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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Summit of the Americas; America and Cuba; CIA Terror Memos; Welcome Home Captain Phillips; The Wrong Track; Rights under Fire
Aired April 17, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST: Good evening everyone.
President Obama is about to speak to the Summit of The Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The issue of Cuba, the country not invited to the summit, will dominate the meeting.
Also, former counterterrorism officials blast the Obama administration; they say the Obama White House has endangered national security by releasing details of the CIA's interrogation methods.
And Captain Richard Phillips has returned home to an emotional welcome in Vermont. And he spoke publicly for the first time about his rescue from Somali pirates. He says, I'm not a hero, the military is.
And we'll be talking to the commander of the American Legion about a Department of Homeland Security report linking military veterans with right-wing extremism.
We begin tonight with President Obama's upcoming speech to the Summit of The Americas, and it will begin in a moment. Now, this summit is taking place as the United States and Cuba stand on the brink of a possible breakthrough in relations, this after half a century of hostility and suspicion. In his speech, President Obama is expected to say he is seeking a new beginning with Cuba.
The president also likely to say he is prepared to engage with Cuba on a range of issues. Now, earlier, Cuban President Raul Castro said his country is willing to talk with the United States about everything. Dan Lothian reports from Port of Spain, Trinidad. Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, you know, what's interesting is that the Obama administration has been saying for the past few days that they did not want and did not think that Cuba would really dominate the summit. But that's exactly what is taking place. The president, as you mentioned, is expected to step to the mike and deliver his speech momentarily.
So far, we've heard from the leaders of Nicaragua, also Argentina and Belize and President Obama will be next. He will touch on a number of issues including the economy and also the environment and energy. But what everyone is waiting to hear from the president is remarks on Cuba. We have an advanced copy of the president's speech and he will say on Cuba in part, quote, "the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba." He will also say, "over the past two years, I have indicated -- and I repeat today -- that I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues. From human rights, free speech, and democratic reform to drugs, migration, and economic issues. Let me be clear, he'll say, I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S./Cuban relations in a new direction."
An Obama administration official saying when it comes to U.S./Cuban diplomacy, this is not a one-way street but a busy two-way thorough fare -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Dan Lothian.
Well, the U.S. imposed an all-out trade embargo against Cuba in 1962. The goal was to isolate Cuba economically. Well almost half a century later, the Castro brothers still control the island nation. But the Cuban economy is deteriorating. Now Cuba is $24 billion in debt, and the average monthly income for Cuba's 11 million citizens -- just $20.
Well Americans today appear ready for a new chapter in the relations between the United States and Cuba. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation...
PILGRIM: ... most Americans want the U.S. to establish diplomatic relations with Havana, and they also want the right to travel to Cuba. Bill Schneider has the report.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): President Obama made the first move. He lifted restrictions that banned Cuban-Americans from visiting their families in Cuba and sending them money.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We took an important first step. I think it's a signal of our good faith that we want to move beyond the Cold War mentality that has existed over the last 50 years.
SCHNEIDER: Are Americans ready for a new Cuba policy? This month, members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to Cuba to call for change.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: We have deluded ourselves into believing that if we isolated Cuba, that the government of Fidel Castro would collapse.
SCHNEIDER: It turns out that a lot of Americans agree that after 45 years, America's Cuba policy has not worked. It's time for a change. For years, the public has favored restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. The number is now over 70 percent, including hefty majorities of Republicans as well as Democrats. The public also favors lifting the travel ban to Cuba by nearly two to one. Change is good, some Cuban-American leaders say, but let it start with them.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: What about change in Havana? In the condition of the Cuban government towards its people, in the way it treats its people?
SCHNEIDER: President Obama agrees. The next step is up to them.
OBAMA: What we're looking for is some signal that there are going to be changes in how Cuba operates that assures that, you know, political prisoners are released, that people can speak their minds freely.
SCHNEIDER: The Obama administration is not talking about ending the trade embargo with Cuba, even though there is pressure not just from the Cuban government but also from U.S. exporters who want access to the -- to the markets in Cuba -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Bill Schneider.
We will have live coverage of President Obama's speech to the Summit of The Americas as soon as it begins.
The Obama administration tonight faces blistering criticism for releasing memos detailing harsh CIA interrogation methods. Now, critics say the release of those memos is not legally required, and is unsound policy. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden (ph) says CIA officers will now be les willing to take risks. Brian Todd reports.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dispassionate words, chilling images. Bush administration memos sanctioning techniques like waterboarding, methods used to get information from terror suspects. But the release of those memos is now turning into one of President Obama's most scrutinized moves. Much of the pushback comes from those who served on President Bush's security team who say his successor is tying his own hands in the future fight against terror.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden (ph) and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey write in "The Wall Street Journal" "the release of the opinions on interrogations will invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past and that we came to sorely regret on September 11th."
They and former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, a CNN analyst, also argued that methods like cramped confinement for a limited time used against al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah (ph) worked in locating the 9/11 mastermind.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: The use of techniques led to the ultimate capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (ph) and so there is an argument to be made that in limited circumstances these techniques can be effective in preventing terrorist attacks. TODD: But techniques that were not as harsh have worked just as well says a former Army lawyer who is now a human rights advocate.
BRIG. GEN. JAMES P. CULLEN (RET.), HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: We got the top guy in al Qaeda in Mesopotamia by using techniques that Army military intelligence used in accordance with the manual and we got excellent information.
TODD: Another key question moving forward -- consequences for those involved in the use of these techniques. The Obama administration says CIA officials won't be prosecuted. But what about Bush administration lawyers who wrote that methods like stress positions and sleep deprivation were legal, like top Justice Department officials Jay Bibeby (ph) and Steven Bradbury (ph).
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We need to know the facts, but we don't need a witch hunt. I don't think that that's appropriate to the people who are working in the agency. I also don't think it's something that Barack Obama needs in his presidency right now.
TODD (on camera): Still Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman John Conyers (ph), Democrats who head the Judiciary Committees in Congress, are both calling for independent commissions outside Congress to investigate the drafting of those memos.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
PILGRIM: Still to come -- the president's speech to the Summit of The Americas.
And also, the Obama administration wants to spend billions of dollars of your money, on high-speed rail lines. Critics say the plan won't go anywhere.
Also, Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama finally returns home. He's reunited with his family and praises his rescuers, the Navy SEALs. We'll tell you what he said.
PILGRIM: President Obama is about to deliver a speech to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Now, President Daniel Ortega (ph) of Nicaragua is speaking right now. President Obama is expected to call for what he calls a new beginning in U.S. relations with Cuba. We'll have live coverage of the president's speech as soon as it begins -- as it begins, and it's expected to start at any moment.
An emotional homecoming today for Captain Richard Phillips following his hostage ordeal off the East Coast of Africa -- he is now back with his wife and two children in his hometown of Underhill (ph), Vermont. And Deborah Feyerick is there with the story. Deborah?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kitty, the family was so eager to see him that they raced across the tarmac and bounded up the steps of that plane and then when he emerged, the smile told it all. His daughter was hugging him around his waist. She wiped a tear from her eye, the relief clearly visible.
Remember, it was just five days ago that Captain Phillips was on board a lifeboat, held hostage by three pirates. Those three pirates killed by Navy SEALs. Now, everybody knew what he went through when he was at the airport. They began clapping and cheering. And then Captain Phillips stepped to the mike and thanked all of those who had helped in his rescue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD PHILLIPS, FORMER PIRATE HOSTAGE: I'm just a bit part in this story. I'm a small part. I'm a seamen doing the best he can like all the other seamen out there. The first people I want to thank are the SEALs -- they're the superheroes. They're the titans. They are impossible men doing an impossible job and they did the impossible with me.
And I just want to let you know, they are out there. They're everyday people we will not recognize and I will not divulge, but they did an excellent job, and they saved me. They're at the point of the sword every day, doing the impossible job, which we cannot comprehend. Second, the military, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, I've never been around a better group of young, more dedicated, professional, capable people in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: And you could really hear the emotion in his voice. He did not take any questions about his time on the lifeboat, or what it was like when those Navy SEALS fired through the window, killing the first pirate. On board the plane, returning to Vermont, two FBI agents. While there was no formal debriefing, the FBI agents are putting together a case against the youngest Somali pirate, who is going to be tried in New York.
He -- he surrendered before the other three were killed. So, the FBI agents on that plane could -- they probably heard some good information from the captain as to how all this went down. The captain tonight, at his home, which is just down, up the road here. He is having chicken pot pie that a family friend cooked, as well as brownies that his mom made and his favorite beer brought over by some of his friends, so a full night for the captain -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: A real homecoming -- what a lovely speech, and we wish him well, Captain Phillips. Thanks very much -- Deborah Feyerick.
Remarkable image tonight from Florida where a small plane crashed into a home, it literally split the home in half. The pilot reported trouble shortly after takeoff from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport (ph). Now, he was cleared to return, but crashed into the Oakland Park (ph) house. The home was empty, its owners having left for work just minutes earlier. The pilot was killed. The cause of the crash is under investigation. President Obama looking for an additional $5 billion to create a high-speed rail network around the country. A plan many say is a waste of taxpayer money, $8 billion is already allotted to the program, and the president has said that railroads across this country have to catch up with the rest of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What we're talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America. This is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It is now. It is happening right now. It's been happening for decades. The problem is it's been happening elsewhere. Not here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now, the president's plan calls for several regional high-speed networks around the country. Critics point out $13 billion is only a tiny portion of what is needed. They also say the government would end up running the high-speed railroads, and they point to Amtrak, the national rail company, which receives federal money each year to keep it running.
Well, the president's plans for high-speed railroad development won't have much of an impact on the nation's travelers, that's according to critics of the plan. And many believe the money could be put to better use. Drew Griffin reports.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's all riding on the rails according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a futuristic America and a president about to make it come true.
RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: President Obama will have, as his transportation legacy, the development of high-speed rail in America.
GRIFFIN: The president wants to spend eight billion in stimulus money up front, then another $1 billion a year for the next five years on high-speed rail. And if you think we've been down this track before, we have, and it's gone nowhere.
PROF. JIM MOORE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIF.: I don't think he wants to be known as the high-speed rail president. That would be the equivalent of being the failure president.
GRIFFIN: Why such pessimism about the future? University of Southern California Engineering Professor Jim Moore says look to the past. 1965 was the year Congress passed the High-Speed Ground Transportation Act. To date, the Federal Railroad Administration estimates $8 billion has already been spent on high-speed rail projects, and to date not a single true high-speed rail has worked.
There are Amtrak Acela (ph) trains in the northeast corridor. They do go fast. Some lines average speeds over 100 miles an hour, but nowhere near European or Japanese speeds. And most Amtrak trains do not run fast and for 40 years, they have run in the red.
(on camera): It will cost billions, maybe tens of billions to build it. And in the end, critics say, all we'll have is a government-run railroad, losing money, going a little faster.
(voice-over): Want an example? In Illinois, Senator Dick Durbin and Governor Pat Quinn (ph) announced their plan for the stimulus money. Upgrade the current lines, increase speeds to a whopping 110 miles an hour, and hopefully cut a baseball rail trip by one hour.
GOV. PAT QUINN (D), ILLINOIS: Chicago Cub fans can get to St. Louis a lot quicker with high-speed rail, same way with Cardinal fans.
GRIFFIN: In New York, Congressman Jerry Nadler (ph) admits it's a stretch to think the U.S. will have bullet-train type high-speed rail anytime soon.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I don't know where speed is technically feasible to build a bullet train. I do know where I'd like to put the first major investment of high-speed rail money. That would probably be improving the current tracks more or less along the current line. It wouldn't be a bullet train.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this was a good idea, it would already exist.
GRIFFIN: Professor Moore, who directs the Transportation Engineering Program at USC, has studied all the ideas and concludes they are all too expensive, would never be as fast as planes, and would never attract enough riders to make them pay for themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fundamental problem is, indeed, that high speed rail's not a cost-effective alternative. Where we get into trouble is when we let our emotions get in the way of our decisions.
GRIFFIN: And the decision to spend another 13 billion on the futuristic idea of high-speed rail, he says, is really just a return trip on a track record of waste.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Washington.
PILGRIM: Well, as Drew just reported, there is one fast train operating in this country. It's the Acela (ph). It runs between Washington, New York, and Boston. But high-speed rail is generally defined by speeds averaging 120 miles an hour. The Acela (ph) averages about 100 miles an hour, although it has reached speeds of 150 miles an hour on a few sections of that track.
Well, coming up, we will have live coverage of President Obama's speech to the Summit of the Americas.
Also, a new attempt by the Obama administration that could curtail your Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
Also, corporate profits to report, the stock market closes up, more positive news on the economy next.
PILGRIM: President Obama is about to deliver a speech to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Now, President Obama is expected to call for what he calls a new beginning in U.S. relations with Cuba. We will have live coverage of the president's speech as soon as it begins, and it is expected to start at any moment.
More good news on the economy today -- consumer sentiment jumping to its best level in seven months, rising stock prices, most likely helping there, and after a year of stunning losses, and three government bailouts, Citigroup today reporting a first-quarter profit of $1.6 billion. Without an accounting change, however, the bank actually posted a loss of just under $1 billion, which was still better than expected, and General Electric also beating estimates posting a first-quarter profit of $2.9 billion, still a 35 percent drop from a year ago, and the stock market, meanwhile, continuing its climb.
It's up for the sixth straight week. The Dow today gained six points. GM, however, continuing to teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. CEO Fritz Henderson today saying it is, quote, "probable that the company will file for bankruptcy." GM also planning more job cuts and plant closings. The struggling automaker has already received more than $13 billion in government aid.
Well, Steven Ratner (ph), the head of President Obama's Auto Task Force is reportedly linked to a federal kickback probe. Now Ratner (ph) was the founder of the firm Quadrangle Group (ph), which is now under investigation. An executive of the firm is alleged to have arranged payments over $1 million and received business -- business from New York State pension fund in return for that.
"The New York Times" reports Ratner (ph) was the executive named in the complaint. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today said Ratner (ph) told Mr. Obama about the investigation during the transition and asked if the president has confidence in Ratner (ph), Gibbs answered yes.
There are new moves today by the Obama administration, which could restrict America's Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Now, the president wants the Senate to approve a 12-year-old treaty drafted by the Organization of American States. The president believes it will help curb illegal gun traffic to Mexico. But many in this country think it's a veiled attempt at gun control. Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Firearms Trafficking Treaty requires guns exported or imported between Latin America and the United States be clearly marked with the name and place of the manufacturer. The treaty also establishes a new system for tracing firearms. OBAMA: I'm urging the Senate in the United States to ratify an inter-American treaty known as SITA (ph) to curb small arms trafficking that is the source of so many of the weapons used in this drug war.
SYLVESTER: The treaty called the Inter-American Convention against the illicit manufacturing in trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives and other related materials is stalled. It was originally signed by President Clinton in 1997, but never ratified by the U.S. Senate. Proponents, including President Obama, say that it will help curb the violence in Mexico by tracing illegal weapons back to the last seller.
But talk of reviving the treaty was met with a lukewarm response by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who said, quote, "we must work with Mexico to curtail the violence in drug trafficking on America's southern border and must protect Americans' Second Amendment rights. I look forward to working with the president to ensure we do both in a responsible way."
The gun lobby already has its sights on blocking the treaty. Arguing it will do little to shut down the lucrative drug trade, but could lead to an internationalization of gun-control laws.
CHRIS COX, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Most of these proposals are -- have potential for abuse not only by gun-control groups here, but other countries that would like to force the United States to adopt more gun-control laws.
SYLVESTER: The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, said he'll work to get the treaty through the Senate. But it is an uphill climb, as a treaty, 67 votes are needed -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester.
Well, coming up, President Obama will speak before the Summit of The Americas in Trinidad shortly. And the president is expected to call for a new beginning in relations with Cuba. We'll bring you his speech, live.
And also the anti-tax movement, it gains momentum. And three top political analysts will tell us if this movement will threaten President Obama's economic agenda.
Also, the federal government faces new outrage after linking right-wing extremism with military veterans. The national commander of the American Legion will join me.
PILGRIM: President Obama will deliver a speech to the Summit of The Americas in Trinidad at any moment, and President Obama is likely to call for what he calls a new beginning in U.S. relations with Cuba. That's after half a century of hostility. We will have live coverage of the president's speech as soon as it begins.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, today visited our southern border with Mexico for the first time. Now, his visit coincides with a sharp increase in drug cartel violence in Mexico. Admiral Mullen made a brief tour of the border in El Paso, Texas, and the admiral said the Pentagon has no plans to send troops to the area. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll said 75 percent of Americans want our troops deployed along the border.
Joining me now are three of the best political analysts in the country -- they are all CNN contributors. We're joined in San Francisco by Republican strategist and former White House Political Director Ed Rollins (ph). Here in New York, columnist for the New York "Daily News," Errol Louis (ph), and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman and gentlemen, thanks for being with me.
We're waiting for President Obama to speak. You know, Cuba is supposed to dominate the discussions here. Robert, is this a new beginning as the president would like to suggest for Cuba?
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it has the potential for a new beginning. I think President Obama took a very humane, and I think a very, very deliberate tactic by, in fact, inviting -- by making -- opening up the door so that Cuban-American relatives could visit their relatives in Cuba and also that Cuban- Americans could send remittances to their relatives there. But I thought what was very significant is that when Raul Castro responded by discussing the fact that they're human and they make mistakes. That's the kind of false modesty we've heard from the Castro regime for years. What's interesting is the response from the president -- from the administration what's to make demands -- to make demands for more concessions.
PILGRIM: We are watching president Obama approach the podium. He's at the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Let's listen.
BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I am honored to join you here today, and I want to thank Prime Minister Manning, the people of Trinidad and Tobago for their generosity in hosting the Fifth Summit of the Americas. And I want to extend my greetings to all the heads of state, many of who I am meeting for the first time. All of us are extraordinarily excited to have this opportunity to visit this wonderful country -- and as somebody who grew up on an island, I can tell you I feel right at home.
It's appropriate and important that we hold this summit in the Caribbean. The energy, the dynamism, the diversity of the Caribbean people inspires us all, and are such an important part of what we share in common as a hemisphere.
I think everybody recognizes that we come together at a critical moment for the people of the Americas. Our well-being has been set back by a historic economic crisis. Our safety is endangered by a broad range of threats. But this peril can be eclipsed by the promise of a new prosperity and personal security and the protection of liberty and justice for all the people of our hemisphere. That's the future that we can build together, but only if we move forward with a new sense of partnership.
All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.
There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration.
To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I am very grateful that President Ortega...
I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.
Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. And we've heard all these arguments before, these debates that would have us make a false choice between rigid, state-run economies or unbridled and unregulated capitalism; between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents; between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.
I didn't come here to debate the past -- I came here to deal with the future.
I believe, as some of our previous speakers have stated, that we must learn from history, but we can't be trapped by it. As neighbors, we have a responsibility to each other and to our citizens. And by working together, we can take important steps forward to advance prosperity and security and liberty. That is the 21st century agenda that we come together to enact. That's the new direction that we can pursue.
Before we move forward for our shared discussions over this weekend, I'd like to put forward several areas where the United States is committed already to strengthening collective action on behalf of our shared goals.
First, we must come together on behalf of our common prosperity. That's what we've already begun to do. Our unprecedented actions to stimulate growth and restart the flow of credit will help create jobs and prosperity within our borders and within yours. We joined with our G-20 partners to set aside over a trillion dollars for countries going through difficult times, recognizing that we have to provide assistance to those countries that are most vulnerable.
We will work with you to ensure that the Inter-American Development Bank can take the necessary steps to increase its current levels of lending and to carefully study the needs for recapitalization in the future. And we recognize that we have a special responsibility, as one of the world's financial centers, to work with partners around the globe to reform a failed regulatory system so that we can prevent the kinds of financial abuses that led to this current crisis from ever happening again, and achieve an economic expansion not just in the United States, but all across the hemisphere that is built not on bubbles, but on sustainable economic growth.
We're also committed to combating inequality and creating prosperity from the bottom up. This is something that I've spoken about in the United States, and it's something that I believe applies across the region. I've asked Congress for $448 million in immediate assistance for those who have been hit hardest by the crisis beyond our borders. And today, I'm pleased to announce a new Microfinance Growth Fund for the hemisphere that can restart the lending that can power businesses and entrepreneurs in each and every country that's represented here. This is not charity.
Let me be clear: This is not charity. Together, we can create a broader foundation of prosperity that builds new markets and powers new growth for all peoples in the hemisphere, because our economies are intertwined.
Next, we can strengthen the foundation of our prosperity and our security and our environment through a new partnership on energy. Our hemisphere is blessed with bountiful resources, and we are all endangered by climate change. Now we must come together to find new ways to produce and use energy so that we can create jobs and protect our planet.
So today, I'm proposing the creation of a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that can forge progress to a more secure and sustainable future. It's a partnership that will harness the vision and determination of countries like Mexico and Brazil that have already done outstanding work in this area to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Now, each country will bring its own unique resources and needs, so we will ensure that each country can maximize its strengths as we promote efficiency and improve our infrastructure, share technologies, support investments in renewable sources of energy. And in doing so, we can create the jobs of the future, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and make this hemisphere a model for cooperation.
The dangers of climate change are part of a broad range of threats to our citizens, so the third area where we must work together is to advance our common security.
Today, too many people in the Americas live in fear. We must not tolerate violence and insecurity, no matter where it comes from. Children must be safe to play in the street, and families should never face the pain of a kidnapping. Policemen must be more powerful than kingpins, and judges must advance the rule of law. Illegal guns must not flow freely into criminal hands, and illegal drugs must not destroy lives and distort our economy.
Yesterday, President Calderon of Mexico and I renewed our commitment to combat the dangers posed by drug cartels. Today, I want to announce a new initiative to invest $30 million to strengthen cooperation on security in the Caribbean. And I have directed key members of my Cabinet to build and sustain relations with their counterparts in the hemisphere to constantly adjust our tactics, to build upon best practices, and develop new modes of cooperation because the United States is a friend of every nation and person who seeks a future of security and dignity.
And let me add that I recognize that the problem will not simply be solved by law enforcement if we're not also dealing with our responsibilities in the United States. And that's why we will take aggressive action to reduce our demand for drugs, and to stop the flow of guns and bulk cash south across our borders.
And that's why I'm making it a priority to ratify the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms Convention as another tool that we can use to prevent this from happening. And I also am mindful of the statement that's been made earlier, that unless we provide opportunity for an education and for jobs and a career for the young people in the region, then too many will end up being attracted to the drug trade. And so we cannot separate out dealing with the drug issue on the interdiction side and the law enforcement side from the need for critical development in our communities.
Finally, we know that true security only comes with liberty and justice. Those are bedrock values of the Inter-American charter. Generations of our people have worked and fought and sacrificed for them. And it is our responsibility to advance them in our time.
So together, we have to stand up against any force that separates any of our people from that story of liberty, whether it's crushing poverty or corrosive corruption; social exclusion or persistent racism or discrimination. Here in this room, and on this dais, we see the diversity of the Americas. Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path. But we all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americas have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic societies.
There's been several remarks directed at the issue of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, so let me address this.
The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know that there is a longer...
I know there's a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day. I've already changed a Cuba policy that I believe has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the islands whenever they choose and provide resources to their families -- the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to pay for everyday needs.
Over the past two years, I've indicated, and I repeat today, that I'm prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues -- from drugs, migration, and economic issues, to human rights, free speech, and democratic reform.
Now, let me be clear, I'm not interested in talking just for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.
As has already been noted, and I think my presence here indicates, the United States has changed over time.
It has not always been easy, but it has changed. And so I think it's important to remind my fellow leaders that it's not just the United States that has to change. All of us have responsibilities to look towards the future.
I think it's important to recognize, given historic suspicions, that the United States' policy should not be interference in other countries, but that also means that we can't blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere. That's part of the bargain.
That's part of the change that has to take place. That's the old way, and we need a new way.
The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made. We will be partners in helping to alleviate poverty. But the American people have to get some positive reinforcement if they are to be engaged in the efforts to lift other countries out of the poverty that they're experiencing.
Every nation has been on its own journey. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we must respect those differences while celebrating those things that we share in common. Our nations were all colonized by empires and achieved our own liberation. Our people reflect the extraordinary diversity of human beings, and our shared values reflect a common humanity -- the universal desire to leave our children a world that is more prosperous and peaceful than the one that we inherited.
So as we gather here, let us remember that our success must be measured by the ability of people to live their dreams. That's a goal that cannot be encompassed with any one policy or communique. It's not a matter of abstractions or ideological debates. It's a question of whether or not we are in a concrete way making the lives of our citizens better. It's reflected in the hopes of our children, in the strength of our democratic institutions, and our faith in the future.
It will take time. Nothing is going to happen overnight. But I pledge to you that the United States will be there as a friend and a partner, because our futures are inextricably bound to the future of the people of the entire hemisphere. And we are committed to shaping that future through engagement that is strong and sustained, that is meaningful, that is successful, and that is based on mutual respect and equality.
Thank you very much.
PILGRIM: We've been listening to President Obama speaking to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. We now join our correspondent, Dan Lothian, who comes to us from the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago - Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Listen, before I sort of talk about some of the remarks that the president made, I do want to give you this information that we're just getting. A senior administration official telling us that President Obama did meet with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and shook his hand. We don't know if a conversation took place or how long that conversation may have been. But we do know, at least according to the senior administration official, that the two leaders did meet and they shook hands.
We, of course, will be following this story and bring you the developments as we get them.
Now, to the president's speech, the president was really trying to set a tone here, from the U.S. Being in the driver's seat, to being in a partnership, whether it be Cuba or whether it be energy, whether it be the environment. And I just wanted to pull a couple of quotes here, where the president said, "there is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations, there is simply engagement based upon mutual respect, common interests, and shared values."
The president also said, trying to put the past behind, saying, "to move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. Too often an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. We've all heard these arguments." So, again, the president trying to tap in what has been sort of a mistrust by some of these leaders across the western hemisphere, saying, again, no longer is the U.S. going to be the driver, but really be in a partnership with all of these leaders - Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Dan Lothian. Thanks, Dan, from the Summit of the Americas.
We are now rejoined by our panel, Ed Rollins, Robert Zimmerman and Errol Louis.
And, Ed, I'd actually like to start with you. You know, we were following along with the president's prepared remarks and then he took a bit of a departure from the prepared remarks and went into sort of comments about you can't blame the United States, that there has to be a sort of new vision of how this partnership works. Your thoughts on this?
ROLLINS: Well, what -- sorry. Well, you know, what are the Cubans doing? For 10 United States presidents have basically had the same policy towards Cuba. Cuba has suppressed the people, their people, it has been a satellite of the Russian government for many, many years. It's now been a satellite of Chavez, and it's been very anti-American. What have we done to them?
We have basically tried to create freedoms for their people. When is he going to, either brother, basically offer freedom for their people? Why should we give them money, aid, say everything is great? What are they going to do? That's what I want to know.
PILGRIM: It's certainly interesting. The president at times said the U.S. at times was disengaged and he spoke about dictating terms. It seems somewhat critical of the United States in the past policy. What do you make of that -- Ed.
ROLLINS: Well, you know, they have supplied -- when freedom fighters have tried to fight in Latin America, they have supplied weapons through the to the Russians. You know, they have not been our friend, they have not wanted our friendship. They have basically been as anti-American as any place in the world.
And I'm happy to have some dialogue, but what's the first step? And are they going to take a step? And the first step is to take care of their own people and say we're going to basically let Cuban- Americans in Florida send money and not take 20 percent off the top. We're going to let Cuban-Americans visit and let the Cubans go visit their relatives. You know, what's their side of the game, here?
PILGRIM: All right, Errol, thoughts on...
LOUIS: Well, the one, I think, most interesting change on the Cuban side has been allowing telecommunications to go forward, laying a fiber optic cable, allowing cell phones and other kind of personal electronics to really weave that nation into the worldwide web. And I think that's probably going to do more to change U.S.-Cuban relations than anything else. With regard to other remarks by the president, it's fine to talk about equality and mutual respect and a partnership, no senior partner. I suspect when they sit down for bilateral trade talks with some of these nations, it's not going to be about mutual respect and it's not going to be an equal partnership. This is the biggest economy by far in the hemisphere. We will be dictating the terms of trade. It's nice to see the president start out on a good diplomatic note. I don't know if that's going to continue.
PILGRIM: It certainly was...
ROLLINS: ...our money, U.S. money that's going to be going to them. It's always -- every time we go on one of these trips it's more millions of dollars to them. You know, what do we get in return? I think that's what the American taxpayer are going to start asking.
PILGRIM: Yeah, the president announced $30 million in securities to the Caribbean, You know, Robert, it was a conciliatory speech, and the president said: we can't be prisoners of past disagreements, be can't be caught up in these stale debates. But, it takes two to have stale bedates.
ZIMMERMAN: Well, I was very intrigued in the speech by the great ovation President Obama received when he talked about the United States needing to change its ways, yet when he made a point about the countries -- other countries in south and central America changing their ways as well to work with the United States, not blaming with the united states, it was a very tepid response, very modest response in response.
So, but the point here is, clearly we're emerging from eight year where diplomacy was considered a dirty word, where diplomacy was considered the last resort as opposed to being the first resort. Diplomacy can be tough.
And I was impressed, today, when Robert Gibbs made it clear that Cuba has to take unilateral actions such as freeing political prisons and in fact opening a free press and creating a free press. So, I think it's -- clearly this administration -- the president talked about seeking a better relations with Cuba. There were no guarantees and he wasn't making any guarantees in the speech.
PILGRIM: All right, we will come back to that in just a moment. And we'll be back with our panel. We'll be right back.
PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour, NO BIAS, NO BULL with Roland Martin in for Campbell Brown -- Roland.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey Kitty. We all just watched President Obama's potentially history-making announcement in Trinidad. He wants a new beginning in U.S. relations with Cuba. We'll get a reaction to those historic comments.
We also heard from Captain Richard Phillips for the first time today. He just arrived back in Vermont, reuniting with his family after being rescued from pirates off the coast of Somalia.
And many of you have you heard of the Twitter war between CNN and Ashton Kutcher. I want to hear from you. What's really more important: news or celebrity? It starts at the top of the hour -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: All right, we look forward to it. Thanks very much, Roland Martin.
And we are now back with our panel: Ed Rollins, Errol Louis and Robert Zimmerman.
Robert, I'd like to ask you, you know, the president spoke about security and safety in the region. Dan Lothian says that there are reports that he had a brief meeting with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a long-time critic of the United States. What do you make of the security and safety in this region?
ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think Dan made reference to a handshake with Hugo Chavez. And he's not just a long-time critic our country, but was also personally very viciously critical of President Obama.
And I think it sends an important message to the region that President Obama took the moment to shake Hugo Chavez's hand. That handshake can quickly turn into a fist, though, if, I think, President Obama or our national resolve is in any way underestimated.
So, I think what's important here is that clearly the message is going to be if we're going to create a more safe and secure region it's going to have to be a joint effort. I think that's one of the important messages coming out of this summit.
PILGRIM: Yes. Ed Rollins, thoughts on Chavez element to this?
ROLLINS: You know, Chavez is anti-American, he's done everything he can to be anti-American and if the policy by the Democrats are basically to roll over and play dead then, you know, we're going to be in a tough, tough place here real soon.
ZIMMERMAN: Diplomacy can also be very tough, Ed, as well know. And President Reagan proved it when he said trust but verify. So, I think we don't have to be afraid of diplomacy, we have to be afraid not to pursue that option.
ROLLINS: We also have to know who our enemies are.
LOUIS: One of the dynamics that'll be going on is the president will also be going past the heads of state, some of whom are hostile, to go directly to the people. This microenterprise -- this Microfinance Growth fund he talked about, that goes directly to market women (ph), people who are trying to make a living, trying to create some kind of a connection that goes beyond all of these questions of security and state craft. I think that will be where the long-term interest is best expressed.
PILGRIM: And $30 million for security in the Caribbean, too. What your thoughts on that are?
LOUIS: Well, you know, look, it's necessary for sure. You know, you have to deal with some of these issues. But again, I see this president succeeding by doing hearts and minds. This is going to be somebody who's going to be enormously popular. On his next trip if he brings his wife, Michelle, they'll be rock stars.
PILGRIM: Well, very, very interesting speech, gentlemen. Thank you for helping me to sort it out. Ed Rollins, Robert Zimmerman and Errol Louis. We'll be right back in a moment. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Well now, some of your thoughts. And we have heard from Richard in Michigan: "Lou, why is it when it comes to the drug trade our government blames the buyer, (America), but when it comes to firearms, they blame the supplier (America)?
Well, Rick in Indiana also wrote to us, "Three cheers for the individuals who protested against higher taxes. Too bad our so-called leaders in Washington no longer work for us."
To send us your thoughts, go to loudobbs.com. Thanks for being with us, tonight. NO BIAS, NO BULL starts right now. And in for Campbell Brown is Roland Martin.