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Interview With Mitt Romney; Bill Clinton at Democratic Convention; As Romney Leaves, Israelis Praise Obama; Romney On Clinton "Showmanship"; President's Surprising Roots; Governor's Husband Deploying To Afghanistan; Scranton To Pay Workers Back; Government: Child Alert Devices "Unreliable"; Noah's Ark II: 300 Cubits Long; Blackout Hits 350 Million

Aired July 30, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Mitt Romney tells me, of course Jerusalem is Israel's capital city. So would a President Romney move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem? And how far would he go to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons? Stand by for his candid and eye-opening answers.

Also, Bill Clinton's upcoming huge role at the Democratic Convention, we have details of what's sure to be a major moment.

And in the blazing heat, a power blackout is affecting more than 300 million people. That's bigger than the population of the United States. Could we be next?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Today, we're coming to you live from CNN's Jerusalem bureau. Mitt Romney left here live earlier today. He's now in Poland, where he's already met the country's legendary former President Lech Walesa. We're going to have a live report in our next hour from Poland.

But we begin this hour with my one-on-one interview with the Republican presidential candidate.


BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks so much for joining us in Jerusalem. What a beautiful city. And I'm sure you have been moved by what you have seen so far.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's a holy city, a city of a great and courageous people.

My wife and I first came here in 1995 and have been here four times now. We're moved and inspired by what we see here.

BLITZER: Do you consider Jerusalem -- and we're sitting in the King David Hotel here in Jerusalem -- do you consider Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel?

ROMNEY: Yes, of course. A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city. And Jerusalem is Israel's capital. BLITZER: If you become president of the United States, would you move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

ROMNEY: I think it's long been the policy of our country to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem.

The decision to actually make the move is one, if I were president, I would want to take in consultation with the leadership of the government which exists at that time. So I would follow the same policy we have in the past. Our embassy would be in the capital. But that's -- the timing of that is something I would want to work out with the government.

BLITZER: With the government of Israel?

ROMNEY: With the government of Israel.

BLITZER: But every Israeli government has always asked every U.S. government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

ROMNEY: Well, that would make the decision easy, but I would still want to have the communication with the governmental leaders.


BLITZER: Just to be precise, if you are president, you would consult with the Israeli government, and if they said, please move the embassy, you would do that?

ROMNEY: I'm not going to make foreign policy for my nation, particularly while I'm on foreign soil.

My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital. That's something which I would agree with. But I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel.

BLITZER: Because you know that every U.S. president since '67, since the Six-Day War in 1967 -- behind you is the Old City of Jerusalem. You see the beautiful walls there, and we're not far away.

But the pre-'67 line was in front of those old walls. But since then, every president from Nixon to LBJ, to Carter, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, President Clinton, now Obama, considers East Jerusalem, including the Old City behind you, to be occupied territory, not part of Israel. Would you change that?

ROMNEY: I'm not going to talk about the borders.

The decision as to where the borders would be as we move to a two- state solution, which I support, that's a decision on borders that will be worked out by Israelis and the Palestinians.

I hope that's a process which is ongoing and ultimately successful. But as to the exact location of borders, that is something I will leave that to the negotiating parties themselves.

BLITZER: You just visited the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism in the Old City of Jerusalem. I'm sure it was a moving experience for you. We saw the pictures, the video. Do you consider that to be part of Israel?

ROMNEY: It is certainly part of Israel.

The decision, however, as we move to a two-state solution, as to what would be part of Israel and what would be part of a Palestinian state is something to be negotiated by the Palestinians and the Israelis. I believe that the key to that negotiation is the recognition that there will be a Palestinian state and there will be a Jewish state.

BLITZER: And so you support a two-state solution. Do you support a two-state solution, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state basically along the lines, the pre-'67 lines with what are called mutually agreed swaps, mutually agreed by the Israelis and the Palestinians?

ROMNEY: I support a two-state solution as the appropriate direction for the solution of the hostility, if you will, that exists between peoples here.

But I also recognize that the borders will have to be negotiated by the respective parties. And the original '67 borders will -- will -- by themselves are not defensible -- indefensible -- from the standpoint of Israel, and, therefore, there will be have to be adjustments from those precise borders to reach a solution that is satisfactory to both parties.

BLITZER: So, basically, the negotiations shouldn't assume that it would be based on the pre-'67 lines with mutually agreed swaps; you say go in and start negotiating?

ROMNEY: I'm not being that specific.

I'm saying that there will be borders that have to be negotiated, and what the starting point is, is something which will be decided by the parties involved. What the ending point is will be decided by the parties involved.

BLITZER: Could you see the future Palestinian state -- and you support a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel -- having East Jerusalem as its capital?

ROMNEY: I don't want to, again, negotiate for the parties. My view is that the right course for America is to stand by our ally, Israel, to support them in their negotiating posture.

I recognize that, as negotiations begin, the postures of the respective parties will be different than the ultimate solution.

But I'm not going to give up Israeli bargaining positions from the beginning, nor demand the Palestinians a certain outcome.

My view is that the United States' role is to stand by our ally to show not a dime's worth of distance diplomatically between us and Israel, to work to bring the parties together and to see progress, but not to weaken the prospects of progress and of an agreement at some point by virtue of placing an American position on the table that might be different than that of our ally.

BLITZER: Would you ask Israel to freeze settlement activity on the West Bank?

ROMNEY: I believe that the issue of settlements is something which should be discussed in private by the American president and our allies.

Again, when we show a diplomatic distance between ourselves and our ally, I think we encourage people who oppose that relationship to seek other means to achieve their ends.

I think the best thing we can do is to communicate very clearly to the Palestinians, as well as to our friends the Israelis, that the way to peace is for them to meet and to resolve their differences, rather than to look to us to resolve that distance -- that difference or to look to the United Nations to do it.

So I just don't think my role, particularly as a candidate, is to -- is to begin suggesting what the terms of an agreement might look like.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran, because you've been very robust in saying that you will not, as president, accept Iran with nuclear weapons. So be specific. What would you do to make sure that would never happen?

ROMNEY: Well, I spoke about five years ago at the Herzliya Conference and laid out seven steps that I thought were necessary to keep Iran from pursuing their nuclear folly.

One of those steps, of course, was crippling sanctions. And it's taken a long time for those sanctions to finally be put in place. They could be, I'm sure, even more punitive relative to Iran. But that's a positive step.

There are other steps that have not yet been followed. One other step, of course, is to make sure that we have credible military options that are available to us if no other of the initiatives is successful.

Clearly, we all hope that diplomatic and economic pressure put on Iran will dissuade them from becoming a nuclear capability nation. But if all else fails, we, of course, have to keep a military option available.

BLITZER: But there are extensive contingency plans in place at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the U.S. government for that military option already. I don't know if you've been briefed on all that kind of stuff, but they do have plans to do that if the President of the United States were to give that order.

ROMNEY: My guess is that neither you nor I have the full access to all of the plans that might exist for military options, either on the part of the United States or, for that matter, with our friends in Israel.

But I certainly hope that our military, under the direction of the president, has, in fact, prepared a whole series of contingency plans, not only to previous Iran from becoming nuclear but to respond were Iran to become more belligerent in its -- in its efforts.

So I can't speak for the military, having not seen -- haven't seen their plans at this point.

BLITZER: At some point, you will be briefed by U.S. intelligence, right, during -- isn't that after the convention?

ROMNEY: After the convention, I'll get a more --


BLITZER: Then they start giving you...


ROMNEY: I'll get a more full briefing on classified material, yes.


And I assume, at that point, you'll hear what the -- I've been told that there are -- I don't know if they are, but there are all sorts of military options. But just to be precise on the Iran point, if the sanctions, the political sanctions, the economic sanctions, diplomatic sanctions don't work and Iran is about to develop a nuclear bomb, you, as president, would authorize a military strike?

ROMNEY: I think I've said it as clearly as our president has. Again, I don't want to make foreign policy on foreign soil or say something different than our nation. Our president has said and I have said that it is unacceptable for Iran to become nuclear.

And that would mean that if all other options were to fail -- and they have not all been exercised; they've not all been executed at their most extreme level -- but if all other options, diplomatic, political, economic fail, then a military option is one which would be available to the president of the United States.

BLITZER: Now Syria, let's talk about Syria for a moment.

You want Bashar al-Assad to go. Everybody wants, apparently, Bashar al-Assad to go. But what would you do specifically to make that happen? I will give you a few options.

Would you send in U.S. military forces on the ground?

ROMNEY: Well, again, Wolf, because I'm on foreign soil, and because it's long been a policy of both political parties to leave politics at the water's edge, I'm not going to go through specific foreign policy prescriptions for Syria, other than to say that the removal of Assad as the leader in Syria is a high priority for our nation, as you know.

Both parties, Republican and Democrat, agree with that. We also are highly concerned about the disposition of chemical weapons which exist in some large measure in Syria. We do not see a unified opposition having been formed yet in Syria. An action that is being taken of a kinetic nature in Syria is being led by Arab League nations, by Turkey, by Saudi Arabia and others.

And when I say actions kinetically, I'm referring to armament and counsel and advice. But our nation is involved with other nations in helping move a process that will stop the slaughter of innocent life in Syria and ultimately have a more representative form of government.


BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more of my conversation with Mitt Romney. That's coming up in our new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. That was part one. Part two still will air.

Even though he held a fund-raiser here in Jerusalem earlier today, Romney says the current political fund-raising rules in the United States -- and I'm quoting him now -- "don't make a lot of sense." Much more on my interview with Mitt Romney, that is coming up later.

Also, there is another big political story that we're following today. Bill Clinton has a huge role at the upcoming Democratic Convention. Stand by for details that are just coming in.

And a surprise new -- a new surprise about Barack Obama's family history. We have some fascinating information that's just been uncovered.

Also, as Mitt Romney moves onto Poland, two top Israeli leaders right here in Jerusalem in interviews with me separately earlier in the day, they are both, both lavishly praising President Obama and his support for Israel.

Stand by. All of the interviews and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney visits to London produced embarrassing headlines for the presidential candidate. His just completed trip to Israel and Jerusalem, produced some controversy as well.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. She's back in Washington.

Gloria, I'm curious. I'm in Jerusalem. You're in Washington. How has Mitt Romney's visit here in the Middle East played back in the United States?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's just say he's getting the headlines he wanted, unlike the headlines that he got, Wolf, when he visited in London. And what he managed to do was sort of distance himself from the president of the United States, presenting himself as tougher, for example, when it comes to Iran, a very strong ally of Israel, without taking on the president directly. As you said multiple times in your interview, Wolf, that he wouldn't do that.

But he did adopt the Israeli line about preventing Iran from having -- not only having nuclear weapons, but having the capability of developing nuclear weapons. So a very tough line on that, a very tough line on Jerusalem. But also, Wolf, he didn't endear himself to the Palestinians, as you well know.

He made some comments today in which he said the lack of progress in the lands controlled by the Palestinian Authority, he pointed out the difference between Israel's economic progress and those lands, and that did not endear him to those folks.

But let me ask you a question, Wolf, because you interviewed not only Mitt Romney himself but the defense minister, Ehud Bara, and the Israeli President Shimon Peres. I was interested in what they said to you about President Obama. I'm going to play a little bit of that for you.


EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything I can confirm in the past.

BLITZER: More than any other president, LBJ, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush.

BARAK: Yes. In terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of sorts in a very open way, even there are differences.

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: The record of President Obama concerning the major issue of security I think it's a highly satisfactory record from the Israeli point of view.


BORGER: Wolf, how do you scare this? You have Netanyahu, who is effusive about Mitt Romney, and then you have these two men who seem just as laudatory about President Obama. So, what do you make of that?

BLITZER: Well, both of them told me, the prime minister -- excuse me, the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, who worked in the defense establishment of Israel for so many years, a former prime minister, former defense minster, as well as the current defense minister, Ehud Barak, who himself is a former prime minister of Israel, both of them said that the U.S./Israeli military to military relationship right now, the intelligence community to intelligence community relationship right now is excellent. It's as good if not better than it's ever been before. And they were extremely complimentary to President Obama, both of them. And even as Romney was still on basically the ground in Israel. He was just getting ready to leave to fly off to Poland, I was pretty surprised by the effusive, enthusiastic praise they had for President Obama, given some of the problems that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had in terms of their own personal relationship. A lot of us remember the visit that Prime Minister Netanyahu had to the Oval Office and some of the awkward moments the two of them had.

But as far as these two Israeli leaders are concerned, and we're going to have more of those interviews later, they went out of their way to praise the president of the United States as a strong, strong supporter of Israel.

BORGER: Wolf, do you think Mitt Romney may have gone too far on Iran for a general election audience. Certainly, it might appeal to a Republican Party or evangelicals. But do you think he might have sort of put himself out there a little bit?

BLITZER: You know, on Iran -- and I listened very closely to what he said, the Republican presidential candidate, in that speech yesterday, and what he said in the interview with me, and frankly, I didn't hear a lot of difference between what he was saying, he personally was saying, not his aides, but what Romney was saying and what President Obama is saying.

Both of them say they will never accept containment of a nuclear powered Iran. They will do whatever it takes to make sure that Iran doesn't become a nuclear military power, and with that kind of capability. They hope it can be done through economic and diplomatic sanctions. But if they can't, they both are not ruling out a military option if all -- if everything breaks down.

So I didn't hear a lot of difference between what President Obama says about Iran and what Mitt Romney says about Iran, but that was just my analysis.

BORGER: OK. Wolf, thanks so much. Back to you. We'll probably have to wait for the presidential debates. Don't you think?

BLITZER: There will be one presidential debate that will strictly be focused, in October, on foreign policy and national security. It will be interesting to hear if there is a significant difference.

Gloria Borger, thanks very much.


BLITZER: And, by the way, to our viewers, you are going to want to hear my interview with the Israeli defense, Ehud Barak, that's coming up in our next hour, during our 5:00 Eastern hour. He tells me Israel will, in his words, and I'm quoting him now, "settle the account" with those who are behind this month's bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. You're going to hear what he has to say about that.

Also coming up, a big surprise in President Obama's family history. You're going to see what the genealogy experts now say they have found.

That and a lot more, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The battle for Syria's largest city intensifies. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that story and also some of her other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.


United Nations monitors are reporting a surge in violence in Aleppo. Activists say government forces continue to fire on neighborhoods as the relentless week-long fighting rages on. Rebels did capture a government military base on the outskirts of the key Syrian city. A rebel commander says they seized four tanks and destroyed two others. An estimated 200 people in and around Aleppo have fled in the past few days to escape the shelling.

And dozens of people are reported dead and tens of thousands are homeless in the wake of torrential rain and flooding across much of North Korea, and the rain is still falling. The state-run news agency says more than 5,000 homes are destroyed or damaged. It says almost 12,000 acres of crop land have been washed away. Another 63,000 acres of farmland are under water. There have been no updates since Saturday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says South Korea- based automaker Hyundai is recalling hundreds of thousands of vehicles. The recall affects 2007 to 2009 Santa Fe SUVs for a defective front airbag sensor. Hyundai is also calling back 2012 and 2023 Sonatas for separate issue involving side airbags -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you -- Lisa Sylvester back in Washington.

The Democratic Party pulls out big names for the national convention in September. And former President Bill Clinton is signed up for a key supporting role.

And later, the president's roots revealed. A genealogy report uncovers a surprising new twist in his ancestry.


BLITZER: When the Democrats gather for their national convention the first week in September in Charlotte, President Obama will certainly be the star of the show.

But CNN has learned that Bill Clinton, the former president, will also have a very, very prominent role. Let's go straight to White House correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, the two men, as a lot of us remember, they haven't always had the closest relationship, have they?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, that's right, Wolf. During the height of the last go-round, those Democratic primaries where you saw Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton duking it out in 2007 and 2008, sources tell CNN former President Bill Clinton felt very bitterly towards President Obama because he felt that his wife had been mistreated.

Now some of the wounds did heal after the election when you saw President Obama -- then president-elect Obama appointing Secretary Clinton as his secretary of state. And now you have a situation where Bill Clinton is one of his most visible surrogates.


KEILAR (voice-over): When Bill Clinton took the stage at the Democratic Convention in 2008, the crowd went wild. At first they wouldn't even let him start talking.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I am honored to be here tonight. Thank you. Please.

KEILAR: Four years ago, Clinton's role was to warm up the audience for Joe Biden's speech. This year, he's got a heavier lift, warming up middle-class voters for President Obama as the economy continues to falter.

Despite 27 consecutive months of creating jobs, there are still 473,000 less jobs right now than when President Obama took office. At this point, in Clinton's term almost 10 million jobs had been added.

But the White House dismisses suggestions Clinton's appearance will highlight those differences in a negative way.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: President Clinton's participation at the convention will be a very important way to reinforce President Obama's view.


KEILAR: Now, Wolf, Bill Clinton is very much a strong messenger for President Obama and what he's trying to tell voters is that he knows what it will take to get the economy going and President Obama is doing the right thing.

That's the message. And also he's key when it comes to fundraising. He has helped President Obama fundraise to the tune of millions of dollars. They've headlined a number of fundraisers together.

BLITZER: He's a key, key asset for the president in his re-election campaign. Hillary Clinton would be as well. But from the campaign's perspective as the secretary of state, she can't overtly go out and campaign him like her husband can do. Brianna, thanks very much.

Let's talk more a little bit more about this and more in our "Strategy Session." Joining us, the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Maria Cardona and also joining us, Republican strategist, John Feehery, the president of the public affairs firm, Quinn, Gillespie and Associates. Do you think there's a possibility, Maria, that Bill Clinton would overshadow the vice president, Joe Biden, at the Democratic convention?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, we've seen Joe Biden speak. He can be as fiery as they come. I think what this speech will serve to do is two things.

President Clinton will underscore President Obama's positives on two point points, both on policy and politics. On politics, you have African-Americans who still love Bill Clinton. Latinos love Bill Clinton. Young people love Bill Clinton.

He'll also help with independents as well as working class voters and then also on policy. Bill Clinton was basically the architect of the biggest economic expansion in a generation.

And one of the reasons he did that was by implementing the same exact policies that President Obama wants to push so I think that will be helpful to remind voters that what President Obama wants to do actually works.

BLITZER: Here is a statement, John, that the Romney campaign put out. I'll read it to you then you could react. This is from the Ryan Williams for the Romney campaign.

After four years of trillion dollar deficits and anemic economic growth, it's clear President Obama would love to run on President Clinton's record in office, but no amount of showmanship can paper over the differences between these two presidents.

America deserves a president willing to run on his own record, not the record he wishes he had. I guess the question to you is what do you think about all of this?

What do you think about Bill Clinton coming to this convention and really going to try to energize that Democratic base to get President Obama re-elected? How worried are you about that?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, Bill Clinton is a very popular president. I think he is still very popular because he had such large economic growth.

Part of the reason he had large economic growth was he adopted Republican policies over his objection. He cut spending. He cut taxes. He signed welfare reform. That's why he became a very popular president despite the fact he was impeached because job growth is so amazing.

Now I think it's a good choice by President Obama to take Bill Clinton, but I do think that there -- the fact the records were so different, there was a record of job growth with Bill Clinton and this terrible job record with Obama. I think that will be heightened by the appearance by the president.

BLITZER: You know, it's true that Mitt Romney from time to time goes out of his way to compliment Bill Clinton. At one point, he said, not that long ago as President Bill Clinton, quote, "Believed in smaller government and tried to get the economy going."

Is this, you think, a smart strategy, John? And I'll bring Maria back into this conversation for Romney to be praising Bill Clinton like this?

FEEHERY: I'll jump in. I do think it's a smart strategy. I do think that Mitt Romney is going to be pushing, you know, cutting spending, cutting taxes, the same kind of track record.

You know, also if you think about it he expanded trade. Something that Bill Clinton pushed for and Mitt Romney is going to push for. So I think it is a smart strategy.

Sometimes you want to compliment Bill Clinton by saying, you know, this is what the problem is with President Obama. If he would be more like Bill Clinton and I do think that there's a lot of Democrats that believe that too.

CARDONA: Well, I love that John just a said that.

BLITZER: Quickly respond, Maria.

CARDONA: Sure. Because essentially what President Clinton is saying to the American people when he's supporting President Obama is that President Obama's policies of wanting millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share is exactly what President Clinton did.

That instilled the policies that lead to that great economic expansion and 20 million new jobs. So hopefully when President Obama continues to push this, you have Romney come out and say, yes, that's the right thing to do because President Clinton did that, too.

BLITZER: Well, Bill Clinton is going to have a huge role at the convention. But you know what? The president of the United States, President Obama will have an even bigger role, obviously at the convention. We'll see how the vice president stacks up in all of this as well. Guys, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, Iran's nuclear ambitions in Israel's own backyard. Later right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM," my exclusive interview with the Israeli defense minister. We're going to talk about how his country is facing the potential threat.

But up next, fresh perspective on President Obama's history going back 11 generations. And there's an interesting new stunning twist in his ancestry.


BLITZER: Much has been made of President Obama's personal history. The president hails from Chicago. Certainly, was born in Hawaii, even lived for a brief period of his life in Indonesia.

Now a genealogist has turned up an unexpected branch in his family tree. Lisa Sylvester is joining us once again from Washington. What did the search uncover, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a story that might take a few people by surprise. Not because the first African- American president has an ancestor who may have been a slave, but the link has been made on his white mother's side of the family.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): President Obama's story is well known. His father from Kenya, his mother from the United States, but says it has mapped out the Obama family tree going back 11 generations, with stunning conclusion.

Anastasia Harman is the company's lead family historian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our conclusion is that President Obama, the first African-American president is the 11th great grandson of the first documented enslaved African in what would become the United States.

SYLVESTER: The linked is made not from his father's side, but from his mother. She was connected back to a man named John Punch. Records show Punch, who lived in Virginia, had children with a white woman.

Those children later became known as the Bunch family. The findings of the two-year study are now posted on the company's web site. So how did the research team figure this out?

ANASTASIA HARMAN, ANCESTRY.COM: As we're going, you know, from President Obama to his mom and grandmother and great grandmother. You're looking for like birth and marriage and death records, all those kind of records.

As we get further back in time, though, they weren't kept or they've been destroyed over time. In the civil war a lot of records with destroyed, fires, floods, things like that.

So we start looking at what we call surviving records, church records, land records. When we get really fall back into here's John Bunch III who's born in 1680, from here out we're looking at lands records.

SYLVESTER: University of Maryland history professor, Ira Berlin, says all of this is perfectly plausible because there was a time when white servants and black slaves freely intermingled.

IRA BERLIN, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: They worked together. They sleep together. They play together. Eventually they have children together. The status of those children followed the status of the mother. That is if your mother is white then you will be free.

SYLVESTER: Lineage has become a fascinating side topic of this political season from Mitt Romney's morbid roots to the president's ancestry. But what matters, says CNN contributor Roland Martin is not so much the past, but the future. ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is not going to mean anything when it comes to voters. This is simply a matter of what his personal history is.

Keep in mind, you can be Clarence Thomas and you can have a very clear African-American background going back generations. But do the policies that you articulate today, do they resonate with black voters?


SYLVESTER: So that first documented slave was named John Punch and then there was a slight name change with the next generation to John Bunch and that is where they've been able to connect it all the way to President Obama.

By the way, is a publicly traded company with ties to the Mormon Church. So do we know that this is all true for sure? No, but all of this is like putting a puzzle together.

There maybe a few missing pieces here and there, but there's enough there to get the overall picture. And the research was reviewed by a third party, a historian, a previous president of the Board for Certification of genealogist took a look and gave a stamp of approval saying the research met the highest standards -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. I love this kind of stuff. Thanks very much. Lisa, good report.

A prominent governor's spouse is heading overseas for military duties. We're going to have details in a moment.

And later, a sweltering summer nightmare, high demand for electricity causing a blackout affecting more people than live in the United States.


BLITZER: The husband of the U.S. governor getting his marching orders. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, the husband of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in January. First Lieutenant Michael Haley is a member of the National Guard and says he looks forward to serving with his South Carolina unit during the yearlong tour of duty. Governor Haley says it's an honor to watch him serve our country.


GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I tell all my military spouses when I speak to other deployments, all needs to be well on the home front. And so we will be fine here, and he just needs to take care of himself when he's there.


SYLVESTER: She adds that like every military spouse she and the kids do worry, but they're very proud of him.

And following up on a story we brought you recently. Reuters reports that the mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania has agreed to pay back public workers what he owes them plus interest.

Christopher Dorothy slashed firefighter, police and public workers pay to minimum wage earlier this month to cut costs for the strapped city. A legal battle was brewing. The $750,000 settlement was reached over the weekend.

And when it comes to children's safety, technology takes a backseat to common sense. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is warning parents not to count on new alert devices intended to prevent children from suffering and dying of heatstroke in parked cars.

The devices are meant to sense the presence of a child in a car after an absent minded adult walks away, but the agency says that it tested them and they found them to be unreliable.

And if his homeland is flooded, at least one Dutch man will be ready. A wealthy businessman named Viohan Havers has built a replica of Noah's ark using ancient biblical measurements outlined in the Book of Genesis. The finished vessel is on display in the Dutch town of Dardrek.

Haver says he was inspired to build it after having a dream back in 1992 that the Netherlands was flooded by the North Sea. There is a replica of animals that you can see there. Not the real thing, of course. There's also apparently there's a restaurant. So he's going to be going in style -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens with that ark. Appreciate it very much, Lisa.

Coming up, by the way, in our next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the suspect in the Colorado movie theatre shooting is back in court today. He now faces a staggering number of criminal charges.

Also in our next hour, new details from the lead investigators about what happened to a pair of experienced climbers on a dangerous mountain in Peru.

Also coming up next, what caused 350 million people to lose their electricity?


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In Egypt, the anti-riot policemen watch over a court where protesters have gathered. In Italy, a tourist uses an umbrella to shade herself from the temperatures. In Germany, ominous clouds cover about the vast houses.

And in France, look at this, a boy flips through the air in front of his peers at a Boy Scout Jamboree. "Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

We keep hearing warnings about America's fragile power grid, the maze of wires and switching stations carrying electricity to our homes. Well, today part of India's power grid went down, blacking out some 350 million people. It's more people than live in the entire United States.

CNN's Tom Foreman is standing by to show us exactly what happened. What an amazing story. Walk us through it, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My gosh, well, this is awful. It happened in India here. The low part of the estimate is 350 million, the high is 370 million. Most of it up here in this region right up here in the north, which includes a lot of big places with an awful lot of people.

About 2:35 in the morning, that's when the power went out and they started trying to restore it. What was the impact of it? Well, even at that time it took so long that it started running into the morning commute.

As the power grid failed in that part of India, it rippled out through these hundreds of millions of people. Metro systems were shutdown. Other trains were shutdown. Hospitals were shutdown. Businesses were shutdown, massive impact on the country.

It took quite a while. By about nine hours later, most of the power had been restored, but it took about 15 hours to get full power back to the people here in India, so what was this all about?

What made this happen? Well, basically there are several issues here. One is supply and demand. It's summertime. There's an awful lot of demand out there for power. They couldn't keep up with all of it. That puts strain on the system.

They've had rolling back outs in India for quite some time so that's not a surprise. Corruption is part of it. A lot of reports about problems throughout their infrastructure of basically corruption.

People are stealing things, people stealing services. That also hurt their supply and weather. They've had drought conditions there as well, which has hurt some of their hydro electric power. All of which added up in this kind of collapse, which really is not supposed to be happening anywhere in the world these days.

Let's come over here to the United States and talk about whether or not such a thing could happen over here. You're right, Wolf, more people involved over there in India than in all of the United States and in Canada.

So a huge number of folks involved here. Now back in 2003, we had a major blackout in the north eastern United States about 50 million people, I'm sure you remember that, 50 million people, cost about $6 billion.

And some people were without power for two days. That was basically a system failure, had to do with the amount of maintenance that was done there, some wires sagging down into trees.

And this sort of effect that rippled out into the area. The same thing can happen now because all these systems are connected in some fashion. So a problem way over here can start affecting people further in over here and on, and on, and on it goes.

So one of the big problems here and could it happen to us, well, infrastructure weakness, Wolf, we've talked about it a million times. Engineers have talked about it a million times.

Our infrastructure needs more support. Terrorism, of course, we know about that, but also supply and demand. We have a little bit of the same thing here going in India in the sense that all of those phones, all of those iPads, all the portable stereo units, all of those TVs, everything that we're running and all these computers are using massive amounts of power.

All of it puts pressure on the grid. And Wolf, we can only hope that our improvements will put us in better step than India.

BLITZER: Good discussion. Thanks for that explanation, Tom Foreman.