jaws drop with his comments on why abortion should be outlawed in the case of rape.
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
ROMNEY: This fall, I'm supporting Richard Mourdock for Senate.
ACOSTA: The problem for Romney, he'd already taped this endorsement ad for Mourdock. A Democratic super PAC pounced, churning out its own Web video, tying Romney's appearance in the spot to other controversial statements made by Mourdock.
MOURDOCK: It's by partisanship that's taken us to the brink of bankruptcy. We don't need bipartisanship.
ROMNEY: I hope you will join me in supporting Richard Mourdock.
Senator Kelly Ayotte.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: It didn't take long for some top Republicans to start distancing themselves from Mourdock's comments. Romney surrogate and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte canceled an appearance with Mourdock.
MOURDOCK: The comments were made. The comments have been misunderstood.
ACOSTA: Soon after that, Mourdock held a news conference to apologize.
MOURDOCK: I don't think God wants rape. I don't think he wants that at all because rape is evil. I abhor evil.
ACOSTA: Despite the controversy, the Romney campaign said it's not calling on Mourdock to pull the endorsement ad. The Romney campaign released a statement saying he disagrees with Mr. Mourdock and Mr. Mourdock's comments do not reflect Governor Romney's views. "We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest, but still support him."
On a conference call with supporters, a Democratic Party official said that's not far enough.
BRAD WOODHOUSE, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: He should go further and demand that the ad featuring him speaking directly to camera on Mourdock's behalf be taken off the air.
ACOSTA: Democrats say the controversy should serve as an election warning to women voters who were upset by Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments on abortion over the summer.
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
BLITZER: That report from Jim Acosta, who's traveling with Romney in Reno, Nevada.
Let's go inside the race right now for the White House with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, seven of the battleground states, they're now voting early. What if anything does that mean big picture?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's very important. You just heard Jessica Yellin say the president's doing this whirlwind tour and that's because of early voting in some of the swing states.
We know what happened in 2008, Wolf. And that is one-third of all votes across the country were cast by early and absentee ballots. And in swing states, Wolf, there were nearly 16 million votes cast before Election Day. That is so important. Take a look at some of these key battleground states, the number of early votes cast.
You see here Iowa, Ohio, Florida. Florida, almost a million early ballots already cast. And there's still almost two weeks left to go. And in 2008, Wolf, almost half of the entire Florida electorate voted early. So what this does, it allows campaigns to stretch out their mobilization efforts. And right now, they have the luxury of targeting unlikely voters.
So they can get those people to the poll. They have identified their likely voters. They know how to get them to the polls on Election Day. But this allows them to identify a whole new group of people that they would hope to bring in. And Democrats had a real advantage in 2008. Republicans say they have learned a lot of lessons from the Democrats and they're catching up.
BLITZER: So with 13 days to go, what factors are you seeing that could determine the outcome?
BORGER: Above all else, enthusiasm and intensity of voters. Take a look at this Gallup poll here. In June, you will see that the Republicans were at 32 percent, now 45 percent, up 13 points intensity. Democrats up more, Wolf, up 16 points. Gallup says that may be because of women who focus in late on the election and they are turning towards Democrats, getting more enthusiastic.
But Republicans still remain as you see overall with a more enthusiastic base than the Democrats. So we see a country that is getting increasingly interested in this election. And we see Republicans and Democrats almost at parity now, which is good news for President Obama, because he was worried about those disaffected Democrats not coming out to vote.
BLITZER: Now, interesting that the Karl Rove-backed Republican super PAC American Crossroads, they have a new ad featuring Clint Eastwood, the star, the movie star. I'll play a little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: Obama's second term would be a rerun of the first and our country just couldn't survive that. We need someone who can turn it around fast. And that man is Mitt Romney. There's not much time left and the future of our country is at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Here's the question. He was widely ridiculed...
BLITZER: ... as a result of talking to the chair, the empty chair at the Republican Convention.
BORGER: There was no chair in that ad.
BLITZER: No chair. I didn't see any chair there. But he was widely panned. A lot of Republicans themselves thought it was inappropriate especially coming after that excellent film portraying Mitt Romney, getting the stage set for Mitt Romney and then all of a sudden he starts rambling in front of a chair for 12 or 13 or 14...
BLITZER: Why did they use him?
BORGER: Well, of course, this Republican group focus-grouped Clint Eastwood. And what they came out saying is, by the way, all of us in the media were completely obsessive about Clint Eastwood. They focus- grouped it and tested off the charts Clint Eastwood and this particular ad in important states, Florida and Ohio, did very well for them.
They believe he's not your run-of-the-mill celebrity. They believe Clint Eastwood is iconic, that he will appeal to Republican voters in swing states and forget about what happened at the convention. That was just a bunch of media elite panning Clint Eastwood.
BLITZER: All right. But I suspect some that undecided voters in Florida and Ohio and Virginia may not necessarily be thrilled by that.
BORGER: That's why there wasn't an empty chair in the ad.
BLITZER: You know, I'm just getting this information. Our sister publication "TIME" magazine has a brand-new poll that just came out and it shows Obama leading Romney by five in Ohio. Obama holds a 49 percent, 44 percent lead over Romney in a survey taken Monday and Tuesday night. The poll's margin of error, plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Well, 49 percent, 44 percent, if you're president of the United States in the key battleground state of Ohio, that's decent. That's pretty good.
BORGER: Yes. Did it say -- who's in the lead? Obama's in the lead or Romney?
BLITZER: It says, yes, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney by five points in Ohio according to a new "TIME" poll, Obama 49 percent, Romney 44 percent.
BORGER: It's almost within the margin of error, Wolf. I spoke to a senior Romney adviser today who said to me they believe it's an absolute dead heat in the state of Ohio. So there you have Obama up.
Don't forget, the president has a road to an Electoral College victory without the state of Ohio, but it is very difficult if not impossible for Mitt Romney to get there, because if he loses Ohio, he has to run the table on a lot of states that right now he's not ahead in.
BLITZER: No Republican has won the White House without Ohio.
BORGER: Right. That's right.
BLITZER: So with 13 days to go according to this "TIME" magazine poll, Obama's up by five in Ohio, 3 percentage point margin of error.
BORGER: Good news for the White House.
An October surprise, not quite, but Donald Trump is proposing a $5 million deal to President Obama. You want the details? We will share them with you when we come back.
BLITZER: The presidential campaign is now at the point where any new piece of information about the candidates could shake up the race. And some people thought that's exactly what Donald Trump was going to produce today. But the reality is quite different.
CNN' Joe Johns is here. He's got the details.
So, what's the Donald up to now?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is political silly season. Sort of an election year rite of passage when voters come to expect last-minute revelations intended to affect the outcome of the race. But what was being billed as Donald Trump's bombshell announcement is now being viewed as yet another attempt by Trump to promote the aims of the discredited birther movement conspiracy theories questioning whether the president is a natural born citizen.
JOHNS (voice-over): When Donald Trump, who is a big Mitt Romney supporter, announced on Twitter he was going to make one of his big announcements, there was immediate suspicion that what he was suggesting might be an October surprise which would or could damage President Obama. But when Trump's announcement came, it was not really a surprise at all. Actually, Trump made an offer to the president, a bargain.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP INTERNATIONAL: If Barack Obama opens up and gives his college records and applications, and if he gives his passport applications and records, I will give to a charity of his choice a check immediately for $5 million.
JOHNS: And why was Trump doing this besides trying to attract attention? Because he claimed --
TRUMP: President Obama is the least transparent president in the history of this country. There's never been anything like it.
JOHNS: President Obama's team sidestepped the issue. When asked about it, an advisor said, "Direct those questions to Boston because Donald Trump is Mitt Romney's biggest supporter so he owns everything he says."
The immediate reactions on social media were well graphic. Anatomical references all over Twitter only the mildest we could repeat here. "Can somebody get a muzzle for Donald Trump", said one. Another said. "Donald Trump is a piece of work. Can you imagine what the world would be like if he and his hairline were president?"
Trump defended his offer to the president in a pre-taped interview on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT".
TRUMP: I'm doing this in a positive manner. This isn't a negative. This is a positive. This can clear up any doubt about the president. And that's a positive thing. Not a negative thing.
JOHNS: Of course, you can also make the case the Democrats have their own wackiness going on right now. The celebrity defense lawyer Gloria Allred was in court today trying to get a judge to unseal testimony given by Mitt Romney in a contentious divorce case involving one of his business colleagues decades ago. "The Boston Globe" asked for the testimony to be released. Now Allred joined in, she represents the ex-wife in the old divorce case. So, we'll just have to see where that leads, Wolf.
BLITZER: You said this is the silly season. Is that what you said?
BLITZER: It's 13 days before the election.
JOHNS: And we've still got a ways to go.
BLITZER: A little more in this, you think?
JOHNS: I would guess.
JOHNS: Almost always, as you know.
BLITZER: Thank you. Good report.
We're going to have much more when Donald Trump joins Piers later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific, only here on CNN.
A check of the other day's top stories coming up next.
Then, Hillary Clinton comes out firing. We're going to hear her reaction to newly revealed e-mails about the attack that killed the United States ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including Syrian rebel's skeptical reaction to a so-called proposed ceasefire.
What's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
Well, the Syrian government is proposing a ceasefire that would end the nearly two-year old war, at least temporarily. The deal would only last for four days during a Muslim holiday. But even so, experts wonder if the offer is sincere. Experts say President Bashar al-Assad may just be wanting some breathing room to reach out to the international community. The opposition says 32,000 people have died in that civil war.
And more than one in seven people get sick from tainted food every year. That is the finding of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report found that 48 million people are sickened every year, and the problem is getting worse. With 44 percent more Americans getting ill or dying than just two years ago. The group also worries about the impact of Congress cutting funding for the FDA.
And Mitt Romney may want to cut funding for Big Bird, but a Halloween costume company loves the yellow muppet. The Republican candidate's comment about PBS funding at the first presidential debate led to a run on Big Bird costumes. The company, rather, licensed to sell them says it sold out and can't get anymore in time for Halloween. And here's why -- probably not a big surprise, the costumes are made in China.
And Ban Ki-moon showed off his lighter side today. The secretary general got down with rapper Psy -- you know him, he's the guy who started with the Gangnam dance craze. Psy joked that the men are the world's most famous South Koreans. Ban says he's now thinking of throwing Gangnam dance parties at the U.N. just to lighten up maybe some tough negotiations.
So I know we've seen some of the dances going on. I don't know if you know the dance, but I'm not going to attempt --
BLITZER: Can you show us a little bit? Just a little bit.
SYLVESTER: I'm not going to try. I would not either. But I know there are some people off scene, off cameras trying to do the dance.
BLITZER: I think we got people who are going to be able to -- there we go.
SYLVESTER: There it is. There's the dance.
BLITZER: Let it breathe a little bit.
SYLVESTER: We've got Van Jones. He's (INAUDIBLE). He's going to be coming up in the next block and he's trying to do it.
BLITZER: I think a billion people have seen that video in YouTube.
SYLVESTER: I think what we're going to have to do in the near next section, we might have to have people -- but I've seen you also dancing a time or two, Wolf.
BLITZER: He's good. Psy is good. Yes.
SYLVESTER: But who knew a dance like that. But you've got two of the most famous Koreans getting together trying it out at the U.N.
BLITZER: Ban Ki-moon -- he can move, Ban Ki-moon.
SYLVESTER: So can you. So can you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
They're the one group of voters who will make al the difference on Election Day. Up next, the final appeal to undecided voters.
BLITZER: Thirteen days election before Election Day. There's still one group of voters that could make a huge, huge difference. Take a look at our snapshot. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Obama and Romney campaigns are laser- focused on the battlegrounds.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Trying to do something that's not so easy, appeal to the small sliver of undecided voters.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there are about six undecided voters left in the entire country.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Is it Romney or Obama?
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: They've only had two years to think about it. You're idiots. Make up your minds.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Let's get straight to Sirius XM radio host Pete Dominick and our excellent, excellent panel.
PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you very much, Wolf Blitzer, for letting us borrow THE SITUATION ROOM for a minute.
Let's get started right away with the brilliant "New York Times'" Ross Douthat.
These undecided, they don't even exist, right?
ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No, listen, I think they still exist. If you have national polling numbers showing, you know, Obama and Romney both around 47 percent, there are clearly some voters out there who, you know, some of its turnout and so on but who might still make up their mind. I think it's worth saying something in defense of them, right?
DOMINICK: No, we're out of time. Sorry.
DOUTHAT: No, but it's easy for people in our business and I'm including you here I know --
DOMINICK: Of totally decided.
DOUTHAT: Well, to assume you listen to David Letterman, you've had two years to make up your minds. But actual normal human beings with lives and jobs who don't come on television and talk about politics for a living might have reasons to, you know, just tune into the election in the last couple months. I think that being undecided can be a noble and virtuous calling.
DOMINICK: They're undecided. They're uneducated. They're uninformed. They're uninterested. I'm sorry.
FRANKLIN FOER, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": I don't believe them.
DOMINICK: Yes. They just want attention.
FOER: I don't believe that most of them are undecided. I believe that some of them are genuinely afraid to express their true political opinions. I've got several cousin who is profess to be undecided, but I don't think they want to tell me that they're voting for Romney.
DOMINICK: That's bad.
FOER: I don't believe a lot of them are voting. I think a lot of people who leave up their decision to the last minute are similarly going to stay home.
ALICE STEWART, SPOKESWOMAN, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: I don't personally know any. None of us here do. They're either very --
DOMINICK: Facebook friends, maybe.
STEWART: But the thing is a lot of them the only way to really gauge them now is based on independent vote. That's going to be the swing vote right now.
And what we're seeing now with early and absentee voting, we're seeing with the activity that we're seeing, we're seeing much more Republicans come out as opposed to 2008 than Democrats and we're seeing many more independents come out.
And typically what we're seeing is the independent and undecided voters they are not going to vote for the incumbent in office. So that bodes well for Governor Romney.
DOMINICK: But they don't know paper or plastic. They go to the fridge and can't decide what they want.
DOUTHAT: Van, you know -- Van, I'll have to defend them again.
VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISOR: I think this election is different than the other elections. Usually you get to choose between two people running for president.
In this situation, you're choosing between Obama and five or six different Romneys. And it just takes a lot more time. It's just harder to figure out who you're going to pick.
And the other thing is, to your point because I do want to say, for some people their relationship to the election is like my relationship to the Super Bowl. I am not into football. I don't watch football.
DOMINICK: Comic book nerd.
JONES: Geek, geek, geek. So about two days before the Super Bowl I ask people who I know who are you for and that's what I'm for. So I do think there are people who they don't recognize that -- but I do think the fact Mitt Romney has been so many different people in the course of this campaign it's hard to make up your mind.
DOMINICK: What are they undecided about? How can you be undecided? DOUTHAT: Let's look at it this way. Most people who work in politics for a living go into politics because they really care about that particular issue and that issue puts them on the right or the left.
It's the environment. It's social issues. It's taxes. It's foreign policy and so on. But people who don't work in politics for a living are often, you know, not strictly pro-life or strictly pro-choice.
DOMINICK: You're just calling condescending --
DOUTHAT: No. They like low taxes and high Medicare spending. And in this election talking particularly on fiscal issues, you're voting for two bad options.
If you vote for Obama, your taxes are probably going to up more than if you vote for Romney and if you vote for Romney, popular programs are going to get cut more than a few --
JONES: And if you're a woman you won't have any rights. So that's kind of tough.
DOUTHAT: That's exactly what's going to happen, Van.
STEWART: The positive thing here the Republicans and the Romney campaign continue to go after those swing voters and people that don't have a long voting record on one side or the other whereas the Obama campaign is going after the base and turning them out getting them to vote early.
I've been involved in several focus groups of undecided voters and they're very passionate, they're very emotionally driven. What we've seen prior to the debates and post debate, before the debates they weren't sure if they liked Mitt Romney. Now they see him as a likable person. He's an incredible leader. He's got sound fiscal policies.
DOMINICK: I have a hard time believing that these undecided are even watching the debates. They're watching football. I don't care. Ross made a lot of good points.
But you don't know how you feel and which is best for the jobs and economy, but there are all the other issues. What do you think about the environment? What do you think about climate change? What do you think about equality? I mean, there's got to be something.
DOUTHAT: But there are a lot of people who are in the middle on the two parties. We're having an argument today about abortions in cases of rape --
FOER: The undecided voters aren't people -- I mean, they are people who are in the middle, but also the people describing, they're low information voters.
DOUTHAT: I'm not defending all undecided voters here.
DOMINICK: You have an undecided voter bumper sticker on your undecided car. DOUTHAT: I'm just saying I know some undecided. They're good people, some of my best friends. They work hard. They play by the rules.
DOMINICK: I understand. But here, I can change -- I can easily change any undecided' mind right now. Where's the camera? Each one of these candidates, no matter who wins, one of them is going to choose one to three Supreme Court justices. If you don't know how powerful the Supreme Court is, don't vote. Done. Move on.
DOUTHAT: But how do you think the Supreme Court should rule, right? Again, take the issue of abortion, right? If the Supreme Court overturned Roe Versus Wade, abortion law will be returned to the states, which means the country will move in a marginally pro-life direction. There are a lot of people to say I'd like the country to move marginally --
DOMINICK: You're confusing undecided right now with a thorough thoughtful answer.
DOUTHAT: That's why I'm here.
FOER: He's confusing undecided with Ross Douthat. One thing confounding to me about the way the campaign is playing out right now is the Supreme Court pitch you made, it's a pretty good one. And I don't quite understand why that hasn't played a more central role in the Obama messaging at this stage.
DOUTHAT: What are you talking about? The Obama has been only about abortion.
JONES: The Supreme Court in particular if you look at Romney has picked someone to be his running mate who believes the government should bare the children of their rapist. If he picks that person for his vice president, he may pick somebody --
STEWART: Let me clarify.
JONES: It's shocking and true.
STEWART: It's important to clarify. That's a very important issue. It's important to be clear the Romney/Ryan ticket doesn't support abortion except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.
It is an important issue for undecided and independents, economy and jobs are the number one. Currently we have a terrible economy and not going to support an incumbent leading us down a bad economic road.
DOMINICK: We've got to end it there. When we come back none of us are undecided. We're all going to give our unsolicited advice. And that's coming up right here. We've hijacked Wolf Blitzer's THE SITUATION ROOM and doing our own unsolicited advice. Stay right here.
DOMINICK: We're back here on unsolicited advice right here on CNN. And it's now time for our brilliant panel to give our advice even though nobody asked for it. Let me start with my good friend, Van Jones. Who's your target?
JONES: My target is Paul Ryan. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that he is a big anti-poverty champion. Nobody knew that, unless you read "The Onion." I'm not joking.
He came out today on this big speech about the poor and I already knew it was coming because "The Onion" said after the 47 percent comment came out that as a joke Paul Ryan was going to come out and stick up for poor people and put it to rest.
If Paul Ryan wants to become a champion of the poor, here's my advice, if you want it not to be seen as a joke by "The Onion" and everybody else, take your plan, cut it into 1,000 pieces and flush it away.
Kaiser came out unfortunate timing for him and says his plan is going to cut $1.7 trillion from Medicaid. Medicaid is a program that poor people -- working poor people rely on when they get sick so they don't get impoverished by the sickness to get into the middle class.
If you really want to be taken seriously as a champion of the poor, take your plan, tear it up, start over and do not take $1.7 trillion away from poor working people. That's my advice.
DOMINICK: This is the whole role of government argument. What about head start?
DOUTHAT: Why are you asking me? I'm an undecided voter. I think the argument that Van and many liberals make is that in order to, you know, be on the side of the poor, you have to support or increase levels of government spending.
DOMINICK: Not dying for being sick. Something like that.
STEWART: It's important to note that free markets have lifted more people out of poverty than any anti-poverty government program that we have in the world. Free market is the way to go.
FOER: People also mistake the extent to which the Ryan plan deviates from even decades of even conservative thinking about the social safety net and pushes it much further in a libertarian direction.
DOMINICK: We had more of a conversation about what helps poor people than either of the candidates, fantastic.
DOUTHAT: Now I'll take us far away from it because out of politics entirely. I heard van made a foray into science fiction into yesterday's show and I'm going to make a foray and offer advice to the millions and millions of Americans who love the "Lord of the Rings" franchise.
The first hobbit movie is coming out and I'm warning Americans right now prepare for disappointment. Because basically what Jackson has done this time is take the hobbit, which is a book a third the length of the "Lord of the Rings" and break it into three movies.
Essentially you're having a movie for every 75 pages of the book. We just learned today that the first movie will be two hours and 40 minutes long. So the off shot of this is be prepared for boredom, padding and a sense that this time the makers of the movies are just cashing in.
DOMINICK: Do you have any idea how hard I tried to be interested in that? I mean, I just --
DOUTHAT: You know --
DOMINICK: You are such a nerd. I had no idea. I'm sure Van --
JONES: This is blasphemy for you to speak out -- this is worse than your defense of the undecided -- you to speak out against Mr. Jackson.
FOER: If you were casting on the basis of the Washington political elite, who would you cast?
DOUTHAT: I'm going to do a rare thing and quote my wife. She for her sins had to watch all the Republican primary debates and she loved them. She thought they were great entertainment. She thought it was a fellowship of the ring. You had Jon Huntsman as the baffled elf in one end. And honestly I think Ron Paul in that scenario kind of hunched and --
DOMINICK: All right, go ahead, Alice.
STEWART: My unsolicited advice, of course all my advice is unsolicited, would be for President Obama. Van, if you would be so kind as to pass this along.
I think it's great, I think it's encouraging he's showing the American people who he is, showing his style and personality. When he was elected we weren't really sure who he was other than he's a likable cool guy.
He was a great father and wonderful husband and what he's doing now is showing us who he is. I think he needs to continue doing that. I think he needs to show what he's been showing in the debates, that he is a disrespectful guy.
That he's condescending. He needs to continue doing what he did speak in condescending manner when he talked about aircraft and submarines and be snarky to his opponent. I think he needs to continue doing what he's doing talking about small things like Big Bird and bayonets and binders of women.
He needs to avoid talking about the big things like Benghazi and budgets and the burden of unemployment. Continue doing that. That's who he is. The American people have been asking who is Barack Obama.
JONES: I don't know any American people who have been asking who is Barack Obama. Maybe people watching fox, but the rest of us know who he is. And I'll tell you who he is. He is somebody who showed up for work every day and tried to help the American people while the Republican caucus stood back and let this economy go --
DOMINICK: All right.
JONES: -- Republican caucus voted against their own policy. They voted against tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, which the president's for.
DOMINICK: We can argue -- I want to get to Frank's advice.
FOER: His likability numbers and approval numbers are still incredibly high given everything. My unsolicited advice was for the media and I had some high minded advice I'm going to dish out. But on the basis of these two clowns over here, I'm going to say pundits, stop talking about science fiction. We don't care about your Star Trek conventions.
DOMINICK: Frank, lord of the rings is fantasy. It's totally different.
FOER: The fine difference that these nerds can parse.
DOMINICK: Yes. Well, we're out of time for my unsolicited advice. Just wanted to tell Richard Mourdock you may have just lost -- Richard Mourdock, you may have just lost the election in the Senate campaign because you think you know what God intends. God is OK with rape, but he's not OK with women who may need an abortion for the life of the mother.
DOUTHAT: I'm pretty sure he didn't say God's OK with rape. I'm pretty sure that's not what he said.
DOMINICK: You're right. God intended. It's a gift.
DOUTHAT: So you think a child conceived from rape we should think of that child as evil and twisted?
DOMINICK: No. Of course, not. I think women have a choice.
DOUTHAT: But he was talking about the child, right?
DOMINICK: The question is more about what God thinks. And I think we're just done with it. And this is got to be a woman's choice. I love men talking about this.
I'm out of time. I didn't mean to butcher what Richard Mourdock thinks. Let's go back to the guy who does have the facts and will get it right every time, Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: You guys are very, very nice. Thanks very much for that.
Some home comings are sweeter than others. The United States Marine he had one he will never forget meeting someone special for the very first time.
BLITZER: Lisa's back. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Including a harsher prison sentence -- excuse me, for the so-called millennium bomber. Lisa, what's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Ahmed Resam was resentenced today by a U.S. appeals court. The court found that his original 22- year prison term was too lenient and added 15 years to his sentence for plotting to set off explosives at Los Angeles International Airport.
Federal prosecutors appeal the first sentence complaining that Resam went back on a deal to help them prosecute other suspected militants.
And Hurricane Sandy is pounding Jamaica and drawing a bead on Cuba. The Category 1 storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. Both Jamaica and Cuba are under hurricane warnings and the Bahamas are under a tropical storm warning. Sandy is forecast to miss the United States entirely.
And we all know this. Our men and women in uniform make unimaginable sacrifices when they serve overseas. There are those missed anniversaries, those first days of school and time that they never can get back.
Ashley Porter, from our affiliate WTSP reports on a Marine's homecoming that was more special than usual.
ASHLEY PORTER, WTSP REPORTER (voice-over): Through the crowd of suitcases and passengers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What time is it?
PORTER: You see the smiles and the signs of a family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's overwhelming.
PORTER: Waiting for their Marine to come home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not easy, but when you really love somebody, it's worth it.
PORTER: During each of her husband's four deployments, Dana has done this wait. But her daughter, 4-month-old Sofia, never has.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you excited to meet daddy?
PORTER: This will be Sophia's first time ever meeting her dad. Contract and communications field specialist, Fernando Chuva.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She already has teeth.
PORTER: When she was born, he was already in Afghanistan.
DANA CHUVA, WIFE OF U.S. MARINE: When we were in the hospital we videotaped that and sent it to him. As far as Skyping, I think he maybe has Skyped with her three or four times. The internet's not very good over there. It's very difficult. PORTER: Sofia looks and acts like her dad, which has made the wait easier for her mom.
DANA CHUVA: I feel like now I have a part of him home.
PORTER: And she's about to have all of him here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, baby. My Lord, look at her go.
PORTER: As fellow passengers stop to take it in.
FERNANDO CHUVA, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The feeling is just a sigh of relief. No words to express it. I was just so happy, Jesus.
SYLVESTER: It's stories like that that make you want to tear up. That was Ashley Porter from our affiliate WTSP. He will have two weeks of diaper changing duty in Tampa before returning to Afghanistan, but he expects to be home for good by Christmas time.
Everybody loves a story like that, that father seeing his little girl, very cute little baby by the way for the first time.
BLITZER: Still have 60,000 or 70,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. A lot of them will be there not just 2013, but in 2014 as well under this current schedule. Two years they're suppose today stay there and then all of them will be out.
SYLVESTER: And we all know it's a sacrifice for the families. That's the thing to keep in mind, Wolf, a real human sacrifice there.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. Hillary Clinton comes out firing. We're going to hear her reaction to those newly revealed e-mails about the attack that killed the United States ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
BLITZER: The Obama administration is pushing back against critics who say newly revealed e-mails showed the White House knew within hours a terror group was claiming responsibility for the attack in Benghazi, Libya.
CNN's intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly is working the story for us. What are you learning, Suzanne?
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Well, we know that the release of the e-mail certainly has provided ammunition for critic who is say the administration hasn't been forthcoming with what they knew about the Benghazi investigation.
But they also highlight a growing frustration among those within the administration who are saying enough already. Let's get on with bringing those responsible to justice.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've said it. And I'll say it one more time. No one wants to find out what happened more than I do.
KELLY (voice-over): Secretary Hillary Clinton came out firing today after e-mails obtained by CNN made clear that shortly after the attack began the State Department notified officials from the White House, the top intelligence agency, the Pentagon and FBI that an attack was underway and that Ambassador Stevens was in the compound.
Just two hours later, another e-mail indicated the Libyan extremist group Ansar Al Sharia was claiming responsibility for the attack on social media web sites.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: So what you saw in the e-mails in that realtime was a real description and if you noticed, there was no talk of demonstrations or other things. And it was clearly very early identified with a terrorist affiliate of AQIM.
KELLY: Clinton said, quote, "cherry picking a document does not tell the whole story. An initial claim of responsibility is not solid intelligence."
CLINTON: Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence. And I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be.
KELLY: The group denied being responsible the next day. In fact, intelligence officials do not believe this Libyan group is solely responsible.
A U.S. government official tells CNN that the latest intelligence suggests a core group of suspects that launched the initial part of the attack on the mission was somewhere between 35 and 40.
Around a dozen of them are believed to have ties to either al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Still others part to be of the group and many said to be Egyptian Jihadists, still others were looters say officials and unarmed.
KELLY: Now, a suspect in the attack is being held in Tunisia where the U.S. has been denied access to him according to Senator Saxby Chambliss. Now he is the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee.
CNN has been told that the suspect's name is Ali Ani Al Hasri. He is a Tunisian connected to extremist groups in North Africa. The U.S. first became aware of Al Hasri when he posted on social media details of the attack while it was happening. When he left Libya for Turkey, he was detained by Turkish officials at the request of the U.S., and he was later transferred to Tunisia.
BLITZER: Suzanne Kelly, thank you.