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Interview With Mitt Romney; President Obama Awards Medal of Honor

Aired September 15, 2011 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he's standing by to join us live to talk this hour about his rivalry with Rick Perry. He will talk about health care reform, the Tea Party movement, a whole lot more -- my interview with Mitt Romney coming up.

And Rick Perry is on the cover of the new issue of "TIME" magazine. The managing editor, Rick Stengel, is here to take us inside their in-depth interview with the Texas governor.

And the command failures that put a group of Marines in a life or death situation and ultimately led to one of them being awarded the Medal of Honor.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A proposed new broadband network IS sparking stiff opposition and controversy. There's deep concern it could lead to a communications breakdown, interfering with everything from aviation to the U.S. military as well as some serious new questions about whether political contributions helped pave the way for the company to proceed.

We're getting new information.

Lisa Sylvester's been investigating this story for us.

Lisa, what is going on in this particular case.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, LightSquared is a company many may not have heard of before, but the company wants to create a whole new broadband network. Billions are on the line here for the company. Their proposal hasn't been given a complete green light, but it hasn't been killed either. And one watchdog group says the company's influence in Washington may have played a role.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): GPS is used to help math map your destination, it's used in commercial aviation and by the military to guide missiles. But because of GPS, a company called LightSquared is at the center of a controversy. The Federal Communications Commission granted conditional preliminary approval for the company to set up a new national broadband network in rural and underserved areas. The problem is, LightSquared services interfere with GPS signals. The military says, if the company is given the complete go-ahead, it would have a detrimental impact on military training.

GEN. WILLIAM SHELTON, U.S. AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND: The LightSquared network would effectively jam vital GPS receivers and to our knowledge, thus far, there are no mitigation opposites that would be effective.

SYLVESTER: That's why the commercial and defense sectors are heavily opposing the FCC's decision. LightSquared says, it's working on alternatives, but it is also heavily lobbying the government. The company's CEO gave $30,000 each to the Democratic National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee between September and October of 2010.

New York hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, the principal investor in LightSquared, has also given tens of thousands of dollars to help elect lawmakers. Also, a LightSquared representative reached out by e-mail to the White House chief technology officer on September 23, 2010. That's the same day the CEO, Sanjiv Ahuja, made the contribution to the DNC, saying, "I touched base with my client, Sanjiv Ahuja, and he expressed an interest in meeting with you. He's going to be in D.C. next week for a fund-raising dinner with the president."

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, says e-mails this one obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show a rare glimpse of Washington's inner workings.

JOHN FARRELL, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: The average Joe out there in Long Island or Nebraska or San Diego doesn't have $30,000 to knock on the White House door and get access to the science and technology office. It just doesn't happen. You have to be rich. You have to be powerful. You have to have lobbyists here in Washington like LightSquared has.

SYLVESTER: But the FCC has pushed back, noting earlier this week it asked for additional testing from LightSquared before giving final approval to the company's network.

JULIUS KNAPP, FCC: The commission will not authorize LightSquared to begin commercial service if its operation would cause harmful interference to GPS.

SYLVESTER: We reached out to LightSquared, but they would not comment on the record. But the company has said that its new wireless service would provide 15,000 jobs over five years.


SYLVESTER: LightSquared is now hoping as a compromise that it will be allowed to operate in lower FCC spectrum, not directly adjacent to the GPS spectrum. Another option would be using some kind of a filter on high-precision GPS systems. But General Shelton testified today that neither of those are sufficient fixes for the military.

When asked for the approval process, the White House says that the FCC is an independent agency, that basically they make their own decisions and they stay out of it.

BLITZER: What a story. Thanks very much. I know you will continue working the story for us. Lisa, thank you.

It's been just over a month since he jumped in. We're talking about the Texas governor, Rick Perry. He certainly has shaken up the Republican race for the White House quickly moving to the front of the pack.

It's part of the reason he's on the cover of the brand-new issue of "TIME" magazine, our corporate cousin.

Let's bring in the managing editor, Rick Stengel.

"The Rise of Rick Perry." There's the cover, Rick.

Let's talk a little bit about the governor, who is the front- runner, and I will read a line from the article, the main article in the new issue of "TIME." "He has executive experience like Romney, talks as tough as Bachmann, and can be almost as prickly in his individualism as libertarian iconoclast Ron Paul. And he knows how to win."

That's the key. He knows how to win. Talk a little bit about Rick Perry and his -- he's never lost a race in his life, has he?

RICHARD STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": No, he has never lost a race, Wolf. He's an enormous political talent. I think it's one of the things that you see when he's up there on the stage with other Republicans, is that he's very comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He's got a little bit of a swagger.

He doesn't feel like he has to mold his views to one way or another. It was Karl Rove many years ago who saw the political talent in Rick Perry when he was a Democrat. And so he has a pretty good pedigree that way.

BLITZER: Is he the biggest threat would you say among the Republicans to President Obama's reelection?

STENGEL: I don't know the answer to that. There have been recent polls comparing him to Romney.

There are those who say, of course, that because he is so different from Romney and so different from Obama, that it's a true kind of clash of people who have a very different idea about government and the role of government in our society.

And in that sense, it's a clash between two people who represent very different ideas that the electorate may have. And that would make it interesting.

BLITZER: Let me read another line from the new article in "TIME" magazine.

"Perry is in some ways a chameleon, a shape-shifting political animal who can be for both smaller government and bigger highways, against illegal immigrants and for assimilation of their children. While claiming to be an anti-Washington maverick, he's repeatedly tapped federal programs including the 2009 stimulus to float his state through hard times."

He took some positions at that Republican debate we did earlier in the week that angered some of those Tea Party activists in the audience.

STENGEL: He did. And he wasn't afraid to anger them. And we talked to him about that when we interviewed him a couple of days ago.

And he said, look, he said, I'm not out there to please different constituencies. I know I'm going to alienate people, including the Tea Party.

And one of the things you said earlier him about being a chameleon, governors tend to be non-ideological. They have to be pragmatists. They have to build highways. They have to take money from the federal government. So with governors you can look at all the constellation of things that they have done and find things that don't fit some particular ideological scrim, but that's what makes him interesting.

BLITZER: Let me play a little clip from the interview, because you posted it on your Web site, and then I want to talk about it. Listen to this.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There may be someone who is an established Republican who circulates in the cocktail circuit that would find some of my rhetoric to be inflammatory or what have you, but I'm really talking to the American citizen out there.

And I think the American citizens are just tired of all of this, you know, political correctness and politicians who are tiptoeing around important issues. They want a decisive leader.


BLITZER: Did you get the impression -- and you knew the context of that clip -- based no the question and the answer, was that a thinly veiled reference to Mitt Romney?

STENGEL: You know, it's funny. I didn't think of it that way, Wolf. I think he was saying that people always know where he stands. I guess in a way he's saying obliquely, you might not know where my opponents stand or where Mitt Romney stands. But the question actually was -- it was an interesting answer, because the question was, are there folks in the Republican Party establishment, Governor, who feel that you shouldn't be the candidate and are flocking to others? Basically he was saying that there is no Republican Party establishment anymore. It's just the people who support Republican ideas and the Tea Party.

So, he's a rebel from any conventional look at the Republican Party.

BLITZER: Rick Stengel is the managing editor of "TIME." The new issue just coming out, "The Rise of Rick Perry."

Rick, thanks for coming in.

STENGEL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You probably already suspected this, but just in case, SAT reading scores for high school seniors this year are the lowest they have been in almost 40 years.

The College Board, a nonpartisan group that administers the test, reports that SAT scores are down in every subject, dropping three points in reading, one point in math, two points in writing. Overall, the combined average SAT score of 1,500 was down six points from last year, down 18 points from five years ago.

The College Board says scores are lower due to the growing diversity of students taking the test. In 2011, 44 percent of test- takers were minorities; 36 percent were the first in their family to go to college, and 27 percent didn't speak English exclusively. The test administrators say more students than ever are taking the SAT, which includes more students from different ethnic, economic, and academic backgrounds.

Meanwhile, these disappointing SAT scores come as schools have been working to raise scores on standardized tests under the No Child Left Behind law. Sounds to me like a lot of children are getting left behind. Experts acknowledge that we should be worried about this. They suggest that high schools need more rigorous classes in order to prepare students for college. Gee, there's a concept.

Others suggest that educators have been putting more focus on math and science in this age of technology and not as much on reading and writing. But without reading and writing how in the world will the next generation of Americans be able to communicate and lead this country out of the serious myriad problems we have got?

Here's the question, then. Where's the United States headed if SAT reading scores are at their lowest point in almost 40 years?

Go to Post a comment on the blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. I would venture to say that probably more kids know how to text than know how to read in this country.

BLITZER: A lot of spelling mistake in those texts, though. I have no doubt about that.

All right, Jack, thank you.

Jack Cafferty will be back.

He ran unsuccessfully for president of the United States in 2008. So what lessons did Mitt Romney learn that he's applying now to his 2012 campaign? He's standing by live. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will ask him that, a whole lot more when he joins me this hour.

And the first living U.S. Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan, details of the battle that he now calls the worst day of his life.


BLITZER: If you're an American citizen in Syria right now, the State Department has two words for you: Get out. A new warning urging U.S. citizens to -- quote -- "Depart immediately while commercial transportation is available."

The alert won't come as a surprise to embassy staff who already have sent home family members. They did that last April. Today marks six months since the Arab spring protests first rocked Syria, and four weeks since the United States called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. We're working more on the story. Stand by.

Today, for the first time, a living U.S. Marine received the Medal of Honor for heroism on the battlefield in Afghanistan. He was honored this afternoon by the commander in chief over at the White House.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been said that "where there is a brave man, in the thickest of the fight, there is the post of honor." Today, we pay tribute to an American who placed himself in the thick of the fight -- again and again and again. In so doing, he has earned our nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. And we are extraordinarily proud of Sergeant Dakota Meyer.


BLITZER: His actions were truly remarkable. And unfortunately so was the series of command failures which we now know helped put him in that life and death situation.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr's investigating this part of the story. Barbara, what are you finding out?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, courage and valor on the part of this young Marine, shocking lack of awareness on the part of his superiors.


OBAMA: In Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation.

SGT. DAKOTA MEYER, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: I didn't do anything that any other Marine wouldn't do or I would hope any other Marine wouldn't do. I didn't -- I didn't -- I definitely don't see myself as a hero.

STARR: The president disagrees.

OBAMA: Because of your honor, 36 men are alive today.

STARR: Dakota Meyer was just 21 in September 2009 when his unit, along with an Army team and Afghan troops, moved into a village in Eastern Afghanistan to meet with elders.

The village lights go out. It was an ambush. What happened next is a six-hour firefight that made Meyer a hero. But as this highly critical Army investigation found, senior officials were complacent, lacked awareness of the battle, and failed at all almost every level.

MEYER: It's a bad day. To describe it, it's probably the worst day of my life. Not probably -- it is the worst day of my life.

STARR: One Marine radios, "We are going to die out here."

The investigation found commanders denied requests for extra firepower, helicopters and backup troops. Artillery was scrambled at one point. But according to the investigation, the decision was overruled by higher echelons.

Four times, headquarters denies Meyer's request to run and help. Finally, he disobeys orders and gets in a Humvee with another Marine. Meyer enters the kill zone five times.

MEYER: I was applying aid to as many of them as I could. We were under -- we were under heavy fire the entire time. I know I applied quite a few tourniquets, trying to stop the bleeding on a lot of the guys.

STARR: Meyer saves 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers and kills eight Taliban.

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It took well beyond the specified amount of time for a quick reaction force to be on the spot to provide assistance. That entire mechanism broke down. STARR: Three officers were reprimanded. The scathing report found the actions of key leaders at the battalion level were inadequate and ineffective. The report also ripped apart the poor performance of commissioned officers who were present.


STARR: The team even got bad intelligence from their superiors going into the village. They faced five times as many insurgents as they were told to expect.

None of this, of course, takes away anything from the extraordinary courage of this young Marine and the men he fought with on that day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we salute and praise this Marine, as all of -- as you do and everyone else does as well. Barbara, thanks very, very much.

Amid all the praise for Sergeant Meyer, President Obama also shared this humorous story about him.


OBAMA: Despite all this, I have to say Dakota is one of the most down-to-earth guys that you will ever meet. In fact, when my staff first tried to arrange the phone call so I could tell him that I would approved this medal, Dakota was at work, at his new civilian job, on a construction site. He felt he couldn't take the call right then, because he said, "If I don't work, I don't get paid."


OBAMA: So we arranged to make sure he got the call during his lunch break.


OBAMA: I told him the news, and then he went right back to work.


OBAMA: That's the kind of guy he is. He also asked to have a beer with me, which we were able to execute yesterday.

Dakota is the kind of guy who gets the job done. And I do appreciate, Dakota, you taking my call.



BLITZER: Got to have a little sense of humor in this kind of a situation.

Thanks very much for that. Mitt Romney, certainly, he's been a very vocal critic of the White House's approach to the unemployment crisis that's ongoing. Just ahead, I will speak live with him. I will ask him about a key part of the president's jobs plan, what he would do differently. We have got lots of questions for Mitt Romney. He's standing by live.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney was among the earliest candidates to begin laying the groundwork for the 2012 presidential campaign, and he enjoyed front-runner status until the Texas governor, Rick Perry, jumped in last month. The former Massachusetts governor is joining us now live from Los Angeles.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Good to have you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's start with issue number one, the economy, jobs, jobs, jobs, as we like to say.

President Obama's jobs bill, he wants to create jobs in part by investing lots of money in infrastructure development. Are you with him on that?

ROMNEY: Well, infrastructure enhancement in this country is a positive way to long-term improve the job prospects in America. But, look, a stimulus approach has not worked. The idea of item by item looking for a quick solution, throwing a little gasoline on the fire, that hasn't worked.

The first stimulus of almost $800 billion didn't create private sector jobs. This stimulus won't work. It's not going to get passed. The president needs to put aside stimulus plans and instead work to restructure the foundation of America's economy, to make America the most attractive place to invest long term, not just over the next six weeks, but over the next 60 years.

BLITZER: Because four years ago, we did some checking on infrastructure, and I'm going play a clip of what you said back on January 30th, 2008 during one of the CNN Republican debates on the issue of infrastructure and jobs.


ROMNEY: There's no question but to investment in infrastructure makes enormous sense for our country. It's good for business. It's good for the economy.

And as the governor that watched the completion -- well, almost the completion of the big dig, I think that was -- I don't know how many governors watched that $15 billion project, they do create a lot of good jobs and they help our economy. They're great things.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, so what's the difference between what you have in mind and what the president has in mind when he talks a lot about infrastructure and jobs?

ROMNEY: Well, I said the same thing a moment ago, which is that infrastructure is good for jobs and for the foundation of our economy, but it's not a short-term, quick fix, put in a few million dollars or a few billion dollars.

This is the kind of project that's going to have to be part of a very comprehensive effort to restructure our infrastructure in America, and that's going to require a new financing setting. We have to look to see whether we use toll roads public/private partnerships.

We have thousands and thousands of structurally deficient bridges, we have roads that are in terrible disrepair, we have choke points across the country that are affecting commerce. An infrastructure plan is going be needed, but to suggest that spending a few tens of billions of dollars is a stimulus plan is going to get America back to work is just silly. That's just not the case.

The president needs to sit down and look at a major re-haul of our entire economic foundation, and I don't think he has in within him. I mean, I think he's gone from stimulus to stimulus.

What we really have to do is restructure our corporate tax rates, our regulatory structure, energy policies, our trade policies, our labor policies, and he's got all of those wrong.

BLITZER: The Republican -- let's call him the front-runner -- Rick Perry, at least according to a lot of the polls, he just spoke to our sister publication "Time" magazine and he made this statement, I'm going to play it for you and then we'll discuss.

Listen to Rick Perry.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still believe they are socialist. I mean, their policies prove that almost daily. I mean, look, when all the answers emanate from Washington D.C., one size fits all, whether it's education policy or whether it's healthcare policy, that is, on its face, socialism.


BLITZER: He's talking about the Obama administration's policies.

You agree with him?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, words have a lot of unintended meanings, and calling people socialists probably goes on the fact that it is true that President Obama's team and the president himself seem to believe that government has a better approach to our economy than does the private sector, and I disagree with that approach. I believe we have to have a government that's a partner, that is encouraging the private sector, encouraging freedom, encouraging free people. What they've done instead is add regulation, add taxation, add burdens to the free enterprise system, which does tend to make us more European. And Europe isn't working in Europe; Europe is not going to work in this country.

I don't use the word socialist or I haven't so far, but I do agree that the president's approach is government heavy, government intensive, and it's not working.

BLITZER: You use the word more European than socialist, is that what you're saying?

ROMNEY: I -- I just say, government heavy, Washington heavy.

A nation which is free and dependent upon free enterprise as ours is doesn't need Washington telling businesses how to they can do every aspect of their business, how people can get their education, how they can get their health care.

Look, government is playing too heavy handed a role in America today and people want to see the government pulled back, as it should be, and allow free American people to pursue their own path in life rather than having the government dictate that for them.

BLITZER: I know you stand by the health care reform you passed, you got enacted when you were the governor of Massachusetts, and you differentiate between who what you did in Massachusetts as opposed to what President Obama did on a national scale. But some other news organizations have done some research, and I'll give you a chance to respond to this.

They have taken a look at your book, the book entitled "No Apology," the hard-cover version, in that book you this, you wrote, "It's portable, affordable health insurance -- something people have been talking about for decades," referring to your plan. "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."

Now in the paperback, more recent version, it was changed to say, "It's portable, affordable health insurance -- something people have been talking about for decades. And it was done without government taking over health care." The line, "we can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country," was taken out.

Explain why.

ROMNEY: You know, Wolf, we updated the book because it came out almost a year after the first book, and, of course, the president's plan was then put in place.

I was in asked when we put our plan together by Dan Balz of "The Washington Post," is the plan in Massachusetts something that, if you are president, you'd have the entire country adopt. And I said no. I said that very clearly. I've said it throughout the campaign in 2008. The Massachusetts plan was crafted for Massachusetts, for the needs of 8 percent of our population that didn't have insurance, not for the 92 percent that did. Obamacare is a plan that takes over 100 percent of the people in the country and their health care, and that's one of the reasons why people don't want it.

So our plan was a model for other states to copy, some states have copied parts of it, others say no way, they'll do something else, that's their right. But it is not a plan to have a one-size-fits -all approach, I said that from the beginning, continue to say it.

By the way, it works pretty well in Massachusetts, but there's some flaws in it, I'd like to see them changed.

BLITZER: You remember the exchange I had at the debate with Ron Paul when I asked about the hypothetical 30-year-old who has a good job, healthy, makes a good living, but decides he doesn't want to buy health insurance, he wants to do something else with that money, but he gets into some sort of accident, needs life support for six months, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. What do you do with some -- who pays for that kind of care?

You heard the exchange I had with Ron Paul, but what do you say?

ROMNEY: Well, as you know, what I say is that states have a responsibility for caring for their own poor, this should not be a federal responsibility.

And there are two ways that states have traditionally done that. One is to give out free care at the hospitals, and that gets paid for either by other insured individuals or by taxpayers. In my state, it was paid for by taxpayers. Or you can have inferior care given to people, in which case their live or health may be in jeopardy.

We said look, we're going to insist on people taking personal responsibility. We're not going have people dying or have their health care in jeopardy. We're going to come up with a system that gives people the care they need and if they can afford their own care, we're going to insist they pay for it as opposed to looking to government.

Now, other people have come up with other ideas. I would like to see those ideas in different states. But, you know, in Massachusetts now about 98 percent of the people have insurance, and I'm proud of the fact that we're seeing better health outcomes as a result.

BLITZER: Were you taken aback like some of the other were when the audience, Tea Party supporters, when I said would you let the young man die and some of them screamed out, yes. Were you take aback by that response from some in the audience?

ROMNEY: I sure was. I was very disappointed by that response.

Look, we're a people that care very deeply for one another. We respect the sanctity of human life, whether an unborn life or someone in the middle of their life or at the end of their life. And I tried very hard as governor of my state to come up with a plan that would care for people in our state in a thoughtful and compassionate way.

You know, in our state, less than 1 percent of our children don't have health insurance. Over 99 percent of our kids have health insurance. There are other states where the uninsured kids are as high as 20 percent.

You know, I look to find a solution to problems and to try to help our people, and I think that's the role of those that have responsibility.

And incidentally, there may be better way to do it than I came up with. And as Ross Perot used say, I'm all ears. I'm happy to see what other people come up with and if they come up with something better than we did, I'm happy to have states be able to adopt that.

But a federal takeover with the federal government telling states how to do it, that's a mistake and that's one reason I'd repeal Obamacare.

BLITZER: All right, we have more to talk about, Governor. Please stand by for a moment, we're going to continue this conversation, including some lessons learned from four years ago that you're applying now. We have some national security issues we want to discuss as well.

Stand by, more of my interview with Mitt Romney when we come back.


BLITZER: We're back with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Governor, thanks, once again.

I want to get to some national security issues. How far would you go to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

ROMNEY: Well, Iran has to be convinced that we would go all the way. That we would take military action, that military action is on the table.

I think our president has communicated, in various subtle ways, that there is not a military option that would we consider. I think that's a mistake. I think you to have crippling sanctions against Iran. I think you have to have covert action in Iran to convince the people there of the folly of becoming a nuclear nation.

But I think the Iranians have to believe, as well, and particularly their leadership believe, that America would consider taking military option. That has to be on the -- on the table and plans have to be in place, and that's something which clearly you have to consider.

We cannot endure a world where Iran has a bomb because then, of course, the Saudis will and Turkey will and you go around the world, the Syrians will, and you'll have all sorts of people with nuclear weapons and ultimately, fissile material will find the way into the hands of terrorists and the consequence for the world and for America is unthinkable.

BLITZER: If you were president and you had to deal with a United Nations General Assembly vote in the coming days that would call for the creation of a Palestinian state, what would you do about that?

ROMNEY: Well, you start a long time ago. This vote and the course pursued by the Palestinians and others by others in the United Nations is another testament of the president's failure of leadership. This would have been avoided, or could have been avoided, in my view, had the president made it clear from the very outset we stand by Israel, that we lock arm and arm. Instead the president tried to communicate to the Palestinians and to others that support their effort that, well, there may be distance between us and Israel.

Look, you stand by your allies, you show that you're united, that's the best way to keep people taking adventurous activity.

BLITZER: I want you to explain something you said yesterday, it's got a little buzz out there. I'll play the clip and then we'll discuss.

Unfortunately we don't have it. But it was basically a comment praising the former vice president, Dick Cheney. You were saying something along the lines of, I listened to him speak, and said whether you agree or disagree with him, this is a man of wisdom and judgment and he could have been president of the United States. That's the kind of person I'd like to have, a person of wisdom and judgment.

It's causing a little controversy. What did you mean by that?

ROMNEY: I think that's pretty straightforward. I listened to the vice president speak the other day, and his thoughtfulness and his deliberation and his intelligence shown through.

I remember watching the debates, the vice presidential debates and between Joe Lieberman and the vice president, Dick Cheney, and I thought both of those men were men of substance and thoughtfulness and experience.

Dick Cheney served in the Department of Defense, he served with prior presidents. You know, I know he's criticized by many, many people, but you do want in the vice presidency an individual who has the confidence of the American people that that person could be president, and I think Dick Cheney was certainly a man of that character.

BLITZER: We got a question from -- on Facebook from Joshua Worthheim. He asks this: "If you got the nomination would you distance yourself from the Tea Party so you could appeal to moderates and Independents? If not, how would you expect to win the general election? ROMNEY: You know, what I intend to do is what I've been doing, which is continue to talk about my vision for America. And I know a lot of Tea Partiers who believe government's too big and is borrowing to much they agree with me. I -- there's almost not a day that goes by that I don't have Democrats come up to me and say, you know what, I'm a Democrat but I'm going to vote for you.

I was on a flight this morning, a Southwest flight from Phoenix to -- let's see -- to Burbank, and -- no, it was to Orange County, and a person came up and said, look, I'm a Democrat, but I'm going to vote for you.

And I believe if you talk to people what you honestly and fundamentally believe that you'll get the kind of support you need.

BLITZER: What's the most important lesson you learned four years ago in your unsuccessful bid to win the Republican nomination that you're applying now in this current campaign?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, last time I spent a lot of time answering all of the question on all of the topics that came up, and you frankly have no choice but to respond to the questions that come along, but you want to make sure your message gets through and you communicate why it is you're running day in and day out. You want to be known for something.

In my case, I spent my life in the private sector for 25 years. I understand how this economy works at the fundamental level. I haven't just watched jobs get created, I've created jobs. That's a message I want to get through. I didn't get that through as well last time as I should have. This time I'm going to try to do a better job, making sure in every effort that I have meeting with people they know I'm the guy who knows something about the economy and I can get America strong and get jobs created again.

BLITZER: Good luck, Governor. We'll stay in close touch.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. More of our coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM when we come back.


BLITZER: Hundreds of mail-handling facilities are now on the chopping block across the United States as part of mass -- a mass overhaul underway at the U.S. Postal Service. CNN's Athena Jones is working the details.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The postal service has struggled for years as more and more people pay their bills online. And the economic slowdown hasn't helped.

Total mail volume has fallen by more than 43 billion pieces in the last 5 years, and first class mail has dropped 25 percent. Just weeks ago, post office officials created an uproar when they said, in order to survive, they might have to close up to 3,700 post offices and stop Saturday delivery. Now, a new plan for even more cuts.

PATRICK DONAHOE, POSTMASTER GENERAL: It is no exaggeration to say that we are radically realigning the way that we process mail, the way that we deliver mail, and the way that we operate our retail network.

JONES: Officials will study closing 252 mail-processing facilities across country in a bid to dramatically reduce the number of sites by 2013. This is in addition to the 61 facilities already being considered.

And in a move sure to raise eyebrows, slower mail. First class mail would arrive in two to three days rather than one to three.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our mail processing network is much larger than we can afford.

JONES: This would also mean 35,000 fewer mail-processing employees. A reduction officials say they will try to make through attrition or not replacing the positions as workers retire.

DONAHOE: We have a substantial number of our people right now, almost 150,000, who are eligible for retirement. And so there are different ways of working with people to move them into that direction.

JONES: It's all part of a plan to cut costs by $20 billion by 2015 and return the service to profitability.

But Congress is going to have to sign off on changing delivery from six days to five, and the way the postal service prepays retiree benefits.


JONES: Now, the postal service is most concerned about the $5.5 billion in health benefits for retirees that it has to pay this month. Postal officials are hoping to postpone that payment long enough for Congress to resolve the service's long-term issues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of jobs at stake right now. Athena, thanks very much.

Let's get an update now. We're getting some new information on our top story this hour. Lisa Sylvester's working that. What are you learning, Lisa?


Well, we have a statement that is just in from the company LightSquared, and they are pushing back on suggestions that it has used its political ties in Washington to try to win approval over a new broadband system that it hopes to create. The Pentagon has been saying that it will interfere -- their new broadband system would interfere with GPS, but the company's CEO saying in the statement, quote, "Any suggestion that LightSquared has run roughshod over the regulatory process is contradicted by the reality of eight long years spent gaining approvals. Just this week, there has been another request from the government for an additional round of testing of LightSquared's network. We understand that some of the telecom sector fear the challenges for their business model that LightSquared presents. We understand the opposition of some in the GPS industry. Many of their devices squat on someone else's spectrum. And while technological fixes are readily available, some companies are loathe to make the necessary engineering changes and would instead prefer to get access to someone else's spectrum for free."

LightSquared there referencing the fact -- you know, making it clear, we own this piece of the spectrum and that they are arguing that this new broadband network is something that is good for the economy, that this will create competition in the marketplace and will ultimately bring down prices for the consumers.

This proposal, they're saying, has bipartisan support, and they're hoping that they will prevail, but it's going to be ultimately up to the FD -- FCC, rather, to make the final decision.

And this is very controversial because, you know, there are a lot of entities out there, the Pentagon being one of them, that is really concerned of how this might interfere with GPS, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks for that update, appreciate it. Jack Cafferty's standing by next with "The Cafferty File." We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is: "Where is this country headed if SAT reading scores are at their lowest in nearly 40 years?"

John in Alabama: "The SAT scores are going to get worse before they get better. The No Child Left Behind program only funded the testing of students. There were no funds for remediation of children who needed a little help. Therefore, the nation is now seeing low test scores in all standardized tests. In addition the Baby Boomer generation is retiring, and the Bart Simpson generation is taking over education."

James in North Carolina writes, "It means that they have all got a phone that tweets and chats and takes photos and accesses the Internet. That's all my grandkids do these days. I'm not sure they even know how to read."

Robert writes, "I'm afraid it means that the next crop of new voters is ready."

Chris writes, and this is verbatim, this is exactly how it was sent. "Test," singular, "are not the most important thing in evaluation of how smart a kid is. There's a lot to learn." There are no punctuation marks in this paragraph. "A lot to learn out of school that they have to deal with that they learn. It has nothing to do with algebra or Spanish or education. And it's so hyped up on one test, they forget other stuff to determine how smart a kid will become."

Thank you, Chris.

Tony in North Carolina: "If the people are smart enough, they'll back legislation that gets the teachers fired for poor performance and takes away tenure. The kids are the ones who suffer while the unions and the teachers benefit."

Martin on Facebook writes, "Well, they're about to get lower. The kids do in -- all the kids do in school now is text and take pictures with their phones. When I was in school, the teachers used to actually teach us, and they had the courage to take our phones away."

And Ernie in Vermont writes, "I guess this explains the rise of the Tea Party."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM Facebook page.

What were your SAT scores, Wolf?

BLITZER: I don't want to talk about that.

CAFFERTY: Me either.

BLITZER: Up next, a model takes revenge. Jeanne Moos has details.


BLITZER: American Apparel is trying to grow its consumer customer base. But some are not happy. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She may be a size 12. But she's no stuffed pig, even if she did pose like one on a bed of greens on her mom's dining room table.

NANCY UPTON, WON AMERICAN APPAREL CONTEST: She walked in and was like, "Oh, my God" and walked back out.

MOOS: The photos devouring chicken in a pool, guzzling chocolate syrup amid gallons of ice cream were meant to mock American Apparel's plus-size model contest. Instead Nancy Upton won. Her pictures were voted most popular.

Using words like "bootylicious," American Apparel had called on curvy ladies to send in their photos. The clothing chain is known for imagery of skinny types in skimpy clothes. A plus-sized model contest was held to kick off their expansion into more plus-sized styles.

But Nancy thought they were pandering.

UPTON: I didn't, like, wake up two weeks ago and decide I was going to, like, have my revenge on American Apparel. I woke up two weeks ago and thought, "I'm going to cover myself in ranch dressing."

MOOS: Which she did, bathing in it.

UPTON: It was very cold.

MOOS: So was the letter Nancy got from American Apparel after her satirical photos came in first. "It's a shame your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge and that 'bootylicious' was too much for you to handle," quoting Destiny's Child.

DESTINY'S CHILD, MUSIC GROUP (singing): I don't think you're ready for this. My body's too bootylicious.

MOOS: American Apparel didn't have to pick the top vote getter, and they refused to recognize Nancy as the winner. It's fine with her, since she's no fan, especially of their advertisements.

UPTON: I remember there's one that I'm going to see for the rest of my life when I -- like, when I close my eyes.

MOOS: This one advertising a thong.

UPTON: Are they selling the boots now? I'm like, no.

MOOS (on camera): The booty is what they're selling. The booty.

(voice-over) After Nancy won the contest, American Apparel got slapped around for acting like a bunch of babies. Now the company invited Nancy out to their L.A. headquarters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are dying to meet her.

MOOS: As for Nancy's satirical photos...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually love them. I thought they were beautiful.

MOOS (on camera): By the way, that's not ranch dressing in the tub. That's milk mixed with water.

(voice-over) Whole milk. Not skim. With a few packets of ranch dressing tossed in.

UPTON: I was a little nauseated after it was all over with the different kinds of foods that were in my stomach.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.